The Boy of To-day
During the last fifteen hundred years, — if you 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 “American 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 government 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 history of America is half a century of European progress.”
Our fathers crossed the ocean to inaugurate the new departure in human government and human society which has accomplished this grand result. They left behind the traditions, usages, and customs of the Old World, for they would have impeded their progress, and put into the new government and new society much of themselves,– much of 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 started 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 of the 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 maimed and crippled for life. It had neither an army, nor a navy, it lacked commerce, trade, 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 hope 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 United 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 greater 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 to 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 interventions 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 re ahead of all nations.” Superiority of tools and machinery imply that we have the most 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 science, will make of the United States the future “mighty workshop 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 peopled than Germany. Or, if they were located in the Dakotas, the population would not equal in compactness that of England, — or if in New 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, with 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 schoolhouses are among the first buildings erected by pioneers in the far West, and every church is more or less a power for good, socially, morally, and spiritually. Humaneness is a distinguishing characteristic of the American people, who build and endow hospitals, found homes, establish asylums, and organize “Boards of Associated Charities,” with the large-hearted intent of reaching all classes of the unfortunate and defective. Organizations exist for the substitution of international arbitration to take the place of war, — for the conversion of prisons into moral reformatories, schools for fallen humanity, — for the suppression of intemperance, and the reformation of the inebriate,– for the enforcement of law, — for the improvement of towns and villages, — and for the bettering of society in all directions.
It cannot, however, be denied that grave perils beset our republic. An invasion of migrating peoples, outnumbering the Goths and Vandals that overran the south of Europe, has brought to our shores a host of undesirable aliens, who greatly complicate the problems with which the country has to deal. Unlike the earlier and desirable immigrants, who have helped the republic attain its present greatness, these hinder its development. They are discharged convicts, paupers, lunatics, imbeciles, persons suffering from loathsome and contagious diseases, incapables, illiterates, defective, contract laborers, who are smuggled hither to work for reduced wages, and who crowd out our native workingmen and women. Our jails, houses of correction, prisons, poorhouses, and insane asylums are crowded with these aliens.
Our cities are growing with frightful rapidity, and already include one-fourth of the population. All the dangerous and undesirable elements of the nineteenth century civilization concentrate in them. Here the power of the colossal liquor traffic is triumphant. With an immense capital invested in the business, and a compact organization behind it, it is a mighty menace to the Republic. The liquor saloons control the local politics of the cities, and place their interests and institutions in the hands of the lowest, vilest, and most unscrupulous demagogues, thus imperiling a civilization.
In the cities, the plans are made and executed which concentrate an enormous per cent. of the nation’s wealth in the hands of a few capitalists. Confronting that extreme of society which is made by the dangerously rich, is the other extreme made by the dangerously poor, who have lost heart and hope and ambition, and who live in pauperism, crime, filth, and disease. Their incapacity and animalism are transmitted to their children, who multiply rapidly, and become hereditary paupers, with vicious tendencies that are hard to stamp out. The chronic quarrel between capital and labor is continually fomented by unscrupulous agitators, who devote their lives to this wretched business, and who are satisfied if they can develop an outbreak of strikes and boycotts, riots and mobs. A general distrust of men and measures prevails among the working people, who are the bone and sinew of the nation, and they are dominated by a widespread discontent. The great need of the hour is moral conviction, — an organization of forces on the basis of the ten commandments and the golden rule, — a breath of God that shall clear our moral atmosphere, and tone our desponding and lethargic souls to institute in the land sobriety and honesty, purity and justice.
Into this condition of things the boy of to-day is born – the American boy. He comes into the world with a background of illustrious history behind him, such as no Greek nor Roman youth ever knew, and he confronts a national future of such promise, as is not revealed to the lad of any other nation. In the main, he is a brainy boy, with plenty of ability, pluck, and ambition, and long before he can express his convictions in language, he is stirred by the possibilities of his future. It is possible for the average American boy to accomplish almost anything, in the long run, at which he may aim with persistent, energetic, and unflagging purpose. Is he, like the majority of his countrymen, a worshiper of Mammon, and does he covet wealth? The conditions of American business and the average length of a business life are not favorable to his becoming a millionaire, honestly. And unless our millionaires have inherited their fortunes, or married them, — which is a favorite method of acquisition, — they must rest under suspicion of having gained them by equivocal methods, which a rigorous honesty would condemn.
