The first privilege and the dearest delight of the home-returning one, is to salute them of his household; to give each dear member of the circle, which is his and whose he is, the greeting that wells from his heart as waters from full-fed springs; to give and to take again, by the speech of eye, lip, and hand, the pledge of a love that among all distractions never forgets, and through all the stress of life never grows cold; to renew the sense of his unity with them whose lives make with his one full chord in the great human harmony; to be and to feel one s self to be again at home, among his very own. And so we who have wandered outward, it may be far and long, turn with glad thankfulness to you who have kept the household fires the while, that your love has not forgotten us, and that your voices have called us back to be counted yet again in the census of our mother's children, on this day when she recollects all her own even from the beginning, and to stand again with you in the shelter of a father's house, undivided in heart, witnessing together our common birth-right.
But as we, responding to your gladly heard call, stand here among our native hills, whose sweet airs we first breathed and whose bird songs were the first we knew, amid the scenes where life was shaped and its first inspirations drawn, among our own dear people and near the many graves of others once and yet our own, our eyes and our hearts go searching for the faces that smiled on us long years ago, and we realize how many of them are dust; how many of those who made the past for us of that day have gone on to the great communion of saints. On this day dedicate to the historic memories of our dear home, our hearts go out with tender yearnings to those who made it home to us, who here made our joys, helped our hopes, smoothed our difficulties, and shared our griefs; who made and kept here in simple truth and steadfastness those institutions of religion, learning, and freedom under equal law which give to life all its due opportunities to work out for itself its divine significance and intent. And our recollecting love takes account of those of our mother's many sons whose graves in earth and sea are not with us; who heard their call for life elsewhere, and sleep where their night fell; some after the fullness of days in the good works of peace, well wrought; some who dared meet death on stricken fields for freedom and for country, for truth and righteousness' sake. How many are the names each heart recalls, how tender and how proud are the memories that enshrine them, how prayerful the love that clings to and follows them. May the blessed light perpetual shine on them. Whether they were to us father or mother, brother or sister, lover or friend, we who meet to take a reverent, thankful, backward look over a century's rounded tale of years, greet each other in loving consciousness of them, drawn to them as they still, please God, to us, "by the cords of a man;" by that deathless affection which binds unbrokenly the life that was and the life that is, to the life which, for us, is to come, and which for them has already dawned. And so we stand with them to-day, an unsundered host, before the God of our fathers in all their generations, while we recount what He hath wrought here where true and brave men and tender and patient women have toiled and spared not in His name; one with them in that deep and mystical, personal sense of which historic association and continuity are but phases and necessary incidents.
It is one of the sure marks of the divine in man, that he is always searching the divine mysteries, always seeking to understand the divine economies, the ways of God among men, and the operation of His methods with men. And we shall but follow a true instinct if from this great dividing point of time we look out broadly over the past life of our town with the purpose to see what has here been going on which is an essential and integral part of the world's progress, which has made life here a part of the world's rising life, and to learn those lessons of the past which are the hopes of the future repeating, in whatever new detail, the true life of the past. And to understand ourselves, we must also understand all that of which we are but a part; we must understand the significance of the type of which we are an example. If, as our fathers believed, and as we may, upon many equal and further proofs, also believe, the institutions of just and stable government, of freedom joined to responsibility, of equal laws and righteous order among men, are among the great instrumentalities which God is using in the slow forward progress and the gradual upward lift of the peoples of the whole earth, it is well for us, among the first acts of this day, and before we pass on to the interesting details of Waterford's history since it became a distinct and complete self-governing unit in the political structure of the state, to recall for a little what, in spirit and in practical operation and effect, the New England town is; what it signifies as an index of the spirit and purpose of those who made it, and as a reacting influence upon its makers; what it means as a factor in present tendency; what it stands for politically, intellectually, morally, industrially, and institutionally. For while the town is primarily and always a political organism, the political setting of life has such a clear and constant relation to all the objects and purposes of life, and to the methods by which they are pursued, that it is really an indistinguishable part of that life. It is the permanent condition within which life is lived, and furnishes in part both its constant inspiration and its limitations. The great and the ultimate phenomenon in human life is character. From it every human effort takes both energy and direction, and to it, in turn, contributes its developing influence. We are, therefore, to study every human institution in the light of that great fact; we are to consider it both as a product of character in those who framed it, and as a producer of character, and so a factor of destiny, in those who inherit it in full operation.
