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ment, or the centralization of power, as it is sometimes termed. I am not discussing any question of this sort, but only explaining through what necessities we have come to possess a code or body of laws worthy of a great nation, and a system of effective administration corresponding to the public condition of both the statutes and the needs of their use.
THE DECLINE OF NEW ENGLAND.
N article with this startling heading appeared not long ago in
one of the papers or magazines. I forget the name of the writer and anything that was said on the subject. But the title looked ominous and threatening. It sounded like Mr. Venus and Silas Wegg with their ponderous history of “ The falling off of the Roosian Empire.” It brought before our minds the well-known words of that dearest of college Latin songs—Integer Vitæ,
“Quale portentum neque militaris
Daunias latis alit æsculetis,
Arida nutrix.” The way we look at these astounding things in life is to smile at first, to wonder next, and to fear last. Lecky says that the Emperors of Rome brought on the horrors of the Colosseum in this way. “Keep it before the people,” was their motto. Familiarity with blood and the gladiatorial death-conflicts in the arena gradually took away from the populace their earlier surprise.
It has been thus with us as a nation all through our first century of existence. The war of 1812, the bank panic of Jackson's time, the war with Mexico, the rise of the irrepressible conflict, the emancipation of the negro race, the inflation issue, the third term and Cæsarism, all these were smiled upon, wondered about and feared in turn in some direct or collateral way. As a people we Americans first smile at the wonderful, then reason about it, and at last begin to believe there is something in it. Dr. Edward Clarke, of Boston, in his paper on “ The building of a brain," brings this thought of the failure of our civilization to produce ruggedness very forcibly before us. He wonders where the strengthening element is to come from
to build into the worn-out interstices of our American civilization. After a hundred years of wear and tear, with our peculiar climate and habits of business, where is the great physical fertilizing element to come from?
Now when we come to look into this subject we must divide it off geographically and mathematically. First, we shut out of the question the North Pole and the South Pole, the Equator and Australia, India, South America and China. So then we must set off North America against Europe in point of geography, and the one hundred years of our history against, we will say, twenty-five hundred years of Europe, in point of duration of existence.
When we come to witness the history of civilization in Europe we find two elements there which are denied us in this country, the fact of a rugged peasantry and the perpetual presence of strong and rival
The first of these acts as a moral bone-dust to the soil; the second as a choice of grafts in an apple-orchard.
First comes the peasant element—the fine old yeomanry of Scott's stories and Shakespeare's plays. We see the powerful influence of this class in the history of Holland and of France. Look at Holland. It is a country as Hudibras says, which
“ Draws thirty feet of water." The natives have to fight and dyke for every cubic inch of ground. Wind-mills do the work of steam and running brooks. The people are clean and thrifty and contented. They have been drained off by countless wars and maritime exposures and yet they are the same Dutch to-day that they were when William the Silent led them against the hordes of Alva, or Admiral Van Tromp scoured the ocean as the ideal Flying Dutchman.
Look at France. Ever since the days of the invasion of Julius Cæsar—the couplet of Mother Goose's nursery rhyme has been true. When in French history has it not been true, that
“The King of France with forty thousand men
Marched up a hill and then marched down again.” War, war, war, revolution, insurrection, conscriptions, drafts, reigns of terror, communism. This has been the pattern of French history for the last two hundred years. Ever since Louis the Fourteenth's reign, France has been kept shaven of her bone and sinew, as a modern lawn is kept down and smooth by a garden mower. Yet after two reigns of terror with blood and guillotine, three empires, two kingdoms, and various republics, after a war which to the youth of France was like the death-plague of the first-born in Egypt, where there was not a house in which there was not one dead, and which to her system of finances was a blood-letting that to many a land would have been destruction,See! to-day young France arises with debt paid, and the army replenished, and her drowned-out provinces cared for, and the tears for lost Alsace and Lorraine all wiped away—ready again for any real or imagined insult to the deathless glory of France !
We read Victor Hugo and Erckmann-Chatrian in their descriptions of the vigorous peasant-life, and see why it is that with such vitals the recuperative power of France is so marvelously strong to-day.
So it has been with Ireland. Not content with the teeming millions of her own poor soil, she has furnished this country with diggers and hewers, with servants in our kitchens and laborers on our canals and railroads.
England, too, has had its own rugged Saxon graft upon the conquering Norman aristocracy. Deep in the heart of every election borough this aboriginal yeomanry is found. No doubt it is often ignorant and superstitious, but it is strong-hearted and stout-handed, and it “works" into the complex pattern of English social life.
But our country does not possess this yeoman element. It stands to-day free from the weakening element of slavery, but it has a great work before it to outdo its influence and find a healthful substitute for it. Greece, Rome and the Italian Republics of the middle ages, supplied the absence of peasantry with the Helot-class, serf or slave in fact or in name. And they fell each in turn before the rugged, unspoiled tribes of the confederate people.
And then, too, our own republic is not surrounded by strong and combative nationalities. There are no rival races bounding us in on every side, and coming about us, in the words of the Psalmist, as fire among the thorns.
What have we got ?
First come the dying-out red men. When we civilize them and make them clean and honest, and turn them into Christians and citizens, then the Indian in them is so far gone that the race as a race must inevitably disappear. What can they do but die?
Next we have the reconstructed negro. The gentlemanly old colonization societies thought the way to dispose of this negro population was to cart them away in ship-loads to Liberia. So this was tried until colored gentlemen preferred to whitewash and black boots and die of consumption in the cold United States to being princes and presidents and congressmen on the sunny slopes of the western coast of Africa. Then the Abolitionists and the onward march of history have alike made them veritable men and brethren, and while, we all rejoice that slavery is gone forever, we may have our own private speculations as to what will become of the race. It is a tender, emotional race, living rather on the superficial than the real outlook of things. remains to be seen how the creeping vine will stand when the trellis is taken away from it.
Then, of course, there is the Heathen Chinee. He washes and talks pigeon-English, and is happy in his half-and-half civilization, and like all his fathers and brethren, counts the day of his death and the entombment with his family as the true beginning of all things for him. Therefore he does not enter into our category of strong and rival nationalities. We naturally enough soon get through with him.
After this we come to our neighbors.
There is Colonial Canada, with quite an open door for speculation as to her future. There is the Empire of Russia across the straits from Alaska. The pleasures of imagination, scarcely of hope, can find on these isothermal lines, abundant capabilities for exercise. Then there are the quarrelsome republics of South America. When we look at them in these quarrels, the same feeling comes over our minds, in a larger and political way, which the author of Pilgrim's Progress had when, on seeing a drunken beggar, he piously exclaimed, “There goes John Bunyan but for the grace of God!" We feel towards them as the Jews felt towards all the other inhabitants of the land. They are only there because . Providence has in some way overlooked them; but we are the people, and can scarcely afford troubling ourselves very much about these creatures who are to die off, on any hypothesis, before very long.
Mexico, too, has been our Philistia, over which we have triumphed. It is our parade ground and has been to West Point what a colored mission was to a certain divinity school, as described by a negro official of the church—“A place for dem white young students to practice themselves onto."
Such then is the internal condition of our country, and these are
our neighbors. Peasantry we have none: strong rival nationalities around us are unknown. What now do we begin to see?
The decline of New England? Is it possible? It cannot be! But let us look at it a moment.
New England is not the oldest of our settlements in point of time - but because of its early start, and its thoroughness and compactness and formative influence in our national life, the expression “Down East" always seems to imply that that section is in some sense the old country of America and a kind of motherland. Perhaps we do not realize this on the Atlantic seaboard, but if once we cross the Mississippi and hear the constant references to the “ East," we can understand something of its historical character and consernative influence. If “Go West, young man !" is the motto for youth “Come East again” is the longing desire of the matured mind.
The homesick emigrant never looked over the ocean towards his country and fatherland more intently than the cultured man of maturity, when the money is made and the hours for reflection have arrived, craves to go back again to his Eastern home.
There are three causes at work at present which are showing their influence in the threatened decline of New England. These are the Western fever, the ambition to rise, and the defiance of the laws of health.
The Western fever removes, by instalments of whole generations the young men of New England. In many places in the very heart of Massachusetts it is as it was in Eden before the creation of man, when we read “there was not a man to till the ground.” Thirty miles inward from Worcester there are whole acres which sixty years ago sold for $22 an acre, which to-day can be had for $11, though railroads and telegraphs skirt the fields, and the fields themselves are excellent farm land. You find old men and hired farm laborers, but no yeomanry indigenous to the soil: it is an element unknown. The young men have gone West, moved by various impelling causes. Portsmouth, Newburyport, Bristol, Stonington, Nantucket, New Bedford, are already like the finished towns of the old world.
In religious matters, Maine and New Hampshire and parts of Massachusetts are like mission-fields at the West. To be successfully served with the Gospel, the time is soon coming when the decayed and feeble parish organization in rural districts must yield before the stronger and more helpful method of the missionary circuit. We may build