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Title: Four American Leaders
Author: Eliot, Charles William, 1834-1926
Language: English
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Copyright, 1906
American Unitarian Association


The four essays in this volume were written for celebrations or
commemorations in which several persons took part. Each of them is,
therefore, only a partial presentation of the life and character of its
subject. The delineation in every case is not comprehensive and
proportionate, but rather portrays the man in some of his aspects and


I. Franklin                                        1

An address delivered before the meeting
of the American Philosophical Society to
commemorate the two hundredth anniversary
of the birth of Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia,
April 20, 1906.

II. Washington                                     31

An address given before the Union League
Club of Chicago at the exercises in commemoration
of the birth of Washington, February
23, 1903.

III. Channing                                      57

An address made at the unveiling of the
Channing statue on the occasion of the one
hundredth anniversary of the birth of William
Ellery Channing, Boston, June 1, 1903.

IV. Emerson                                        73

An address delivered on the commemoration
of the centenary of the birth of Ralph
Waldo Emerson, Boston, May 24, 1903.

_Four American Leaders_


The facts about Franklin as a printer are simple and plain, but
impressive. His father, respecting the boy's strong disinclination to
become a tallow-chandler, selected the printer's trade for him, after
giving him opportunities to see members of several different trades at
their work, and considering the boy's own tastes and aptitudes. It was
at twelve years of age that Franklin signed indentures as an apprentice
to his older brother James, who was already an established printer. By
the time he was seventeen years old he had mastered the trade in all its
branches so completely that he could venture, with hardly any money in
his pocket, first into New York and then into Philadelphia without a
friend or acquaintance in either place, and yet succeed promptly in
earning his living. He knew all departments of the business. He was a
pressman as well as a compositor. He understood both newspaper and book
work. There were at that time no such sharp subdivisions of labor and no
such elaborate machinery as exist in the trade to-day; and Franklin
could do with his own eyes and hands, long before he was of age,
everything which the printer's art was then equal to. When the faithless
Governor Keith caused Franklin to land in London without any resources
whatever except his skill at his trade, the youth was fully capable of
supporting himself in the great city as a printer. Franklin had been
induced by the governor to go to England, where he was to buy a complete
outfit for a good printing office to be set up in Philadelphia. He had
already presented the governor with an inventory of the materials needed
in a small printing office, and was competent to make a critical
selection of all these materials; yet when he arrived in London on this
errand he was only eighteen years old. Thrown completely on his own
resources in the great city, he immediately got work at a famous
printing house in Bartholomew Close, but soon moved to a still larger
printing house, in which he remained during the rest of his stay in
London. Here he worked as a pressman at first, but was soon transferred
to the composing room, evidently excelling his comrades in both branches
of the art. The customary drink money was demanded of him, first by the
pressmen with whom he was associated, and afterwards by the compositors.
Franklin undertook to resist the second demand; and it is interesting
to learn that after a resistance of three weeks he was forced to yield
to the demands of the men by just such measures as are now used against
any scab in a unionized printing office. He says in his autobiography:
"I had so many little pieces of private mischief done me by mixing my
sorts, transposing my pages, breaking my matter, and so forth, if I were
ever so little out of the room ... that, notwithstanding the master's
protection, I found myself obliged to comply and pay the money,
convinced of the folly of being on ill terms with those one is to live
with continually." He was stronger than any of his mates, kept his head
clearer because he did not fuddle it with beer, and availed himself of
the liberty which then existed of working as fast and as much as he
chose. On this point he says: "My constant attendance (I never making a
St. Monday) recommended me to the master; and my uncommon quickness at
composing occasioned my being put upon all work of dispatch, which was
generally better paid. So I went on now very agreeably."

On his return to Philadelphia Franklin obtained for a few months another
occupation than that of printer; but this employment failing through the
death of his employer, Franklin returned to printing, becoming the
manager of a small printing office, in which he was the only skilled
workman and was expected to teach several green hands. At that time he
was only twenty-one years of age. This printing office often wanted
sorts, and there was no type-foundry in America. Franklin succeeded in
contriving a mould, struck the matrices in lead, and thus supplied the
deficiencies of the office. The autobiography says: "I also engraved
several things on occasion; I made the ink; I was warehouse man and
everything, and in short quite a factotum." Nevertheless, he was
dismissed before long by his incompetent employer, who, however, was
glad to re-engage him a few days later on obtaining a job to print some
paper money for New Jersey. Thereupon Franklin contrived a copperplate
press for this job--the first that had been seen in the country--and cut
the ornaments for the bills. Meantime Franklin, with one of the
apprentices, had ordered a press and types from London, that they two
might set up an independent office. Shortly after the New Jersey job was
finished, these materials arrived in Philadelphia, and Franklin
immediately opened his own printing office. His partner "was, however,
no compositor, a poor pressman, and seldom sober." The office prospered,
and in July, 1730, when Franklin was twenty-four years old, the
partnership was dissolved, and Franklin was at the head of a
well-established and profitable printing business. This business was the
foundation of Franklin's fortune; and better foundation no man could
desire. His industry was extraordinary. Contrary to the current opinion,
Dr. Baird of St. Andrews testified that the new printing office would
succeed, "for the industry of that Franklin," he said, "is superior to
anything I ever saw of the kind; I see him still at work when I go home
from the club, and he is at work again before the neighbors are out of
bed." No trade rules or customs limited or levied toll on his
productiveness. He speedily became by far the most successful printer
in all the colonies, and in twenty years was able to retire from active
business with a competency.

One would, however, get a wrong impression of Franklin's career as a
printer, if he failed to observe that from his boyhood Franklin
constantly used his connection with a printing office to facilitate his
remarkable work as an author, editor, and publisher. Even while he was
an apprentice to his brother James he succeeded in getting issued from
his brother's press ballads and newspaper articles of which he was the
anonymous author. When he had a press of his own he used it for
publishing a newspaper, an almanac, and numerous essays composed or
compiled by himself. His genius as a writer supported his skill and
industry as a printer.

The second part of the double subject assigned to me is Franklin as
philosopher. The philosophy he taught and illustrated related to four
perennial subjects of human interest--education, natural science,
politics, and morals. I propose to deal in that order with these four

Franklin's philosophy of education was elaborated as he grew up, and was
applied to himself throughout his life. In the first place, he had no
regular education of the usual sort. He studied and read with an
extraordinary diligence from his earliest years; but he studied only the
subjects which attracted him, or which he himself believed would be good
for him, and throughout life he pursued only those inquiries for
pursuing which he found within himself an adequate motive. The most
important element in his training was reading, for which he had a
precocious desire which was imperative, and proved to be lasting. His
opportunities to get books were scanty; but he seized on all such
opportunities, and fortunately he early came upon the "Pilgrim's
Progress," the Spectator, Plutarch, Xenophon's "Memorabilia," and Locke
"On the Human Understanding." Practice of English composition was the
next agency in Franklin's education; and his method--quite of his own
invention--was certainly an admirable one. He would make brief notes of
the thoughts contained in a good piece of writing, and lay these notes
aside for several days; then, without looking at the book, he would
endeavor to express these thoughts in his own words as fully as they had
been expressed in the original paper. Lastly, he would compare his
product with the original, thus discovering his shortcomings and errors.
To improve his vocabulary he turned specimens of prose into verse, and
later, when he had forgotten the original, turned the verse back again
into prose. This exercise enlarged his vocabulary and his acquaintance
with synonyms and their different shades of meaning, and showed him how
he could twist phrases and sentences about. His times for such exercises
and for reading were at night after work, before work in the morning,
and on Sundays. This severe training he imposed on himself; and he was
well advanced in it before he was sixteen years of age. His memory and
his imagination must both have served him well; for he not only acquired
a style fit for narrative, exposition, or argument, but also learned to
use the fable, parable, paraphrase, proverb, and dialogue. The third
element in his education was writing for publication; he began very
early, while he was still a young boy, to put all he had learned to use
in writing for the press. When he was but nineteen years old he wrote
and published in London "A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity,
Pleasure and Pain." In after years he was not proud of this pamphlet;
but it was, nevertheless, a remarkable production for a youth of
nineteen. So soon as he was able to establish a newspaper in
Philadelphia he wrote for it with great spirit, and in a style at once
accurate, concise, and attractive, making immediate application of his
reading and of the conversation of intelligent acquaintances on both
sides of the ocean. His fourth principle of education was that it should
continue through life, and should make use of the social instincts. To
that end he thought that friends and acquaintances might fitly band
together in a systematic endeavor after mutual improvement. The Junto
was created as a school of philosophy, morality, and politics; and this
purpose it actually served for many years. Some of the questions read at
every meeting of the Junto, with a pause after each one, would be
curiously opportune in such a society at the present day. For example,
No. 5, "Have you lately heard how any present rich man, here or
elsewhere, got his estate?" And No. 6, "Do you know of a fellow-citizen
... who has lately committed an error proper for us to be warned against
and avoid?" When a new member was initiated he was asked, among other
questions, the following: "Do you think any person ought to be harmed in
his body, name, or goods, for mere speculative opinions or his external
way of worship?" and again, "Do you love truth for truth's sake, and
will you endeavor impartially to find it, receive it yourself, and
communicate it to others?" The Junto helped to educate Franklin, and he
helped greatly to train all its members.

