Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

ish power and the snows of New Jersey, these great instances would have been wanting for the encouragement of men. But our Pilgrims belong to the same heroic company, and their example is not less precious. [Applause.)

Only a short time after the landing on Plymouth Rock, the great republican poet, John Milton, wrote his “Comus," so wonderful for beauty and truth. His nature was more refined than that of the Pilgrims, and yet it requires little effort of imagination to catch from one of them, or at least from their beloved pastor, the exquisite, almost angelic words at the close

* Mortals, who would follow me,
Love Virtue; she alone is free;
She can teach ye how to climb
Higher than the sphery chime.
Or if Virtue feeble were,
Heaven itself would stoop to her."

[At the conclusion of Senator Sumner's speech the audience arose and gave cheer upon cheer.]

THOMAS DEWITT TALMAGE

BEHOLD THE AMERICAN!

(Speech of Rev. Dr. T. DeWitt Talmage at the eighty-first annual dinner of the New England Society in the City of New York, December 22, 1886. The President of the Society, Judge Horace Russell, introduced Dr. Talmage to speak to the toast, Forefathers' Day."]

MR. PRESIDENT, AND ALL YOU GOOD NEW ENGLANDERS: If we leave to the evolutionists to guess where we came from and to the theologians to prophesy where we are going to, we still have left for consideration the fact that we are here; and we are here at an interesting time. Of all the centuries this is the best century, and of all the decades of the century this is the best decade, and of all the years of the decade this is the best year, and of all the months of the year this is the best month, and of all the nights of the month this is the best night. [Applause and laughter.] Many of these advantages we trace straight back to Forefathers' Day, about which I am to speak.

But I must not introduce a new habit into these New England dinners and confine myself to the one theme. For eighty-one years your speakers have been accustomed to make the toast announced the point from which they start, but to which they never return. [Laughter.] So I shall not stick to my text, but only be particular to have all I say my own, and not make the mistake of a minister whose sermon was a patchwork from a variety of authors, to whom he gave no credit. There was an intoxicated wag in the audience who had read about everything, and he announced the authors as the minister went on. The clergyman gave an extract without any credit to the author, and the man in

the audience cried out: “That's Jeremy Taylor.” The speaker went on and gave an extract from another author without credit for it, and the man in the audience said: “ That is John Wesley.” The minister gave an extract from another author without credit for it, and the man in the audience said: “ That is George Whitefield.” When the minister lost his patience and cried out, “Shut up, you old fool!” the man in the audience replied: “ That is your own.” (Laughter.]

Well, what about this Forefathers' Day? In Brooklyn they say the Landing of the Pilgrims was December the 21st; in New York you say it was December the 22d. You are both right. Not through the specious and artful reasoning you have sometimes indulged in, but by a little historical incident that seems to have escaped your attention. You see, the Forefathers landed in the morning of December the 21st, but about noon that day a pack of hungry wolves swept down the bleak American beach looking for a New England dinner (laughter), and a band of savages out for a tomahawk picnic hove in sight, and the Pilgrim Fathers thought it best for safety and warmth to go on board the Mayflower and pass the night. [Renewed laughter.] And during the night there came up a strong wind blowing off shore that swept the Mayflower from its moorings clear out to sea, and there was a prospect that our Forefathers, having escaped oppression in foreign lands, would yet go down under an oceanic tempest. But the next day they fortunately got control of their ship and steered her in, and the second time the Forefathers stepped ashore.

Brooklyn celebrated the first landing; New York the second landing. So I say Hail! Hail! to both celebrations, for one day, anyhow, could not do justice to such a subject; and I only wish I could have kissed the blarney stone of America, which is Plymouth Rock, so that I might have done justice to this subject. (Laughter and applause.] Ah, gentlemen, that Mayflower was the ark that floated the deluge of oppression, and Plymouth Rock was the Ararat on which it landed.

