Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett) Reed.

Modern eloquence; (Volume 5) online

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mental in the world of duty and happiness as is Newton's
law of gravitation in the world of matter. It has or-
ganized our charities, enlarged our system of education,
abolished slavery, infused itself into society, it seeks the
extinction of war, and calls for the elimination of public
abuses, and the purification of government. It will yet
relieve the battle of life of its hardness, its hopelessness,
and its brutality. [Applause.]

We are approaching the era when war shall be no
more. The world is ready for it. Unconsciously, and
unintentionally, the powers that be have been preparing
for it. For they have increased the destructive power of
the enginery of war so marvelously, that the nations em-
ploying it against each other will both suffer almost irre-
parable injury. When a handful of men can blow up a
navy, and another handful can annihilate an army, war
ceases to be war, and becomes assassination. If we
should wake to-morrow to find that all civilized nations
had agreed to arbitrate their quarrels, that all armies were
to be disbanded, all fortifications to be dismantled, and
the giant battleships transformed into vessels for peace-
ful uses, how much the world would gain by the change !

Ten millions of soldiers, in European camps, or in read-
iness for war, now withdrawn from productive industries,
would be returned to their families, and to the farms and
workshops of the world. The women of Europe, now
dewomanized and dehumanized by being thrust into the
employments of men, unsuitable for them, would drop
back into home life, or would seek their livelihood in
occupations that would not destroy their feminine nature.
The prophecy of two thousand years ago that there should
be " peace on earth and good-will to men," would begin
to be verified. Between two and three billions of dollars,
now wrung annually from the people by exorbitant taxa-



tion, for the support of armies, and for military purposes,
would not then be called for, and would increase the re-
sources of the masses, and add to their material com-
forts. How the certainty that war had ceased forever
would loosen the brakes now held down on the wheels of
the world's progress !

If we should wake on some other morning to find that
every grog-shop in the country was closed forever, and
all distilleries and breweries had abandoned the manu-
facture of alcoholic liquors for drinking purposes, that
men had lost the appetite for intoxicating beverages, and
would henceforth be sober and in their right minds, how
that would add to the gains of the world ! The American
nation would be richer at the close of every year than it
now is by nine hundred million dollars, which is the sum
total of its annual drink-bill. With all that vast sum
saved, how the comfort of the toiling masses could be
increased ! Their poverty would be translated to compe-
tence, their homes made hygienic and comfortable, indus-
trial and scientific schools established for them, and the
immitigable sorrows of their wives and children would
be comforted. The prisons and penitentiaries of the
present time would be relieved of three-fifths of their
inmates, the insane asylums would be depleted, and fewer
children would come into life with defective minds and
bodies. [Applause.]

If these two reforms were carried, the peace reform
and the temperance reform, the world would take a
mighty leap forward into " the good time coming." They
will probably never eventuate as we have planned them,
nor accomplish just what we anticipate, but they will
prove an immense gain to the race, and will eliminate
from the battle of life many of its worst and most dreaded
features. Believe me, both of these reforms are coming
up the steps of time, and are yet to be verities. Some of
you will live to behold the near approach of their full
fruition, and will catch the foregleam of the glory of the
Lord as it breaks on the world. Whoever works for the
bettering of humanity, for the lessening of the evil things
in life, and the increase of what is good and helpful, has
his hand in the hand of God. and takes on something of
God's almightiness. Those who work with God will al-



ways win, and though victory may be postponed for a
time, the right ultimately triumphs. [Applause.]