The nature of Franklin's own education accounts for many of his opinions
on the general subject. Thus, he believed, contrary to the judgment of
his time, that Latin and Greek were not essential subjects in a liberal
education, and that mathematics, in which he never excelled, did not
deserve the place it held. He believed that any one who had acquired a
command of good English could learn any other modern language that he
really needed when he needed it; and this faith he illustrated in his
own person, for he learned French, when he needed it, sufficiently well
to enable him to exercise great influence for many years at the French
court. As the fruit of his education he exhibited a clear, pungent,
persuasive English style, both in writing and in conversation--a style
which gave him great and lasting influence among men. It is easy to say
that such a training as Franklin's is suitable only for genius. Be that
as it may, Franklin's philosophy of education certainly tells in favor
of liberty for the individual in his choice of studies, and teaches that
a desire for good reading and a capacity to write well are two very
important fruits of any liberal culture. It was all at the service of
his successor Jefferson, the founder of the University of Virginia.

Franklin's studies in natural philosophy are characterized by remarkable
directness, patience, and inventiveness, absolute candor in seeking the
truth, and a powerful scientific imagination. What has been usually
considered his first discovery was the now familiar fact that northeast
storms on the Atlantic coast begin to leeward. The Pennsylvania
fireplace he invented was an ingenious application to the warming and
ventilating of an apartment of the laws that regulate the movement of
hot air. At the age of forty-one he became interested in the subject of
electricity, and with the aid of many friends and acquaintances pursued
the subject for four years, with no thought about personal credit for
inventing either theories or processes, but simply with delight in
experimentation and in efforts to explain the phenomena he observed. His
kite experiment to prove lightning to be an electrical phenomenon very
possibly did not really draw lightning from the cloud; but it supplied
evidence of electrical energy in the atmosphere which went far to prove
that lightning was an electrical discharge. The sagacity of Franklin's
scientific inquiries is well illustrated by his notes on colds and their
causes. He maintains that influenzas usually classed as colds do not
arise, as a rule, from either cold or dampness. He points out that
savages and sailors, who are often wet, do not catch cold, and that the
disease called a cold is not taken by swimming. He maintains that people
who live in the forest, in open barns, or with open windows, do not
catch cold, and that the disease called a cold is generally caused by
impure air, lack of exercise, or overeating. He comes to the conclusion
that influenzas and colds are contagious--a doctrine which, a century
and a half later, was proved, through the advance of bacteriological
science, to be sound. The following sentence exhibits remarkable
insight, considering the state of medical art at that time: "I have long
been satisfied from observation, that besides the general colds now
termed influenzas (which may possibly spread by contagion, as well as by
a particular quality of the air), people often catch cold from one
another when shut up together in close rooms and coaches, and when
sitting near and conversing so as to breathe in each other's
transpiration; the disorder being in a certain state." In the light of
present knowledge what a cautious and exact statement is that!

There being no learned society in all America at the time, Franklin's
scientific experiments were almost all recorded in letters written to
interested friends; and he was never in any haste to write these
letters. He never took a patent on any of his inventions, and made no
effort either to get a profit from them, or to establish any sort of
intellectual proprietorship in his experiments and speculations. One of
his English correspondents, Mr. Collinson, published in 1751 a number of
Franklin's letters to him in a pamphlet called "New Experiments and
Observations in Electricity made at Philadelphia in America." This
pamphlet was translated into several European languages, and established
over the continent--particularly in France--Franklin's reputation as a
natural philosopher. A great variety of phenomena engaged his attention,
such as phosphorescence in sea water, the cause of the saltness of the
sea, the form and the temperatures of the Gulf Stream, the effect of oil
in stilling waves, and the cause of smoky chimneys. Franklin also
reflected and wrote on many topics which are now classified under the
head of political economy,--such as paper currency, national wealth,
free trade, the slave trade, the effects of luxury and idleness, and the
misery and destruction caused by war. Not even his caustic wit could
adequately convey in words his contempt and abhorrence for war as a mode
of settling questions arising between nations. He condensed his opinions
on that subject into the epigram: "There never was a good war or a bad

Franklin's political philosophy may all be summed up in seven
words--"first freedom, then public happiness and comfort." The spirit of
liberty was born in him. He resented his brother's blows when he was an
apprentice, and escaped from them. As a mere boy he refused to attend
church on Sundays in accordance with the custom of his family and his
town, and devoted his Sundays to reading and study. In practising his
trade he claimed and diligently sought complete freedom. In public and
private business alike he tried to induce people to take any action
desired of them by presenting to them a motive they could understand and
feel--a motive which acted on their own wills and excited their hopes.
This is the only method possible under a régime of liberty. A perfect
illustration of his practice in this respect is found in his successful
provision of one hundred and fifty four-horse wagons for Braddock's
force, when it was detained on its march from Annapolis to western
Pennsylvania by the lack of wagons. The military method would have been
to seize horses, wagons, and drivers wherever found. Franklin persuaded
Braddock, instead of using force, to allow him (Franklin) to offer a
good hire for horses, wagons, and drivers, and proper compensation for
the equipment in case of loss. By this appeal to the frontier farmers of
Pennsylvania he secured in two weeks all the transportation required. To
defend public order Franklin was perfectly ready to use public force,
as, for instance, when he raised and commanded a regiment of militia to
defend the northwestern frontier from the Indians after Braddock's
defeat, and again, when it became necessary to defend Philadelphia from
a large body of frontiersmen who had lynched a considerable number of
friendly Indians, and were bent on revolutionizing the Quaker
government. But his abhorrence of all war was based on the facts, first,
that during war the law must be silent, and, secondly, that military
discipline, which is essential for effective fighting, annihilates
individual liberty. "Those," he said, "who would give up essential
liberty for the sake of a little temporary safety deserve neither
liberty nor safety." The foundation of his firm resistance on behalf of
the colonies to the English Parliament was his impregnable conviction
that the love of liberty was the ruling passion of the people of the
colonies. In 1766 he said of the American people: "Every act of
oppression will sour their tempers, lessen greatly, if not annihilate,
the profits of your commerce with them, and hasten their final revolt;
for the seeds of liberty are universally found there, and nothing can
eradicate them." Because they loved liberty, they would not be taxed
without representation; they would not have soldiers quartered on them,
or their governors made independent of the people in regard to their
salaries; or their ports closed, or their commerce regulated by
Parliament. It is interesting to observe how Franklin's experiments and
speculations in natural science often had a favorable influence on
freedom of thought. His studies in economics had a strong tendency in
that direction. His views about religious toleration were founded on his
intense faith in civil liberty; and even his demonstration that
lightning was an electrical phenomenon brought deliverance for mankind
from an ancient terror. It removed from the domain of the supernatural a
manifestation of formidable power that had been supposed to be a weapon
of the arbitrary gods; and since it increased man's power over nature,
it increased his freedom.

This faith in freedom was fully developed in Franklin long before the
American Revolution and the French Revolution made the fundamental
principles of liberty familiar to civilized mankind. His views
concerning civil liberty were even more remarkable for his time than his
views concerning religious liberty; but they were not developed in a
passionate nature inspired by an enthusiastic idealism. He was the very
embodiment of common sense, moderation, and sober honesty. His standard
of human society is perfectly expressed in the description of New
England which he wrote in 1772: "I thought often of the happiness in New
England, where every man is a freeholder, has a vote in public affairs,
lives in a tidy, warm house, has plenty of good food and fuel, with
whole clothes from head to foot, the manufacture perhaps of his own
family. Long may they continue in this situation!" Such was Franklin's
conception of a free and happy people. Such was his political

The moral philosophy of Franklin consisted almost exclusively in the
inculcation of certain very practical and unimaginative virtues, such as
temperance, frugality, industry, moderation, cleanliness, and
tranquillity. Sincerity and justice, and resolution--that indispensable
fly-wheel of virtuous habit--are found in his table of virtues; but all
his moral precepts seem to be based on observation and experience of
life, and to express his convictions concerning what is profitable,
prudent, and on the whole satisfactory in the life that now is. His
philosophy is a guide of life, because it searches out virtues, and so
provides the means of expelling vices. It may reasonably determine
conduct. It did determine Franklin's conduct to a remarkable degree, and
has had a prodigious influence for good on his countrymen and on
civilized mankind. Nevertheless, it omits all consideration of the
prime motive power, which must impel to right conduct, as fire supplies
the power which actuates the engine. That motive power is pure,
unselfish love--love to God and love to man. "Thou shalt love the Lord
thy God with all thy heart ... and thy neighbor as thyself."

Franklin never seems to have perceived that the supreme tests of
civilization are the tender and honorable treatment of women as equals,
and the sanctity of home life. There was one primary virtue on his list
which he did not always practise. His failures in this respect
diminished his influence for good among his contemporaries, and must
always qualify the admiration with which mankind will regard him as a
moral philosopher and an exhorter to a good life. His sagacity,
intellectual force, versatility, originality, firmness, fortunate
period of service, and longevity combined to make him a great leader of
his people. In American public affairs the generation of wise leaders
next to his own felt for him high admiration and respect; and the strong
republic, whose birth and youthful growth he witnessed, will carry down
his fame as political philosopher, patriot, and apostle of liberty
through long generations.


The virtues of Washington were of two kinds, the splendid and the
homely; I adopt, for my part in this celebration, some consideration of
Washington as a man of homely virtues, giving our far-removed generation
a homely example.

The first contrast to which I invite your attention is the contrast
between the early age at which Washington began to profit by the
discipline of real life and the late age at which our educated young men
exchange study under masters, and seclusion in institutions of learning,
for personal adventure and responsibility out in the world. Washington
was a public surveyor at sixteen years of age. He could not spell well;
but he could make a correct survey, keep a good journal, and endure the
hardships to which a surveyor in the Virginia wilderness was inevitably
exposed. Our expectation of good service and hard work from boys of
sixteen, not to speak of young men of twenty-six, is very low. I have
heard it maintained in a learned college faculty that young men who were
on the average nineteen years of age, were not fit to begin the study of
economics or philosophy, even under the guidance of skilful teachers,
and that no young man could nowadays begin the practice of a profession
to advantage before he was twenty-six or twenty-seven years old. Now,
Washington was at twenty-one the Governor of Virginia's messenger to the
French forts beyond the Alleghanies. He was already an accomplished
woodman, an astute negotiator with savages and the French, and the
cautious yet daring leader of a company of raw, insubordinate
frontiersmen, who were to advance 500 miles into a wilderness with
nothing but an Indian trail to follow. In 1755, at twenty-three years of
age, twenty years before the Revolutionary War broke out, he was a
skilful and experienced fighter, and a colonel in the Virginia service.
What a contrast to our college under-graduates of to-day, who at
twenty-two years of age are still getting their bodily vigor through
sports and not through real work, and who seldom seem to realize that,
just as soon as they have acquired the use of the intellectual tools and
stock with which a livelihood is to be earned in business or in the
professions, the training of active life is immeasurably better than the
training of the schools! Yet Washington never showed at any age the
least spark of genius; he was only "sober, sensible, honest, and
brave," as he said of Major-General Lincoln in 1791.

By inheritance and by marriage Washington became, while he was still
young, one of the richest men in the country; but what a contrast
between his sort of riches and our sorts! He was a planter and
sportsman--a country gentleman. All his home days were spent in looking
after his farms; in breeding various kinds of domestic animals; in
fishing for profit; in attending to the diseases and accidents which
befall livestock, including slaves; in erecting buildings, and repairing
them; in caring for or improving his mills, barns, farm implements, and
tools. He always lived very close to nature, and from his boyhood
studied the weather, the markets, his crops and woods, and the various
qualities of his lands. He was an economical husbandman, attending to
all the details of the management of his large estates. He was
constantly on horseback, often riding fifteen miles on his daily rounds.
At sixty-seven years of age he caught the cold which killed him by
getting wet on horseback, riding as usual about his farms.

Compare this sort of life, physical and mental, with the life of the
ordinary rich American of to-day, who has made his money in stocks and
bonds, or as a banker, broker, or trader, or in the management of great
transportation or industrial concerns. This modern rich man, in all
probability, has nothing whatever to do with nature or with country
life. He is soft and tender in body; lives in the city; takes no
vigorous exercise, and has very little personal contact with the
elemental forces of either nature or mankind. He is not like Washington
an out-of-door man. Washington was a combination of land-owner,
magistrate, and soldier,--the best combination for a leader of men which
the feudal system produced. Our modern rich man is apt to possess no one
of these functions, any one of which, well discharged, has in times past
commanded the habitual respect of mankind. It is a grave misfortune for
our country, and especially for our rich men, that the modern forms of
property,--namely, stocks and bonds, mortgages, and city buildings--do
not carry with them any inevitable responsibilities to the state, or
involve their owner in personal risks and charges as a leader or
commander of the people. The most enviable rich man to-day is the
intelligent industrial or commercial adventurer or promoter, in the good
sense of those terms. He takes risks and assumes burdens on a large
scale, and has a chance to develop will, mind, and character, just as
Queen Elizabeth's adventurers did all over the then known world.

Again, Washington, as I have already indicated, was an economical
person, careful about little expenditures as well as great, averse to
borrowing money, and utterly impatient of waste. If a slave were
hopelessly ill, he did not call a doctor, because it would be a useless
expenditure. He insisted that the sewing woman, Carolina, who had only
made five shirts in a week, not being sick, should make nine. He entered
in his account "thread and needle, one penny," and used said thread and
needle himself. All this closeness and contempt for shiftlessness and
prodigality were perfectly consistent with a large and hospitable way of
living; for during many years of his life he kept open house at Mt.
Vernon. This frugal and prudent man knew exactly what it meant to
devote his "life and fortune to the cause we are engaged in, if
needful," as he wrote in 1774. This was not an exaggerated or emotional
phrase. It was moderate, but it meant business. He risked his whole
fortune. What he lost through his service in the Revolutionary War is
clearly stated in a letter written from Mt. Vernon in 1784: "I made no
money from my estate during the nine years I was absent from it, and
brought none home with me. Those who owed me, for the most part, took
advantage of the depreciation, and paid me off with sixpence in the
pound. Those to whom I was indebted, I have yet to pay, without other
means, if they will wait, than selling part of my estate, or distressing
those who were too honest to take advantage of the tender laws to quit
scores with me." Should we not all be glad if to-day a hundred or two
multi-millionaires could give such an account as that of their losses
incurred in the public service, even if they had not, like Washington,
risked their lives as well? In our times we have come to think that a
rich man should not be frugal or economical, but rather wasteful or
extravagant. We have even been asked to believe that a cheap coat makes
a cheap man. If there were a fixed relation between a man's character
and the price of his clothes, what improvement we should have seen in
the national character since 1893! At Harvard University, twelve hundred
students take three meals a day in the great dining-room of Memorial
Hall, and manage the business themselves through an elected President
and Board of Directors. These officers proscribe stews, apparently
because it is a form in which cheap meat may be offered them,
neglecting the more important fact that the stew is the most nutritious
and digestible form in which meats can be eaten. Mr. Edward Atkinson,
the economist, invented an oven in which various kinds of foods may be
cheaply and well prepared with a minimum of attention to the process.
The workingmen, among whom he attempted to introduce it, took no
interest in it whatever, because it was recommended to them as a cheap
way of preparing inexpensive though excellent foods. This modern temper
affords a most striking contrast to the practices and sentiments of
Washington, sentiments and practices which underlay his whole public
life as well as his private life.

If he were alive to-day, would he not be bewildered by much of our talk
about the rights of men and animals? Washington's mind dwelt very
little on rights and very much on duties. For him, patriotism was a
duty; good citizenship was a duty; and for the masses of mankind it was
a duty to clear away the forest, till the ground, and plant fruit trees,
just as he prescribed to the hoped-for tenants on his Ohio and Kanawha
lands. For men and women in general he thought it a duty to increase and
multiply, and to make the wilderness glad with rustling crops, lowing
herds, and children's voices. When he retired from the Presidency, he
expressed the hope that he might "make and sell a little flour
annually." For the first soldier and first statesman of his country,
surely this was a modest anticipation of continued usefulness. We think
more about our rights than our duties. He thought more about his duties
than his rights. Posterity has given him first place because of the way
in which he conceived and performed his duties; it will judge the
leaders of the present generation by the same standard, whatever their
theories about human rights.

Having said thus much about contrasts, let me now turn to some
interesting resemblances between Washington's times and our own. We may
notice in the first place the permanency of the fighting quality in the
English-American stock. Washington was all his life a fighter. The
entire American people is to-day a fighting people, prone to resort to
force and prompt to take arms, the different sections of the population
differing chiefly in regard to the nature and amount of the provocation
which will move them to violence and combat. To this day nothing moves
the admiration of the people so quickly as composure, ingenuity, and
success in fighting; so that even in political contests all the terms
and similes are drawn from war, and among American sports the most
popular have in them a large element of combat. Washington was roused
and stimulated by the dangers of the battlefield, and utterly despised
cowards, or even men who ran away in battle from a momentary terror
which they did not habitually manifest. His early experience taught him,
however, that the Indian way of fighting in woods or on broken ground
was the most effective way; and he did not hesitate to adopt and
advocate that despised mode of fighting, which has now, one hundred and
fifty years later, become the only possible mode. The Indian in battle
took instantly to cover, if he could find it. In our Civil War both
sides learned to throw up breastworks wherever they expected an
engagement to take place; and the English in South Africa have
demonstrated that the only possible way to fight with the present long
range quick-firing guns, is the way in which the "treacherous devils,"
as Washington called the Indians, fought General Braddock, that is, with
stratagem, surprise, and ambuscade; with hiding and crawling behind
screens and obstacles; with the least possible appearance in open view,
with nothing that can glitter on either arms or clothes, and with no
visible distinction between officers and men. War is now a genuinely
Indian performance, just as Washington saw one hundred and fifty years
ago that it ought to be.

The silent Washington's antipathy to the press finds an exact parallel
in our own day. He called the writers of the press "infamous
scribblers." President Cleveland called them "ghouls." But it must be
confessed that the newspapers of Washington's time surpassed those of
the present day in violence of language, and in lack of prophetic
insight and just appreciation of men and events. When Washington retired
from the Presidency the _Aurora_ said, "If ever a Nation was debauched
by a man, the American Nation has been debauched by Washington."