Without going into tedious historical detail, it may be said that the political institution known to us in its developed form as town government was, in its germ, the creation of men who well understood, or at least had the sure instinct, that political freedom is the necessary condition to and defense of intellectual, moral, spiritual, and industrial freedom. It was the work of men with a sense of both personal and collective responsibility; of men who realized that the possession of capacity and power meant accountability for their use; and that as capacity and power are individual possessions, and their exercise is an individual act, so is the responsibility individual; that as the necessary converse of this fundamental truth, the individual on whom responsibility rests must have a firm guarantee of such freedom of action as enables him truly and fully to carry his own burden to the account: a freedom limited only by the condition that it shall harm no one. And that guarantee of true and full personal freedom of each, balanced by due regard to the good of the whole, can exist only in the equal share of each in the political control and collective administration of those things which are the equal concern of all: the common weal. To those men the first conception, however indistinct, was that of duty to be done; and their conception of human right was rooted and grounded in the purpose and the effort to do that duty. Freedom was the right of men who sought duty and how to do it. It is never out of season for us to remember that the question of human rights can never arise except out of an intention to do a duty. The rights of man do not necessarily attach to mere existence. They inhere only in the power and the purpose to do; they presuppose a life intent upon its normal action. And it is well, on the other hand, even in our day, to consider how complete, under that high ideal, that freedom must needs be, save as it clashes with the same righteous freedom of other men. It must be physical or the man cannot act; and the man who cannot act has no duty and no responsibility. It must be intellectual; only the free mind can see and follow the light. It must be spiritual; only the free spirit can know and rightly obey its rightful Lord. It must be moral; only he who is free to choose can be held accountable for his motive and his deed. It must be political for only so can every other form of freedom be assured. And so always and everywhere the struggles of mankind for intellectual and spiritual freedom have been accompanied by, or have had their outcome in, the endeavor to conquer political freedom as the means and safeguard of all the rest.
Along with the sense of power and duty, of ability and responsibility, which demanded freedom as the necessary condition for the exercise of the one and for the fulfillment of the other, went another urgent conception or instinct which lies at the root of all true manliness and dignity in character, whether as regards one's proper self-respect, or true, considerate charity toward others: the instinct of self-help; the sense that he to whom God has given power and ability and discernment, and whom, so equipped, He has set in the midst of opportunity for their exercise, is thereby to win his way for himself; to develop and mature all the powers of his manhood and gain his divinely intended stature by fighting his battle for himself, and not to let them go to feeble waste and deadness by casting himself helpless on the care of others. Their conception of a man was that of one equipped with every necessary faculty and power, self-centered, self-poised, addressing himself to life purposeful, alert, independent, knowing no limit to his endeavor but the rights of others and no rightful lord but Him who made him. Such men needed and deserved freedom; that stable freedom of one equal and righteous law for all, that gives to each his due and full opportunity, and to each his perfect protection therein against every and all other.
Of such freedom for each and such safety for all, the self-government of free men in the township organization is a root institution. By some name and definitive form it will remain so long as freedom endures. Complete local self-government was the purpose, and free, open discussion, neighbor meeting neighbor on the level of equal right and equal power in the matters of common concern, was the root method of that institution. That primitive political institution and method, with all its included ideas and conceptions in full and vigorous holding, the Anglo-Saxon fathers of New England, and of our own Puritan town, brought and planted here. And it was not only the expression of their conception of political life, it was a method which expressed the habit of their minds in dealing with all affairs. Far as we can trace back into the mists of early history, our simple-hearted, sturdy Saxon ancestors, among the deep forests of northern Europe, or on the shores of its wild seas, practiced in some form the essential method of today; and they gradually developed its application to all matters, to the public concerns of religion as well as of state; and the great historic reformations, and Protestantism itself, are but the result of that recognition of the equal responsibility of each freeman for and of his share in the common welfare, and of his consequent equal right to be heard and to act therein, which cannot be limited to matters political, but necessarily extends to all things in which the lives of men have common duties and interests; a recognition which is the result of a permanent mental and moral habitude. Consequently, the town-meeting method has dominated the procedures of the Anglo-Saxon in all matters in which men have occasion to act together.
And since it is the outgrowth of those innate conceptions of the meanings and ends of life and of those habits of thought and feeling which cover the whole range of associated human activity, whether in fields political, religious, or material, we should naturally expect to see the same principles of organization and method governing the growth of the later and more complex political organizations required by the growth of the interests and the enlargement of the territory covered by those activities. And that is what we do see. As the towns unite to form states, in which direct, individual action in the town has to be replaced by the action of its duly chosen and accredited representatives, the town is not therefore nor thereby displaced nor replaced nor reduced in rank, but continues its primal functions; and the operations of the greater political organization are in form and spirit essentially only those of the town applied on a larger scale, under names significant of the larger interests it deals with. This New England of ours in the institutions of its political, its religious, and its intellectual life, in the management of its state affairs, of its church affairs, and of its schools, is but a vast example of the town-meeting principle and method, of every community governing itself, applied to everything with such variation of detail as preserves the principle but fits the conveniences of the particular interest dealt with.
And wherever the sons of New England have gone to set up civilized life and its institutions in this broad domain of ours, and within which they are everywhere found, they have carried and established in operation the conceptions, principles, and substantial methods in which they were bred and which have come down to them in a straight line from a time that dates back of written history; back of the time when Caesar's legions followed down the Rhine waters. They have planted throughout the great West the ideas and the institutions which are, and are to remain, the dominating and educating ideas and the true nurseries of those great hosts of foreign birth who have come among us to better their lives, and yet more to set their children upon better paths, but whose own experience of government elsewhere has been largely of the state's power of repression and of its excessive control and direction of the individual, and whose reactionary conception of liberty is too often that of unrestricted license as to themselves, with the liberty to dominate all over whom they can obtain power. And so, in our hopeful confidence in the providence of God that no seed of His sowing shall fail of its appointed harvest in His sure moving years, we may count New England ideas and institutions the salt that has saved and, by transforming and assimilating them, is to save the now many peoples of this land, and make them, at last, one people.
But while we rightly look out upon the coming glory of this large hope, and breathe in its heavenly courage, and thank God that by the hand of our fathers it has come to us to use for the health of our generation and the guidance of all those yet to come, by so much as we believe the whole future welfare of our country to hinge upon the right and unperverted development of New England ideas and institutions among our great new and as yet unassimilated immigrations, are we bound to criticise our own progress, test our own loyalty to those ideas, the faithfulness of our own administration of those institutions; and the more we rejoice in their fruitfulness in the past, are we carefully now to note by what fault of ours there has been or is like to be any failure in their further result for mankind, and to inquire what remedy is in our hand for any discovered defect or threatened failure of operation. And, doing this, we are also bound not to abate one jot of heart or hope, but to find our fault and our danger, if fault and danger there be, to the end that we may frankly, patiently, and steadfastly set ourselves to that full remedy for the one which is the only defense against the other. For God never allows us to escape consequences. They are the marks and eternal witnesses by which we first distinguish good and evil.
There is one fault to be recognized and corrected, and there is one danger to be foreseen and guarded against, each of so subtle character as to long escape attentive notice, yet of such magnitude that they are worthy the immediate and most serious consideration of every right-minded and patriotic man. The fault is this: We boast - and it is theoretically true - that ours is a freedom under law; that ours is a government of law and of equal law, with no element of personal will, passion, or caprice operative in it; that it is one law for all, bearing on all alike, giving equal justice and equal protection to each. Now a government of law and of equal law must be, not only a government of law equal and uniform in its intended and apparent operation, but equal, uniform, and impartial in its actual operation; in its execution. There is no government of law - no matter how well the law be framed - until the law is executed, until it is universally and uniformly operative; and there is no freedom, equal justice or protection under law, however rightly intended and adjusted, except as these are secured by the uniform and certain execution of law. And if in the execution of equal law there be any element of personal will, passion, or caprice in the executive, be he president, governor, or constable, state official, judge, or town officer, then so far the government of law fails, personal despotism is substituted, the law becomes but the tool of the personal will of its executive, and freedom under the law and protection by the law are destroyed. The operation of the law becomes uncertain and unequal, and is based not on the rights and safety of each and of all, but upon illegitimate considerations found in the personal interests and views of the person set to execute its provisions.