But let me say that these Forefathers were of no more importance than the Foremothers. [Applause.] As I understand it, there were eight of them—that is, four fathers

and four mothers from whom all these illustrious New Englanders descended. Now I was not born in New England, though far back my ancestors lived in Connecticut, and then crossed over to Long Island and there joined the Dutch, and that mixture of Yankee and Dutch makes royal blood. [Applause.] Neither is perfect without the other, the Yankee in a man's nature saying “Go ahead!” the Dutch in his blood saying, “ Be prudent while you do go ahead!” Some people do not understand why Long Island was stretched along parallel with all of the Connecticut coast. I have no doubt that it was so placed that the Dutch might watch the Yankees. [Laughter.]

But though not born in New England, in my boyhood I had New England schoolmaster, whom I shall never forget. He taught us our A, B, C's. What is that?” “I don't know, sir." That's A” (with a slap). “What is that?' “I don't know, sir.” [With a slap]—“That is B.” (Laughter.] I tell you, a boy that learned his letters in that way never forgot them; and if the boy was particularly dull, then this New England schoolmaster would take him over the knee, and then the boy got his information from both directions. [Renewed laughter.]

But all these things aside, no one sitting at these tables has higher admiration for the Pilgrim Fathers than I havethe men who believed in two great doctrines, which are the foundation of every religion that is worth anything: namely, the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of Man - these men of backbone and endowed with that great and magnificent attribute of stick-to-it-iveness. Macaulay said that no one ever sneered at the Puritans who had met them in halls of debate or crossed swords with them on the field of battle. [Applause.) They are sometimes defamed for their rigorous Sabbaths, but our danger is in the opposite direction of no Sabbaths at all. It is said that they destroyed witches. I wish that they had cleared them all out, for the world is full of witches yet, and if at all these tables there is a man who has not sometimes been bewitched, let him hold up his glass of ice-water. [Laughter.] It is said that these Forefathers carried religion into everything, and before a man kissed his wife he asked a blessing, and afterward said: "Having received another favor from the Lord,

let us return thanks.” [Laughter.] But our great need now is more religion in every-day life.

I think their plain diet had much to do with their ruggedness of nature. They had not as many good things to eat as we have, and they had better digestion. Now, all the evening some of our best men sit with an awful bad feeling at the pit of their stomach, and the food taken fails to assimilate, and in the agitated digestive organs the lamb and the cow lie down together and get up just as they have a mind to. (Laughter.] After dinner I sat down with my friend to talk. He had for many years been troubled with indigestion. I felt guilty when I insisted on his taking that last piece of lemon pie. I knew that pastry always made him crusty. I said to him: “I never felt better in all my life; how do you feel?” And putting one hand over one piece of lemon pie and the other hand over the other piece of lemon pie, he said: "I feel miserable.” Smaller varieties of food had the old Fathers, but it did them more good.

Still, take it all in all, I think the descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers are as good as their ancestors, and in many ways better. Children are apt to be an echo of their ancestors. We are apt to put a halo around the Forefathers, but I expect that at our age they were very much like ourselves. People are not wise when they long for the good old days. They say: “ Just think of the pride of people at this day! Just look at the ladies' hats!” [Laughter.] Why, there is nothing in the ladies' hats of to-day equal to the coal-scuttle hats a hundred years ago. They say: “ Just look at the way people dress their hair!"

Why, the extremest style of today will not equal the top-knots which our great-grandmothers wore, put up with high combs that we would have thought would have made our great-grandfathers die with laughter. The hair was lifted into a pyramid a foot high. On the top of that tower lay a white rose. Shoes of bespangled white kid, and heels two or three inches high. Grandfather went out to meet her on the floor with a coat of sky-blue silk and vest of white satin embroidered with gold lace, lace ruffles around his wrist and his hair flung in a queue. The great George Washington had his horse's hoofs blackened when about to appear on a parade, and writes to Europe ordering sent for the use of himself and

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »