Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett) Reed.

Modern eloquence; (Volume 5) online

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flame, who " breathed into your nation the breath of
life ; " of Patrick Henry, that

" Forest-born Demosthenes,
Whose thunder shook the Philip of the Seas ; "

of young Warren, with his death and glory. Yes, in your
old South Church, which I trust you will preserve invio-
late forever,

" Adams shall look in Otis' face,

Blazing with freedom's soul,
And Molyneux see Hancock trace
The fatal word which frees a race ;
There in New England's well-earned place,

The head of Freedom's roll ! "

And two there are who must have separate and special
mention. One was the true patriot and sage, who

" Called the red lightning from the o'er-rushing cloud,
And dashed the beauteous terror on the ground,
Smiling majestic; "

the other, he who, " first in war, first in peace, first in the
hearts of his countrymen," has been called by an English


writer " the greatest of good men, and the best of great
men," and of whom your own great orator has said that
"America has furnished to the world the character of

" So sacred ! is there aught surrounding
Our lives, like that great Past behind,
Where Courage, Freedom, Faith abounding,
One mighty cord of honor twined? "

IV. Let me pass on to the War of Independence, and
I am certain that every one here will agree with me when
I say that Americans in the last few years have begun to
understand far better the feelings of Englishmen respect-
ing it. In reading some of the Fourth of July utterances
we might fancy that you believed us to entertain a
sore and sullen feeling, and that no Englishman could
think without a blush of shame and a spasm of anger
of the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga and of Corn-
wallis at Yorktown. I hope that I need not in the year
1885 stop to remove so unfounded an impression. I
have myself preached a Fourth of July sermon in West-
minster Abbey, and have invited your eminent country-
man, Dr. Phillips Brooks, to do the same. Strange that
any American should overlook the fact that the oppo-
nents of the American colonies were not the English
people, but the king and the rulers who misrepresented
them. Have you forgotten the words of Burke? Have
you forgotten that Barre called you "Sons of Liberty?"
Have you forgotten his daring words in the House of
Commons, once familiar to your very school-boys?
"They planted by your care! No! Your oppression
planted them in America. . . . They nourished by
your indulgence ! They grew up by your neglect of them.
They protected by your arms! They have nobly taken
up arms in your defense ! " Can you ever forget the vol-
canic outburst of Chatham? "The gentleman tells us
that America is obstinate, America is almost in open re-
bellion. Sir, I rejoice that America has resisted ! Three
millions of people so dead to all the feelings of liberty as
voluntarily to submit to be slaves, would have been fit
instruments to make slaves of all the rest." If our
glories are yours, we have learned also to look on yours


as ours. We do not grudge you your Marathon of Bun-
ker Hill, and we can repeat as proudly as you

" By the rude bridge that arched the flood

Their flag to April's breeze unfurled;
In arms the embattled farmers stood,

And fired the shot heard round the world."

And I will tell you why we can look to the defeat of our
forces without any of that shame which we should have
felt had the defeat come from any hands but yours. It is
because England could say, almost with a smile, My
sons have conquered; it is from me they drew their
strength! When the lioness was taunted with bringing
forth only one cub at a time, she answered : " Yes, but
that is a lion." You fought us in our own spirit. You
retaught us what you had learned from us ; your rebellion
was but a vibration of " that deep chord which Hampden
smote." When American friends gave me a window in
honor of Sir Walter Raleigh, the founder of Virginia, the
Father of the United States, I asked Mr. Lowell to write
the inscription, and he wrote this quatrain :

" The New World's sons, from England's breast we drew

Such milk as bids remember whence we came ;
Proud of her Past, from which our Present grew,
This window we erect to Raleigh's name."

Keep your Fourth of July celebrations as long as you
will. Let them teach you to say, with good reason,
" Thank God, I also am an American." But I am sure
that they will be kept no longer in any spirit of hostility
to your mother-land. An Arab in the desert once asked
a traveler if he was an Englishman. " No," was the an-
swer, " I am an American." The Arab's only reply was
to hold out two of his fingers. He had never heard
Fluellen's proverb, " As like as my fingers to my fingers,"
but he knew that England and America are one in lan-
guage, one in manner, one in desires and habits and aspi-
rations, one in worship and birth and blood.

In the issue, then, of your War of Independence, we
too see the hand of God. Franklin, in 1783, mentions
the daily prayer offered up for the Divine protection.
" Our prayers," he says, " were heard, and they were gra-



ciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the
struggle must have observed frequent instances of a su-
perintending Providence in our favor. Have we forgot-
ten that Divine Friend, or do we no longer need His as-
sistance ? I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I
live the more convincing proofs I see of the truth that
God governs in the affairs of men." Perhaps Franklin
was thinking of the sudden tempest which came in answer
to Thomas Prince's prayer, when, in 1746, Admiral D'An-
ville had sworn to ravage Boston Town.

V. I pass on to the great crisis of your modern his-
tory the war of secession, the Civil War, the war between
the North and the South. In that war, too, in its origin,
in its issues, in its many incidents, I see as manifestly as
in your origin, and in the War of Independence the light
of God, which shines on so steadily, and shows all things
in the slow history of their ripening.

What an awful time it was, and how you learned to
realize, as we had realized two centuries and a half before
you, the horrors of a house divided against itself! Civil
war is at the best a heart-rending word, and if the
younger generation fail to realize all it meant, we can feel
what it meant we who have lived through the Indian
Mutiny and the Crimean War. We know how your hearts
ached to think of those whom God touched with His
finger in the woods of Tennessee and by the green hill-
slopes of the Potomac; of that disaster at Bull Run,
where your new volunteers were faint with thirst and
hunger, and fell asleep on the greensward for very weari-
ness; of Washington turned into one great hospital; of
those multitudes of terrible oblong boxes which the trains
carried to various cities ; of the tears of the nation which
fell so hot and heavy over her dead volunteers. You can
never forget, while life lasts, the days when, as the eye
glanced over the daily papers, the two words, " mortally
wounded," struck an unutterable chill into so many
hearts of mothers and wives ; when men, sacrificing all,
locked the shops and chalked up, "We have enlisted for
the war;" when those brave hearts went down in the
stream on board the Cumberland, sloop of war ; when the
red stains on the woodland leaves were not only from the
maple's conflagration; when your land, even amid her


anguish, rejoiced that she had sons with hearts like these.
In those days God ordained for you famine and fire and
sword and lamentation. The blood of the gallant and
good flowed like a river, and the dear ones at home hun-
gered for news; and dread memories were left for years,
and the hearts of women slowly broke. It was not only
gray-haired fathers who sank under the bayonet thrust,
and men who came home crippled for the rest of life, but
the shots which pierced the breasts of young men
drenched in blood a picture and a lock of woman's hair ;
and in the delirious fever of their wounds bright-eyed,
gallant boys talked of their mothers and babbled of the
green fields at home. How full is that page in your his-
tory of noble and tender memories ! " In how many
paths," said Mr. Lowell, " leading to how many homes,
where proud memory does all she can to fill up the fire-
side gaps with shining shapes, do men walk in pensive
mood? Ah, young heroes, safe in immortal youth as
those of Homer, you at least carried your ideal hence
untarnished. It is locked for you, beyond moth and
rust, in the treasure-chamber of death." Your poets,
even your unknown poets, spoke of it in touching accents :

" All quiet along the Potomac to-night,

Except now and then a stray picket
Is shot, as he walked on the beat to and fro,

By a rifleman hid in the thicket.
Tis nothing a private or two now and then

Will not count in the news of the battle;
Not an officer lost only one of the men

Moaning out, all alone, the death-rattle.

" He passes the fountain, the blasted pine-tree,

His footstep is lagging and weary,
Yet onward he goes through the broad belt of light,

Though the shades of the forest be dreary.
Hark! was it the night-wind that rustled the leaves?

Was it moonlight so wondrously flashing?
It looked like a rifle ' Ha ! Mary, good-night ! '

And the life-blood is ebbing and plashing.

" All quiet along the Potomac to-night,
No sound save the rush of the river,
While soft falls the dew on the face of the dead ;
The picket's off duty forever."



