It was for Columbus, when the right hour struck, forced and propelled by this fresh life, to reveal the land where these mew principles were to be brought, and where the awaited trial of the new civilization was to be made.
Columbus stood in his age as the pioneer of progress and achievement. The system of universal education is in our age the most prominent and salutary feature of the spirit of enlightenment, and it is peculiarly appropriate that the schools be made by the people the center of the days demonstration. Let the national flag float over every school-house in the country, and the exercises be such as shall impress upon our youth the patriotic duties of American citizenship.
England of late has been the elect nation, but now the star of empire is passing westward to this land. There is no question but that now and in the future this land is to be the elect nation under God for solving the problems of liberty, of the amelioration of mankind, and of the best Christian civilization.
If we claim heritage in Bacon, Shakespeare and Milton, we also acknowledge that it was for liberties guaranteed Englishmen by sacred charters our fathers triumphantly fought. While wisely rejecting throne and caste and privilege and an Established Church in their new-born state, they adopted the substance of English liberty and the body of English law.
A great revolution has happeneda revolution made, not by chopping and changing of power in any of the existing states, but by the appearance of a new state, of a new species, in a new part of the globe. It has made as great a change in all the relations and balances and gravitations of power as the appearance of a new planet would in the system of the solar world.
Columbus was an Abraham, for he went out not knowing whither he went. Columbus was a Moses, for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. Only the man of faith is the man of power. Only he who can see the invisible can do the impossible. God grant that to-day in that bark we may be wafted by Gods blessing, and may land at last on the shores of Heaven, where we shall sing a sweeter Te Deum than that which awoke the echoes on the soil of virgin America, or those amid the splendors of the court at Barcelona.
He, too, went out not knowing whither he went, and he never fully knew; he died under an utter misapprehension of the nature of the country he had visited and of the character of the discoveries he had made. He, too, realized the necessity of great faith, and of divine guidance. God went before Abraham, and before even Columbus, altho he was a very imperfect man, as truly as when by the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, He went before the children of Israel on their weary march.
Till the English-speaking and God-fearing colonists came there were none who dwelt on this continent who had thoughts worth keeping alive in the world. If all the ideas our forerunners had were utterly dropped out of history men would not miss them. These people lived after a fashion, but what did they stand for? What principles, what causes were incarnate in them? People who only live must die the death. It is Heavens law.
Columbus died in utter ignorance of the true nature of his discovery. He supposed he had found India, but never knew how strangely God had used him. So God piloted the fleet. The great discoverer, with all his heroic virtues, did not know whither he went. He sailed for the back door of Asia, and landed at the front door of America, and knew it not, He never settled the continent. Thus far and no farther, said the Lord. His providence was over all.
From the discovery of the New World, the mercantile spirit has been rapidly gaining upon its old antagonist; and the establishment upon these shores of our Republic, whose union was the immediate result of commercial necessities, whose independence found its original impulse in commercial oppression, and of whose Constitution the regulation of commerce was the first leading idea, may be regarded as the epoch at which the martial spirit finally lost its supremacy, which, it is believed and trusted, it can never again acquire.
His perseverance never failed; when rejected at Genoa, rejected at Venice, rejected in Portugal, delayed in England and delayed in Spain, he still persevered, amid all the trials of his immortal voyage until on the morning of the 12th of October, 1492, he saw the sand glistening on the shores of the New World, and in a little while heard one of the men on the Pinta call out, Land! land! and a new world was discovered.
Ours is the last experiment among the nations. Other nations may possibly arise and roar their future or make it, but it is in no undue spirit of self-importance that we say to-day that no other nation can arise with so great an inheritance and so great opportunities as the God of Nation has given us. Great danger lurks in our countrys rapid growth in material wealth. The rich are growing richer and the poor poorer, and all are selfish. I hope that the problem of our civilization may be solved without bloodshed.
All hail, Columbus, discoverer, dreamer, hero, and apostle! We here, of every race and country, recognize the horizon which bounded his vision and the infinite scope of his genius. The voice of gratitude and praise for all the blessings which have been showered upon mankind by his adventure is limited to no language, but is uttered in every tongue. Neither marble nor brass can fitly form his statue. Continents are his monument, and unnumbered millions present and to come, who enjoy in their liberties and their happiness the fruits of his faith, will reverently guard and preserve, from century to century, his name and fame.
The history of the connection of the Spaniards with the Indians of the New World shows that, far from being actuated by a desire for the spiritual welfare of the unfortunate red men, their sole purpose was to use them as instruments for gaining wealth, regardless of their health or even of their lives. History does not contain a blacker record than the dealings of the Spaniards with the Indians. Columbus himself set the example in Hayti, when he and his companions ruthlessly butchered the miserable savages simply to create terror. The pages of Las Casas are full of the records of deeds of which demons should be ashamed.
Without a parallel in history the name of Christopher Columbus stands alone, and like some great oak towering above the forest trees, so does he stand far in advance of his age with a work which is the most important since the birth of the Saviour of mankind. And I believe that as surely as men have been chosen by God for any work, so surely was he the chosen vessel to reveal the marvels of a New World to the wondering vision of the Old.
Force was the factor in the government of the world when Christ was born, and force was the source and exercise of authority both by Church and State when Columbus sailed from Palos. The Wise Men traveled from the East toward the West under the guidance of the Star of Bethlehem. The spirit of the equality of all men before God and the law moved westward from Calvary with its revolutionary influence upon old institutions, to the Atlantic Ocean. Columbus carried it westward across the seas.
He wrote the sacred name of Christ on his banner and gave Him all honor. He landed on the shores of this New World dressed in the resplendent robes of an admiral, with a sword in one hand and the banner of Christ in the other. The company fell upon their knees and praised God for His wonderful goodness. This New World was consecrated to God from the very moment of its first discovery. This country is a Christian land; the highest authority has recently pronounced it to be a Christian land, and it ought to be recognized as a Christian land, and the holy Sabbath be observed. Woe to us as a people if we lower our flag, if we dishonor our history, if we forsake our God!
We, therefore, on this anniversary of America, present the Public School as the proudest and noblest expression of the principle of enlightenment which Columbus grasped by faith. We uplift the system of free and universal education as the master-force which, under God, has been informing each of our generations with the peculiar truths of Americanism. America, therefore, gathers her sons around the schoolhouse to-day as the institution closest to the people, most characteristic of the people, and fullest of hope for the people. To-day Americas fifth century begins. The worlds twentieth century will soon be here. To the thirteen millions now in the American schools the command of the coming years belongs. We, the youth of America, who to-day unite to march as one army under the sacred flag, understand our duty. We pledge ourselves that the flag shall not be stained, and that America shall mean equal opportunity and justice for every citizen, and brotherhood for the world.
What are we here for? I answer, as a Christianas one who believes in God and his Christ, and therefore does not despair of man. We are here to build a Christian nation. Nothing less would vindicate the wisdom of the Creator in preparing such a country; nothing less vindicate the Providence that first settled these shores with English-speaking Christian men and women, by divine laws of life driving hence and away the people who would not use their gifts; nothing less than a Christian state makes life worth living for us or our children.
Columbus is always a good subject for meditation. His piety, his courage, his confidence in Providence and in himself, his ceaseless industry, his enterprise and indomitable self-control are strongly marked in every step of its romantic and extraordinary career. Had he been a man who could be turned from his high purpose by encouragements his name would be unknown to-day. His life and work are a monument to faith and determination. He felt within him the power to do, and he had the courage to dare.
Many blessings and advantages were bequeathed to all nations by the discoveries of the great captain: First, in securing large space for the multiplying millions of the Old World; second, in affording opportunity for experiments in government, unburdened by the evil traditions and prejudices which have so often defeated efforts toward political equality; and, third, in liberating the worlds thought and sympathies by showing how men of all creeds and conceits might dwell together in the same political household in perfect good will.
The advent of the United States as a Sixth Power in the world has made obsolete all the traditions and diplomacy that have known only the Five Great Powers of Europe. Six months have made the United States one of the greatest factors in the history of the future by making this Nation the disinterested champion of freedom in the world. The die is cast. There can be no retreat, no drawing back. It is demanded of our Government and people, that they shall take their place in the councils of the nations, and inaugurate and carry out, in the spirit of disinterestedness, a Christian policy and diplomacy, in accomplishing the extraordinary task providentially assigned to them.
We are to-day treading in the same steps that other historic republics have taken and regrettedluxury and extravagance attending upon wealth, general laxity in morality and religion, jealousies and discontents incident to poverty among the masses, bitter conflicts between political parties, abuse heaped upon public servants, favors shown to the most dangerous classes when they can be used to promote party interests. These were the reasons why the historic republics fell into degradation, disgrace, and death. The greatest danger threatening our republic to-day is promiscuous immigration, and from this giant evil flow many perils, chief among which is the wholesale placing of the sacred ballot in the hands of those who have as yet done nothing entitling them to American citizenship. More than one republic has been wrecked on this rock.
Among the thoughts suggested by this day the first is one of humiliation. As a people we are disposed to brag and boast and have an inordinate confidence in our powers. We are possessed with an idea that American ingenuity can accomplish anything. We regard our own things as far the best in the world, our own institutions as the most perfect. But if we come to view things with an unprejudiced eye and to pass judgment free from self-interest, we must say that, as a rule, our own things are not the best, the productions of our skilled labor are not always equal to those of older countries. The only things we have any shadow of reason to boast of are those things the production of which we have nothing to do with, namely, those things which are our natural resources and are the gift of God.
Before Columbus and the one hundred and twenty men embarked on board the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Nina, on their eventful voyage, what did they do? Took the Sacrament of our Lord Jesus Christ. Coming in sight of land, what song goes up from all three decks? Gloria in Excelsis. What did they first do stepping from shipboard to solid ground? All knelt in prayer, consecrating the New World to God. What did the Huguenots do, landing in the Carolinas; and the Hollanders, landing in New York; and the Puritans, landing in New England? With bent knees, uplifted faces and heaven-beseeching prayer, they took possession of this Continent for God. How did they open the First American Congress? With prayer in the name of Christ. Beside that, see what God has done for us. Open the map of our North American Continent, and see how the land was shaped for immeasurable prosperities. Behold the navigable rivers, greater and more numerous than those of any other land, running down to the sea in all directionsprophecy of large manufactures and easy commerce. Look at the great ranges of mountains, timbered with wealth on the tops and sides, and metaled with wealth underneath; 180,000 square miles of coal; 180.000 square miles of iron. The land so contoured that extreme weather seldom lasts more than three days. For the most of the year the climate is bracing, and favorable for brawn and brain. All fruits, all minerals, all harvests. Scenery which displays an autumnal pageantry which no other land pretends to rival. No South American earthquakes. No Scotch mists. No English fogs. No Egyptian plagues. No Germanic divisions. The happiest people on the earth are the people of the United States. The poor man has more chance, the industrious man more opportunity. How good God was to our fathers! How good God is to us and our children!