|Mr. President, Ladies
IT is under circumstances
that inspire gratitude and renew patriotism that we celebrate the completion
by the American Republic of the first year of her second century. How
much that year has held of the possibilities of dire calamity it may be
too soon to speak. But for the deliverance let us give thanks. Through
the web woven by passion and prejudice has run the woof of a beneficent
purpose. Through clash of plans and conflict of parties; through gateways
hung with cloud and by paths we knew not of, have we come to this good estate!
As, when the long
struggle was over, the men of the Revolution turned to pour forth their
thanks to Him in whose hands are the nations, so let us turn to-day. Last
year was the Centennial; but this year, if we read the times aright, marks
the era, and with 1877 will the historian, in future ages, close the grand
division of our history that records the long, sad strife of which slavery
was the cause. Most gracious of our national anniversaries is that we keep.
Never before has the great Declaration rung through the land as to-day.
For the first time have its words neither fallen on the ears of a slave
nor been flung back by a bayonet-guarded State House!
For year after
year, while they who won our independence faded away; for year after year,
while their sons grew old, and in their turn taught us to light the altar
fires of the Republic, at every recurring anniversary of the nation's birth,
the unexpressed thought of an inherited curse that was sowing the land with
dragon's teeth, checked the pride and gave to the rejoicings of the thoughtful
a sombre background, and between thunder of gun and voice of trumpet, the
black shadow of a great wrong mocked in silence the burning words that protested
to the world the inalienable rights of man. To this there came an end. In
the deadly close of civil war, when all fierce and wicked passions were loosed,
while the earth shook with the tread of fratricidal armies, and the heavens
were red with the blaze of burning homes, amid the groans of dying men and
the cry of stricken women, the great curse passed away. But still the shadow.
Could we boast a Union in which State Governments were maintained by extra-State
force, or glory in a republic whose forms were mocked in virtual provinces?
But all this is
of the past. The long strife is over. The cancer has been cut out. And
may we not also say to day that the wound of the knife has healed? To day
we celebrate the nation's birth, more truly one people than for years and
years. Again in soul as in form, the many are one. Over palmetto as over
pine floats the flag that typifies the glory of our common past, the promise
of our common future—the flag that rose above the blood-stained snow at
Valley Forge, that crossed with Washington the icy Delaware—the flag that
Marion bore, that Paul Jones nailed to the mast, that Lafayette saluted!
Over our undivided heritage of a continent it floats today, with the free
will of a united people—under its folds no slave, and in its blue no star
save that of a free and sovereign State.
And, as in city
and town and hamlet, today, has been read once more the declaration of
a nation's birth, again, I believe me, in the hearts of their people, has
Adams signed with Jefferson and Rutledge with Livingston, pledging to the
Republic one and indivisible, life and fortune and sacred honour!
Beside me on this
platform, around me in this audience, sit men who have borne arms against
each other in civil strife, again united under the folds of that flag.
Men of the South and men of the North, do I not speak what is in your hearts,
do I not give voice to your hope and your trust, when I say that the Union
is again restored in spirit as in form—not a union of conquerors and conquered,
but the union of a people—one in soul as one in blood; one in destiny
as one in heritage!
Let our dead strifes
bury their dead, while we cherish the feeling that makes us one. Let us
spare no myrrh nor frankincense nor costly spices as we feed the sacred
fire. It is not a vain thing these flags, these decorations, these miles
of marching men. Stronger than armies, more potent than treasure is the
sentiment of nationality they typify and inculcate!
Yet to more than
the sentiment of nationality is this day sacred. It marks more than the
birth of a nation—it marks a step in the progress of the race. More than
national independence, more than national union, speaks out in that grand
document to which we have just listened; it is the declaration of the fundamental
principle of liberty—of a truth that has in it power to renovate the world.
It is meet that
on this day the flags of all nations should mingle above our processions
and wreathe our halls. For this is the festival of her to whom under all
skies eyes have turned and hands been lifted—of her who has had in all lands
her lovers and her martyrs—of her who shall yet unite the nations and bid
the war drums cease! It is the festival of Liberty!
And in keeping
this clay to Liberty we honour all her sacred days—those glorious days on
which she has stepped forward, those sad days on which she has been stricken
down by open foes, or fallen wounded in the house of her friends. Far back
stretches the lineage of the Republic at whose birth Liberty was invoked—from
every land have been gathered the gleams of light that unite in her beacon
fire. It is kindled of the progress of mankind; it witnesses to heaven the
aspirations of the ages; it shall light the nations to yet nobler heights!
Let us keep this
day as the day sacred to Union and to Liberty should be kept. Let us draw
closer the cords of our common brotherhood and renew our fathers' vows.
Let it be honoured as John Adams predicted it would be honoured—with clangour
of bells and roar of guns, with music and processions and assemblage of
the people, with every mark of respect and rejoicing—that its memories
of glory may entwine themselves with the earliest recollections of our
children, that even the thoughtless may catch something of its inspiration!
