PROVIDENCE, PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE by Samuel G. Arnold 1876

Samuel G. Arnold

Samuel G. Arnold

PROVIDENCE, PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE, Oration By The Honorable Samuel G. Arnold (1821-1880) Delivered At Providence, Rhode Island, July 4, 1876

To trace the causes that led to the American Revolution, to narrate the events of the struggle for independence, or to consider the effect which the establishment of “the great Republic” has had upon the fortunes of the race in other lands— these have been the usual and appropriate themes for discourse upon each return of our national anniversary. And where can we find more exalted or more exalting subjects for reflection? It is not the deed of a day, the events of a year, the changes of a century, that explain the condition of a nation. Else we might date from the 4th of July, 1776, the rise of the American people, and so far as we as a nation are concerned, we might disregard all prior history as completely as we do the years beyond the flood. But this we cannot do, for the primitive Briton, the resistless Roman, the invading Dane, the usurping Saxon, the conquering Norman, have all left their separate and distinguishable stamp upon the England of to-day. As from Caedmon to Chaucer, from Spenser to Shakespeare, from Milton to Macaulay, we trace the progress of our language and literature from the unintelligible Saxon to the English of our time; so the development of political ideas has its great eras, chiefly written in blood. From the fall of Boadicea to the landing of Hengist, from the death of Harold to the triumph at Runnymede, from the wars of the Roses to the rise of the Reformation, from the fields of Edgehill and Worcester, through the restoration and expulsion of the Stuarts down to the days of George III, we may trace the steady advance of those nations of society and of government which culminated in the act of an American Congress a century ago proclaiming us a united and independent people. When the barons of John assembled on that little islet in the Thames to wrest from their reluctant kins the right of Magna Charta, there were the same spirit, and the same purpose that prevailed nearly six centuries after in the Congress at Philadelphia, and the actors were the same in blood and lineage. The charging cry at Dunbar, “Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered,” rang out a hundred and twenty-five years later from another Puritan camp on Bunker Hill. So history repeats itself in the ever-recurring conflict of ideas, with the difference of time, and place and people, and with this further difference in the result, that while in ancient times the principal characters in the historic drama were the conqueror, the conquered and the victim, these in modem days become the oppressor, the oppressed and the deliverer. Charles Stuart falls beneath Cromwell and Ireton, George III yields to Washington and Greene, serfdom and slavery vanish before Romanoff and Lincoln.

But we must turn from this wide field of history to one of narrower limits, to one so small that it seems insignificant to that class of minds which measures States only by the acre, as cloth by the yard; to those men who, to be consistent, should consider Daniel Lambert a greater man than Napoleon Bonaparte, or the continent of Africa a richer possession than Athens in the days of Pericles. There are many just such men, and the materialistic tendency of our times is adding to their number. It is in vain to remind them that from one of the smallest States of antiquity arose the philosophy and the art that rule the world to-day, Judea should have been an empire and Bethlehem a Babylon to impress such minds with the grandeur of Hebrew poetry or the sublimity of Christian faith. But for those to whom ideas are more than acres, men greater than machinery, and moral worth a mightier influence than material wealth, there is a lesson to be learned from the subject to which the Act of Congress and the Resolutions of the General Assembly limit this discourse. And since what is homely and familiar sometimes receives a higher appreciation from being recognized abroad, hear what the historian of America has said of our little Commonwealth, that “had the territory of the State corresponded to the importance and singularity of the principles of its early existence, the world would have been filled with wonder at the phenomena of its history.

Roger Williams Statue

Roger Williams Statue

Hear too a less familiar voice from beyond the sea, a German writer of the philosophy of history. Reciting the principles of Roger Williams, their successful establishment in Rhode Island, and their subsequent triumph, he says: “They have given laws to one quarter of the globe, and dreaded for their moral influence, they stand in the background of every democratic struggle in Europe.” It is of our ancestors, people of Providence, that these words were written, and of them and their descendants that I am called to speak.

To condense two hundred and forty years of history within an hour is simply impossible. We can only touch upon a few salient points, and illustrate the progress of Providence by a very few striking statistics. Passing over the disputed causes which led to the banishment of Roger Williams from Massachusetts, we come to the undisputed fact that there existed, at that time, a close alliance between the church and the State in the colony whence he fled, and that he severed that union at once and forever in the city which he founded. Poets had dreamed and philosophers had fancied a state of society where men were free and thought was untrammeled. Sir Thomas More and Sir Philip Sydney had written of such things. Utopias and Arcadias had their place in literature, but nowhere on the broad earth had these ideas assumed a practical form till the father of Providence, the founder of Rhode Island, transferred them from the field of fiction to the domain of fact, and changed them from an improbable fancy to a positive law. It was a transformation in politics—the science of applied philosophy—more complete than that by which Bacon overthrew the system of Aristotle. It was a revolution, the greatest that in the latter days had yet been seen. From out this modern Nazareth, whence no good thing could come, arose a light to enlighten the world. The “Great Apostle of Religious Freedom” here first truly interpreted to those who sat in darkness the teachings of his mighty Master. The independence of the mind had had its assertors, the freedom of the soul here found its champion. We begin then at the settlement of this city, with an idea that was novel and startling, even amid the philosophical speculations of the seventeenth century, a great original idea, which was to compass a continent, “give laws to one quarter of the globe,” and after the lapse of two centuries to become the universal property of the western world by being accepted in its completeness by that neighboring State, to whose persecutions Rhode Island owed its origin. Roger Williams was the incarnation of the idea of soul liberty, the Town of Providence became its organization. This is history enough if there were naught else to relate. Portsmouth, Newport and Warwick soon followed with their antinomian settlers to carry out the same principle of the underived independence of the soul, the accountability of man to his Maker, alone in all religious concerns. After the union of the four original towns into one colony, under the Parliamentary patent of 1643, confirmed and continued by the Royal charter of 1663, the history of the town becomes so included in that of the colony, in all matters of general interest, that it is difficult to divide them. The several towns, occupied chiefly with their own narrow interests, present little to attract in their local administration, but spoke mainly through their representatives in the colonial assembly, upon all subjects of general importance. It is there that we must look for most of the facts that-make history, the progress of society, the will of the people expressed in action. To these records we must often refer in sketching the growth of Providence.

