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TANS. From "Speeches by Henry Cabot Lodge." Reprinted with permission. By HENRY CABOT LODGE.
E need the Puritan spirit in certain elements of our society. The number of men to whom inherited fortune brings education and command of time without effort on their part is ever increasing. Do they avail themselves fully of their opportunities, or are they too apt to pass their days in a vain search for distractions and a mournful regret that this country is not some other country? I am happy to believe that this is the very worst country in the world for an idler. But to the man with health, wealth, education, and unlimited command of time,-in other words, to the man who owes most to his country,-here are better opportunities and higher duties than anywhere else. I am not going to make the familiar plea that young men of education and wealth ought to perform their obvious duties as citizens. There has been plenty of sound argument and good advice offered on that score, and the proposition is well understood.
But this is not all. In this question lie deeper meanings. There is a very real danger that the growth of wealth here may end by producing a class grounded on mere money, and thence class feeling, a thing noxious, deadly, and utterly wrong in this country. It lies with the men of whom I have spoken to strangle this serpent at its birth. They cannot do this, however, unless they are in full sympathy with the American people and with American ideas; and to this sympathy they can never come by living in Europe, by mimicking foreign habits, by haunting well-appointed clubs,
or by studying our public affairs in the columns of a Saturday Review, home-made or imported. They must go to work. Philanthropy and public affairs need such men, because they can give what others cannot spare-time and money. There is a great field in politics. Before they enter it, let them take to themselves not only the high and self-respecting spirit of the Puritan, but also his fighting qualities, his dogged persistence, and another attribute for which he was not so conspicuous,-plenty of good nature. They will need all these weapons, for it is no primrose path. They must be prepared to meet not only the usual abuse, but also much and serious prejudice. They must not mind defeats and hard work. If their conception of duty differs from that of their accustomed friends and allies, they must not be surprised if some of those very friends mete out to them the harshest measure and deal them the sharpest blows.
Yet if they hold fast to two principles,-I care not under what party banner they serve,-if they will fearlessly do what in their own eyes and before their own conscience is right and brave and honorable; if, like the Puritans, they will do the work which comes to their hands with all their might, they will win the best success. They will win the regard and confidence of large bodies of their fellow-citizens, of those men by whose strong hands and active brains the republic is ever being raised higher, and this regard and confidence are the best and most valuable possessions that any American can ever hope to have. Let such men, then, go into politics, because they can give their time and energy to it, because they can do work worth
doing, and, above all, because they will thus become truer and better Americans.
I believe, Mr. President, that I am coming very close to what is called "Americanism," but of "Americanism" of the right sort we cannot have too much. Mere vaporing and boasting become a nation as little as a man. But honest, outspoken pride and faith in our country are infinitely better and more to be respected than the cultivated reserve which sets it down as ill-bred and in bad taste ever to refer to our country except by way of depreciation, criticism, or general negation. The Puritans did great work in the world because they believed most fervently in their cause, their country, and themselves. It is the same to-day. Without belief of this sort nothing worth doing is ever done.
We have a right to be proud of our vast material success, our national power and dignity, our advancing civilization, carrying freedom and education in its train. Most of all may we be proud of the magnanimity displayed by the American people at the close of the civil war, a noble generosity unparalleled in the history of nations. But to count our wealth and tell our numbers and rehearse our great deeds simply to boast of them is useless enough. We have a right to do it only when we listen to the solemn undertone which brings the message of great responsibilities,responsibilities far greater than the ordinary political and financial issues which are sure to find, sooner or later, a right settlement. Social questions are the questions of the present and the future for the American people. The race for wealth has opened a broad gap between rich and poor. There are thousands at
your gates toiling from sunrise to sunset to keep body and soul together, and the struggle is a hard and bitter one. The idle, the worthless, and the criminal form but a small element of the community; but there is a vast body of honest, God-fearing working men and women whose yoke is not easy and whose burden is far from light.
The destiny of the republic is in the welfare of its working men and women. We cannot push their troubles and cares into the background, and trust that all will come right in the end. Let us look to it that differences and inequalities of condition do not widen into ruin. It is most true that these differences cannot be rooted out, but they can be modified, and a great deal can be done to secure to every man the share of well-being and happiness to which his honesty, thrift, and ability entitle him. Legislation cannot change humanity nor alter the decrees of nature, but it can help the solution of these grave problems.
Practical measures are plentiful enough: the hours of labor; emigration from our over-crowded cities to the lands of the West-economical and energetic municipal governments; proper building laws; the rigid prevention of adulteration in the great staples of food; wise regulation of the railroads and other great corporations; the extirpation of race and class in politics; above all, every effort to secure to labor its fair and full share of the profits earned by the combination of labor and capital. Here are matters of great pith and moment, more important, more essential, more pressing, than any others. They must be met; they cannot be shirked or evaded.
The past is across the water; the future is here in
our keeping. We can do all that can be done to solve the social problems and fulfil the hopes of mankind. Failure would be a disaster unequaled in history. The first step to success is pride of country, simple, honest, frank, and ever present, and this is the Americanism that I would have. If we have this pride and faith we shall appreciate our mighty responsibilities. Then if we live up to them we shall keep the words "an American citizen" what they now are, the noblest title any man can bear.