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those who fashioned our nation needed his labors and guidance; and only so far as we commemorate his birth with a sincere recognition of this need can our commemoration be useful to the present generation.
It is, therefore, above all things, absolutely essential to an appropriately commemorative condition of mind that there should be no toleration of even the shade of a thought that what Washington did and said and wrote, in aid of the young American republic have become in the least outworn, or that in these later days of material advance and development they may be merely pleasantly recalled with a sort of affectionate veneration, and with a kind of indulgent and loftily courteous concession of the value of Washington’s example and precepts. These constitute the richest of all our crown jewels; and, if we disregard them or depreciate their value, we shall be no better than ‘‘the base Indian who threw a pearl away richer than all his tribe.’”
They are full of stimulation to do grand and noble things, and full of lessons enjoining loyal adherence to public duty. But they teach nothing more impressive and nothing more needful by way of recalling our countrymen to a faith which has become somewhat faint and obscured than the necessity to national beneficence and the people's happiness of the homely, simple, personal virtues that grow and thrive in the hearts of men who, with high intent, illustrate the goodness there is in human nature.
Three months before his inauguration as first President of the republic which he had done so much to create, Washington wrote a letter to Lafayette,” his warm friend and revolutionary ally, in which he expressed his unremitting desire to establish a general system of policy which, if pursued, would “ensure permanent felicity to the commonwealth”; and he added these words: “I think I see a path as clear and as direct as a ray of light, which leads to the attainment of that object. Nothing but harmony, honesty, industry, and frugality is necessary to make us a great and happy people. Happily, the present posture of affairs, and the prevailing disposition of my countrymen promise to coöperate in establishing those four great and essential pillars of public felicity.” It is impossible for us to be in accord with the spirit which should pervade this occasion if we fail to realize the momentous import of this declaration, and if we doubt its conclusiveness or its application to any stage of our national life, we are not in sympathy with a proper and improving observance of the birthday of George Washington. * Such considerations as these suggest the thought that this is a time for honest self-examination. The question presses upon us with a demand for reply that will not be denied: Who among us all, if our hearts are purged of misleading impulses and our minds freed from perverting pride, can be sure that today the posture of affairs and the prevailing disposition of our countrymen coöperate in the establishment and promotion of harmony, honesty, industry, and frugality?
When Washington wrote that nothing but these was necessary to make us a great and happy people, he had in mind the harmony of American brotherhood and unenvious good will, the honesty that insures against the betrayal of public trust and hates devious ways and conscienceless practices, the industry that recognizes in faithful work and intelligent endeavor abundant promise of well-earned competence and provident accumulation, and the frugality which outlaws waste and extravagant display as plunderers of thrift and promoters of covetous discontent.
The self-examination invited by this day's commemoration will be incomplete and superficial if we are not thereby forced to the confession that there are signs of the times which indicate a weakness and relaxation of our hold upon these saving virtues. When thus forewarned, it is the height of recreancy for us obstinately to close our eyes to the needs of the situation, and refuse admission to the thought that evil can overtake us. If we are to deserve security, and make good our claim to sensible, patriotic Americanism, we will carefully and dutifully take our bearings, and discover, if we can, how far wind and tide have carried us away from safe waters.
If we find that the wickedness of destructive agitators and the selfish depravity of demagogues have stirred up discontent and strife where there should be peace and harmony, and have arrayed against each other interests which should dwell together in hearty coöperation; if we find that the old standards of sturdy, uncompromising American honesty have
become so corroded and weakened by a sordid atmosphere that our people are hardly startled by crime in high places and shameful betrayals of trust everywhere; if we find a sadly prevalent disposition among us to turn from the highway of honorable industry into shorter crossroads leading to irresponsible and worthless ease; if we find that widespread wastefulness and extravagance have discredited the wholesome frugality which was once the pride of Americanism we should recall Washington's admonition that harmony, industry, and frugality are “essential pillars of public felicity,” and forthwith endeavor to change Our COUIrSe. To neglect this is not only to neglect the admonition of Washington, but to miss or neglect the conditions which our self-examination has made plain to us. These conditions demand something more from us than warmth and zest in the tribute we pay to Washington, and something more even than acceptance of his teachings, however reverent our acceptance may be. The sooner we reach a state of mind which keeps constantly before us, as a living, active, impelling force, the truth that our people, good or bad, harmonious or with daggers drawn, honest or unscrupulous, industrious or idle, constitute the source of our nation’s temperament and health, and that the traits and faults of our people must necessarily give quality and color to our national behavior, the sooner we shall anrreciate the importance of protecting this source wholesome contamination. And the sooner
all of us honestly acknowledge this to be an individual duty that cannot be shifted or evaded, and the more thoroughly we purge ourselves from influences that hinder its conscientious performance, the sooner will our country be regenerated and made secure by the saving power of good citizenship. It is our habit to affiliate with political parties. Happily, the strength and solidity of our institutions can safely withstand the utmost freedom and activity of political discussion so far as it involves the adoption of governmental policies or the enforcement of good administration. But they cannot withstand the frenzy of hate which seeks, under the guise of political earnestness, to blot out American brotherhood, and cunningly to persuade our people that a crusade of envy and malice is no more than a zealous insistence upon their manhood rights. Political parties are exceedingly human ; and they more easily fall before temptation than individuals, by so much as partisan success is the law of their life, and because their responsibility is impersonal. It is easily recalled that political organizations have been quite willing to utilize gusts of popular prejudice and resentment; and I believe they have been known, as a matter of shrewd management, to encourage voters to hope for some measure of relief from, economic abuses, and yet to “stand pat” on the day appointed for realization. We have fallen upon a time when it behooves every thoughtful citizen, whose political beliefs are based on reason and who cares enough for his manliness