Men left at home their pale young wives and sweet
groups of little children, and how many thought

" You have put the children to bed, Alice,

Maud and Willie and Rose;
They have lisped their sweet Our Father,

And sunk to their night's repose.
Did they think of me, dear Alice,
Did they think of me, and say,
' God bless him,' and ' God bless him,
Dear father far away ? ' '

And, then, what indomitable determination was
breathed forth by some of your songs :

" For the birthright yet unsold,
For the history yet untold,
For the future yet unrolled
Put it through!

" Father Abram, hear us cry
We can follow, we can die ;
Lead your children, then, and try
Put it through!

" Here's a work of God half done,
Here's the kingdom of His Son,
With its triumph just begun
Put it through!

" Father Abram, that man thrives
Who with every weapon strives,
Use our twenty million lives
Put it through!

" 'Tis to you the trust is given,
'Tis by you the bolt is driven,
By the very God of Heaven,
Put it through ! "

Yes, those sad days had their nobleness and their deep,
unbroken human affections amid the horrors of war.
Bad practices and fierce factions were forgotten. You
remember how when two regimental bands were hurling
responsive and defiant strains at each other, at last one
of them struck up " Home ! Sweet Home ! " and to that


challenge the enemy had no defiance; all they could do
was to join their strains also with the strains of their foe-
men in " Home ! Sweet Home ! " So does

"One touch of nature make the whole world kin."

You remember how, when General Lee lay sleeping un-
der a tree for weariness, the army of the South marched
by him in utter silence, having passed along the lines the
whisper, " Uncle Robert's asleep ; don't disturb him." You
remember how once the two hostile armies delayed the
charge and stopped firing because a little child had
strayed between the lines. In that war, too, I see dis-

" God's terrible and fiery finger
Shrivel the falsehood from the souls of men."

You had bitter feelings against England because of the
" Alabama," and because you thought she sympathized
with the South more than the North. Well, in the first
place, the great heart of England was in no sense what-
ever responsible for the muddle of international law which
allowed the escape of the " Alabama," and, in the second
place, even for her voluntary entanglement in the doings
of that vessel, though they were done against her will,
England has made you frank acknowledgment and has
paid you ample reparation. Nor was it true that the
voice which John Bright raised for you in Birmingham
was a voice without an echo. It woke hundreds and
thousands of echoes; only, you must remember that in
those days, if many of us by no means understood the
issue, neither did many of you. God has flashed the light
of history over the obscurities of those days, and made
many things plain which then were complex. It was He
who gave you grace as a nation to decide aright ; for

" Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood for the good or evil side.
Some great cause, God's new Messiah, offering each the bloom or


Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right;
And the choice goes by forever 'twixt the darkness and the light"



In that hour America had the wisdom given her to de-

" In whose party she should stand,
Ere the Doom from its worn sandals shook the dust against her land."

And God gave you the right men to guide you. He
gave you that strong, homely, wise, fearless type of
American manhood, Abraham Lincoln, calling him as
clearly from the wood-shanty and the store as ever he
called David from following the ewes great with young
ones. From the leather store at Galena, He called your
indomitable soldier, Grant, with his clear-sighted purpose
and his demand of " unconditional surrender." From
the log-hut and the school-master's desk, He called the
firm spirit of James Garfield. The shot of the assassin
cut short their martyr lives, but not until their work was
done ; and " when God's servants have done their day's
work He sends them sleep." Each of them has sunk to
sleep amid your tears. " For departed kings there are
appointed honors, and the wealthy have their gorgeous
obsequies ; it was their nobler function to clothe a nation
in spontaneous mourning, and to go down to the grave
amid the benedictions of the poor."

Your Civil War ended, and ended gloriously. The
South accepted the terrible arbitrament and read God's
will in its issue, and bowed her head and clasped your
hand in fraternal union. The bow of peace spanned once
more the stormy heaven, and the flag which had been rent
was one again, and without a seam.

" Then hail the banner of the free,
The starry flower of liberty;
Behold, its streaming rays unite
Mingling floods of braided light
The red that fires the Southern rose
With spotless white from Northern snows,
And spangled o'er its azure sea
The sister stars of Liberty."