Yet it is not enough
that with all the marks of veneration we keep these holidays. It is possible
to cherish the form and lose the spirit.
No matter how bright
the lights behind, their usefulness is but to illumine the path before.
Whatever be the causes of that enormous difference—almost a difference
in kind—between the stationary and the progressive races, here is its unfailing
indication—the one look to the past, the other to the future. The moment
we believe that all wisdom was concentrated in our ancestors, that moment
the petrifaction of China is upon us. For life is growth, and growth is
change, and political progress consists in getting rid of institutions we
have outgrown. Aristocracy, feudality, monarchy, slavery—all the things
against which human progress has been a slow and painful struggle—were, doubtless,
in their times relatively if not absolutely beneficial, as have been in
later times things we may have to cast away. The maxim commended to us by
him who must ever remain the greatest citizen of the Republic—"Eternal vigilance
is the price of liberty," embodies a truth which goes to the very core of
philosophy, which must everywhere and at all times be true. Ever and ever
we sail an unknown sea. Old shapes of menace fade but to give place to others.
Even new rocks lurk; ever in new guise the syrens sing!
As through the
million-voiced plaudits of to-day we hear again the words that when first
spoken were ominous of cord and gibbet, and amid a nation's rejoicing our
pulses quicken as imagination pictures the bridge of Lexington, the slender
earthworks of Bunker Hill, the charge of tattered Continentals, or the swift
night-ride of Marion's men, let us not think that our own times are commonplace,
and make no call for the patriotism that, as it wells up in our hearts, we
feel would have been strong to dare and do had we lived then.
How momentous our
own times may be the future alone can tell. We are yet laying the foundations
of empire, while stronger run the currents of change and mightier are
the forces that marshal and meet.
Let us turn to
the past, not in the belief that the great men of the past conquered for
us a heritage that we have but to enjoy, but that we may catch their heroic
spirit to guide and nerve us in the exigencies of the present; that we may
pass it on to our children, to carry them through the dangers of the future.
Now, as a
hundred years ago, the Republic has need of that spirits-of the noble
sensitiveness that is jealous for Freedom; of the generous indignation
that weighs our consideration of expediency against the sacrifice of one
iota of popular right; of the quick sympathy that made an attack on the
liberties of one colony felt in all; of the patient patriotism that worked
and waited, never flagging, never tiring, seeking not recognition nor applause,
looking only to the ultimate end and to the common good; of the devotion
to a high ideal which led men to risk for it all things sweet and all things
We shall best honour
the men of the Revolution by invoking the spirit that animated them; we
shall best perpetuate their memories by looking in the face whatever threatens
the perpetuity of their work. Whether a century hence they shall be regarded
as visionaries or as men who gave a new life to mankind, depends upon us.
For let us not
disguise it—republican government is yet but an experiment. That it has worked
well so far, determines nothing. That republican institutions would work
well under the social conditions of the youth of the Republic—cheap land,
high wages and little distinction between rich and poor—there was never any
doubt, for they were working well before. Our Revolution was not a revolution
in the full sense of the term, as was that great outburst of the spirit of
freedom that followed it in France. The colonies but separated from Great
Britain, and became an independent nation without essential change in the
institutions under which they had grown up. The doubt about republican institutions
is as to whether they will work when population becomes dense, wages low,
and a great gulf separates rich and poor.
Can we speak of
it as a doubt? Nothing in political philosophy can be clearer than that
under such conditions republican government must break down.
This is not to
say that these forms must be abandoned. We might and probably would go on
holding our elections for years and years after our government had become
essentially despotic. It was centuries after Caesar ere the absolute master
of the Roman world pretended to rule other than by authority of a Senate
that trembled before him. It was not till the thirteenth century that English
kings dropped the formal claim of what was once the essence of their title—the
choice of the people; and to this day the coronation ceremonies of European
monarchs retain traces of the free election of their leader by equal warriors.
But forms are nothing
when substance has gone. And our forms are those from which the substance
may most easily go. Extremes meet, and a republican government, based
on universal suffrage and theoretical equality, is of all governments that
which may most easily become a despotism of the worst kind. For there, despotism
advances in the name of the people. The single source of power once secured,
everything is secured. There is no unfranchised class to whom appeal may
be made; no privileged orders, who in defending their own rights may defend
those of all. No bulwark remains to stay the flood, no eminence to rise
And where there
is universal suffrage, just as the disparity of condition increases, so
does it become easy to seize the source of power, for the greater is the
proportion of power in the hands of those who feel no direct interest in
the conduct of the government, nay, who, made bitter by hardships, may
even look upon profligate government with the sort of satisfaction we may
imagine the proletarians and slaves of Rome to have felt as they saw a
Caligula or Nero raging among the rich patricians.
Given a community
with republican institutions, in which one class is too rich to be shorn
of their luxuries, no matter how public affairs are administered, and another
so poor that any little share of the public plunder, even though it be
but a few dollars on election day, will seem more than any abstract consideration,
and power must pass into the hands of jobbers who will sell it, as the
pretorian legions sold the Roman purple, while the people will be forced
to reimburse the purchase money with costs and profits. If to the pecuniary
temptation involved in the ordinary conduct of government are added those
that come from the granting of subsidies, the disposition of public lands
and the regulation of prices by means of a protective tariff, the process
will be the swifter.
Even the accidents
of hereditary succession or of selection by lot (the plan of some of the
ancient republics) may sometimes place the wise and just in power, but
in a corrupt republic the tendency is always to give power to the worst.
Honesty and patriotism are weighted and unscrupulousness commands success.
The best gravitate to the bottom, the worst float to the top; and the vile
can only be ousted by the viler. And as a corrupt government always tends
to make the rich richer and the poor poorer, the fundamental cause of corruption
is steadily aggravated, while as national character must gradually assimilate
to the qualities that command power and consequently respect, that demoralisation
of opinion goes on which in the long panorama of history we may see over
and over again, transmuting races of freemen into races of slaves.
As in England,
in the last century, where Parliament was but a close corporation of the
aristocracy, a corrupt oligarchy, where it is clearly fenced off from the
masses, may exist without much effect on national character; because, in
that case, power is associated in the popular mind with other things than
corruption; but where there are no hereditary distinctions, and men are habitually
seen to raise themselves by corrupt qualities from the lowest places to wealth
and power, tolerance of these qualities finally becomes admiration. A corrupt
democratic government must finally corrupt the people, and when a people
become corrupt, there is no resurrection. The life has gone, only the carcass
remains; and it is left but for the ploughshares of fate to bury it out
Secure in her strength
and position from external dangers, with the cause gone that threatened
her unity, the Republic begins to count the years of her second century
with a future, to all outward seeming, secure. But may we not see already
closing round her the insidious perils from which, since her birth, destruction
has been predicted? Clearly, to him who will look, are we passing from the
conditions under which republican government is easy, into those under which
it becomes endangered, if not dangerous. While the possessor of a single
million is ceasing to be noticeable in the throng of millionaires, and larger
private fortunes are mounting towards hundreds of millions, we are all over
the country becoming familiar with widespread poverty in its hardest aspects—not
the poverty that nourishes the rugged virtues, but poverty of the kind that
dispirits and embrutes.
And as we see the
gulf widening between rich and poor, may we not as plainly see the symptoms
of political deterioration that in a republican government 'must always
accompany it? Social distinctions are sharpest in our great cities, and
in our great cities is not republican government becoming a reproach? May
we not see in these cities that the worst social influences are become the
most potent political factors; that corrupt rings notoriously rule; that
offices are virtually purchased—and, most ominous of all, may we not plainly
see the growth of a sentiment that looks on all this as natural, if not perfectly
legitimate; that either doubts the existence of an honest man in public
place, or thinks of him as a fool too weak to seize his opportunity? Has
not the primary system, which is simply republicanism applied to party management,
already broken down in our great cities, and are not parties in their despair
already calling for what in general government would be oligarchies and
We talk about the
problem of municipal government! It is not the problem of municipal government
that we have to solve, but the problem of republican government.
These great cities
are but the type of our development. They are growing not merely with
the growth of the country, but faster than the growth of the country.
There are children here to-day who in all human probability will see San
Francisco a city as large as London, and will count through the country
New Yorks by the score!
the wind does not blow north or south because the weather-cocks turn that
way. The complaints of political demoralisation that come from every quarter
are not because bad men have been elected to office or corrupt men have
taken to engineering parties. If bad men are elected to office, if corrupt
men rule parties, is it not because the conditions are such as to give them
the advantage over good and pure men? Fellow-citizens, it is not the glamour
of success that makes the men whose work we celebrate to-day loom up through
the mists of a century like giants. They were giants—some of them so great,
that with all our eulogies we do not yet appreciate them, and their full
fame must wait for yet another century.
But the reason
why such intellectual greatness gathered around the cradle of the Republic
and guided her early steps, was not that men were greater in that day, but
that the people chose their best. You will hardly find a man of that time,
of high character and talent, who was not in some way in the public service.
This certainly cannot be said now. And it is because power is concentrating,
as it must concentrate as our institutions deteriorate. If one of those
men were to come back to-day and were spoken of for high position—say for
the United States Senate—instead of Jefferson's three questions, the knowing
ones would ask: "Has he money to make the fight?"
"Are the corporations
for him?" "Can he put up the primaries?" No less a man than Benjamin Franklin—a
man whose fame as a statesman and philosopher is yet growing—a man whom
the French Academy, the most splendid intellectual assemblage in Europe,
applauded as the modern Solon—represented the city of Philadelphia in the
provincial Assembly for ten years, until, as their best man, he was sent
to defend the colony in London. Are there not to-day cities in the land,
which even a Benjamin Franklin could not represent in a State Assembly
unless he put around his neck the collar of a corporation or took his orders
from a local ring?
You will think
of many things in this connection to which it is not necessary for me to
allude. We all see them. Though we may not speak it openly, the general faith
in republican institutions is narrowing and weakening—it is no longer that
defiant, jubilant, boastful belief in republicanism as the source of all
national blessings and the cure for all human woes that it once was. We begin
to realise that corruption may cost as much as a royal family, and that the
vaunted ballot, under certain conditions, may bring forth ruling classes
of the worst kind, while we already see developing around us social evils
that we once associated only with effete monarchies. Can we talk so proudly
of welcoming the oppressed of all nations when thousands vainly seek for
work at the lowest wages? Can we expect him, who must sup on charity, to
rejoice that he cannot be taxed without being represented; or congratulate
him who seeks shelter in a station-house that, as a citizen of the Republic,
he is the peer of the monarchs of earth?
Is there any tendency to improvement?
we have hitherto had an advantage over older nations, which we can hardly
overestimate. It has been our public domain, our background of unfenced
land, that made our social conditions better than those of Europe; that
relieved the labour market and maintained wages; that kept open a door of
escape from the increasing pressure in older sections, and acting and reacting
in many ways on our national character, gave it freedom and independence,
elasticity and hope.
But with a folly
for which coming generations may curse us, we have wasted it away. Worse
than the Norman conqueror, we have repeated the sin of the sin—swollen
Henry VIII; and already we hear in the "tramp" of the sturdy vagrant of
the sixteenth century, the predecessor of the English pauper of this.
We have done to the future the unutterable wrong that English rule and
English law did to Ireland, and already we begin to hear of rack-rents
and evictions. We have repeated the crime that filled Italy with a servile
population in place of the hardy farmers who had carried her eagles to victory
after victory—the crime that ate out the heart of the Mistress of the World,
and buried the glories of ancient civilisation in the darkness of medieval
night. Instead of guarding the public domain as the most precious of our
heritages; instead of preserving it for our poorer classes of to-day and
for the uncounted millions who must follow us, we have made it the reward
of corruption, greed, fraud and perjury. Go out in this fair land to-day
and you may see great estates tilled by Chinamen, while citizens of the
Republic carry their blankets through dusty roads begging for work; you
may ride for miles and miles through fertile land and see no sign of human
life save the ghastly chimney of an evicted settler or the miserable shanty
of a poverty-stricken renter. Cross the bay, and you will see the loveliest
piece of mountain scenery around this great city, though destitute of habitation,
walled in with a high board fence, that none but the owner of 20,000 acres
of land may look upon its beauties. Pass over these broad acres which lie
as they lay ere man was born on this earth, and under penalty of fine and
imprisonment you must confine yourself to the road, purchased of him with
poll taxes of four dollars a head wrung from men packing their blankets
in search of work at a dollar a day.
the public domain fit for homes is almost gone, and at the rate we are
parting with the rest, it is certain that by the time children now in our
public schools come of age, the pre-emption law and the homestead law will
remain on our statute books only to remind them of their squandered birthright.
Then the influences that are at work to concentrate wealth in the hands
of the few, and make dependence the lot of the many, will have free play.
How potent are
these influences! Though in form everything seems tending to republican equality,
a new power has entered the world that; under present social adjustments,
is working with irresistible force to subject the many to the few. The
tendency of all modern machinery is to give capital an overpowering advantage
and make labour helpless. Our boys cannot learn trades, because there are
few to learn. The journeyman who, with his kit of tools, could make a living
anywhere, is being replaced by the operative who performs but one part of
a process, and must work with tools he can never hope to own, and who consequently
must take but a bare living, while all the enormous increase of wealth which
results from the economy of production must go to increase great fortunes.
of the times seem to sweep us back again to the old conditions from which
we dreamed we had escaped. The development of the artisan and commercial
classes gradually broke down feudalism after it had become so complete
that men thought of heaven as organised on a feudal basis, and ranked the
first and second persons of the Trinity as Suzerain and Tenant-in-Chief.
But now the development of manufacture and exchange has reached a point
which threatens to compel every worker to seek a master, as the insecurity
which followed the final break up of the Roman Empire compelled every freeman
to seek a lord. Nothing seems exempt from this tendency. Even errands are
run by a corporation, and one company carries carpet-sacks, while another
drives the hack. It is the old guilds of the middle ages over again, only
that instead of all being equal, one is master and the others serve. And
where one is master and the others serve, the one will control the others,
even in such matters as votes.
In our constitution
is a clause prohibiting the granting of titles of nobility. In the light
of the present it seems a good deal like the device of the man who, leaving
a big hole for the cat, sought to keep the kitten out by blocking up the
little hole. Could titles add anything to the power of the aristocracy that
is here growing up? Six hundred liveried retainers followed the great Earl
of Warwick to Parliament; but in this young State there is already a simple
citizen who could discharge anyone of thousands of men from their employment,
who controls 2200 miles of railroad and telegraph, and millions of acres
of land, and has the power of levying toll on traffic and travel over an
area twice that of the original thirteen States. Warwick was a king-maker.
Would it add to the real power of our simple citizen were we to dub him an
Look at the social
conditions, which are growing up here in California. Land monopolised;
water monopolised; a race of cheap workers crowding in, whose effect upon
our own labouring classes is precisely that of slavery; all the avenues
of trade and travel under one control, all wealth and power tending more
and more to concentrate in a few hands. What sort of a republic will this
be in a few years longer if these things go on? The idea would be ridiculous,
were it not too sad.
I am talking of things not men. Most irrational would be any enmity towards
individuals. How few are there of us, who under similar circumstances
would not do just what those we speak of as monopolists have done. To
put a saddle on our back is to invite the booted and spurred to ride.
It is not men who are to blame but the system. And who is to blame for
the system, but the whole people? If the lion will suffer his teeth to be
pulled and his claws to be pared, he must expect every cur to tease him.
while it is true that a republican government worth the name cannot exist
under the social conditions into which we are passing; it is also true
that under a really republican government such conditions could not be.
I do not mean to
say we have not had enough government; I mean to say that we have had
too much. It is a truth that cannot be too clearly kept in mind that the
best government is that which governs least, and that the more a republican
government undertakes to do, the less republican it becomes. Unhealthy
social conditions are but the result of interferences with natural rights.
There is nothing
in the condition of things (it were a libel on the Creator to say so),
which condemns one class to toil and want while another lives in wasteful
luxury. There is enough and to spare for us all. But if one is permitted
to ignore the rights of others by taking more than his share, the others
must get less; a difference is created which constantly tends to become
greater, and a greedy scramble ensues in which more is wasted than is used.
If you will trace
out the laws of the production of wealth and see how enormous are the
forces now wasted, it you will follow the laws of its distribution, and
see how, by human laws, one set of men are enabled to appropriate a greater
or less part of the earnings of the others; if you will think how this
robbery of labour degrades the labourer and makes him unable to drive a
fair bargain, and how it diminishes production, you will begin to see
that there is no necessity for poverty, and that the growing disparity
of social conditions proceeds from laws which deny the equal rights of
we have just listened again to the Declaration, not merely of national
independence, but of the rights of man.
Great was Magna
Charta—a beacon of light through centuries of darkness, a bulwark of the
oppressed through ages of wrong, a firm rock for Liberty's feet, as she
still strove onward!
But all charters
and bills of right, all muniments and titles of Liberty, are included
in that simple statement of self-evident truth that is the heart and soul
of the Declaration: "That all men are created equal; that they are endowed
by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among them are life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
In these simple
words breathes not only the spirit of Magna Charta, but the spirit which
seeks its inspiration in the eternal facts of nature—through them speak
not only Stephen Langton and John Hampton, but Vat Tyler and the Mad Priest
The assertion of
the equal rights of all men to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
is the assertion of the right of each to the fullest, freest exercise
of all his faculties, limited only by the equal right of every other. It
includes freedom of person and security of earnings, freedom of trade
and capital, freedom of conscience and speech and the press. It is the
declaration of the same equal rights of all human beings to the enjoyment
of the bounty of the Creator—to light and to air, to water and to land.
It asserts these rights as inalienable—as the direct grant of the Creator
to each human being, of which he can be rightfully deprived neither by kings
nor congresses, neither by parchments nor prescriptions—neither by the
compacts of past generations nor by majority votes.
This simple yet
all-embracing statement bears the stamp royal of primary truth—it includes
all partial truths and co-ordinates with all other truths. This perfect
liberty, which, by giving each his rights, secures the rights of all—is
order, for violence is the infringement of right; it is justice, for injustice
is the denial of right; it is equality, for one cannot have more than his
right, without another having less. It is reverence towards God, for irreverence
is the denial of His order; it is love towards man, for it accords to
others all that we ask for ourselves. It is the message that the angels
sang over Bethlehem in Judea—it is the political expression of the Golden
Like all men who
build on truth, the men of the Revolution builded better than they knew.
The Declaration of Independence was ahead of their time; it is in advance
of our time; it means more than perhaps even he saw whose pen traced it—man
of the future that he was and still is! But it has in it the generative
power of truth; it has grown and still must grow.
They tore from
the draft of the Declaration the page in which Jefferson branded the execrable
crime of slavery. But in vain! In those all-embracing words that page
was still there, and though it has taken a century, they are, in this
respect, vindicated at last, and human flesh and blood can no longer be
bought and sold.
It is for us to
vindicate them further. Slavery is not dead, though its grossest form
be gone. What is the difference, whether my body is legally held by another,
or whether he legally holds that by which alone I can live. Hunger is as
cruel as the lash. The essence of slavery consists in taking from a man
all the fruits of his labour except a bare living, and of how many thousands
miscalled free is this the lot? Where wealth most abounds there are classes
with whom the average plantation negro would have lost in comfort by exchanging.
English villeins of the fourteenth century were better off than English agricultural
labourers of the nineteenth. There is slavery and slavery! "The widow,"
says Carlyle, "is gathering nettles for her children's dinner; a perfumed
seigneur, delicately lounging in the Ceil de Boeuf, has an alchemy whereby
he will extract from her the third nettle, and call it rent!"
let us not be deluded by names. What is the use of a republic if labour
must stand with its hat off begging for leave to work, if "tramps" must
throng the highways and children grow up in squalid tenement houses? Political
institutions are but means to an end the freedom and happiness of the individual;
and just so far as they fail in that, call them what you will, they are condemned.
are changing. The laws which impel nations to seek a larger measure of liberty,
or else take from them what they have, are working silently but with irresistible
force. If we would perpetuate the Republic, we must come up to the spirit
of the Declaration, and fully recognise the equal rights of all men. We
must free labour from its burdens and trade from its fetters; we must cease
to make government an excuse for enriching the few at the expense of the
many, and confine it to necessary functions. We must cease to permit the
monopolisation of land and water by non-users, and apply the just rule,
"No seat reserved unless occupied." We must cease the cruel wrong which,
by first denying their natural rights, reduces labourers to the wages of
competition, and then, under pretence of asserting the rights of another
race, compels them to a competition that will not merely force them to a
standard of comfort unworthy the citizen of a free republic, but ultimately
deprives them of their equal right to live.
Here is the test:
whatever conduces to their equal and inalienable rights to men is good—let
us preserve it. Whatever denies or interferes with those equal rights
is bad—let us sweep it away. If we thus make our institutions consistent
with their theory, all difficulties must vanish. We will not merely have
a republic, but social conditions consistent with a republic. If we will
not do this, we surrender the Republic, either to be torn by the volcanic
forces that already shake the ground beneath the standing armies of Europe,
or to rot by slow degrees, and in its turn undergo the fate of all its
Liberty is not
a new invention that, once secured, can never be lost. Freedom is the natural
state of man. "Who is your lord?" shouted the envoys of Charles the Simple
to the Northmen who had penetrated into the heart of France. "We have
no lord; we are all free men!" was their answer; and so in their time of
vigour would have answered every people that ever made a figure in the
world. But at some point in the development of every people freedom has
been lost, because as fresh gains were made, or new forces developed, they
were turned to the advantage of a few.
Wealth in itself
is a good, not an evil; but wealth concentrated in the hands of a few,
corrupts on one side, and degrades on the other. No chain is stronger than
its weakest link, and the ultimate condition of any people must be the
condition of its lowest class. If the low are not brought up, the high must
be brought down. In the long run, no nation can be freer than its most oppressed,
richer than its poorest, wiser than its most ignorant. This is the fiat
of the eternal justice that rules the world. It stands forth on every page
of history. It is what the Sphinx says to us as she sitteth in desert sand,
while the winged bulls of Nineveh bear her witness! It is written in the
undecipherable hieroglyphics or Yucatan; in the brick mounds of Babylon;
in the prostrate columns of Persiopolis; in the salt-sown plain of Carthage.
It speaks to us from the shattered relics of Grecian art; from the mighty
ruins of the Coliseum! Down through the centuries comes a warning voice
from the great Republic of the ancient world to the great Republic of the
new. In three Latin words Pliny sums up the genesis of the causes that ate
out the heart of the mightiest power that the world ever saw, and overwhelmed
a widespread civilisation: "Great estates ruined Italy!"
Let us heed the
warning by laying the foundations of the Republic upon the work of the
equal, inalienable rights of all. So shall dangers disappear, and forces
that now threaten turn to work our bidding; so shall wealth increase, and
knowledge grow, and vice, and crime and misery vanish away.
They who look upon
Liberty as having accomplished her mission, when she has abolished hereditary
privileges and given men the ballot, who think of her as having no further
relations to the every-day affairs of life, have not seen her real grandeur—to
them the poets who have sung of her must seem rhapsodists, and her martyrs
fools! As the sun is the lord of life, as well as of light; as his beams
not merely pierce the clouds, but support all growth, supply all motion,
and call forth from what would otherwise be a cold and inert mass, all the
infinite diversities of being and beauty, so is liberty to mankind. It is
not for an abstraction that men have toiled and died; that in every age
the witnesses of liberty have stood forth, and the martyrs of liberty have
suffered. It was for more than this that matrons handed the Queen Anne musket
from its rest, and that maids bid their lovers go to death!
We speak of liberty
as one thing, and of virtue, wealth, knowledge, invention, national strength
and national independence as other things. But, of all these, Liberty
is the source, the mother, the necessary condition. She is to virtue what
light is to colour, to wealth what sunshine is to grain; to knowledge what
eyes are to the sight. She is the genius of invention, the brawn of national
strength, the spirit of national independence! Where Liberty rises, there
virtue grows, wealth increases, knowledge expands, invention multiplies
human powers, and in strength and spirit the freer nation rises among her
neighbours as Saul amid his brethren-taller and fairer. Where Liberty sinks,
there virtue fades, wealth diminishes, knowledge is forgotten, invention
ceases, and empires once mighty in arms and arts become a helpless prey to
Only in broken
gleams and partial light has the sun of Liberty yet beamed among men, yet
all progress hath she called forth.
Liberty came to
a race of slaves crouching under Egyptian whips, and led them forth from
the House of Bondage. She hardened them in the desert and made of them
a race of conquerors. The free spirit of the Mosaic law took their thinkers
up to heights where they beheld the unity of God, and inspired their poets
with strains that yet phrase the highest exaltations of thought. Liberty
dawned on the Phenician coast, and ships passed the Pillars of Hercules to
plough the unknown sea. She broke in partial light on Greece, and marble
grew to shapes of ideal beauty, words became the instruments of subtlest
thought, and against the scanty militia of free cities the countless hosts
of the Great King broke like surges against a rock. She cast her beams on
the four-acre farms of Italian husbandmen, and born of her strength a power
came forth that conquered the world! She glinted from shields of German warriors,
and Augustus wept his legions. Out of the night that followed her eclipse,
her slanting rays fell again on free cities, and a lost learning revived,
modern civilisation began, a new world was unveiled; and as Liberty grew
so grew art, wealth, power, knowledge and refinement. In the history of every
nation we may read the same truth. It was the strength born of Magna Charta
that won Crecy and Agincourt. It was the revival of Liberty from the despotism
of the Tudors that glorified the Elizabethan age. It was the spirit that
brought a crowned tyrant to the block that planted here the seed of a mighty
tree. It was the energy of ancient freedom that, the moment it had gained
unity, made Spain the mightiest power of the world, only to fall to the
lowest depth of weakness when tyranny succeeded liberty. See, in France,
all intellectual vigour dying under the tyranny of the seventeenth century
to revive in splendour as Liberty awoke in the eighteenth, and on the enfranchisement
of the French peasants in the great revolution, basing the wonderful strength
that has in our time laughed at disaster.
What Liberty shall
do for the nation that fully accepts and loyally cherishes her, the wondrous
inventions, which are the marked features of this century, give us but
a hint. Just as the condition of the working classes is improved, do we
gain in productive power. Wherever labour is best paid and has most leisure,
comfort, and refinement, there invention is most active and most generally
utilised. Short-sighted are they who think the reduction of working hours
would reduce the production of wealth. Human muscles are one of the tiniest
of forces; but for the human mind the resistless powers of nature work.
To enfranchise labour, to give it leisure and comfort and independence,
is to substitute in production mind for muscle. When this is fully done,
the power that we now exert over matter will be as nothing to that we shall
It has been
said that, from the very increase of our numbers, the American Union must
in time necessarily break up. I do not believe it. Even now, while the
memories of a civil war are fresh, I do not think any part of our people
regret that this continent is not bisected by an imaginary line, separating
two jealous nations, two great standing armies. If we respect the equal
rights of all, if we reduce the operation of our national Government to
the purposes for which it is alone fitted, the preservation of the common
peace, the maintenance of the common security and the promotion of the
common convenience, there can be no sectional interest adverse to unity,
and the blessings of the bond that makes us a nation must become more apparent
as years roll on.
So far from this
Union necessarily falling to pieces from its own weight, it may, if we
but hold fast to justice, not merely embrace a continent, but prove in
the future capable of a wider extension than we have yet dreamed.
The crazy king,
the brutal ministers, the rotten Parliament, the combination of tyranny,
folly, corruption and arrogance that sundered the Anglo-Saxon race, is
gone, but stronger and stronger grows the influence of the deathless minds
that make our common language classic. The republic of Anglo-Saxon literature
extends wherever the tongue of Shakespeare is spoken. The great actors who
from time to time walk this stage, find their audiences over half the globe;
it is to one people that our poets sing; it is one mind that responds to
the thought of our thinkers. The old bitternesses are passing away. With
us the hatreds, born of two wars, are beginning to soften and die out, while
Englishmen, who this year honour us in honouring the citizen whom we have
twice deemed worthy of our foremost place, are beginning to look upon our
Revolution as the vindication of their own liberties.
A hundred years
have passed since the fast friend of American liberty—the great Earl Chatham—rose
to make his last appeal for the preservation, on the basis of justice,
of that English-speaking empire, in which he saw the grandest possibility
of the future. Is it too soon to hope that the future may hold the realisation
of his vision in a nobler form than even he imagined, and that it may
be the mission of this Republic to unite all the nations of English speech,
whether they grow beneath the Northern Star or Southern Cross, in a league
which, by insuring justice, promoting peace, and liberating commerce, will
be the forerunner of a world-wide federation that will make war the possibility
of a past age, and turn to works of usefulness the enormous forces now dedicated
And she to whom
on this day our hearts turn, our ancient ally, our generous friend—thank
God we can say, our sister Republic of France! It was not alone the cold
calculations of kingcraft that when our need was direst, helped us with
money and supplies, with armies and fleets. The grand idea of the equal
rights of man was stirring in France, her pulses were throbbing with the
new life that was soon to shake the thrones of Europe as with an earthquake,
and French sympathy went out where Liberty made her stand. "They are a generous
people," wrote Franklin, "they do not like to hear of advantages in return
for their aid. They desire the glory of helping us." France has that glory,
and more. Let her column Vendome fall, and the memory of the butchers of
mankind fade away; the great things that France has done for freedom will
make her honoured of the nations, while, with increasing and increasing
meaning, rings through the ages the cry with which she turned to the thunder-burst
of Valmy: "Live the people!"
Beset by difficulties
from which we are happily exempt—on the one side those who dream of bringing
back the middle ages, on the other the red spectre; compelled, or in fancy
compelled, by the legacy of old hates to maintain that nightmare of prosperity
and deadly foe of freedom a large standing army—France has yet steadily
made progress. Italy is one; the great Germanic race at last have unity;
as out of a trance, life stirs in Spain; Russia moves as she marches. May
it not be France's to again show Europe the way?
If I have sought rather to appeal to thought than to flatter vanity, it
is not that I do not see the greatness and feel the love of my country.
Drawing my first breath almost within the shadow of Independence Hall, the
cherished traditions of the Republic entwine themselves with my earliest
recollections, and her flag symbolises to me all that I hold dear on earth.
But for the very love I bear her, for the very memories I cherish, I would
not dare come before you on this day and ignore the dangers I see in her
If I have not dwelt
on her material greatness or pictured her future growth, it is because
there rises before me a higher ideal of what this Republic may be than
can be expressed in material symbols—an ideal so glorious that, beside it,
all that we now pride ourselves on seems mean and pitiful. That ideal is
not satisfied with a republic where, with all the enormous gains in productive
power, labour is ground down to a bare living and must think the chance
to work a favour; it is not satisfied with a republic where prisons are
crowded and almshouses are built and families are housed in tiers. It is
not satisfied with a republic where one tenant for a day can warn his cotenants
off more of the surface of this rolling sphere than he is using or can use,
or compel them to pay him for the bounty of their common Creator; it is
not satisfied with a republic where the fear of poverty on the one hand
and the sight of great wealth on the other makes the lives of so many such
a pitiful straining, keeps eyes to the ground that might be turned to the
stars, and substitutes the worship of the Golden Calf for that of the Living
It hopes for a
republic where all shall have plenty, where each may sit under his vine and
fig tree, with none to vex him or make him afraid; where with want shall
gradually disappear vice and crime; where men shall cease to spend their
lives in a struggle to live, or in heaping up things they cannot take away;
where talent shall be greater than wealth and character greater than talent,
and where each may find free scope to develop body, mind and soul. Is this
the dream of dreamers? One brought to the world the message that it might
be reality. But they crucified him between two thieves.
Not till it accepts
that message can the world have peace. Look over the history of the past.
What is it but a record of the woes inflicted by man on man, of wrong
producing wrong, and crime fresh crime? It must be so till justice is
acknowledged and liberty is law.
Some things have
we done, but not all. In the words with which an eminent Frenchman closes
the history of that great revolution that followed ours: "Liberty is not
yet here; but she will come!" Fellow-citizens, let us follow the star that
rose above the cradle of the Republic; let us try our laws by the test
of the Declaration. Let us show to the nations our faith in Liberty, nor
fear she will lead us astray.
Who is Liberty
that we should doubt her; that we should set bounds to her, and say, "Thus
far shall thou come and no further!" Is she not peace? is she not prosperity?
is she not progress? nay, is she not the goal towards which all progress
Not here; but yet
she cometh! Saints have seen her in their visions; seers have seen her
in their trance. To heroes has she spoken, and their hearts were strong;
to martyrs and the flames were cool!
She is not here,
but yet she cometh. Lo! her feet are on the mountains—the call of her
clarions ring on every breeze; the banners of her dawning fret the sky!
Who will hear her as she calleth; who will bid her come and welcome? Who
will turn to her? who will speak for her? who will stand for her while
she yet hath need?