Some of the weaknesses or errors of the Congresses of Washington's time
have been repeated in our own day, and seem as natural to us as they
doubtless seemed to the men of 1776 and 1796. Thus, the Continental
Congress incurred all the evils of a depreciated currency with the same
blindness which afflicted the Congress of the Southern Confederacy and
the Union Congress during the Civil War, or the Democrat-Populist party
of still more recent times. The refusal of the Congress of 1777 to carry
out the agreement made with the Hessian prisoners at Saratoga reminds
one of the refusal of Congress, in spite of the public exhortations of
our present Executive, and his cabinet, to carry out the understanding
with Cuba in regard to the commercial relations of the island with the
United States. In both cases the honor of the country was tarnished.

The intensity of party spirit in Washington's time closely resembles
that of our own day, but was certainly fiercer than it is now, the
reason being that the questions at issue were absolutely fundamental.
When the question was whether the Constitution of the United States was
a sure defence for freedom or a trap to ensnare an unsuspecting people,
intensity of feeling on both sides was well-nigh inevitable. During
Washington's two administrations a considerable number of the most
eminent American publicists feared that dangerous autocratic powers had
been conferred on the President by the Constitution. Washington held
that there was no ground for these fears, and acted as if the
supposition was absurd. When the question was whether we should love and
adhere to revolutionary France, or rather become partisans of Great
Britain--the power from which we had just won independence--it is no
wonder that political passions burnt fiercely. On this question
Washington stood between the opposing parties, and often commended
himself to neither. In spite of the tremendous partisan heat of the
times, Washington, through both his administrations, made appointments
to public office from both parties indifferently. He appointed some
well-known Tories and many Democrats. He insisted only on fitness as
regards character, ability, and experience, and preferred persons, of
whatever party, who had already proved their capacity in business or the
professions, or in legislative or administrative offices. It is a
striking fact that Washington is the only one of the Presidents of the
United States who has, as a rule, acted on these principles. His example
was not followed by his early successors, or by any of the more recent
occupants of the Presidency. His successors, elected by a party, have
not seen their way to make appointments without regard to party
connections. The Civil Service Reform agitation of the last twenty-five
years is nothing but an effort to return, in regard to the humbler
national offices, to the practice of President Washington.

In spite of these resemblances between Washington's time and our own,
the profound contrasts make the resemblances seem unimportant. In the
first years of the Government of the United States there was widespread
and genuine apprehension lest the executive should develop too much
power, and lest the centralization of the Government should become
overwhelming. Nothing can be farther from our political thoughts to-day
than this dread of the power of the national executive. On the contrary,
we are constantly finding that it is feeble where we wish it were
strong, impotent where we wish it omnipotent. The Senate of the United
States has deprived the President of much of the power intended for his
office, and has then found it, on the whole, convenient and desirable to
allow itself to be held up by any one of its members who possesses the
bodily strength and the assurance to talk or read aloud by the week.
Other forces have developed within the Republic quite outside of the
Government, which seem to us to override and almost defy the closely
limited governmental forces. Quite lately we have seen two of these new
forces--one a combination of capitalists, the other a combination of
laborers--put the President of the United States into a position of a
mediator between two parties whom he could not control, and with whom he
must intercede. This is part of the tremendous nineteenth century
democratic revolution, and of the newly acquired facilities for
combination and association for the promotion of common interests. We
no longer dread abuse of the power of state or church; we do dread abuse
of the powers of compact bodies of men, highly organized and consenting
to be despotically ruled, for the advancement of their selfish

Washington was a stern disciplinarian in war; if he could not shoot
deserters he wanted them "stoutly whipped." He thought that army
officers should be of a different class from their men, and should never
put themselves on an equality with their men; he went himself to
suppress the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, and always believed that firm
government was essential to freedom. He never could have imagined for a
moment the toleration of disorder and violence which is now exhibited
everywhere in our country when a serious strike occurs. He was the chief
actor through the long struggles, military and civil, which attended
the birth of this nation, and took the gravest responsibilities which
could then fall to the lot of soldiers or statesmen; but he never
encountered, and indeed never imagined, the anxieties and dangers which
now beset the Republic of which he was the founder. We face new
difficulties. Shall we face them with Washington's courage, wisdom, and

Finally, I ask your attention to the striking contrast between the
wealth of Washington and the poverty of Abraham Lincoln, the only one of
the succeeding Presidents who won anything like the place in the popular
heart that Washington has always occupied. Washington, while still
young, was one of the richest men in the country; Lincoln, while young,
was one of the poorest; both rendered supreme service to their country
and to freedom; between these two extremes men of many degrees as
regards property holding have occupied the Presidency, the majority of
them being men of moderate means. The lesson to be drawn from these
facts seems to be that the Republic can be greatly served by rich and
poor alike, but has oftenest been served creditably by men who were
neither rich nor poor. In the midst of the present conflicts between
employers and employed, between the classes that are already well to do
and the classes who believe it to be the fault of the existing order
that they too are not well to do, and in plain sight of the fact that
democratic freedom permits the creation and perpetuation of greater
differences as regards possessions than the world has ever known before,
it is comforting to remember that true patriots and wise men are bred
in all the social levels of a free commonwealth, and that the Republic
may find in any condition of life safe leaders and just rulers.


We commemorate to-day a great preacher. It is the fashion to say that
preaching is a thing of the past, other influences having taken its
place. But Boston knows better; for she had two great preachers in the
nineteenth century, and is sure that an immense and enduring force was
theirs, and through them, hers. Channing and Brooks! Men very unlike in
body and mind, but preachers of like tendency and influence from their
common love of freedom and faith in mankind. This city has learned by
rich experience that preaching becomes the most productive of all human
works the moment the adequate preacher appears--a noble man with a
noble message. Such was Channing.

His public work was preceded and accompanied by a great personal
achievement. All his life he grew in spirit, becoming always freer,
broader, and more sympathetic. In forty years he worked his way out of
moderate Calvinism without the Trinity into such doctrines as
these:--"The idea of God ... is the idea of our own spiritual natures
purified and enlarged to infinity." "The sense of duty is the greatest
gift of God. The idea of right is the primary and highest revelation of
God to the human mind; and all outward revelations are founded on and
addressed to it." There is "but one object of cherished and enduring
love in heaven or on earth, and that is moral goodness." "I do and I
must reverence human nature.... I honor it for its struggles against
oppression, for its growth and progress under the weight of so many
chains and prejudices, for its achievements in science and art, and
still more for its examples of heroic and saintly virtue. These are
marks of a divine origin and pledges of a celestial inheritance."
"Perfection is man's proper and natural goal." What an immense distance
between these doctrines of Channing's maturity and the Calvinism of his
youth! He was a meditative, reflecting man, who read much, but took
selected thoughts of others into the very substance and fibre of his
being, and made them his own. The foundation of his professional power
and public influence was this great personal achievement, this attuning
of his own soul to noblest harmonies.

Thousands of ministers and spiritually-minded laymen of many
denominations have travelled since Channing's death the road he laid
out, and so have been delivered from the inhuman doctrines of the fall
of man, the wrath of God, vicarious atonement, everlasting hell for the
majority, and the rescue of a predestined few. They should all join in
giving heartfelt praise and thanks to Channing, who thought out clearly,
and preached with fervid reiteration, the doctrines which have delivered
them from a painful bondage.

Another remarkable quality of Channing's teachings is their
universality. Men of learning and spirituality in all the civilized
nations have welcomed his words, and found in them teachings of enduring
and expansive influence. Many Biblical scholars, in the technical sense,
have arrived eighty years later at Channing's conclusions about the
essential features of Christianity, although Channing was no scholar in
the modern sense; while they go far beyond him in treating the Bible as
a collection of purely human writings and in rejecting the so-called
supernatural quality of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. Indeed,
many Biblical scholars belonging to-day to evangelical sects have
arrived not only at Channing's position, but also at Emerson's.

Just how much Channing's published works have had to do with this quiet
but fateful revolution no man can tell. The most eminent to-day of
American Presbyterian divines preached an excellent sermon in the
Harvard College Chapel one Sunday evening not many years ago, and asked
me, as we walked away together, how I liked it. I replied: "Very much;
it was all straight out of Channing." "That is strange," he said, "for
I have never read Channing." It is great testimony to the pervasive
quality of a prophet's teachings when they become within fifty years a
component of the intellectual atmosphere of the new times. At a dinner
of Harvard graduates I once complained that, although I heard in the
College Chapel a great variety of preachers connected with many
different denominations, the preaching was, after all, rather
monotonous, because they all preached Channing. Phillips Brooks spoke
after me and said: "The President is right in thinking our present
preaching monotonous, and the reason he gives for this monotony is
correct; we all do preach Channing."

