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Title: The Americanism of Washington
Author: Van Dyke, Henry, 1852-1933
Language: English
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Henry van Dyke


Hard is the task of the man who at this late day attempts to say
anything new about Washington. But perhaps it may be possible to unsay
some of the things which have been said, and which, though they were at
one time new, have never at any time been strictly true.

The character of Washington, emerging splendid from the dust and tumult
of those great conflicts in which he played the leading part, has passed
successively into three media of obscuration, from each of which his
figure, like the sun shining through vapors, has received some disguise
of shape and color. First came the mist of mythology, in which we
discerned the new St. George, serene, impeccable, moving through an
orchard of ever-blooming cherry-trees, gracefully vanquishing dragons
with a touch, and shedding fragrance and radiance around him. Out of
that mythological mist we groped our way, to find ourselves beneath the
rolling clouds of oratory, above which the head of the hero was
pinnacled in remote grandeur, like a sphinx poised upon a volcanic peak,
isolated and mysterious. That altitudinous figure still dominates the
cloudy landscapes of the after-dinner orator; but the frigid, academic
mind has turned away from it, and looking through the fog of criticism
has descried another Washington, not really an American, not amazingly a
hero, but a very decent English country gentleman, honorable,
courageous, good, shrewd, slow, and above all immensely lucky.

Now here are two of the things often said about Washington which need,
if I mistake not, to be unsaid: first, that he was a solitary and
inexplicable phenomenon of greatness; and second, that he was not an

Solitude, indeed, is the last quality that an intelligent student of his
career would ascribe to him. Dignified and reserved he was, undoubtedly;
and as this manner was natural to him, he won more true friends by
using it than if he had disguised himself in a forced familiarity and
worn his heart upon his sleeve. But from first to last he was a man who
did his work in the bonds of companionship, who trusted his comrades in
the great enterprise even though they were not his intimates, and who
neither sought nor occupied a lonely eminence of unshared glory. He was
not of the jealous race of those who

    "Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne";

nor of the temper of George III., who chose his ministers for their
vacuous compliancy. Washington was surrounded by men of similar though
not of equal strength--Franklin, Hamilton, Knox, Greene, the Adamses,
Jefferson, Madison. He stands in history not as a lonely pinnacle like
Mount Shasta, elevated above the plain

    "By drastic lift of pent volcanic fires";

but as the central summit of a mountain range, with all his noble
fellowship of kindred peaks about him, enhancing his unquestioned
supremacy by their glorious neighborhood and their great support.

Among these men whose union in purpose and action made the strength and
stability of the republic, Washington was first, not only in the
largeness of his nature, the loftiness of his desires, and the vigor of
his will, but also in that representative quality which makes a man able
to stand as the true hero of a great people. He had an instinctive power
to divine, amid the confusions of rival interests and the cries of
factional strife, the new aims and hopes, the vital needs and
aspirations, which were the common inspiration of the people's cause
and the creative forces of the American nation. The power to understand
this, the faith to believe in it, and the unselfish courage to live for
it, was the central factor of Washington's life, the heart and fountain
of his splendid Americanism.

It was denied during his lifetime, for a little while, by those who
envied his greatness, resented his leadership, and sought to shake him
from his lofty place. But he stood serene and imperturbable, while that
denial, like many another blast of evil-scented wind, passed into
nothingness, even before the disappearance of the party strife out of
whose fermentation it had arisen. By the unanimous judgment of his
countrymen for two generations after his death he was hailed as _Pater
Patriae_; and the age which conferred that title was too ingenuous to
suppose that the father could be of a different race from his own

But the modern doubt is more subtle, more curious, more refined in its
methods. It does not spring, as the old denial did, from a partisan
hatred, which would seek to discredit Washington by an accusation of
undue partiality for England, and thus to break his hold upon the love
of the people. It arises, rather, like a creeping exhalation, from a
modern theory of what true Americanism really is: a theory which goes
back, indeed, for its inspiration to Dr. Johnson's somewhat crudely
expressed opinion that "the Americans were a race whom no other mortals
could wish to resemble"; but which, in its later form, takes counsel
with those British connoisseurs who demand of their typical American
not depravity of morals but deprivation of manners, not vice of heart
but vulgarity of speech, not badness but bumptiousness, and at least
enough of eccentricity to make him amusing to cultivated people.

Not a few of our native professors and critics are inclined to accept
some features of this view, perhaps in mere reaction from the unamusing
character of their own existence. They are not quite ready to subscribe
to Mr. Kipling's statement that the real American is

    "Unkempt, disreputable, vast,"

I remember reading somewhere that Tennyson had an idea that Longfellow,
when he met him, would put his feet upon the table. And it is precisely
because Longfellow kept his feet in their proper place, in society as
well as in verse, that some critics, nowadays, would have us believe
that he was not a truly American poet.

Traces of this curious theory of Americanism in its application to
Washington may now be found in many places. You shall hear historians
describe him as a transplanted English commoner, a second edition of
John Hampden. You shall read, in a famous poem, of Lincoln as

    "New birth of our new soil, the _first_ American."

He knew it, I say: and by what divination? By a test more searching than
any mere peculiarity of manners, dress, or speech; by a touchstone able
to divide the gold of essential character from the alloy of superficial
characteristics; by a standard which disregarded alike Franklin's fur
cap and Putnam's old felt hat, Morgan's leather leggings and
Witherspoon's black silk gown and John Adams's lace ruffles, to
recognize and approve, beneath these various garbs, the vital sign of
America woven into the very souls of the men who belonged to her by a
spiritual birthright.

For what is true Americanism, and where does it reside? Not on the
tongue, nor in the clothes, nor among the transient social forms,
refined or rude, which mottle the surface of human life. The log cabin
has no monopoly of it, nor is it an immovable fixture of the stately
pillared mansion. Its home is not on the frontier nor in the populous
city, not among the trees of the wild forest nor the cultured groves of
Academe. Its dwelling is in the heart. It speaks a score of dialects but
one language, follows a hundred paths to the same goal, performs a
thousand kinds of service in loyalty to the same ideal which is its
life. True Americanism is this:

To believe that the inalienable rights of man to life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness are given by God.

To believe that any form of power that tramples on these rights is

To believe that taxation without representation is tyranny, that
government must rest upon the consent of the governed, and that the
people should choose their own rulers.

To believe that freedom must be safeguarded by law and order, and that
the end of freedom is fair play for all.

To believe not in a forced equality of conditions and estates, but in a
true equalization of burdens, privileges, and opportunities.

To believe that the selfish interests of persons, classes, and sections
must be subordinated to the welfare of the commonwealth.

To believe that union is as much a human necessity as liberty is a
divine gift.

To believe, not that all people are good, but that the way to make them
better is to trust the whole people.

To believe that a free state should offer an asylum to the oppressed,
and an example of virtue, sobriety, and fair dealing to all nations.

To believe that for the existence and perpetuity of such a state a man
should be willing to give his whole service, in property, in labor, and
in life.

That is Americanism; an ideal embodying itself in a people; a creed
heated white hot in the furnace of conviction and hammered into shape on
the anvil of life; a vision commanding men to follow it whithersoever it
may lead them. And it was the subordination of the personal self to that
ideal, that creed, that vision, which gave eminence and glory to
Washington and the men who stood with him.

This is the truth that emerges, crystalline and luminous, from the
conflicts and confusions of the Revolution. The men who were able to
surrender themselves and all their interests to the pure and loyal
service of their ideal were the men who made good, the victors crowned
with glory and honor. The men who would not make that surrender, who
sought selfish ends, who were controlled by personal ambition and the
love of gain, who were willing to stoop to crooked means to advance
their own fortunes, were the failures, the lost leaders, and, in some
cases, the men whose names are embalmed in their own infamy. The
ultimate secret of greatness is neither physical nor intellectual, but
moral. It is the capacity to lose self in the service of something
greater. It is the faith to recognize, the will to obey, and the
strength to follow, a star.

Washington, no doubt, was pre-eminent among his contemporaries in
natural endowments. Less brilliant in his mental gifts than some, less
eloquent and accomplished than others, he had a rare balance of large
powers which justified Lowell's phrase of "an imperial man." His
athletic vigor and skill, his steadiness of nerve restraining an
intensity of passion, his undaunted courage which refused no necessary
risks and his prudence which took no unnecessary ones, the quiet
sureness with which he grasped large ideas and the pressing energy with
which he executed small details, the breadth of his intelligence, the
depth of his convictions, his power to apply great thoughts and
principles to every-day affairs, and his singular superiority to current
prejudices and illusions--these were gifts in combination which would
have made him distinguished in any company, in any age.

But what was it that won and kept a free field for the exercise of these
gifts? What was it that secured for them a long, unbroken opportunity of
development in the activities of leadership, until they reached the
summit of their perfection? It was a moral quality. It was the evident
magnanimity of the man, which assured the people that he was no
self-seeker who would betray their interests for his own glory or rob
them for his own gain. It was the supreme magnanimity of the man, which
made the best spirits of the time trust him implicitly, in war and
peace, as one who would never forget his duty or his integrity in the
sense of his own greatness.

From the first, Washington appears not as a man aiming at prominence or
power, but rather as one under obligation to serve a cause. Necessity
was laid upon him, and he met it willingly. After Washington's
marvellous escape from death in his first campaign for the defence of
the colonies, the Rev. Samuel Davies, fourth president of Princeton
College, spoke of him in a sermon as "that heroic youth, Colonel
Washington, whom I can but hope Providence has hitherto preserved in so
signal a manner for some important service to his country." It was a
prophetic voice, and Washington was not disobedient to the message.
Chosen to command the Army of the Revolution in 1775, he confessed to
his wife his deep reluctance to surrender the joys of home, acknowledged
publicly his feeling that he was not equal to the great trust committed
to him, and then, accepting it as thrown upon him "by a kind of
destiny," he gave himself body and soul to its fulfilment refusing all
pay beyond the mere discharge of his expenses, of which he kept a strict
account, and asking no other reward than the success of the cause which
he served.

"Ah, but he was a rich man," cries the carping critic; "he could afford
to do it." How many rich men to-day avail themselves of their
opportunity to indulge in this kind of extravagance, toiling
tremendously without a salary, neglecting their own estate for the
public benefit, seeing their property diminished without complaint, and
coming into serious financial embarrassment, even within sight of
bankruptcy, as Washington did, merely for the gratification of a desire
to serve the people? This is indeed a very singular and noble form of
luxury. But the wealth which makes it possible neither accounts for its
existence nor detracts from its glory. It is the fruit of a manhood
superior alike to riches and to poverty, willing to risk all, and to use
all, for the common good.

Was it in any sense a misfortune for the people of America, even the
poorest among them, that there was a man able to advance sixty-four
thousand dollars out of his own purse, with no other security but his
own faith in their cause, to pay his daily expenses while he was leading
their armies? This unsecured loan was one of the very things, I doubt
not, that helped to inspire general confidence. Even so the prophet
Jeremiah purchased a field in Anathoth, in the days when Judah was
captive unto Babylon, paying down the money, seventeen shekels of
silver, as a token of his faith that the land would some day be
delivered from the enemy and restored to peaceful and orderly

Washington's substantial pledge of property to the cause of liberty was
repaid by a grateful country at the close of the war. But not a dollar
of payment for the tremendous toil of body and mind, not a dollar for
work "overtime," for indirect damages to his estate, for commissions on
the benefits which he secured for the general enterprise, for the use of
his name or the value of his counsel, would he receive.

A few years later, when his large sagacity perceived that the
development of internal commerce was one of the first needs of the new
country, at a time when he held no public office, he became president of
a company for the extension of navigation on the rivers James and
Potomac. The Legislature of Virginia proposed to give him a hundred and
fifty shares of stock. Washington refused this, or any other kind of
pay, saying that he could serve the people better in the enterprise if
he were known to have no selfish interest in it. He was not the kind of
a man to reconcile himself to a gratuity (which is the Latinized word
for a "tip" offered to a person not in livery), and if the modern
methods of "coming in on the ground-floor" and "taking a rake-off" had
been explained and suggested to him, I suspect that he would have
described them in language more notable for its force than for its

It is true, of course, that the fortune which he so willingly imperilled
and impaired recouped itself again after peace was established, and his
industry and wisdom made him once more a rich man for those days. But
what injustice was there in that? It is both natural and right that men
who have risked their all to secure for the country at large what they
could have secured for themselves by other means, should share in the
general prosperity attendant upon the success of their efforts and
sacrifices for the common good.

