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Chapter 5 - Pages 64-74

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the new one is association. The individual and individualism were the product of the first two centuries of our history. Socialism in its best sense, combination, organization, capital, leadership are the objectives towards which men and events are now moving. The individual is lost in the complex and dense movements of the great organism we call society, the municipality, the state. We are rapidly changing from the state of Democracy to that of Bureaucracy. There is a great danger in this tendency to sink the individual in the mass, to make of society a vast machine, which shall crush out the life forces from man and manhood. Instead of the town, has grown up the city; in place of the plain, simple ways of rural life, which tide men safely through the three-score years and ten of the Psalmist, we have the ambitious, rush and drive and nervous strain of these days, which compel men to retire from business at fifty, it may be rich in pocket, but bankrupt in heart and all vital energies, unfitted for the enjoyment of rapidly earned gains. Now it is not becoming in me to criticise or condemn these modern fashions which apply to the life of the social, moral and religious world, as well as to the world of business affairs, but I would call attention to the needs of a more conservative, a better way in some respects, which shall redound to the good of the New England town and town life, which we see so rapidly absorbed in that of the city.

I have come with a message to this good old corporation of Rehoboth, and to all others that may care to learn the lesson of the times, to hold on to the town, and the town organization, and all that shall check this terrific boom after wealth, power and centralization. It is a fact of alarming significance that our New England towns are on the wane in population and wealth, and that this diminution of forces in the country is the measure of their

 

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increase in cities, and centres of trade and power. The question arises, how long must this continue? When shall we begin to build again the waste places, and restore the vitality which has been drained into other and remote channels? Having come from the quarter millennial celebrations of two of the oldest towns of the Commonwealth, the one an inland town twenty-five miles from Boston —old Concord of Revolutionary and other fame—and the other, a town on the Atlantic—old Hingham—both of the Bay Colony, I wish to make some observations as to the perpetuation of the integrity and progress of these other sister municipalities. Both these towns are now prosperous, increasing by a small per cent, annually in population, and both are the homes of a happy and contented people, proud of their town histories and jealous of their rights and privileges. Wealth is flowing back from the cities to beautify and adorn the home in these country towns; lovely residences in modern style abound, and all the advantages of our best home, social, civil and religious life exist. Both have produced men of whom the towns and the Commonwealth are proud, and these have returned to testify to their allegiance to the grand training which the town public school, church, town meeting and other institutions have afforded them. Let us in the moments that remain look at some of the elements that will enter into the model town of 1900, for if we are to find such in any part of Christendom we must look for them on the foundations where the best civilization has found its supports and its best conditions of up-building.

The first thing needed in the reconstruction of our old towns is to place them abreast of their neighbors in all the educative and refining influences which modern society has to furnish. When people are seeking a home, nowadays, the first question raised relates to the character

 

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of the people in the community, the second as to the schools and churches. Now the facilities for a good education are not confined to our cities or larger communities. The best education may be and, often is obtainable in our country towns. Our very best colleges and seminaries are in what may be styled provincial communities. Norton, Wellesley, Amherst, Williamstown, South Hadley, Hanover, Middlebury, Andover, Wilbraham, Easthampton, East Greenwich, and other educational centres, are provincial towns, chiefly known to the world through the schools and colleges planted in their midst. Their quiet and retired situations have been found most favorable to study, and around the schools families have made homes for the education of their children.

Now New Rehoboth must learn the lesson so clearly taught by so many hundreds of our communities, and though she may not have a famed school or college, she may have as good a high school with as thorough a course of study as any other town in Massachusetts. My own experience here in your midst enables me to state, without fear of contradiction, that the talent, the scholarly ability, are here, and all that you need is the able teacher installed in your new high school, dedicated to-day, to. draw from these homes, far and near, the bright boys and girls who are hungry for a better education than the common school affords, and who had better for various reasons obtain it at home than spend time and money at boarding-schools away from home. I have spoken of the high school first, for it is really the foundation of good elementary schools. You should by all means have first class common schools, and the good school should always give way to the better the better to the best, and the last is the foe of all others. From primary education through the high school, Rehoboth may give her children as good,

 
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and even a better education than Boston, for here the opportunities for learning so much of nature, of natural sciences, of Yankee ingenuity, of robust and healthy character, are beyond compare with the mechanical, exciting and over-stimulating influences thrown about boyhood and girlhood in our cities. Given a hundred healthy children at five years of age, fifty of them to be brought up and educated in the city, and the other fifty to be brought up and educated in the country, and the product in industrious, honest citizens will be two to one in favor of the country-bred child.