But the average boy can become possessed of a handsome property honestly, by industry and economy, and by adding the moderate gains of one year to those of the next. By the time he has reached adult life, he may find himself the owner of a competence, enough for the inevitable “rainy days,” and for the comfort of his declining years, enough, if he is not careful, to ruin his children. Does he aim at something higher than this? Does he wish to become one of the great leaders of the world’s civilization, — an honest clergyman, always seen at the front, as was the white plume of Navarre on the battlefield? Does he desire to become a successful physician, ministering to the suffering, holding death in abeyance, and watch for in the sick room, as we long for the coming of the morning during the darkness of the night? Or, will he be an honest lawyer, whose aim is to settle quarrels, and not to foment them, and to bring about a condition of things where law and justice shall be synonymous terms?
It is possible for the American boy to attain a professional life, if he has the ability, even though he may lack the means, for nowhere in the world is more done for the education of young men than in our own country. He who has an ambition for a studious life and a desire for education and fails of them because of poverty, must be singularly lacking in knowledge of the helps that are provided for him, or in force of character necessary to secure them. The future is so full of promise to young men, and the various institutions of the country are so ready to help them, that I find it hard to forgive them, when they turn their backs upon the noble life that wooes them, and are content to plunge into the black waters of dissipation, and to wreck their future on the rocks of a dissolute life.
All boys enter life with appetites and passions common to humanity. These should be their servants, the driving-wheels of their higher natures, and never their masters. But not unfrequently, long before their moral natures are developed or their judgment formed, they stand by our side in the full maturity of passion and appetite, even before we ourselves are aware of it. To them come such temptations as their fathers and grandfathers did not know. They could walk the streets of our great cities without being enticed by ten thousand saloons, gambling hells, and houses of vice, made attractive by art and wealth, and all under the protection of law.
Then the boy of to-day comes into life with the genius of Anglo-Saxondom in his blood. Every nation has a genius of its own, as well as a specially besetting sin. The genius of Greece was a genius for art. So superbly developed was the art of Greece, that the remains of the Greek masters are the teachers of our art students to-day, when they have exhausted all modern instruction. The genius of Rome was for law, and whenever a student desires to be a legal scholar, who is more than a practitioner, he must begin his studies with Roman law, as the Roman code of law underlies the jurisprudence of the civilized world. The genius of the Hebrew people was for religion, and consequently they have given to the world three of its greatest religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Mohammedanism. The genius of Angle-Saxons is a genius for power. The Anglo-Saxon race seeks the control of all elements of power in the world. It expects to give laws, and not to accept them. It has come down through the ages so strong, as to have contempt for weak races, which it has trodden down and trodden out in its progress. Physiologists tell us that the test of strength is endurance, and this is the marked characteristic of Anglo-Saxons, physically and mentally, when they live wisely and well. They expect to control, to absorb, to conquer. It is their determination to be always uppermost, and this is a race trait. The Afro-American and the Indian belong to weak races, and they have found it hard to live among Anglo-Saxon people. Only as Americans have heard the divine voice sounding down through the centuries, “They that are strong oughtto bear the infirmities of the weak,” have they been allowed a chance to live, and be civilized in our midst.
The boy of to-day feels this regnant spirit in his nature, and is inclined very early in life to dictate, to rule, to take the bits between his teeth and go his own way. Theodore Parker used to say that that average American boy, from the time he was twelve until he was eighteen, was a barbarian, and when people disputed his statement, he would answer, “If you doubt it, ask their sisters.”
I am frequently entertained in homes, where I discover during the first fifteen minutes of my stay, that the whole house is under the control of a boy who is entering young manhood. Even the servants in the kitchen, whom his mother cannot manage, are obedient to his sway. If this tendency is left unchecked, and the boy is allowed to develop this domineering spirit and this impatience of restraint, it will be sure to hinder his progress and to make him and uncomfortable man in the future.
What shall we do with the boy of our household, and what shall we train him to do with himself? I hope no one will answer, as I have sometimes heard fathers say, “Oh, let him alone! Let him come up naturally; he will make blunders and mistakes, to be sure, but he will learn by them. Do not vex him with training and restraint, with objections and advice. His future will take care of itself.” I beg to remind you that we do not take this course with anything that we are accustomed to rear or to raise. If we are simply interested in the raising of corn and potatoes, we do not allow them to grow without our direction. We run the cultivator through them, we cut away weeds, we give them a chance for air, we nourish them with fertilizers. We will not allow cattle or poultry to grow as it may happen, if we are aiming to make a success in raising them. We give them the best possible surroundings, and restrain and educate all the way along. Shall the boy, who is higher and more valuable than they, be relieved of this educative and training process?
I have no doubt that most people will dispute me when I say that boys should have careful physical training. I am told again and again that this is not necessary, that boys get physical training themselves; that they run, and row and swim, and skate, and jump, and climb, and live out doors to the utmost of their bent; that they have unlimited appetites, and almost unlimited food for the gratification of them, and have such a capacity for storing away supplies that their mothers sometimes think their very bones must be hollow; that you cannot prevent them from putting a solid bar of sleep between night and day, so that they awake in the morning refreshed and newborn. “It is the girls, dear madam,” I am told, “who need physical training. Look out for them! They squeeze themselves into mummies with their glove-fitting corsets! They bandage their feet to the proportions of the Chinese woman; they weight themselves down with heavy skirts, and live so artificial a life that there are few healthy women in the country.”
While I am not ignorant of the physical dangers that beset our young women, nor indifferent to them, nor silent concerning them, I still contend that boys have need of careful physical training. The United States Navy takes into its service, annually, a large number of apprentice boys, who are sent all over the world, and taught to be thorough sailors. It has been the policy of the government, since the war, to educate the “blue jacket,” upon the principle that the more intelligent a man is the better sailor he is likely to become. There is no lack of candidates for these positions. The applicants must be fourteen years old, and not over eighteen. Hundreds of boys apply, but are rejected because they cannot pass the physical examination. Major Houston, one of the Marine Corps, and who was formerly in charge of the Navy Yard Barracks at Washington, D. C., is authority for the statement that one-fifth of all the boys examined are rejected on account of heart disease.
His first question to a boy who desires to enlist is, “Do you smoke?” The invariable response is, “No, sir!” But the tell-tale discoloration of the fingers at once shows the truth. The naval surgeons say that cigarette smoking by boys produces heart disease, and that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, the apprentice boys who are rejected after the physical examination are cigarette smokers. This is a remarkable statement, coming, as it does, from so high an authority, and based upon actual examinations going on month after month.
Dr. Albert H. Gihon, the senior medical officer of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, in 1881 made a report concerning the ill effects of tobacco upon growing boys. He says: “I have urged upon the superintendent of the Academy, as my last official utterance, the fact of the truth, of which five years’ experience as head officer of this institution has satisfied me,– that beyond all other things, the future health and usefulness of the lads educated at this naval school require the absolute interdiction of tobacco. Regulations against its use in any form cannot be too stringent. I have myself, several times, rejected candidates for admission into the Academy on account of defective vision, who confessed to the premature use of tobacco, one from the age of seven. Many candidates for admission are annually rejected for disturbances of the heart, who admit the use of tobacco. And during one year, ten in a thousand were rejected for functional lesions of the heart, caused by tobacco poisoning. Then the antidotal effect of tobacco makes the drinking of stimulating liquors the natural consequence of smoking. Therefore, in my opinion, as a sanitary officer, at whatever cost of vigilance, the use of tobacco should be rigidly interdicted at the Naval Academy.”
Dr. Seaver, of Yale College, who is a physician, a scientist, and professor of athletics, has recently published a remarkable budget of statistics. For eight years, he has been observing the effects of tobacco-smoking upon the bodies and minds of Yale students. He informs the public that the students who smoke are inferior in physical vigor and mental ability to those who do not; that they have less lung power, less chest capacity, less bodily weight, and are of less height, than the non-smokers. He says the muscular and nervous power of the smokers is noticeably less than that of the non-smoking students, and that the smoking habit is disadvantageous to scholarship. Of those students, who, within a given time, have received honorary appointments, only five per cent. were smokers. These Yale statistics should be carefully pondered by those who unhesitatingly declare that tobacco is harmless to boys, and growing young men.
The same lesson is taught by the reports of similar institutions in our country, and in the old world. Prohibition of tobacco exists in almost all government schools of all nations. Now when, day after day, we see little lads on the streets, and young boys in our public schools, both grammar and high, using tobacco in the form of cigars and cigarettes with the utmost freedom, and when we know that many are already addicted to the use of beer, cider, and other alcoholic beverages early in life, is there not need that parents and teachers should give careful early training to the physical culture of boys? I am not now discussing the use of tobacco by adult men. I am speaking entirely of the use of tobacco by boys. And when a scientific man of experience, like Dr. Hammond, the superb ex-Surgeon-General of the United States during the civil war, asserts positively that no young boy or growing young man can use tobacco without permanent injury, I am sure that no one will deny that I am correct, in asking for a better physical training of our boys than they are to-day receiving.
Neither is the boy of to-day receiving the careful moral home training to which he is entitled, — neither, indeed, are the girls. The fathers of families, at the present time, are not able to do much for the moral and home training of their children. They are absorbed in business and politics that so exhaust them, that their great need in the home is for rest and recuperation, and the early moral training of the children devolves mainly upon the mother. I am inclined to believe that she has always been their chief moral instructor. This is well, if the mother herself is not so absorbed in the outside pursuits of life as to leave her no time for this work, and if she does not take it for granted that her children’s teachers will attend to it. If her patience and wisdom equal her love, it may indeed be well. The unfortunate thing is that the moral training of the mother must be given in the house, and the average boy is an upsetting creature in the house, and interferes with the mother’s fine sense of fitness and order. The daughter is in the society of her mother much of the time, except when in school. She easily becomes her mother’s helper and companion, and enjoys reading aloud to her while she is sewing, is pleased to assist her in the washing of the fine china and silver, and is not unwilling to lend a hand in the preparation of desserts, and the manufacture of cake and pastry.
But a boy has a holy horror of being useful in the house. The sight of an empty wood-box or coal scuttle will remind him immediately of business of his own, that must be transacted in a hurry, and he shoots out of the houses as if he were a bomb projected from a bomb mortar. It is his delight to gallop bareback on a horse from morning till night, to ride the bicycle as a “scorcher,” at the risk of his neck, to run to a fir, to play base-ball from noon till night, with the thermometer ranging in the nineties,– and yet he will not confess to fatigue. But if he is called upon to split a few kindlings for a fire in the morning, or to pick up a few chips, he wilts, and if you did not know you would think he was past all recuperation. You send him to school immaculate in his new jacket and trousers, spotless as to his collar, crowned with a new cap, and shod in polished boots. You drop a kiss upon his bright upturned face as you bid him good-by, — for with all his annoying peculiarities, the boy of to-day is a loving and lovable little fellow, and the hearts of mothers and of women generally go out to him.
He comes home with jacket rent, trousers hopelessly demoralized, collar gone, or tucked into his pocket, his cap has been lost en route, and the lustre of his boots is dimmed. He has a black eye or a broken finger, and as you look at him in amazement, and wonder what calamity has befallen him, he bestows on you a nonchalant explanation: “He met a feller out here to whom he owed a lickin’!” You are left to guess the rest, which is that he got the licking he meant to give, and has been pretty nearly thrashed out of his boots. Sunday comes, and you find him full of expedients to avoid the Sunday-school and to dodge the church door, while his sister is as eager to put in an appearance at both places as he is reluctant. I do not wonder that the patience of others gives out, at times, altogether, and that their hearts give out also. It would not be very surprising if they thought favorably of the advice that Carlyle gave them. The old curmudgeon, who had no children of his own, was so sorely vexed at the ways of lads that he exclaimed, “Barrel up your boy babies when they are born, and keep them there till they are twenty-one, and don’t let the world see them until then.”
And yet there is in the heart of this troublesome lad a mighty passion of love for his mother, his baby sister, his lady teacher, or for any woman who takes an interest in him, and befriends him. How he delights to pour out the wealth of his little heart in passionate talk and caresses when he is alone with them! He des not want a spectator, or an auditor, not even his father. Going into the house of a neighbor one morning, and being bidden by the servant to go to the sewing-room where the mistress of the house was occupied,– as it was she whom I went to see, — I halted a moment at the door. She sat at the sewing-machine with her back toward me, and her little son, eight years old, had his arm about her neck, and was making love to her in the most approved fashion. “O mamma, I do love you so! and it isn’t because you are so pretty. Papa says you are the prettiest woman in town, and I think so too, but that isn’t what makes me love you; it is because you are so good to me. Don’t you think I try to do as well as I can?
And the mother said, “You are a great comfort to me, my son, and you are a very obedient little boy”
“Well, I try to be, mamma. I learned to swim before you told me I mustn’t go into the water, without permission, but I never swim now without asking your leave. And I can skate, and I ain’t one of the lubbers that skate into air-holes, but I don’t go on the ice now, until papa says it’s safe, because I promised you I wouldn’t. The boys laugh at me, and say I’m tied to my mother’s apron-strings, but I won’t do anything to make you worry.”
The mother drew him down to the level of her lips, and kissed hi, and then he burst forth more rapturously “Mamma, when I grow up I’m going to do everything for you! You shall take my arm and walk up the church steps to the pew, and I will buy a span of horses and take you out to ride every day, and you shan’t run a sewing-machine any more, or go into the kitchen to make pies. I love you so much, mamma, that if papa hadn’t married you, and you’d waited till I’d growed up, I should have married you myself.” And when he had said that, he had made the strongest declaration of love that his affectionate little heart could frame.
When the boys of to-day, and of all time, are young, they are largely in the hands of women, who have the fashioning and the shaping of them to a great extent. The father’s influence is more powerful later. It is a thousand pities that mothers lost patience, at times, over the rough and helter skelter ways of boys in early life. Do not confound disorderly habits with immortality. Do not say to the lad “You are the worst boy I ever knew.” Do not tell him that “he makes more trouble than all his sisters put together,” and refrain from exhorting him to “go out doors to play, and to stay there until he is called in.” If you cannot train him to order while in your care, remember that by and by he will enter some office, or engage in some business, where order is a necessity, and must be observed. And if all other means shall prove ineffectual, some bright, orderly girl will, in time, take him and his belongings into her care, for love of him, who may transform him into an orderly man, or – she may not. If she should fail, her experience would not be a new one, by any means.
Every boy should be trained to respect womanhood, and in our country this ought not to be difficult. For there are no men so courteous to women as American men, and there is no country in the world where women receive the kindness, courtesy, and attention that they do in America. When I was in berlin, at one time, I saw a husband and wife start out together on some errand, or to engage in some kind of work. The hands of both were filled with parcels and bundles, which the man carried so clumsily, that some one of them was constantly dropping. He bade his wife halt, and laying his packages at her feet, ran back into the house for a basket which would hold sixty pounds. He held it while she strapped it to her back, and then proceeded to pack it with their common belongings. A pair of heavy boots that had seen much service would not go into the basket, and rolled off when laid on top. So he brought out from the depts. Of his pocket a stout string, which he ran through the straps, and then slung them about her neck. With the odoriferous boots close under her nostrils, and loaded like a pack-mule, she ambled along with somewhat of the grace of that useful beast, but with less agility. After the husband had brought out his everlasting pipe, and lighted it, he walked on beside her in beatific content, enshrouded in smoke.
I have never met an American man so ungallant as to transform his wife into a beast of burden. I doubt if any of my audience have the acquaintance of an American woman whom it would be safe to say attempt to utilize in this German fashion.
Every boy should have a careful training in personal purity. No calamity can befall our young men comparable to that of being sodden in vice, and familiarized with coarse, sensual pleasures. The “fast” young man not only ruins his health, vitiates his appetite for higher pleasures, and makes it impossible for him to face the work or the business of the world with anything but aversion, but he sullies his manhood past all reparation. God forgives us our sins when we are penitent and ask for forgiveness, but the natural laws of life are such that nature seems to know know no forgiveness. There is no alchemy this side of eternity, that can bring back the early sweetness of life and character to 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 corer 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 goys, and young men will have their time of sewing wild oats.” And this is said as cavalierly, as if “wild oats,” when sowed, never came to harvest. As God lives, “whatsoevera man soweth,thatshall 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 not reason why a boy should be allowed to wear his hat in the house, as he stands talking with his 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 well-bred traveler, for he is a gentleman in his bearing. One of the head men of a great business house told me that he would as soon think of sending 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 to success in every department of life. They have come up in a haphazard way, picking up an honest living when it was easy, and dropping into dishonesty on the first temptation. In short, the training of our boys should be towards 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 bribes!” 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 been otherwise with Sumner. He was 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 our country, has not a reputation of this kind.
Thomas Hughes, the author of “Tom Brown at Rugby,” has written a little book called “The Manliness of Christ.” 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 suggests that Christ’s is the quality of manliness at which our boys should aim. Ur nation, heterogeneous in population, with 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. A 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 these 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 probable, — we need not fear for the future of the nation. It will outride the fiercest storms it may encounter in its pathway, and it 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 immortality 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 the future shall the Atlantic surges wail her requiem; 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 divinest agent of help for nations, as for individuals, is frequently hindrance. But through it 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, — 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.