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The Boy of To-Day

During the last fifteen hundred years, — if you can count out the last hundred, — the civilization of the world has received its character and direction from the nations of Central and Western Europe, — Italy, France, Germany, and England. I say, “if you count out the last hundred years.” For, during the last century, there have been certain unmistakable signs, all the while growing stronger and clearer, that the leadership of the world’s civilization, which has changed hands many times in the past, is slowly changing hands again, and is passing away from the nations of the Old World, to this nation of the New World, this continent of the future. 

Hon. Mr. Gladstone declares that “America has a natural base for the greatest continuous empire ever established by man. And he predicts that “America will become the head-servant in the great household of the world, the employer of all employés, because her service will be the most and the ablest.” After his return to England from an extensive lecture tour through the United States, Matthew Arnold said, A republican form of govt is the only eventual form for the whole world, and America holds the future.” Another intelligent Englishman, one of the most traveled and most cultured, Hon Joseph Hatton, declares that “Ten years in the shiotryo flAmerica is half a century of Eurpean progress.” 

Our fathers crossed the ocean to inaugurate the new departure in human govt and human society which has accomplished this grand result. They left behind the traditions ,usages, and customs of the Old Warld, for they would have impeded their progress, and put into the new government and new society much of themselves, — much the genuine sturdy, almost divine manhood they themselves lived out, and the result has been that the Republic has gone forward with mighty stride, while men have waked, and while they have slept. A century of its national life is worth more, in practical value, than a thousand years in the days of Solomon, Alexander, and Charlemagne.

The republic stared on its national career with a population of three millions, six hundred thousand of whom were black slaves, even then a menace and a source of danger to the young nation. It numbers seventy million people to-day, who are made akin by the railway and the steamship, the telegraph and the telephone. They carry to the remotest village news from the uttermost parts oft he earth, with the latest wonders of human effort and invention, and the last word of art, science, and literature. 

It began its existence bankrupt in all save hope and energy, its towns and villages were in ashes, the flower of its young men had been slain in battle, or were mailed and crippled for life. It had neither an army, nor a navy, it lacked commerce, trae, and manufactures, there was not a market in the world open to it, it had nothing to sell, and neither money nor credit with which to buy. It had not a friend, nor a well-wisher among the nations of the earth, with the sole exception of France, whose friendship was based, in part, on the ope that her young ally would cripple her ancient enemy, England.

To-day our republic is the richest nation in the world, having long ago outstripped England in the acquisition of wealth, with its two thousand years of history and its thousand years of civilization. In 1889, the actual wealth of the Untied States was declared to be $61,459,000,000, exclusive of public property, and of three billions of private property invested and owned abroad. We are on the outer verge of an ocean of incomputable wealth which no one can calculate, because of the vagueness of the knowledge of our half-revealed resources. These are to prove a mighty factor in the ultimate supremacy of the Republic. Our grain-bearing lands when fully developed, will sustain and enrich a thousand million people. Half the gold and silver used by the world to-day is furnished by the United States. Iron ore is mined in twenty-three states, and our coal measures are simply inexhaustible. “The mining industries of our country exceed those of Great Britain, and are greate than those of all continental Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, Mexico, and the British colonies united.”

The pulse and pace of humanity have been so marvelously quickened in our country, that in all the developments that pertain the nineteenth century civilization it has surpassed all other nations. The first steamboat made its trial trip in 1807. the first railway for passenger travel was built in 1830. The first steamship crossed the Atlantic in 1838. The first telegram was sent in 1844. And now these wonderful inventions have become commonplace, by the side of the marvelous achievements of the American inventor and mechanic, who is spurred on mightily by the combined forces of steam and electricity. The Massachusetts  Bureau of Statistics of Labor for 1879 quotes Herbert Spencer as testifying that “Beyond question, in respect of mechanical appliances, the Americans are ahead of all nations.” Superiority of tops and machinery imply that we have the best mechanics in the world. We may, therefore, by a “scientific use of the imagination,” easily believe that the wonder-working mind and hand of our inventors and mechanics, aided by modern and future “mighty worship of the world.”

Add to this our immense territorial domain, which stretches from ocean to ocean, and from the great lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, and it is apparent that we have in America the physical basis of empire. Our geographical area could be carved into sixty states, each as large as England and Wales. Seventy million people could live in Texas, and be fed from its soil, and it would then be less densely people than Germany. Or, if they were located in the Dakotas, the population would not equal in compactness that of England, __ or if in Nex Mexico, that of Belgium. All this vast territory is unified by railways, rivers, and lakes. so that we travel easily and rapidly from one part of the country to the other.

Nor have the gains of the Republic been wholly material. It has provided for an early training of its children and youth that tells through life, and which aims to make of them solid men and women. We expend six times as much for education, per capita, as is spent in Europe, and the education given is no longer wholly literary. It comprehends physical, manual, and moral training, as well as literary, and the whole child is put to school. The drift of the nation is steadily towards universal compulsory education, for a republic is not safe, and cannot live, with an ignorant and an immoral constituency behind it. The phenomenal elevation of woman which the last half-century has witnessed, has given to civilization an added power of brain, spiritual insight, and moral force, which an organization of the humanities, to which the world has hitherto been a stranger.

Our country abounds in charitable, philanthropic, reformatory, and religious institutions. Churches as well as…



the young man, who has been dissipated. Every mother should therefore carefully guard her boy against the outside temptations he is sure to meet If because of indolence or prudery, or a disinclination to meddle in the matter, she neglects this I warn her that just across the threshold, at the corner of the street, at the grocery store, at the railroad station, there are teachers waiting for her son who will give him that education, which, in after years, he would give all he possesses to be rid of.

“Do you expect to train boys to the same standard of morality as girls?” I am asked. “It cannot be done. Boys will be boys, and young men will have their time of sewing wild oats.” And this is said as cavalierly, as if “wild  oats,” when sowed, never come to harvest. As Gold lives, “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap,” — “wild oats,” or whatever else. It is possible to train boys to the same standard of purity that is upheld for their sisters. It is not safe, and it is indeed cruel, to ignore this, when we consider the physical consequences and the moral debasement of a dissipated life.

Every boy should be trained to courtesy, self-possession, and a regard for the rights and wishes of others. Emerson says that good manners give the entrance to fortunes and palaces. And certain it is, that the best passport to society that a young man can have, next to a clean character, is the possession of fine manners. There is no reason why a boy should be allowed to wear his hat in the house, as he stands talking with this parents or elders. He should not be permitted to sit on the corner of a chair, rocking backwards and forwards while in company; to enter a parlor with soiled boots, to interrupt a conversation with remarks of his own, or to violate table etiquette in a way that disgusts those who are associated with him. All these and similar indications of bad manners are simply the result of neglect in his early training.

I remember very distinctly the kind of commercial men who were sent out by business houses, in the early time. They were utterly unlike the same class of men to-day. Then they were rude and boisterous, lacking in ordinary politeness, eagerly rushing for the best seats in the cars, and the best places at table, talking loudly, and sometimes profanely, to the annoyance of their fellow-travelers, and frequently appearing at hotels in a state of intoxication. To-day, unless you have had some experience you will hardly be able to tell a commercial man from any other web-bred traveler, for he is gentleman in his bearing. One of the head men of a great business house told me that he would as soon think of send out a man who was utterly ignorant of his business, as one who was ill-bred coarse, rude, or forgetful of polite manners. Good manners are essential in every department of life.

Every boy should have a special fitting for some aim in life. He should not be allowed to grow up in aimlessness and idleness, with the feeling that he can depend upon his parents or older brothers until some attractive employment shall turn up, with large pay for little work. He should be trained to some one employment for which he has capacity and inclination, and his own tastes should be consulted in the maters. Industry is a great means of grace. Very few of the convicts in our state prisons and penitentiaries have had an industrial training to fit them for life. They have come up in a haphazard way, picking up an honest living when ti was easy, and dropping into dishonesty on the first temptation. In short, the training of our boys should be toward manliness, — towards gentle-manliness; so that they will be tender to children, courteous to women, helpful to the unable, and quick to recognize those in need of assistance. They should be so strong morally as quickly to repel temptation; so trained in the habit of doing right that it will not be easy for them to do wrong.

Some one once asked Charles Sumner what bribes had been offered him in the course of his political career. “What bribe!” he replied. “No bribe has ever been offered me. I have never been solicited, with promise of payment, to pursue any course whatever. ” It could not have bene otherwise with Sumner. He as not a man to solicit temptation, or to dally with it, and people knew it. Usually, the people who are tempted are known to be in the market with principles to sell. But Charles Sumner, like some other great men of course country, had not a reputation of this kind.

Thomas Hughes, the author of “Tom Brown at Rugby,” has written a little book called “The Manliness of Chris.t” It would be an excellent thing if our young men became sufficiently interested in this book to read it. After describing the character of Christ, the author says, reverently, that he was “the first gentleman of the world,” and he suggest that Christ’s is the quality of manliness at which our boys should aim. Our nation, heterogenous in population, which interests springing up in various sections that are antagonistic to those of other parts of the country, with great wrongs that wait to be redressed, and great principles to be put in practice, has need of manly men to-day. An manly man is the noblest character this side of Infinite God. Manliness is made up of the aggregate of all noble human qualities; and if you multiply the by infinity, you have Infinite God. If the ranks of manly men can be increased among us, and then be supplemented by large numbers of womanly women — which now seems probably, — we need not fear for the  future of the nation. It will outride the fiercest storms it may encounter in its pathway, an dit will overcome the evil tendencies which are sure to manifest themselves. 

I do not take any stock in the croaking that I hear about me, and I am far from believing that the day is near at hand when the Republic shall give up the ghost. It is contrary to all the precedents of history that a nation shall go down in the first stage of its voyage, in sight of the port from which it took its departure. America carries earthly immortally within her. She is trying, on a grand and complicated scale, the great experiment of self-government, which all nations are yet to undertake for themselves, and she is going to succeed. Not in any near day of t the future shall the Atlantic surges wail her requires nor shall the dead nations that lie in the highway of the past crowd together to make room for our America, — larger than them all. The Mississippi valley shall not make her a grave, as has been predicted, nor will the Rocky Mountains yield granite for her monument. She is to live, and not die. Undoubtedly God will be so good to her that he will continue to discipline her, as He has in the past. She may be visited by calamity, and advanced by adversity. For God’s divines agent of help for nations, as for individuals, is frequently hindrance. But through all she shall slowly, but steadily, go on toward the great goal which the fathers saw, when they laid the foundations of the country in blood and tears, in agony and sacrifice, — the goal of a truly Christian Republic. She shall be the Messiah of nations, and shall draw after her all other kingdoms of the world, winning them to the same high destiny 0 as the moon draws to itself the great tides of water, and as the sun draws at its chariot wheels the vast planetary universe.


Source: Livermore, Mary Ashton Rice, The story of my life, or, The sunshine and shadow of seventy years … with hitherto unrecorded incidents and recollections of three years’ experience as an army nurse in the great Civil War, and reminiscences of twenty-five years’ experiences on the lecture platform … to which is added six of her most popular lectures … with portraits and one hundred and twenty engravings from designs by eminent artists … Hartford, Conn. A.D. Worthington & Co., 1897, 630-651.