Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett) Reed.

Modern eloquence; (Volume 5) online

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Emerging from this era of passion, of strife, and of car-
nage, with a national life more robust, a national peace
more secure, and a national union more complete and
enduring, we call the fettered millions of earth to follow
our lead and strike for republican liberty. As the van-
guard, the color-bearers in the march of nations, we lift
aloft this proud banner of freedom and bid universal
humanity to catch its inspiration. [Applause.]

By the memory of the Fathers who bequeathed us this
priceless heritage; by the names and deeds of Northern
heroes, living and dead; by the sacrifices and measure-
less woes endured by Southern womanhood ; by the heroic
devotion and dauntless courage of the South's sons
which devotion and courage, exhibited in defense of the
dead Confederacy, have been transmuted by the hallowing
touch of time into consecrated services to this living and
glorious Republic by all these we unite in solemn com-
pact that this American people shall know intestine war
no more; but shall forever remain an unbroken brother-
hood from sea to sea. By all these, and by the resistless
fiat of an inexorable American sentiment, we proclaim
that the American flag shall protect every American citi-
zen on all oceans and in all lands. And in God's own
time, it may be His will that this flag shall become omnip-
otent over every acre of soil on this North American
continent. [Applause.]

But whatever be the geographical limits over which
destiny decrees it to float as the symbol of our national
sovereignty, there shall at least be no boundaries to its
moral sway; but as long as political truth triumphs or
liberty survives this flag of our Fathers shall remain the
proudest and most potential emblem of human freedom in
all the world. [Loud applause.]


Photogravure after a photograph from life



[Lecture by John B. Gough, temperance platform advocate (born
in Sandgate, Kent, England, August 22, 1817; died in Frankford, Penn.,
February 18, 1886), delivered first in Exeter Hall, London, in 1857,
under the auspices of the London Young Men's Christian Association.
This was Mr. Cough's second visit to his native country, which he left
for America when a poor lad, and his welcome was as cordial as on the
occasion of his first visit, five years before, immense audiences greeting
him at his every appearance on the lecture platform. The lecture was
subsequently repeated in this country many times.]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN : The subject of the evening's
address, as you will know, is Social Responsibilities. I
must confess that the weight of my own responsibility on
this occasion lies heavily upon me, and I regret very much
that I have not found time for study in reference to this
matter. Speaking five times a week for the past eight or
ten weeks, and traveling constantly, I have had no time
to arrange ideas or seek for facts, principally ; and I feel
this the more because of the intellectual treats that you
enjoy in the course of lectures delivered before this Asso-
ciation, and because I consider this Association to be the
most important in the world. [Applause.] I must, there-
fore, simply give you my own ideas and views freely my
own opinions with regard to this subject fairly and fear-

There is a social responsibility that is recognized by
society everywhere. The law of the land holds men re-
sponsible for the loss or injury to life or limb or property
by malice, carelessness, or ignorance. If a chemist gives
poison instead of the right prescription through igno-


ranee, you hold him responsible for the results. If a man
throws a stone at a passing railway train, it will not do
for him to say : " I did not think." It is every man's duty
to think what may be the consequences of his acts. If a
sentry sleeps at his post, and owing to his carelessness
and want of watchfulness mischief ensues, that sentry is
held reponsible. I might go on to illustrate this by the
cases of engineers, of lighthouse-keepers, and of all those
occupying positions in which their carelessness or want
of thought may cause harm and damage to others. But
there is a social responsibility recognized and enforced by
the higher law of God : " Thou shalt love thy neighbor as
thyself." It is of this responsibility that I would speak
more particularly to-night.

Men of the world are generally opposed to the recog-
nition of this responsibility, and they cry out with Cain:
'Am I my brother's keeper?" But I address myself to-
night to a Christian Association, an association of young
men who profess to acknowledge God's law as supreme
and paramount to all others. Therefore, I speak with
some degree of encouragement and hope that I shall re-
ceive sympathy while endeavoring to illustrate and en-
force this responsibility. And yet, among Christians we
find sometimes this question still asked " And who is
my neighbor?" I hold this to be a truth: every human
being on the face of this earth whom God has made in
His own image, is my brother. [Applause.] In this coun-
try you feel indignation because the Southern gentlemen
in the United States do not choose to call the black man
their brother ; and in your associations when, under high
patronage, you send protests against American slavery
across the Atlantic, you call the oppressed your colored
brothers. I spoke in Quincy, in Illinois, last winter, and
I said : " I look upon every man whether black or white,
bond or free, as my brother," and they hissed me. It was
on the borders of the Mississippi River, within a stone's
throw of Missouri. You feel indignation at this want of
recognition on the part of our Southern brethren; but
gentlemen, if you please, look not quite so loftily as only
to see across some 2,500 miles of ocean and 1,000 miles of
land, but look about you and round you in this metropo-



Ah! brothers, I once saw a man sold, and I stood by
the auction-block, while my wife, at a hundred yards' dis-
tance, was trying to comfort a little mulatto woman, be-
cause her master would not let her see her husband again.
A trader from the South wanted to take the man down
the river, and a benevolent man in the vicinity wanted to
buy him to keep him with his wife and child. I shall
never forget the look of agony with which he gazed upon
the trader, and then the ray of hope that seemed to illu-
mine his face as he looked upon his friend. But, presently,
the trader offered a sum that shut out all hope, for his
friend turned upon his heel and departed. Then that
man folded his arms, and I saw the twitching of the fin-
gers, and I saw the convulsive workings of the throat; I
saw the white teeth brought upon the lip as if he would
press the blood from under it; I saw the eyelids swollen
with unshed tears ; I saw the veins standing out like whip-
cords upon his brow, and the drops like beads upon his
forehead and I pitied him. It was human agony and
I pitied him. But as I looked at him, occasionally from
his bloodshot eye there flashed a light that told of a wild
free spirit there, that told me there was a soul that no
human power could enslave; and then, black as he was,
bought and sold as he was, he loomed up before me in
the glorious attitude of a free man, compared with the
miserable tobacco-chewing, whiskey-drinking, blasphem-
ing slaves of lust that were bidding on their brother.

A slave once stood up before his brethren and said:
" Bredren, dis poor ole body ob mine is Massa Carr's
slave; de bones an' blood an' sinews an' muscles belong
to my massa; he bought dem in de market-place, and
paid a price for 'em yes, bredren, dis poor ole body ob
mine is Massa Carr's slave but, glory to God, my soul
is de free man ob de Lord Jesus." There is not a poor
slave to vice in this metropolis who can say that ; and the
most pitiful slave on the face of God's footstool is the
man " that is bound by the curse of his own sin," that
has sold himself for naught.

There are many of your brethren in this city that are
festering in the moral pool of degradation and the ques-
tion is, what shall we do for them ? They are your broth-


ers. Aye, see that poor miserable creature staggering
through your street, the image of God wiped out of the
face and the die of the devil stamped there; the body
smitten with disease from head to heel, until he is as
loathsome as Lazarus when he lay at the rich man's door.
Though you gather your garments about you as you pass
him, he is your brother, and you have a responsibility
resting upon you in reference to him and his degradation.
See that heap of rags lying near that corner, with the
bonnet pressed upon the face, covered with the mire of
the streets; there lies your sister. "But," you may say,
" she is drunk." Ah ! madam, I do not say it would not
be so, but, perhaps, if you had been brought up with all
the horrible surroundings that she has, if you had been
exposed to the temptations that she has, you would be
drunk, too.

I ask you, is there not something noble and glorious
in the fact of seeking out our brother, not amid the cir-
cle of society in which we move, not looking at our visit-
ing list to find him, not looking round the pews in our
places of worship to see him, not seeking for him among
the Young Men's Christian Associations ; but seeking for
him in the midst of the haunts of vice and misery, making
inquiries not only as to the fact of his degradation, but
as to our responsibility in reference to that degradation?
The most glorious men and women on the face of the
earth have sought for their neighbors and their brother
out of their own circle. A poor cobbler in Portsmouth
that used to go down upon the wharf to find his neigh-
bors among the ragged miserable children, and bribe
them with two or three roasted potatoes to come into
his little shop, eighteen feet by six, that he might teach
them to read, and mend their clothes, and cook their
food he was a noble man, and John Pounds was the
founder of Ragged Schools. [Applause.] John Howard
found his neighbors in lazar-houses of Europe, William
Wilberforce and his glorious compeers found their neigh-
bors among the negroes of the West Indies plantations;
Elizabeth Fry found her neighbors among the half-mad
women of Newgate; and she, the heroine of the Nine-
teenth century, found her neighbors among the bruised
battered soldiers of the Crimea, and many a soldier in



the hospitals of Scutari died with his glazed eyes fixed
with love and reverence on the angel face of Florence
Nightingale. [Applause.] These are your noble men
and women these are God's heroes.

And when we would bring the matter right down to
our own personal responsibilities, the question arises
and I have asked it many times myself (and there is prob-
ably not a benevolent man or a philanthropist in this
association but has asked the question) what shall be
done to elevate the degraded masses ? That is the point
what is doing? Ragged schools? good! With all my
heart I say, good ! And God bless their patrons ! Model
lodging-houses ? good, as far as they go. But you can-
not make a model man by putting him in a model house.
You have to lift him to the house, or he will bring the
house down to his level. [Applause.] It must be by
elevating the man that the work will be done; and the
working classes of this country must elevate themselves.
Oh ! if we could only inspire them with that ! The glory
of it to elevate themselves! Society is doing a great
deal for the workingman, for the lower classes; but it
seems to me, sometimes, as if it formed associations to
obtain for them toys, and then formed other associations
to teach them to play with them.

As I have said before, men of the world look with con-
tempt on what is doing to elevate the degraded classes
in a moral way. Some of our philanthropists who " do
love the working classes so much " propose to elevate
them by excursion trains on the Sabbath. Now, I say you
can never elevate a man nor a race by violating the law
of God : " Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy,"
is God's command. " But," they say, " these working
classes, penned up in wretched homes, need recreation,
and fresh air." Did you ever see a returning excursion
train ? I went one Sabbath evening in the summer of 1854
for the purpose of seeing a company of men and women
returning from such " recreation " and what a sight it
was ! Here you would see a man with his hat brought
down over his eyes and a thorn-stick under his arm that
he had cut from the hedges, tottering along in a most
pitiful state ; and there you would see a woman with a
child fastened behind her back with a shawl, and two or


three more little ones coming along after her, crying, and
dirty, and miserable. I never saw a set of men returning
from twelve hours' hard labor that looked as jaded, as
dispirited, and as miserable as that whole excursion party.
Now, I say that is not the way to elevate the working
classes. Look at New England. And when I say New
England, I point you to a portion of the United States
that is free from the curse of slavery, standing up in all
its glory with the principles of the good old Puritans ; and
to those that sneer at Puritanism I say, God send us
more of it, if it teaches men to honor the Sabbath ! In all
New England there is no excursion train running on the
Sabbath day not one.

I remember on one occasion, when an immense quan-
tity of freight was to be brought from New York to Bos-
ton, they undertook to run on the Sabbath day. They
came up with a large load of cotton, and on coming near

to M a bale got afire, and there were not hands

enough to roll it off. They then drove to M and

rang the bells, and the people came down to the number
of three hundred. " Help us," said the railway people,
" to put out the fire." " No, you have no business to run
that train on the Sabbath." They then sent up to one of
the directors and said : " If you speak a word, these men
will bring us water; there is property being destroyed."
" I voted in the Board of Directors," he replied,
"against this running on the Sabbath, and if you burn
the whole freight, I will not raise a finger." And the two
carloads of cotton were destroyed. The company had to
pay for them but they ran no more trains on the Sab-
bath. I remember when they started a train from New
York to Boston and from Boston to New York at four
o'clock on Sunday afternoon to satisfy those wonderfully
busy merchants that wanted their letters early on Monday
morning and some of them professed to be Christian
men, too. Indignation meetings were held all along the
line; and in New Haven, they decided on three things:
First, to petition the Government to send no mail that
day; next, to petition the directors to send no train
that day; and then, if that did not answer, they resolved
to take advantage of an old clause in their city charter for


attaching locomotives as a nuisance, and not let them
pass through their city.

Now, look at our working classes ! I tell you, gentle-
men, there is scarcely a country on the face of the earth,
I believe there is none, that can show such a mass of
honest, moral workingmen as the natives of this. I am
not speaking of your imported monstrosities. Do not im-
agine I am saying a word against emigration ; but let me
say this in regard to emigration that is going on at the
rate of one thousand a day, that it goes through a sift-
ing process in our cities so that the dregs are left there
and in the vicinity, while the best emigrants go West, and
get land and work. I am speaking of the abominations
of emigration, and I say the born citizen peasantry work-
ing classes do credit to the system; and that system is a
strict Sabbath observance. There are many ways of
merely elevating the lower classes; but while looking, if
you please, for I want to speak plainly, at the schools
of vice for the lower classes in this metropolis, I say this,
whether you believe me or not, that every man is re-
sponsible for the existence of these schools who
does not with all his heart and voice protest against them.
If you please, let us rend asunder and expose, if not to
some, perhaps to you, the secrets of these charnel-houses.

Go on the opposite side of this street, within the shadow
of Exeter Hall. You see a man with an illuminated hat ;
you follow,^whom ? old men generally, and boys, into
a room; but if you can stay there five minutes without
blushing, aye, five seconds, I tell you the system of your
moral purity is undermined. The most disgusting ex-
hibitions are there right there to-night, within the
shadow of the Hall where Sabbath evening services can
be stopped, owing to the tender conscience of a single
man. [Applause.] I tell you, sir, that place is licensed;
and there is power enough in this Hall to break up that
place between to-night and next Tuesday night; as easy
as it was to shut up the Argyle Rooms. Then let us have
a protest from the Young Men's Christian Association of
London against that sink of iniquity " licensed by Act of
Parliament." Go with me again ; you shall pay a small
sum, and immediately on your entrance you will see per-
sons looking like gentlemen (for they all wear white


neckerchiefs, like ministers) [laughter], and they will
come to you with " Your orders, gentlemen ; your orders,
gentlemen." Drink ! Aye, over there they cannot sustain
the place without drink! Drink everywhere ! What do
you see? Young men, boys and girls, seated with their
ale, their porter, or their spirits and water before them,
looking at a place called a stage from whence comes forth
some individual to sing a comic song, to the horrible, dis-
cordant thrum of an old pianoforte; and if you have pa-
tience to listen to that song, you will find such a strain
of immorality running through it, that you put your hand
to your ear and walk out; and thank God if you can get
a breath of fresh pure air!

Go with me again. I will take you to another place
licensed again ! To be sure, all these places are licensed,
they are according to law, and I maintain, therefore, that
the people are responsible for them. Come with me and
I will show you another place ; we will not go into every
corner of it; but I will show a stage erected and a girl
dressed in boy's clothes holding a dialogue with another
girl so abominably impure that I say, gentlemen, if your
daughter heard the words, you would shudder for the
consequences ; and yet there are men and women and
girls and babies in arms, breathing in a horrible at-
mosphere of tobacco smoke, drink and impurity. Li-
censed ! Go with me if you please, to another place ; it
is very magnificent, and I understand that a professed
Christian at its opening rejoiced that such a building was
erected for the amusement and instruction of the working
classes ; you will see perhaps one thousand or twelve hun-
dred persons seated there. Drink ! Drink ! Drink !
Drink ! All the way through. " Your orders, gentlemen,
your orders ! " Young girls are there under fifteen years
of age, and the matron who brings her children with her.
Then some one comes forth to sing a comic song, as it is
called ; but a song, when I hear it, that would make you
weep as bitterly as I should weep if the singer was my
own brother and I followed him to the grave. Let me
take you to another just of the same kind ; and then go
lower, and lower, and lower down, until the disgusting ex-
hibitions are enough to make a man mad. But this is
licensed ! Licensed ! And, as you pass out, what do you


see? A drunken brawl, fighting and quarreling; a poor
wretched heap of rags that looks like a woman taken
away upon a stretcher. Ah ! yes, it is a sliding scale,
down, down, down, and here is your degradation-!

Now, I say this, gentlemen, that the degradation is not
to be attributed to birth or to blood, but to education.
Birth ! A man may have a pedigree as long as the Irish-
man who said he was " perfectly independent of Misther
Noah," "for," said he, "in the time of the Deluge, one
of my ancesthers saved himself in a boat of his own kin-
struction." [Laughter and applause.] I hope I shall
not be misunderstood, as throwing any slight upon the
nobility or the aristocracy of this land. When I went to
Manchester and saw seven million pounds sterling worth
of art treasures exhibited which the workingman might
look at for a shilling, or sixpence, I felt that the nobility
of Great Britain were noble more than in name, to do
that for the benefit of the poor. [Applause.] But I do
say, and you will excuse me for saying it, for I want to
go as high as I dare you may take a boy born in a
ducal palace ; he shall be baptized by the Archbishop, and
you shall take him at three weeks of age and give him
into the hands of one of the drunken hags in the slums
of your city, and let him be brought up with all these
horrible surroundings ; let him be educated as these chil-
dren are educated, and this son of a duke will become a
thief as quickly as the boy born in the slums. [Applause.]
There is as much human depravity in the one as in the
other; but here is the hotbed in which the seeds of orig-
inal sin sown in our mortal body take root, and spring up
and fructify and bring forth, and we are shocked at the
harvest. Let us look at the cause of it ; let us drain these
horrible hotbeds and go to work like men to remove the
cause. [Applause.] I know we speak of the lower
classes as being degraded; and so they are; and it seems
to me sometimes as if there was a gulf between them and
respectability over which they could never leap and so-
ciety has broken down the bridge. I was once in a castle
in Scotland and they told me that in a dungeon 100 feet
below me on the walls were scratched these words:
" Nae hope." And may not many who are in the debased
and degraded classes of this city grave upon the walls


that society has built up between them and respectability,
the words " nae hope ? " Now I say, brethren, if you are
all children of one common Father, help us in this work.

Is it poverty that makes this degradation? I thank
God there can be poverty with no degradation. Yes, yes,
my earliest recollections are recollections of poverty-
hard, bitter, grinding poverty. When I went to visit my
native village in 1853, I went in the midst of a glorious
English harvest. I went out into the wheat fields. It
seemed as though the hedges were the same that they
were twenty-three years ago as if the farmhouses were
the same ; and for the pleasure it afforded me, I took one
wheat field and walked up and down eight or ten times.
Why? Because I remembered a little old woman school-
mistress of the village, with her hand upon her weary
back, and her two children, my sister Mary, and myself,
who gleaned in that field the ears left by the reapers, and
we were to have a half-holiday to thrash our wheat and
take it to the mill. And I remember the face of that
blessed mother of mine who, though she was poor, was
never degraded. She was one of the Lord Jesus Christ's
nobility ; she had obtained the sign and seal in His blood.
[Applause.] When He saw fit to try her he put her in
the crucible, and when He saw His image reflected in
the gold he took her home. Oh ! there was no degrada-
tion there ! I remember how her face brightened and she
would thank God when I used to come in and say
" Mother ! Good news ; flour is down and the loaf has
fallen a penny." Ah, yes, poverty! But, thank God, no
degradation. [Applause.] I grant you that the poor
man's lot is a hard one from the beginning to the end;
struggling to gain the meat that perisheth, living day
after day fighting for food in a rough and heartless world,
it is a hard lot. But the poor have this honor, that they
are Christ's legacy to His church : " The poor ye have
always with you." God's mission was to the poor.

Now you will allow me, if you please, to state what I
consider to be the great cause of the degradation of those
who are termed the lower classes ; and I express my own
opinion freely and fully. I believe that intemperance is
the great degrading curse of the country; the very vice
itself is debasing and degrading. Drunkenness what is



it? I have attempted sometimes to describe it, but I al-

Online LibraryThomas B. (Thomas Brackett) ReedModern eloquence; (Volume 5) → online text (page 10 of 38)