Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett) Reed.

Modern eloquence; (Volume 5) online

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said regarding her you may infer that she was not the
belle of her native village. She protested vehemently
against this thing of ensnaring young men, and when they
had lost all control of themselves in their adoration, of
casting them off heartlessly. She had never done it, nor
never would she had always blasted their budding hopes
at the beginning. When I repeated this noble resolu-
tion to a bevy of girls, dressed artlessly in ringlets and
white muslin, they winked at each other and tittered.
The noble example I set before them did not produce the
effect I hoped. [Laughter.]

I found them vain. I knew women between the ages
of eighteen and twenty-four who habitually consumed
four hours each day in adorning their persons, that they
might enjoy the ecstasy of a half hour's promenade to
show their feathers. They never returned in good hu-
mor they were invariably disappointed. If there should
be no crowd to gaze upon them, they lost the object of
their going; if there was a crowd, they always encoun-
tered some woman arrayed still more gorgeously, which
was poison. Then, again, they lack judgment as to the
man upon whom to lavish their admiration. They esteem
appearance and pretension more than they do real manly
beauty and intellect. I have known them to pass ME by
with the merest and coldest nod, and blossom out all
over with smiles at the approach of a fop, whose mus-
tache was like a baseball club, nine on a side, and whose
other points were as weak as his mustache. [Laughter.]

But these were the lightest of the sins I found I would
have to charge to them. I found that they were some-


times avaricious, and that when avaricious, for absolute
downright stinginess and closeness the most intense
miser was an infant beside them. As their capacity for
good was greater and higher than man's, so was their
capacity for evil, which made me thank the Lord that
physically they are weaker, and that home influences set
the most of their heads in the right direction, and the
lack of opportunity keeps them following their noses.

My attention was, however, directed more particularly
to their intolerable extravagance and recklessness in ex-
penditure, at which my soul groaned. I observed women
whose chignons were larger than themselves, whose ordi-
nary dress cost more than an ordinary farm, and whose
habits had become so luxurious as to make the support
of one a matter of grave consideration. Particularly
was I shocked to notice in all cases that trimming the
mere ornamentation cost twice or thrice as much as the
dress itself, and that the labor of making and attaching
this ornamentation was more than either. I saw genius
employed, not in permanently beautifying the world, but
in decking a weak woman for an afternoon walk or drive.
I wept bitter tears as I saw on their heads false hair, on
their cheeks artificial color, and over all dress, the pri-
mary object of which was appearance. I cast up in my
mind the cost of apparel which would serve all the real
uses of clothing, namely, the protection of the body from
the elements, and sighed as I compared it with the bills
of the dressmaker. And all this extravagant expenditure
in a world in which there are thousands in darkness for
want of means to enlighten them, and thousands starving
for want of food.

When I reached home I thanked the Lord that I
brought with me a moral constitution sound and unim-
paired. As I neared my village, and saw the spire of the
church rising above the grove in which it nestled, I in-
voluntarily thanked Heaven that I could lay me down
that night where there was no sin.

During my absence I had acquired a habit of observa-
tion which I could not help indulging, and I commenced
making notes of what few trifling departures came under
my notice.

I did observe that Seth Robinson Deacon Robinson,


one of our two merchants, was given to covetousness,
and nourished too strong a desire for worldly goods.
To get gain he would rise every morning at the unchris-
tian hour of four to set his store in order, and the hours
between four and seven he passed in nervous misery,
waiting for customers who were yet taking that delicious
nap before rising which all properly constituted and
evenly-balanced men and women so highly appreciate.
Then he pursued his business all day so eagerly, was so
careful that in every transaction the odd penny should
be turned in his favor, held open his place of business so
late in the night to catch the last late buyer, and finally
closed so regretfully to think that eight long hours would
elapse before there could be more money-getting.

Of all this I could hardly approve. It is well for the
new beginner to have all this care, and be at all these
pains for dollars, for he has his fortune to make. It
would be well for one advanced in years, who was accu-
mulating money for some great charity, to be thus eager
in pursuit of coppers ; but the Deacon is not only rich,
but he is sixty. He can't enjoy the money he has on this
earth ; he can't take it with him ; and if he could it would
do him no good it would melt! He will hold to every
dollar he can make so long as there is strength in his
fingers. Money-getting, in his case, is simply avarice,
the desire to get money for the sake of money, which
is about the lowest and the meanest of the vices. What
better is the Deacon than Fisk or Vanderbilt, save in the
extent of their operations? The one grasps dollars, the
other pennies; but they both grasp, and therein is the
sin. The Deacon is a small Vanderbilt; but unfortu-
nately sins are estimated as are eggs by count, not
weight. The sin is as heinous if it does not produce such
great results.

I turned from Robinson, and contemplated his rival in
business Bibney. Bibney was the opposite of Robin-
son, and to me a more pleasing picture to look upon.
He was noted for his charity, and was regarded by his
neighbors as one whose soul melted with love to all man-
kind. I saw him give five dollars to a poor man who
had fallen on the street, and I warmed towards him, for
the man was needy, and I was exercised in my mind for



fear that some of my neighbors would not relieve him.
I would have liked it better had he slipped the money
quietly in his hand and passed on. I thought at the time
that he was rather loud-mouthed in his pity, and that he
brandished his bank-note in the faces of the crowd that
had gathered twice or thrice too many times, but he gave
the five dollars. I was astonished, and confess grieved,
on tracking this charity to its hole for it ended in a
hole to find that he paid the village editor twice the
amount of the gift to have a circumstantial account of the
transaction published to the world. I was more aston-
ished and grieved at unearthing the fact that he had
arranged with the mendicant to fall where he did, that a
crowd might be gathered to witness his generosity. I
noticed also that the fifteen dollars had been well ex-
pended, for his store was crowded for a week.

Bibney's wife belonged to the Presbyterian church,
but he attended them all. He had the reputation of
giving liberally to all, but the acute man managed to
maintain a reputation for liberality without giving to any.
The Presbyterians never got anything, " for you know,"
he would say, " I have to give to all of them, and really
it is too much of a tax." To the others he would plead
his wife's membership with the Presbyterians, and the
fact that it took all that he could afford from other
charities to keep " our own church going." I saw him
once walk a square out of his way for a week to avoid
the necessity of dropping a small coin into the box of a
disabled soldier, who was grinding a livelihood out of an
exasperating hand-organ.

I found an admirable contrast to Bibney in Mrs. Vir-
ginia Swan, the gifted writer of spiritual hymns.
' There," said I to myself, " must be a perfect character.
These outgushings of love for her kind, these verses
swelling with love, gentleness and goodness, can only
fiow from a pure soul. The fountain must be pure if the
stream is." I found that this theory will do better in the
matter of streams than in souls that very barren souls
are full of sentiment and gush, and gush, and do nothing
else. When I got to the bottom of it, I found that Mrs.
Swan wrote her beautiful spiritual hymns in the coldest-
blooded business way imaginable. She panted for fame,


and had the knack of writing hymns. Determined to
make a name, she commenced writing comic songs, and
would have continued had she made a success. But she
did not ; and she attempted blood-and-thunder novels, till
Sylvanus Cobb drove her from that field, when she struck
the spiritual vein, and worked it to great advantage.
She would have written bacchanalian odes just as soon if
it would have given her the same notoriety. The soul of
the poetess would shed the sweetest charity, and pity,
and love, and so forth, but the hand of the poetess never
shed bread and meat and potatoes enough to keep her
servant-girl plump in her clothes. I was compelled to
give her up. Spiritual hymns can't be offset against
starving servant-girls, until the reading of spiritual hymns
will make them as plump as will the meat and potatoes
they ought to have.

The Reverend Elnathan Black, I thought, would help
me out of my trouble, for he had always been to me the
chief among ten thousand, and the one altogether lovely.
I supposed him to be a perfect man, if such there could
be on the face of the earth. But, alas ! I was mistaken
in this as in everything else. A close examination a
little stripping off of veneering here, and a little digging
out of putty there, showed me the ugliest and most un-
gainly piece of moral furniture I had ever seen. He had
plastered pretence over meanness, and his protestations
of goodness covered his daily violation of everything
good. He wore his piety on the same principle that
governed the Quaker when he said to his son, " John, if
thee has a particularly bad horse to trade off, put on thy
broadest hat." The elder always had a bad horse to
trade off, and he wore, habitually, a broad hat, and an
ugly looking sinner he was without it.

Deacon Kitt served to prolong my investigation just
a minute. Professing temperance in all things, he was a
glutton, and carried a red nose. He took his rations
regularly, but not honestly. He did not confess to him-
self that he really loved stimulants, but he was perpetually
persuading himself that he had the dyspepsia, and needed
them. He wasn't ingenious even in his excuses for
drinking, for when reproached with taking liquor raw, he
stammeringly replied that he didn't dare to put water in


it for fear of dropsy. [Laughter.] His entire devotion
to drink I noticed the first time the unsophisticated man
was given a mint julep, which he said he took for
dyspepsia. With the taste of the delicious compound
titillating his palate, the coolness of the ice struggling
with the genial warmth of the liquor, the fragrance of
the mint assailing one sense, while the other ingredients
held mastery over the others, the poor man dropped his
glass and burst into tears. " And there ain't none of this
in the next world," gasped he. " I never dreaded death
as much as now." [Laughter.] He was trying to de-
ceive the world, and succeeded, as is always the case, in
deceiving himself. His neighbors were certain of his
being a confirmed drunkard, long before he began to
suspect it.

I was by this time in a state of disgust. I had gone
abroad for sin, and had found it; and I had found under
my very nose almost every sin that had startled me
abroad. But one thought gave me comfort there could
be no political iniquity in our community.

Walking out one afternoon, I found myself in a crowd
who were listening to an orator, who proved to be none
other than Cicero Leatherlungs, my cousin, who had
served one term in Congress, and was a candidate for re-
election. I had never given Cicero credit for being much
of a patriot, and was therefore delighted at the amount
of it he exhibited, as well as with the eloquence with
which he adorned it. He denounced, in burning words,
the corruption of which his opponent had been guilty
the said denunciation including not only the particular
species of corruption his opponent was charged with
practising, but all other kinds. Particularly was the use
of money in elections denounced as anti-republican, and
calculated to sap the very foundations of the government.
I was so delighted at this, that the very moment he had
finished I rushed up to congratulate him. " Your noble
sentiments," I said, but I never finished the sentence.
He hurried away to a tavern hard by to meet his com-
mittee. I followed and got inside just in time to see that
breast pocket a plethoric pocket-book, and distribute
money to the most villainous and brutish men I had ever
seen, and of whose existence I had been ignorant up to


this moment. He gave this one one hundred dollars to
be offered Jones for the use of his doggery on election
day; that one fifty dollars to keep the Irish laborers in
Johnson's stone-quarry drunk till after they had voted;
another one hundred dollars for carriages and men to
bring to the polls the idiots and lunatics from such of
the county poorhouses as were under the control of his
friends ; winding up with the remark, as he put up his
pocket-book, that by the time he got the other four
counties fixed, he would have spent every last cent of the
money he got for his vote in favor of the Aurora Borealis
Railroad Land Grant.

These things had all been charged upon Cicero, and I
discovered that the best and most intelligent of his sup-
porters knew the charges to be true ; but they were sup-
porting him nevertheless, for he was " our candidate."
"But how came so bad a man to be our candidate?" I
asked; the answer to which was that when he was nomi-
nated the first time his worthlessness was not known;
that when his bad qualities were discovered, he declined
to be dropped. He had the appointing of all the Federal
officers in the District ; these officials were strong and
active enough to control the conventions that nominate
candidates for the elective offices, and these two classes
of officials control the Congressional nominating conven-
tion. In short, I ascertained the important fact, that, let
a bad man once get into Congress, he can, if he is shrewd,
stay there a long time, for the government kindly fur-
nishes him the means to perpetuate his stay.