The direct influence of Channing's writings has been vast, for they are
read in English in all parts of the world, and have been translated
into many languages. Thirty years ago I spent a long day in showing Don
Pedro, the Emperor of Brazil, some of the interesting things in the
laboratories and collections of Harvard University. He was the most
assiduous visitor that I ever conducted through the University
buildings, intelligently interested in a great variety of objects and
ideas. Late in the afternoon he suddenly said, with a fresh eagerness:
"Now I will visit the tomb of Channing." We drove to Mount Auburn, and
found the monument erected by the Federal Street Church. The Emperor
copied with his own hand George Ticknor's inscriptions on the stone, and
made me verify his copies. Then, with his great weight and height, he
leaped into the air, and snatched a leaf from the maple which overhung
the tomb. "I am going to put that leaf," he said, "into my best edition
of Channing. I have read all his published works,--some of them many
times over. He was a very great man." The Emperor of Brazil was a Roman

Channing's philanthropy was a legitimate outcome of his view of
religion. For him practical religion was character-building by the
individual human being. But character-building in any large group or
mass of human beings means social reform; therefore Channing was a
preacher and active promoter of social regeneration in this world. He
depicted the hideous evils and wrongs of intemperance, slavery, and war.
He advocated and supported every well-directed effort to improve public
education, the administration of charity, and the treatment of
criminals, and to lift up the laboring classes. He denounced the bitter
sectarian and partisan spirit of his day. He refused entire sympathy to
the abolitionists, because of the ferocity and violence of their
habitual language and the injustice of their indiscriminate attacks. He
distrusted money worship, wealth, and luxury.

These sentiments and actions grew straight out of his religious
conceptions, and were their legitimate fruit. All his social aspirations
and hopes were rooted in his fundamental conception of the fatherhood of
God, and its corollary the brotherhood of men. It was his lofty idea of
the infinite worth of human nature and of the inherent greatness of the
human soul, in contrast with the then prevailing doctrines of human
vileness and impotency, which made him resent with such indignation the
wrongs of slavery, intemperance, and war, and urge with such ardor every
effort to deliver men from poverty and ignorance, and to make them
gentler and juster to one another.

In no subject which he discussed does the close connection between
Channing's theology and his philanthropy appear more distinctly than in
education. He says in his remarks on education: ... "There is nothing on
earth so precious as the mind, soul, character of the child.... There
should be no economy in education. Money should never be weighed against
the soul of a child. It should be poured out like water for the child's
intellectual and moral life." It is more than two generations since
those sentences were written, and still the average public expenditure
on the education of a child in the United States is less than fifteen
dollars a year. Eastern Massachusetts is the community in the whole
world which gives most thought, time, and money to education, public
and endowed. Whence came this social wisdom? From Protestantism, from
Congregationalism, from the religious teachings of Channing and his
disciples. Listen to this sentence: "Benevolence is short-sighted
indeed, and must blame itself for failure, if it do not see in education
the chief interest of the human race."

It is impossible to join in this centennial celebration of the advent to
Boston of this religious pioneer and philanthropic leader without
perceiving that in certain respects the country has recently fallen away
from the moral standards he set up. Channing taught that no real good
can come through violence, injustice, greed, and the inculcation of
hatred and enmities, or of suspicions and contempts. He believed that
public well-being can be promoted only through public justice, freedom,
peace, and good will among men.

He never could have imagined that there would be an outburst in his
dear country, grown rich and strong, of such doctrines as that the might
of arms, possessions, or majorities makes right; that a superior
civilization may rightly force itself on an inferior by wholesale
killing, hurting, and impoverishing; that an extension of commerce, or
of missionary activities, justifies war; that the example of imperial
Rome is an instructive one for republican America; and that the right to
liberty and the brotherhood of man are obsolete sentimentalities.

Nevertheless, in spite of these temporary aberrations of the public mind
and heart, it is plain that many of Channing's anticipations and hopes
have already been realized, that his influence on three generations of
men has been profound and wholly beneficent, and that the world is
going his way, though with slow and halting steps.

His life brightened to its close. In its last summer but one he wrote:
"This morning I plucked a globe of the dandelion--the seed-vessel--and
was struck as never before with the silent, gentle manner in which
nature sows her seed.... I saw, too, how nature sows her seed
broadcast.... So we must send truth abroad, not forcing it on here and
there a mind, and watching its progress anxiously, but trusting that it
will light on a kindly soil, and yield its fruit. So nature teaches."

May those who stand here one hundred years hence say,--the twentieth
century supplied more of kindly soil for Channing seed than the


Emerson was not a logician or reasoner, and not a rhetorician, in the
common sense. He was a poet, who wrote chiefly in prose, but also in
verse. His verse was usually rough, but sometimes finished and
melodious; it was always extraordinarily concise and expressive. During
his engagement to the lady who became his second wife, he wrote thus to
her: "I am born a poet,--of a low class without doubt, yet a poet; that
is my nature and vocation. My singing, be sure, is very husky, and is,
for the most part, in prose. Still, I am a poet in the sense of a
perceiver and dear lover of the harmonies that are in the soul and in
matter, and specially of the correspondences between these and those."

This husky poet had his living to get. His occupations in life were
those of the teacher, minister, lecturer, and author. He was a teacher
at various times between 1818 and 1826; but he never liked teaching. He
was a preacher at intervals from 1826 to 1847, but a settled minister
only from 1829 to 1832. His career as a lecturer began in the autumn of
1833; and his first book, "Nature," was published in 1836, when he was
thirty-three years old. His lectures for money were given as a rule
during the winter and early spring; and for thirty years the travelling
he was obliged to do in search of audiences was often extremely
fatiguing, and not without serious hardships and exposures. These
occupations usually gave him an income sufficient for his simple wants;
but there were times when outgo exceeded income. The little property his
first wife left him ($1200 a year) relieved him from serious pecuniary
anxiety by 1834; although it did not relieve him from earning by his own
labor the livelihood of his family.

In 1834 he went to live in Concord, where his grandfather had been the
minister at the time of the Revolution, and in 1835 he bought the house
and grounds there which were his home for the rest of his days. Before
settling in Concord, he had spent one winter and spring (1826-27) in the
Southern states, and seven months of 1833 in Europe. Both of these
absences were necessitated by the state of his health, which was
precarious during his young manhood. With these exceptions, he had lived
in Boston or its immediate neighborhood, until he settled in Concord.
His progenitors on both sides were chiefly New England ministers. His
formal education was received in the Boston Latin School and Harvard
College, and was therefore purely local. How narrow and provincial seems
his experience of life! A little city, an isolated society, a country
village! Yet through books, and through intercourse with intelligent
persons, he was really "set in a large place." The proof of this
largeness, and of the keenness of his mental and moral vision, is that,
in regard to some of the chief concerns of mankind, he was a seer and a
fore-seer. This prophetic quality of his I hope to demonstrate to-night
in three great fields of thought--education, social organization, and

Although a prophet and inspirer of reform, Emerson was not a reformer.
He was but a halting supporter of the reforms of his day; and the eager
experimenters and combatants in actual reforms found him a disappointing
sort of sympathizer. His visions were far-reaching, his doctrines often
radical, and his exhortations fervid; but when it came to action,
particularly to habitual action, he was surprisingly conservative. With
an exquisite candor, and a gentle resolution of rarest quality he broke
his strong ties to the Second Church of Boston before he was thirty
years old, abandoning the profession for which he had been trained, and
which, in many of its aspects, he honored and enjoyed; yet he attended
church on Sundays all his life with uncommon regularity. He refused to
conduct public prayer, and had many things to say against it; but when
he was an Overseer of Harvard College, he twice voted to maintain the
traditional policy of compelling all the students to attend morning
prayers, in spite of the fact that a large majority of the Faculty
urgently advocated abandoning that policy. He manifested a good deal of
theoretical sympathy with the community experiments at Brook Farm and
Fruitlands; but he declined to take part in them himself. He was
intimate with many of the leading abolitionists; but no one has
described more vividly their grave intellectual and social defects. He
laid down principles which, when applied, would inevitably lead to
progress and reform; but he took little part in the imperfect
step-by-step process of actual reforming. He probably would have been an
ineffective worker in any field of reform; and, at any rate, strenuous
labor on applications of his philosophy would have prevented him from
maintaining the flow of his philosophic and prophetic visions. The work
of giving practical effect to his thought was left for other men to
do,--indeed for generations of other serviceable men, who, filled with
his ideals, will slowly work them out into institutions, customs, and
other practical values.

When we think of Emerson as a prophet, we at once become interested in
the dates at which he uttered certain doctrines, or wrote certain
pregnant sentences; but just here the inquirer meets a serious
difficulty. He can sometimes ascertain that a given doctrine or sentence
was published at a given date; but he may be quite unable to ascertain
how much earlier the doctrine was really formulated, or the sentence
written. Emerson has been dead twenty-one years, and it is thirty years
since he wrote anything new; but his whole philosophy of life was
developed by the time he was forty years old, and it may be doubted if
he wrote anything after 1843, the germinal expression of which may not
be found in his journals, sermons, or lectures written before that date.
If, therefore, we find in the accepted thought, or established
institutions, of to-day recent developments of principles and maxims
laid down by Emerson, we may fairly say that his thought outran his
times certainly by one, and probably by two generations of men.

       *       *       *       *       *

I take up now the prophetic teachings of Emerson with regard to
education. In the first place, he saw, with a clearness to which very
few people have yet attained, the fundamental necessity of the school as
the best civilizing agency, next to steady labor, and the only sure
means of permanent and progressive reform. He says outright: "We shall
one day learn to supersede politics by education. What we call our
root-and-branch reforms, of slavery, war, gambling, intemperance, is
only medicating the symptoms. We must begin higher up--namely, in
education." He taught that if we hope to reform mankind, we must begin
not with adults, but with children: we must begin in the school. There
are some signs that this doctrine has now at last entered the minds of
the so-called practical men. The Cubans are to be raised in the scale of
civilization and public happiness; so both they and we think they must
have more and better schools. The Filipinos, too, are to be developed
after the American fashion; so we send them a thousand teachers of
English. The Southern states are to be rescued from the persistent
poison of slavery; and, after forty years of failure with political
methods, we at last accept Emerson's doctrine, and say: We must begin
earlier,--at school. The city slums are to be redeemed; and the
scientific charity workers find the best way is to get the children into
kindergartens and manual training schools.

Since the Civil War, a whole generation of educational administrators
has been steadily at work developing what is called the elective system
in the institutions of education which deal with the ages above twelve.
It has been a slow, step-by-step process, carried on against much active
opposition and more sluggish obstruction. The system is a method of
educational organization which recognizes the immense expansion of
knowledge during the nineteenth century, and takes account of the needs
and capacities of the individual child and youth. Now, Emerson laid down
in plain terms the fundamental doctrines on which this elective system
rests. He taught that the one prudence in life is concentration; the one
evil, dissipation. He said: "You must elect your work: you shall take
what your brain can, and drop all the rest." To this exhortation he
added the educational reason for it,--only by concentration can the
youth arrive at the stage of doing something with his knowledge, or get
beyond the stage of absorbing, and arrive at the capacity for producing.
As Emerson puts it, "Only so can that amount of vital force accumulate
which can make the step from knowing to doing." The educational
institutions of to-day have not yet fully appreciated this all-important
step from knowing to doing. They are only beginning to perceive that,
all along the course of education, the child and the youth should be
doing something as well as learning something; should be stimulated and
trained by achievement; should be constantly encouraged to take the step
beyond seeing and memorizing to doing,--the step, as Emerson says, "out
of a chalk circle of imbecility into fruitfulness." Emerson carried this
doctrine right on into mature life. He taught that nature arms each man
with some faculty, large or small, which enables him to do easily some
feat impossible to any other, and thus makes him necessary to society;
and that this faculty should determine the man's career. The advocates
of the elective system have insisted that its results were advantageous
for society as a whole, as well as for the individual. Emerson put this
argument in a nutshell at least fifty years ago: "Society can never
prosper, but must always be bankrupt, until every man does that which he
was created to do."

Education used to be given almost exclusively through books. In recent
years there has come in another sort of education through tools,
machines, gardens, drawings, casts, and pictures. Manual training,
shop-work, sloyd, and gardening have come into use for the school ages;
the teaching of trades has been admitted to some public school systems;
and, in general, the use of the hands and eyes in productive labor has
been recognized as having good educational effects. The education of men
by manual labor was a favorite doctrine with Emerson. He had fully
developed it as early as 1837, and he frequently recurred to it
afterwards. In December of that year, in a course of lectures on Human
Culture, he devoted one lecture to The Hands. He saw clearly that manual
labor might be made to develop not only good mental qualities, but good
moral qualities. To-day, it is frequently necessary for practical
teachers, who are urging measures of improvement, to point this out, and
to say, just as Emerson said two generations ago, that any falseness in
mechanical work immediately appears; that a teacher can judge of the
moral quality of each boy in the class before him better and sooner from
manual work than from book-work. Emerson taught that manual labor is the
study of the external world; that the use of manual labor never grows
obsolete, and is inapplicable to no person. He said explicitly that "a
man should have a farm or a mechanical craft for his culture"; that
there is not only health, but education in garden work; that when a man
gets sugar, hominy, cotton, buckets, crockery ware, and letter paper by
simply signing his name to a cheque, it is the producers and carriers of
these articles that have got the education they yield, he only the
commodity; and that labor is God's education. This was Emerson's
doctrine more than sixty years ago. It is only ten years since the
Mechanic Arts High School was opened in Boston.

We are all of us aware that within the last twenty years there has been
a determined movement of the American people toward the cultivation of
art, and toward the public provision of objects which open the sense of
beauty and increase public enjoyment. It is curious to see how literally
Emerson prophesied the actual direction of these efforts:--

  "On the city's paved street
  Plant gardens lined with lilac sweet;
  Let spouting fountains cool the air,
  Singing in the sun-baked square;
  Let statue, picture, park, and hall,
  Ballad, flag, and festival
  The past restore, the day adorn,
  And make to-morrow a new morn!"

We have introduced into our schools, of late years, lessons in drawing,
modelling, and designing,--not sufficiently, but in a promising and
hopeful way. Emerson taught that it is the office of art to educate the
perception of beauty; and he precisely describes one of the most recent
of the new tendencies in American education and social life, when he
says: "Beauty must come back to the useful arts, and the distinction
between the fine and the useful arts be forgotten." That sentence is the
inspiration of one of the most recent of the efforts to improve the arts
and crafts, and to restore to society the artistic craftsman. But how
slow is the institutional realization of this ideal of art education! We
are still struggling in our elementary and secondary schools to get a
reasonable amount of instruction in drawing and music, and to transfer
from other subjects a fair allotment of time to these invaluable
elements of true culture, which speak a universal language. Yet the
ultimate object of art in education is to teach men to see nature to be
beautiful and at the same time useful, beautiful because alive and
reproductive, useful while symmetrical and fair. Take up to-day the last
essays on education, the last book on landscape architecture, or the
freshest teachings of the principles of design, and you will find them
penetrated with Emerson's doctrine of art as teacher of mankind. Emerson
insists again and again that true culture must open the sense of
beauty; that "a man is a beggar who only lives to the useful." It will
probably require several generations yet to induce the American people
to accept his doctrine that all moments and objects can be embellished,
and that cheerfulness, serenity, and repose in energy are the "end of
culture and success enough."

It has been clearly perceived of late that a leading object in education
is the cultivation of fine manners. On this point the teachings of
Emerson are fundamental; but the American institutions of education are
only beginning to appreciate their significance. He teaches that genius
or love invents fine manners, "which the baron and the baroness copy
very fast, and by the advantage of a palace better the instruction. They
stereotype the lesson they have learned into a mode." There is much in
that phrase, "by the advantage of a palace." For generations, American
institutions of education were content with the humblest sort of
shelters, with plain wooden huts and brick barracks, and unkempt grounds
about the buildings. They are only lately beginning to acquire fine
buildings with pleasing surroundings; that is, they are just beginning
to carry into practice Emerson's wisdom of sixty years ago. The American
cities are beginning to build handsome houses for their High Schools.
Columbia University builds a noble temple for its library. The graduates
and friends of Harvard like to provide her with a handsome fence round
the Yard, with a fair array of shrubs within the fence, with a handsome
stadium instead of shabby, wooden seats round the football gridiron, and
to take steps for securing in the future broad connections between the
grounds of the University and the Cambridge parks by the river. They are
just now carrying into practice Emerson's teaching; by the advantage of
a palace they mean to better Harvard's instruction in manners. They are
accepting his doctrine that "manners make the fortune of the ambitious
youth; that for the most part his manners marry him, and, for the most
part, he marries manners. When we think what keys they are, and to what
secrets; what high lessons, and inspiring tokens of character they
convey, and what divination is required in us for the reading of this
fine telegraph,--we see what range the subject has, and what relations
to convenience, power, and beauty."

In Emerson's early days there was nothing in our schools and colleges
which at all corresponded to what we now know too much about under the
name of athletic sports. The elaborate organization of these sports is a
development of the last thirty years in our schools and colleges; but I
find in Emerson the true reason for the athletic cult, given a
generation before it existed among us. Your boy "hates the grammar and
Gradus, and loves guns, fishing-rods, horses, and boats. Well, the boy
is right, and you are not fit to direct his bringing-up, if your theory
leaves out his gymnastic training.... Football, cricket, archery,
swimming, skating, climbing, fencing, riding are lessons in the art of
power, which it is his main business to learn.... Besides, the gun,
fishing-rod, boat, and horse constitute, among all who use them, secret
free-masonries." We shall never find a completer justification of
athletic sports than that.

In his memorable address on The American Scholar, which was given at
Cambridge in 1837, Emerson pointed out that the function of the scholar
should include creative action, or, as we call it in these days,
research, or the search for new truth. He says: "The soul active ...
utters truth, or creates.... In its essence it is progressive. The book,
the college, the school of art, the institution of any kind, stop with
some past utterance of genius.... They look backward and not forward.
But genius looks forward. Man hopes: genius creates. Whatever talents
may be, if the man create not, the pure efflux of the Deity is not
his;--cinders and smoke there may be, but not yet flame." And more
explicitly still, he says: "Colleges have their indispensable
office,--to teach elements. But they can only highly serve us when they
aim not to drill, but to create." When Emerson wrote this passage, the
spirit of research, or discovery, or creation had not yet breathed life
into the higher institutions of learning in our country; and to-day they
have much to do and to acquire before they will conform to Emerson's

There are innumerable details in which Emerson anticipated the
educational experiences of later generations. I can cite but two of
them. He taught that each age must write its own books; "or rather, each
generation for the next succeeding. The books of an older period will
not fit this." How true that is in our own day when eighty thousand new
books come from the press of the civilized world in a single year!
Witness the incessant remaking or re-casting of the books of the
preceding generation! Emerson himself has gone into thousands of books
in which his name is never mentioned. Even history has to be re-written
every few years, the long-surviving histories being rather monuments of
style and method than accepted treasuries of facts. Again, contrary to
the prevailing impression that the press has, in large measure, stripped
eloquence of its former influence, Emerson taught that "if there ever
was a country where eloquence was a power, it is the United States." He
included under eloquence the useful speech, all sorts of political
persuasion in the great arena of the Republic, and the lessons of
science, art, and religion which should be "brought home to the instant
practice of thirty millions of people," now become eighty. The colleges
and universities have now answered in the affirmative Emerson's
question, "Is it not worth the ambition of every generous youth to
train and arm his mind with all the resources of knowledge, of method,
of grace, and of character to serve such a constituency?" But then
Emerson's definition of eloquence is simple, and foretells the practice
of to-day rather than describes the practice of Webster, Everett,
Choate, and Winthrop, his contemporaries: "Know your fact; hug your
fact. For the essential thing is heat, and heat comes of sincerity....
Eloquence is the power to translate a truth into language perfectly
intelligible to the person to whom you speak."

       *       *       *       *       *

I turn next to some examples of Emerson's anticipation of social
conditions, visible to him as seer in his own day, and since become
plain to the sight of the ordinary millions. When he accumulated in his
journals the original materials of his essay on Worship, there were no
large cities in the United States in the present sense of that term. The
great experiment of democracy was not far advanced, and had not
developed many of its sins and dangers; yet how justly he presented them
in the following description: "In our large cities, the population is
godless, materialized,--no bond, no fellow-feeling, no enthusiasm. These
are not men, but hungers, thirsts, fevers, and appetites walking. How is
it people manage to live on, so aimless as they are? ... There is faith
in chemistry, in meat and wine, in wealth, in machinery, in the
steam-engine, galvanic battery, turbine wheels, sewing-machines, and in
public opinion, but not in divine causes."

In Emerson's day, luxury in the present sense had hardly been developed
in our country; but he foresaw its coming, and its insidious
destructiveness. "We spend our incomes for paint and paper, for a
hundred trifles, I know not what, and not for the things of a man. Our
expense is almost all for conformity. It is for cake that we run in
debt; it is not the intellect, not the heart, not beauty, not worship,
that costs us so much. Why needs any man be rich? Why must he have
horses, fine garments, handsome apartments, access to public houses and
places of amusement? Only for want of thought.... We are first
thoughtless, and then find that we are moneyless. We are first sensual
and then must be rich." He foresaw the young man's state of mind to-day
about marriage--I must have money before I can marry; and deals with it
thus: "Give us wealth and the home shall exist. But that is a very
imperfect and inglorious solution of the problem, and therefore no
solution. Give us wealth! You ask too much. Few have wealth; but all
must have a home. Men are not born rich; in getting wealth the man is
generally sacrificed, and often is sacrificed without acquiring wealth
at last."

We have come to understand by experience that the opinion of masses of
men is a formidable power which can be made safe and useful. In earlier
days this massed opinion was either despised or dreaded; and it is
dreadful, if either confined or misdirected. Emerson compares it to
steam. Studied, economized, and directed, steam has become the power by
which all great labors are done. Like steam is the opinion of political
masses! If crushed by castles, armies, and police, dangerously
explosive; but if furnished with schools and the ballot, developing "the
most harmless and energetic form of a state." His eyes were wide open
to some of the evil intellectual effects of democracy. The individual is
too apt to wear the time-worn yoke of the multitude's opinions. No
multiplying of contemptible units can produce an admirable mass. "If I
see nothing to admire in a unit, shall I admire a million units?" The
habit of submitting to majority rule cultivates individual subserviency.
He pointed out two generations ago that the action of violent political
parties in a democracy might provide for the individual citizen a
systematic training in moral cowardice.

It is interesting, at the stage of industrial warfare which the world
has now reached, to observe how Emerson, sixty years ago, discerned
clearly the absurdity of paying all sorts of service at one rate, now a
favorite notion with some labor unions. He points out that even when
all labor is temporarily paid at one rate, differences in possessions
will instantly arise: "In one hand the dime became an eagle as it fell,
and in another hand a copper cent. For the whole value of the dime is in
knowing what to do with it." Emerson was never deceived by a specious
philanthropy, or by claims of equality which find no support in the
nature of things. He was a true democrat, but still could say: "I think
I see place and duties for a nobleman in every society; but it is not to
drink wine and ride in a fine coach, but to guide and adorn life for the
multitude by forethought, by elegant studies, by perseverance,
self-devotion, and the remembrance of the humble old friend,--by making
his life secretly beautiful." How fine a picture of the democratic
nobility is that!

In his lecture on Man the Reformer, which was read before the
Mechanics' Apprentices' Association in Boston in January, 1841, Emerson
described in the clearest manner the approaching strife between laborers
and employers, between poor and rich, and pointed out the cause of this
strife in the selfishness, unkindness, and mutual distrust which ran
through the community. He also described, with perfect precision, the
only ultimate remedy,--namely, the sentiment of love. "Love would put a
new face on this weary old world in which we dwell as pagans and enemies
too long.... The virtue of this principle in human society in
application to great interests is obsolete and forgotten. But one day
all men will be lovers; and every calamity will be dissolved in the
universal sunshine." It is more than sixty years since those words were
uttered, and in those years society has had large experience of
industrial and social strife, of its causes and consequences, and of
many attempts to remedy or soften it; but all this experience only goes
to show that there is but one remedy for these ills. It is to be found
in kindness, good fellowship, and the affections. In Emerson's words,
"We must be lovers, and at once the impossible becomes possible." The
world will wait long for this remedy, but there is no other.

Like every real seer and prophet whose testimony is recorded, Emerson
had intense sympathy with the poor, laborious, dumb masses of mankind,
and being a wide reader in history and biography, he early arrived at
the conviction that history needed to be written in a new manner. It was
long before Green's History of the English People that Emerson wrote:
"Hence it happens that the whole interest of history lies in the
fortunes of the poor." In recent years this view of history has come to
prevail, and we are given the stories of institutions, industries,
commerce, crafts, arts, and beliefs, instead of the stories of dynasties
and wars. For Emerson it is always feats of liberty and wit which make
epochs of history. Commerce is civilizing because "the power which the
sea requires in the sailor makes a man of him very fast." The invention
of a house, safe against wild animals, frost, and heat, gives play to
the finer faculties, and introduces art, manners, and social delights.
The discovery of the post office is a fine metre of civilization. The
sea-going steamer marks an epoch; the subjection of electricity to take
messages and turn wheels marks another. But, after all, the vital
stages of human progress are marked by steps toward personal, individual
freedom. The love of liberty was Emerson's fundamental passion:--

  "For He that ruleth high and wise,
    Nor pauseth in His plan,
  Will take the sun out of the skies
    Ere freedom out of man."

The new National League of Independent Workmen of America has very
appropriately taken its motto from Emerson:--

  "For what avail the plough or sail
  Or land or life, if freedom fail?"

The sympathetic reader of Emerson comes often upon passages written long
ago which are positively startling in their anticipation of sentiments
common to-day and apparently awakened by very recent events. One would
suppose that the following passage was written yesterday. It was
written fifty-six years ago. "And so, gentlemen, I feel in regard to
this aged England, with the possessions, honors, and trophies, and also
with the infirmities of a thousand years gathering around her,
irretrievably committed as she now is to many old customs which cannot
be suddenly changed; pressed upon by the transitions of trade, and new
and all incalculable modes, fabrics, arts, machines, and competing
populations,--I see her not dispirited, not weak, but well remembering
that she has seen dark days before;--indeed with a kind of instinct that
she sees a little better in a cloudy day, and that in storm of battle
and calamity, she has a secret vigor and a pulse like a cannon."

Before the Civil War the Jew had no such place in society as he holds
to-day. He was by no means so familiar to Americans as he is now.
Emerson speaks twice of the Jew in his essay on Fate, in terms precisely
similar to those we commonly hear to-day: "We see how much will has been
expended to extinguish the Jew, in vain.... The sufferance which is the
badge of the Jew has made him in these days the ruler of the rulers of
the earth." Those keen observations were made certainly more than forty
years ago, and probably more than fifty.

Landscape architecture is not yet an established profession among us, in
spite of the achievements of Downing, Cleveland, and Olmsted and their
disciples; yet much has been accomplished within the last twenty-five
years to realize the predictions on this subject made by Emerson in his
lecture on The Young American. He pointed out in that lecture that the
beautiful gardens of Europe are unknown among us, but might be easily
imitated here, and said that the landscape art "is the Fine Art which is
left for us.... The whole force of all arts goes to facilitate the
decoration of lands and dwellings.... I look on such improvement as
directly tending to endear the land to the inhabitant." The following
sentence might have been written yesterday, so consistent is it with the
thought of to-day: "Whatever events in progress shall go to disgust men
with cities, and infuse into them the passion for country life and
country pleasures, will render a service to the whole face of this
continent, and will further the most poetic of all the occupations of
real life, the bringing out by art the native but hidden graces of the
landscape." In regard to books, pictures, statues, collections in
natural history, and all such refining objects of nature and art, which
heretofore only the opulent could enjoy, Emerson pointed out that in
America the public should provide these means of culture and inspiration
for every citizen. He thus anticipated the present ownership by cities,
or by endowed trustees, of parks, gardens, and museums of art or
science, as well as of baths and orchestras. Of music in particular he
said: "I think sometimes could I only have music on my own terms; could
I ... know where I could go whenever I wished the ablution and
inundation of musical waves,--that were a bath and a medicine." It has
been a long road from that sentence, written probably in the forties, to
the Symphony Orchestra in this Hall, and to the new singing classes on
the East Side of New York City.