Thenceforth the question of slavery is settled on the
right side forever the life-long effort of Channing, and
Theodore Parker, and Whittier, and Lloyd Garrison, and


Wendell Phillips, and all the glorious army of Abolition-
ists was accomplished, and you will remain, we trust,

" One flag, one land, one heart, one hand,
One Nation evermore,"

while your genius of Liberty holds forth her olive-branch
and tramples the broken fetters of four million slaves
beneath her feet.

VI. And then at once and most gladly, and, let us
hope, for many a century, you laid the sword aside. " The
sword, after all," as Victor Hugo says, " is but a hideous
flash in the darkness," while " Right is an eternal ray."
"As the sword," said Washington, "was the last resort
for the preservation of our liberties, so it ought to be the
first they lay aside when those liberties are firmly estab-
lished." When the Duke of Cambridge asked General
Grant to review the English army, he made the noble an-
swer that a military review was the one thing which he
hoped never to see again. But the War of the secession
established your national position. Just as, during the
fighting, many a boy, learning to look death in the face,
sprang into manhood at the touch of noble responsibility,
so the war strengthened and sobered you, and gave to
your thoughts, your politics, your bearing as a people, a
grander and manlier tone. The nation waved her hand,
and her army of more than a million sank back instantly
into peaceful civil life, as the soldiers of Roderic Dhu
sank back into the heather. " Cincinnatus," says Mr.
Gladstone, "became a commonplace example.
The generals of yesterday were the editors, the secre-
taries, and the solicitors of to-day." It was a noble lesson
to mankind, and a splendid service to the cause of popu-
lar government throughout the world. And again I say
that the man must be blind indeed who cannot see that
God's manifest Providence led and protected you. " If
a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without God's notice,
is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?"
[Franklin.] "Stand still and see the salvation of God"
such was the telegram flashed by President Lincoln on
one memorable occasion. And when Lincoln had fallen ;
when the population of New York was wild with passion-



ate excitement ; when, like a spark falling on gunpowder,
a single wrong word might have launched a terrible multi-
tude into conflagration and massacre, Garfield appeared
at the window shaking a white flag, and when he had
hushed the attention of the multitude into breathless
silence, what did he say ? He said : " Fellow-citizens,
clouds and darkness are round about Him ; righteousness
and judgment are the habitations of His seat." Again
and again the words of Scripture have been potent at the
crises of your history. " That book, sir," said President
Andrew Jackson, pointing to the family Bible, as he lay
on his death-bed, " is the rock on which our republic
rests." The first words ever flashed along an electric
wire in America were the words, " What hath God
wrought? " sent by a young girl from Washington to Bal-
timore. And when man's science subdued the forces of
the lightning and the ocean, and the electric cable first
thrilled its flaming messages of love and hope " through
the oozy dungeons of the rayless deep," almost the first
words flashed from hemisphere to hemisphere were the
divine message of Christmas, " Glory to God in the high-
est, and on earth peace, good-will toward men."

VII. How quickly, again, by Heaven's blessing you
recovered from the shock of war; how your prosperity
advanced by leaps and bounds ! What the Priest Vimont
said to the followers of Maisonneuve, when they landed
at Montreal, in 1642, applies to you: "You are a grain
of mustard-seed that shall rise and grow till its branches
overshadow the earth. You are few, but your work is
the work of God. His smile is on you, and your children
shall fill the land." It is a theme too familiar to dwell
upon how a handful has become a mighty nation; how
groups of log huts have sprung in a few years into splen-
did cities; how a fringe of precarious seaboard has be-
come an empire of which the two great seas of the world
wash the one and the other shore; how your commerce,
reaching to every land and spreading white sails on
every sea, is already a dangerous if friendly rival to the
commerce of England ; how in a single century of free-
dom you have sprung from one to fifty millions ; how a
band of daring fugitives has become almost in a century
the wealthiest and one of the most powerful of all the


nations on the globe. Are we not startled into astonish-
ment when we hear of those who have spoken to men
whose grandfathers remembered to have been present as
children, in 1704, at the funeral of Peregrine White, the
first English babe born on the New England shores?
And now you have more than three millions of square
miles of territory; 26,000 miles of river- way ; 12,000 miles
of indented shore ; and more than sixty millions of living
souls rich in their " inherent and inalienable rights ! "

Surely, you might apply to yourselves the words of
Tennyson :

" Our enemies have fallen, have fallen ; the seed,
The little seed they laughed at in the dark,
Has risen and cleft the soil and grown a bulk
Of spanless girth that lays on every side
A thousand arms and rushes to the sun
A night of summer from the heat, a breath
Of autumn dropping fruits of power; and rolled
With Music in the growing breeze of Time,
The tops shall strike from star to star, the fangs
Shall move the stony bases of the world."