Now I venture to assert that at the present day we have an abundance of law. Our statute books are crowded with legislation touching the minutest details of every conceivable subject; and every session of our legislatures finds floods of proposed new laws and proposed changes in old ones. It is evident in all our states, as in our Congress, that as a people we believe in law; that is, in the efficacy of law in itself to accomplish things. We are leaving no detail of life untouched by statute. We are trying to make every current of life run in a channel marked out by statute law. Every imperfection in public affairs and everything that annoys or incommodes us in our neighbor's private affairs or in his standards of action we seek to remedy by a statute that commands or forbids something and somebody; and the constant failure of the statute to command or forbid effectually is witnessed by the constant amendment and change of the statutes. And what is the secret of the failure? It is double; it is over-legislation on the one hand, and the failure to execute law on the other.
The temptation to over-legislation in a democracy, confident in the efficacy of law, is very powerful. It is so easy for the voter to get the member from his town or district, and for whom he voted, to introduce a bill embodying his personal views, interests, and wishes, but disguised by being cast in a general form; and among the great number of members who are untrained and inexpert in legislation, it is so difficult for them to soundly discriminate among the thousands of cleverly drafted measures thrust upon them for careful study and judicious action. Unfortunately, electing a man to the legislature does not change his gifts nor give him sound wisdom; and many motives, influences, and pressures come in to confuse both the untrained mind and the unaccustomed conscience. And designing people, knowing these things, easily use the legislative power of the people, carelessly placed in such hands, to oppress, in the name of the law, those against whom their designs run. Every faddist seeks thereby to bind a whole people to follow his peculiar idea. The political leader seeks thereby to conciliate and to punish, and to consolidate his power. Opposing interests seek thereby to cripple each other and to take the people captive in the net of their own power. And there is no such irresponsible despot on earth as a careless democracy with the full legislative power. There are few things against which the people need more thoroughly to protect themselves than the legislative power of their own representatives.
But with all our faith in legislation as the cure for all ills and the infallible promoter of all righteousness, we fail wofully in getting our legislation fully, equally, and always executed. And both public opinion and official conscience are at fault in the matter. There seems to be an instinctive sense in the whole people that we have gone too far; that we have too many and too complicated laws upon too many subjects and in too much detail; that we are experimenting too much, and must go tenderly in the enforcement of so much law lest we do too much damage. And the man who is set to enforce and execute the law finds his task a difficult one from its multiplicity, and that it bears hardly, as he thinks, upon some number, great or small, whose future votes may seem to be important to his own political and official future, and whom, therefore, he would avoid offending. The people as a whole have a strong distaste to have any personal share in the enforcement of law; and, in committing it to proper officials, they wash their hands of any further and personal responsibility in respect thereof. They cease to be observant and critical of the administration of law by its officers. Those whose memory goes back to the conditions existing before the civil war will doubtless agree that its close marked a distinct change in the attitude of the public mind toward the conduct of public affairs. The long, exhausting strain of anxiety, grief, and loss then found glad relief; and most men turned thankfully to the sole care of their own concerns, willing to let who would care for those of the public. As after every war, there followed a period of weary indifference on the one part and an eager grasping of opportunity on the other, of demoralization and corruption which has by no means passed away, and which mere legislation fails to correct. And between the distaste of the people for any personal concern in the matter, their laxity in properly holding the officers of the law to account, and the many motives which lead the latter to avoid doing un-pleasant duty, the law fails to do the good and to prevent the evil which was expected of it; but instead of recognizing the main causes of its failure, - the attempt to make it do too much, and the lack of its thorough execution, - we go again and again to the legislatures to get the details amended. The truth seems to be that, in the general desire of both citizens and officials to avoid the disagreeable responsibility for the strict and complete execution of law, we are trying to pass laws so minute and so elaborate in detail that they will execute themselves and relieve us of all blame for unpleasant results to offenders. The object of our search seems to be an automatic, self-executing statute that relieves everybody of disagreeable responsibility. Certain it is that while it is perilously easy to get legislation of the most intricate and sweeping character, one of our most serious problems is the great and growing fault in the right execution of laws already made. A single illustration will describe the situation: At some time in the past one of the states of the Union passed a law relating to some matters of public order, of a stringent character, which threw upon the constabulary forces a large responsibility. The head of the police of one of the cities of that state asked the commissioners of police for their interpretation of the provisions of the law and for their instructions, for his guidance as to the extent to which it should be carried out by his force. With one exception, it was the expressed opinion of the members of the board that the recent changes in the law were ill-advised, overdone, and, while generally obnoxious to the many persons most affected thereby, were of doubtful utility to the community, and that they should be quietly ignored by those who were set to enforce them.
Such things cannot be without a general lowering of the tone of public morals, and a loss of confidence in and of respect for law and lawful order. Law that is not executed is ineffectual; it is the inevitable sanction of law which makes its real bond on many, perhaps most, consciences; ineffectual law brings the law and the law-making power itself into contempt, however active and ingenious it may be; and when law has lost its power, or exerts it reluctantly, unequally, irregularly, unfairly, and upon the impulse of uncertain motives, men who need its protection feel themselves justified and sometimes compelled to take the law into their own hands and apply its penalties of their own will and outside its orderly methods and safeguards; and so public passion, irregular violence, disorder, and spasmodic action take the place of calm, impartially considerate, careful public justice, and we go lapsing back toward that state of savagery in which the individual redresses his own wrongs by his own standards of judgment and his own methods of execution according to his power. The law which does not protect is replaced by personal revenges or by mob law, than which nothing can be more unjust, and in which nothing is certain but its unlawful and unrestrained cruelty. Under such conditions public sentiment, instead of being calm, sober, considerate, temperate, firm, and reliable, becomes excitable, irritable, explosive, violent, suspicious, unreasoning, and capricious, now absurdly and hysterically sympathetic and now inhumanly hard. It goes without saying that any failure or weakness in the operation of law invites crime and all wrong doing by the strong against the weak, and the vicious against the peaceable. But, moreover, our failure to secure the right execution of law not only cheats us of its intended effect, but we fail to learn what its full, actual effect would be. We are losing the invaluable educating force of law executed in the spirit of its conception.
And again, note how surely weakness in the execution of law encourages those whose interests lead them to ends and means outside the law, which nothing more completely and startlingly illustrates than the matter of course readiness with which a body of "strikers," for whatever primary cause, puts on the form of military organization, takes the field, and, defying law, makes war even to the death on those who are glad to do the work which they refuse for themselves, but forcibly prevent others from doing. Are we splitting into self-governing, narrow factions that are outside of and above the institutions of law and that are to war upon and conquer society and its institutions whenever these are not subservient to their demands? Are the ancient private wars of feudal chiefs and clans to be replaced by the private wars of unions upon non-union laborers. Cannot the free man give his labor as he pleases, except at the peril of his life and the peace of his family at the hands of those who dislike the terms for themselves? Is the right of free contract to be denied at the behest of men who seek to compel contracts by criminal force? Is a member of an organization more than a citizen or a man? There are more guises of anarchy than one; and the subtlest and most dangerous of all is that which wars upon the whole people in the name of a part of the people, and so confuses the minds of many, and secures sympathy when it ought to receive swift condemnation. And never was true, personal freedom and manly liberty, in pure exercise and thoroughly protected by the equal law which guards every one man as jealously as the many, more certainly in question and in peril than in these days when the organized forces of capital and labor alike seek to take the whole mastery over men, put them in obedient, hostile camps, and struggle for the control of society and its resources in their own interest. Can society so endure? Is the man to remain the free man, the eternal unit in life that God has made him, or is he to be but a cog in a machine? Will he assert himself and make the law alive for his protection, or will he faint-heartedly sink and fall? And if he sink, to what level of life shall he come?
And this brings us to the great danger, or to the form of that great danger, to true personal freedom and right responsibility and to high man-hood, which is, at least in part, the suggestion of those of foreign birth who have brought among us an alien political, social, and moral philosophy, which again is nourished by the feeble and irregular execution of the law and also by our exaggerated conception of the power and virtue of law to remedy all evils, inequalities, and misfortunes: I mean state socialism; state control of all resources, enterprises, and means and opportunities of employment; and the correlative of that, the state control of men in their enterprises and employments.
The genesis of this conception of political, industrial, and social life seems to be this: Men are everywhere becoming more and more conscious of the great facts of human interdependence; that the gifts of power and faculty in every one man somewhere find their counterpart and opportunity for exercise in those needs of other men which must be met and supplied by him, while he, again, has needs for the supply for which he is dependent on the powers and faculties of others. And so no man is sufficient to himself for a full and normal life. No man can live unto himself. God has set human life in one great order of mutual service, each serving the other with his gift, and each receiving as the reward therefor whatever needed service the other can render. The natural conception of life in such an order is divine in its simplicity and its harmony. Each, diligently using his own ability for the benefit of those who need its product, earns from them that which he needs for himself. Each is responsible to God for the right use of his gift; each is responsible for so using his gift for others as to rightly earn what help he needs from them. That is the true conception of responsibility, and of manly and friendly self-help in this world of our own necessities and those of others; and for life so conceived, full and protected liberty, personal freedom, and full accountability are the absolute necessary conditions.
And the difficulties of free political, industrial, and commercial life arise and grow only as men forget the first principle and element of that conception, that he who would be served must also serve; that he who would have his reward must first fairly earn it; and, instead of willingly submitting to this condition, seek to get service without giving service, to get a reward without earning it. And we are painfully aware that many men do so misconceive and misuse their freedom. Instead of truly and loyally serving the world's need they seek to take advantage of and exploit it for their own undue gain; though we must never lose sight of the fact that, even so, the economies of the world are so ordered that, except for absolute theft and criminal fraud, even extortionate gains cannot be had except for some degree of service rendered. And because so many misuse their liberty of individual enterprise and initiative to their own undue advantage and the disadvantage of others, and because the corrective power of the law is weak through its feeble execution and its impossible attempts, there are those who reason that the true corrective for that misuse is in the destruction of individual enterprise, the abolition of the free and unhindered exercise of personal talent and bent according to opportunity, and the assumption by the state of the ownership and control of the great fields of industry and endeavor, and the control of each man's labor therein.
This reasoning rests upon two radically false propositions. The one is, that because men can do, and ought to do freely of their ability, therefore it is right for other men - calling themselves the state, as if they were anything but associated men - to put all ability under compulsion, lest it be not exercised; that because all men can labor in some useful wise, and ought to so labor, all ought to be made slaves to the state, that none may escape labor; that your ability to serve makes my right to compel you to serve according to my notion of what that service ought to be. The second falsity is the idea that the true remedy for misused power is its restriction even in right use; that it is right, in order to prevent its wrong or unfair use by some, to limit and prevent its full, proper use by any; that to prevent wrong is the full and complete establishment of righteousness; that the high, divine possibilities of human nature are to be wrought out and the Kingdom of God established among men grown into the nature and the stature of Jesus Christ, or that men are to be brought into that nature and stature, by grinding it down to the low, dead level of an average of duty and of effort which shears it of its best and noblest examples of power and opportunity and throws away the highest gifts of God to men by preventing their full exercise and by withholding His rewards therefor. For we may not forget that such reward for duty done is, in its kind and its fullest degree, as truly of divine appointment and adjustment as is the labor which by divine intent, in answering some true need, went to earn it; and by so much as we prevent men from earning according to their full capacity, we destroy the primal, normal and divine incentive to their best effort. And by so much as we limit the normal activities and energies and talents of men, do we wholly prevent human development and progress. What society needs and what God manifestly intends us to learn in this great primary school of His, is, not that we shall have our power to act for this world's good taken away from us or parcelled out to us by any men under any name whatsoever, but that we shall learn to act fully, truly, rightly, divinely, and so wisely; that we shall learn by the disciplines of life, by our errors, by the punishments of our sins, by the sincere study of that which He has set us to do with Him for the regeneration of the world, for bringing all its forces into full, divine play, and not to limit, stunt, nor paralyze them. To teach and practice men in the right use of their powers, is the only remedy for their misuse. Collective self-government does not mean the rule over each by all the rest; of the despotism of a number over one, instead of the despotism of one over many. It means the securing to each one, and so to all, from and by the power of all, the full recognition of all his duties, and the liberty necessary to and the fullest reward for their perfect fulfilment.
We cannot avoid the divine law of full growth for all created life: leave to each man and to all men in every capacity the freedom and the opportunity to do all right things to the uttermost of their powers; limit and punish only their wrongdoing. Let the state do only that which men cannot effectively do in any individual or private capacity. For states were made for men, and not men for states. The state was made to allow men to develop in themselves full, perfect, and benign personal power; men were not made to be mere parts of its machine or the raw material of its mechanical life. And the selfishness which leads some men to abuse their gifts of power and freedom and opportunity is not cured by the substitution of that greater selfishness which would make each man the slave of all other men by putting his powers under the control, direction, and compulsory limitation of the state. Not so will the kingdom of good will and free righteousness come among men. Not by putting the aspiring, honest, forceful, enterprising, diligent, and masterful men at the compulsory service of the careless, vicious, designing, indolent, mental and moral incompetents of the world, will the latter be changed into the better characters of those whose services they would buy for a pittance by the compulsory power of the state.
These things are alien to every fibre of Anglo-Saxon birth. The lives of our Puritan fathers back to the earliest generation, their struggles through all history, and their heroic deaths on many a field, for the freedom of the whole man-hood, give their perpetual, unabating protest to the lie that the state, be it a king or a democracy, may own and rob the man. And we, sons of the men who first subdued our broad domain and conquered its political freedom to make it the fatherland and home of free men to the latest generation, need not forget nor let our sons forget by what late sacrifices an enslaved people have been made free in our time, and their feet put in the forward path where we must lead.
We speak and hear much of the problems of our time, as if they were new and strange and based otherwise than were the old. But it is not true. Our problems are the problems of every time since the fall, - the problems of honesty, self-help, and brotherly kindness, under whatever changing conditions these elements of character need be exercised.
The philosophy of socialism sums up its creed in two items: "From each according to his ability; to each according to his need." The first is true; the second is the gospel of laziness and theft, and makes a false appeal to weak sentiment and a merely emotional impulse of the charitable instinct of noble minds. The whole makes that most elusive and mischievous of all false things, the half truth but entire lie. The full and precise truth may read: From each according to his ability; to each according to his free use of that ability.
The instinct of our own people in all the past has been a sure one. New theories, plausibly dressed, may interest the mind; the misfortunes, even the guilty misfortunes, of multitudes who have come among us, may and must touch our pity and quicken our consciences to search out right remedies for themselves to apply; but we shall belie our history and ourselves, and forfeit the work given us to do for the world, when we drop out of our creed and our practice the article that each man is meant of God to be, according to the fullness of his gift, the free, willing helper of all the need of his time, but the bond servant of no form of power among men.
From a reverently thankful review of what the people of our blood have wrought in the past, and from a sober recognition of the conditions on whose solution hinge the already swinging doors of the mighty unknown where our children must enter and strive, let us take anew that resolution, worthy of our fathers, worthy of our own better part, and of that we would see in our children's children, which under God shall be the spring of our and their high and steadfast action and the clear, reviving light of a coming day: that not by idle shifts and weak devices that seek to avoid evils rather than cure them, will we guide the life of the present and strike the paths of the future; but by informing, quickening, and strengthening by full, free use, the best in us and in all men; the best of fiber, heart, and brain, the ideally human and the truly divine. This, if I read the life of man aright, is the great and true lesson of our home gathering, the true light from all the glories past. And from its grateful memories and in the pledge of our own steadfast purpose and hopeful courage and trust, we may face expectant toward the slow-growing light of the coming of our King unto His own. And so may we, the children of the fathers and mothers of this town, of whatever generation, rightfully and once again dedicate our-selves and this dear home of theirs and of ours, to the freedom of man, the free service of men and the greater glory of God.