Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

nant, contrasting the past with the present, amid the dazzling and now vanishing splendors of the wondrous White City, has this year recalled the discovery of America. But the jewel is more precious than the casket. The speaking picture appeals to us more than its stately setting. And heroic as was the voyage of the Santa Maria across a trackless sea to an unknown continent, it was the nobler mission of the Mayflower to bring the priceless seeds of principle and liberty which have blossomed in the resplendent development and progress of our great free Republic. Conscience incarnate in Brewster and Bradford, in Winthrop and Winslow, smote Plymouth Rock; and from that hour there has poured forth from its rich fountain a perennial stream of intellectual and moral force which has flooded and fertilized a broad continent. The Puritan spirit was duty; the Puritan creed was conscience; the Puritan principle was individual freedom; the Puritan demand was organized liberty, guaranteed and regulated by law. [Applause.] That spirit is for to-day as much as for two centuries ago. It fired at Lexington the shot heard round the world, and it thundered down the ages in the Emancipation Proclamation. It lives for no narrow section and it is limited to no single class. The soul that accepts God and conscience and equal manhood has the Puritan spirit, whether he comes from Massachusetts or Virginia, from Vermont or Indiana; whether you call him Quaker or Catholic, disciple of Saint Nicholas or follower of Saint George. [Applause.] The Puritan did not pass away with his early struggles. He has changed his garb and his speech; he has advanced with the progress of the age; but in his fidelity to principle and his devotion to duty he lives to-day as truly as he lived in the days of the Puritan Revolution and the Puritan Pilgrimage. His spirit shines in the lofty teachings of Channing and in the unbending principles of Sumner, in the ripened wisdom of Emerson and in the rhythmical lessons of Longfellow. The courageous John Pym was not more resolute and penetrating in leading the great struggle in the Long Parliament than was George F. Edmunds in the Senate of the United States. And the intrepid and sagacious John Hampden, heroic in battle and supreme in council, wise, steadfast, and true, was but a prototype of Benjamin Harrison.

HERBERT SPENCER

THE GOSPEL OF RELAXATION

(Speech of Herbert Spencer at a dinner given in his honor in New York City, November 9, 1882. William M. Evarts presided.)

MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN:-Along with your kindness there comes to me a great unkindness from Fate; for now, that above all times in my life I need the full command of what powers of speech I possess, disturbed health so threatens to interfere with them, that I fear I shall often inadequately express myself. Any failure in my response you must please ascribe, in part at least, to a greatly disordered nervous system. Regarding you as representing Americans at large, I feel that the occasion is one on which arrears of thanks are due. I ought to begin with the time, some two and twenty years ago, when my highly valued friend, Professor Youmans, making efforts to diffuse my books here, interested on their behalf Messrs. Appleton, who have ever treated me so honorably and so handsomely; and I ought to detail from that time onward the various marks and acts of sympathy by which I have been encouraged in a struggle which was for many years disheartening.

But intimating thus briefly my general indebtedness to my numerous friends most of them unknown on this side of the Atlantic, I must name more especially the many attentions and proffered hospitalities met with during my late tour as well as, lastly and chiefly, this marked expression of the sympathies and good wishes which many of you have travelled so far to give at great cost of that time which is so precious to an American. I believe I may truly say that the better health which you have so cordially wished me will be in a measure furthered by the wish; since all pleasurable emotion is conducive to health, and as you will fully believe, the remembrance of this evening will ever continue to be a source of pleasurable emotion exceeded by few if any of my remembrances.

And now that I have thanked you sincerely though too briefly, I am going to find fault with you. Already in some remarks drawn from me respecting American affairs and American character, I have passed criticisms which have been accepted far more good-naturedly than I could reasonably have expected; and it seems strange that I should now again propose to transgress. However, the fault I have to comment upon is one which most will scarcely regard as a fault. It seems to me that in one respect Americans have diverged too widely from savages. I do not mean to say that they are in general unduly civilized. Throughout large parts of the population even in long-settled regions there is no excess of those virtues needed for the maintenance of social harmony. Especially out in the West men's dealings do not yet betray too much of the “sweetness and light” which we are told distinguish the cultured man from the barbarian; nevertheless there is a sense in which my assertion is true.

You know that the primitive man lacks power of application. Spurred by hunger, by danger or revenge he can exert himself energetically for a time, but his energy is spasmodic. Monotonous daily toil is impossible to him. It is otherwise with the more developed man. The stern discipline of social life has gradually increased the aptitude for persistent industry; until among us, and still more among you, work has become with many a passion. This contrast of nature is another aspect. The savage thinks only of present satisfactions and leaves future satisfactions uncared for. Contrariwise the American, eagerly pursuing a future good almost ignores what good the passing day offers him; and when the future good is gained, he neglects that while striving for some still remoter good.

What I have seen and heard during my stay among you has forced on me the belief that this slow change from habitual inertness to persistent activity has reached an extreme from which there must begin a counter-change—a reaction. Everywhere I have been struck with the number of faces

which told in strong lines of the burdens that had to be borne. I have been struck, too, with the large proportion of gray-haired men; and inquiries have brought out the fact that with you the hair commonly begins to turn some ten years earlier than with us. Moreover, in every circle I have met men who had themselves suffered from nervous collapse due to the stress of business, or named friends who had either killed themselves by overwork or had been permanently incapacitated or had wasted long periods in endeavors to recover health. I do but echo the opinion of all the observant persons I have spoken to that immense injury is being done by this high-pressure life—the physique is being undermined. That subtle thinker and poet whom you have lately had to mourn—Emerson,-says in his “ Essay on the Gentleman,” that the first requisite is that he shall be a good animal. The requisite is a general one—it extends to man, the father, the citizen. We hear a great deal about the “ vile body"; and many are encouraged by the phrase to transgress the laws of health. But Nature quietly suppresses those who treat thus disrespectfully one of her highest products and leaves the world to be peopled by the descendants of those who are not so foolish.

Beyond these immediate mischiefs, there are remoter mischiefs. Exclusive devotion to work has the result that amusements cease to please; and when relaxation becomes imperative, life becomes dreary from lack of its sole interest--the interest in business. The remark current in England that when the American travels, his aim is to do the greatest amount of sight-seeing in the shortest time, I find current here also; it is recognized that the satisfaction of getting on devours nearly all other satisfactions. When recently at Niagara, which gave us a whole week's pleasure, I learned from the landlord of the hotel that most Americans come one day and go away the next. Old Froissart, who said of the English of his day that“ they take their pleasures sadly after their fashion,” would doubtless, if he lived now, say of the Americans that “they take their pleasures hurriedly after their fashion.” In large measure with us, and still more with you, there is not that abandonment to the moment which is requisite for full enjoyment; and this abandonment is prevented by the ever-present sense of mul

titudinous responsibilities. So that beyond the serious physical mischief caused by overwork, there is the further mischief that it destroys what value there would otherwise be in the leisure part of life. Nor do the evils end here. There is the injury to posterity. Damaged constitutions reappear in their children and entail on them far more of ill than great fortunes yield them of good. When life has been duly rationalized by science, it will be seen that among a man's duties the care of the body is imperative not only out of regard for personal welfare, but also out of regard for descendants. His constitution will be considered as an entailed estate which he ought to pass on uninjured if not improved to those who follow; and it will be held that millions bequeathed by him will not compensate for feeble health and decreased ability to enjoy life.

Once more, there is the injury to fellow-citizens taking the shape of undue regard of competitors. I hear that a great trader among you deliberately endeavored to crush out everyone whose business competed with his own; and manifestly the man who, making himself a slave to accumulation, absorbs an inordinate share of the trade or profession he is engaged in, makes life harder for all others engaged in it and excludes from it many who might otherwise gain competencies. Thus, besides the egoistic motive, there are two altruistic motives which should deter from this excess in work.

The truth is there needs a revised ideal of life. Look back through the past, or look abroad through the present, and we find that the ideal of life is variable and depends on social conditions. Everyone knows that to be a successful warrior was the highest aim among all ancient peoples of note, as it is still among many barbarous peoples. When we remember that in the Norseman's heaven, the time was to be passed in daily battles with magical healing of wounds, we see how deeply rooted may become the conception that fighting is man's proper business and that industry is fit only for slaves and people of low degree. That is to say, when the chronic struggles of races necessitate perpetual wars there is evolved an ideal of life adapted to the requirements. We have changed all that in modern civilized societies, especially in England and still more in America. With the decline

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »