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The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
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The idea of immortality, that like a sea has ebbed and flowed in the human heart, with its countless waves of hope and fear, beating against the shores and rocks of time and fate, was not born of any book, nor of any creed, nor of any religion. It was born of human affection, and it will continue to ebb and flow beneath the mists and clouds of doubt and darkness as long as love kisses the lips of death.
These lectures have been so maimed and mutilated by orthodox malice; have been made to appear so halt, crutched and decrepit by those who mistake the pleasures of calumny for the duties of religion, that in simple justice to myself I concluded to publish them.
Most of the clergy are, or seem to be, utterly incapable of discussing anything in a fair and catholic spirit. They appeal, not to reason, but to prejudice; not to facts, but to passages of scripture. They can conceive of no goodness, of no spiritual exaltation beyond the horizon of their creed. Whoever differs with them upon what they are pleased to call “fundamental truths” is, in their opinion, a base and infamous man. To re-enact the tragedies of the Sixteenth Century, they lack only the power. Bigotry in all ages has been the same. Christianity simply transferred the brutality of the Colosseum to the Inquisition. For the murderous combat of the gladiators, the saints substituted the auto de fe. What has been called religion is, after all, but the organization of the wild beast in man. The perfumed blossom of arrogance is Heaven. Hell is the consummation of revenge.
The chief business of the clergy has always been to destroy the joy of life, and multiply and magnify the terrors and tortures of death and perdition. They have polluted the heart and paralyzed the brain; and upon the ignorant altars of the Past and the Dead, they have endeavored to sacrifice the Present and the Living.
Nothing can exceed the mendacity of the religious press. I have had some little experience with political editors, and am forced to say, that until I read the religious papers, I did not know what malicious and slimy falsehoods could be constructed from ordinary words. The ingenuity with which the real and apparent meaning can be tortured out of language, is simply amazing. The average religious editor is intolerant and insolent; he knows nothing of affairs; he has the envy of failure, the malice of impotence, and always accounts for the brave and generous actions of unbelievers, by low, base and unworthy motives.
By this time, even the clergy should know that the intellect of the Nineteenth Century needs no, guardian. They should cease to regard themselves as shepherds defending flocks of weak, silly and fearful sheep from the claws and teeth of ravening wolves. By this time they should know that the religion of the ignorant and brutal Past no longer satisfies the heart and brain; that the miracles have become contemptible; that the “evidences” have ceased to convince; that the spirit of investigation cannot be stopped nor stayed; that the Church is losing her power; that the young are holding in a kind of tender contempt the sacred follies of the old; that the pulpit and pews no longer represent the culture and morality of the world, and that the brand of intellectual inferiority is upon the orthodox brain.
Men should be liberated from the aristocracy of the air. Every chain of superstition should be broken. The rights of men and women should be equal and sacred — marriage should be a perfect partnership — children should be governed by kindness — every family should be a republic — every fireside a democracy.
It seems almost impossible for religious people to really grasp the idea of intellectual freedom. They seem to think that man is responsible for his honest thoughts; that unbelief is a crime; that investigation is sinful; that credulity is a virtue, and that reason is a dangerous guide. They cannot divest themselves of the idea that in the realm of thought there must be government — authority and obedience — laws and penalties — rewards and punishments, and that somewhere in the universe there is a penitentiary for the soul.
In the republic of mind, one is a majority. There, all are monarchs, and all are equals. The tyranny of a majority even is unknown. Each one is crowned, sceptered and throned. Upon every brow is the tiara, and around every form is the imperial purple. Only those are good citizens who express their honest thoughts, and those who persecute for opinion’s sake, are the only traitors. There, nothing is considered infamous except an appeal to brute force, and nothing sacred but love, liberty, and joy. The church contemplates this republic with a sneer. From the teeth of hatred she draws back the lips of scorn. She is filled with the spite and spleen born of intellectual weakness. Once she was egotistic; now she is envious.
Once she wore upon her hollow breast false gems, supposing them to be real. They have been shown to be false, but she wears them still. She has the malice of the caught, the hatred of the exposed.
We are told to investigate the bible for ourselves, and at the same time informed that if we come to the conclusion that it is not the inspired word of God, we will most assuredly be damned. Under such circumstances, if we believe this, investigation is impossible. Whoever is held responsible for his conclusions cannot weigh the evidence with impartial scales. Fear stands at the balance, and gives to falsehood the weight of its trembling hand.
I oppose the Church because she is the enemy of liberty; because her dogmas are infamous and cruel; because she humiliates and degrades woman; because she teaches the doctrines of eternal torment and the natural depravity of man; because she insists upon the absurd, the impossible, and the senseless; because she resorts to falsehood and slander; because she is arrogant and revengeful; because she allows men to sin on a credit; because she discourages self-reliance, and laughs at good works; because she believes in vicarious virtue and vicarious vice — vicarious punishment and vicarious reward; because she regards repentance of more importance than restitution, and because she sacrifices the world we have to one we know not of.
The free and generous, the tender and affectionate, will understand me. Those who have escaped from the grated cells of a creed will appreciate my motives. The sad and suffering wives, the trembling and loving children will thank me: This is enough.
Robert G. Ingersoll.
Washington, D. C,
April 13, 1878.
Let them cover their Eyeless Sockets with their
Fleshless Hands and fade forever from the imagination of Men.
THERE are three theories by which men account for all phenomena, for everything that happens: First, the Supernatural; Second, the Supernatural and Natural; Third, the Natural. Between these theories there has been, from the dawn of civilization, a continual conflict. In this great war, nearly all the soldiers have been in the ranks of the supernatural. The believers in the supernatural insist that matter is controlled and directed entirely by powers from without; while naturalists maintain that Nature acts from within; that Nature is not acted upon; that the universe is all there is; that Nature with infinite arms embraces everything that exists, and that all supposed powers beyond the limits of the material are simply ghosts. You say, “Oh, this is materialism!” What is matter? I take in my hand some earth:— in this dust put seeds. Let the arrows of light from the quiver of the sun smite upon it; let the rain fall upon it. The seeds will grow and a plant will bud and blossom. Do you understand this? Can you explain it better than you can the production of thought? Have you the slightest conception of what it really is? And yet you speak of matter as though acquainted with its origin, as though you had torn from the clenched hands of the rocks the secrets of material existence. Do you know what force is? Can you account for molecular action? Are you really familiar with chemistry, and can you account for the loves and hatreds of the atoms? Is there not something in matter that forever eludes? After all, can you get, beyond, above or below appearances? Before you cry “materialism!” had you not better ascertain what matter really is? Can you think even of anything without a material basis? Is it possible to imagine the annihilation of a single atom? Is it possible for you to conceive of the creation of an atom? Can you have a thought that was not suggested to you by what you call matter?
Our fathers denounced materialism, and accounted for all phenomena by the caprice of gods and devils.
For thousands of years it was believed that ghosts, good and bad, benevolent and malignant, weak and powerful, in some mysterious way, produced all phenomena; that disease and health, happiness and misery, fortune and misfortune, peace and war, life and death, success and failure, were but arrows from the quivers of these ghosts; that shadowy phantoms rewarded and punished mankind; that they were pleased and displeased by the actions of men; that they sent and withheld the snow, the light, and the rain; that they blessed the earth with harvests or cursed it with famine; that they fed or starved the children of men; that they crowned and uncrowned kings; that they took sides in war; that they controlled the winds; that they gave prosperous voyages, allowing the brave mariner to meet his wife and child inside the harbor bar, or sent the storms, strewing the sad shores with wrecks of ships and the bodies of men.
Formerly, these ghosts were believed to be almost innumerable. Earth, air, and water were filled with these phantom hosts. In modern times they have greatly decreased in number, because the second theory — a mingling of the supernatural and natural — has generally been adopted. The remaining ghosts, however, are supposed to per-form the same offices as the hosts of yore.
It has always been believed that these ghosts could in some way be appeased; that they could be flattered by sacrifices, by prayer, by fasting, by the building of temples and cathedrals, by the blood of men and beasts, by forms and ceremonies, by chants, by kneelings and prostrations, by flagellations and maimings, by renouncing the joys of home, by living alone in the wide desert, by the practice of celibacy, by inventing instruments of torture, by destroying men, women and children, by covering the earth with dungeons, by burning unbelievers, by putting chains upon the thoughts and manacles upon the limbs of men, by believing things without evidence and against evidence, by disbelieving and denying demonstration, by despising facts, by hating reason, by denouncing liberty, by maligning heretics, by slandering the dead, by subscribing to senseless and cruel creeds, by discouraging investigation, by worshiping a book, by the cultivation of credulity, by observing certain times and days, by counting beads, by gazing at crosses, by hiring others to repeat verses and prayers, by burning candles and ringing bells, by enslaving each other and putting out the eyes of the soul. All this has been done to appease and flatter these monsters of the air.
In the history of our poor world, no horror has been omitted, no infamy has been left undone by the believers in ghosts — by the worshipers of these fleshless phantoms. And yet these shadows were born of cowardice and malignity. They were painted by the pencil of fear upon the canvas of ignorance by that artist called superstition.
From, these ghosts, our fathers received information. They were the schoolmasters of our ancestors. They were the scientists and philosophers, the geologists, legislators, astronomers, physicians, metaphysicians and historians of the past. For ages these ghosts were supposed to be the only source of real knowledge. They inspired men to write books, and the books were considered sacred. If facts were found to be inconsistent with these books, so much the worse for the facts, and especially for their discoverers. It was then, and still is, believed that these books are the basis of the idea of immortality; that to give up these volumes, or rather the idea that they are inspired, is to renounce the idea of immortality. This I deny.
The idea of immortality, that like a sea has ebbed and flowed in the human heart, with its countless waves of hope and fear, beating against the shores and rocks of time and fate, was not born of any book, nor of any creed, nor of any religion. It was born of human affection, and it will continue to ebb and flow beneath the mists and clouds of doubt and darkness as long as love kisses the lips of death. It is the rainbow — Hope shining upon the tears of grief.
From the books written by the ghosts we, have at last ascertained that they knew nothing about the world in which we live. Did they know anything about the next! Upon every point where contradiction is possible, they have been contradicted.
By these ghosts, by these citizens of the air, the affairs of government were administered; all authority to govern came from them. The emperors, kings and potentates all had commissions from these phantoms. Man was not considered as the source of any power whatever. To rebel against the king was to rebel against the ghosts, and nothing less than the blood of the offender could appease the invisible phantom or the visible tyrant. Kneeling was the proper position to be assumed by the multitude. The prostrate were the good. Those who stood erect were infidels and traitors. In the name and by the authority of the ghosts, man was enslaved, crushed, and plundered. The many toiled wearily in the storm and sun that the few favorites of the ghosts might live in idleness. The many lived in huts, and caves, and dens, that the few might dwell in palaces. The many covered themselves with rags, that the few might robe themselves in purple and in gold. The many crept, and cringed, and crawled, that the few might tread upon their flesh with iron feet.
From the ghosts men received, not only authority, but information of every kind. They told us the form of this earth. They informed us that eclipses were caused by the sins of man; that the universe was made in six days; that astronomy, and geology were devices of wicked men, instigated by wicked ghosts; that gazing at the sky with a telescope was a dangerous thing; that digging into the earth was sinful curiosity; that trying to be wise above what they had written was born of a rebellious and irreverent spirit.
They told us there was no virtue like belief, and no crime like doubt; that investigation was pure impudence, and the punishment therefor, eternal torment. They not only told us all about this world, but about two others; and if their statements about the other worlds are as true as about this, no one can estimate the value of their information.
For countless ages the world was governed by ghosts, and they spared no pains to change the eagle of the human intellect into a bat of darkness. To accomplish this infamous purpose; to drive the love of truth from the human heart; to prevent the advancement of mankind; to shut out from the world every ray of intellectual light; to pollute every mind with superstition, the power of kings, the cunning and cruelty of priests, and the wealth of nations were exhausted.
During these years of persecution, ignorance, superstition and slavery, nearly all the people, the kings, lawyers, doctors, the learned and the unlearned, believed in that frightful production of ignorance, fear, and faith, called witchcraft. They believed that man was the sport and prey of devils. They really thought that the very air was thick with these enemies of man. With few exceptions, this hideous and infamous belief was universal. Under these conditions, progress was almost impossible.
Fear paralyzes the brain. Progress is born of courage. Fear believes — courage doubts. Fear falls upon the earth and prays — courage stands erect and thinks. Fear retreats — courage advances. Fear is barbarism — courage is civilization. Fear believes in witchcraft, in devils and in ghosts. Fear is religion — courage is science.
The facts, upon which this terrible belief rested, were proved over and oyer again in every court of Europe. Thousands confessed themselves guilty — admitted that they had sold themselves to the devil. They gave the particulars of the sale; told what they said and what the devil replied. They confessed this, when they knew that confession was death; knew that their property would be confiscated, and their children left to beg their bread. This is one of the miracles of history — one of the strangest contradictions of the human mind. Without doubt, they really believed themselves guilty. In the first place, they believed in witchcraft as a fact, and when charged with it, they probably became insane. In their insanity they confessed their guilt. They found themselves abhorred and deserted — charged with a crime that they could not disprove. Like a man in quicksand, every effort only sunk them deeper. Caught in this frightful web, at the mercy of the spiders of superstition, hope fled, and nothing remained but the insanity of confession. The whole world appeared to be insane.
In the time of James the First, a man was executed for causing a storm at sea with the intention of drowning one of the royal family. How could he disprove it? How could he show that he did not cause the storm? All storms were at that time generally supposed to be caused by the devil — the prince of the power of the air — and by those whom he assisted.
I implore you to remember that the believers in such impossible things were the authors of our creeds and confessions of faith.
A woman was tried and convicted before Sir Matthew Hale, one of the great judges and lawyers of England, for having caused children to vomit crooked pins. She was also charged with having nursed devils. The learned judge charged the intelligent jury that there was no doubt as to the existence of witches; that it was established by all history, and expressly taught by the bible.
The woman was hanged and her body burned.
Sir Thomas Moore declared that to give up witchcraft was to throw away the sacred scriptures. In my judgment, he was right.
John Wesley was a firm believer in ghosts and witches, and insisted upon it, years after all laws upon the subject had been repealed in England. I beg of you to remember that John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist Church.
In New England, a woman was charged with being a witch, and with having changed herself into a fox. While in that condition she was attacked and bitten by some dogs. A committee of three men, by order of the court, examined this woman. They removed her clothing and searched for “witch spots.” That is to say, spots into which needles could be thrust without giving her pain. They reported to the court that such spots were found. She denied, however, that she ever had changed herself into a fox. Upon the report of the committee she was found guilty and actually executed. This was done by our Puritan fathers, by the gentlemen who braved the dangers of the deep for the sake of worshiping God and persecuting their fellow men.
In those days people believed in what was known as lycanthropy — that is, that persons, with the assistance of the devil, could assume the form of wolves. An instance is given where a man was attacked by a wolf. He defended himself, and succeeded in cutting off one of the animal’s paws. The wolf ran away. The man picked up the paw, put it in his pocket and carried it home. There he found his wife with one of her hands gone. He took the paw from his pocket. It had changed to a human hand. He charged his wife with being a witch. She was tried. She confessed her guilt, and was burned.
People were burned for causing frosts in summer — for destroying crops with hail — for causing storms — for making cows go dry, and even for souring beer. There was no impossibility for which some one was not tried and convicted. The life of no one was secure. To be charged, was to be convicted. Every man was at the mercy of every other. This infamous belief was so firmly seated in the minds of the people, that to express a doubt as to its truth was to be suspected. Whoever denied the existence of witches and devils was denounced as an infidel.
They believed that animals were often taken possession of by devils, and that the killing of the animal would destroy the devil. They absolutely tried, convicted, and executed dumb beasts.
At Basle, in 1470, a rooster was tried upon the charge of having laid an egg. Rooster eggs were used only in making witch ointment — this everybody knew. The rooster was convicted and with all due solemnity was burned in the public square. So a hog and six pigs were tried for having killed and partially eaten a child. The hog was convicted — but the pigs, on account probably of their extreme youth, were acquitted. As late as 1740, a cow was tried and convicted of being possessed by a devil.
They used to exorcise rats, locusts, snakes and vermin. They used to go through the alleys, streets, and fields, and warn them to leave within a certain number of days. In case they disobeyed, they were threatened with pains and penalties.
But let us be careful how we laugh at these things. Let us not pride ourselves too much on the progress of our age. We must not forget that some of our people are yet in the same intelligent business. Only a little while ago, the governor of Minnesota appointed a day of fasting and prayer, to see if some power could not be induced to kill the grasshoppers, or send them into some other state.
About the close of the fifteenth century, so great was the excitement with regard to the existence of witchcraft that Pope Innocent VIII issued a bull directing the inquisitors to be vigilant in searching out and punishing all guilty of this crime. Forms for the trial were regularly laid down in a book or a pamphlet called the “Malleus Maleficorum” (Hammer of Witches), which was issued by the Roman See. Popes Alexander, Leo, and Adrian, issued like bulls. For two hundred and fifty years the church was busy in punishing the impossible crime of witchcraft; in burning, hanging and torturing men, women, and children. Protestants were as active as Catholics, and in Geneva five hundred witches were burned at the stake in a period of three months. About one thousand were executed in one year in the diocese of Como. At least one hundred thousand victims suffered in Germany alone: the last execution (in Wurtzburg ) taking place as late as 1749. Witches were burned in Switzerland as late as 1780.
In England the same frightful scenes were enacted. Statutes were passed from Henry VI to James I, defining the crime and its punishment. The last act passed by the British parliament was when Lord Bacon was a member of the House of Commons; and this act was not repealed until 1736.
Sir William Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, says: “To deny the possibility, nay, actual existence of witchcraft and sorcery, is at once flatly to contradict the word of God in various passages both of the old and new testament; and the thing itself is a truth to which every nation in the world hath in its turn borne testimony, either by examples seemingly well attested, or by prohibitory laws, which at least suppose the possibility of a commerce with evil spirits.”
In Brown’s Dictionary of the Bible, published at Edinburgh Scotland, in 1807, it is said that: “A witch is a woman that has dealings with Satan. That such persons are among men is abundantly plain from scripture, and that they ought to be put to death.”
This work was re-published in Albany, New York, in 1816. No wonder the clergy of that city are ignorant and bigoted even unto this day.
In 1716, Mrs. Hicks and her daughter, nine years of age, were hanged for selling their souls to the devil, and raising a storm by pulling off their stockings and making a lather of soap.
In England it has been estimated that at least thirty thousand were hanged and burned. The last victim executed in Scotland, perished in 1722. “She was an innocent old woman, who had so little idea of her situation as to rejoice at the sight of the fire which was destined to consume her. She had a daughter, lame both of hands and of feet — a circumstance attributed to the witch having been used to transform her daughter into a pony and getting her shod by the devil.”
In 1692, nineteen persons were executed and one pressed to death in Salem, Massachusetts, for the crime of witchcraft.
It was thought in those days that men and women made compacts with the devil, orally and in writing. That they abjured God and Jesus Christ, and dedicated themselves wholly to the devil. The contracts were confirmed at a general meeting of witches and ghosts, over which the devil himself presided; and the persons generally signed the articles of agreement with their own blood. These contracts were, in some instances, for a few years; in others, for life. General assemblies of the witches were held at least once a year, at which they appeared entirely naked, besmeared with an ointment made from the bodies of unbaptized infants. “To these meetings they rode from great distances on broomsticks, pokers, goats, hogs, and dogs. Here they did homage to the prince of hell, and offered him sacrifices of young children, and practiced all sorts of license until the break of day.”
“As late as 1815, Belgium was disgraced by a witch trial; and guilt was established by the water ordeal.” “In 1836, the populace of Hela, near Dantzic, twice plunged into the sea a woman reputed to be a sorceress; and as the miserable creature persisted in rising to the surface, she was pronounced guilty, and beaten to death.”
“It was believed that the bodies of devils are not like those of men and animals, cast in an unchangeable mould. It was thought they were like clouds, refined and subtle matter, capable of assuming any form and penetrating into any orifice. The horrible tortures they endured in their place of punishment rendered them extremely sensitive to suffering, and they continually sought a temperate and somewhat moist warmth in order to allay their pangs. It was for this reason they so frequently entered into men and women.”
The devil could transport men, at his will, through the air. He could beget children; and Martin Luther himself had come in contact with one of these children. He recommended the mother to throw the child into the river, in order to free their house from the presence of a devil.
It was believed that the devil could transform people into any shape he pleased.
Whoever denied these things was denounced as an infidel. All the believers in witchcraft confidently appealed to the bible. Their mouths were filled with passages demonstrating the existence of witches and their power over human beings. By the bible they proved that innumerable evil spirits were ranging over the world endeavoring to ruin mankind; that these spirits possessed a power and wisdom far transcending the limits of human faculties; that they delighted in every misfortune that could befall the world; that their malice was superhuman. That they caused tempests was proved by the action of the devil toward Job; by the passage in the book of Revelation describing the four angels who held the four winds, and to whom it was given to afflict the earth. They believed the devil could carry persons hundreds of miles, in a few seconds, through the air. They believed this, because they knew that Christ had been carried by the devil in the same manner and placed on a pinnacle of the temple. “The prophet Habakkuk had been transported by a spirit from Judea to Babylon; and Philip, the evangelist, had been the object of a similar miracle; and in the same way Saint Paul had been carried in the body into the third heaven.”
“In those pious days, they believed that Incubi and Succubi were forever wandering among mankind, alluring, by more than human charms, the unwary to their destruction, and laying plots, which were too often successful, against the virtue of the saints. Sometimes the witches kindled in the monastic priest a more terrestrial fire. People told, with bated breath, how, under the spell of a vindictive woman, four successive abbots in a German monastery had been wasted away by an unholy flame.”
An instance is given in which the devil not only assumed the appearance of a holy man, in order to pay his addresses to a lady, but when discovered, crept under the bed, suffered himself to be dragged out, and was impudent enough to declare that he was the veritable bishop. So perfectly had he assumed the form and features of the prelate that those who knew the bishop best were deceived.
One can hardly imagine the frightful state of the human mind during these long centuries of darkness and superstition. To them, these things were awful and frightful realities. Hovering above them in the air, in their houses, in the bosoms of friends, in their very bodies, in all the darkness of night, everywhere, around, above and below, were innumerable hosts of unclean and malignant devils.
From the malice of those leering and vindictive vampires of the air, the church pretended to defend mankind. Pursued by these phantoms, the frightened multitudes fell upon their faces and implored the aid of robed hypocrisy and sceptered theft.
Take from the orthodox church of today the threat and fear of hell, and it becomes an extinct volcano.
Take from the church the miraculous, the supernatural, the incomprehensible, the unreasonable, the impossible, the unknowable, and the absurd, and nothing but a vacuum remains.
Notwithstanding all the infamous things justly laid to the charge of the church, we are told that the civilization of today is the child of what we are pleased to call the superstition of the past.
Religion has not civilized man — man has civilized religion. God improves as man advances.
Let me call your attention to what we have received from the followers of the ghosts. Let me give you an outline of the sciences as taught by these philosophers of the clouds.
All diseases were produced, either as a punishment by the good ghosts, or out of pure malignity by the bad ones. There were, properly speaking, no diseases. The sick were possessed by ghosts. The science of medicine consisted in knowing how to persuade these ghosts to vacate the premises. For thousands of years the diseased were treated with incantations, with hideous noises, with drums and gongs. Everything was done to make the visit of the ghost as unpleasant as possible, and they generally succeeded in making things so disagreeable that if the ghost did not leave, the patient did. These ghosts were supposed to be of different rank, power and dignity. Now and then a man pretended to have won the favor of some powerful ghost, and that gave him power over the little ones. Such a man became an eminent physician.
It was found that certain kinds of smoke, such as that produced by burning the liver of a fish, the dried skin of a serpent, the eyes of a toad, or the tongue of an adder, were exceedingly offensive to the nostrils of an ordinary ghost. With this smoke, the sick room would be filled until the ghost vanished or the patient died.
It was also believed that certain words — the names of the most powerful ghosts — when properly pronounced, were very effective weapons. It was for a long time thought that Latin words were the best — Latin being a dead language, and known by the clergy. Others thought that two sticks laid across each other and held before the wicked ghost would cause it instantly to flee in dread away.
For thousands of years, the practice of medicine consisted in driving these evil spirits out of the bodies of men.
In some instances, bargains and compromises were made with the ghosts. One case is given where a multitude of devils traded a man for a herd of swine. In this transaction the devils were the losers, as the swine immediately drowned themselves in the sea. This idea of disease appears to have been almost universal, and is by no means yet extinct.
The contortions of the epileptic, the strange twitchings of those afflicted with chorea, the shakings of palsy, dreams, trances, and the numberless frightful phenomena produced by diseases of the nerves, were all seized upon as so many proofs that the bodies of men were filled with unclean and malignant ghosts.
Whoever endeavored to account for these things by natural causes, whoever attempted to cure diseases by natural means, was denounced by the church as an infidel. To explain anything was a crime. It was to the interest of the priest that all phenomena should be accounted for by the will and power of gods and devils. The moment it is admitted that all phenomena are within the domain of the natural, the necessity for a priest has disappeared. Religion breathes the air of the supernatural. Take from the mind of man the idea of the supernatural, and religion ceases to exist. For this reason, the church has always despised the man who explained the wonderful. Upon this principle, nothing was left undone to stay the science of medicine. As long as plagues and pestilences could be stopped by prayer, the priest was useful. The moment the physician found a cure, the priest became an extravagance. The moment it began to be apparent that prayer could do nothing for the body, the priest shifted his ground and began praying for the soul.
Long after the devil idea was substantially abandoned in the practice of medicine, and when it was admitted that God had nothing to do with ordinary coughs and colds, it was still believed that all the frightful diseases were sent by him as punishments for the wickedness of the people. It was thought to be a kind of blasphemy to even try, by any natural means, to stay the ravages of pestilence. Formerly, during the prevalence of plague and epidemics, the arrogance of the priest was boundless. He told the people that they had slighted the clergy, that they had refused to pay tithes, that they had doubted some of the doctrines of the church, and that God was now taking his revenge. The people for the most part, believed this infamous tissue of priestcraft. They hastened to fall upon their knees; they poured out their wealth upon the altars of hypocrisy; they abased and debased themselves; from their minds they banished all doubts, and made haste to crawl in the very dust of humility.
The church never wanted disease to be under the control of man. Timothy Dwight, president of Yale College, preached a sermon against vaccination. His idea was, that if God had decreed from all eternity that a certain man should die with the small-pox, it was a frightful sin to avoid and annul that decree by the trick of vaccination. Small-pox being regarded as one of the heaviest guns in the arsenal of heaven, to spike it was the height of presumption. Plagues and pestilences were instrumentalities in the hands of God with which to gain the love and worship of mankind. To find a cure for disease was to take a weapon from the church. No one tries to cure the ague with prayer. Quinine has been found altogether more reliable. Just as soon as a specific is found for a disease, that disease will be left out of the list of prayer. The number of diseases with which God from time to time afflicts mankind, is continually decreasing. In a few years all of them will be under the control of man, the gods will be left unarmed, and the threats of their priests will excite only a smile.
The science of medicine has had but one enemy — religion. Man was afraid to save his body for fear he might lose his soul.
Is it any wonder that the people in those days believed in and taught the infamous doctrine of eternal punishment — a doctrine that makes God a heartless monster and man a slimy hypocrite and slave?
The ghosts were historians, and their histories were the grossest absurdities. “Tales told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying no thing.” In those days the histories were written by the monks, who, as a rule, were almost as superstitious as they were dishonest. They wrote as though they had been witnesses of every occurrence they related. They wrote the history of every country of importance. They told all the past and predicted all the future with an impudence that amounted to sublimity, “They traced the order of St. Michael, in France, to the archangel himself, and alleged that he was the founder of a chivalric order in heaven itself. They said that Tartars originally came from hell, and that they were called Tartars because Tartarus was one of the names of perdition. They declared that Scotland was so named after Scota, a daughter of Pharaoh, who landed in Ireland, invaded Scotland, and took it by force of arms. This statement was made in a letter addressed to the Pope in the fourteenth century, and was alluded to as a well-known fact. The letter was written by some of the highest dignitaries, and by the direction of the King himself.”
These gentlemen accounted for the red on the breasts of robins, from the fact that these birds carried water to unbaptized infants in hell.
Matthew, of Paris, an eminent historian of the fourteenth century, gave the world the following piece of information: “It is well known that Mohammed was once a cardinal, and became a heretic because he failed in his effort to be elected pope;” and that having drank to excess, he fell by the roadside, and in this condition was killed by swine. “And for that reason, his followers abhor pork even unto this day.”
Another eminent historian informs us that Nero was in the habit of vomiting frogs. When I read this, I said to myself: Some of the croakers of the present day against Progress would be the better for such a vomit.
The history of Charlemagne was written by Turpin, of Rheims. He was a bishop. He assures us that the walls of a city fell down in answer to prayer. That there were giants in those days who could take fifty ordinary men under their arms and walk away with them. “With the greatest of these, a direct descendant of Goliath, one Orlando had a theological discussion, and that in the heat of the debate, when the giant was overwhelmed with the argument, Orlando rushed forward and inflicted a fatal stab.”
The history of Britain, written by the arch-. deacons of Monmouth and Oxford, was wonderfully popular. According to them, Brutus conquered England and built the city of London. During his time, it rained pure blood for three days. At another time, a monster came from the sea, and, after having devoured great multitudes of people, swallowed the king and disappeared. They tell us that King Arthur was not born like other mortals, but was the result of a magical contrivance; that he had great luck in killing giants; that he killed one in France that had the cheerful habit of eating some thirty men a day. That this giant had clothes woven of the beards of the kings he had devoured. To cap the climax, one of the authors of this book was promoted for having written the only reliable history of his country.
In all the histories of those days there is hardly a single truth. Facts were considered unworthy of preservation. Anything that really happened was not of sufficient interest or importance to be recorded. The great religious historian, Eusebius, ingenuously remarks that in his history he carefully omitted whatever tended to discredit the church, and that he piously magnified all that conduced to her glory.
The same glorious principle was scrupulously adhered to by all the historians of that time.
They wrote, and the people believed, that the tracks of Pharoah’s chariots were still visible on the sands of the Red Sea, and that they had been miraculously preserved from the winds and waves as perpetual witnesses of the great miracle there performed.
It is safe to say that every truth in the histories of those times is the result of accident or mistake.
They accounted for everything as the work of good and evil spirits. With cause and effect they had nothing to do. Facts were in no way related to each other. God, governed by infinite caprice, filled the world with miracles and disconnected events. From the quiver of his hatred came the arrows of famine, pestilence, and death.
The moment that the idea is abandoned that all is natural; that all phenomena are the necessary links in the endless chain of being, the conception of history becomes impossible. With the ghosts, the present is not the child of the past, nor the mother of the future. In the domain of religion all is chance, accident, and caprice.
Do not forget, I pray you, that our creeds were written by the cotemporaries of these historians.
The same idea was applied to law. It was believed by our intelligent ancestors that all law derived its sacredness and its binding force from the fact that it had been communicated to man by the ghosts. Of course it was not pretended that the ghosts told everybody the law; but they told it to a few, and the few told it to the people, and the people, as a rule, paid them exceedingly well for their trouble. It was thousands of ages before the people commenced making laws for themselves, and strange as it may appear, most of these laws were vastly superior to the ghost article. Through the web and woof of human legislation began to run and shine and glitter the golden thread of justice.
During these years of darkness it was believed that rather than see an act of injustice done; rather than see the innocent suffer; rather than see the guilty triumph, some ghost would interfere. This belief, as a rule, gave great satisfaction to the victorious party, and as the other man was dead, no complaint was heard from him.
This doctrine was the sanctification of brute force and chance. They had trials by battle, by fire, by water, and by lot. Persons were made to grasp hot iron, and if it burned them their guilt was established. Others, with tied hands and feet, were cast into the sea, and if they sank, the verdict of guilty was unanimous — if they did not sink, they were in league with devils.
So in England, persons charged with crime could appeal to the corsned. The corsned was a piece of the sacramental bread. If the defendant could swallow this piece he went acquit. Godwin, Earl of Kent, in the time of Edward the Confessor, appealed to the corsned. He failed to swallow it and was choked to death.
The ghosts and their followers always took delight in torture, in cruel and unusual punishments. For the infraction of most of their laws, death was the penalty — death produced by stoning and by fire. Sometimes, when man committed only murder, he was allowed to flee to some city of refuge. Murder was a crime against man. But for saying certain words, or denying certain doctrines, or for picking up sticks on certain days, or for worshiping the wrong ghost, or for failing to pray to the right one, or for laughing at a priest, or for saying that wine was not blood, or that bread was not flesh, or for failing to regard ram’s horns as artillery, or for insisting that a dry bone was scarcely sufficient to take the place of water works, or that a raven, as a rule, made a poor landlord:— death, produced by all the ways that the ingenuity of hatred could devise, was the penalty.
Law is a growth — it is a science. Right and wrong exist in the nature of things. Things are not right because they are commanded, nor wrong because they are prohibited. There are real crimes enough without creating artificial ones. All progress in legislation has for centuries consisted in repealing the laws of the ghosts.
The idea of right and wrong is born of man’s capacity to enjoy and suffer. If man could not suffer, if he could not inflict injury upon his fellow, if he could neither feel nor inflict pain, the idea of right and wrong never would have entered his brain. But for this, the word conscience never would have passed the lips of man.
There is one good — happiness. There is but one sin — selfishness. All law should be for the preservation of the one and the destruction of the other.
Under the regime of the ghosts, laws were not supposed to exist in the nature of things. They were supposed to be simply the irresponsible command of a ghost. These commands were not supposed to rest upon reason, they were the product of arbitrary will.
The penalties for the violation of these laws were as cruel as the laws were senseless and absurd. Working on the Sabbath and murder were both punished with death. The tendency of such laws is to blot from the human heart the sense of justice.
To show you how perfectly every department of knowledge, or ignorance rather, was saturated with superstition, I will for a moment refer to the science of language.
It was thought by our fathers, that Hebrew was the original language; that it was taught to Adam in the Garden of Eden by the Almighty, and that consequently all languages came from, and could be traced to, the Hebrew. Every fact inconsistent with that idea was discarded. According to the ghosts, the trouble at the tower of Babel accounted for the fact that all people did not speak Hebrew. The Babel business settled all questions in the science of language.
After a time, so many facts were found to be inconsistent with the Hebrew idea that it began to fall into disrepute, and other languages began to compete for the honor of being the original.
Andre Kempe, in 1569, published a work on the language of Paradise, in which he maintained that God spoke to Adam in Swedish; that Adam answered in Danish; and that the serpent — which appears to me quite probable — spoke to Eve in French. Erro, in a work published at Madrid, took the ground that Basque was the language spoken in the Garden of Eden; but in 1580 Goropius published his celebrated work at Antwerp, in which he put the whole matter at rest by showing, beyond all doubt, that the language spoken in Paradise was neither more nor less than plain Holland Dutch.
The real founder of the science of language was Liebnitz, a cotemporary of Sir Isaac Newton. He discarded the idea that all languages could be traced to one language. He maintained that language was a natural growth. Experience teaches us that this must be so. Words are continually dying and continually being born. Words are naturally and necessarily produced. Words are the garments of thought, the robes of ideas. Some are as rude as the skins of wild beasts, and others glisten and glitter like silk and gold. They have been born of hatred and revenge; of love and self-sacrifice; of hope and fear, of agony and joy. These words are born of the terror and beauty of nature. The stars have fashioned them. In them mingle the darkness and the dawn. From everything they have taken something. Words are the crystalizations of human history, of all that man has enjoyed and and suffered — his victories and defeats — all that he has lost and won. Words are the shadows of all that has been — the mirrors of all that is.
The ghosts also enlightened our fathers in astronomy and geology. According to them the earth was made out of nothing, and a little more nothing having been taken than was used in the construction of this world, the stars were made out of what was left over. Cosmos, in the sixth century, taught that the stars were impelled by angels, who either carried them on their shoulders, rolled them in front of them, or drew them after. He also taught that each angel that pushed a star took great pains to observe what the other angels were doing, so that the relative distances between the stars might always remain the same. He also gave his idea as to the form of the world.
He stated that the world was a vast parallelogram; that on the outside was a strip of land, like the frame of a common slate; that then there was a strip of water, and in the middle a great piece of land; that Adam and Eve lived on the outer strip; that their descendants, with the exception of the Noah family, were drowned by a flood on this outer strip; that the ark finally rested on the middle piece of land where we now are. He accounted for night and day by saying that on the outside strip of land there was a high mountain, around which the sun and moon revolved, and that when the sun was on the other side of the mountain, it was night; and when on this side, it was day.
He also declared that the earth was flat. This he proved by many passages from the bible. Among other reasons for believing the earth to be flat, he brought forward the following: We are told in the new testament that Christ shall come again in glory and power, and all the world shall see him. Now, if the world is round, how are the people on the other side going to see Christ when he comes? That settled the question, and the church not only endorsed the book, but declared that whoever believed less or more than stated by Cosmos, was a heretic.
In those blessed days, Ignorance was a king and Science an outcast.
They knew the moment this earth ceased to be the centre of the universe, and became a mere speck in the starry heaven of existence, that their religion would become a childish fable of the past.
In the name and by the authority of the ghosts, men enslaved their fellow men; they trampled upon the rights of women and children. In the name and by the authority of ghosts, they bought and sold and destroyed each other; they filled heaven with tyrants and earth with slaves, the present with despair and the future with horror. In the name and by the authority of the ghosts, they imprisoned the human mind, polluted the conscience, hardened the heart, subverted justice, crowned robbery, sainted hypocrisy, and extinguished for a thousand years the torch of reason.
I have endeavored, in some faint degree, to show you what has happened, and what always will happen when men are governed by superstition and fear; when they desert the sublime standard of reason; when they take the words of others and do not investigate for themselves.
Even the great men of those days were nearly as weak in this matter as the most ignorant. Kepler, one of the greatest men of the world, an astronomer second to none, although he plucked from the stars the secrets of the universe, was an astrologer, and really believed that he could predict the career of a man by finding what star was in the ascendant at his birth. This great man breathed, so to speak, the atmosphere of his time. He believed in the music of the spheres, and assigned alto, bass, tenor, and treble to certain stars.
Tycho Brahe, another astronomer, kept an idiot, whose disconnected and meaningless words he carefully set down, and then put them together in such manner as to make prophecies, and then waited patiently to see them fulfilled. Luther believed that he had actually seen the devil, and had discussed points of theology with him. The human mind was in chains. Every idea almost was a monster. Thought was deformed. Facts were looked upon as worthless. Only the wonderful was worth preserving. Things that actually happened were not considered worth recording; — real occurrences were too common. Everybody expected the miraculous.
The ghosts were supposed to be busy; devils were thought to be the most industrious things in the universe, and with these imps, every occurrence of an unusual character was in some way connected. There was no order, no serenity, no certainty, in anything. Everything depended upon ghosts and phantoms. Man was, for the most part, at the mercy of malevolent spirits. He protected himself as best he could with holy water and tapers and wafers and cathedrals. He made noises and rung bells to frighten the ghosts, and he made music to charm them. He used smoke to choke them, and incense to please them. He wore beads and crosses. He said prayers, and hired others to say them. He fasted when he was hungry, and feasted when he was not. He believed everything that seemed unreasonable, just to appease the ghosts. He humbled himself. He crawled in the dust. He shut the doors and windows, and excluded every ray of light from the temple of the soul. He debauched and polluted his own mind, and toiled night and day to repair the walls of his own prison. From the garden of his heart he plucked and trampled upon the holy flowers of pity.
The priests reveled in horrible descriptions of hell. Concerning the wrath of God, they grew eloquent. They denounced man as totally depraved. They made reason blasphemy, and pity a crime. Nothing so delighted them as painting the torments and sufferings of the lost. Over the worm that never dies they grew poetic; and the second death filled them with a kind of holy delight. According to them, the smoke and cries ascending from hell were the perfume and music of heaven.
At the risk of being tiresome, I have said what I have to show you the productions of the human mind, when enslaved; the effects of wide-spread ignorance — the results of fear. I want to convince you that every form of slavery is a viper, that, sooner or later, will strike its poison fangs into the bosoms of men.
The first great step towards progress, is, for man to cease to be the slave of man; the second, to cease to be the slave of the monsters of his own creation — of the ghosts and phantoms of the air.
For ages the human race was imprisoned.
Through the bars and grates came a few struggling rays of light. Against these grates and bars Science pressed its pale and thoughtful face, wooed by the holy dawn of human advancement.
Men found that the real was the useful; that what a man knows is better than what a ghost says; that an event is more valuable than a prophecy. They found that diseases were not produced by spirits, and could not be cured by frightening them away. They found that death was as natural as life. They began to study the anatomy and chemistry of the human body, and found that all was natural and within the domain of law.
The conjurer and sorcerer were discarded, and the physician and surgeon employed. They found that the earth was not flat; that the stars were not mere specks. They found that being born under a particular planet had nothing to do with the fortunes of men.
The astrologer was discharged and the astronomer took his place.
They found that the earth had swept through the constellations for millions of ages. They found that good and evil were produced by natural causes, and not by ghosts; that man could not be good enough or bad enough to stop or cause a rain; that diseases were produced as naturally as grass, and were not sent as punishments upon man for failing to believe a certain creed. They found that man, through intelligence, could take advantage of the forces of nature — that he could make the waves, the winds, the flames, and the lightnings of heaven do his bidding and minister to his wants. They found that the ghosts knew nothing of benefit to man; that they were utterly ignorant of geology — of astronomy — of geography; — that they knew nothing of history; — that they were poor doctors and worse surgeons; — that they knew nothing of law and less of justice; that they were without brains, and utterly destitute of hearts; that they knew nothing of the rights of men; that they were despisers of women, the haters of progress, the enemies of science, and the destroyers of liberty.
The condition of the world during the Dark Ages shows exactly the result of enslaving the bodies and souls of men. In those days there was no freedom. Labor was despised, and a laborer was considered but little above a beast. Ignorance, like a vast cowl, covered the brain of the world, and superstition ran riot with the imagination of man. The air was filled with angels, with demons and monsters. Credulity sat upon the throne of the soul, and Reason was an exiled king. A man to be distinguished must be a soldier or a monk. War and theology, that is to say, murder and hypocrisy, were the principal employments of man. Industry was a slave, theft was commerce; murder was war, hypocrisy was religion.
Every christian country maintained that it was no robbery to take the property of Mohammedans by force, and no murder to kill the owners. Lord Bacon was the first man of note who maintained that a christian country was bound to keep its plighted faith with an infidel nation. Reading and writing were considered dangerous arts. Every layman who could read and write was suspected of being a heretic. All thought was discouraged. They forged chains of superstition for the minds, and manacles of iron for the bodies of men. The earth was ruled by the cowl and sword — by the mitre and scepter — by the altar and throne — by Fear and Force — by Ignorance and Faith — by ghouls and ghosts.
In the fifteenth century the following law was in force in England:
“That whosoever reads the scriptures in the mother tongue, shall forfeit land, cattle, life, and goods from their heirs forever, and so be condemned for heretics to God, enemies to the crown, and most arrant traitors to the land.”
During the first year this law was in force thirty-nine were hanged for its violation and their bodies burned.
In the sixteenth century men were burned because they failed to kneel to a procession of monks.
The slightest word uttered against the superstition of the time was punished with death.
Even the reformers, so called, of those days, had no idea of intellectual liberty — no idea even of toleration. Luther, Knox, Calvin, believed in religious liberty only when they were in the minority. The moment they were clothed with power they began to exterminate with fire and sword.
Castellio was the first minister who advocated the liberty of the soul. He was regarded by the reformers as a criminal, and treated as though he had committed the crime of crimes.
Bodinus, a lawyer of France, about the same time, wrote a few words in favor of the freedom of conscience, but public opinion was overwhelmingly against him. The people were ready, anxious, and willing, with whip, and chain, and fire, to drive from the mind of man the heresy that he had a right to think.
Montaigne, a man blest with so much common sense that he was the most uncommon man of his time, was the first to raise a voice against torture in France. But what was the voice of one man against the terrible cry of ignorant, infatuated, superstitious and malevolent millions? It was the cry of a drowning man in the wild roar of the cruel sea.
In spite of the efforts of the brave few the infamous war against the freedom of the soul was waged until at least one hundred millions of human beings — fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters — with hopes, loves, and aspirations like ourselves, were sacrificed upon the cruel altar of an ignorant faith. They perished in every way by which death can be produced. Every nerve of pain was sought out and touched by the believers in ghosts.
For my part I glory in the fact, that here in the new world — in the United States — liberty of conscience was first guaranteed to man, and that the Constitution of the United States was the first great decree entered in the high court of human equity forever divorcing Church and State — the first injunction granted against the interference of the ghosts. This was one of the grandest steps ever taken by the human race in the direction of Progress.
You will ask what has caused this wonderful change in three hundred years. And I answer — the inventions and discoveries of the few; — the brave thoughts, the heroic utterances of the few; — the acquisition of a few facts.
Besides, you must remember that every wrong in some way tends to abolish itself. It is hard to make a lie stand always. A lie will not fit a fact. It will only fit another lie made for the purpose. The life of a lie is simply a question of time. Nothing but truth is immortal. The nobles and kings quarreled; — the priests began to dispute; — the ideas of government began to change.
In 1441 printing was discovered. At that time the past was a vast cemetery with hardly an epitaph. The ideas of men had mostly perished in the brain that produced them. The lips of the human race had been sealed. Printing gave pinions to thought. It preserved ideas. It made it possible for man to bequeath to the future the riches of his brain, the wealth of his soul. At first, it was used to flood the world with the mistakes of the ancients, but since that time it has been flooding the world with light.
When people read they begin to reason, and when they reason they progress. This was another grand step in the direction of Progress.
The discovery of powder, that put the peasant almost upon a par with the prince; — that put an end to the so-called age of chivalry; — that released a vast number of men from the armies; — that gave pluck and nerve a chance with brute strength.
The discovery of America, whose shores were trod by the restless feet of adventure; — that brought people holding every shade of superstition together; — that gave the world an opportunity to compare notes, and to laugh at the follies of each other. Out of this strange mingling of all creeds, and superstitions, and facts, and theories, and countless opinions, came the Great Republic.
Every fact has pushed a superstition from the brain and a ghost from the clouds. Every mechanic art is an educator. Every loom, every reaper and mower, every steamboat, every locomotive, every engine, every press, every telegraph, is a missionary of Science and an apostle of Progress. Every mill, every furnace, every building with its wheels and levers, in which something is made for the convenience, for the use, and for the comfort and elevation of man, is a church, and every school house is a temple.
Education is the most radical thing in the world
To teach the alphabet is to inaugurate a revolution.
To build a school house is to construct a fort.
Every library is an arsenal filled with the weapons and ammunition of Progress, and every fact is a monitor with sides of iron and a turret of steel.
I thank the inventors, the discoverers, the thinkers. I thank Columbus and Magellan. I thank Galileo, and Copernicus, and Kepler, and Des Cartes, and Newton, and La Place. I thank Locke, and Hume, and Bacon, and Shakespeare, and Kant, and Fichte, and Liebnitz, and Goethe. I thank Fulton, and Watts, and Volta, and Galvani, and Franklin, and Morse, who made lightning the messenger of man. I thank Humboldt, the Shakespeare of science. I thank Crompton and Arkwright, from whose brains leaped the looms and spindles that clothe the world. I thank Luther for protesting against the abuses of the church, and I denounce him because he was the enemy of liberty. I thank Calvin for writing a book in favor of religious freedom, and I abhor him because he burned Servetus. I thank Knox for resisting episcopal persecution, and I hate him because he persecuted in his turn. I thank the Puritans for saying “Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God,” and yet I am compelled to say that they were tyrants themselves. I thank Thomas Paine because he was a believer in liberty, and because he did as much to make my country free as any other human being. I thank Voltaire, that great man who, for half a century, was the intellectual emperor of Europe, and who, from his throne at the foot of the Alps, pointed the finger of scorn at every hypocrite in Christendom. I thank Darwin, Haeckel and Buchner, Spencer, Tyndall and Huxley, Draper, Leckey and Buckle. I thank the inventors, the discoverers, the thinkers, the scientists, the explorers. I thank the honest millions who have toiled.
I thank the brave men with brave thoughts. They are the Atlases upon whose broad and mighty shoulders rests the grand fabric of civilization. They are the men who have broken, and are still breaking, the chains of Superstition. They are the Titans who carried Olympus by assault, and who will soon stand victors upon Sinai’s crags.
We are beginning to learn that to exchange a mistake for the truth — a superstition for a fact — to ascertain the real — is to progress.
Happiness is the only possible good, and all that tends to the happiness of man is right, and is of value. All that tends to develop the bodies and minds of men; all that gives us better houses, better clothes, better food, better pictures, grander music, better heads, better hearts; all that renders us more intellectual and more loving, nearer just; that makes us better husbands and wives, better children, better citizens — all these things combined produce what I call Progress.
Man advances only as he overcomes the obstructions of Nature, and this can be done only by labor and by thought. Labor is the foundation of all. Without labor, and without great labor, progress is impossible. The progress of the world depends upon the men who walk in the fresh furrows and through the rustling corn; upon those who sow and reap; upon those whose faces are radiant with the glare of furnace fires; upon the delvers in the mines, and the workers in shops; upon those who give to the winter air the ringing music of the axe; upon those who battle with the boisterous billows of the sea; upon the inventors and discoverers; upon the brave thinkers.
From the surplus produced by labor, schools and universities are built and fostered. From this surplus the painter is paid for the productions of the pencil; the sculptor for chiseling shapeless rock into forms divinely beautiful, and the poet for singing the hopes, the loves, the memories, and the aspirations of the world. This surplus has given us the books in which we converse with the dead and living kings of the human race. It has given us all there is of beauty, of elegance, and of refined happiness.
I am aware that there is a vast difference of opinion as to what progress really is; that many denounce the ideas of today as destructive of all happiness — of all good. I know that there are many worshipers of the past. They venerate the ancient because it is ancient. They see no beauty in anything from which they do not blow the dust of ages with the breath of praise. They say, no masters like the old; no religion, no governments like the ancient; no orators, no poets, no statesmen like those who have been dust for two thousand years. Others love the modern simply because it is modern.
We should have gratitude enough to acknowledge the obligations we are under to the great and heroic of antiquity, and independence enough not to believe what they said simply because they said it.
With the idea that labor is the basis of progress goes the truth that labor must be free. The laborer must be a free man.
The free man, working for wife and child, gets his head and hands in partnership.
To do the greatest amount of work in the shortest space of time, is the problem of free labor.
Slavery does the least work in the longest space of time.
Free labor will give us wealth. Free thought will give us truth.
Slowly but surely man is freeing his imagination of these sexless phantoms, of these cruel ghosts. Slowly but surely he is rising above the superstitions of the past. He is learning to rely upon himself. He is beginning to find that labor is the only prayer that ought to be answered, and that hoping, toiling, aspiring, suffering men and women are of more importance than all the ghosts that ever wandered through the fenceless fields of space.
The believers in ghosts claim still, that they are the only wise and virtuous people upon the earth; claim still, that there is a difference between them and unbelievers so vast, that they will be infinitely rewarded, and the others infinitely punished.
I ask you to-night, do the theories and doctrines of the theologians satisfy the heart or brain of the Nineteenth Century?
Have the churches the confidence of mankind?
Does the merchant give credit to a man because he belongs to a church?
Does the banker loan money to a man because he is a Methodist or Baptist?
Will a certificate of good standing in any church be taken as collateral security for one dollar?
Will you take the word of a church member, or his note, or his oath, simply because he is a church member?
Are the clergy, as a class, better, kinder and more generous to their families — to their fellow-men — than doctors, lawyers, merchants and farmers?
Does a belief in ghosts and unreasonable things necessarily make people honest?
When a man loses confidence in Moses, must the people lose confidence in him?
Does not the credit system in morals breed extravagance in sin?
Why send missionaries to other lands while every penitentiary in ours is filled with criminals? —
Is it philosophical to say that they who do right carry a cross?
Is it a source of joy to think that perdition is the destination of nearly all of the children of men?
Is it worth while to quarrel about original sin — when there is so much copy?
Does it pay to dispute about baptism, and the trinity, and predestination, and apostolic succession and the infallibility of churches, of popes and of books? Does all this do any good?
Are the theologians welcomers of new truths? Are they noted for their candor? Do they treat an opponent with common fairness? Are they investigators? Do they pull forward, or do they hold back?
Is science indebted to the church for a solitary fact?
What church is an asylum for a persecuted truth?
What great reform has been inaugurated by the church?
Did the church abolish slavery?
Has the church raised its voice against war?
I used to think that there was in religion no real restraining force. Upon this point my mind has changed. Religion will prevent man from committing artificial crimes and offenses.
A man committed murder. The evidence was so conclusive that he confessed his guilt.
He was asked why he killed his fellow-man.
He replied: “For money.”
“Did you get any?”
“What did you do with this money?” “Spent it!” “What for?” “Liquor.”
“What else did you find upon the dead man?” “He had his dinner in a bucket — some meat and bread.”
“What did you do with that?”
“I ate the bread.”
“What did you do with the meat?”
“I threw it away.”
“It was Friday.”
Just to the extent that man has freed himself from the dominion of ghosts he has advanced. Just to the extent that he has freed himself from the tyrants of his own creation he has progressed. Just to the extent that he has investigated for himself he has lost confidence in superstition.
With knowledge obedience becomes intelligent acquiescence — it is no longer degrading. Acquiescence in the understood — in the known — is the act of a sovereign, not of a slave. It ennobles, it does not degrade.
Man has found that he must give liberty to others in order to have it himself. He has found that a master is also a slave; — that a tyrant is himself a serf. He has found that governments should be founded and administered by man and for man; that the rights of all are equal; that the powers that be are not ordained by God; that woman is at least the equal of man; that men existed before books; that religion is one of the phases of thought through which the world is passing; that all creeds were made by man; that everything is natural; that a miracle is an impossibility; that we know nothing of origin and destiny; that concerning the unknown we are all equally ignorant; that the pew has the right to contradict what the pulpit asserts; that man is responsible only to himself and those he injures, and that all have a right to think.
True religion must be free. Without perfect liberty of the mind there can be no true religion. Without liberty the brain is a dungeon — the mind a convict. The slave may bow and cringe and crawl, but he cannot adore — he cannot love.
True religion is the perfume of a free and grateful heart. True religion is a subordination of the passions to the perceptions of the intellect. True religion is not a theory — it is a practice. It is not a creed — it is a life.
A theory that is afraid of investigation is undeserving a place in the human mind.
I do not pretend to tell what all the truth is. I do not pretend to have fathomed the abyss, nor to have floated on outstretched wings level with the dim heights of thought. I simply plead for freedom. I denounce the cruelties and horrors of slavery. I ask for light and air for the souls of men. I say, take off those chains — break those manacles — free those limbs — release that brain! I plead for the right to think — to reason — to investigate. I ask that the future may be enriched with the honest thoughts of men. I implore every human being to be a soldier in the army of progress.
I will not invade the rights of others. You have no right to erect your toll-gate upon the highways of thought. You have no right to leap from the hedges of superstition and strike down the pioneers of the human race. You have no right to sacrifice the liberties of man upon the altars of ghosts. Believe what you may; preach what you desire; have all the forms and ceremonies you please; exercise your liberty in your own way but extend to all others the same right.
I will not attack your doctrines nor your creeds if they accord liberty to me. If they hold thought to be dangerous — if they aver that doubt is a crime, then I attack them one and all, because they enslave the minds of men.
I attack the monsters, the phantoms of imagination that have ruled the world. I attack slavery. I ask for room — room for the human mind.
Why should we sacrifice a real world that we have, for one we know not of? Why should we enslave ourselves? Why should we forge fetters for our own hands? Why should we be the slaves of phantoms. The darkness of barbarism was the womb of these shadows. In the light of science they cannot cloud the sky forever. They have reddened the hands of man with innocent blood. They made the cradle a curse, and the grave a place of torment.
They blinded the eyes and stopped the ears of the human race. They subverted all ideas of justice by promising infinite rewards for finite virtues, and threatening infinite punishment for finite offenses.
They filled the future with heavens and with hells, with the shining peaks of selfish joy and the lurid abysses of flame. For ages they kept the world in ignorance and awe, in want and misery, in fear and chains.
I plead for light, for air, for opportunity. I plead for individual independence. I plead for the rights of labor and of thought. I plead for a chainless future. Let the ghosts go — justice remains. Let them disappear — men and women and children are left. Let the monsters fade away — the world is here with its hills and seas and plains, with its seasons of smiles and frowns, its spring of leaf and bud, its summer of shade and flower and murmuring stream; its autumn with the laden boughs, when the withered banners of the corn are still, and gathered fields are growing strangely wan; while death, poetic death, with hands that color what they touch, weaves in the Autumn wood her tapestries of gold and brown.
The world remains with its winters and homes and firesides, where grow and bloom the virtues of our race. All these are left; and music, with its sad and thrilling voice, and all there is of art and song and hope and love and aspiration high. All these remain. Let the ghosts go — we will worship them no more.
Man is greater than these phantoms. Humanity is grander than all the creeds, than all the books. Humanity is the great sea, and these creeds, and books, and religions, are but the waves of a day. Humanity is the sky, and these religions and dogmas and theories are but the mists and clouds changing continually, destined finally to melt away.
That which is founded upon slavery, and fear, and ignorance, cannot endure. In the religion of the future there will be men and women and children, all the aspirations of the soul, and all the tender humanities of the heart.
Let the ghosts go. We will worship them no more. Let them cover their eyeless sockets with their fleshless hands and fade forever from the imaginations of men.
Liberty sustains the same Relation to Mind that Space does to Matter.
THERE is no slavery but ignorance. Liberty is the child of intelligence. The history of man is simply the history of slavery, of injustice and brutality, together with the means by which he has, through the dead and desolate years, slowly and painfully advanced. He has been the sport and prey of priest and king, the food of superstition and cruel might. Crowned force has governed ignorance through fear. Hypocrisy and tyranny — two vultures — have fed upon the liberties of man. From all these there has been, and is, but one means of escape — intellectual development. Upon the back of industry has been the whip. Upon the brain have been the fetters of superstition. Nothing has been left undone by the enemies of freedom. Every art and artifice, every cruelty and outrage has been practiced and perpetrated to destroy the rights of man. In this great struggle every crime has been rewarded and every virtue has been punished. Reading, writing, thinking and investigating have all been crimes.
Every science has been an outcast.
All the altars and all the thrones united to arrest the forward march of the human race. The king said that mankind must not work for themselves. The priest said that mankind must not think for themselves. One forged chains for the hands, the other for the soul. Under this infamous regime the eagle of the human intellect was for ages a slimy serpent of hypocrisy.
The human race was imprisoned. Through some of the prison bars came a few struggling rays of light. Against these bars Science pressed its pale and thoughtful face, wooed by the holy dawn of human advancement. Bar after bar was broken away. A few grand men escaped and devoted their lives to the liberation of their fellows.
Only a few years ago there was a great awakening of the human mind. Men began to inquire by what right a crowned robber made them work for him? The man who asked this question was called a traitor. Others asked by what right does a robed hypocrite rule my thought? Such men were called infidels. The priest said, and the king said, where is this spirit of investigation to stop? They said then and they say now, that it is dangerous for man to be free. I deny it. Out on the intellectual sea there is room enough for every sail. In the intellectual air there is space enough for every wing.
The man who does not do his own thinking is a slave, and is a traitor to himself and to his fellow-men.
“Every man should stand under the blue and stars, under the infinite flag of nature, the peer of every other man.”
Standing in the presence of the Unknown, all have the same right to think, and all are equally interested in the great questions of origin and destiny. All I claim, all I plead for, is liberty thought and expression. That is all. I do not pretend to tell what is absolutely true, but what I think is true. I do not pretend to tell all the truth. I do not claim that I have floated level with the heights of thought, or that I have descended to the very depths of things. I simply claim that what ideas I have, I have a right to express; and that any man who denies that right to me is an intellectual thief and robber. That is all.
Take those chains from the human soul. Break those fetters. If I have no right to think, why have I a brain? If I have no such right, have three or four men, or any number, who may get together, and sign a creed, and build a house, and put a steeple upon it, and a bell in it — have they the right to think? The good men, the good women are tired of the whip and lash in the realm of thought. They remember the chain and fagot with a shudder. They are free, and they give liberty to others. Whoever claims any right that he is unwilling to accord to his fellow-men is dishonest and infamous.
In the good old times, our fathers had the idea that they could make people believe to suit them. Our ancestors, in the ages that are gone, really believed that by force you could convince a man. You cannot change the conclusion of the brain by torture; nor by social ostracism. But I will tell you what you can do by these, and what you have done. You can make hypocrites by the million. You can make a man say that he has changed his mind; but he remains of the same opinion still. Put fetters all over him; crush his feet in iron boots; stretch him to the last gasp upon the holy rack; burn him, if you please, but his ashes will be of the same opinion still.
Our fathers in the good old times — and the best thing I can say about them is, that they have passed away — had an idea that they could force men to think their way. That idea is still prevalent in many parts, even of this country. Even in our day some extremely religious people say, “We will not trade with that man; we will not vote for him; we will not hire him if he is a lawyer; we will die before we will take his medicine if he is a doctor; we will not invite him to dinner; we will socially ostracise him; he must come to our church; he must believe our doctrines; he must worship our god or we will not in any way contribute to his support.”
In the old times of which I have spoken, they desired to make all men think exactly alike. All the mechanical ingenuity of the world cannot make two clocks run exactly alike, and how are you going to make hundreds of millions of people, differing in brain and disposition, in education and aspiration, in conditions and surroundings, each clad in a living robe of passionate flesh — how are you going to make them think and feel alike? If there is an infinite god, one who made us, and wishes us to think alike, why did he give a spoonful of brains to one, and a magnificent intellectual development to another? Why is it that we have all degrees of intelligence, from orthodoxy to genius, if it was intended that all should think and feel alike?
I used to read in books how our fathers persecuted mankind. But I never appreciated it. I read it, but it did not burn itself into my soul, I did not really appreciate the infamies that have been committed in the name of religion, until I saw the iron arguments that christians used. I saw the Thumbscrew — two little pieces of iron, armed on the inner surfaces with protuberances, to prevent their slipping; through each end a screw uniting the two pieces. And when some man denied the efficacy of baptism, or maybe said, “I do not believe that a fish ever swallowed a man to keep him from drowning,” then they put his thumb between these pieces of iron and in the name of love and universal forgiveness, began to screw these pieces together. When this was done most men said, “I will recant.” Probably I should have done the same. Probably I would have said: “Stop, I will admit anything that you wish; I will admit that there is one god or a million, one hell or a billion; suit yourselves; but stop.”
But there was now and then a man who would not swerve the breadth of a hair. There was now and then some sublime heart, willing to die for an intellectual conviction. Had it not been for such men, we would be savages to-night. Had it not been for a few brave, heroic souls in every age, we would have been cannibals, with pictures of wild beasts tattooed upon our flesh, dangling around some dried snake fetich.
Let us thank every good and noble man who stood so grandly, so proudly, in spite of opposition, of hatred and death, for what he believed to be the truth.
Heroism did not excite the respect of our fathers. The man who would not recant was not forgiven. They screwed the thumbscrews down to the last pang, and then threw their victim into some dungeon, where, in the throbbing silence and darkness, he might suffer the agonies of the fabled damned. This was done in the name of love — in the name of mercy — in the name of the compassionate Christ.
I saw, too, what they called the Collar of Torture. Imagine a circle of iron, and on the inside a hundred points almost as sharp as needles. This argument was fastened about the throat of the sufferer. Then he could not walk, nor sit down, nor stir without the neck being punctured by these points. In a little while the throat would begin to swell, and suffocation would end the agonies of that man. This man, it may be, had committed the crime of saying, with tears upon his cheeks, “I do not believe that God, the father of us all, will damn to eternal perdition any of the children of men.”
I saw another instrument, called the Scavenger’s Daughter. Think of a pair of shears with handles, not only where they now are, but at the points as well, and just above the pivot that unites the blades, a circle of iron. In the upper handles the hands would be placed; in the lower, the feet; and through the iron ring, at the centre, the head of the victim would be forced. In this condition, he would be thrown prone upon the earth, and the strain upon the muscles produced such agony that insanity would in pity end his pain.
This was done by gentlemen who said: “Whosoever smiteth thee upon one cheek turn to him the other also.”
I saw the Rack. This was a box like the bed of a wagon, with a windlass at each end, with levers, and ratchets to prevent slipping; over each windlass went chains; some were fastened to the ankles of the sufferer; others to his wrists. And then priests, clergymen, divines, saints, began turning these windlasses, and kept turning, until the ankles, the knees, the hips, the shoulders, the elbows, the wrists of the victim were all dislocated, and the sufferer was wet with the sweat of agony. And they had standing by a physician to feel his pulse. What for? To save his life? Yes. In mercy? No; simply that they might rack him once again.
This was done, remember, in the name of civilization; in the name of law and order; in the name of mercy; in the name of religion; in the name of the most merciful Christ.
Sometimes, when I read and think about these frightful things, it seems to me that I have suffered all these horrors myself. It seems sometimes, as though I had stood upon the shore of exile and gazed with tearful eyes toward home and native land; as though my nails had been torn from my hands, and into the bleeding quick needles had been thrust; as though my feet had been crushed in iron boots; as though I had been chained in the cell of the Inquisition and listened with dying ears for the coming footsteps of release; as though I had stood upon the scaffold and had seen the glittering axe fall upon me; as though I had been upon the rack and had seen, bending above me, the white faces of hypocrite priests; as though I had been taken from my fireside, from my wife and children, taken to the public square, chained; as though fagots had been piled about me; as though the flames had climbed around my limbs and scorched my eyes to blindness, and as though my ashes had been scattered to the four winds, by all the countless hands of hate. And when I so feel, I swear that while I live I will do what little I can to preserve and to augment the liberties of man, woman, and child.
It is a question of justice, of mercy, of honesty, of intellectual development. If there is a man in the world who is not willing to give to every human being every right he claims for himself, he is just so much nearer a barbarian than I am. It is a question of honesty. The man who is not willing to give to every other the same intellectual rights he claims for himself, is dishonest, selfish, and brutal.
It is a question of intellectual development. Whoever holds another man responsible for his honest thought, has a deformed and distorted brain. It is a question of intellectual development.
A little while ago I saw models of nearly everything that man has made. I saw models of all the water craft, from the rude dug-out in which floated a naked savage — one of our ancestors — a naked savage, with teeth two inches in length, with a spoonful of brains in the back of his head — I saw models of all the water craft of the world, from that dug-out up to a man-of-war, that carries a hundred guns and miles of canvas — from that dug-out to the steamship that turns its brave prow from the port of New York, with a compass like a conscience, crossing three thousand miles of billows without missing a throb or beat of its mighty iron heart.
I saw at the same time the weapons that man has made, from a club, such as was grasped by that same savage, when he crawled from his den in the ground and hunted a snake for his dinner; from that club to the boomerang, to the sword, to the cross-bow, to the blunderbuss, to the flint-lock, to the cap-lock, to the needle-gun, up to a cannon cast by Krupp, capable of hurling a ball weighing two thousand pounds through eighteen inches of solid steel.
I saw, too, the armor from the shell of a turtle, that one of our brave ancestors lashed upon his breast when he went to fight for his country; the skin of a porcupine, dried with the quills on, which this same savage pulled over his orthodox head, up to the shirts of mail, that were worn in the Middle Ages, that laughed at the edge of the sword and defied the point of the spear; up to a monitor clad in complete steel.
I saw at the same time, their musical instruments, from the tom-tom — that is, a hoop with a couple of strings of raw hide drawn across it — from that tom-tom, up to the instruments we have today, that make the common air blossom with melody.
I saw, too, their paintings, from a daub of yellow mud, to the great works which now adorn the galleries of the world. I saw also their sculpture, from the rude god with four legs, a half dozen arms, several noses, and two or three rows of ears, and one little, contemptible, brainless head, up to the figures of today — to the marbles that genius has clad in such a personality that it seems almost impudent to touch them without an introduction.
I saw their books — books written upon skins of wild beasts — upon shoulder-blades of sheep — books written upon leaves, upon bark, up to the splendid volumes that enrich the libraries of our day. When I speak of libraries, I think of the remark of Plato: “A house that has a library in it has a soul.”
I saw their implements of agriculture, from a crooked stick that was attached to the horn of an ox by some twisted straw, to the agricultural implements of this generation, that make it possible for a man to cultivate the soil without being an ignoramus.
While looking upon these things I was forced to say that man advanced only as he mingled his thought with his labor — only as he got into partnership with the forces of nature — only as he learned to take advantage of his surroundings — only as he freed himself from the bondage of fear — only as he depended upon himself — only as he lost confidence in the gods.
I saw at the same time a row of human skulls, from the lowest skull that has been found, the Neanderthal skull — skulls from Central Africa, skulls from the Bushmen of Australia — skulls from the farthest isles of the Pacific sea — up to the best skulls of the last generation; — and I noticed that there was the same difference between those skulls that there was between the products of those skulls, and I said to myself, “After all, it is a simple question of intellectual development.” There was the same difference between those skulls, the lowest and highest skulls, that there was between the dugout and the man-of-war and the steamship, between the club and the Krupp gun, between the yellow daub and the landscape, between the tom-tom and an opera by Verdi.
The first and lowest skull in this row was the den in which crawled the base and meaner instincts of mankind, and the last was a temple in which dwelt joy, liberty, and love.
It is all a question of brain, of intellectual development.
If we are nearer free than were our fathers, it is because we have better heads upon the average, and more brains in them.
Now, I ask you to be honest with me. It makes no difference to you what I believe, nor what I wish to prove. I simply ask you to be honest. Divest your minds, for a moment at least, of all religious prejudice. Act, for a few moments, as though you were men and women.
Suppose the king, if there was one, and the priest, if there was one, at the time this gentleman floated in the dug-out, and charmed his ears with the music of the tom-tom, had said: “That dug-out is the best boat that ever can be built by man; the pattern of that came from on high, from the great god of storm and flood, and any man who says that he can improve it by putting a mast in it, with a sail upon it, is an infidel, and shall be burned at the stake;” what, in your judgment — honor bright — would have been the effect upon the circumnavigation of the globe?
Suppose the king, if there was one, and the priest, if there was one — and I presume there was a priest, because it was a very ignorant age — suppose this king and priest had said: “That tom-tom is the most beautiful instrument of music of which any man can conceive; that is the kind of music they have in heaven; an angel sitting upon the edge of a fleecy cloud, golden in the setting sun, playing upon that tom-tom, became so enraptured, so entranced with her own music, that in a kind of ecstasy she dropped it — that is how we obtained it; and any man who says that it can be improved by putting a back and front to it, and four strings, and a bridge, and getting a bow of hair with rosin, is a blaspheming wretch, and shall die the death,”— I ask you, what effect would that have had upon music? If that course had been pursued, would the human ears, in your judgment, ever have been enriched with the divine symphonies of Beethoven? Suppose the king, if there was one, and the priest, had said: “That crooked stick is the best plow that can be invented: the pattern of that plow was given to a pious farmer in a holy dream, and that twisted straw is the ne plus ultra of all twisted things, and any man who says he can make an improvement upon that plow, is an atheist;” what, in your judgment, would have been the effect upon the science of agriculture?
But the people said, and the king and priest said: “We want better weapons with which to kill our fellow christians; we want better plows, better music, better paintings, and whoever will give us better weapons, and better music, better houses to live in, better clothes, we will robe him in wealth, and crown him with honor.” Every incentive was held out to every human being to improve these things. That is the reason the club has been changed to a cannon, the dug-out to a steamship, the daub to a painting; that is the reason that the piece of rough and broken stone finally became a glorified statue.
You must not, however, forget that the gentleman in the dug-out, the gentleman who was enraptured with the music of the tom-tom, and cultivated his land with a crooked stick, had a religion of his own. That gentlemen in the dugout was orthodox. He was never troubled with doubts. He lived and died settled in his mind. He believed in hell; and he thought he would be far happier in heaven, if he could just lean over and see certain people who expressed doubts as to the truth of his creed, gently but everlastingly broiled and burned.