Roger Williams and Narragansett Indians

Roger Williams and Narragansett Indians

It was in June, 1636, that Roger Williams, with five companions crossed the Seekonk to Slate Rock, where he was welcomed by the friendly Indians, and pursuing his way around the headland of Tockwotton, sailed up the Moshassuck, then a broad stream, skirted by a dense forest on either shore.

Attracted by a natural spring on the eastern bank he landed near what is now the cove, and began the settlement which in gratitude, to his Supreme Deliverer he called Providence. He had already purchased a large tract of land from the natives which was at first divided with twelve others “and such as the major part of us shall admit into the same fellowship of vote with us,” thus constituting thirteen original proprietors of Providence. (4). The first division of land was made in 1638, in which fifty-four names appear as the owners of “home lots” extending from Main to Hope streets, besides which each person had a six acre lot assigned him in other parts of the purchase. The granters could not sell their land to any but an inhabitant without consent of the town, and a penalty was imposed upon those who did not improve their lands. The government established by these primitive settlers was an anomaly in history. It was a pure democracy, which, for the first time guarded jealously the rights of conscience. The inhabitants, “masters of families” incorporated themselves into a town and made an order that no man should be molested for his conscience. The people met monthly in town meeting and chose a clerk and treasurer at each meeting. The earliest written compact that has been preserved is without date but probably was adopted in 1637. It is signed by thirteen persons (5.) We have not time to draw a picture of these primitive meetings held beneath the shade of some spreading tree where the fathers of Providence, discussed and decided the most delicate and difficult problems of practical politics, and reconciled the requirements of life with principles then unknown in popular legislation. The records are lost and here and there only a fragment has been preserved by unfriendly hands to give a hint of those often stormy assemblies where there were no precedents to guide, and only untried principles to be established by the dictates of common sense. Of these the case of “Verm, reported by Winthrop, is well known wherein liberty of conscience and the rights of woman were both involved with a most delicate question of family discipline. It is curious enough that one form of the subject now known under the general name of women’s rights, destined more than two centuries later to become a theme of popular agitation, should here be foreshadowed so early in Rhode Island, the source of so many novel ideas and the starting point of so many important movement*

Roger Williams was an English Protestant theologian who was an early proponent of religious freedom, he started the Baptist church in America.

Roger Williams was an English Protestant theologian who was an early proponent of religious freedom, he started the Baptist church in America.

Religious services had no doubt been held from the earliest settlement, but the first organized church was formed in 1638, the first Baptist church in America.

From the earliest days of the colony to the close of the recent civil strife, the war record of the State has been a brilliant one. As early as 1655, in the Dutch war she did more than the New England Confederacy, from which she had been basely excluded. Her exposed condition, by reason of the Indians, fostered this feeling in the first instance, and long habit cultivated the martial spirit of the people till it became a second nature. Her maritime advantages favored commercial enterprise, and the two combined prepared her for those naval exploits which in after years shed so much glory on the State. The three Indian wars, the three wars with Holland (1652-8, 1667, 1672-4), and the two with France (1667, 1690), in the seventeenth century, the three Spanish(1702-13, 1739-48, 1762-3), and the three French wars (1702-13, 1744-8, 1754-63) of the eighteenth, had trained the American colonies to conflict, and prepared them for the greater struggle about to come. At the outbreak of the fourth inter-colonial war, known as the “old French war,” this colony with less than forty thousand inhabitants and eighty-three hundred fighting men, sent fifteen hundred of these upon various naval expeditions, besides a regiment of eleven companies of infantry, seven hundred and fifty men under Col. Christopher Harris, who marched to the siege of Crown Point. Thus more than one-quarter of the effective force of the colony was at one time, on sea and laud, in privateers, in the royal fleets and in the camp, learning that stern lesson which was soon to redeem a continent. Is it surprising then that when the ordeal came the conduct of Rhode Island was prompt and decisive? It is said that small States are always plucky ones, and Rhode Island confirmed the historic truth.

The passage of the stamp act (Feb. 27, 1765), roused the spirit of resistance through America to fever heat. But amid all the acts of Assemblies, and the resolutions of town meetings, none went so far or spoke so boldly the intentions of the people as those passed in Providence at a special town meeting (August 7,1765), and adopted unanimously by the General Assembly (Sept 16). They pointed directly to an absolution of allegiance to the British crown, unless the grievances were removed. The day before the fatal one on which the act was to take effect, the Governors of all the Colonies, but one, took the oath to sustain it. Samuel Ward, “the Governor of Rhode Island stood alone in his patriotic refusal,” says Bancroft. Nor was it the last as it was not the first time that Rhode Island stood alone in the van of progress. Non-importation arguments were everywhere made. The repeal of the odious act (Feb. 22, 1766) came too late, coupled as it was with a declaratory act asserting the right of Parliament “to bind the Colonies in all cases.” Then came a new development of patriotic fervor instituted by the women of Providence. Eighteen young ladies of leading families of the town met at the house of Dr. Ephraim Bowen (March 4, 1766), and from sunrise till night, employed the time in spinning flax. These “Daughters of Liberty,” as they were called, resolved to use no more British goods, and to be consistent they omitted tea from the evening meal. So rapid was the growth of the association that their next meeting was held at the Court House. The “Sons of Liberty” were associations formed at this time in all the Colonies to resist oppression, but to Providence belongs the exclusive honor of this union of her daughters for the same exalted purpose. This is the second time we have had occasion to notice that women has come conspicuously to the front in the annals of Providence, when great principles were at stake. But we claim nothing more for our women than the same spirit of self-denial and lofty devotion that the sex has everywhere shown in the great crises of history. The first at the cross and the first at the sepulcher, the spirit and the blessing of the Son of God have ever rested in the heart of woman.

Side by side with the struggle for freedom grew the effort for a wider system of education. It was proposed to establish four free public schools. This was voted down by the poorer class of people who would be most benefited by the movement. Still the measure was partially carried out, and a two story brick building was erected in (1768). The upper story was occupied by a private school, the lower, as a free school. Whipple Hall, which afterwards became the first district school, was at this time chartered as a private school in the north part of the town, and all the schools were placed in charge of a committee of nine, of whom the Town Council formed a part the next year a great stimulus was given to the educational movement in the town. Two years had passed since Rhode Island College was established at Warren, and the first class oi seven students was about to graduate. Commencement day gave rise to the earliest legal holiday in our history. A rivalry among the chief towns of the Colony for the permanent location of what is now Brown University, resulted in its removal two years later (1774) to Providence. This now venerable institution, whose foundation was a protest against sectarianism in education, has become the honored head of a system of public and private schools, which for completeness of design, for perfection of detail, and for thoroughness of work, may safely challenge comparison with any other organized educational system in the world.

There are some significant facts connected with The Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, which serve to show the relative importance of this city in the industrial summary of the country. One is that in the three principal buildings Providence occupies the centre and most conspicuous place. We all know the man who commands Presidents and Emperors, and they obey him—who says to Don Pedro “come,” and he cometh, and to President Grant “Do this,” and he doeth it, and we have seen the mighty engine that from the centre of Machinery Hall, moves fourteen acres of the world’s most cunning industry. The Corliss engine proudly sustains the supremacy of Providence amid the marvels of both hemispheres. Facing the central area of the main exhibition building, the Gorham Manufacturing Company have their splendid show of silver ware around the most superb specimens of the craftsman’s art that has ever adorned any Exposition in modern times. Under the central dome of Agricultural Hall the Rumford Chemical Works present an elaborate and attractive display of their varied and important products, arresting the eye as a prominent object among the exhibits of all the world. And when we visit the Women’s Pavilion we shall see that of all the rich embroidery there displayed none surpasses that shown by the Providence Employment Society, and shall learn that little Rhode Island ranks as the fifth State in the amount of its contributions to the funds of this department, being surpassed only by New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Massachusetts. A city which occupies these positions in the greatest Exposition of the century has no cause to shun comparison between its past and its present.

But by far the greatest event of its bearing upon the prosperity of Providence was the introduction of water which, after being four times defeated by popular vote, was finally adopted in 1869. The work commenced the next year, and the water was first introduced from the Pawtuxet river in November, 1871. The question, whether Providence was to become a metropolis of trade and manufactures or to continue as a secondary city, was thus settled in favor of progress. The stimulus given in the right direction was immediate and immense. The overflow of population soon required the city limits to be extended, and the annexation of the Ninth and Tenth Wards caused an increase of forty-six per cent, from the census of 1870 to that of 1875, a showing which no other city in the country can equal.

That the city of Providence has its future in its own hands is apparent. With the vast wealth and accumulated industries of a century at its disposal; with the result which this latest measures of improvement has produced as an encouragement; and with the experience of other less favored seaports as a guide, there would seem to be the ability and the inducement to take the one remaining step necessary to secure the supremacy which nature indicates for the head waters of Narragansett bay. While our northern and western railroad connections are already very large and are rapidly reaching their requisite extension there remains only the improvement of the harbor and adjacent waters of the bay, which can be made at comparatively small expense, to make Providence the commercial emporium of New England. There is no mere fancy in this idea. It is an absolute fact, attested by the history of Glasgow, and foreshadowed by the opinions of those who have thought long and carefully upon the subject. It is a simple question of engineering and of enterprise, and it will be accomplished. When Providence had twelve thousand inhabitants, as it had within the life time of many of us who do not yet count ourselves as old, had some seer foretold that the centennial of the nation would see the quiet town transformed into the growing city starting upon its second hundred thousand of population, it would have seemed a far more startling statement than this with which we now close the Centennial Address—that the child is already born who will see more than half a million of people within our city, which will then be the commercial metropolis of New England.

See also: The Consequence of Bad Legal Precedent in American Legislation
Wide Spread And Growing Corruption In The Public Service Of The States And Nation
Founders & forefathers pledged their Sacred Honor, what did they mean?
THE POWER OF HISTORY by Horatio Seymour (1810–1886)
WHAT HISTORY TEACHES US ABOUT AMERICAN DIPLOMACY Addressed in 1876
THE COST OF POPULAR LIBERTY by Brooks Adams July 4th 1876
THE TRIUMPHS OF THE REPUBLIC! by Hon. Theodore Bacon, New York 1876
AMERICA OUR SUCCESS OUR FUTURE! by John P. Gulliver July 4th 1876 NYC
THE SOURCE AND SECURITY OF AMERICAN FREEDOM AND PROGRESS by Courtlandt Parker 1876
BENEFITS OF THE REPUBLICAN EXPERIMENT IN AMERICA by Thomas G. Alvord 1810- 1897
NEW HAVEN CT, ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO by Leonard Bacon July 4, 1876
Celtic Prayer of the Lorica or Breastplate prayer
Founders on the 2nd Amendment
The Story of Paul Revere

AMERICA OUR SUCCESS OUR FUTURE! by John P. Gulliver July 4th 1876 NYC

AFBetsyross1776America! Our Success-Our Future! An Oration By Rev. John P. Gulliver, D.D., Delivered At Binghampton, New York, July 4, 1876.

We celebrate to-day one hundred years of Democratic Government. We flatter ourselves, not without some show of reason, that our experiment has been, on the whole, a successful one.

See also: 
BENEFITS OF THE REPUBLICAN EXPERIMENT IN AMERICA by Thomas G. Alvord 1810- 1897
THE HAND OF GOD IN AMERICAN HISTORY by Rev Morgan Dix July 4th 1876 NYC
Constitution of the United States and it’s Governmental Operations (In Plain English)
THE POWER OF HISTORY by Horatio Seymour (1810–1886)
POLITICAL CONSTITUTIONS by Johannes Von Muller (1832)
OUR NOBLE HERITAGE by Hon. George W. Curtis (1824 –1892)

It is true that in other days “the name of commonwealth has past and gone,” over many “fractions of this groaning globe.” It is true that our Republic has only attained the slight venerableness of a single century. It is true that other democracies, far more ancient have at last “deigned to own a scepter and endure a purple robe.” Still we live, and we console ourselves with the thought that our one century has been equal in actual development to many centuries of Venice or Rome.

It is true we have had our enemies, foreign and domestic, and we may have them again. But in two wars, one of them of vast proportions, we have not only gained victory, but increased strength, while in the war of 1812, we certainly lost nothing. We have now convinced the world, what our best friends in Europe have seriously doubted, that a democracy is capable of being converted, in a day, into a military despotism, as effective for all warlike purposes, as the citizen-soldiery of Germany or the soldier-tenantry of Russia. A government, however loose it may seem to the eye of a monarchist, which out of a nation of civilians, can summon more than a million of men into the field at one time, which can create a navy at call, and in so doing, can revolutionize the whole system of maritime and defensive warfare, which can originate amidst the confusion of a struggle for national existence, such improvements in firearms as to make obsolete the arsenals of the civilized world, and, in four years can terminate in complete success, a struggle whose dimensions parallel the Napoleonic wars of Europe—a democracy capable of such a military metamorphosis, is at least not to be despised as an unwieldy and ungovernable mob.

It is true that our own body politic has not been at any time in a state of perfect health. As a democracy, it has had its diseases, some hereditary and chronic and some the result of temporary indiscretions and excesses. We began our republican organization with a large infusion of the ideas of class-aristocracy from the Northern Colonies, with all the institutions and social usages of a race aristocracy at the South, and with the crude, wild doctrines of French Red Republicanism strangely mingled with both. Our history during the century has been almost exclusively the record of the throes of the Republic under the antagonism of these morbid agents. The extraordinary force of vitality which our democracy has developed in eliminating these internal tendencies to disease and dissolution, is not the least among the occasions of our solemn exultation today. Our remedies have, some of them, been constitutional and gentle; others of them, heroic and painful. But they certainly have been efficacious. We have diseases still. But just at this moment they are of the prurient, disgusting sort, mortifying and annoying enough, but only skin deep.

PrecedentSurely a nation that found means to eradicate the slow consumption of social aristocracy, to quell the fiery fever of a brigand communism, and to cut out the cancer of slavery, will contrive some method of exterminating the insect parasites that are now burrowing over our whole civil service. If the heart of the Republic is sound, we need not greatly fear for its cuticle. Only, fellow-citizens, let us be prompt in our treatment, for the disease is contagious, and it is very irritating!

Besides the ills we have or have had, there maybe latent tendencies to disease and decay, that we know not of. But we will borrow no trouble to-day. We will hope that the same constitutional vigor, and the same skill of treatment which have served us so well in the past, will, by God’s blessing, prove sufficient for our future needs. Only let us draw largely upon the sources of national nourishment—let us keep in vigorous exercise all our organic functions; let us become a manly nation, instinct in every part with the highest attributes of national life; then we may defy the inroads of disease; then the whole body, fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, shall grow into a perfect state—a state which God shall honor and man shall fear. We rejoice in the health of the Nation on its hundredth birthday!

It is also true, to change our figure, that there has been not a little occasion for anxiety concerning the frame-work of our Ship of State. The model of a ship and the adjustment of its various parts to each other, the balance between its breadth of beam and its length of spars, tho ratio to be observed between steadiness and crankness, the precise point where the “clump” may blend into the “clipper,” is a great nautical problem. The blending of all our local sovereignties, from the school district and the town meeting, through the counties and the states, into one national sovereignty, while yet each retains its distinct and characteristic autonomy, I have often compared, in my own mind, to that admirable and exquisitely beautiful adjustment, which, before the prosaic age of steam, gave us the many-winged birds of the ocean—the swift eagles of commerce—skimming every sea, and nestling in every harbor. You have seen them, with their pyramid of sails, rising with geometrical exactness from main to royal, swelling in rounding lines from the foremost jib to the outmost point of the studding-sail boom, and retreating again, pear-shaped, to the stern, each holding to its full capacity the forceful breeze, all drawing in harmony, and yet each hanging by its own spar, and each under the instant control of the master on the deck. Behold, I have said, the Ship of a Republican State! What absolute independence of parts! What perfect harmony of all! What defined distinction of function! What complete unity of action! What an unrestricted individual freedom! What a steady contribution of all to the general result! and as the graceful hull, courteously bending in response to the multifarious impulse, has ploughed proudly through the waters, the exclamation has risen to my lips, “Liberty and Union; now and forever; one and inseparable!

But the actual existence of this exact balance between the National and local Governments, was not always as well established as it is to-day. At the very outset the Southern States, from the fear that the National Government would forbid a protective tariff, denied the supremacy of the National over the State Government, except during the consent of the latter.

In the later days of Calhoun, by one of the strangest transmutations ever known in politics, the same doctrine was maintained,by the same States.for the purpose of resisting a protective tariff. Throttled by the strong hand of Andrew Jackson, at that time, the monster drew back into his den, only to appear under the feeble administration of Buchanan as the champion of slavery. The doctrine that the National Government may be left at any moment, a floating hulk without canvas, rigging or rudder, the statesmanship which would launch a nation into the great ocean of human affairs, under the command of some two score of independent local governments, may now be laid away in our cabinets of moral monstrosities, as a fossil of the past. De Tocqueville, the philosopher of Democracy, prophesied forty years ago, in this wise: “It appears to me unquestionable, that if any portion of the Union seriously desired to separate itself from the other States, they would not be able, nor indeed would they attempt to prevent it, and that the present Union will last only as long as the States which compose it choose to remain members of the confederation.” That this sagacious and most friendly writer on American institutions has in this case proved to be a false prophet, is not the least among our many causes for congratulation to-day.

AmericanFlagAndCrossA century of rapid movement and of revolution; a century which has changed the political condition of nearly every nation on the face of the earth; a century during which we have twice met the whole power of the British Empire in arms, and once sustained the shock of assault from the combined power of slavery at home and in Europe; a century during which we have eliminated from the body politic the most insidious and dangerous diseases; a century during which we have determined questions concerning the relations and functions of our concentric cluster of independent democracies of the most radical and vital nature; a century during which our population has grown from three millions to fifty millions, our area of territory extended from one million to four millions of square miles, our manufactures advanced from twenty millions to forty-two hundred millions, our agriculture, mining and commerce increased in a ratio which sets all figures at defiance; a century which has raised us from insignificance, to a position as the fifth of the great empires of the world; a century which in educational and religions progress has more than kept pace with our material advancement, giving us a proportion of church members to the whole population four times greater than it was at the close of the Revolution, and a much larger increase in the ratio of liberally educated and well-educated persons; such a century we celebrate to-day. Who shall say that we do not well to rejoice. Who can fail to exclaim with devout and fervent gratification, What hath God wrought?

What Does The Future Promise? But we should make an unworthy use of this great occasion should we confine ourselves to a mere childish exultation over accomplished facts. A great future is extending out before us. What does this experiment prove, and how much does it promise? It is a time for study and thought. This centennial year, with its accomplished past just rolling out of view, with its present exciting and absorbing duty in the election of a chief magistrate, with an immediate future promising an unexampled reaction of prosperity, should be a year in which men should make great progress in the science of society and government.

We must not fail therefore to note and to admit freely, that our experiment has been in some respects an indecisive one. It does not prove that a Democratic form of government is necessarily and everywhere the best form. We are isolated from all the leading powers of the world by the intervention of great oceans. We entered upon an unoccupied continent. The rivalries of mankind, and their strifes have been adjusted upon other fields. While Russia, our comrade and contemporary in national growth, has been advancing upon the line of effete human civilizations, we have assailed only the forces of the wilderness. She has fought with men, we with nature. She has conquered by the sword; we by the plowshare. She has flourished by diplomacy; we by enterprise. She is a consolidated military despotism; we an extended Democratic Republic. Yet a philosophical statesmanship has often declared that we are approaching the same goal of empire and power. The comparison is full of interest and challenges our closest scrutiny. Russia, primarily the soldier, never out of uniform, her villages but military camps, her cities vast garrisons, her railroads and chausses only lines of army communication, is yet an inventing, manufacturing, agricultural and emphatically a commercial nation. America, primarily a land of peace and thrift, has been transformed in a day, into one vast battle field, and its rustic as well as its civic population have left the shop and furrow at night to appear in the morning assembled in armies of Titanic size, armed with the weapons of the Titans, while the thunder of their encounter has shaken the astonished world. Russia has exalted autocracy and punished democracy as a crime against God and man. America has proclaimed universal liberty and held the despot to be the enemy of the human race. Yet within the shell of imperial absolution, Russia holds to-day, as its inheritance from the depths of a Slavic antiquity, a communal organization which is almost a facsimile of a New England township; while America, beneath its outward freedom of thought, speech and act, covers a force of public opinion, both national and local, which few men have the courage to defy, and still fewer the strength to resist.

Under these curiously opposite conditions is the problem of the State being wrought out, for the Golden Age which is to come. From these diametrically opposite stand points, are the two most youthful nations of mankind advancing to the possession of the Earth.

freedomThe Democratic idea and the Democratic ideal. Such a comparison between two opposite civilizations serves to show us that democracy, as a form of government may or may not contain the elements of  freedom and the assurance of stability. In other words, the democratic idea, as men have conceived it and embodied it in governments, may or may not accord with the democratic ideal as it is enunciated in the royal law of Christ, and as it will one day be seen, embodied in the governments of men. Democracies may hide within themselves the seeds of despotism. Autocracies may nourish the germs of liberty. A democracy, which is administered in the interests of individuals, or of a party, or one in which the majority deprive the minority of freedom of speech and act, through the action of law or the terrorism of public opinion, is essentially despotic. There is despotism enough exercised within the Republic to-day, which if it had occurred in a monarchy would have cost a king his throne, and perhaps his life. On the other hand absolutionism may be so administered that the highest good of every subject shall be sought, and all his rights secured, according to the law. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart and thy neighbor as thyself.

There is then a political democracy, and there is a moral democracy. The slow and reluctant translation of the abstract ideal into the actual idea, and its expression in governmental institutions, is of surpassing interest and importance.

The Question of the Day. It is this history which concerns us on this centennial anniversary. The inquiries which are being discussed to-day from ten thousand rostrums, and which are pressing upon the thoughts of millions of men are these and such as these.

What is democracy, as distinct alike from the mob and the despot? What is liberty, as limited by law, and contrasted with license?

What progress had been made up to the fourth of July, 1776, in translating this ideal democracy into the thoughts and institutions of men?

What did the assembly over which John Hancock presided, on that memorable morning, achieve for this great thought of the ages?

How has this imperial gem, inherited from our fathers—the Koh-i-noor of our political treasures—been cared for by us?

US flag and bible crossOur first answer to these questionings is a radical and sweeping answer.

We assert that this perfect ideal of liberty, this basal principle of a Democratic State, this Minerva embodying all temporal good for man, sprang full armed and perfect from Christianity.

In the image of God made He man, male and female created He them,” was the first announcement of this seed principle of political and social happiness. While the rights and needs of the sexes vary, as do those of all individual men and of all classes of men, the image of God gives a grandeur of dignity and consequence to every human being, be his descent, or rank, or abilities what they may. While the king inscribes upon the seal of his authority, “By the grace of God, a monarch over men,” while the magistrate, the parent, the master, the wife, the husband, and child, may each claim a special divine statute as the basis of his rights; the man, as a man, wears the very signet of Jehovah. Like the incarnate Son, he has “on his vesture and on his thigh ” a name written: A King among kings is he, a Lord among lords.

The inference is direct and clear. A man despised, is God blasphemed. A man enslaved, is the glory of God changed into a thing of wood, or stone, or into a beast, or creeping thing. A man wronged, is God insulted. To hold a man in ignorance, is the crime of not retaining God in the knowledge. “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, my brethren, ye did it not to me,” is the malediction, written by an invisible hand upon all the banners of war, and over the bloodred skies of every battle-field of history. This is the answer to the question, “Whence comes wars and fightings among yon?” The Nemesis of the nations has been no other than the loving Father of all, avenging his outraged children who have cried day and night unto him. “I tell you that he will avenge them speedily” is the interpretation given by the Son of God himself to the dispensations of war, and agonies, and, blood, which has been to wondering philanthropists only a mystery of iniquity, from the first murder to the last battle. To the ideal humanity, to the man stamped with the divine image, God declares, “The nation and the kingdom that will not serve Thee shall perish; yea it shall be utterly wasted;” and in that word is the whole philosophy of the civil state. The state that God perpetuates and blesses is not the state that merely worships God, but it is the state that also honors the image of God in man. Devotion without humanity may be found in every idol temple and Mohammedan mosque on earth. But devotion without humanity never exalted a nation or saved a single human being. The hell of perished nations, like the hell of lost souls, is crowded with the peoples who have cried “Lord, Lord,” who have even prophesied in his name, and reared their temples like the trees of the forest, and sent up their orisons like the sons of the forest birds; but because a man was ahungered and they gave him no land, because a man thirsted and they gave him no springs of water, because man was a stranger and they made him a slave, because a man was naked and they kept back his wages by fraud, because a man was sick and they left him, as the North American savage leaves his worn out father, to perish by the roadside, because a man was in prison and they visited him only to add scorn to his sorrow, for these things, and such as these, the sentence has gone out against the nations—among them, some of the grandest and greatest, ” Depart from me, ye cursed!”

A True Democracy. What then is a true Democracy? It is the Government which honors man as man. It is the Government which protects all his God-given rights—the right to do right, as God may teach him, the right to do good, as God may give him opportunity, the right to be good, as God may give him grace, and the right to be happy, as God may bestow the means of happiness.

It is a Government which avenges all his wrongs—the wrong oft attempted of forcing him into sin; the wrong of forbidding him to do good in the name of Christ; the wrong of leading him, in self-defence, into all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor; the wrong of robbing him of his Heavenly Father’s gifts and excluding him from the Heavenly Father’s home.

It is the Government which provides for the development of all his faculties, which educates him, not merely so that he may be a money maker, a wages earner, but to be as much of a man as God-like a man as he is able and willing to become.

It is the Government which recognizes and honors all his capacities for happiness in every feasible way, making this earth beautiful for him, filling his cup with innocent pleasures, uncontaminated by vileness and sin.

It is the Government which writes on all its banners, which engraves on its seal of State, which re-enacts in the legislative hall and administers in the court of justice, the great law of human weal. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself.

And “Liberty,” what is that? It is full encouragement, both by negative permission and positive aid, to do that which is God-like, and it is equally the utmost possible restraint upon whatever is degrading and evil. Any other liberty is the liberty given to a child to burn itself in the fire. It is the license which is the worst form of cruelty and slavery.

1God’s plan in history. This is the work of God in history. Toward such a democracy has all the discipline of the race been tending. De Tocqueville says, “The development of equality of conditions, is a providential fact, and it possesses all the characteristics of a Divine decree. My book (Democracy in America) he adds, has been written under the impression of a kind of religious dread, in contemplation of so irresistible a revolution. To attempt to check democracy would be to resist the will of God.

Steadily, though often slowly, has the race been led on to this grand consummation. This is the meeting of war, and conquest and revolution. The progress of democracy has in it the might of omnipotence. The gravitation of matter which directs rivers in their courses, is a feeble agent, compared with the gravitation of love, which directs all the streams of human society toward the great ocean of universal order and purity and joy.

The history of the gradual introduction of this conception of government into men’s minds and of its consolidation into actual institutions must be followed by the careful student in the quiet of private investigation.

Suffice it here to say that the first governments of which we have any knowledge, were constructed for protection and restraint. They took a defensive attitude against evil rather than a positive position in the promotion of good. This defensive and aggressive idea has followed government in the family and in the State, and very largely in the church down to our day. Its gradual elimination and the substitution of the Christian thought, that evil should be prevented rather than punished, that men need to be encouraged to be good, rather than be restrained from becoming bad, has proved to be one of the most difficult lessons which the race has had to learn.

Primitive Government. We know little of society before the flood. It was probably, however, a grand experiment of the power of mere law and authority in conflict with evil The chief impression which survived the deluge seems to have been that the wickedness of man was great on earth. The history of liberty through these decades of centuries which followed seems to be the record of a series of struggles to relax the unjust and cruel rigor with which this system of resistance to evil was pursued. In these struggles the subject was in a state of chronic rebellion against the sovereign, the plebeian against the patrician. Each dynasty and each class, as it gained power, used it for itself. Little by little humanity asserted its rights. The introduction of the Mosaic code was an immense advance which we now fail fully to appreciate. Its democratic features were in fact the chief study of the founders of this Republic in political science.

FlagsBibleThe American Republic. The institutions under which we are now living were slowly elaborated, in the devout study of the word of God, long before the separation from the mother country occurred. The Church of Christ, as founded by the Apostles, was strongly democratic, and the whole spirit of its administration tended powerfully to a revolution in civil government. Its doctrines all went to exalt the responsibility and dignity of the individual soul. Their religion gradually undermined, in the case of our fathers, their preconceived ideas of social order and civil government . When the new circumstances of their colonial condition compelled them to act on new lines. They found their convictions antagonism with their prejudices. It is said that the compact of the Mayflower seemed almost the result of an accident. The ideas of the colonists were strongly aristocratic and inclined them to put the whole power into the hands of a few. But the men of muscle saw that now they were of as much consequence as the men of brains and of culture and gentle birth. They firmly put in their claims and the leaders, considering the demand, saw that it was just. Set the spirit of the infant colonies was-strongly aristocratic. In manners this was seen much more plainly than in laws. The story of the punctilious etiquette which was observed in the court (as it was called) of Washington, the seating of the New England congregations according to social rank, and numerous quaint and almost ludicrous customs of the same sort show sufficiently the spirit of the age.

But all this was a matter chiefly of taste and decorum. Deep in their hearts these men loved their fellowmen. For humanity and for God, they were ready at any moment to lay down their lives. Their churches were the real morn of the State. These were formed upon the strictest model of the pattern given in the New Testament. They were local democracies of which the motto was “One is your master, and all ye are brethren.” Even churches formed upon the pattern of European usage, caught the same spirit, and became fountains of a real, if not of a nominal democracy.

It was this tendency to a sort of aristocracy, which was the conservative element in the formation of the government. This made us a constitutional Republic instead of a Greek or Polish Democracy. This was the Federalism of the early days, in which the Puritan of New England found himself in hearty sympathy with the Episcopalian of Virginia, and the Presbyterian of New York. This whole party was violently assaulted by the men, whose conception of democracy was that of a government in which every man should have equal authority, instead of one in which every man should be equally protected and cared for. The Republican party (as the ultra Democrats of that day termed themselves,) were bent simply on power for the masses. The Federalists were enlisted, with all their heart and soul, in the effort to secure order, justice, virtue and happiness for the masses.

Republican and Federalist. The contest was intense and bitter beyond any party strife of which we have any recent experience. The Republicans saw in the Federalists a reproduction of their oppressors in Europe. The Federalists saw in their opponents, the devils incarnate, who had just then closed the reign of terror in France. Both were wrong, so wrong that only this tremendous antagonism could have restrained either from making a wreck, of the new ship of state. The result was, that a substantial triumph was with the Federalists, who really created the Constitution, while the seeming victory was with the Republicans, who after the administrations of Washington and Adams gained undisputed possession of the Government. Thenceforward it became an offense akin to treason to question tho perfection of the Constitution, while it was little short of a personal insult for a politician to charge his opponent with having been a Federalist.

It was the fashion fifty years ago to speak of this Constitution as almost a miracle of human wisdom. Of late there seems to be a disposition to regard it a very common place affair. The estimate of fifty years ago is much more nearly correct. It was a miracle not only of human wisdom, but of Divine teaching. It was the fruit of centuries of the teaching and training of mankind. It was the product of no one mind or class of minds. It was the result of Providential circumstances quite as much as of human thought. It was the work of many centuries and of many men. It was the work of God as well as of men. It was the practical embodiment of the great law of love, in the civil state. It was by far the best translation the world had ever seen, or has seen as yet, the great ideal of democracy —the Utopia of Christianity—into actual institutions and practicable government.

The next great advance of democracy in this country is seen in the overthrow of the institution of slavery. If I pass by this whole history with a mere mention here, you will understand that it is because of the familiarity of the subject to the men of our day, and not because it was not a most extraordinary, a most instructive, a most important victory for the rights, both of master and slave, and for the weal and progress of mankind.

Now we stand on the mount of vision. The past extends back, reaching into the farthest depths of history, studded more and more thickly as we approach our modern era, with the monuments of victory for justice, law and freedom. It is a magnificent and an inspiring spectacle. It is well that we celebrate this anniversary of freedom, as John Adams predicted we should do, “with thanksgiving, with festivity, with bonfires and illuminations.

patriotismThe Present Duty.
But we should be unworthy sons of heroic sires, if we did not look about us, in the surroundings of the present, and inquire if there is not something to be done, as well as something to be enjoyed.

Men and brethren, I do but follow the example of the men of a hundred years ago, when I bid you pause in the midst of your rejoicings to-day; when I ask you to consider whether an instant and a deadly peril be not concealed, like a worm in the rose, beneath the fair blossoming of this hour; when I ask you if it is not certain that, unless there be radical, sweeping, uncompromising reform in the administration of our Government, if it is not certain that we are celebrating the first and the last centennial of the American democracy. Such, fellow-citizens, is my profound conviction, and out of the abundance of my heart I speak to you to-day.

The time was, in the days of Washington and the elder Adams, and the same continued to be substantially true to the close of the administration of the younger Adams, that an officer of the Government, employed in its administration, who should actively engage in its construction, through the elections, would have been regarded as guilty of an impropriety—a misdemeanor, a dishonorable unworthy act, similar to that judge in our day who should appear as an advocate or a client in a court over which he presides. Even at so late a date as the impeachment and trial of Andrew Johnson, it was charged as a crime that he had given civil appointments for the purpose of strengthening his own political position.

We look back to the otherwise creditable administration of Andrew Jackson, and find the first open and acknowledged departure from this principle. Adams had refused a re-election on terms which he regarded subsersive of the government. Jackson seems to have yielded with reluctance to a demand which the rapacity of many of his supporters forced upon him with a fury which marked a complete revolution in public feeling. To the horror of all right minded men of all parties, Mr. Marcy, of New York, on the occasion of the nomination of Martin Van Buren as minister to England, declared in his place in the Senate, the revolutionary doctrine, “We practice as we preach. To the victors belong the spoils” The horror of the opposing party and of all good citizens, gradually changed to acquiescence, and on all sides the principle was accepted as a practical necessity.

The heroic struggle with slavery, which lifted the nation to a moral elevation, of the grandest sublimity for the moment, checked this downfall in the lowest slums of knavery and peculation. But with the close of the war came a temptation and an opportunity such as never had been dreamed of, and with them an entire absence both of moral principle and of legal restraint to meet the evil.

How we stand to-day, how humiliated before our own consciences and before mankind, I need not pain you by describing. You know it all, and you feel it deeply.

Now what is to be done? What have I to do, and what have you to do?

The two great parties have so far recognized the evil and the danger, that they have both nominated men who are representatives of honesty and reform.

But neither of them has laid down any principles of reform. It is not their place to do it. Parties can represent and give voice to the principles of the people. But they cannot create them. It is for the pulpit, the press, the school, the private citizen, to solve the problem, and to hand over its execution to the politicians.

What, then, is the solution of this perplexing problem? I hesitate not for an answer. Go back to the ancient traditions of the Republic! Make it a disgrace, and as far as possible a legal misdemeanor, for any officer engaged in administering the Government to interfere with an election. Forbid the legislative and judicial departments to have any voice whatever in the appointment of an officer of the Executive Department, except in a few cases of confirmation by the Senate, acting in its executive capacity.

Make it a high crime and misdemeanor for any executive officer to remove a subordinate, except for cause. Let a man’s politics have nothing to do with the giving or retaining of office. Make it a State’s prison offense for a legislator to engage in any legislation in which his own interests are directly or indirectly concerned.

9781587366543The time is propitious for such a reform. The people are ripe for it. All the indications are that within ten years they will have it. For this let us all labor, Republicans and Democrats alike. We are just entering on a Presidential canvass, under candidates against whom not a word of reproach can be breathed. Let us thank God for so much to-day. It is likely to be a respectable canvass, in which foul-mouthed abuse will be little used.

Let this Centennial year be distinguished for a victory over the most dangerous, but most contemptible foe that ever menaced the Republic. Let the watchword of the next three months be—Honesty! Truth! Patriotism! Down with party machines and machinists! Up with the reign of purity, honor and integrity!

Thus shall the victory of this one hundredth year be worthy of the companionship of the victories, of the birthday of the Republic.

Thus shall the men of this generation stand proudly by the side of the men of 1776 and the men of 1865.

Thus shall the Republic, established by the wisdom and sacrifices of the one, and saved by the heroism and blood of the other, be handed down to our children, to be incorporated with the great empire of liberty and love, which is at last to fill the whole earth.