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glorious tribute has been paid here to-night-was learning, in the bright early morn of that career which promised to be so great and to do so much, those lessons of patriotism which enabled him, when cut down in the flower of youth, to meet even his ignominious death with marvellous nerve and firm confidence, with courage and patriotism.
And, Gentlemen, I believe that it is one glorious trait of the American press that during this struggle which has gone on now for years, this struggle for justice in Ireland, that the press of America has been true to the best inspirations of liberty; and I unhesitatingly say to England and to the English ministers, that if they would conform to the judgment of the civilized world they must abandon their course of intoleration and oppression, and must do justice to long oppressed Ireland. The press, the united press of Philadelphia, and of other great cities of the country, have done their part in promoting that work which has been going on among our people for the last few years to attain this end.
The press of Philadelphia aided in raising that magnificent fund of $50,000 which went from this side; and if it need be, it will put its hand to the plough and renew work. It was the remark of Mr. Gladstone, that looking at past events, they (England) could not cite a single witness in behalf of the cause which they represented. The American people began their contributions in 1847, to prevent the starvation of many of those people, and they continued their contributions to stop evictions, and to pay the landlords; they continued their contributions to promote that work of freedom and justice and home rule, for which we stand united, inflexible and immovable until it shall be finally accomplished. [Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT'S PRELUDE
(Speech of Charles Emory Smith at the thirteenth annual dinner of the New England Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, December 22, 1893. Mr. Smith, then President of the Society, delivered the usual introductory address of the presiding officer, immediately after exPresident Benjamin F. Harrison had spoken.]
HONORED GUESTS AND FELLOW-MEMBERS: I am sure that you have greatly enjoyed the brilliant and witty speech to which you have just listened—a speech which shows that our distinguished guest is as felicitous at the dinner-table as he is signally successful in other fields of oratory. But if you have deluded yourself with the idea that because of this change in the programme you are to escape the infliction of the usual address by the President of the Society, it is now my duty to undeceive you. (Laughter.] Even the keen reflections of General Harrison respecting the prepared impromptu speeches shall not deter us. The rest of us who are not as gifted as he is have expended too much midnight oil and sacrificed too much of the gray matter of the brain to lose our opportunity. You will see that we have anticipated his impromptu observations by carefully premeditating our impromptu reply. [Laughter.] Lord Beaconsfield said that Carlyle had reasons to speak civilly of Cromwell, for Cromwell would have hanged him. [Laughter.] General Harrison has been hanging the rest of us—yes, hanging and quartering us—though this is far from being the only reason for speaking civilly of him, and yet we must go on with the exhibition.
You have observed that on the programme, as arranged by the Committee, the first number is a prelude by the President and the last a hymn by the Society. The Committee evidently intended to begin and end with music. What particular solo they expect me to perform I am somewhat uncertain. But the truth is you have already had a part of the music and you will have the rest when I am done. For my part is only that of the leader in the old Puritan choir -to take up the tuning fork and pitch the key; and I do this when I say that we are assembled for the two hundred and seventy-third time slaughter] to commemorate the landing of the Pilgrims on Plymouth Rock. If any one doubts the correctness of that chronology, let him consult Brothers Shortridge and Lewis and Clark and Cornish, who have been with us from the beginning. [Laughter.] We have met to celebrate these fourfathers slaughter), as well as some others, and to glorify ourselves. If we had any doubts about the duty we owe our ancestors, we have no scruples about the satisfaction we take in their posterity. “My idea of firstrate poetry,” said Josh Billings, “is the kind of poetry that I would have writ.” So our idea of first-rate posterity is the kind of posterity we are. [Laughter.]
But while not forgetting the posterity, it is not forbidden at these dinners to make an occasional and casual allusion to the Pilgrim Fathers. Thackeray tells us of an ardent young lady who had a devotion of the same sort to “ Nicholas Nickleby." When she wanted instruction, she read “ Nicholas Nickleby.” When she wanted amusement, she read “ Nicholas Nickleby." When she had leisure, she read “Nicholas Nickleby.” When she was busy, she read “ Nicholas Nickleby.” When she was sick, she read “ Nicholas Nickleby," and when she got well, she read “ Nicholas Nickleby” over again. [Laughter.] We return with the same infrequent, inconstant and uncertain fidelity to the memory of the Pilgrim Fathers. If we seek the light persiflage and airy humor of the after-dinner spirit, we find an inexhaustible fountain in the quaint customs and odd conceits of the Pilgrim Fathers. If we seek the enkindling fire and the moral elevation of high principle and profound conviction and resolute courage, we find a never-ceasing inspiration in the unfaltering earnestness and imperishable deeds of the Pilgrim Fathers. [Applause.) After praying for all the rest of mankind, the good colored preacher closed up with the invocation “And, finally, O Lord! bless the people of the uninhabited portions of the globe.” [Laughter.] We are sometimes as comprehensive in our good-will as the colored brother; but to-night we fix our thoughts upon that more limited portion of mankind which belongs in nativity or ancestry to that more restricted part of the globe known as New England.
We are here to sing the praises of these sturdy people. They, too, sang-and sang with a fervor that was celebrated
in the memorable inscription on one of the pews of old Salem Church:
“Could poor King David but for once
To Salem Church repair,
Good Lord! how he would swear."
And it was not in Salem Church, either, that the Psalms were sung with the peculiar variations of which we have record. An enterprising establishment proposed to furnish all the hymn-books to a congregation not abundantly blessed with this world's goods, provided it might insert a little advertisement. The thrifty congregation in turn thought there would be no harm in binding up any proper announcement with Watt and Doddridge; but when they assembled on Christmas morning, they started back aghast as they found themselves singing,
“ Hark! The herald angels sing,
Beecham's Pills are just the thing;
Two for man and one for child."
But if the Pilgrim Fathers were not the sweetest warblers, they at least never wobbled. They always went direct to their mark. As Emerson said of Napoleon, they would shorten a straight line to get at a point. They faced the terrors of the New England northeast blast and starved in the wilderness in order that we might live in freedom. We have literally turned the tables on them and patiently endure the trying hardships of this festive board in order that their memories may not die in forgetfulness.
We can never forget the hardships which they were forced to endure, but at the same time we must recognize that they had some advantages over us. They escaped some of the inflictions to which we have been compelled to submit. They braved the wintry blast of Plymouth, but they never knew the everlasting wind of the United States Senate. [Laughter.] They slumbered under the long sermons of Cotton Mather, but they never dreamed of the fourteen consecutive hours of Nebraska Allen or Nevada Stewart. They battled with Armenian dogmas and Antinomian heresies, but they never experienced the exhilarating delights of the
Silver debate or throbbed under the rapturous and tumultuous emotions of a Tariff Schedule. [Laughter.]
They had their days of festivity. They observed the annual day of Thanksgiving with a reverent, and not infrequently with a jocund, spirit; but advanced as they were in many respects, they never reached that sublime moral elevation and that high state of civilization which enable us in our day to see that the only true way to observe Thanksgiving is to shut up the churches and revel in the spiritual glories of the flying wedge and the triumphant touchdown. [Laughter.] Their calendar had three great red-letter days of celebration: Commencement day, which expressed and emphasized the foremost place they gave to education in their civil and religious polity; Training or Muster day, which illustrated the spirit and the skill that gave them victory over the Indians and made them stand undaunted on Bunker Hill under Warren and Putnam until above the gleaming column of red-coats they could look into the whites of the enemies' eyes; and Election day, upon which, with its election sermon and its solemn choice of rulers, they acted out their high sense of patriotic duty to the Commonwealth. We are deeply concerned in these days about the debasement of the ballot-box. Perhaps we could find a panacea in the practice of our Pilgrim Fathers. They enacted a law that the right of suffrage should be limited to church members in good standing. Suppose we had such a law now, what a mighty revolution it would work either in exterminating fraud or in promoting piety! “Men and Brethren!” said the colored parson, two ways are open before you, the broad and narrow way which leads to perdition, and the straight and crooked way which leads to damnation.” [Laughter.] We have before us now the two ways of stuffed ballot-boxes and empty pews, and our problem is to change the stuffing from the ballot-boxes to the pews. I am not altogether sure which result would be accomplished; but it is quite clear that if the law of our Fathers did not destroy corruption in politics, it would at least kindle a fresh interest in the church. [Laughter.]
Gentlemen, it is with honest pride and fresh inspiration that we gather once a year to revive our enkindling story. The Santa Maria, with its antique form and its flying pen