VIII. But all this pompous detail of material triumphs
is worse than idle unless the men of the two countries
shall remain and shall become greater than the mere
things that they produce, and shall know how to regard
those things simply as tools and materials for the attain-
ment of the highest purposes of their being. The voice
of Milton tells you, as it told England after her civil
discord, that

" Peace hath her victories
No less renowned than war."

In many directions you have been mindful of those vic-
tories. Suffer me to point out some of your immense
gains and advantages. You have shown a marvelous in-
ventiveness. You develop more quickly, you adapt more
rapidly and unhesitatingly than on the other side of the
Atlantic the latest discoveries and applications of mechan-
ical science. You have shown multitudes of examples of
that splendid munificence illustrated by such names as
those of John Harvard, of George Peabody, of Peter
Cooper, of Johns Hopkins, and many more which leads
men who have made colossal fortunes among you to



spend part at least of those fortunes not in the endow-
ment of idle families, but in enriching and benefiting the
cities of their birth, the nation under whose gentlest of
sways their path was paved from the lot of ragged and
laboring boys to that of an affluence beyond the dreams
of avarice. Your libraries, with their admirable carcT-
catalogues, with 'their generous facilities, with their
ample endowments, with their accumulated aid to re-
search, ought to make you a nation of scholars. Your
system of education is one of the freest and most un-
grudging in the world. Best perhaps of all, you
have developed and are developing a fine and orig-
inal literature. You may well be proud of your
poets : of Bryant, who " entered the heart of America
through the Gate Beautiful ; " of Longfellow, that pure
and exquisite singer, whose bust in Westminster Abbey
is the delight of our two nations; of Edgar Poe's weird
genius; of the living fame of such men as Lowell with
his generous culture, of Holmes with his sunny geni-
ality, of Whittier with his passionate love of right and
hatred of wrong. Among your novelists you count the
honored names of Fenimore Cooper, the delight of our
boyhood; of Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose works have
the immortality of true genius. You have the humor of
James, of Howells, of Bret Harte, of Mark Twain. You
have the brilliant histories of Washington Irving, of Ban-
croft, of Prescott, of Motley, of Parkman. You have the
splendid oratory of Clay, of Daniel Webster, of Wendell
Phillips. All this is well. To borrow the image suggested
by the late beloved Dean of Westminster when you wel-
comed him among you, the rush and fury of Niagara is
a type of the life of your people " its devouring, perplex-
ing, fermenting, bewildering activity ; " but it would lose
nine-tenths of its splendor and loveliness, if it had not
the silvery column of spray above it as the image of your
future history of the upward, heaven-aspiring destiny
which should emerge from the distractions of your pres-
ent. And if that glittering column of heaven-ascending
spray is to be the type of your aspirations, may I not add
that the vivid rainbow " in sight like unto an emerald "
which to my eyes lent its chief glory to the Falls, may
also be the symbol of your nation's hope?


IX. It would be false and idle to imply that you have
no perils that there are no rocks, no whirlpools which
lie in front of your steam-driven Ship of State. It is
hardly for me, it is not for any stranger to dwell on these.
A stranger does not know, he cannot know much if any-
thing about the spoils system ; about bosses and bossism ;
about the danger of a secularized education; about the
subtle oppression of popular opinion; about frauds, and
rings, and municipal corruption; about the amazing friv-
olousness, the triviality, the tyranny, the ferocity, the
untruthfulness, the reckless personality and intrusiveness
of the baser portion of your Press. He reads, indeed, in
your leading journals, of evils " calculated to humiliate

Online LibraryThomas B. (Thomas Brackett) ReedModern eloquence; (Volume 5) → online text (page 2 of 38)