For those of us who have attended to the outburst of novels and
treatises on humble or squalid life, to the copious discussions on
child-study, to the masses of slum literature, and to the numerous
writings on home economics, how true to-day seems the following sentence
written in 1837: "The literature of the poor, the feelings of the child,
the philosophy of the street, the meaning of household life are the
topics of the time."

       *       *       *       *       *

I pass now to the last of the three topics which time permits me to
discuss,--Emerson's religion. In no field of thought was Emerson more
prophetic, more truly a prophet of coming states of human opinion, than
in religion. In the first place, he taught that religion is absolutely
natural,--not supernatural, but natural:--

  "Out from the heart of Nature rolled
  The burdens of the Bible old."

He believed that revelation is natural and continuous, and that in all
ages prophets are born. Those souls out of time proclaim truth, which
may be momentarily received with reverence, but is nevertheless quickly
dragged down into some savage interpretation which by and by a new
prophet will purge away. He believed that man is guided by the same
power that guides beast and flower. "The selfsame power that brought me
here brought you," he says to beautiful Rhodora. For him worship is the
attitude of those "who see that against all appearances the nature of
things works for truth and right forever." He saw good not only in what
we call beauty, grace, and light, but in what we call foul and ugly. For
him a sky-born music sounds "from all that's fair; from all that's

  "'Tis not in the high stars alone,
    Nor in the cups of budding flowers,
  Nor in the redbreast's mellow tone,
    Nor in the bow that smiles in showers,
  But in the mud and scum of things
  There alway, alway something sings."

The universe was ever new and fresh in his eyes, not spent, or fallen,
or degraded, but eternally tending upward:--

  "No ray is dimmed, no atom worn,
    My oldest force is good as new,
  And the fresh rose on yonder thorn
    Gives back the bending heavens in dew."

When we come to his interpretation of historical Christianity, we find
that in his view the life and works of Jesus fell entirely within the
field of human experience. He sees in the deification of Jesus an
evidence of lack of faith in the infinitude of the individual human
soul. He sees in every gleam of human virtue not only the presence of
God, but some atom of His nature. As a preacher he had no tone of
authority. A true non-conformist himself, he had no desire to impose his
views on anybody. Religious truth, like all other truth, was to his
thought an unrolling picture, not a deposit made once for all in some
sacred vessel. When people who were sure they had drained that vessel,
and assimilated its contents, attacked him, he was irresponsive or
impassive, and yielded to them no juicy thought; so they pronounced him
dry or empty. Yet all of Emerson's religious teaching led straight to
God,--not to a withdrawn creator, or anthropomorphic judge or king, but
to the all-informing, all-sustaining soul of the universe.

It was a prophetic quality of Emerson's religious teaching that he
sought to obliterate the distinction between secular and sacred. For him
all things were sacred, just as the universe was religious. We see an
interesting fruition of Emerson's sowing in the nature of the means of
influence, which organized churches and devout people have, in these
later days, been compelled to resort to. Thus the Catholic Church keeps
its hold on its natural constituency quite as much by schools,
gymnasiums, hospitals, entertainments, and social parades as it does by
its rites and sacraments. The Protestant Churches maintain in city slums
"settlements," which use the secular rather than the so-called sacred
methods. The fight against drunkenness, and the sexual vice and crimes
of violence which follow in its train, is most successfully maintained
by eliminating its physical causes and providing mechanical and social

For Emerson inspiration meant not the rare conveyance of supernatural
power to an individual, but the constant incoming into each man of the
"divine soul which also inspires all men." He believed in the worth of
the present hour:--

  "Future or Past no richer secret folds,
  O friendless Present! than thy bosom holds."

He believed that the spiritual force of human character imaged the

  "The sun set, but set not his hope:
  Stars rose; his faith was earlier up:
  Fixed on the enormous galaxy,
  Deeper and older seemed his eye."

Yet man is not an order of nature, but a stupendous antagonism, because
he chooses and acts in his soul. "So far as a man thinks, he is free."
It is interesting to-day, after all the long discussion of the doctrine
of evolution, to see how the much earlier conceptions of Emerson match
the thoughts of the latest exponents of the philosophic results of

The present generation of scholars and ministers has been passing
through an important crisis in regard to the sacred books of Judaism and
Christianity. All the features of the contest over "the higher
criticism" are foretold by Emerson in "The American Scholar." "The poet
chanting was felt to be a divine man; henceforth the chant is divine
also. The writer was a just and wise spirit; henceforward it is settled
the book is perfect. Colleges are built on it; books are written on
it.... Instantly the book becomes noxious; the guide is a tyrant." This
is exactly what has happened to Protestantism, which substituted for
infallible Pope and Church an infallible Book; and this is precisely the
evil from which modern scholarship is delivering the world.

In religion Emerson was only a nineteenth-century non-conformist
instead of a fifteenth or seventeenth century one. It was a fundamental
article in his creed that, although conformity is the virtue in most
request, "Whoso would be a man must be a non-conformist." In the midst
of increasing luxury, and of that easygoing, unbelieving conformity
which is itself a form of luxury, Boston, the birthplace of Emerson, may
well remember with honor the generations of non-conformists who made
her, and created the intellectual and moral climate in which Emerson
grew up. Inevitably, to conformists and to persons who still accept
doctrines and opinions which he rejected, he seems presumptuous and
consequential. In recent days we have even seen the word "insolent"
applied to this quietest and most retiring of seers. But have not all
prophets and ethical teachers had something of this aspect to their
conservative contemporaries? We hardly expect the messages of prophets
to be welcome; they imply too much dissatisfaction with the present.

The essence of Emerson's teaching concerning man's nature is compressed
into the famous verse:--

  "So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
    So near is God to man,
  When Duty whispers low, Thou must,
    The youth replies, I can."

The cynic or the fall-of-man theologian replies--Grandeur indeed, say
rather squalor and shame. To this ancient pessimism Emerson makes answer
with a hard question--"We grant that human life is mean, but how did we
find out that it was mean?" To this question no straight answer has been
found, the common answer running in a circle. It is hard indeed to
conceive of a measure which will measure depths but not heights; and
besides, every measure implies a standard.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have endeavored to set before you some of the practical results of
Emerson's visions and intuitions, because, though quite unfit to expound
his philosophical views, I am capable of appreciating some of the many
instances in which his words have come true in the practical experience
of my own generation. My own work has been a contribution to the
prosaic, concrete work of building, brick by brick, the new walls of old
American institutions of education. As a young man I found the writings
of Emerson unattractive, and not seldom unintelligible. I was concerned
with physical science, and with routine teaching and discipline; and
Emerson's thinking seemed to me speculative and visionary. In regard to
religious belief, I was brought up in the old-fashioned Unitarian
conservatism of Boston, which was rudely shocked by Emerson's excursions
beyond its well-fenced precincts. But when I had got at what proved to
be my lifework for education, I discovered in Emerson's poems and essays
all the fundamental motives and principles of my own hourly struggle
against educational routine and tradition, and against the prevailing
notions of discipline for the young; so when I was asked to speak to you
to-night about him, although I realized my unfitness in many respects
for such a function, I could not refuse the opportunity to point out how
many of the sober, practical undertakings of to-day had been anticipated
in all their principles by this solitary, shrewd, independent thinker,
who, in an inconsecutive and almost ejaculatory way, wrought out many
sentences and verses which will travel far down the generations.

I was also interested in studying in this example the quality of
prophets in general. We know a good deal about the intellectual
ancestors and inspirers of Emerson; and we are sure that he drank deep
at many springs of idealism and poetry. Plato, Confucius, Shakespeare,
and Milton were of his teachers; Oken, Lamarck, and Lyell lent him their
scientific theories; and Channing stirred the residuum which came down
to him through his forbears from Luther, Calvin, and Edwards. All these
materials he transmuted and moulded into lessons which have his own
individual quality and bear his stamp. The precise limits of his
individuality are indeterminable, and inquiry into them would be
unprofitable. In all probability the case would prove to be much the
same with most of the men that the world has named prophets, if we knew
as much of their mental history as we know of Emerson's. With regard to
the Semitic prophets and seers, it is reasonable to expect that as
Semitic exploration and discovery advance, the world will learn much
about the historical and poetical sources of their inspiration. Then the
Jewish and Christian peoples may come nearer than they do now to
Emerson's conceptions of inspiration and worship, of the naturalness of
revelation and religion, and of the infinite capacities of man.
Meantime, it is an indisputable fact that Emerson's thought has proved
to be consonant with the most progressive and fruitful thinking and
acting of two generations since his working time. This fact, and the
sweetness, fragrance, and loftiness of his spirit, prophesy for him an
enduring power in the hearts and lives of spiritually-minded men.

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