[Oration delivered by Ben Skinner at the Hamilton Annual, 1801.]
Although made narrow by superstition and suppression, the ideals of our ancestors, when they settled on the broken shores of the Atlantic, were liberty and progress. Old customs steadily gave way before the pressure of new conditions, and with the closing scenes of the war that gave us a race problem, we find this people, after having shed rivers of blood in checking the wrongs of nearly four centuries, happy in the belief that "king or congress could no longer handle them as pawns on the bloody chess-board."
Slowly, but surely, through all these years had men become broader, wiser, more humane in their views, and to-day, bound by the ties of philanthropy - and national unity, we stand on an eminence that overlooks the range of nations. Proud of every attainment that has helped to make us what we are, we review the past with pleasure. Yet, carried so far from the scenes of bitter strife, we think little of the suffering, the misery, and death that these grand victories have cost. We feel that the right has conquered; and are content to know that from the first settlement to the present, these treasures have been handed into our keeping; while we, seeming to disregard the obligations that come with every advancement, give our support to a system that builds up a few to the sacrifice of many - a system which gives to a Vanderbilt wealth beyond the dream of avarice, and condemns the poor to poverty from which there is no escape but the grave.
Shall we be satisfied to continue on this plan, enjoying the labors of others, robbing the multitude of their sustenance, without waking to the fact that we owe to coming generations an untarnished addition to our heritage? No! Progressive action is demanded of us as much as it was of our fathers. Why should we be content to follow in the ways of a preceding generation, when the conditions that are beginning to present themselves call for less corrupt legislation, better regulated and better enforced laws?
We condemn slavery, where here within the memory of millions, it has been associated with the most gaudy ideas of universal liberty; even defended for years by a majority as right. With the advance of the country old customs have sunk into the background. The tendency of the nation is still forward, and just as popular opinion went against the mother country and slavery, so now is there a growing feeling against present legislation. Some pessimistic minds even evolve the theory that we are drifting toward inevitable destruction, that the signs of the times portend a greater disaster to us than has ever befallen a people.
Why need such thoughts disturb the peace or happiness of any sane American? We are the government. In our hands, by the right of suffrage, is placed the lever that regulates the movements of the nation. If we, allowing our minds to become overshadowed by the prejudice of former days, follow the example of the drunken engineer who guides his mighty steed to destruction, whose fault is it?
Those unbiased, noble minded men who framed our political foundation, foresaw the necessity of change with new conditions, and made due provision by which the destruction of life and property, that we have already suffered, could have been averted. The laws of the country are even more amenable, and are now, as they were then, in the hands of the people to model. Shall we model these laws to meet the new conditions that are presenting themselves? Can we afford to ignore the lessons that through the ages have accumulated in the experience of men, to violate the great historical laws that show the necessity of justice, and still expect to go on, by some inherent quality, surpassing anything that has been achieved, without paying the penalties of the ignorance of truth, or the wantonness of error.
It is one of the unpardonable vanities of the people of this country to hold that our land is so favored that, no matter what is done, we shall forever have advantages warranting us in perpetual profligacy. The present condition of affairs proves that something is wrong. The people do not array themselves in antagonism to fixed principles without a just cause. Discontent and corruption are abroad; political campaigns have become, instead of a test of principle and virtue, simply demoralizing battles, with money and whiskey for arms; and demagogues are reaping a golden harvest. Laws once well suited to the development of infant industries of a young and struggling nation have become oppressive to the people. Corporations have flourished and multiplied. The baby we are rocking has grown to be a six-footer, and now threatens the home that has nourished and reared him if we refuse to continue. Foreign capital finds here a lucrative lodging place, and our treasury walls sink under the weight of the enormous hoards of gold and silver. These are the grounds on which the intelligence of the country proclaims continued peace and prosperity; but have we any assurance of it?
Ours is, indeed, a grand heritage, and by the manhood of America it must be kept pure; but may we, from our neglect of civil duty, never be called upon, as others have been, to purify it with blood. Nor need we be; for the ballot, if rightly used, is mightier than swords and muskets. Before it, without march or siege, intemperance and corruption may be made to flee. Then when you vote, do it intelligently, honestly. Think of the brave and good men who gave up their lives that we might enjoy this heritage, and fling aside the veil that seems to obscure the true features of the questions which you and I, within ourselves, must settle.
Remember, too, "we should be content to be the greatest and happiest of the nations, and find out before it is too late, without other tumults and wars, that there is no people so mighty that they can be unjust with safety, - that there is no fault worse than wastefulness of the substance of the earth we inherit, and no crime so perilous as to wrong the poor."
[A toast responded to by H. E. Moore at a joint session of the Hamilton and Webster
societies, Saturday, March 28, 1891.]
A few days ago when I was informed that I must to-night respond to the toast of "Here's to the lonians," I was totally ignorant of the character of such a duty, but after many weary hours of thought I came to the conclusion that my mission lay in complimenting those of the fair sex whose good fortune it is to bear the proud title of Ionians.
When I had proceeded thus far the question arose, why should I, a little, insignificant, dried-up and-blown-away Hamilton, be chosen from such an august body as our society, to perform a duty of which I knew so little? The answers came, two in number. The first to suggest itself was that this was an act of courtesy which we, as a society, owed the Ionians in a meeting of this kind - an act which partook more of the nature of a duty than that of a pleasure - something which all recognized must be done, but something which no one was willing to undertake. In short, one of the little things which I, by virtue of my office, (that of "old odd jobs") must perform. Another thought was that this was a duty of a very delicate nature; one which required the greatest stability of character to perform with "fidelity and impartiality," and that I, as the only loyal Hamilton who is absolutely unbiased in his opinions, was chosen as alone adequate to the task. That I was chosen as the only man in college who could unblushingly stand up before such an enlightened assembly so well up in the ways of the world, and act as the mouth-piece for this, the Hamilton society, through which to pour forth its love to this, the Ionian society.
Now, after concerning myself thus far with matters of explanation and introduction, I think I may proceed at once to the point without any fear of being misunderstood. We regard the Ionians as our dear friends, and if I were to-night at home with my fellow Hamiltons in our little room up in the attic, I think I might be induced to lay aside formality and say that we love the lonians. We love them both collectively and individually. I can't say which way we love them most. Some of the boys seem to favor the individual plan, but for my part I think I shall continue to like them in the good old way just as one, a unit. I may have had individual affections for an Ionian once, and may have contemplated making the fact known to the world by taking her to a social, but if I did, she, upon consultation, thought it unwise, and so it had to be otherwise.
Now, laying the matter of fun aside, we do have a kindly regard for these, our lady friends, and there are many reasons why we should. They, like ourselves, occupy a lonely, uninviting room in the garret. They, like ourselves, are young in society work, and must ever bear all the scoffings which Webster divines and Alpha Beta preps are capable of heaping upon us. As I say, the Hamiltons and Ionians are united in a common defense, but we, the Hamiltons, are the stronger, and feel ourselves called upon to resent any unkindly treatment which our fair sisters may receive.
A cruel Webster once said, "The lonians are no parliamentarians, - of Robert's Rules they don't know beans." I am here to say that this is not true, and if anyone doubts my word just let him make a proposition to a fair Io. and see bow quick she will "lay the motion on the table" or "object to the consideration of the question." Perhaps she will 11 refer it to a committee" of one - her ma. There is another point of parliamentary law in which the lonians always excel, and that is on the "previous question" racket. They can always work that on a fellow to perfection. Now, granting that the rash statement of that Webster was true, of what consequence can it ever be? Their relations to the world are not such that they must become masters of parliamentary law. Until there is a radical change in the policy of our government none of the lonians will ever be called upon to stand up in the halls of congress and vie with men of ability over points of this kind. Their influence upon politics must ever be through the medium of their pens, and indirectly through their gentlemen friends, and this is the sphere for which they are now fitting themselves.
For purely literary ability, the Ionians stand where other societies, much more boastful and pretentious, cannot stand, and in the presence of their musical talent the other societies must hide their faces for shame. They have within themselves, as they have demonstrated on a previous occasion, the material out of which to make an exhibition that all must be proud of; an exhibition the good qualities of which others' must admire but cannot imitate.
Now, taking it altogether, we think the lonians are just about right, and when they shall have graduated and leave their beloved alma mater and the rest of us fellows, we think we can conscientiously recommend them to the world as subjects suitable for matrimony. That is to say, we hope and trust that by that time they will have gained sufficient knowledge to enable them to know a good thing when they see it.
Tell no more, ye men of Kansas,
Jerry Simpson wears no hose,
For those jokes on sockless Jerry
Follow one where'er he goes.
H. B. G.
A DEEP SEA ROMANCE.
One morning as the mermaid started out from her aqueous couch to milk the brindle sea-cow, she became enraptured with the scenes about and above her. The sunfish had not yet come out, and all over the vaulted dome of the sea, the starfishes twinkled and told of the dying night, and they themselves died with the story they told. As she watched, enchanted, the day broke. The sea-butterfly settled on the sea-anemone at her side; the sea-hare sought his dismal hiding place; the sea-lily waved in the sea breeze; the sea-lion roared in the distance, and hied him home, leaving the scene to gentler influences.
The mermaid was infatuated with the seascape. A new life seemed to have dawned upon her. She forgot the lowing of the patient sea-cow, except as it entered into the general harmony of the whole effect, and the plaintive bleating Of the sea-calf failed to arouse her. While thus she mused, ready for any sensational event, there drove up to the door a brilliant chariot, drawn by six prancing sea-horses. The noble-looking driver tightened the reins and the obedient sea-horses stopped. Now it was his turn to be enchanted. He gazed for several minutes straight upon the beautiful mermaid before him. She felt the warm blood mantling her cheeks, yet she could not resent the stranger's undisguised interest. Gently he approached her and laid his hand upon her waist tenderly. "I have found," said he, "the one creature for whom I have searched the sea from shore to shore. Fly with me to other seas." Overcome with the ecstasy of the moment, she allowed herself to be borne to the waiting chariot, and while all her little brothers and sisters, (the dirty-faced little sea-urchins,) looked on; while the sea-cow still lowed from behind the bars, and the sea-calf switched his tail to keep the sea-flies off, the mermaid eloped with a son of a sea-cook.
Did you ever see the student who is seeking an appointment on commencement day; who wants to teach the P. M. squads and take charge of classes when the professors are attending farmers' institutes? Well! that is the fellow we call the college jumping jack. We have seen the chap who wanted to be a U. G. sit in the class room like a bump on a log, and for three long, weary years smile at the professor's every joke, agree with him in all his statements, and hardly dare to call his soul his own. Of course it is all right to copy after our superiors, but it is refreshing to see a student who has ideas of his own and the nerve to express them; who, when he does not see the point to a joke, does not laugh, and who speaks out when he differs from the statements even of a professor. By all means follow good advice, but don't be a faculty jumping jack, - don't fold your arms and flop your legs and grin and bow whenever the string is pulled.
The professor is a person who may sit on the chapel rostrum during morning exercises; the student is a person who must hide a number on a chapel seat down in front. The professor is a man who has a chance to put down big O's when he asks questions; when the student asks questions, he has a chance to go to the Encyclopedia Brittanica and find out. The professors publish a weekly journal to support their own positions and views; but the students are not allowed to express their occasional ideas in like manner. A professor can deliver a lecture in chapel and the student must sit and listen; but when the student delivers his oration the professor can go and play lawn tennis.
But at the same time the student and professor are very closely related. The student has the greatest extension and the professor has the greatest intention. The student causes the man to become a professor, the professor causes the boy to become a student.
A new chemical compound has lately been discovered. It has been named "Egzactly," a name derived from the Anglo-Saxon root "just-so," meaning correct. When it is mixed with the compound "sufficient," it has a specific gravity of 10. In this state, it produces a pleasing, exhilarating sensation in the student.
The president is my guide, I shall not fail. He leadeth me in the paths of wisdom for his salary's sake. He maketh me to find a good boarding place. He giveth me ten cents on the pay-roll. He telleth my parents I am doing well. Yea, though I incur the displeasure of a professor, I shall not fear. Thy lectures and thy precepts they comfort me. Thou acquittest me in the presence of the faculty. Thou teachest me to walk uprightly in the paths of rectitude, lest I fail to get a girl for the social. Thou makest my grades not to suffer. Surely prosperity and board-bills shall follow me all the days of my life, and maybe I shall be a U. G. next June.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
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