Among other educational agencies which are helpful in creating and fostering intelligence in a community, are the lecture and the debating club, both of which have been the means of developing some of the finest minds of our state and country. The lecture platform is now one of the most instructive and popular of the people’s schools, and at a small cost, by the aid of the stereopticon and other means of illustration, the ends of the earth may be brought to the acquaintance of all the dwellers of our most isolated inland towns. For a few hundred dollars, courses of lectures can be established for the instruction and entertainment of old and young, which would be of equal value to the more famous courses of New York, Boston and Providence, and these make the people content with their own intellectual environment.

Of the well managed debating club, I cannot speak in too high praise. As a spur to study and research, and a means of personal culture, it has not its equal, and in the development of individual talent and the acquisition of mental power, it is a powerful auxiliary. Here men may measure themselves one with another, and the man of ‘mental power is readily measured by the standard of a more shallow .pretender. In such schools, N. P. Banks,

 

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Henry Wilson, Abraham Lincoln, Stephen A. Douglas, Senator Hoar, John D. Long, Gov. Robinson and hundreds of others, of state and national fame, took their first lessons and received their first encouragement to make the most of life and its opportunities. One of the valuable results of well arranged courses of public lectures is the instruction of the people on social and economic questions, concerning which there is such wide divergence of popular views and consequent misapprehension, distrust and conflict, not only of opinion, but of action, as are now so remarkably displayed in all parts of our land and the world. The war now waging in so many places between capital and labor is as unnatural and as cruel as the civil war of 1861—65. It is equally unreasonable and unnecessary, and would not have been precipitated, to the great loss of the wage-earners and the destruction of the very capital that encourages and Sustains labor, had it not been for the ignorance or misguidance of those who are seeking to be benefited by strikes, boycotts and other labor-saving machines, too often engines of oppression in the hands of Jesus as engineers. The press, the platform and the pulpit must in such times be honest, earnest and outspoken in their voices of intelligent instruction for the people; must be calm and dispassionate, that they may allay the excitements and passions of men, and must educate the people into the true philosophy of labor, and help men to solve the problems which beset their daily lives.

And here, also, the public library enters as a factor to mould public opinion and direct to wisest forms of action. History is at hand, with her lessons from all the past, to instruct the seeker after truth. ‘Tis greatly wise to talk with the experiences of men and nations, and if we would avoid their faults and follies, we must enquire concerning their causes and their consequences. Biography lends us wonder-

 

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ful assistance in showing how the great men of the world acquired greatness; the wise, wisdom; the strong; strength; the virtuous, virtue; and the pure in heart, the Kingdom of God. Philosophy becomes a light to our path. By her guidance we may sit at the feet of Plato in the Academy, and walk with Aristotle under the olives. Bacon reveals to us his inductive methods, Franklin chains the lightning for our use, Spencer explains to us the movements of our inner thoughts, and Darwin and Agassiz tell us of the grand laws which govern all development in the natural world around us, leading up to the spiritual world above us. Science unfolds the structure of the atoms in the sunbeam and resolves star dust into suns and systems. Fiction shows us the semblance of real life and in this mirror, as face answers to face in water, so the human heart is made an object lesson to teach the passions, the purposes and the resultants of living. Poetry, the handmaid of fiction, and the companion of Art, gives us songs in the night of our sorrows, comfort in the evening hour of trials, cheer and strength in the mid-day heat and toil, and a sunrise glow of hope and promise to the opening life of man. Would you know men, study books; would you know books, study men. Each study is the complement of the other. Would you find solace, without satiety, find it in the pages of a good book; do you seek a real friendship with a friend always faithful and at your service, it is found in the silent communion of kindred souls in literature.

This library which you have opened may be made a mine of wealth to this community, and the youth of the town should learn early to find within it the precious ore. The catalogue of your shelves shows how wisely the trustees have made their selections from the multitude of good books of the day, and I am sure that the nucleus

 

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already formed will gather to itself from time to time new additions, so that from this beginning you shall have a large storehouse from which the people of Rehoboth shall draw in all the future years.

Old New England was an agricultural section and the farm was the place where centered hope, health, happiness. To-day New England is a workship, a storehouse, and the exodus is so strong towards the cities that the babies in the cradle show an unwonted restlessness to be clad in hat and boots and be off for the town. This mania is encouraged by the early education of the child and the conditions which surround him. The home, it may be, into which he is born is unattractive, and its surroundings contain no element of beauty. He finds no attractions at the village, no good schools, no library, no social life which interests him. He goes to the city and his eye and mind are at once drawn to the many objects which attract and hold the youthful attention. On his return the dull, hard routine of farm life becomes almost hateful to him, and he longs for the day when he will be old enough to leave the parental roof for the more seductive outward charms of the city. Elegant houses, gay equipages, fine dresses, the many prizes of a mercantile life, allure and entice the youth from the quiet country life to the noise and excitement of the city. In the great lottery of business, trade, exchange, the lad sees only the one successful winner of the prize, and not the ninety and nine who draw the blanks or something worse. We are fast coming upon a time, however, when this wholesale departure from the good old ways of the grandfathers will be checked by a new departure, taken in returning to the safer but more conservative pursuits of rural life, where every man is an independent freeman, earning while producing, saving his honest earnings against the rainy days of life, and never

 

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puzzling his brain over the speculative manipulations of the stock market. During a conversation the other day with a gentleman who has attained moderate success in business in Boston, and who has figured heavily in Democratic politics, I asked the question, how he regarded city life as compared with that of the country? His reply was significant: "The great mistake of my life was in leaving the old farm my boyhood’s home and I am looking forward to the time when I shall return to it."

Now in our model town of the future the boys and girls, the brightest and handsomest of them at least, are to stay at home and care for the varied interests which are to grow up and flourish by their enterprise and industry. Labor-saving machines have taken the hard drudgery from all forms of manual toil. Farming, gardening, the culture of small fruits, silk culture, dairies, the making of honey, fine needle work, painting, flower culture, wood carving, the manufacture of jewelry, and all forms of ornament suitable for woman’s labor-—these and a multitude of other occupations will engage the attention and employ the skilled labor of the men and women of the year 1900. As a foretaste of the good time coming when woman’s labor shall be found in the healthful occupation of our out door life of New England, in a climate unexcelled for health and rigor the wide world over, I may refer to the fact that women are now successfully cultivating the orange in Florida, the grape and the silkworm in California, small fruits in the Central West, and managing successful cattle ranches in Montana. In the Rehoboth that is to be, under the influences of Farmers’ Clubs, Rural Improvement Associations, and individual and town corporations, we are to have well cultivated farms, the old forests well protected, excellent and well shaded roads, beautiful groves, lowlands well drained, Palmer’s River

 

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and your ponds stocked with fish, meadows yielding three tons of good timothy to the acre, and blooded cattle grazing over these hilly pastures. Fruits and flowers will be found in abundance at every home, and each family shall sit under its own vine and elm tree. Arbor Day will be celebrated annually, and Art will come to Nature’s aid in beautifying this varied landscape. The churches and schools will be made as attractive as the most delightful homes, and the cities of the dead shall waken with a new life, when, on some beautiful Easter morning, the lily and the rose-—types of the resurrection—shall be found at every resting place, a tribute of love, and the witness of immortality.

I have said that the various departments of service represented in this beautiful and useful edifice relate to all the needs of the complex life of man. Your school and library look toward the future of this town. The fine hail in which. we are assembled represents the historic present, as it stands before us in the transactions of men and society; while your Historic Society lives in the past, and with its eye backward, its index finger points forward.

In the rambling review of this address, I have endeavored to show in briefest outline, some of the agencies that have built up and sustained this municipality. The worthy lives of the men of earlier times are our rich legacy, and through their toils and sacrifices we enjoy priceless privileges. To the study and preservation of all that was true, noble and of good report, it becomes you, people of Rehoboth of to-day, to devote yourselves. Would you do better than the fathers, you must know how well they acted. Would you be wiser, purer, freer, you must come into the measure of their wisdom, purity, freedom and justice. The house the fathers built must not be torn down until a better edifice shall stand in its place,

 

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and he is the wise architect, who in the midst of changing styles, builds after the pattern of the things made in the heavens. It is true that our times demand new measures and new men, and while we "let the dead past bury its dead," we must "act in the living present, heart within and God overhead."

New Rehoboth, with its Goff Memorial as the representative of a nobler present and a better future, must bestir herself in these matters which shall make for her progress and her prosperity. The school and the church must be magnified in their work of saving men and society. The only conservative forces in society are intelligence and religion. He who loves God and his fellow will neither strike nor be struck, and the millennium is at hand where. ever and whenever a Christian education gets possession of the minds and hearts of men.

Let this Memorial, erected to the memory of sainted men and holy women, be a reminder of their virtues and an inspiration to higher attainments. Let youth come up here to prepare for the warfare of life. In this armory shall he found a shield more wonderful than that of Achilles; a sword better tempered than the blade of Damascus; and a panoply lighter than that of Knight or Crusader. With a noble past to inspire you, a living present that demands serious thought and progressive action, and a future that beckons to grander duties as individuals and as a people, you will, if faithful, realize the beautiful picture of the Psalmist

When our sons shall be as Plants grown up in their youth,

And our daughters as corner stones hewn after the fashion of a palace

When our garners are full, affording all manner of store,

And our sheep bring forth thousands and ten thousands hi our fields,

When our oxen are well laden,

When there is no breaking in and no going forth, and no outcry in our streets,

Happy is the people that is in such a ease,

Yea, happy is the people whose God is the Lord.

 

 

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Rev. Alexander Macgregor, of Pawtucket, offered a eloquent Prayer of Dedication, followed by the song "Oh Restless Sea," by the quartette. Dr. E. G. Robinson, President of Brown University, was next introduced, and spoke as follows: