« 上一頁繼續 »
country and right; I appreciate the virtues to which war at times has trained nations, as well as leaders and armies : yet I confess myself utterly wearied and sated with these monuments of victory in every capital of Europe, made of captured cannon, and sculptured over with scenes of carnage. I am sick of that type of history that teaches our youth that the Alexanders and Cæsars, the Frederics and Napoleons, are the great men who have made the world ; and it is with a sense of relief and refreshment that I turn to a nation whose birthday commemorates a great moral idea, a principle of ethics applied to political society, — that government represents the whole people, for the equal good of all. No tide of battle marks this day; but itself marks the high-water line of heaving, surging humanity.
Neither is the separation of the American colonies from the mother-country the chief thing that this day commemorates. That separation, indeed, marked and defined the principle of the Declaration of Independence, but was not the substance of the Declaration. I can fancy that a mother whose eldest daughter had run away from home, married against her will, and set up for herself, might become so reconciled by time as even to join her daughter in commemorating her self-willed wedding-day. But we could not have the bad taste to invite our English friends to join us in celebrating the runaway match of Britain's eldest daughter with that untitled and untamed fellow called “Independence,” over the sea. No, my friends : when we think of England, it is not that we are divided from you, but that we were born of you, and are inseparable in the common heritage of literature and law, of freedom and faith; and therefore the sons of the men who fought against each other a century ago can feast together to-day.
That which marks the Declaration of Independence is that then, for the first time in the political thought of the world, was formulated human personality as, by the will of God, the chief factor and concern of civil government. In the past, the State, the Church, the School, had too commonly used man as their subordinate, made to serve their ends, and to count but as a cipher in questions of
ace, hat untitled ay match oth frie
privilege and power. The American Declaration did not level any of these institutions, — the State, the Church, the School, — but it exalted man, through these and over these, to the point where he could use them all as his instruments for his service and culture. There was no radicalism in the Declaration, no communism, no atheism, but a wondrous humanism glorified by the divine, — "all men are created equal.” The Declaration did not seek to overturn the State, but to establish it as ordained for the good of man. It did not make war upon religion, but set forth the right of man to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as an endowment from his Creator, and therefore having the sanction of true religion. But it so defined the relations of men and things, that every institution of society should be valued and cherished in proportion to its adaptation to the well-being of man. Need I remind you how the principle then formulated and proclaimed is fast becoming the rule of government in all Christian states ? Need I remind you how, in this century, the British Parliament has made itself illustrious by lifting the good of the individual above the traditions and customs of the past, and making man himself the argument for reform ? how, having swept the curse of slavery from coast, island, and sea, England now tells her officers, that, in every case affecting the life, liberty, and happiness of a fellow-being, the instinct of humanity should guide the decision of justice? Take care of the man first, and look to the quibbles of the law afterwards. What America declared a hundred years ago, that Britain also does. It is because it threw the shield of liberty and law, of government and religion, over human personality, that this day deserves to be marked, not only in the annals of a nation, but in the calendar of time.
I grant you freely, that neither the people of the United States in the aggregate, nor their government on the average, has realized the hope of the founders of the nation, or the ideal of the Declaration of Independence. But as man, however imperfect, and, if you please, fallen, is still the son of God, and that divine original is the grand motive and incentive to his recovery and exaltation; so, however degenerate and unworthy men may be as sons of freedom, that high prerogative remains the argument and hope for their final elevation. And, besides, what right have we as yet, in any land, to look for a perfect society ? Indeed, what would a society be worth for our mental and moral discipline that had no more problems to be solved, no more dangers to be met, no more evils to be overcome? The very things that threaten and sometimes shame us give fibre to our manhood, and teach us the nobleness of labor, sacrifice, and suffering for the common good. For one, having given my active life to the great social and moral conflicts of my time, though I can submit to a retirement enforced by physical causes, I could never withdraw into a condition of mental indifference or of moral supineness toward questions affecting the welfare of my country or of man. I need such questions for my own soul's health; to keep me up to the standard of manly virtues; to make me broader, wiser, stronger, while life shall last. A “rest” of stagnation is death. And the country needs the quickening, energizing influence that comes of struggling toward a higher development. It may seem, for the moment, to be against us, that we have such and such evils to encounter; but it is greatly for us that we ineet and master them.
The century has been one of such striving and mastery. With all their shortcomings, the United States have not been a failure. It is hard, indeed, to satisfy our friends on this side of the water. For instance, a leading London journal of this morning, that seeks to be kindly even to the verge of condescension, regrets that the United States have done so little for the world beyond increasing the affluence of the means of animal existence. But, while gently chiding this alleged preponderance of “ material” growth, our critic rates us roundly for having curtailed our national wealth by not adopting its own notions of free trade: “ Their growth (i.e., the United States) would have been still greater, had not false and foolish notions of protective legislation deceived the democracy of America." True, no doubt; but what shall we do? If we grow, we are “material:" if we don't grow material enough, we are “ false and foolish.”
The same journal would help us to the celebration of
the Centennial by putting into our mouths the theme which it fancies shalỊ find “expression in a thousand shapes throughout this livelong day,” — “Our forefathers were a handful of men, and we have become a great people.” But I venture to say that no American patriot to-day will find his inspiration in such a theme; for, Mr. President and gentlemen, that which we honor in our fathers is that they disdained the material and the earthly, and were ready to sacrifice life and fortune for truth, freedom, right, — for ideas they had thought out for themselves, and would fight out for mankind. And that which we are proud of to-day — so far as we dare be proud at all - is, not that they were few and we are many, that they were small and we are great, but that they put the spiritual before the material, right before might, man before money, freedom and faith before all ; in a word, that they were men, and we are the inheritors of their manhood.
The record of the United States is something more than of material growth. They have proved the possibility of free popular government upon a scale to which the Roman Republic of five hundred years was but a province; they have shown that such a government can cope with gigantic evils and wrongs, and is strong to maintain itself against rebellion and war; they have shown that the tendency of such a government is to peace and good-will, that it fosters industry and invention, diffuses knowledge fairly and fearlessly among the people; they have reconciled liberty and law, freedom and order; they have shown how religion, learning, and science flourish under freedom; and though there may be a lack of some forms of culture, as developed by institutions of favoritism, there is a high grade of average culture, as well as comfort, fostered by equality. In view of all the physical and social conditions of their great problem, the American people may well take courage and hope to-day from the experience and results of the century. What we now need is to measure our rights by our duties, and our manner of discharging these ; to make freedom the guaranty of social order, of public purity, of justice and honor at home, of peace and faith abroad.
And may I not accept the circumstances under which
we meet to-day as an augury that the two English-speaking nations will take a new point of departure for their common welfare in the opening century? First, has not the time fully come when these two nations shall study how to be helpful to each other, and to promote one another's good? It is always well to cherish the habit of seeing the good in our neighbors. Indeed, who would live in a community where perpetual tattling and fault-finding was the rule? Has not the time fully come for public sentiment in both nations to teach journalism and authorship that we don't care to hear ill-natured tattle about our neighbors; don't care to know how the boors in either country use their knives and forks, or pronounce their slang, but do have a hearty, manly interest in learning each what the other is doing for education, for temperance, for virtue, for religion, for trade, for reform; that we are glad to hear good of one another, and not ashamed to learn from each other some good and helpful thing in the great, common problems of our free Christian civilization ?
Next, these two nations should stand by one another for the maintenance of civil and religious liberty. I do not mean that we should form an alliance offensive and defensive, or take up a crusade for freedom. But there is a power that is growing stronger than armies, — the public opinion of enlightened peoples. Let the world feel the moral force of our united opinion; know that England and the United States back one another up for that civil and religious liberty which we have wrought out, and which we hold before all other peoples of the earth. And, once more, let us stand together for the peace and moral order of the world, — at peace between ourselves, and commending peace to the nations by all our influence in treaties and conventions, in word and in deed.
The other day I stood at Ilfracombe, and watched the sun as he went down straight into the bosom of the Atlantic; thus certifying me that there was nothing to divide the shore on which I stood from that other shore I hold so dear, save the ocean, that washes both alike with the same ever-recurring waves. Recalling how the names that dot that English coast, from Barnstaple around to Plymouth, are reproduced upon the shore of New England,