Already the distinguished characteristic of our Nine-
teenth century civilization is its intense humaneness. It
looks steadily to the redressing of all wrongs, to the
righting of every form of error and injustice, and an in-
tense and prying philanthropy, which is almost omnis-
cient, is one of the marked features of the age. It has
multiplied charitable institutions till they cover almost
every form of suffering and want, and it gives to the poor
the tonic of friendship and hope. It demands that inter-
national arbitration shall take the place of war, and re-
iterates the immortal declaration of Charles Sumner,
" that the true grandeur of nations is peace." It bom-
bards the legal enactments that make for drunkenness
with million-voiced petitions, and pursues the inebriate
with kind and loving persuasion. It hears the demand
of Howard, the philanthropist, sounding clown the cen-
tury, and re-formulates his plea that " prisons be made
over into moral reformatories, schools for fallen

Not only does the spirit of helpfulness invade the realm
of material want and suffering, it enters the list against
ignorance and mental poverty. It not only establishes
schools for children, but for adults also who were de-
frauded of education in early life. It has opened colleges
and universities to women which have been closed to
them through all ages, and has provided for them profes-
sional and technical schools, where they compete with
men. The doors of art and science, of professions and
trades, and of industries and gainful callings are no longer
closed against them, and they are rising from the ranks
of dependence and subjection, into those of dignified self-
support. It seeks the education of the hand and of the
body in its provisions for physical culture and manual
training. It establishes free libraries for the people, art
museums, natural history rooms, free reading-rooms, free
lectures, open-air concerts, free baths and swimming-
schools, and free parks, where nature ministers to the dis-
tempered and desponding. There are noble men and
women in all communities who thrill with a divine passion
to help the world ; and there are millionaires who dare not



die till they have put a portion of their wealth to the
service of the public welfare. [Applause.]

This new spirit of helpfulness which is making itself
felt in the world is not limited to any community or na-
tion. It is extending itself throughout civilized life. A
few years since, and shortly after the close of the Civil
War, Memphis was sorely smitten with a pestilence. The
living were not sufficient to care for the sick, nor to bury
the dead, and all egress from the city was forbidden, lest
the contagion might spread. The North forgot the four
years' war with the embattled South, and sent to its re-
lief volunteer physicians and nurses who were unafraid
of death, and millions of money, and Memphis was
purified and rehabilitated, and the pestilence stamped out.

Floods washed away the city of Johnstown and buried
thousands of its inhabitants under the debris. Hardly
had the waters subsided, when a great tide of benevo-
lence set toward the ruined town. Relief committees
were despatched to the suffering people, to whom carte
blanche was given as to methods and means. Hospitals
were opened for the wounded, and those whom fright
and loss of home and friends had demented. And so
abundant was the largess bestowed on those who survived
the horror of the flood, that a new city has risen on the
wreck of the old one, and, except in the memories of
those who experienced its ruin, no traces of it remain.

Have we forgotten when Chicago lay burning in a roar-
ing conflagration, that stretched seven miles along the
lake-shore, while a hundred thousand of her people were
encamped on the shelterless prairie? Telegrams flashed
the sad news to every State and Territory of the nation,
and cablegrams wailed it to the Old World, when lo, the
marvel ! The astonished earth rolled on its axis, belted
and re-belted with telegrams and cablegrams promising
help. So royally were these promises kept, that after
those who had applied for relief received it, and the Re-
lief Committee had placarded the streets for three months
with the information that there was aid for those who
needed it, there remained in bank nearly a million and a
half of the relief funds in excess of applications for help.
[Applause.] The world could not have afforded to have
missed the conflagration of Chicago. It was the greatest


investment ever made by disaster, for it burned two hun-
dred millions of property into ashes. But it was a poor,
cheap, paltry price to pay for the great knowledge that
made the world rich. For when Chicago was melting
away in the heat of its great conflagration, we touched the
hour when all the world believed in human brotherhood.

These instances are indications of the better day that
is dawning. As when in the East we see the first faint
tinges of light brightening the horizon, we foretell the
coming day, so can we predict a higher and nobler civili-
zation that shall yet include the race, when we see what
divineness has here and there interpenetrated the last
half century. I am not prophesying any quick-coming
millennium. It has taken God a millennium of millen-
niums to bring us where we are ; and He need not be in a
hurry, as He has all eternity to work in. I only speak
as one

" Who, rowing hard against the stream,
Sees distant gates of Eden gleam,
And does not deem it all a dream."

But as I count over the gains of the world in the past,
and see how the mightiest forces of the age are moral,
and realize that the Immanent God who works for right-
eousness is the unseen Commander who directs the battle
of life, I am sure that

" In the long days of God,
In the world's paths untrod,
The world will yet be led,
Its heart be comforted.