By this time I had determined in my own mind that
there wasn't a particle more of sin abroad than at home.
Every sin that I discovered abroad I found duplicated at
home, and its growth was just as rank and vigorous.
The plant was native to all soils ; the only difference was
in size, resulting from the strength or weakness of the
soil in which it was planted.

Grieved as I was. I took comfort in the thought that I,
at least, was free from it. That thought gave me un-
speakable happiness and I determined that my household
should be as free from it as myself.

My wife was a woman, and I noticed that she nourished
all the follies of the sex. She was as extravagant in dress


as any of her friends, and I took her to task for it. I
told her that there were thousands of suffering poor in
the world whose necessities could be relieved by a tithe of
what she wore that was unnecessary. I reminded her of
the fact that flounces, furbelows, jewelry, false hair, etc.,
were totally useless, and could be dispensed with as well
as not, and how much better would it be to use the money
they cost in charitable works. And I showered over her
much wisdom of this kind. She was an obedient wife,
and bowing her head submissively, retired to her room,
from which she emerged in a few minutes. She had
carried out my wishes to the letter. She was without
hoops and her dress hung limp about her person. Her
chignon, which was her crowning glory, was gone, and
her natural hair was twisted into a small and insignificant
knot at the back of her head. She had no collar, no
cuffs, no rings, pins, in short she was divested of all those
helps to figure and form which the sex know so well how
to employ.

Ordinarily she was counted a handsome woman; as
she stood before me in that shape, I confess I was
astounded at her superlative ugliness.

" Come," said she, meekly. " It is time we were on our
way to the concert."

I did not go to the concert with my wife in that guise.
On the contrary, with much hemming and hawing, for
no man likes to go back on himself, I meekly asked her
to resume her natural garb.

My experiment at reform with the female part of my
household had the appearance of a failure. I was com-
pelled to confess that, after all, we, the stronger sex, who
rail at the extravagance of women, are in the main re-
sponsible for it; that the average woman dresses herself
more to please the average man than to please herself;
and further, that the average man likes her a thousand
times better for the additional beauty and grace that dress
gives her, all of which she perfectly understands. [Ap-

Still I felt that the wants of the poor must be relieved,
and that the relief ought to come out of our superfluities.
I therefore nerved myself to make a sacrifice. I sold my
gold watch and purchased a silver one in its stead, and


the difference I invested in government bonds, which
were at that time at a discount, with a certainty of a rise.
[Laughter and applause.]

My habit of investigation had got possession of me.
While I was congratulating myself on my righteousness
and deploring every one else's sin, it so happened that I
was bargaining for a piece of real estate adjoining my
own. In the course of the making of the bargain, I
caught myself deliberately underrating the property, and
most zealously endeavoring to get it for less than I knew
it to be worth. My late experience had given me a sharp
scent for sin, and I had learned to detect it at sight. I
was astonished at the richness of the vein I struck, even
in myself. I found that in my own case I had mistaken
dyspepsia for humility, obstinacy for devotion to prin-
ciple, and conceit for righteousness generally. I found,
for instance, that my sternness in withstanding public
opinion was not so much the willingness to be sacrificed
for the sake of right, as it was a mule-like disposition to
stay where I had planted my hoofs from sheer stubborn-
ness in refusing to admit that I had ever been or ever
could be in the wrong. I recalled the conversation I
had with my neighbor on the subject of the land, and, to
my horror, I found that within twenty-four hours I had
told sixty lies direct ; one hundred and thirty, by implica-
tion, and had made two hundred misrepresentations,
which the recording angel doubtless counted as lies,
though in this world of gigantic falsification they hardly
rise to that dignity. I lied because I coveted my neigh-
bor's land two sins in one. In what am I better than
Robinson ?

The very next day I found myself paying too close
attention to the wife of my neighbor Ames Ames being
in California and Mrs. Ames being a beautiful woman;
and one more of the pillars of my self-righteousness was
knocked out from under me. That same afternoon, in
paying a note, I permitted a mistake made by the holder
thereof in computing interest to go uncorrected, and I
was compelled to confess myself a thief.

The next day I tarried two hours and a half at dinner,
which stamped me as much of a glutton as Kitt. When
the blessing was asked, reference was made therein to


Providence for his good gifts. I only thought how good
Providence was that gave us asparagus in the spring,
then in succession green peas, strawberries, grapes,
oysters, spareribs, hot whisky, and so on, an unending
round of something good to eat and drink. I was no
better in this than Kitt not a particle. That very eve-
ning I colored the statement of the trouble of a neighbor
whom I did not like, to his great disadvantage, and
brought myself in guilty of bearing false witness against
my neighbor; I caught myself in church estimating the
probable profits of a business operation I had just con-
cluded; which satisfied me that I had other gods than
the one Living One; in short, I discovered the alarming
fact that every day of my life I committed all the sins in
the Decalogue. I had been horrified at the sin I had seen
away; more so at learning that all I had seen abroad
was going on regularly at home ; and still more so to find
that all I had found away and at home existed in full
force and vigor in myself; that I cherished and practised
in one form or another every sin that I had seen in any-
body else. And what humbled me was the fact that the
knowledge that I had all these moral blemishes was not
confined to myself. My discovery of the fact was recent
my neighbors had always known it.

I at last found the man of sin. I was the man. I am
now busily engaged in reforming, not the world, but
myself, and I hope I am succeeding. I succeeded in
checking myself in time to save lies only yesterday ; I am
now correcting all errors in accounts that are in my
favor; in short, by dint of hard work and careful watch-
ing, I have got to a point of excellence where it is per-
fectly safe to say that I am no longer distinctively " the
man of sin." My hearers, all of you who try hard enough
and watch closely enough may in the course of a great
many years, if you are gifted and have patience, get to be
as good as I am. I know you will shrink from a task so
apparently hopeless, but I assure you the reward is great
enough to justify the trial. [Applause.]



[Lecture by Dr. John Lord, clergyman and historical lecturer (born
in Berwick, Maine, September 10, 1809; died in Stamford, Connecticut,
December 15, 1894), one of his series on the great epochs and master
minds of civilization, delivered in numerous cities and towns, during
the latter part of his career as a lecturer on historical subjects, which
extended over half a century.]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN : The most difficult character
in history to treat critically, and the easiest to treat
rhetorically, perhaps, is Oliver Cromwell; after two cen-
turies and more he is still a puzzle : his name, like that of
Napoleon, is a doubt. Some regard him with unmingled
admiration ; some detest him as a usurper ; and many look
upon him as a hypocrite. Nobody questions his ability;
and his talents were so great that some bow down to him
on that account, out of reverence for strength, like Car-
lyle. On the whole he is a popular idol, not for his
strength, but for his cause, since he represents the pro-
gressive party in his day in behalf of liberty, at least
until his protectorate began. Then new issues arose;
and while he appeared as a great patriot and enlightened
ruler, he yet reigned as an absolute monarch, basing his
power on a standing army.

But whatever may be said of Cromwell as a statesman,
general, or ruler, his career was remarkable and exceed-
ingly interesting. His character, too, was unique and
original ; hence we are never weary of discussing him.
In studying his character and career, we also have our

Copyrighted. By permission of the publishers, Fords, Howard & Hul-


minds directed to the great ideas of his tumultuous and
agitated age, for he, like Napoleon, was the product of
revolution. He was the offspring of mighty ideas, he
did not create them ; original thinkers set them in motion,
as Rousseau enunciated the ideas which led to the French
Revolution. The great thinkers of the Sixteenth and
Seventeenth centuries were divines, the men whom the
Reformation produced. It was Luther preaching the
right of private judgment, and Calvin pushing out the
doctrine of the majesty of God to its remotest logical
sequence, and Latimer appealing to every man's personal
responsibility to God, and Gustavus Adolphus fighting for
religious liberty, and the Huguenots protesting against
religious persecution, and Thomas Cromwell sweeping
away the abominations of the Papacy, and the Geneva
divines who settled in England during the reign of Eliza-
beth, it was all these that produced Oliver Cromwell.

He was a Puritan, and hence he was a reformer, not in

Online LibraryThomas B. (Thomas Brackett) ReedModern eloquence; (Volume 5) → online text (page 34 of 38)