It is a very sad and unhappy fact that this man has had a great many intellectual descendants. It is also an unhappy fact in nature, that the ignorant multiply much faster than the intellectual. This fellow in the dug-out believed in a personal devil. His devil had a cloven hoof, a long tail, armed with a fiery dart; and his devil breathed brimstone. This devil was at least the equal of God; not quite so stout but a little shrewder. And do you know there has not been a patentable improvement made upon that devil for six thousand years.
This gentleman in the dug-out believed that God was a tyrant; that he would eternally damn the man who lived in accordance with his highest and grandest ideal. He believed that the earth was flat. He believed in a literal, burning, seething hell of fire and sulphur. He had also his idea of politics; and his doctrine was, might makes right. And it will take thousands of years before the world will reverse this doctrine, and believingly say, “Right makes might.”
All I ask is the same privilege to improve upon that gentleman’s theology as upon his musical instrument; the same right to improve upon his politics as upon his dug-out. That is all. I ask for the human soul the same liberty in every direction. That is the only crime I have committed. I say, let us think. Let each one express his thought. Let us become investigators, not followers, not cringers and crawlers. If there is in heaven an infinite being, he never will be satisfied with the worship of cowards and hypocrites. Honest unbelief, honest infidelity, honest atheism, will be a perfume in heaven when pious hypocrisy, no matter how religious it may be outwardly, will be a stench.
This is my doctrine: Give every other human being every right you claim for yourself. Keep your mind open to the influences of nature. Receive new thoughts with hospitality. Let us advance.
The religionist of today wants the ship of his soul to lie at the wharf of orthodoxy and rot in the sun. He delights to hear the sails of old opinions flap against the masts of old creeds. He loves to see the joints and the sides open and gape in the sun, and it is a kind of bliss for him to repeat again and again: “Do not disturb my opinions. Do not unsettle my mind; I have it all made up, and I want no infidelity. Let me go backward rather than forward.”
As far as I am concerned I wish to be out on the high seas. I wish to take my chances with wind, and wave, and star. And I had rather go down in the glory and grandeur of the storm, than to rot in any orthodox harbor whatever.
After all, we are improving from age to age. The most orthodox people in this country two hundred years ago would have been burned for the crime of heresy. The ministers who denounce me for expressing my thought would have been in the Inquisition themselves. Where once burned and blazed the bivouac fires of the army of progress, now glow the altars of the church. The religionists of our time are occupying about the same ground occupied by heretics and infidels of one hundred years ago. The church has advanced in spite, as it were, of itself. It has followed the army of progress protesting and denouncing, and had to keep within protesting and denouncing distance. If the church had not made great progress I could not express my thoughts.
Man, however, has advanced just exactly in the proportion with which he has mingled his thought with his labor. The sailor, without control of the wind and wave, knowing nothing or very little of the mysterious currents and pulses of the sea, is superstitious. So also is the agriculturist, whose prosperity depends upon something he cannot control. But the mechanic, when a wheel refuses to turn, never thinks of dropping on his knees and asking the assistance of some divine power. He knows there is a reason. He knows that something is too large or too small; that there is something wrong with his machine; and he goes to work and he makes it larger or smaller, here or there, until the wheel will turn. Now, just in proportion as man gets away from being, as it were, the slave of his surroundings, the serf of the elements — of the heat, the frost, the snow, and the lightning — just to the extent that he has gotten control of his own destiny, just to the extent that he has triumphed over the obstacles of nature, he has advanced physically and intellectually. As man develops, he places a greater value upon his own rights. Liberty becomes a grander and diviner thing. As he values his own rights, he begins to value the rights of others. And when all men give to all others all the rights they claim for themselves, this world will be civilized.
A few years ago the people were afraid to question the king, afraid to question the priest, afraid to investigate a creed, afraid to deny a book, afraid to denounce a dogma, afraid to reason, afraid to think. Before wealth they bowed to the very earth, and in the presence of titles they became abject. All this is slowly but surely changing. We no longer bow to men simply because they are rich. Our fathers worshiped the golden calf. The worst you can say of an American now is, he worships the gold of the calf. Even the calf is beginning to see this distinction. It no longer satisfies the ambition of a great man to be king or emperor. The last Napoleon was not satisfied with being the emperor of the French. He was not satisfied with having a circlet of gold about his head. He wanted some evidence that he had something of value within his head. So he wrote the life of Julius Caesar, that he might become a member of the French Academy. The emperors, the kings, the popes, no longer tower above their fellows. Compare King William with the philosopher Haeckel. The king is one of the anointed by the most high, as they claim — one upon whose head has been poured the divine petroleum of authority. Compare this king with Haeckel, who towers an intellectual colossus above the crowned mediocrity. Compare George Eliot with Queen Victoria. The queen is clothed in garments given her by blind fortune and unreasoning chance, while George Eliot wears robes of glory woven in the loom of her own genius.
The world is beginning to pay homage to intellect, to genius, to heart.
We have advanced. We have reaped the benefit of every sublime and heroic self-sacrifice, of every divine and brave act; and we should endeavor to hand the torch to the next generation, having added a little to the intensity and glory of the flame.
When I think of how much this world has suffered; when I think of how long our fathers were slaves, of how they cringed and crawled at the foot of the throne, and in the dust of the altar, of how they abased themselves, of how abjectly they stood in the presence of superstition robed and crowned, I am amazed.
This world has not been fit for a man to live in fifty years. It was not until the year 1808 that Great Britain abolished the slave trade. Up to that time her judges, sitting upon the bench in the name of justice, her priests, occupying her pulpits, in the name of universal love, owned stock in the slave ships, and luxuriated upon the profits of piracy and murder. It was not until the same year that the United States of America abolished the slave trade between this and other countries, but carefully preserved it as between the States. It was not until the 28th day of August, 1833, that Great Britain abolished human slavery in her colonies; and it was not until the 1st day of January, 1863, that Abraham Lincoln, sustained by the sublime and heroic North, rendered our flag pure as the sky in which it floats.
Abraham Lincoln was, in my judgment, in many respects, the grandest man ever President of the United States. Upon his monument these words should be written: “Here sleeps the only man in the history of the world, who, having been clothed with almost absolute power, never abused it, except upon the side of mercy.”
Think how long we clung to the institution of human slavery, how long lashes upon the naked back were a legal tender for labor performed. Think of it. The pulpit of this country deliberately and willingly, for a hundred years, turned the cross of Christ into a whipping post.
With every drop of my blood I hate and execrate every form of tyranny, every form of slavery. I hate dictation. I love liberty.
What do I mean by liberty? By physical liberty I mean the right to do anything which does not interfere with the happiness of another. By intellectual liberty I mean the right to think right and the right to think wrong. Thought is the means by which we endeavor to arrive at truth. If we know the truth already, we need not think. All that can be required is honesty of purpose. You ask my opinion about anything; I examine it honestly, and when my mind is made up, what should I tell you? Should I tell you my real thought? What should I do? There is a book put in my hands. I am told this is the Koran; it was written by inspiration. I read it, and when I get through, suppose that I think in my heart and in my brain, that it is utterly untrue, and you then ask me, what do you think? Now, admitting that I live in Turkey, and have no chance to get any office unless I am on the side of the Koran, what should I say? Should I make a clean breast and say, that upon my honor I do not believe it? What would you think then of my fellow-citizens if they said: “That man is dangerous, he is dishonest.”
Suppose I read the book called the bible, and when I get through I make up my mind that it was written by men. A minister asks me, “Did you read the bible?” I answer that I did. “Do you think it divinely inspired?” What should I reply? Should I say to myself, “If I deny the inspiration of the scriptures, the people will never clothe me with power.” What ought I to answer? Ought I not to say like a man: “I have read it; I do not believe it.” Should I not give the real transcript of my mind? Or should I turn hypocrite and pretend what I do not feel, and hate myself forever after for being a cringing coward. For my part I would rather a man would tell me what he honestly thinks. I would rather he would preserve his manhood. I had a thousand times rather be a manly unbeliever than an unmanly believer. And if there is a judgment day, a time when all will stand before some supreme being, I believe I will stand higher, and stand a better chance of getting my case decided in my favor, than any man sneaking through life pretending to believe what he does not.
I have made up my mind to say my say. I
I shall do it kindly, distinctly; but I am going to do it. I know there are thousands of men who substantially agree with me, but who are not in a condition to express their thoughts. They are poor; they are in business; and they know that should they tell their honest thought, persons will refuse to patronize them — to trade with them; they wish to get bread for their little children; they wish to take care of their wives; they wish to have homes and the comforts of life. Every such person is a certificate of the meanness of the community in which he resides: And yet I do not blame these people for not expressing their thought. I say to them: “Keep your ideas to yourselves; feed and clothe the ones you love; I will do your talking for you. The church can not touch, can not crush, can not starve, cannot stop or stay me; I will express your thoughts.”
As an excuse for tyranny, as a justification of slavery, the church has taught that man is totally depraved. Of the truth of that doctrine, the church has furnished the only evidence there is. The truth is, we are both good and bad. The worst are capable of some good deeds, and the best are capable of bad. The lowest can rise, and the highest may fall. That mankind can be divided into two great classes, sinners and saints, is an utter falsehood. In times of great disaster, called it may be, by the despairing voices of women, men, denounced by the church as totally depraved, rush to death as to a festival. By such men, deeds are done so filled with self-sacrifice and generous daring, that millions pay to them the tribute, not only of admiration, but of tears. Above all creeds,-above all religions, after all, is that divine thing — Humanity; and now and then in shipwreck on the wide, wild sea, or ‘mid the rocks and breakers of some cruel shore, or where the serpents of flame writhe and hiss, some glorious heart, some chivalric soul does a deed that glitters like a star, and gives the lie to all the dogmas of superstition. All these frightful doctrines have been used to degrade and to enslave mankind.
Away, forever away with the creeds and books and forms and laws and religions that take from the soul liberty and reason. Down with the idea that thought is dangerous! Perish the infamous doctrine that man can have property in man. Let us resent with indignation every effort to put a chain upon our minds. If there is no God, certainly we should not bow and cringe and crawl. If there is a God, there should be no slaves.
Women have been the slaves of slaves; and in my judgment it took millions of ages for woman to come from the condition of abject slavery up to the institution of marriage. Let me say right here, that I regard marriage as the holiest institution among men. Without the fireside there is no human advancement; without the family relation there is no life worth living. Every good government is made up of good families. The unit of good government is the family, and anything that tends to destroy the family is perfectly devilish and infamous. I believe in marriage, and I hold in utter contempt the opinions of those long-haired men and short-haired women who denounce the institution of marriage.
The grandest ambition that any man can possibly have, is to so live, and so improve himself in heart and brain, as to be worthy of the love of some splendid woman; and the grandest ambition of any girl is to make herself worthy of the love and adoration of some magnificent man. That is my idea. There is no success in life without love and marriage. You had better be the emperor of one loving and tender heart, and she the empress of yours, than to be king of the world. The man who has really won the love of one good woman in this world, I do not care if he dies in the ditch a beggar, his life has been a success.
I say it took millions of years to come from the condition of abject slavery up to the condition of marriage. Ladies, the ornaments you wear upon your persons to-night are but the souvenirs of your mother’s bondage. The chains around your necks, and the bracelets clasped upon your white arms by the thrilled hand of love, have been changed by the wand of civilization from iron to shining, glittering gold.
But nearly every religion has accounted for all the devilment in this world by the crime of woman. What a gallant thing that is! And if it is true, I had rather live with the woman I love in a world full of trouble, than to live in heaven with nobody but men.
I read in a book — and I will say now that I cannot give the exact language, as my memory does not retain the words, but I can give the substance — I read in a book that the Supreme Being concluded to make a world and one man; that he took some nothing and made a world and one man, and put this man in a garden. In a little while he noticed that the man got lonesome; that he wandered around as if he was waiting for a train. There was nothing to interest him; no news; no papers; no politics; no policy; and, as the devil had not yet made his appearance, there was no chance for reconciliation; not even for civil service reform. Well, he wandered about the garden in this condition, until finally the Supreme Being made up his mind to make him a companion.
Having used up all the nothing he originally took in making the world and one man, he had to take a part of the man to start a woman with. So he caused a sleep to fall on this man — now understand me, I do not say this story is true. After the sleep fell upon this man, the Supreme Being took a rib, or as the French would call it, a cutlet, out of this man, and from that he made a woman. And considering the amount of raw material used, I look upon it as the most successful job ever performed. Well, after he got the woman done, she was brought to the man; not to see how she liked him, but to see how he liked her. He liked her, and they started housekeeping; and they were told of certain things they might do and of one thing they could not do — and of course they did it. I would have done it in fifteen minutes, and I know it. There wouldn’t have been an apple on that tree half an hour from date, and the limbs would have been full of clubs. And then they were turned out of the park and extra policemen were put on to keep them from getting back.
Devilment commenced. The mumps, and the measles, and the whooping-cough, and the scarlet fever started in their race for man. They began to have the toothache, roses began to have thorns, snakes began to have poisoned teeth, and people began to divide about religion and politics, and the world has been full of trouble from that day to this.
Nearly all of the religions of this world account for the existence of evil by such a story as that!
I read in another book what appeared to be an account of the same transaction. It was written about four thousand years before the other. All commentators agree that the one that was written last was the original, and that the one that was written first was copied from the one that was written last. But I would advise you all not to allow your creed to be disturbed by a little matter of four or five thousand years. In this other story, Brahma made up his mind to make the world and a man and woman. He made the world, and he made the man and then the woman, and put them on the island of Ceylon. According to the account it was the most beautiful island of which man can conceive. Such birds, such songs, such flowers and such verdure! And the branches of the trees were so arranged that when the wind swept through them every tree was a thousand AEolian harps.
Brahma, when he put them there, said: “Let them have a period of courtship, for it is my desire and will that true love should forever precede marriage.” When I read that, it was so much more beautiful and lofty than the other, that I said to myself, “If either one of these stories ever turns out to be true, I hope it will be this one.”
Then they had their courtship, with the nightingale singing, and the stars shining, and the flowers blooming, and they fell in love. Imagine that courtship! No prospective fathers or mothers-inlaw; no prying and gossiping neighbors; nobody to say, “Young man, how do you expect to support her?” Nothing of that kind. They were married by the Supreme Brahma, and he said to them: “Remain here; you must never leave this island.” Well, after a little while the man — and his name was Adami, and the woman’s name was Heva — said to Heva: “I believe I’ll look about a little.” He went to the northern extremity of the island where there was a little narrow neck of land connecting it with the mainland, and the devil, who is always playing pranks with us, produced a mirage, and when he looked over to the mainland, such hills and vales, such dells and dales, such mountains crowned with snow, such cataracts clad in bows of glory did he see there, that he went back and told Heva: “The country over there is a thousand times better than this; let us migrate.” She, like every other woman that ever lived, said: “Let well enough alone; we have all we want; let us stay here.” But he said “No, let us go;” so she followed him, and when they came to this narrow neck of land, he took her on his back like a gentleman, and carried her over. But the moment they got over they heard a crash, and looking back, discovered that this narrow neck of land had fallen into the sea. The mirage had disappeared, and there were naught but rocks and sand; and then the Supreme Brahma cursed them both to the lowest hell.
Then it was that the man spoke — and I have liked him ever since for it —“Curse me, but curse not her, it was not her fault, it was mine.”
That’s the kind of man to start a world with.
The Supreme Brahma said: “I will save her, but not thee.” And then she spoke out of her fullness of love, out of a heart in which there was love enough to make all her daughters rich in holy affection, and said: “If thou wilt not spare him, spare neither me; I do not wish to live without him; I love him.” Then the Supreme Brahma said — and I have liked him ever since I read it —“I will spare you both and watch over you and your children forever.”
Honor bright, is not that the better and grander story?
And from that same book I want to show you what ideas some of these miserable heathen had; the heathen we are trying to convert. We send missionaries over yonder to convert heathen there, and we send soldiers out on the plains to kill heathen here. If we can convert the heathen, why not convert those nearest home? Why not convert those we can get at? Why not convert those who have the immense advantage of the example of the average pioneer? But to show you the men we are trying to convert: In this book it says: “Man is strength, woman is beauty; man is courage, woman is love. When the one man loves the one woman and the one woman loves the one man, the very angels leave heaven and come and sit in that house and sing for joy.”
They are the men we are converting. Think of it! I tell you, when I read these things, I say that love is not of any country; nobility does not belong exclusively to any race, and through all the ages, there have been a few great and tender souls blossoming in love and pity.
In my judgment, the woman is the equal of the man. She has all the rights I have and one more, and that is the right to be protected. That is my doctrine. You are married; try and make the woman you love happy. Whoever marries simply for himself will make a mistake; but whoever loves a woman so well that he says “I will make her happy,” makes no mistake. And so with the woman who says, “I will make him happy.” There is only one way to be happy, and that is to make somebody else so, and you cannot be happy by going cross lots; you have got to go the regular turnpike road.
If there is any man I detest, it is the man who thinks he is the head of a family — the man who thinks he is “boss!” The fellow in the dug-out used that word “boss;” that was one of his favorite expressions.
Imagine a young man and a young woman courting, walking out in the moonlight, and the nightingale singing a song of pain and love, as though the thorn touched her heart — imagine them stopping there in the moonlight and starlight and song, and saying, “Now, here, let us settle who is ‘boss!’” I tell you it is an infamous word and an infamous feeling — I abhor a man who is “boss,” who is going to govern in his family, and when he speaks orders all the rest to be still as some mighty idea is about to be launched from his mouth. Do you know I dislike this man unspeakably?
I hate above all things a cross man. What right has he to murder the sunshine of a day? What right has he to assassinate the joy of life?
When you go home you ought to go like a ray of light — so that it will, even in the night, burst out of the doors and windows and illuminate the darkness. Some men think their mighty brains have been in a turmoil; they have been thinking about who will be alderman from the fifth ward; they have been thinking about politics; great and mighty questions have been engaging their minds; they have bought calico at five cents or six, and want to sell it for seven. Think of the intellectual strain that must have been upon that man, and when he gets home everybody else in the house must look out for his comfort. A woman who has only taken care of five or six children, and one or two of them sick, has been nursing them and singing to them, and trying to make one yard of cloth do the work of two, she, of course, is fresh and fine and ready to wait upon this gentleman — the head of the family — the boss!
Do you know another thing? I despise a stingy man. I do not see how it is possible for a man to die worth fifty million of dollars, or ten million of dollars, in a city full of want, when he meets almost every day the withered hand of beggary and the white lips of famine. How a man can withstand all that, and hold in the clutch of his greed twenty or thirty million of dollars, is past my comprehension. I do not see how he can do it. I should not think he could do it any more than he could keep a pile of lumber on the beach, where hundreds and thousands of men were drowning in the sea.
Do you know that I have known men who would trust their wives with their hearts and their honor but not with their pocketbook; not with a dollar. When I see a man of that kind, I always think he knows which of these articles is the most valuable. Think of making your wife a beggar! Think of her having to ask you every day for a dollar, or for two dollars or fifty cents! “What did you do with that dollar I gave you last week?” Think of having a wife that is afraid of you! What kind of children do you expect to have with a beggar and a coward for their mother? Oh, I tell you if you have but a dollar in the world, and you have got to spend it, spend it like a king; spend it as though it were a dry leaf and you the owner of unbounded forests! That’s the way to spend it! I had rather be a beggar and spend my last dollar like a king, than be a king and spend my money like a beggar! If it has got to go, let it go!
Get the best you can for your family — try to look as well as you can yourself. When you used to go courting, how elegantly you looked! Ah, your eye was bright, your step was light, and you looked like a prince. Do you know that it is insufferable egotism in you to suppose a woman is going to love you always looking as slovenly as you can! Think of it! Any good woman on earth will be true to you forever when you do your level best.
Some people tell me, “Your doctrine about loving, and wives, and all that, is splendid for the rich, but it won’t do for the poor.” I tell you to-night there is more love in the homes of the poor than in the palaces of the rich. The meanest hut with love in it is a palace fit for the gods, and a palace without love is a den only fit for wild beasts. That is my doctrine! You cannot be so poor that you cannot help somebody. Good nature is the cheapest commodity in the world; and love is the only thing that will pay ten per cent, to borrower and lender both. Do not tell me that you have got to be rich! We have a false standard of greatness in the United States. We think here that a man must be great, that he must be notorious; that he must be extremely wealthy, or that his name must be upon the putrid lips of rumor. It is all a mistake. It is not necessary to be rich or to be great, or to be powerful, to be happy. The happy, man is the successful man.
Happiness is the legal tender of the soul.
Joy is wealth.
A little while ago, I stood by the grave of the old Napoleon — a magnificent tomb of gilt and gold, fit almost for a dead deity — and gazed upon the sarcophagus of rare and nameless marble, where rest at last the ashes of that restless man. I leaned over the balustrade and thought about the career of the greatest soldier of the modern world.
I saw him walking upon the banks of the Seine, contemplating suicide. I saw him at Toulon — I saw him putting down the mob in the streets of Paris — I saw him at the head of the army of Italy — I saw him crossing the bridge of Lodi with the tri-color in his hand — I saw him in Egypt in the shadows of the pyramids — I saw him conquer the Alps and mingle the eagles of France with the eagles of the crags. I saw him at Marengo — at Ulm and Austerlitz. I saw him in Russia, where the infantry of the snow and the cavalry of the wild blast scattered his legions like winter’s withered leaves. I saw him at Leipsic in defeat and disaster — driven by a million bayonets back upon Paris — clutched like a wild beast — banished to Elba. I saw him escape and retake an empire by the force of his genius. I saw him upon the frightful field of Waterloo, where Chance and Fate combined to wreck the fortunes of their former king. And I saw him at St. Helena, with his hands crossed behind him, gazing out upon the sad and solemn sea.
I thought of the orphans and widows he had made — of the tears that had been shed for his glory, and of the only woman who ever loved him, pushed from his heart by the cold hand of ambition. And I said I would rather have been a French peasant and worn wooden shoes. I would rather have lived in a hut with a vine growing over the door, and the grapes growing purple in the kisses of the autumn sun. I would rather have been that poor peasant with my loving wife by my side, knitting as the day died out of the sky — with my children upon my knees and their arms about me — I would rather have been that man and gone down to the tongueless silence of the dreamless dust, than to have been that imperial impersonation of force and murder.
It is not necessary to be great to be happy; it is not necessary to be rich to be just and generous and to have a heart filled with divine affection. No matter whether you are rich or poor, treat your wife as though she were a splendid flower, and she will fill your life with perfume and with joy.
And do you know, it is a splendid thing to think that the woman you really love will never grow old to you. Through the wrinkles of time, through the mask of years, if you really love her, you will always see the face you loved and won. And a woman who really loves a man does not see that he grows old; he is not decrepit to her; he does not tremble; he is not old; she always sees the same gallant gentleman who won her hand and heart. I like to think of it in that way; I like to think that love is eternal. And to love in that way and then go down the hill of life together, and as you go down, hear, perhaps, the laughter of grandchildren, while the birds of joy and love sing once more in the leafless branches of the tree of age.
I believe in the fireside. I believe in the democracy of home. I believe in the republicanism of the family. I believe in liberty, equality and love.
If women have been slaves, what shall I say of children; of the little children in alleys and sub-cellars; the little children who turn pale when they hear their fathers’ footsteps; little children who run away when they only hear their names called by the lips of a mother; little children — the children of poverty, the children of crime, the children of brutality, wherever they are — flotsam and jetsam upon the wild, mad sea of life — my heart goes out to them, one and all.
I tell you the children have the same rights that we have, and we ought to treat them as though they were human beings. They should be reared with love, with kindness, with tenderness, and not with brutality. That is my idea of children.
When your little child tells a lie, do not rush at him as though the world were about to go into bankruptcy. Be honest with him. A tyrant father will have liars for his children; do you know that?
A lie is born of tyranny upon the one hand and weakness upon the other, and when you rush at a poor little boy with a club in your hand, of course he lies.
I thank thee, Mother Nature, that thou hast put ingenuity enough in the brain of a child, when attacked by a brutal parent, to throw up a little breastwork in the shape of a lie.
When one of your children tells a lie, be honest with him; tell him that you have told hundreds of them yourself. Tell him it is not the best way; that you have tried it. Tell him as the man did in Maine when his boy left home: “John, honesty is the best policy; I have tried both.” Be honest with him. Suppose a man as much larger than you as you are larger than a child five years old, should come at you with a liberty pole in his hand, and in a voice of thunder shout, “Who broke that plate?” There is not a solitary one of you who would not swear you never saw it, or that it was cracked when you got it. Why not be honest with these children? Just imagine a man who deals in stocks whipping his boy for putting false rumors afloat! Think of a lawyer beating his own flesh and blood for evading the truth when he makes half of his own living that way! Think of a minister punishing his child for not telling all he thinks! Just think of it!
When your child commits a wrong, take it in your arms; let it feel your heart beat against its heart; let the child know that you really and truly and sincerely love it. Yet some Christians, good Christians, when a child commits a fault, drive it from the door and say: “Never do you darken this house again.” Think of that! And then these same people will get down on their knees and ask God to take care of the child they have driven from home. I will never ask God to take care of my children unless I am doing my level best in that same direction.
But I will tell you what I say to my children: “Go where you will; commit what crime you may; fall to what depth of degradation you may; you can never commit any crime that will shut my door, my arms, or my heart to you. As long as I live you shall have one sincere friend.”
Do you know that I have seen some people who acted as though they thought that when the Saviour said “Suffer little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven,” he had a raw-hide under his mantle, and made that remark simply to get the children within striking distance?
I do not believe in the government of the lash. If any one of you ever expects to whip your children again, I want you to have a photograph taken of yourself when you are in the act, with your face red with vulgar anger, and the face of the little child, with eyes swimming in tears and the little chin dimpled with fear, like a piece of water struck by a sudden cold wind. Have the picture taken. If that little child should die, I cannot think of a sweeter way to spend an autumn afternoon than to go out to the cemetery, when the maples are clad in tender gold, and little scarlet runners are coming, like poems of regret, from the sad heart of the earth — and sit down upon the grave and look at that photograph, and think of the flesh now dust that you beat. I tell you it is wrong; it is no way to raise children! Make your home happy. Be honest with them. Divide fairly with them in everything.
Give them a little liberty and love, and you can not drive them out of your house. They will want to stay there. Make home pleasant. Let them play any game they wish. Do not be so foolish as to say: “You may roll balls on the ground, but you must not roll them on a green cloth. You may knock them with a mallet, but you must not push them with a cue. You may play with little pieces of paper which have ‘authors’ written on them, but you must not have ‘cards.’” Think of it! “You may go to a minstrel show where people blacken themselves and imitate humanity below them, but you must not go to a theatre and see the characters created by immortal genius put upon the stage.” Why? Well, I can’t think of any reason in the world except “minstrel” is a word of two syllables, and “theatre” has three.
Let children have some daylight at home if you want to keep them there, and do not commence at the cradle and shout “Don’t!” “Don’t!” “Stop!” That is nearly all that is said to a child from the cradle until he is twenty-one years old, and when he comes of age other people begin saying “Don’t!” And the church says “Don’t?” and the party he belongs to says “Don’t!”
I despise that way of going through this world. Let us have liberty — just a little. Call me infidel, call me atheist, call me what you will, I intend so to treat my children, that they can come to my grave and truthfully say: “He who sleeps here never gave us a moment of pain. From his lips, now dust, never came to us an unkind word.”
People justify all kinds of tyranny towards children upon the ground that they are totally depraved. At the bottom of ages of cruelty lies this infamous doctrine of total depravity. Religion contemplates a child as a living crime — heir to an infinite curse — doomed to eternal fire.
In the olden time, they thought some days were too good for a child to enjoy himself. When I was a boy Sunday was considered altogether too holy to be happy in. Sunday used to commence then when the sun went down on Saturday night. We commenced at that time for the purpose of getting a good ready, and when the sun fell below the horizon on Saturday evening, there was a darkness fell upon the house ten thousand times deeper than that of night. Nobody said a pleasant word; nobody laughed; nobody smiled; the child that looked the sickest was regarded as the most pious. That night you could not even crack hickory nuts. If you were caught chewing gum it was only another evidence of the total depravity of the human heart. It was an exceedingly solemn night.
Dyspepsia was in the very air you breathed. Everybody looked sad and mournful. I have noticed all my life that many people think they have religion when they are troubled with dyspepsia. If there could be found an absolute specific for that disease, it would be the hardest blow the church has ever received.
On Sunday morning the solemnity had simply increased. Then we went to church. The minister was in a pulpit about twenty feet high, with a little sounding-board above him, and he commenced at “firstly” and went on and on and on to about “twenty-thirdly.” Then he made a few remarks by way of application; and then took a general view of the subject, and in about two hours reached the last chapter in Revelations.
In those days, no matter how cold the weather was, there was no fire in the church. It was thought to be a kind of sin to be comfortable while you were thanking God. The first church that ever had a stove in it in New England, divided on that account. So the first church in which they sang by note, was torn in fragments.
After the sermon we had an intermission. Then came the catechism with the chief end of man. We went through with that. We sat in a row with our feet coming in about six inches of the floor. The minister asked us if we knew that we all deserved to go to hell, and we all answered “Yes.” Then we were asked if we would be willing to go hell if it was God’s will, and every little liar shouted “Yes.” Then the same sermon was preached once more, commencing at the other end and going back. After that, we started for home, sad and solemn — overpowered with the wisdom displayed in the scheme of the atonement. When we got home, if we had been good boys, and the weather was warm, sometimes they would take us out to the graveyard to cheer us up a little. It did cheer me. When I looked at the sunken tombs and the leaning stones, and read the half-effaced inscriptions through the moss of silence and forget-fulness, it was a great comfort. The reflection came to my mind that the observance of the Sabbath could not last always. Sometimes they would sing that beautiful hymn in which occurs these cheerful lines:
“Where congregations ne’er break up,
And Sabbaths never end.”
These lines, I think, prejudiced me a little against even heaven. Then we had good books that we read on Sundays by way of keeping us happy and contented. There were Milners’ “History of the Waldenses,” Baxter’s “Call to the Unconverted,” Yahn’s “Archaeology of the Jews,” and Jenkyns’ “On the Atonement.” I used to read Jenkyns’ “On the Atonement.” I have often thought that an atonement would have to be exceedingly broad in its provisions to cover the case of a man who would write a book like that for a boy.
But at last the Sunday wore away, and the moment the sun went down we were free. Between three and four o’clock we would go out to see how the sun was coming on. Sometimes it seemed to me that it was stopping from pure meanness. But finally it went down. It had to. And when the last rim of light sank below the horizon, off would go our caps, and we would give three cheers for liberty once more.
Sabbaths used to be prisons. Every Sunday was a Bastile. Every christian was a kind of turnkey, and every child was a prisoner — a convict. In that dungeon, a smile was a crime.
It was thought wrong for a child to laugh upon this holy day. Think of that!
A little child would go out into the garden, and there would be a tree laden with blossoms, and the little fellow would lean against it, and there would be a bird on one of the boughs, singing and swinging, and thinking, about four little speckled eggs, warmed by the breast of its mate — singing and swinging, and the music in happy waves rippling out of its tiny throat, and the flowers blossoming, the air filled with perfume and the great white clouds floating in the sky, and the little boy would lean up against that tree and think about hell and the worm that never dies.
I have heard them preach, when I sat in the pew and my feet did not touch the floor, about the final home of the unconverted. In order to impress upon the children the length of time they would probably stay if they settled in that country, the preacher would frequently give us the following illustration: “Suppose that once in a billion years a bird should come from some far-distant planet, and carry off in its little bill a grain of sand, a time would finally come when the last atom composing this earth would be carried away; and when this last atom was taken, it would not even be sun up in hell.” Think of such an infamous doctrine being taught to children!
The laugh of a child will make the holiest day more sacred still. Strike with hand of fire, O weird musician, thy harp strung with Apollo’s golden hair; fill the vast cathedral aisles with symphonies sweet and dim, deft toucher of the organ keys; blow, bugler, blow, until thy silver notes do touch and kiss the moonlit waves, and charm the lovers wandering ‘mid the vine-clad hills. But know, your sweetest strains are discords all, compared with childhood’s happy laugh — the laugh that fills the eyes with light and every heart with joy. O rippling river of laughter, thou art the blessed boundary line between the beasts and men; and every wayward wave of thine doth drown some fretful fiend of care. O Laughter, rose-lipped daughter of Joy, there are dimples enough in thy cheeks to catch and hold and glorify all the tears of grief.
And yet the minds of children have been polluted by this infamous doctrine of eternal punishment. I denounce it today as a doctrine, the infamy of which no language is sufficient to express.
Where did that doctrine of eternal punishment for men and women and children come from? It came from the low and beastly skull of that wretch in the dug-out. Where did he get it? It was a souvenir from the animals. The doctrine of eternal punishment was born in the glittering eyes of snakes — snakes that hung in fearful coils watching for their prey. It was born of the howl and bark and growl of wild beasts. It was born of the grin of hyenas and of the depraved chatter of unclean baboons. I despise it with every drop of my blood. Tell me there is a God in the serene heavens that will damn his children for the expression of an honest belief! More men have died in their sins, judged by your orthodox creeds, than there are leaves on all the forests in the wide world ten thousand times over. Tell me these men are in hell; that these men are in torment; that these children are in eternal pain, and that they are to be punished forever and forever! I denounce this doctrine as the most infamous of lies. When the great ship containing the hopes and aspirations of the world, when the great ship freighted with mankind goes down in the night of death, chaos and disaster, I am willing to go down with the ship. I will not be guilty of the ineffable meanness of paddling away in some orthodox canoe. I will go down with the ship, with those who love me, and with those whom I have loved. If there is a God who will damn his children forever, I would rather go to hell than to go to heaven and keep the society of such an infamous tyrant. I make my choice now. I despise that doctrine. It has covered the cheeks of this world with tears. It has polluted the hearts of children, and poisoned the imaginations of men. It has been a constant pain, a perpetual terror to every good man and woman and child. It has filled the good with horror and with fear; but it has had no effect upon the infamous and base. It has wrung the hearts of the tender: it has furrowed the cheeks of the good. This doctrine never should be preached again. What right have you, sir, Mr. clergyman, you, minister of the gospel, to stand at the portals of the tomb, at the vestibule of eternity, and fill the future with horror and with fear? I do not believe this doctrine: neither do you. If you did, you could not sleep one moment. Any man who believes it, and has within his breast a decent, throbbing heart, will go insane. A man who believes that doctrine and does not go insane has the heart of a snake and the conscience of a hyena.
Jonathan Edwards, the dear old soul, who, if his doctrine is true, is now in heaven rubbing his holy hands with glee, as he hears the cries of the damned, preached this doctrine; and he said: “Can the believing husband in heaven be happy with his unbelieving wife in hell? Can the believing father in heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in hell? Can the loving wife in heaven be happy with her unbelieving husband in hell?” And he replies: “I tell you, yea. Such will be their sense of justice, that it will increase rather than diminish their bliss.” There is no wild beast in the jungles of Africa whose reputation would not be tarnished by the expression of such a doctrine.
These doctrines have been taught in the name of religion, in the name of universal forgiveness, in the name of infinite love and charity. Do not, I pray you, soil the minds of your children with this dogma. Let them read for themselves; let them think for themselves.
Do not treat your children like orthodox posts to be set in a row. Treat them like trees that need light and sun and air. Be fair and honest with them; give them a chance. Recollect that their rights are equal to yours. Do not have it in your mind that you must govern them; that they must obey. Throw away forever the idea of master and slave.
In old times they used to make the children go to bed when they were not sleepy, and get up when they were sleepy. I say let them go to bed when they are sleepy, and get up when they are not sleepy.
But you say, this doctrine will do for the rich but not for the poor. Well, if the poor have to waken their children early in the morning it is as easy to wake them with a kiss as with a blow. Give your children freedom; let them preserve their individuality. Let your children eat what they desire, and commence at the end of a dinner they like. That is their business and not yours. They know what they wish to eat. If they are given their liberty from the first, they know what they want better than any doctor in the world can prescribe. Do you know that all the improvement that has ever been made in the practice of medicine has been made by the recklessness of patients and not by the doctors? For thousands and thousands of years the doctors would not let a man suffering from fever have a drop of water. Water they looked upon as poison. But every now and then some man got reckless and said, “I had rather die than not to slake my thirst.” Then he would drink two or three quarts of water and get well. And when the doctor was told of what the patient had done, he expressed great surprise that he was still alive, and complimented his constitution upon being able to bear such a frightful strain. The reckless men, however, kept on drinking the water, and persisted in getting well. And finally the doctors said: “In a fever, water is the very best thing you can take.” So, I have more confidence in the voice of nature about such things than I have in the conclusions of the medical schools.
Let your children have freedom and they will fall into your ways; they will do substantially as you do; but if you try to make them, there is some magnificent, splendid thing in the human heart that refuses to be driven. And do you know that it is the luckiest thing that ever happened for this world, that people are that way. What would have become of the people five hundred years ago if they had followed strictly the advice of the doctors? They would have all been dead. What would the people have been, if at any age of the world they had followed implicitly the direction of the church? They would have all been idiots. It is a splendid thing that there is always some grand man who will not mind, and who will think for himself.
I believe in allowing the children to think for themselves. I believe in the democracy of the family. If in this world there is anything splendid, it is a home where all are equals.
You will remember that only a few years ago parents would tell their children to “let their victuals stop their mouths.” They used to eat as though it were a religious ceremony — a very solemn thing. Life should not be treated as a solemn matter. I like to see the children at table, and hear each one telling of the wonderful things he has seen and heard. I like to hear the clatter of knives and forks and spoons mingling with their happy voices. I had rather hear it than any opera that was ever put upon the boards. Let the children have liberty. Be honest and fair with them; be just; be tender, and they will make you rich in love and joy.
Men are oaks, women are vines, children are flowers.
The human race has been guilty of almost countless crimes; but I have some excuse for mankind. This world, after all, is not very well adapted to raising good people. In the first place, nearly all of it is water. It is much better adapted to fish culture than to the production of folks. Of that portion which is land not one-eighth has suitable soil and climate to produce great men and women. You cannot raise men and women of genius, without the proper soil and climate, any more than you can raise corn and wheat upon the ice fields of the Arctic sea. You must have the necessary conditions and surroundings. Man is a product; you must have the soil and food. The obstacles presented by nature must not be so great that man cannot, by reasonable industry and courage, overcome them. There is upon this world only a narrow belt of land, circling zigzag the globe, upon which you can produce men and women of talent. In the Southern Hemisphere the real climate that man needs falls mostly upon the sea, and the result is, that the southern half of our world has never produced a man or woman of great genius. In the far north there is no genius — it is too cold. In the far south there is no genius — it is too warm. There must be winter, and there must be summer. In a country where man needs no coverlet but a cloud, revolution is his normal condition. Winter is the mother of industry and prudence. Above all, it is the mother of the family relation. Winter holds in its icy arms the husband and wife and the sweet children. If upon this earth we ever have a glimpse of heaven, it is when we pass a home in winter, at night, and through the windows, the curtains drawn aside, we see the family about the pleasant hearth; the old lady knitting; the cat playing with the yarn; the children wishing they had as many dolls or dollars or knives or somethings, as there are sparks going out to join the roaring blast; the father reading and smoking, and the clouds rising like incense from the altar of domestic joy. I never passed such a house without feeling that I had received a benediction.
Civilization, liberty, justice, charity, intellectual advancement, are all flowers that blossom in the drifted snow. I do not know that I can better illustrate the great truth that only part of the world is adapted to the production of great men and women than by calling your attention to the difference between vegetation in valleys and upon mountains. In the valley you find the oak and elm tossing their branches defiantly to the storm, and as you advance up the mountain side the hemlock, the pine, the birch, the spruce, the fir, and finally you come to little dwarfed trees, that look like other trees seen through a telescope reversed — every limb twisted as though in pain — getting a scanty subsistence from the miserly crevices of the rocks. You go on and on, until at last the highest crag is freckled with a kind of moss, and vegetation ends. You might as well try to raise oaks and elms where the mosses grow, as to raise great men and great women where their surroundings are unfavorable. You must have the proper climate and soil.
A few years ago we were talking about the annexation of Santo Domingo to this country. I was in Washington at the time. I was opposed to it. I was told that it was a most delicious climate; that the soil produced everything. But I said: “We do not want it; it is not the right kind of country in which to raise American citizens. Such a climate would debauch us. You might go there with five thousand Congregational preachers, five thousand ruling elders, five thousand professors in colleges, five thousand of the solid men of Boston and their wives; settle them all in Santo Domingo, and you will see the second generation riding upon a mule, bareback, no shoes, a grapevine bridle, hair sticking out at the top of their sombreros, with a rooster under each arm, going to a cock fight on Sunday.” Such is the influence of climate.
Science, however, is gradually widening the area within which men of genius can be produced. We are conquering the north with houses, clothing, food and fuel. We are in many ways overcoming the heat of the south. If we attend to this world instead of another, we may in time cover the land with men and women of genius. I have still another excuse. I believe that man came up from, the lower animals. I do not say this as a fact. I simply say I believe it to be a fact. Upon that question I stand about eight to seven, which, for all practical purposes, is very near a certainty. When I first heard of that doctrine I did not like it. My heart was filled with sympathy for those people who have nothing to be proud of except ancestors. I thought, how terrible this will be upon the nobility of the old world. Think of their being forced to trace their ancestry back to the duke Orang Outang, or to the princess Chimpanzee. After thinking it all over, I came to the conclusion that I liked that doctrine. I became convinced in spite of myself. I read about rudimentary bones and muscles. I was told that everybody had rudimentary muscles extending from the ear into the cheek. I asked: “What are they?” I was told: “They are the remains of muscles; that they became rudimentary from lack of use; they went into bankruptcy. They are the muscles with which your ancestors used to flap their ears.” I do not now so much wonder that we once had them as that we have outgrown them. After all I had rather belong to a race that started from the skulless vertebrates in the dim Laurentian seas, vertebrates wiggling without knowing why they wiggled, swimming without knowing where they were going, but that in some way began to develop, and began to get a little higher and a little higher in the scale of existence; that came up by degrees through millions of ages through all the animal world, through all that crawls and swims and floats and climbs and walks, and finally produced the gentleman in the dug-out; and then from this man, getting a little grander, and each one below calling every one above him a heretic, calling every one who had made a little advance an infidel or an atheist — for in the history of this world the man who is ahead has always been called a heretic — would rather come from a race that started from that skulless vertebrate, and came up and up and up and finally produced Shakespeare, the man who found the human intellect dwelling in a hut, touched it with the wand of his genius and it became a palace domed and pinnacled; Shakespeare, who harvested all the fields of dramatic thought, and from whose day to this, there have been only gleaners of straw and chaff — I would rather belong to that race that commenced a skulless vertebrate and produced Shakespeare, a race that has before it an infinite future, with the angel of progress leaning from the far horizon, beckoning men forward, upward and onward forever — I had rather belong to such a race, commencing there, producing this, and with that hope, than to have sprung from a perfect pair upon which the Lord has lost money every moment from that day to this.
I have given you my honest thought. Surely investigation is better than unthinking faith. Surely reason is a better guide than fear. This world should be controlled by the living, not by the dead. The grave is not a throne, and a corpse is not a king. Man should not try to live on ashes.
The theologians dead, knew no more than the theologians now living. More than this cannot be said. About this world little is known — about another world, nothing.
Our fathers were intellectual serfs, and their fathers were slaves. The makers of our creeds were ignorant and brutal. Every dogma that we have, has upon it the mark of whip, the rust of chain, and the ashes of fagot.
Our fathers reasoned with instruments of torture. They believed in the logic of fire and sword. They hated reason. They despised thought. They abhorred liberty.
Superstition is the child of slavery. Free thought will give us truth. When all have the right to think and to express their thoughts, every brain will give to all the best it has. The world will then be filled with intellectual wealth.
As long as men and women are afraid of the church, as long as a minister inspires fear, as long as people reverence a thing simply because they do not understand it, as long as it is respectable to lose your self-respect, as long as the church has power, as long as mankind worship a book, just so long will the world be filled with intellectual paupers and vagrants, covered with the soiled and faded rags of superstition.
As long as woman regards the bible as the charter of her rights, she will be the slave of man. The bible was not written by a woman. Within its lids there is nothing but humiliation and shame for her. She is regarded as the property of man. She is made to ask forgiveness for becoming a mother. She is as much below her husband, as her husband is below Christ. She is not allowed to speak. The gospel is too pure to be spoken by her polluted lips. Woman should learn in silence.
In the bible will be found no description of a civilized home. The free mother, surrounded by free and loving children, adored by a free man, her husband, was unknown to the inspired writers of the bible. They did not believe in the democracy of home — in the republicanism of the fireside.
These inspired gentlemen knew nothing of the rights of children. They were the advocates of brute force — the disciples of the lash. They knew nothing of human rights. Their doctrines have brutalized the homes of millions, and filled the eyes of infancy with tears.
Let us free ourselves from the tyranny of a book, from the slavery of dead ignorance, from the aristocracy of the air.
There has never been upon the earth a generation of free men and women. It is not yet time to write a creed. Wait until the chains are broken — until dungeons are not regarded as temples. Wait until solemnity is not mistaken for wisdom — until mental cowardice ceases to be known as reverence. Wait until the living are considered the equals of the dead — until the cradle takes precedence of the coffin. Wait until what we know can be spoken without regard to what others may believe. Wait until teachers take the place of preachers — until followers become investigators. Wait until the world is free before you write a creed.
In this creed there will be but one word — Liberty.
Oh Liberty, float not forever in the far horizon — remain not forever in the dream of the enthusiast, the philanthropist and poet, but come and make thy home among the children of men!
I know not what discoveries, what inventions what thoughts may leap from the brain of the world. I know not what garments of glory may be woven by the years to come. I cannot dream of the victories to be won upon the fields of thought; but I do know, that coming from the infinite sea of the future, there will never touch this “bank and shoal of time” a richer gift, a rarer blessing than liberty for man, for woman, and for child.
One Hundred Years Ago our Fathers retired the Gods from Politics.
THE Declaration of Independence is the grandest, the bravest, and the profoundest political document that was ever signed by the representatives of a people. It is the embodiment of physical and moral courage and of political wisdom.
I say of physical courage, because it was a declaration of war against the most powerful nation then on the globe; a declaration of war by thirteen weak, unorganized colonies; a declaration of war by a few people, without military stores, without wealth, without strength, against the most powerful kingdom on the earth; a declaration of war made when the British navy, at that day the mistress of every sea, was hovering along the coast of America, looking after defenseless towns and villages to ravage and destroy. It was made when thousands of English soldiers were upon our soil, and when the principal cities of America were, in the substantial possession of the enemy. And so, I say, all things considered, it was the bravest political document ever signed by man. And if it was physically brave, the moral courage of the document is almost infinitely beyond the physical. They had the courage not only, but they had the almost infinite wisdom, to declare that all men are created equal. Such things had occasionally been said by some political enthusiast in the olden time, but for the first time in the history of the world, the representatives of a nation, the representatives of a real, living, breathing, hoping people, declared that all men are created equal. With one blow, with one stroke of the pen, they struck down all the cruel, heartless barriers that aristocracy, that priestcraft, that kingcraft had raised between man and man. They struck down with one immortal blow, that infamous spirit of caste that makes a god almost a beast, and a beast almost a god. With one word, with one blow, they wiped away and utterly destroyed all that had been done by centuries of war — centuries of hypocrisy — centuries of injustice.
What more did they do? They then declared that each man has a right to live. And what does that mean? It means that he has the right to make his living. It means that he has the right to breathe the air, to work the land, that he stands the equal of every other human being beneath the shining stars; entitled to the product of his labor — the labor of his hand and of his brain.
What more? That every man has the right to pursue his own happiness in his own way. Grander words than these have never been spoken by man.
And what more did these men say? They laid down the doctrine that governments were instituted among men for the purpose of preserving the rights of the people. The old idea was that people existed solely for the benefit of the state — that is to say, for kings and nobles.
The old idea was that the people were the wards of king and priest — that their bodies belonged to one and their souls to the other.
And what more? That the people are the source of political power. That was not only a revelation, but it was a revolution. It changed the ideas of people with regard to the source of political power. For the first time it made human beings men. What was the old idea? The old idea was that no political power came from, nor in any manner belonged to, the people. The old idea was that the political power came from the clouds; that the political power came in some miraculous way from heaven; that it came down to kings, and queens, and robbers. That was the old idea. The nobles lived upon the labor of the people; the people had no rights; the nobles stole what they had and divided with the kings, and the kings pretended to divide what they stole with God Almighty. The source, then, of political power was from above. The people were responsible to the nobles, the nobles to the king, and the people had no political rights whatever, no more than the wild beasts of the forest. The kings were responsible to God; not to the people. The kings were responsible to the clouds; not to the toiling millions they robbed and plundered.
And our forefathers, in this declaration of independence, reversed this thing, and said: No; the people, they are the source of political power, and their rulers, these presidents, these kings, are but the agents and servants of the great, sublime people. For the first time, really, in the history of the world, the king was made to get off the throne and the people were royally seated thereon. The people became the sovereigns, and the old sovereigns became the servants and the agents of the people. It is hard for you and me now to imagine even the immense results of that change. It is hard for you and for me, at this day, to understand how thoroughly it had been ingrained in the brain of almost every man, that the king had some wonderful right over him; that in some strange way the king owned him; that in some miraculous manner he belonged, body and soul, to somebody who rode on a horse — to somebody with epaulettes on his shoulders and a tinsel crown upon his brainless head.
Our forefathers had been educated in that idea, and when they first landed on American shores they believed it. They thought they belonged to somebody, and that they must be loyal to some thief, who could trace his pedigree back to antiquity’s most successful robber.
It took a long time for them to get that idea out of their heads and hearts. They were three thousand miles away from the despotisms of the old world, and every wave of the sea was an assistant to them. The distance helped to disenchant their minds of that infamous belief, and every mile between them and the pomp and glory of monarchy helped to put republican ideas and thoughts into their minds. Besides that, when they came to this country, when the savage was in the forest and three thousand miles of waves on the other side, menaced by barbarians on the one side and famine on the other, they learned that a man who had courage, a man who had thought, was as good as any other man in the world, and they built up, as it were, in spite of themselves, little republics. And the man that had the most nerve and heart was the best man, whether he had any noble blood in his veins or not.
It has been a favorite idea with me that our forefathers were educated by Nature; that they grew grand as the continent upon which they landed; that the great rivers — the wide plains — the splendid lakes — the lonely forests — the sublime mountains — that all these things stole into and became a part of their being, and they grew great as the country in which they lived. They began to hate the narrow, contracted views of Europe. They were educated by their surroundings, and every little colony had to be, to a certain extent, a republic. The kings of the old world endeavored to parcel out this land to their favorites. But there were too many Indians. There was too much courage required for them to take and keep it, and so men had to come here who were dissatisfied with the old country — who were dissatisfied with England, dissatisfied with France, with Germany, with Ireland and Holland. The kings’ favorites stayed at home. Men came here for liberty, and on account of certain principles they entertained and held dearer than life. And they were willing to work, willing to fell the forests, to fight the savages, willing to go through all the hardships, perils and dangers of a new country, of a new land; and the consequence was that our country was settled by brave and adventurous spirits, by men who had opinions of their own and were willing to live in the wild forests for the sake of expressing those opinions, even if they expressed them only to trees, rocks, and savage men. The best blood of the old world came to the new.
When they first came over they did not have a great deal of political philosophy, nor the best ideas of liberty. We might as well tell the truth. When the Puritans first came, they were narrow. They did not understand what liberty meant — what religious liberty, what political liberty, was; but they found out in a few years. There was one feeling among them that rises to their eternal honor like a white shaft to the clouds — they were in favor of universal education. Wherever they went they built school houses, introduced books, and ideas of literature. They believed that every man should know how to read and how to write, and should find out all that his capacity allowed him to comprehend. That is the glory of the Puritan fathers.
They forgot in a little while what they had suffered, and they forgot to apply the principle of universal liberty — of toleration. Some of the colonies did not forget it, and I want to give credit where credit should be given. The Catholics of Maryland were the first people on the new continent to declare universal religious toleration. Let this be remembered to their eternal honor. Let it be remembered to the disgrace of the Protestant government of England, that it caused this grand law to be repealed. And to the honor and credit of the Catholics of Maryland let it be remembered, that the moment they got back into power they re-enacted the old law. The Baptists of Rhode Island also, led by Roger Williams, were in favor of universal religious liberty.
No American should fail to honor Roger Williams. He was the first grand advocate of the liberty of the soul. He was in favor of the eternal divorce of church and state. So far as I know, he was the only man at that time in this country who was in favor of real religious liberty. While the Catholics of Maryland declared in favor of religious toleration, they had no idea of religious liberty. They would not allow any one to call in question the doctrine of the trinity, or the inspiration of the scriptures. They stood ready with branding iron and gallows to burn and choke out of man the idea that he had a right to think and to express his thoughts.
So many religions met in our country — so many theories and dogmas came in contact — so many follies, mistakes and stupidities became acquainted with each other, that religion began to fall somewhat into disrepute. Besides this, the question of a new nation began to take precedence of all others.
The people were too much interested in this world to quarrel about the next. The preacher was lost in the patriot. The bible was read to find passages against kings.
Everybody was discussing the rights of man. Farmers and mechanics suddenly became statesmen, and in every shop and cabin nearly every question was asked and answered.
During these years of political excitement, the interest in religion abated to that degree that a common purpose animated men of all sects and creeds.
At last our fathers became tired of being colonists — tired of writing and reading and signing petitions, and presenting them on their bended knees to an idiot king. They began to have an aspiration to form a new nation, to be citizens of a new republic instead of subjects of an old monarchy. They had the idea — the Puritans, the Catholics, the Episcopalians, the Baptists, the Quakers, and a few Free Thinkers, all had the idea — that they would like to form a new nation.
Now, do not understand that all of our fathers were in favor of independence. Do not understand that they were all like Jefferson; that they were all like Adams or Lee; that they were all like Thomas Paine or John Hancock. There were thousands and thousands of them who were opposed to American independence. There were thousands and thousands who said: “When you say men are created equal, it is a lie; when you say the political power resides in the great body of the people, it is false.” Thousands and thousands of them said: “We prefer Great Britain.” But the men who were in favor of independence, the men who knew that a new nation must be born, went on full of hope and courage, and nothing could daunt or stop or stay the heroic, fearless few.
They met in Philadelphia; and the resolution was moved by Lee of Virginia, that the colonies ought to be independent states, and ought to dissolve their political connection with Great Britain.
They made up their minds that a new nation must be formed. All nations had been, so to speak, the wards of some church. The religious idea as to the source of power had been at the foundation of all governments, and had been the bane and curse of man.
Happily for us, there was no church strong enough to dictate to the rest. Fortunately for us, the colonists not only, but the colonies differed widely in their religious views. There were the Puritans who hated the Episcopalians, and Episcopalians who hated the Catholics, and the Catholics who hated both, while the Quakers held them all in contempt. There they were, of every sort, and color, and kind, and how was it that they came together? They had a common aspiration. They wanted to form a new nation. More than that, most of them cordially hated Great Britain; and they pledged each other to forget these religious prejudices, for a time at least, and agreed that there should be only one religion until they got through, and that was the religion of patriotism. They solemnly agreed that the new nation should not belong to any particular church, but that it should secure the rights of all.
Our fathers founded the first secular government that was ever founded in this world. Recollect that. The first secular government; the first government that said every church has exactly the same rights, and no more; every religion has the same rights, and no more. In other words, our fathers were the first men who had the sense, had the genius, to know that no church should be allowed to have a sword; that it should be allowed only to exert its moral influence.
You might as well have a government united by force with Art, or with Poetry, or with Oratory, as with Religion. Religion should have the influence upon mankind that its goodness, that its morality, its justice, its charity, its reason, and its argument give it, and no more. Religion should have the effect upon mankind that it necessarily has, and no more. The religion that has to be supported by law is without value, not only, but a fraud and curse. The religious argument that has to be supported by a musket, is hardly worth making. A prayer that must have a cannon behind it, better never be uttered. Forgiveness ought not to go in partnership with shot and shell. Love need not carry knives and revolvers.
So, our fathers said: “We will form a secular government, and under the flag with which we are going to enrich the air, we will allow every man to worship God as he thinks best.” They said: “Religion is an individual thing between each man and his Creator, and he can worship as he pleases and as he desires.” And why did they do this? The history of the world warned them that the liberty of man was not safe in the clutch and grasp of any church. They had read of and seen the thumb-screws, the racks and the dungeons of the inquisition. They knew all about the hypocrisy of the olden time. They knew that the church had stood side by side with the throne; that the high priests were hypocrites, and that the kings were robbers. They also knew that if they gave to any church power, it would corrupt the best church in the world. And so they said that power must not reside in a church nor in a sect, but power must be wherever humanity is — in the great body of the people. And the officers and servants of the people must be responsible to them. And so I say again, as I said in the commencement, this is the wisest, the profoundest, the bravest political document that ever was written and signed by man.
They turned, as I tell you, everything squarely about. They derived all their authority from the people. They did away forever with the theological idea of government.
And what more did they say? They said that whenever the rulers abused this authority, this power, incapable of destruction, returned to the people. How did they come to say this? I will tell you. They were pushed into it. How? They felt that they were oppressed; and whenever a man feels that he is the subject of injustice, his perception of right and wrong is wonderfully quickened.
Nobody was ever in prison wrongfully who did not believe in the writ of habeas corpus. Nobody ever suffered wrongfully without instantly having ideas of justice.
And they began to inquire what rights the king of Great Britain had. They began to search for the charter of his authority. They began to investigate and dig down to the bed-rock upon which society must be founded, and when they got down there, forced there, too, by their oppressors, forced against their own prejudices and education, they found at the bottom of things, not lords, not nobles, not pulpits, not thrones, but humanity and the rights of men.
And so they said, we are men; we are men. They found out they were men. And the next thing they said, was, “We will be free men; we are weary of being colonists; we are tired of being subjects; we are men; and these colonies ought to be states; and these states ought to be a nation; and that nation ought to drive the last British soldier into the sea.” And so they signed that brave declaration of independence.
I thank every one of them from the bottom of my heart for signing that sublime declaration. I thank them for their courage — for their patriotism — for their wisdom — for the splendid confidence in themselves and in the human race. I thank them for what they were, and for what we are — for what they did and for what we have received — for what they suffered, and for what we enjoy.
What would we have been if we had remained colonists and subjects? What would we have been today? Nobodies — ready to get down on our knees and crawl in the very dust at the sight of somebody that was supposed to have in him some drop of blood that flowed in the veins of that mailed marauder — that royal robber, William the Conqueror.
They signed that declaration of independence, although they knew that it would produce a long, terrible, and bloody war. They looked forward and saw poverty, deprivation, gloom and death.
But they also saw, on the wrecked clouds of war, the beautiful bow of freedom.
These grand men were enthusiasts; and the world has only been raised by enthusiasts. In every country there have been a few who have given a national aspiration to the people. The enthusiasts of 1776 were the builders and framers of this great and splendid government; and they were the men who saw, although others did not, the golden fringe of the mantle of glory that will finally cover this world. They knew, they felt, they believed that they would give a new constellation to the political heavens — that they would make the Americans a grand people — grand as the continent upon which they lived.
The war commenced. There was little money, and less credit. The new nation had but few friends. To a great extent, each soldier of freedom had to clothe and feed himself. He was poor and pure — brave and good, and so he went to the fields of death to fight for the rights of man.
What did the soldier leave when he went?
He left his wife and children.
Did he leave them in a beautiful home, surrounded by civilization, in the repose of law, in the security of a great and powerful republic?
No. He left his wife and children on the edge, on the fringe of the boundless forest, in which crouched and crept the red savage, who was at that time the ally of the still more savage Briton. He left his wife to defend herself, and he left the prattling babes to be defended by their mother and by nature. The mother made the living; she planted the corn and the potatoes, and hoed them in the sun, raised the children, and in the darkness of night, told them about their brave father, and the “sacred cause.” She told them that in a little while the war would be over and father would come back covered with honor and glory.
Think of the women, of the sweet children who listened for the footsteps of the dead — who waited through the sad and desolate years for the dear ones who never came.
The soldiers of 1776 did not march away with music and banners. They went in silence, looked at and gazed after by eyes filled with tears. They went to meet, not an equal, but a superior — to fight five times their number — to make a desperate stand — to stop the advance of the enemy, and then, when their ammunition gave out, seek the protection of rocks, of rivers and of hills.
Let me say here: The greatest test of courage on the earth is to bear defeat without losing heart. That army is the bravest that can be whipped the greatest number of times and fight again.
Over the entire territory, so to speak, then settled by our forefathers, they were driven again and again. Now and then they would meet the English with something like equal numbers, and then the eagle of victory would proudly perch upon the stripes and stars. And so they went on as best they could, hoping and fighting until they came to the dark and sombre gloom of Valley Forge.
There were very few hearts then beneath that flag that did not begin to think that the struggle was useless; that all the blood and treasure had been spent and shed in vain. But there were some men gifted with that wonderful prophecy that fulfils itself, and with that wonderful magnetic power that makes heroes of everybody they come in contact with.
And so our fathers went through the gloom of that terrible time, and still fought on. Brave men wrote grand words, cheering the despondent, brave men did brave deeds, the rich man gave his wealth, the poor man gave his life, until at last, by the victory of Yorktown, the old banner won its place in the air, and became glorious forever.
Seven long years of war — fighting for what? For the principle that all men are created equal — a truth that nobody ever disputed except a scoundrel; nobody, nobody in the entire history of this world. No man ever denied that truth who was not a rascal, and at heart a thief; never, never, and never will. What else were they fighting for? Simply that in America every man should have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nobody ever denied that except a villain; never, never. It has been denied by kings — they were thieves. It has been denied by statesmen — they were liars. It has been denied by priests, by clergymen, by cardinals, by bishops and by popes — they were hypocrites.
What else were they fighting for? For the idea that all political power is vested in the great body of the people. The great body of the people make all the money; do all the work. They plow the land, cut down the forests; they produce everything that is produced. Then who shall say what shall be done with what is produced except the producer? Is it the non-producing thief, sitting on a throne, surrounded by vermin?
Those were the things they were fighting for; and that is all they were fighting for. They fought to build up a new, a great nation; to establish an asylum for the oppressed of the world everywhere. They knew the history of this world. They knew the history of human slavery.
The history of civilization is the history of the slow and painful enfranchisement of the human race. In the olden times the family was a monarchy, the farther being the monarch. The mother and children were the veriest slaves. The will of the father was the supreme law. He had the power of life and death. It took thousands of years to civilize this father, thousands of years to make the condition of wife and mother and child even tolerable. A few families constituted a tribe; the tribe had a chief; the chief was a tyrant; a few tribes formed a nation; the nation was governed by a king, who was also a tyrant, A strong nation robbed, plundered, and took captive the weaker ones. This was the commencement of human slavery.
It is not possible for the human imagination to conceive of the horrors of slavery. It has left no possible crime uncommitted, no possible cruelty unperpetrated. It has been practised and defended by all nations in some form. It has been upheld by all religions. It has been defended by nearly every pulpit. From the profits derived from the slave trade churches have been built, cathedrals reared and priests paid. Slavery has been blessed by bishop, by cardinal, and by pope. It has received the sanction of statesmen, of kings, and of queens. It has been defended by the throne, the pulpit, and the bench. Monarchs have shared in the profits. Clergymen have taken their part of the spoil, reciting passages of scripture in its defense at the same time, and judges have taken their portion in the name of equity and law.
Only a few years ago our ancestors were slaves. Only a few years ago they passed with and belonged to the soil, like coal under it and rocks on it. Only a few years ago they were treated like beasts of burden, worse far than we treat our animals at the present day. Only a few years ago it was a crime in England for a man to have a bible in his house, a crime for which men were hanged, and their bodies afterwards burned. Only a few years ago fathers could and did sell their children. Only a few years ago our ancestors were not allowed to speak or write their thoughts — that being a crime. Only a few years ago to be honest, at least in the expression of your ideas, was a felony. To do right was a capital offense; and in those days chains and whips were the incentives to labor, and the preventives of thought. Honesty was a vagrant, justice a fugitive, and liberty in chains. Only a few years ago men were denounced because they doubted the inspiration of the bible — because they denied miracles and laughed at the wonders recounted by the ancient Jews.
Only a few years ago a man had to believe in the total depravity of the human heart in order to be respectable. Only a few years ago, people who thought God too good to punish in eternal flames an unbaptized child were considered infamous.
As soon as our ancestors began to get free they began to enslave others. With an inconsistency that defies explanation, they practiced upon others the same outrages that had been perpetrated upon them. As soon as white slavery began to be abolished, black slavery commenced.
In this infamous traffic nearly every nation of Europe embarked. Fortunes were quickly realized; the avarice and cupidity of Europe were excited; all ideas of justice were discarded; pity fled from the human breast; a few good, brave men recited the horrors of the trade; avarice was deaf; religion refused to hear; the trade went on; the governments of Europe upheld it in the name of commerce — in the name of civilization and of religion.
Our fathers knew the history of caste. They knew that in the despotisms of the old world it was a disgrace to be useful. They knew that a mechanic was esteemed as hardly the equal of a hound, and far below a blooded horse. They knew that a nobleman held a son of labor in contempt — that he had no rights the royal loafers were bound to respect.
The world has changed.
The other day there came shoemakers, potters, workers in wood and iron from Europe, and they were received in the city of New York as though they had been princes. They had been sent by the great republic of France to examine into the arts and manufactures of the great republic of America. They looked a thousand times better to me than the Edward Alberts and Albert Edwards — the royal vermin, that live on the body politic. And I would think much more of our government if it would fete and feast them, instead of wining and dining the imbeciles of a royal line.
Our fathers devoted their lives and fortunes to the grand work of founding a government for the protection of the rights of man. The theological idea as to the source of political power had poisoned the web and woof of every government in the world, and our fathers banished it from this continent forever.
What we want today is what our fathers wrote down. They did not attain to their ideal; we approach it nearer, but have not reached it yet. We want, not only the independence of a state, not only the independence of a nation, but something far more glorious — the absolute independence of the individual. That is what we want. I want it so that I, one of the children of Nature, can stand on an equality with the rest; that I can say this is my air, my sunshine, my earth, and I have a right to live, and hope, and aspire, and labor, and enjoy the fruit of that labor, as much as any individual or any nation on the face of the globe.
We want every American to make today, on this hundredth anniversary, a declaration of individual independence. Let each man enjoy his liberty to the utmost — enjoy all he can; but be sure it is not at the expense of another. The French convention gave the best definition of liberty I have ever read: “The liberty of one citizen ceases only where the liberty of another citizen commences.” I know of no better definition. I ask you today to make a declaration of individual independence. And if you are independent, be just. Allow everybody else to make his declaration of individual independence. Allow your wife, allow your husband, allow your children to make theirs. Let everybody be absolutely free and independent, knowing only the sacred obligation of honesty and affection. Let us be independent of party, independent of everybody and everything except our own consciences and our own brains. Do not belong to any clique. Have the clear title deeds in fee simple to yourselves, without any mortgage on the premises to anybody in the world.
It is a grand thing to be the owner of yourself. It is a grand thing to protect the rights of others. It is a sublime thing to be free and just.
Only a few days ago I stood in Independence Hall — in that little room where was signed the immortal paper. A little room, like any other; and it did not seem possible that from that room went forth ideas, like cherubim and seraphim, spreading their wings over a continent, and touching, as with holy fire, the hearts of men.
In a few moments I was in the park, where are gathered the accomplishments of a century. Our fathers never dreamed of the things I saw. There were hundreds of locomotives, with their nerves of steel and breath of flame — every kind of machine, with whirling wheels and curious cogs and cranks, and the myriad thoughts of men that have been wrought in iron, brass and steel. And going out from one little building were wires in the air, stretching to every civilized nation, and they could send a shining messenger in a moment to any part of the world, and it would go sweeping under the waves of the sea with thoughts and words within its glowing heart. I saw all that had been achieved by this nation, and I wished that the signers of the Declaration — the soldiers of the revolution — could see what a century of freedom has produced. I wished they could see the fields we cultivate — the rivers we navigate — the railroads running over the Alleghanies, far into what was then the unknown forest — on over the broad prairies — on over the vast plains — away over the mountains of the West, to the Golden Gate of the Pacific.
All this is the result of a hundred years of freedom.
Are you not more than glad that in 1776 was announced the sublime principle that political power resides with the people? That our fathers then made up their minds nevermore to be colonists and subjects, but that they would be free and independent citizens of America?
I will not name any of the grand men who fought for liberty. All should be named, or none. I feel that the unknown soldier who was shot down without even his name being remembered — who was included only in a report of “a hundred killed,” or “a hundred missing,” nobody knowing even the number that attached to his august corpse — is entitled to as deep and heartfelt thanks as the titled leader who fell at the head of the host.
Standing here amid the sacred memories of the first, on the golden threshold of the second, I ask, Will the second century be as grand as the first? I believe it will, because we are growing more and more humane, I believe there is more human kindness, more real, sweet human sympathy, a greater desire to help one another, in the United States, than in all the world besides.
We must progress. We are just at the commencement of invention. The steam engine — the telegraph — these are but the toys with which science has been amused. Wait; there will be grander things; there will be wider and higher culture — a grander standard of character, of literature, and art.
We have now half as many millions of people as we have years, and many of us will live until a hundred million stand beneath the flag. We are getting more real solid sense. The school house is the finest building in the village. We are writing and reading more books; we are painting and buying more pictures; we are struggling more and more to get at the philosophy of life, of things — trying more and more to answer the questions of the eternal Sphinx. We are looking in every direction — investigating; in short, we are thinking and working. Besides all this, I believe the people are nearer honest than ever before. A few years ago we were willing to live upon the labor of four million slaves. Was that honest? At last, we have a national conscience. At last, we have carried out the Declaration of Independence. Our fathers wrote it — we have accomplished it. The black man was a slave — we made him a citizen. We found four million human beings in manacles, and now the hands of a race are held up in the free air without a chain.
I have had the supreme pleasure of seeing a man — once a slave — sitting in the seat of his former master in the Congress of the United States. I have had that pleasure, and when I saw it my eyes were filled with tears. I felt that we had carried out the Declaration of Independence — that we had given reality to it, and breathed the breath of life into its every word. I felt that our flag would float over and protect the colored man and his little children — standing straight in the sun, just the same as though he were white and worth a million. I would protect him more, because the rich white man could protect himself.
All who stand beneath our banner are free. Ours is the only flag that has in reality written upon it: Liberty, Fraternity, Equality — the three grandest words in all the languages of men.
Liberty: Give to every man the fruit of his own labor — the labor of his hands and of his brain.
Fraternity: Every man in the right is my brother.
Equality: The rights of all are equal: Justice, poised and balanced in eternal calm, will shake from the golden scales, in which are weighed the acts of men, the very dust of prejudice and caste: No race, no color, no previous condition, can change the rights of men.
The Declaration of Independence has at last been carried out in letter and in spirit.
The second century will be grander than the first.
Fifty millions of people are celebrating this day. To-day, the black man looks upon his child and says: The avenues to distinction are open to you — upon your brow may fall the civic wreath — this day belongs to you.
We are celebrating the courage and wisdom of our fathers, and the glad shout of a free people, the anthem of a grand nation, commencing at the Atlantic, is following the sun to the Pacific, across a continent of happy homes.
We are a great people. Three millions have increased to fifty — thirteen states to thirty-eight. We have better homes, better clothes, better food and more of it, and more of the conveniencies of life, than any other people upon the globe.
The farmers of our country live better than did the kings and princes two hundred years ago — and they have twice as much sense and heart. Liberty and labor have given us all. I want every person here to believe in the dignity of labor — to know that the respectable man is the useful man — the man who produces or helps others to produce something of value, whether thought of the brain or work of the hand.
I want you to go away with an eternal hatred in your breast of injustice, of aristocracy, of caste, of the idea that one man has more rights than another because he has better clothes, more land, more money, because he owns a railroad, or is famous and in high position. Remember that all men have equal rights. Remember that the man who acts best his part — who loves his friends the best — is most willing to help others — truest to the discharge of obligation — who has the best heart — the most feeling — the deepest sympathies — and who fiercely gives to others the rights that he claims for himself, is the best man. I am willing to swear to this.
What has made this country? I say again, liberty and labor. What would we be without labor? I want every farmer, when plowing the rustling corn of June — while mowing in the perfumed fields — to feel that he is adding to the wealth and glory of the United States. I want every mechanic — every man of toil, to know and feel that he is keeping the cars running, the telegraph wires in the air; that he is making the statues and painting the pictures: that he is writing and printing the books; that he is helping to fill the world with honor, with happiness, with love and law.
Our country is founded upon the dignity of labor — upon the equality of man. Ours is the first real republic in the history of the world. Beneath our flag the people are free. We have retired the gods from politics. We have found that man is the only source of political power, and that the governed should govern. We have disfranchised the aristocrats of the air and have given one country to mankind.
To Plow is to Pray — to Plant is to Prophecy,
and the Harvest Answers and Fulfills.
I AM not an old and experienced farmer, nor a tiller of the soil, nor one of the hard-handed sons of labor. I imagine, however, that I know something about cultivating the soil, and getting happiness out of the ground.
I know enough to know that agriculture is the basis of all wealth, prosperity and luxury. I know that in a country where the tillers of the fields are free, everybody is free and ought to be prosperous. Happy is that country where those who cultivate the land own it Patriotism is born in the woods and fields — by lakes and streams — by crags and plains.
The old way of farming was a great mistake. Everything was done the wrong way. It was all work and waste, weariness and want. They used to fence a hundred and sixty acres of land with a couple of dogs. Everything was left to the protection of the blessed trinity of chance, accident and mistake.
When I was a farmer they used to haul wheat two hundred miles in wagons and sell it for thirty-five cents a bushel. They would bring home about three hundred feet of lumber, two bunches of shingles, a barrel of salt, and a cook-stove that never would draw and never did bake.
In those blessed days the people lived on corn and bacon. Cooking was an unknown art. Eating was a necessity, not a pleasure. It was hard work for the cook to keep on good terms even with hunger.
We had poor houses. The rain held the roofs in perfect contempt, and the snow drifted joyfully on the floors and beds. They had no barns. The horses were kept in rail pens surrounded with straw. Long before spring the sides would beeaten away and nothing but roofs would be left. Food is fuel. When the cattle were exposed to all the blasts of winter, it took all the corn and oats that could be stuffed into them to prevent actual starvation.
In those times most farmers thought the best place for the pig-pen was immediately in front of the house. There is nothing like sociability.
Women were supposed to know the art of making fires without fuel. The wood pile consisted, as a general thing, of one log upon which an axe or two had been worn out in vain. There was nothing to kindle a fire with. Pickets were pulled from the garden fence, clap-boards taken from the house, and every stray plank was seized upon for kindling. Everything was done in the hardest way. Everything about the farm was disagreeable. Nothing was kept in order. Nothing was preserved. The wagons stood in the sun and rain, and the plows rusted in the fields. There was no leisure, no feeling that the work was done. It was all labor and weariness and vexation of spirit. The crops were destroyed by wandering herds, or they were put in too late, or too early, or they were blown down, or caught by the frost, or devoured by bugs, or stung by flies, or eaten by worms, or carried away by birds, or dug up by gophers, or washed away by floods, or dried up by the sun, or rotted in the stack, or heated in the crib, or they all run to vines, or tops, or straw, or smut, or cobs. And when in spite of all these accidents that lie in wait between the plow and the reaper, they did succeed in raising a good crop and a high price was offered, then the roads would be impassable. And when the roads got good, then the prices went down. Everything worked together for evil.
Nearly every farmer’s boy took an oath that he never would cultivate the soil. The moment they arrived at the age of twenty-one they left the desolate and dreary farms and rushed to the towns and cities. They wanted to be bookkeepers, doctors, merchants, railroad men, insurance agents, lawyers, even preachers, anything to avoid the drudgery of the farm. Nearly every boy acquainted with the three R’s — reading, writing, and arithmetic — imagined that he had altogether more education than ought to be wasted in raising potatoes and corn. They made haste to get into some other business. Those who stayed upon the farm envied those who went away.
A few years ago the times were prosperous, and the young men went to the cities to enjoy the fortunes that were waiting for them. They wanted to engage in something that promised quick returns. They built railways, established banks and insurance companies. They speculated in stocks in Wall Street, and gambled in grain at Chicago. They became rich. They lived in palaces. They rode in carriages. They pitied their poor brothers on the farms, and the poor brothers envied them.
But time has brought its revenge. The farmers have seen the railroad president a bankrupt, and the road in the hands of a receiver. They have seen the bank president abscond, and the insurance company a wrecked and ruined fraud. The only solvent people, as a class, the only independent people, are the tillers of the soil.
Farming must be made more attractive. The comforts of the town must be added to the beauty of the fields. The sociability of the city must be rendered possible in the country.
Farming has been made repulsive. The farmers have been unsociable and their homes have been lonely. They have been wasteful and careless. They have not been proud of their business.
In the first place, farming ought to be reasonably profitable. The farmers have not attended to their own interests. They have been robbed and plundered in a hundred ways.
No farmer can afford to raise corn and oats and hay to sell. He should sell horses, not oats; sheep, cattle and pork, not corn. He should make every profit possible out of what he produces. So long as the farmers of Illinois ship their corn and oats, so long they will be poor — just so long will their farms be mortgaged to the insurance companies and banks of the east — just so long will they do the work and others reap the benefit — just so long will they be poor, and the money lenders grow rich — just so long will cunning avarice grasp and hold the net profits of honest toil. When the farmers of the west ship beef and pork instead of grain — when we manufacture here — when we cease paying tribute to others, ours will be the most prosperous country in the world.
Another thing — It is just as cheap to raise a good as a poor breed of cattle. Scrubs will eat just as much as thoroughbreds. If you are not able to buy Durhams and Alderneys, you can raise the corn breed. By “corn breed” I mean the cattle that have, for several generations, had enough to eat, and have been treated with kindness. Every farmer who will treat his cattle kindly, and feed them all they want, will, in a few years, have blooded stock on his farm. All blooded stock has been produced in this way. You can raise good cattle just as you can raise good people. If you wish to raise a good boy you must give him plenty to eat, and treat him with kindness. In this way, and in this way only, can good cattle or good people be produced.
Another thing — You must beautify your homes.
When I was a farmer it was not fashionable to set out trees, nor to plant vines.
When you visited the farm you were not welcomed by flowers, and greeted by trees loaded with fruit. Yellow dogs came bounding over the tumbled fence like wild beasts. There is no sense — there is no profit in such a life. It is not living. The farmers ought to beautify their homes. There should be trees and grass and flowers and running vines. Everything should be kept in order — gates should be on their hinges, and about all there should be the pleasant air of thrift. In every house there should be a bath-room. The bath is a civilizer, a refiner, a beautifier. When you come from the fields tired, covered with dust, nothing is so refreshing. Above all things, keep clean. It is not necessary to be a pig in order to raise one. In the cool of the evening, after a day in the field, put on clean clothes, take a seat under the trees, ‘mid the perfume of flowers, surrounded by your family, and you will know what it is to enjoy life like a gentleman.
In no part of the globe will farming pay better than in Illinois. You are in the best portion of the earth. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, there is no such country as yours. The east is hard and stony; the soil is stingy. The far west is a desert parched and barren, dreary and desolate as perdition would be with the fires out. It is better to dig wheat and corn from the soil than gold. Only a few days ago I was where they wrench the precious metals from the miserly clutch of the rocks. When I saw the mountains, treeless, shrub-less, flowerless, without even a spire of grass, it seemed to me that gold had the same effect upon the country that holds it, as upon the man who lives and labors only for that. It affects the land as it does the man. It leaves the heart barren without a flower of kindness — without a blossom of pity.
The farmer in Illinois has the best soil — the greatest return for the least labor — more leisure — more time for enjoyment than any other farmer in the world. His hard work ceases with autumn. He has the long winters in which to become acquainted with his family — with his neighbors — in which to read and keep abreast with the advanced thought of his day. He has the time and means for self-culture. He has more time than the mechanic, the merchant or the professional man. If the farmer is not well informed it is his own fault. Books are cheap, and every farmer can have enough to give him the outline of every science, and an idea of all that has been accomplished by man.
In many respects the farmer has the advantage of the mechanic. In our time we have plenty of mechanics but no tradesmen. In the sub-division of labor we have a thousand men working upon different parts of the same thing, each taught in one particular branch, and in only one. We have, say, in a shoe factory, hundreds of men, but not one shoemaker. It takes them all, assisted by a great number of machines, to make a shoe. Each does a particular part, and not one of them knows the entire trade. The result is that the moment the factory shuts down these men are out of employment. Out of employment means out of bread — out of bread means famine and horror. The mechanic of today has but little independence. His prosperity often depends upon the good will of one man. He is liable to be discharged for a look, for a word. He lays by but little for his declining years. He is, at the best, the slave of capital.
It is a thousand times better to be a whole farmer than part of a mechanic. It is better to till the ground and work for yourself than to be hired by corporations. Every man should endeavor to belong to himself.
About seven hundred years ago, Kheyam, a Persian, said: “Why should a man who possesses a piece of bread securing life for two days, and who has a cup of water — why should such a man be commanded by another, and why should such a man serve another?”
Young men should not be satisfied with a salary. Do not mortgage the possibilities of your future. Have the courage to take life as it comes, feast or famine. Think of hunting a gold mine for a dollar a day, and think of finding one for another man. How would you feel then?
We are lacking in true courage, when, for fear of the future, we take the crusts and scraps and niggardly salaries of the present. I had a thousand times rather have a farm and be independent, than to be President of the United States without independence, filled with doubt and trembling, feeling of the popular pulse, resorting to art and artifice, enquiring about the wind of opinion, and succeeding at last in losing my self respect without gaining the respect of others.
Man needs more manliness, more real independence. We must take care of ourselves. This we can do by labor, and in this way we can preserve our independence. We should try and choose that business or profession the pursuit of which will give us the most happiness. Happiness is wealth. We can be happy without being rich — without holding office — without being famous. I am not sure that we can be happy with wealth, with office, or with fame.
There is a quiet about the life of a farmer, and the hope of a serene old age, that no other business or profession can promise. A professional man is doomed sometime to feel that his powers are waning. He is doomed to see younger and stronger men pass him in the race of life. He looks forward to an old age of intellectual mediocrity. He will be last where once he was the first. But the farmer goes, as it were, into partnership with nature —“he lives with trees and flowers — he breathes the sweet air of the fields.” There is no constant and frightful strain upon his mind. His nights are filled with sleep and rest. He watches his flocks and herds as they feed upon the green and sunny slopes. He hears the pleasant rain falling upon the waving corn, and the trees he planted in youth rustle above him as he plants others for the children yet to be.
Our country is filled with the idle and unemployed, and the great question asking for an answer is: What shall be done with these men? What shall these men do? To this there is but one answer: They must cultivate the soil. Farming must be rendered more attractive. Those who work the land must have an honest pride in their business. They must educate their children to cultivate the soil. They must make farming easier, so that their children will not hate it — so that they will not hate it themselves. The boys must not be taught that tilling the ground is a curse and almost a disgrace. They must not suppose that education is thrown away upon them unless they become ministers, merchants, lawyers, doctors, or statesmen. It must be understood that education can be used to advantage on a farm. We must get rid of the idea that a little learning unfits one for work. There is no real conflict between Latin and labor. There are hundreds of graduates of Yale and Harvard and other colleges, who are agents of sewing machines, solicitors for insurance, clerks, copyists, in short, performing a hundred varieties of menial service. They seem willing to do anything that is not regarded as work — anything that can be done in a town, in the house, in an office, but they avoid farming as they would a leprosy. Nearly every young man educated in this way is simply ruined. Such an education ought to be called ignorance. It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education, than education without the sense. Boys and girls should be educated to help themselves. They should be taught that it is disgraceful to be idle, and dishonorable to be useless.
I say again, if you want more men and women on the farms, something must be done to make farm life pleasant. One great difficulty is that the farm is lonely. People write about the pleasures of solitude, but they are found only in books. He who lives long alone becomes insane. A hermit is a madman. Without friends and wife and child, there is nothing left worth living for. The unsocial are the enemies of joy. They are filled with egotism and envy, with vanity and hatred. People who live much alone become narrow and suspicious. They are apt to be the property of one idea. They begin to think there is no use in anything. They look upon the happiness of others as a kind of folly. They hate joyous folks, because, way down in their hearts, they envy them.
In our country, farm-life is too lonely. The farms are large, and neighbors are too far apart. In these days, when the roads are filled with “tramps,” the wives and children need protection. When the farmer leaves home and goes to some distant field to work, a shadow of fear is upon his heart all day, and a like shadow rests upon all at home.
In the early settlement of our country the pioneer was forced to take his family, his axe, his dog and his gun, and go into the far wild forest and build his cabin miles and miles from any neighbor. He saw the smoke from his hearth go up alone in all the wide and lonely sky.
But this necessity has passed away, and now, instead of living so far apart upon the lonely farms, you should live in villages. With the improved machinery which you have — with your generous soil — with your markets and means of transportation, you can now afford to live together.
It is not necessary in this age of the world for the farmer to rise in the middle of the night and begin his work. This getting up so early in the morning is a relic of barbarism. It has made hundreds and thousands of young men curse the business. There is no need of getting up at three or four o’clock in the winter morning. The farmer who persists in doing it and persists in dragging his wife and children from their beds ought to be visited by a missionary. It is time enough to rise after the sun has set the example. For what purpose do you get up? To feed the cattle? Why not feed them more the night before? It is a waste of life. In the old times they used to get up about three o’clock in the morning, and go to work long before the sun had risen with “healing upon his wings,” and as a just punishment they all had the ague; and they ought to have it now. The man who cannot get a living upon Illinois soil without rising before daylight ought to starve. Eight hours a day is enough for any farmer to work except in harvest time. When you rise at four and work till dark what is life worth? Of what use are all the improvements in farming? Of what use is all the improved machinery unless it tends to give the farmer a little more leisure? What is harvesting now, compared with what it was in the old time? Think of the days of reaping, of cradling, of raking and binding and mowing. Think of threshing with the flail and winnowing with the wind. And now think of the reapers and mowers, the binders and threshing machines, the plows and cultivators, upon which the farmer rides protected from the sun. If, with all these advantages, you cannot get a living without rising in the middle of the night, go into some other business. You should not rob your families of sleep. Sleep is the best medicine in the world. It is the best doctor upon the earth. There is no such thing as health without plenty of sleep. Sleep until you are thoroughly rested and restored. When you work, work; and when you get through take a good, long, and refreshing rest.
You should live in villages, so that you can have the benefits of social life. You can have a reading-room — you can take the best papers and magazines — you can have plenty of books, and each one can have the benefit of them all. Some of the young men and women can cultivate music. You can have social gatherings — you can-learn from each other — you can discuss all topics of interest, and in this way you can make farming a delightful business. You must keep up with the age. The way to make farming respectable is for farmers to become really intelligent. They must live intelligent and happy lives. They must know something of books and something of what is going on in the world. They must not be satisfied with knowing something of the affairs of a neighborhood and nothing about the rest of the earth. The business must be made attractive, and it never can be until the farmer has prosperity, intelligence and leisure.
Another thing — I am a believer in fashion. It is the duty of every woman to make herself as beautiful and attractive as she possibly can.
“Handsome is as handsome does,” but she is much handsomer if well dressed. Every man should look his very best. I am a believer in good clothes. The time never ought to come in this country when you can tell a farmer’s wife or daughter simply by the garments she wears. I say to every girl and woman, no matter what the material of your dress may be, no matter how cheap and coarse it is, cut it and make it in the fashion. I believe in jewelry. Some people look upon it as barbaric, but in my judgment, wearing jewelry is the first evidence the barbarian gives of a wish to be civilized. To adorn ourselves seems to be a part of our nature, and this desire seems to be everywhere and in everything. I have sometimes thought that the desire for beauty covers the earth with flowers. It is this desire that paints the wings of moths, tints the chamber of the shell, and gives the bird its plumage and its song. Oh daughters and wives, if you would be loved, adorn yourselves — if you would be adored, be beautiful! There is another fault common with the farmers of our country — they want too much land. You cannot, at present, when taxes are high, afford to own land that you do not cultivate. Sell it and let others make farms and homes. In this way what you keep will be enhanced in value. Farmers ought to own the land they cultivate, and cultivate what they own. Renters can hardly be called farmers. There can be no such thing in the highest sense as a home unless you own it. There must be an incentive to plant trees, to beautify the grounds, to preserve and improve. It elevates a man to own a home. It gives a certain independence, a force of character that is obtained in no other way. A man without a home feels like a passenger. There is in such a man a little of the vagrant. Homes make patriots. He who has sat by his own fireside with wife and children will defend it. When he hears the word country pronounced, he thinks of his home.
Few men have been patriotic enough to shoulder a musket in defence of a boarding house.
The prosperity and glory of our country depend upon the number of our people who are the owners of homes. Around the fireside cluster the private and the public virtues of our race. Raise your sons to be independent through labor — to pursue some business for themselves and upon their own account — to be self-reliant — to act upon their own responsibility, and to take the consequences like men. Teach them above all things to be good, true and tender husbands — winners of love and builders of homes.
A great many farmers seem to think that they are the only laborers in the world. This is a very foolish thing. Farmers cannot get along without the mechanic. You are not independent of the man of genius. Your prosperity depends upon the inventor. The world advances by the assistance of all laborers; and all labor is under obligations to the inventions of genius. The inventor does as much for agriculture as he who tills the soil. All laboring men should be brothers. You are in partnership with the mechanics who make your reapers, your mowers and your plows; and you should take into your granges all the men who make their living by honest labor. The laboring people should unite and should protect themselves against all idlers. You can divide mankind into two classes: the laborers and the idlers, the supporters and the supported, the honest and the dishonest. Every man is dishonest who lives upon the unpaid labor of others, no matter if he occupies a throne. All laborers should be brothers. The laborers should have equal rights before the world and before the law. And I want every farmer to consider every man who labors either with hand or brain as his brother. Until genius and labor formed a partnership there was no such thing as prosperity among men. Every reaper and mower, every agricultural implement, has elevated the work of the farmer, and his vocation grows grander with every invention. In the olden time the agriculturist was ignorant; he knew nothing of machinery, he was the slave of superstition. He was always trying to appease some imaginary power by fasting and prayer. He supposed that some being actuated by malice, sent the untimely frost, or swept away with the wild wind his rude abode. To him the seasons were mysteries. The thunder told him of an enraged god — the barren fields of the vengeance of heaven. The tiller of the soil lived in perpetual and abject fear. He knew nothing of mechanics, nothing of order, nothing of law, nothing of cause and effect. He was a superstitious savage. He invented prayers instead of plows, creeds instead of reapers and mowers. He was unable to devote all his time to the gods, and so he hired others to assist him, and for their influence with the gentlemen supposed to control the weather, he gave one-tenth of all he could produce.
The farmer has been elevated through science and he should not forget the debt he owes to the mechanic, to the inventor, to the thinker. He should remember that all laborers belong to the same grand family — that they are the real kings and queens, the only true nobility.
Another idea entertained by most farmers is that they are in some mysterious way oppressed by every other kind of business — that they are devoured by monopolies, especially by railroads.
Of course, the railroads are indebted to the farmers for their prosperity, and the farmers are indebted to the railroads. Without them Illinois would be almost worthless.
A few years ago you endeavored to regulate the charges of railroad companies. The principal complaint you had was that they charged too much for the transportation of corn and other cereals to the East. You should remember that all freights are paid by the consumer; and that it made little difference to you what the railroad charged for transportation to the East, as that transportation had to be paid by the consumers of the grain. You were really interested in transportation from the East to the West and in local freights. The result is that while you have put down through freights you have not succeeded so well in local freights. The exact opposite should be the policy of Illinois. Put down local freights; put them down, if you can, to the lowest possible figure, and let through rates take care of themselves. If all the corn raised in Illinois could be transported to New York absolutely free, it would enhance but little the price that you would receive. What we want is the lowest possible local rate. Instead of this you have simply succeeded in helping the East at the expense of the West. The railroads are your friends. They are your partners. They can prosper only where the country through which they run prospers. All intelligent railroad men know this. They know that present robbery is future bankruptcy. They know that the interest of the farmer and of the railroad is the same. We must have railroads. What can we do without them?
When we had no railroads, we drew, as I said before, our grain two hundred miles to market.
In those days the farmers did not stop at hotels. They slept under their wagons — took with them their food — fried their own bacon, made their coffee, and ate their meals in the snow and rain. Those were the days when they received ten cents a bushel for corn — when they sold four bushels of potatoes for a quarter — thirty-three dozen eggs for a dollar, and a hundred pounds of pork for a dollar and a half.
What has made the difference?
The railroads came to your door and they brought with them the markets of the world. They brought New York and Liverpool and London into Illinois, and the state has been clothed with prosperity as with a mantle. It is the interest of the farmer to protect every great interest in the state. You should feel proud that Illinois has more railroads than any other state in this Union. Her main tracks and side tracks would furnish iron enough to belt the globe. In Illinois there are ten thousand miles of railways. In these iron highways more than three hundred million dollars have been invested — a sum equal to ten times the original cost of all the land in the state. To make war upon the railroads is a short-sighted and suicidal policy. They should be treated fairly and should be taxed by the same standard that farms are taxed, and in no other way. If we wish to prosper we must act together, and we must see to it that every form of labor is protected.
There has been a long period of depression in all business. The farmers have suffered least of all. Your land is just as rich and productive as ever. Prices have been reasonable. The towns and cities have suffered. Stocks and bonds have shrunk from par to worthless paper. Princes have become paupers, and bankers, merchants and millionaires have passed into the oblivion of bankruptcy. The period of depression is slowly passing away, and we are entering upon better times.
A great many people say that a scarcity of money is our only difficulty. In my opinion we have money enough, but we lack confidence in each other and in the future.
There has been so much dishonesty, there have been so many failures, that the people are afraid to trust anybody. There is plenty of money, but there seems to be a scarcity of business. If you were to go to the owner of a ferry, and, upon seeing his boat lying high and dry on the shore, should say, “There is a superabundance of ferryboat,” he would probably reply, “No, but there is a scarcity of water.” So with us there is not a scarcity of money, but there is a scarcity of business. And this scarcity springs from lack of confidence in one another. So many presidents of savings banks, even those belonging to the Young Men’s Christian Association, run off with the funds; so many railroad and insurance companies are in the hands of receivers; there is so much bankruptcy on every hand, that all capital is held in the nervous clutch of fear. Slowly, but surely we are coming back to honest methods in business. Confidence will return, and then enterprise will unlock the safe and money will again circulate as of yore; the dollars will leave their hiding places and every one will be seeking investment.
For my part, I do not ask any interference on the part of the government except to undo the wrong it has done. I do not ask that money be made out of nothing. I do not ask for the prosperity born of paper. But I do ask for the remonetization of silver. Silver was demonetized by fraud. It was an imposition upon every solvent man; a fraud upon every honest debtor in the United States. It assassinated labor. It was done in the interest of avarice and greed, and should be undone by honest men.
The farmers should vote only for such men as are able and willing to guard and advance the interests of labor. We should know better than to vote for men who will deliberately put a tariff of three dollars a thousand upon Canada lumber, when every farmer in Illinois is a purchaser of lumber. People who live upon the prairies ought to vote for cheap lumber. We should protect ourselves. We ought to have intelligence enough to know what we want and how to get it. The real laboring men of this country can succeed if they are united. By laboring men, I do not mean only the farmers. I mean all who contribute in some way to the general welfare. They should forget prejudices and party names, and remember only the best interests of the people. Let us see if we cannot, in Illinois, protect every department of industry. Let us see if all property cannot be protected alike and taxed alike, whether owned by individuals or corporations.
Where industry creates and justice protects, prosperity dwells.
Let me tell you something more about Illinois: We have fifty-six thousand square miles of land — nearly thirty-six million acres. Upon these plains we can raise enough to feed and clothe twenty million people. Beneath these prairies were hidden millions of ages ago, by that old miser, the sun, thirty-six thousand square miles of coal. The aggregate thickness of these veins is at least fifteen feet. Think of a column of coal one mile square and one hundred miles high! All this came from the sun. What a sunbeam such a column would be! Think of the engines and machines this coal will run and turn and whirl! Think of all this force, willed and left to us by the dead morning of the world! Think of the firesides of the future around which will sit the fathers, mothers and children of the years to be! Think of the sweet and happy faces, the loving and tender eyes that will glow and gleam in the sacred light of all these flames!
We have the best country in the world, and Illinois is the best state in that country. Is there any reason that our farmers should not be prosperous and happy men? They have every advantage, and within their reach are all the comforts and conveniences of life.
Do not get the land fever and think you must buy all that joins you. Get out of debt as soon as you possibly can. A mortgage casts a shadow on the sunniest field. There is no business under the sun that can pay ten per cent.
Ainsworth R. Spofford gives the following facts about interest: “One dollar loaned for one hundred years at six per cent., with the interest collected annually and added to the principal, will amount to three hundred and forty dollars. At eight per cent, it amounts to two thousand two hundred and three dollars. At three per cent, it amounts only to nineteen dollars and twenty-five cents. At ten per cent, it is thirteen thousand eight hundred and nine dollars, or about seven hundred times as much. At twelve per cent, it amounts to eighty-four thousand and seventy-five dollars, or more than four thousand times as much. At eighteen per cent, it amounts to fifteen million one hundred and forty-five thousand and seven dollars. At twenty-four per cent, (which we sometimes hear talked of) it reaches the enormous sum of two billion five hundred and fifty-one million seven hundred and ninety-nine thousand four hundred and four dollars.”
One dollar at compound interest, at twenty-four per cent., for one hundred years, would produce a sum equal to our national debt.
Interest eats night and day, and the more it eats the hungrier it grows. The farmer in debt, lying awake at night, can, if he listens, hear it gnaw. If he owes nothing, he can hear his corn grow. Get out of debt as soon as you possibly can. You have supported idle avarice and lazy economy long enough.
Above all let every farmer treat his wife and children with infinite kindness. Give your sons and daughters every advantage within your power. In the air of kindness they will grow about you like flowers. They will fill your homes with sunshine and all your years with joy. Do not try to rule by force. A blow from a parent leaves a scar on the soul. I should feel ashamed to die surrounded by children I had whipped. Think of feeling upon your dying lips the kiss of a child you had struck.
See to it that your wife has every convenience. Make her life worth living. Never allow her to become a servant. Wives, weary and worn, mothers, wrinkled and bent before their time, fill homes with grief and shame. If you are not able to hire help for your wives, help them yourselves. See that they have the best utensils to work with.
Women cannot create things by magic. Have plenty of wood and coal — good cellars and plenty in them. Have cisterns, so that you can have plenty of rain water for washing.’ Do not rely on a barrel and a board. When the rain comes the board will be lost or the hoops will be off the barrel.
Farmers should live like princes. Eat the best things you raise and sell the rest. Have good things to cook and good things to cook with. Of all people in our country, you should live the best. Throw your miserable little stoves out of the window. Get ranges, and have them so built that your wife need not burn her face off to get you a breakfast. Do not make her cook in a kitchen hot as the orthodox perdition. The beef, not the cook, should be roasted. It is just as easy to have things convenient and right as to have them any other way.
Cooking is one of the fine arts. Give your wives and daughters things to cook, and things to cook with, and they will soon become most excellent cooks. Good cooking is the basis of civilization. The man whose arteries and veins are filled with rich blood made of good and well cooked food, has pluck, courage, endurance and and noble impulses. The inventor of a good soup did more for his race than the maker of any creed. The doctrines of total depravity and endless punishment were born of bad cooking and dyspepsia. Remember that your wife should have the things to cook with.
In the good old days there would be eleven children in the family and only one skillet. Everything was broken or cracked or loaned or lost.
There ought to be a law making it a crime, punishable by imprisonment, to fry beefsteak. Broil it; it is just as easy, and when broiled it is delicious. Fried beefsteak is not fit for a wild beast. You can broil even on a stove. Shut the front damper — open the back one — then takeoff a griddle. There will then be a draft downwards through this opening. Put on your steak, using a wire broiler, and not a particle of smoke will touch it, for the reason that the smoke goes down. If you try to broil it with the front damper open, the smoke will rise. For broiling, coal, even soft coal, makes a better fire than wood.
There is no reason why farmers should not have fresh meat all the year round. There is certainly no sense in stuffing yourself full of salt meat every morning, and making a well or a cistern of your stomach for the rest of the day. Every farmer should have an ice house. Upon or near every farm is some stream from which plenty of ice can be obtained, and the long summer days made delightful. Dr. Draper, one of the world’s greatest scientists, says that ice water is healthy, and that it has done away with many of the low forms of fever in the great cities. Ice has become one of the necessaries of civilized life, and without it there is very little comfort.
Make your homes pleasant. Have your houses warm and comfortable for the winter. Do not build a story-and-a-half house. The half story is simply an oven in which, during the summer, you will bake every night, and feel in the morning as though only the rind of yourself was left.
Decorate your rooms, even if you do so with cheap engravings. The cheapest are far better than none. Have books — have papers, and read them. You have more leisure than the dwellers in cities. Beautify your grounds with plants and flowers and vines. Have good gardens. Remember that everything of beauty tends to the elevation of man. Every little morning-glory whose purple bosom is thrilled with the amorous kisses of the sun, tends to put a blossom in your heart. Do not judge of the value of everything by the market reports. Every flower about a house certifies to the refinement of somebody. Every vine climbing and blossoming, tells of love and joy.
Make your houses comfortable. Do not huddle together in a little room around a red-hot stove, with every window fastened down. Do not live in this poisoned atmosphere, and then, when one of your children dies; put a piece in the papers commencing with, “Whereas, it has pleased divine Providence to remove from our midst —.” Have plenty of air, and plenty of warmth. Comfort is health. Do not imagine anything is unhealthy simply because it is pleasant. That is an old and foolish idea.
Let your children sleep. Do not drag them from their beds in the darkness of night. Do not compel them to associate all that is tiresome, irksome and dreadful with cultivating the soil. In this way you bring farming into hatred and disrepute. Treat your children with infinite kindness — treat them as equals. There is no happiness in a home not filled with love. Where the husband hates his wife — where the wife hates the husband; where children hate their parents and each other — there is a hell upon earth.
There is no reason why farmers should not be the kindest and most cultivated of men. There is nothing in plowing the fields to make men cross, cruel and crabbed. To look upon the sunny slopes covered with daisies does not tend to make men unjust. Whoever labors for the happiness of those he loves, elevates himself, no matter whether he works in the dark and dreary shops, or in the perfumed fields. To work for others is, in reality, the only way in which a man can work for himself. Selfishness is ignorance. Speculators cannot make unless somebody loses. In the realm of speculation, every success has at least one victim. The harvest reaped by the farmer benefits all and injures none. For him to succeed, it is not necessary that some one should fail. The same is true of all producers — of all laborers.
I can imagine no condition that carries with it it such a promise of joy as that of the farmer in the early winter. He has his cellar filled — he has made every preparation for the days of snow and storm — he looks forward to three months of ease and rest; to three months of fireside-content; three months with wife and children; three months of long, delightful evenings; three months of home; three months of solid comfort.
When the life of the farmer is such as I have described, the cities and towns will not be filled with want — the streets will not be crowded with wrecked rogues, broken bankers, and bankrupt speculators. The fields will be tilled, and country villages, almost hidden by trees and vines and flowers, filled with industrious and happy people, will nestle in every vale and gleam like gems on every plain.
The idea must be done away with that there is something intellectually degrading in cultivating the soil. Nothing can be nobler than to be useful. Idleness should not be respectable.
If farmers will cultivate well, and without waste; if they will so build that their houses will be warm in winter and cool in summer; if they will plant trees and beautify their homes; if they will occupy their leisure in reading, in thinking, in improving their minds and in devising ways and means to make their business profitable and pleasant; if they will live nearer together and cultivate sociability; if they will come together often; if they will have reading rooms and cultivate music; if they will have bath-rooms, ice-houses and good gardens; if their wives can have an easy time; if their sons and daughters can have an opportunity to keep in line with the thoughts and discoveries of the world; if the nights can be taken for sleep and the evenings for enjoyment, everybody will be in love with the fields. Happiness should be the object of life, and if life on the farm can be made really happy, the children will grow up in love with the meadows, the streams, the woods and the old home. Around the farm will cling and cluster the happy memories of the delightful years.
Remember, I pray you, that you are in partnership with all labor — that you should join hands with all the sons and daughters of toil, and that all who work belong to the same noble family.
For my part, I envy the man who has lived on the same broad acres from his boyhood, who cultivates the fields where in youth he played, and lives where his father lived and died.
I can imagine no sweeter way to end one’s life than in the quiet of the country, out of the mad race for money, place and power — far from the demands of business — out of the dusty highway where fools struggle and strive for the hollow praise of other fools.
Surrounded by pleasant fields and faithful friends, by those I have loved, I hope to end my days. And this I hope may be the lot of all who hear my voice. I hope that you, in the country, in houses covered with vines and clothed with flowers, looking from the open window upon rustling fields of corn and wheat, over which will run the sunshine and the shadow, surrounded by those whose lives you have filled with joy, will pass away serenely as the Autumn dies.
MASSACHUSETTS may be satisfied with the loyalty of Benjamin H. Bristow; so am I; but if any man nominated by this convention can not carry the State of Massachusetts, I am not satisfied with the loyalty of that State. If the nominee of this convention can not carry the grand old Commonwealth of Massachusetts by seventy-five thousand majority, I would advise them to sell out Faneuil Hall as a Democratic headquarters. I would advise them to take from Bunker Hill that old monument of glory.
The Republicans of the United States demand as their leader in the great contest of 1876 a man of intelligence, a man of integrity, a man of well-known and approved political opinions. They demand a statesman; they demand a reformer after as well as before the election. They demand a politician in the highest, broadest and best sense — a man of superb moral courage. They demand a man acquainted with public affairs — with the wants of the people; with not only the requirements of the hour, but with the demands of the future. They demand a man broad enough to comprehend the relations of this government to the other nations of the earth. They demand a man well versed in the powers, duties, and prerogatives of each and every department of this government. They demand a man who will sacredly preserve the financial honor of the United States; one who knows enough to know that the national debt must be paid through the prosperity of this people; one who knows enough to know that all the financial theories in the world cannot redeem a single dollar; one who knows enough to know that all the money must be made, not by law, but by labor; one who knows enough to know that the people of the United States have the industry to make the money, and the honor to pay it over just as fast as they make it.
The Republicans of the United States demand a man who knows that prosperity and resumption, when they come, must come together; that when they come, they will come hand in hand through the golden harvest fields; hand in hand by the whirling spindles and the turning wheels; hand in hand past the open furnace doors; hand in hand by the flaming forges; hand in hand by the chimneys filled with eager fire, greeted and grasped by the countless sons of toil.
This money has to be dug out of the earth. You can not make it by passing resolutions in a political convention.
The Republicans of the United States want a man who knows that this government should protect every citizen, at home and abroad; who knows that any government that will not defend its defenders, and protect its protectors, is a disgrace to the map of the world. They demand a man who believes in the eternal separation and divorcement of church and school. They demand a man whose political reputation is spotless as a star; but they do not demand that their candidate shall have a certificate of moral character signed by a confederate congress. The man who has, in full, heaped and rounded measure, all these splendid qualifications, is the present grand and gallant leader of the Republican party — James G. Blaine.
Our country, crowned with the vast and marvelous achievements of its first century, asks for a man worthy of the past, and prophetic of her future; asks for a man who has the audacity of genius; asks for a man who is the grandest combination of heart, conscience and brain beneath her flag — such a man is James G. Blaine.
For the Republican host, led by this intrepid man, there can be no defeat.
This is a grand year — a year filled with the recollections of the Revolution; filled with proud and tender memories of the past; with the sacred legends of liberty — a year in which the sons of freedom will drink from the fountains of enthusiasm; a year in which the people call for a man who has preserved in Congress what our soldiers won upon the field; a year in which they call for the man who has torn from the throat of treason the tongue of slander — for the man who has snatched the mask of Democracy from the hideous face of rebellion; for the man who, like an intellectual athlete, has stood in the arena of debate and challenged all comers, and who is still a total stranger to defeat.
Like an armed warrior, like a plumed knight, James G. Blaine marched down the halls of the American Congress and threw his shining lance full and fair against the brazen foreheads of the defamers of his country and the maligners of his honor. For the Republican party to desert this gallant leader now, is as though an army should desert their general upon the field of battle.
James G. Blaine is now and has been for years the bearer of the sacred standard of the Republican party. I call it sacred, because no human being can stand beneath its folds without becoming and without remaining free.
Gentlemen of the convention, in the name of the great Republic, the only Republic that ever existed upon this earth; in the name of all her defenders and of all her supporters; in the name of all her soldiers living; in the name of all her soldiers dead upon the field of battle, and in the name of those who perished in the skeleton clutch of famine at Andersonville and Libby, whose sufferings he so vividly remembers, Illinois — Illinois nominates for the next President of this country, that prince of parliamentarians — that leader of leaders — James G. Blaine.
THE past rises before me like a dream. Again we are in the great struggle for national life. We hear the sounds of preparation — the music of boisterous drums — the silver voices of heroic bugles. We see thousands of assemblages, and hear the appeals of orators; we see the pale cheeks of women, and the flushed faces of men; and in those assemblages we see all the dead whose dust we have covered with flowers. We lose sight of them no more. We are with them when they enlist in the great army of freedom. We see them part with those they love. Some are walking for the last time in quiet, woody places, with the maidens they adore. We hear the whisperings and the sweet vows of eternal love as they lingeringly part forever. Others are bending over cradles, kissing babes that are asleep. Some are receiving the blessings of old men. Some are parting with mothers who hold them and press them to their hearts again and again, and say nothing. Kisses and tears, tears and kisses — divine mingling of agony and love! And some are talking with wives, and endeavoring with brave words, spoken in the old tones, to drive from their hearts the awful fear. We see them part. We see the wife standing in the door with the babe in her arms — standing in the sunlight sobbing —— at the turn of the road a hand waves — she answers by holding high in her loving arms the child. He is gone, and forever.
We see them all as they march proudly away under the flaunting flags, keeping time to the grand, wild music of war — marching down the streets of the great cities — through the towns and across the prairies — down to the fields of glory, to do and to die for the eternal right.
We go with them, one and all. We are by their side on all the gory fields — in all the hospitals of pain — on all the weary marches. We stand guard with them in the wild storm and under the quiet stars. We are with them in ravines running with blood — in the furrows of old fields. We are with them between contending hosts, unable to move, wild with thirst, the life ebbing slowly away among the withered leaves. We see them pierced by balls and torn with shells, in the trenches, by forts, and in the whirlwind of the charge, where men become iron, with nerves of steel.
We are with them in the prisons of hatred and famine; but human speech can never tell what they endured.
We are at home when the news comes that they are dead. We see the maiden in the shadow of her first sorrow. We see the silvered head of the old man bowed with the last grief.
The past rises before us, and we see four millions of human beings governed by the lash — we see them bound hand and foot — we hear the strokes of cruel whips — we see the hounds tracking women through tangled swamps. We see babes sold from the breasts of mothers. Cruelty unspeakable! Outrage infinite!
Four million bodies in chains — four million souls in fetters. All the sacred relations of wife, mother, father and child, trampled beneath the brutal feet or might. And all this was done under our own beautiful banner of the free. The past rises before us. We hear the roar and shriek of the bursting shell. The broken fetters fall.
These heroes died. We look. Instead of slaves we see men and women and children. The wand of progress touches the auction-block, the slave-pen, the whipping-post, and we see homes and firesides and school-houses and books, and where all was want, and crime and cruelty, and fear we see the faces of the free.
These heroes are dead. They died for liberty they died for us. They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines. They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless, alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless palace of Rest. Earth may run red with other wars — they are at peace. In the midst of battle, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death. I have one sentiment for soldiers living and dead: Cheers for the living; tears for the dead.
The Volunteer Soldiers of the Union, whose valor and patriotism saved the world “a government of the people, by the people, and for the PEOPLE.”
WHEN the savagery of the lash, the barbarism of the chain, and the insanity of secession confronted the civilization of our century, the question “Will the great Republic defend itself?” trembled on the lips of every lover of mankind.
The North, filled with intelligence and wealth — children of liberty — marshaled her hosts and asked only for a leader. From civil life a man, silent, thoughtful, poised and calm, stepped forth, and with the lips of victory voiced the Nation’s first and last demand: “Unconditional and immediate surrender.” From that moment the end was known. That utterance was the first real declaration of real war, and, in accordance with the dramatic unities of mighty events, the great soldier who made it, received the final sword of the rebellion.
The soldiers of the Republic were not seekers after vulgar glory. They were not animated by the hope of plunder or the love of conquest. They fought to preserve the homestead of liberty and that their children might have peace. They were the defenders of humanity, the destroyers of prejudice, the breakers of chains, and in the name of the future they slew the monster of their time. They finished what the soldiers of the Revolution commenced. They re-lighted the torch that fell from their august hands and filled the world again with light. They blotted from the statute-books laws that had been passed by hypocrites at the instigation of robbers, and tore with indignant hands from the Constitution that infamous clause that made men the catchers of their fellow-men. They made it possible for judges to be just, for statesmen to be humane, and for politicians to be honest. They broke the shackles from the limbs of slaves, from the souls of masters, and from the Northern brain. They kept our country on the map of the world, and our flag in heaven. They rolled the stone from the sepulchre of progress, and found therein two angels clad in shining garments — Nationality and Liberty.
The soldiers were the saviors of the Nation; they were the liberators of men. In writing the Proclamation of Emancipation, Lincoln, greatest of our mighty dead, whose memory is as gentle as the summer air when reapers sing amid the gathered sheaves, copied with the pen what Grant and his brave comrades wrote with swords.
Grander than the Greek, nobler than the Roman, the soldiers of the Republic, with patriotism as shoreless as the air, battled for the rights of others, for the nobility of labor, fought that mothers might own their babes, that arrogant idleness should not scar the back of patient toil, and that our country should not be a many-headed monster made of warring states, but a Nation, sovereign, great, and free.
Blood was water, money was leaves, and life was only common air until one flag floated over a Republic without a master and without a slave.
And then was asked the question: “Will a free people tax themselves to pay a nation’s debt?”
The soldiers went home to their waiting wives, to their glad children, and to the girls they loved — they went back to the fields, the shops, and mines. They had not been demoralized. They had been ennobled. They were as honest in peace as they had been brave in war. Mocking at poverty, laughing at reverses, they made a friend of toil. They said: “We saved the Nation’s life, and what is life without honor?” They-worked and wrought with all of labor’s royal sons that every pledge the Nation gave might be redeemed. And their great leader, having put a shining band of friendship — a girdle of clasped and happy hands — around the globe, comes home and finds that every promise made in war has now the ring and gleam of gold.
There is another question still:— Will all the wounds of war be healed? I answer, Yes. The Southern people must submit, not to the dictation of the North, but to the Nation’s will and to the verdict of mankind. They were wrong, and the time will come when they will say that they are victors who have been vanquished by the right. Freedom conquered them, and freedom will cultivate their fields, educate their children, weave for them the robes of wealth, execute their laws, and fill their land with happy homes.
The soldiers of the Union saved the South as well as North. They made us a Nation. Their victory made us free and rendered tyranny in every other land as insecure as snow upon volcanoes’ lips.
And now let us drink to the volunteers — to those who sleep in unknown, sunken graves, whose names are only in the hearts of those they loved and left — of those who only hear in happy dreams the footsteps of return. Let us drink to those who died where lipless famine mocked at want — to all the maimed whose scars give modesty a tongue — to all who dared and gave to chance the care and keeping of their lives:— to all the living and to all the dead — to Sherman, to Sheridan, and to Grant, the laureled soldiers of the world, and last, to Lincoln, whose loving life, like a bow of peace, spans and arches all the clouds of war.
UPON the grave of the Reverend Alexander Clark I wish to place one flower.
Utterly destitute of cold dogmatic pride that often passes for the love of God; without the arrogance of the “elect”— simple, free, and kind — this earnest man made me his friend by being mine. I forgot that he was a Christian, and he seemed to forget that I was not, while each remembered that the other was a man.
Frank, candid, and sincere, he practiced what he preached, and looked with the holy eyes of charity upon the failings and mistakes of men. He believed in the power of kindness, and spanned with divine sympathy the hideous gulf that separates the fallen from the pure.
Giving freely to others the rights that he claimed for himself, it never occurred to him that his God hated a brave and honest unbeliever. He remembered that even an infidel has rights that love respects; that hatred has no saving power, and that in order to be a Christian it is not necessary to become less than a man. He knew that no one can be maligned into kindness; that epithets cannot convince; that curses are not arguments, and that the finger of scorn never points towards heaven. With the generosity of an honest man, he accorded to all the fullest liberty of thought, knowing, as he did, that in the realm of mind a chain is but a curse.
For this man I entertained the profoundest respect. In spite of the taunts and jeers of his brethren, he publicly proclaimed that he would treat infidels with fairness and respect; that he would endeavor to convince them by argument and win them with love. He insisted that the God he worshipped loved the well-being even of an atheist. In this grand position he stood almost alone. Tender, just, and loving where others were harsh, vindictive, and cruel, he challenged the respect and admiration of every honest man.
A few more such clergymen might drive calumny from the lips of faith and render the pulpit worthy of respect.
The heartiness and kindness with which this generous man treated me can never be excelled. He admitted that I had not lost, and could not lose a single right by the expression of my honest thought. Neither did he believe that a servant could win the respect of a generous master by persecuting and maligning those whom the master would willingly forgive.
While this good man was living, his brethren blamed him for having treated me with fairness. But, I trust, now that he has left the shore touched by the mysterious sea that never yet has borne, on any wave, the image of a homeward sail, this crime will be forgiven him by those who still remain to preach the love of God.
His sympathies were not confined within the prison of a creed, but ran out and over the walls like vines, hiding the cruel rocks and rusted bars with leaf and flower. He could not echo with his heart the fiendish sentence of eternal fire. In spite of book and creed, he read “between the lines” the words of tenderness and love, with promises for all the world. Above, beyond the dogmas of his church — humane even to the verge of heresy — causing some to doubt his love of God because he failed to hate his unbelieving fellow-men, he labored for the welfare of mankind, and to his work gave up his life with all his heart.
Robert G. Ingersoll.
Washington, D. C,
July 11, 1879
The record of a generous life runs like a vine around the memory of our dead, and every sweet, unselfish act is now a perfumed flower.
Dear Friends: I am going to do that which the dead oft promised he would do for me.
The loved and loving brother, husband, father, friend, died where manhood’s morning almost touches noon, and while the shadows still were falling toward the west.
He had not passed on life’s highway the stone that marks the highest point; but, being weary for a moment, he lay down by the wayside, and, using his burden for a pillow, fell into that dreamless sleep that kisses down his eyelids still. While yet in love with life and raptured with the world, he passed to silence and pathetic dust.
Yet, after all, it may be best, just in the happiest, sunniest hour of all the voyage, while eager winds are kissing every sail, to dash against the unseen rock, and in an instant hear the billows roar above a sunken ship. For whether in mid sea or ‘mong the breakers of the farther shore, a wreck at last must mark the end of each and all. And every life, no matter if its every hour is rich with love and every moment jeweled with a joy, will, at its close, become a tragedy as sad and deep and dark as can be woven of the warp and woof of mystery and death.
This brave and tender man in every storm of life was oak and rock; but in the sunshine he was vine and flower. He was the friend of all heroic souls. He climbed the heights, and left all superstitions far below, while on his forehead fell the golden dawning of the grander day.
He loved the beautiful, and was with color, form, and music touched to tears. He sided with the weak, the poor, and wronged, and lovingly gave alms. With loyal heart and with the purest hands he faithfully discharged all public trusts.
He was a worshipper of liberty, a friend of the oppressed. A thousand times I have heard him quote these words: “For Justice, all place a temple, and all season, summer.” He believed that happiness was the only good, reason the only torch, justice the only worship, humanity the only religion, and love the only priest. He added to the sum of human joy; and were every one to whom he did some loving service to bring a blossom to his grave, he would sleep to-night beneath a wilderness of flowers.
Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry. From the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead there comes no word; but in the night of death hope sees a star and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing.
He who sleeps here, when dying, mistaking the approach of death for the return of health, whispered with his latest breath, “I am better now.” Let us believe, in spite of doubts and dogmas, of fears and tears, that these dear words are true of all the countless dead.
And now, to you, who have been chosen, from among the many men he loved, to do the last sad office for the dead, we give his sacred dust.
Speech cannot contain our love. There was there is, no gentler, stronger, manlier man.
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