" Others may sing the song,
Others will right the wrong
Finish what we begin,
And all we fail of, win.

" The airs of heaven blow o'er us,
And visions rise before us,
Of what mankind will be
Pure, generous, grand, and free.


" Then ring, bells, in unreared steeples,
The joy of unborn peoples;
Sound, trumpets, far-off blown,
Your triumph is our own."

[Loud applause.]




[Lecture by David R. Locke " Petroleum V. Nasby, P. M., wich is
postmaster, of Confedrit X Roads, Ky." satirist (born in Vestal,
Broome County, N. Y., September 20, 1833 ; died in Toledo, Ohio, Feb-
ruary 15, 1888), delivered originally in Music Hall, Boston, December
29, 1870. Mr. Locke's satirical writings, first in letters, and later in
lectures, devoted mostly to political subjects and public wrong-doings,
had a special vogue during the Civil War and the subsequent recon-
struction period. Charles Sumner, in his introduction to Mr. Locke's
collected papers, quotes the saying of President Lincoln " For the
genius to write these things I would gladly give up my office."]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: I do not wish to be con-
sidered egotistic, for of all junior blemishes in human
nature egotism is to my mind the most objectionable.
He who stands perpetually and perpendicularly as the
capital letter I, with an exclamation point after it (the
latter calling attention to the former), is an unmixed
nuisance to society at large, and a particular and espe-
cial nuisance to all with whom he may come into more
immediate contact. The honesty that needs self-proc-
lamation will bear watching ; the man who blows his own
trumpet generally plays a solo; and besides, he adds
falsehood to egotism, for he seldom has the virtues he
proclaims. Honest merit is always retiring and shrink-
ing, which explains the cause of my being so little
known. [Laughter and applause.] Yet a man may at
times properly speak of himself; and this is one of the
times. That you may start fairly with me I must refer

Copyrighted. By permission of the publishers, Lee & Sheparcl.



to myself; but I shall do it with that modesty for which
I and George Francis Train are so celebrated [laugh-
ter], and touch it as lightly, briefly and delicately as

I am a most excellent man indeed, I know of no one
who has more qualities to be commended, and fewer to
be condemned. I commenced being good at a very early
age, and built myself up on the best models. I was yet
an infant when I read the affecting story of the hacking
down of the cherry-tree by George Washington, and his
manly statement to his father that he could not tell a lie.
I read the story, and it filled me with a desire to surpass
him. I was not going to allow any such boy as George
Washington, if he did afterwards get to be a President,
to excel me in the moralities. Immediately I seized an
axe and cut down the most valuable cherry-tree my
father had; and more, I dug up the roots and burned
the branches, so that by no means could the variety be
preserved; and I went skating one Sunday that I might
confess the two faults and be wept over and forgiven on
account of my extreme truthfulness. The experiments
were I regret to say, partial failures. I was very much
like George Washington but the trouble was my father
didn't resemble George Washington's father to any
alarming extent, which was essential to the success of
the scheme. [Laughter.]

" Did you cut down that cherry-tree ? " asked he.

" Father, I cannot tell a lie. I did it with my little
hatchet," I answered, striking the proper attitude for the
old gentleman to shed tears on me. But he didn't shed.
He remarked that he had rather I had told a thousand
lies than to have cut down that particular tree, and he
whipped me till I was in a state of exasperating rawness.
[Laughter and applause.] As he gave me the last cut,
he remarked that the next time I wanted to give my vir-
tues an airing I had better select a less valuable tree.
My skating idea was no less a failure. I broke through
the ice that Sunday and was pulled out with difficulty,
and a boat-hook. As I lay sick for a month with a fever,
I didn't get a chance to get off the Washingtonian remark
that time. [Applause.]

In addition to my excellence I might say, absolute


perfection of character (I put it, you see, as mildly as
possible, for modesty prevents me from saying all that
I might of myself) to these qualities of the heart, I have
wisdom natural and acquired. Natural wisdom, for I
was born in Maine, which is proof positive, for doth not
the Scriptures say the wise men came from the East?
Their leaving the East was then, as now, the great proof
of their wisdom. [Applause.] Acquired wisdom, in
proof of which I cite the fact that I went to Indiana a
married man, and after a residence of two years returned
with the same wife. I also went to the far West, and came
back without investing in a single corner lot. I might
also say that I am able to put those champion nuisances
of the age, life insurance agents, to rout, but I will not,
for you wouldn't believe it. [Laughter.]

I am a friend of humanity. I weep with such ease, and
so continuously, at the sight of distress, that I am known
among my intimate friends as that "benevolent old
hydraulic ram." No man living has shed more tears
over the woes of humanity, and no man has collected
more money of his neighbors to relieve those woes.
[Laughter.] That I am a patriot, I showed by not vol-
unteering in the late war after I was drafted, but by
sending a substitute. So much did I desire the success
of the national cause, that I wanted only good men at
the front. The company that I was to have gone in
thought as I did, as the resolution they passed, thanking
me fervently for sending a man, instead of going myself,
sufficiently attests. [Laughter.]

I have lived for many years in an obscure village in
Vermont in which I am a man of some note. It don't
take much of a man to be of some note in a village of six
hundred people. I have a house there, in which I dwell
all alone with my books and my virtues, studying the
one with profit, and contemplating the other with de-
light. I have a farm and a stone quarry there, though
it puzzles visitors to determine just where the farm ends
and the stone quarry begins [laughter] ; and though I
don't raise much, I manage to eke out a comfortable
existence by selling one thousand-dollar sheep and Early
Rose potatoes to Western farmers, and acting as solicitor
for a theological seminary, lecturing on temperance, and

organizing Sunday-schools, sandwiching in between the
two the selling of washing-machines. [Laughter.]

I was entirely satisfied that I was devoid of sin, and
believed (not going out much) that there was none to
speak of in my neighbors. But I was aware that out-
side of our little world wickedness had a vigorous exist-
ence and was rampant. "There are," I said to myself,
" 1,000,000,000 of people in the world, my village in-
cluded, of whom 999,999,400 are morally bound to share
the fate of the wicked ; five hundred and ninety-nine may
possibly get through by a close shave, and one will be
certain of a blissful future. I had no doubt of the tri-
umphant escape of one from all the evils which follow
wickedness, nor need I say that that one, that perfectly
pure man was myself. [Laughter.]

But the existence of sin, even at a distance, worried
me. I desired to have the whole world as pure, as good,
at least, as my neighbors ; nay, I would, were such a
thing possible, have the whole world as pure and as good
as myself, though I dared not to hope for so much. I
determined to reform the world, or at least do something
towards it. Knowledge of what one is to do is essential
to success, and that I might get that knowledge I delib-
erately left my home and wandered out in search of the
man of sin.

Where should I go? To the islands of the sea, where
the rude islanders disport themselves on the burning
sands, in wretched ignorance of pantaloons, and the
cheerful fact that there is a lake of fire and brimstone in
which they will eventually be plunged? No! The mis-
sionaries convey to them the catechism, and teach them
to make themselves uncomfortable in pantaloons; the
merchant follows quickly with that other civilizing agent,
rum, which to their untutored stomachs is lightning, and
those not converted by the one are killed by the other.
The islanders are provided for. To Rome? To Paris?
To Boston? To the Indians of the West? No! The
Italians don't know any better, so they are not responsi-
ble; the Parisians may plead temptations too great to
be resisted, for they have the plucking of all the rich
idiots in the world. I asked a Boston man and he indig-
nantly denied that there had been any sin in Boston since


Fulton's time [the Rev. Justin Fulton] ; and, as the In-
dians of the West generally confine their tonsorial opera-
tions to government agents, their love of murder becomes
a virtue.

I went to none of these. He who goes in search of
sin purchases a ticket for New York that is, if he de-
sires to see the article in all its native fierceness. Some
one said to me that New York was the place to find
original sin ; but I do not so believe. I found there none
but the improved article. [Applause.]

When boys of experience go swimming, they plunge
into the water all over, that they may take the shock at
once and be done with it. With the same idea, I wanted
to see first the hugest and largest specimen of wicked-
ness I could find the Ichthyosaurus of iniquity before
taking the whales, the porpoises, and the smaller fry.

" Show me the largest thing you have in wickedness,"
said I to my friend, who immediately tossed up a copper
to determine whether he should introduce me to a Wall
Street gold speculator, a railroad manager, a ward poli-
tician, or a burglar. It was, he said, an even thing be-
tween them. The railroad manager was indicated by the
fall of coin, and I was introduced to one. I found him
at ten in the morning managing a road to which he had
not the ghost of a title ; at eleven lunching with the ballet-
girls and their hangers-on, who found employment at his
theatre, which, by the way, was purchased with money
earned by the railroad which the stockholders did not
get; at twelve, remorselessly ruining a score of brokers
who trusted his word; in the afternoon, dining with his
corps of ballet-girls and his own professional bullies ; and
going to his bed in the morning, not for sleep, but for the
quiet it afforded him to devise new and more startling
rascalities. This man was a rascal born. He was pos-
sessed of not a particle of principle; there wasn't about
him the slightest odor of honesty he would have said
"taint" in place of odor. He wallowed in infamy, not
from any necessity, but because he preferred and liked
it. He owned courts of justice and controlled them ; he
had judges in his hands and sheriffs at his beck, and with
these as his instruments he committed outrages the
lightest of which in a decently governed community,



would have consigned him to a cell in a penitentiary, and
on the frontier would have made him ornament a limb
of a tree. Yet this man was, and is, courted and flattered
and feasted ; statesmen sit at his table ; judges lunch with
him, and New York feels honored by his being a citizen.

I interviewed James Gordon Bennett, and spent two
days in Wall Street. That I might know how deep poli-
ticians dive, I attended a Democratic caucus in the Sixth
Ward, and a few days after stood around the polls and
saw the repeaters vote. I saw the Hon. John Morrissey,
and made the acquaintance of a dozen street contractors.
My friend, who knew the object of my coming, invited
me to visit Water Street, and see men of the John Allen
stripe, and also to explore the Peter Funk auction shops,
but I declined. Why go from the greater to the smaller?
Why investigate small scoundrels after going through
the big ones? I made the acquaintance of a distinguished
pugilist who was in training for a congressional nomina-
tion. He had committed a magnificent burglary, which
was complicated somewhat with murder, had killed a man
in a bar-room fight, and was about to appear in the prize-

It was also a blessed thing for me that I got out of New
York as I did. I hadn't been there three days before I
felt an almost irresistible desire to steal something; the
fourth day I could lie like a telegraph despatch, and I
suppose in a week I should have got to be as bad as the
rest of them. [Applause.]

It was also a blessed thing that I did not go to Wash-
ington during the administrations of Johnson or Bu-
chanan. Going when I did I saw enough. In that virtu-
ous city my investigations were confined to the three
classes which make up its resident population namely,
those who have been in office, those who are in office,
and those who want to be in office. They may be dis-
tinguished by the paper collars they wear: the first and
last class always wear dirty ones. The first class spends
its whole time in devising means to get away ; the second,
in getting their salaries raised that they may live on
them, and in making their stay perpetual; the third, in
getting something to eat till they get into the second



class. My investigations were principally among the
office-holders and the highest of them.

I saw cadetships sold for dollars ; in fact, I was present
at one transaction of the kind where the buyer and the
representative who had the place for sale disagreed about
twenty-five dollars, the difference being almost enough
to split the trade. The man who wanted the cadetship
swore roundly that he could get one cheaper. The rep-
resentative swore with equal vehemence that it was im-
possible, as the vacancies had been mostly sold, and there
were but few in the market. The scene reminded me so
much of an encounter between two keen horse-jockeys in
my beloved Vermont, that, like the Swiss soldier who
hears the music of his native mountains, I wept.

Online LibraryThomas B. (Thomas Brackett) ReedModern eloquence; (Volume 5) → online text (page 32 of 38)