I am sick of the shallow judgment that ranks the worth of a man by his
poverty or by his wealth at death. Many a selfish speculator dies poor.
Many an unselfish patriot dies prosperous. It is not the possession of
the dollar that cankers the soul, it is the worship of it. The true test
of a man is this: Has he labored for his own interest, or for the
general welfare? Has he earned his money fairly or unfairly? Does he use
it greedily or generously? What does it mean to him, a personal
advantage over his fellow-men, or a personal opportunity of serving

There are a hundred other points in Washington's career in which the
same supremacy of character, magnanimity focussed on service to an
ideal, is revealed in conduct. I see it in the wisdom with which he, a
son of the South, chose most of his generals from the North, that he
might secure immediate efficiency and unity in the army. I see it in the
generosity with which he praised the achievements of his associates,
disregarding jealous rivalries, and ever willing to share the credit of
victory as he was to bear the burden of defeat. I see it in the patience
with which he suffered his fame to be imperilled for the moment by
reverses and retreats, if only he might the more surely guard the frail
hope of ultimate victory for his country. I see it in the quiet dignity
with which he faced the Conway Cabal, not anxious to defend his own
reputation and secure his own power, but nobly resolute to save the army
from being crippled and the cause of liberty from being wrecked. I see
it in the splendid self-forgetfulness which cleansed his mind of all
temptation to take personal revenge upon those who had sought to injure
him in that base intrigue. I read it in his letter of consolation and
encouragement to the wretched Gates after the defeat at Camden. I hear
the prolonged reechoing music of it in his letter to General Knox in
1798, in regard to military appointments, declaring his wish to "avoid
feuds with those who are embarked in the same general enterprise with

Listen to the same spirit as it speaks in his circular address to the
governors of the different States, urging them to "forget their local
prejudices and policies; to make those mutual concessions which are
requisite to the general prosperity, and in some instances to sacrifice
their individual advantages to the interest of the community." Watch
how it guides him unerringly through the critical period of American
history which lies between the success of the Revolution and the
establishment of the nation, enabling him to avoid the pitfalls of
sectional and partisan strife, and to use his great influence with the
people in leading them out of the confusion of a weak confederacy into
the strength of an indissoluble union of sovereign States.

See how he once more sets aside his personal preferences for a quiet
country life, and risks his already secure popularity, together with his
reputation for consistency, by obeying the voice which calls him to be a
candidate for the Presidency. See how he chooses for the cabinet and for
the Supreme Court, not an exclusive group of personal friends, but men
who can be trusted to serve the great cause of Union with fidelity and
power--Jefferson, Randolph, Hamilton, Knox, John Jay, Wilson, Cushing,
Rutledge. See how patiently and indomitably he gives himself to the toil
of office, deriving from his exalted station no gain "beyond the lustre
which may be reflected from its connection with a power of promoting
human felicity." See how he retires, at last, to the longed-for joys of
private life, confessing that his career has not been without errors of
judgment, beseeching the Almighty that they may bring no harm to his
country, and asking no other reward for his labors than to partake, "in
the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under
a free government, the ever favorite object of my heart."

Oh, sweet and stately words, revealing, through their calm reserve, the
inmost secret of a life that did not flare with transient enthusiasm but
glowed with unquenchable devotion to a cause! "The ever favorite object
of my heart"--how quietly, how simply he discloses the source and origin
of a sublime consecration, a lifelong heroism! Thus speaks the victor in
calm retrospect of the long battle. But if you would know the depth and
the intensity of the divine fire that burned within his breast you must
go back to the dark and icy days of Valley Forge, and hear him cry in
passion unrestrained: "If I know my own mind, I could offer myself a
living sacrifice to the butchering enemy, provided that would contribute
to the people's ease. I would be a living offering to the savage fury
and die by inches to save the people."

"_The ever favorite object of my heart_!" I strike this note again and
again, insisting upon it, harping upon it; for it is the key-note of the
music. It is the capacity to find such an object in the success of the
people's cause, to follow it unselfishly, to serve it loyally, that
distinguishes the men who stood with Washington and who deserve to share
his fame. I read the annals of the Revolution, and I find everywhere
this secret and searching test dividing the strong from the weak, the
noble from the base, the heirs of glory from the captives of oblivion
and the inheritors of shame. It was the unwillingness to sink and forget
self in the service of something greater that made the failures and
wrecks of those tempestuous times, through which the single-hearted and
the devoted pressed on to victory and honor.

Turn back to the battle of Saratoga. There were two Americans on that
field who suffered under a great personal disappointment: Philip
Schuyler, who was unjustly supplanted in command of the army by General
Gates; and Benedict Arnold, who was deprived by envy of his due share in
the glory of winning the battle. Schuyler forgot his own injury in
loyalty to the cause, offered to serve Gates in any capacity, and went
straight on to the end of his noble life giving all that he had to his
country. But in Arnold's heart the favorite object was not his country,
but his own ambition, and the wound which his pride received at Saratoga
rankled and festered and spread its poison through his whole nature,
until he went forth from the camp, "a leper white as snow."

What was it that made Charles Lee, as fearless a man as ever lived, play
the part of a coward in order to hide his treason at the battle of
Monmouth? It was the inward eating corruption of that selfish vanity
which caused him to desire the defeat of an army whose command he had
wished but failed to attain. He had offered his sword to America for his
own glory, and when that was denied him, he withdrew the offering, and
died, as he had lived, to himself.

What was it that tarnished the fame of Gates and Wilkinson and Burr and
Conway? What made their lives, and those of men like them, futile and
inefficient compared with other men whose natural gifts were less? It
was the taint of dominant selfishness that ran through their careers,
now hiding itself, now breaking out in some act of malignity or
treachery. Of the common interest they were reckless, provided they
might advance their own. Disappointed in that "ever favorite object of
their hearts," they did not hesitate to imperil the cause in whose
service they were enlisted.

Turn to other cases, in which a charitable judgment will impute no
positive betrayal of trusts, but a defect of vision to recognize the
claim of the higher ideal. Tory or Revolutionist a man might be,
according to his temperament and conviction; but where a man begins
with protests against tyranny and ends with subservience to it, we look
for the cause. What was it that separated Joseph Galloway from Francis
Hopkinson? It was Galloway's opinion that, while the struggle for
independence might be justifiable, it could not be successful, and the
temptation of a larger immediate reward under the British crown than
could ever be given by the American Congress in which he had once
served. What was it that divided the Rev. Jacob Duché from the Rev.
John Witherspoon? It was Duché's fear that the cause for which he had
prayed so eloquently in the first Continental Congress was doomed after
the capture of Philadelphia, and his unwillingness to go down with that
cause instead of enjoying the comfortable fruits of his native wit and
eloquence in an easy London chaplaincy. What was it that cut William
Franklin off from his professedly prudent and worldly wise old father,
Benjamin? It was the luxurious and benumbing charm of the royal
governorship of New Jersey.

"Professedly prudent" is the phrase that I have chosen to apply to
Benjamin Franklin. For the one thing that is clear, as we turn to look
at him and the other men who stood with Washington, is that, whatever
their philosophical professions may have been, they were not controlled
by prudence. They were really imprudent, and at heart willing to take
all risks of poverty and death in a struggle whose cause was just though
its issue was dubious. If it be rashness to commit honor and life and
property to a great adventure for the general good, then these men were
rash to the verge of recklessness. They refused no peril, they withheld
no sacrifice, in the following of their ideal.

I hear John Dickinson saying: "It is not our duty to leave wealth to our
children, but it is our duty to leave liberty to them. We have counted
the cost of this contest, and we find nothing so dreadful as voluntary
slavery." I see Samuel Adams, impoverished, living upon a pittance,
hardly able to provide a decent coat for his back, rejecting with scorn
the offer of a profitable office, wealth, a title even, to win him from
his allegiance to the cause of America. I see Robert Morris, the wealthy
merchant, opening his purse and pledging his credit to support the
Revolution, and later devoting all his fortune and his energy to restore
and establish the financial honor of the Republic, with the memorable
words, "The United States may command all that I have, except my
integrity." I hear the proud John Adams saying to his wife, "I have
accepted a seat in the House of Representatives, and thereby have
consented to my own ruin, to your ruin, and the ruin of our children";
and I hear her reply, with the tears running down her face, "Well, I am
willing in this cause to run all risks with you, and be ruined with you,
if you are ruined," I see Benjamin Franklin, in the Congress of 1776,
already past his seventieth year, prosperous, famous, by far the most
celebrated man in America, accepting without demur the difficult and
dangerous mission to France, and whispering to his friend, Dr. Rush, "I
am old and good for nothing, but as the store-keepers say of their
remnants of cloth, 'I am but a fag-end, and you may have me for what
you please.'"

Here is a man who will illustrate and prove, perhaps better than any
other of those who stood with Washington, the point at which I am
aiming. There was none of the glamour of romance about old Ben Franklin.
He was shrewd, canny, humorous. The chivalric Southerners disliked his
philosophy, and the solemn New-Englanders mistrusted his jokes. He made
no extravagant claims for his own motives, and some of his ways were not
distinctly ideal. He was full of prudential proverbs, and claimed to be
a follower of the theory of enlightened self-interest. But there was not
a faculty of his wise old head which he did not put at the service of
his country, nor was there a pulse of his slow and steady heart which
did not beat loyal to the cause of freedom.

He forfeited profitable office and sure preferment under the crown, for
hard work, uncertain pay, and certain peril in behalf of the colonies.
He followed the inexorable logic, step by step, which led him from the
natural rights of his countrymen to their liberty, from their liberty
to their independence. He endured with a grim humor the revilings of
those whom he called "malevolent critics and bug-writers." He broke with
his old and dear associates in England, writing to one of them,

    "You and I were long friends; you are now my enemy and I am Yours,
    B. Franklin."

He never flinched or faltered at any sacrifice of personal ease or
interest to the demands of his country. His patient, skilful, laborious
efforts in France did as much for the final victory of the American
cause as any soldier's sword. He yielded his own opinions in regard to
the method of making the treaty of peace with England, and thereby
imperilled for a time his own prestige. He served as president of
Pennsylvania three times, devoting all his salary to public
benefactions. His influence in the Constitutional Convention was
steadfast on the side of union and harmony, though in many things he
differed from the prevailing party. His voice was among those who hailed
Washington as the only possible candidate for the Presidency. His last
public act was a petition to Congress for the abolition of slavery. At
his death the government had not yet settled his accounts in its
service, and his country was left apparently his debtor; which, in a
sense still larger and deeper, she must remain as long as liberty
endures and union triumphs in the Republic.

Is not this, after all, the root of the whole matter? Is not this the
thing that is vitally and essentially true of all those great men,
clustering about Washington, whose fame we honor and revere with his?
They all left the community, the commonwealth, the race, in debt to
them. This was their purpose and the ever-favorite object of their
hearts. They were deliberate and joyful creditors. Renouncing the maxim
of worldly wisdom which bids men "get all you can and keep all you get,"
they resolved rather to give all they had to advance the common cause,
to use every benefit conferred upon them in the service of the general
welfare, to bestow upon the world more than they received from it, and
to leave a fair and unblotted account of business done with life which
should show a clear balance in their favor.

Thus, in brief outline, and in words which seem poor and inadequate, I
have ventured to interpret anew the story of Washington and the men who
stood with him: not as a stirring ballad of battle and danger, in which
the knights ride valiantly, and are renowned for their mighty strokes at
the enemy in arms; not as a philosophic epic, in which the development
of a great national idea is displayed, and the struggle of opposing
policies is traced to its conclusion; but as a drama of the eternal
conflict in the soul of man between self-interest in its Protean forms,
and loyalty to the right, service to a cause, allegiance to an ideal.

Those great actors who played in it have passed away, but the same drama
still holds the stage. The drop-curtain falls between the acts; the
scenery shifts; the music alters; but the crisis and its issues are
unchanged, and the parts which you and I play are assigned to us by our
own choice of "the ever favorite object of our hearts."

Men tell us that the age of ideals is past, and that we are now come to
the age of expediency, of polite indifference to moral standards, of
careful attention to the bearing of different policies upon our own
personal interests. Men tell us that the rights of man are a poetic
fiction, that democracy has nothing in it to command our allegiance
unless it promotes our individual comfort and prosperity, and that the
whole duty of a citizen is to vote with his party and get an office for
himself, or for some one who will look after him. Men tell us that to
succeed means to get money, because with that all other good things can
be secured. Men tell us that the one thing to do is to promote and
protect the particular trade, or industry, or corporation in which we
have a share: the laws of trade will work out that survival of the
fittest which is the only real righteousness, and if we survive that
will prove that we are fit. Men tell us that all beyond this is
phantasy, dreaming, Sunday-school politics: there is nothing worth
living for except to get on in the world; and nothing at all worth
dying for, since the age of ideals is past.

It is past indeed for those who proclaim, or whisper, or in their hearts
believe, or in their lives obey, this black gospel. And what is to
follow? An age of cruel and bitter jealousies between sections and
classes; of hatted and strife between the Haves and the Have-nots; of
futile contests between parties which have kept their names and confused
their principles, so that no man may distinguish them except as the Ins
and Outs. An age of greedy privilege and sullen poverty, of blatant
luxury and curious envy, of rising palaces and vanishing homes, of
stupid frivolity and idiotic publicomania; in which four hundred gilded
fribbles give monkey-dinners and Louis XV. revels, while four million
ungilded gossips gape at them and read about them in the newspapers. An
age when princes of finance buy protection from the representatives of a
fierce democracy; when guardians of the savings which insure the lives
of the poor, use them as a surplus to pay for the extravagances of the
rich; and when men who have climbed above their fellows on golden
ladders, tremble at the crack of the blackmailer's whip and come down at
the call of an obscene newspaper. An age when the python of political
corruption casts its "rings" about the neck of proud cities and
sovereign States, and throttles honesty to silence and liberty to death.
It is such an age, dark, confused, shameful, that the sceptic and the
scorner must face, when they turn their backs upon those ancient shrines
where the flames of faith and integrity and devotion are flickering like
the deserted altar-fires of a forsaken worship.

But not for us who claim our heritage in blood and spirit from
Washington and the men who stood with him,--not for us of other tribes
and kindred who

    "Have found a fatherland upon this shore,"

and learned the meaning of manhood beneath the shelter of liberty,--not
for us, nor for our country, that dark apostasy, that dismal outlook! We
see the palladium of the American ideal--goddess of the just eye, the
unpolluted heart, the equal hand--standing as the image of Athene stood
above the upper streams of Simois:

"It stood, and sun and moonshine rained their light
  On the pure columns of its glen-built hall.
Backward and forward rolled the waves of fight
  Round Troy--but while this stood Troy could not fall."

We see the heroes of the present conflict, the men whose allegiance is
not to sections but to the whole people, the fearless champions of fair
play. We hear from the chair of Washington a brave and honest voice
which cries that our industrial problems must be solved not in the
interest of capital, nor of labor, but of the whole people. We believe
that the liberties which the heroes of old won with blood and sacrifice
are ours to keep with labor and service.

    "All that our fathers wrought With true prophetic thought, Must be

No privilege that encroaches upon those liberties is to be endured. No
lawless disorder that imperils them is to be sanctioned. No class that
disregards or invades them is to be tolerated.

There is a life that is worth living now, as it was worth living in the
former days, and that is the honest life, the useful life, the unselfish
life, cleansed by devotion to an ideal. There is a battle that is worth
fighting now, as it was worth fighting then, and that is the battle for
justice and equality. To make our city and our State free in fact as
well as in name; to break the rings that strangle real liberty, and to
keep them broken; to cleanse, so far as in our power lies, the fountains
of our national life from political, commercial, and social corruption;
to teach our sons and daughters, by precept and example, the honor of
serving such a country as America--that is work worthy of the finest
manhood and womanhood. The well born are those who are born to do that
work. The well bred are those who are bred to be proud of that work. The
well educated are those who see deepest into the meaning and the
necessity of that work. Nor shall their labor be for naught, nor the
reward of their sacrifice fail them. For high in the firmament of human
destiny are set the stars of faith in mankind, and unselfish courage,
and loyalty to the ideal; and while they shine, the Americanism of
Washington and the men who stood with him shall never, never die.


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