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About Hesperian student / (Lincoln [Neb.]) 1872-1885 | View Entire Issue (June 12, 1889)
THE HE S PER IAN.
clomciits of ft uil(,ltty imtloii begun to coalesce. Tho patriots of
America rone as iv limn in defense of their Innllennblo rights. The
IlrHt, cnll to tlio uprising wits Issued by Otis and Henry.
Ench represented different Hcctlonn of the country nnil different
typcH of character. Otis was tlio spokesman for Now England;
Henry, for Virginia. Massachusetts and Virginia were tlio loading
colonies In tlio Itevoliitlon. Now England society was democratic
in tlio extreme; that in Virginia wiih intoiiHcly nrlHtocratlc, but each
wiih IndlHpenHlblo to tho other.
Tlio patriots of Massachusetts fought for principle They had
been trained In'schools of theological discussion. Their minds wore
acute and penetrating. They becnino tho most skillful politicians.
Every man was a patriot, clear-hended and full of understanding.
.Tnmes Otis represented mon like these. ThoHcenoof Otis' flrHt tri
umph Ih tneinorable. In a dimly lighted court room, In which wit
tlio royal Judges, dunked by tho Insignia of royalty, the fearless ad
vocate of liberty gnvo volco for tho first tlmo to tho Hontlmeut
nlready oxlHtlng In evory heart. Tho speech of James OtlH against
tho Writs of Assistance was a trumpot-enll to action. ItH warning
notes had scarcoly consort to echo, beforo an answering call cumo
from tho southern colontos.
Tho memorliihle words of Patrick Henry in tho Hon no otllurgcsses
made Virginia a unit. His speech advocating resist ance to the
oppressive measuros of Englnnd meltd Virginian patriotism Into u
compact, blowing mass. Ho nan tho llrst to sound tho alarm
ugalnst tho Slump Act. His words announced tho coming conflict
as tin II a ih of lightning foretells tha storm.
No man at that tlmo, fifteen years before tho itovolutlon, was
ready to bellovo that tho colonies would over sopnrutofrom England,
Tlie colonists loved England as men lovo their boyhood's home.
They wero proud of tho ruins, tho traditions, tho struggles, and tho
victories of tho English people. Hut w hen James Otis ceased speaking
ngalnst tho Writs of Assistance, tho American Revolution hud
begun. Though l'ntrlck Honry stunned tho Virginian House of
lturgcsses by his boldness, from that day Virginia went hand in
hand with Massachusetts In tho struggle for Independence.
Mr. Kifor Iiiih a rapid, nervous delivory. A litllo inoro
deliberation would .havo ndded force. 11m voico wiih
pitdiod u litllo higher than nntural tone. No mado no
gesture, and Iiis poBturo was slightly monotonous in con
sequence. Tho next spoakor was "W. L. Stephens, whoeo subject,
IIKNKY IIAVHI TIIOIIKAU.
A radical change in thought took place In New England during the
first half of the present century. Tho turmoil of the revolution had
passed away, and social and Intellectual stagnation succeeded. Man
became a machine, a slave to the commonplace t'onvontljiinllty
was .crushing out all that wa1 human. Whoever dared to display
any traces of Individuality was beaten and scourged by church and
society until he gavo at loist formal adhoranco to conven
tional forms and beliefs. Development was completely ar
rested. Sympathy, toleration, individual llborty, wero unknown.
This dlso-ised, hypocritical, pharlsalc society was rovolutionlred.
Without sign from heaven, the upheaval cami . A plea wont forth
for the omnnclpntldn of humanity, and for liberty of conscience. In
tuitively, tho rueo grasped at thn means of escape from civil and re
ligious thraldom. Not Now England and America alone, but tho
world was moved. The revolution In mind affected the entire orbit
of evory man's thought. A standard of exeollonco wob established
by which tho literature of all tongues Is ovon to-day Judged to bo
worthy or unworthy of perpetuity. It was a spiritual expansion.
Ubornl views In religious and In secular things took firm hold of tho
people. Tho despotism of conventionality wns overthrown. The
"Individual became tho world." l'ulplt and press hurled the bitter
est invectives at the Interpreters of the moveuiont. Uko tho an
archists of to-day, they wero objocts of suspicion and contempt,.
Iut they were without fear. Through thorn truth wont out, and was
felt In tho uttermost partB of tho earth. Tho value of theso loadorH
to tho ago Is Inestimable. There wero two phases of tho movomeut;
tho religious and the secular. Tho former was promoted by Emer
son i tho lattor by Thorouu,
No man In tho history of our country Is so hard to understand and
appreciate as Honry David Thoreau. Ho Is called morbid and mis
anthropic, but only by thoso that do uot understand htm. Ho was
so easily Influenced by surrounding conditions, so susceptible to tho
lightest Jmpro3slona, that ho withdrew to Nature in order to jireparp
himself, untrnm moled, for Intercourse with hfs fellow-mon. This is
what Is mistaken for morbidness. Nomoro was ho a bigot, or a mis
anthrope. He loved humanity, and craved sympathy ; sacrificing
everything for society, nothing for himself. Ho belloved that In sol
itude tho soul can have freo Intercourse with Clod. In this atmo
sphere of the soul's supremacy he received thelmpulso to tear himself
nway from tho evil, and adopt the good.
Thoreau retired to Walden, a wild and solitary place, frequented
by thieves and cut-throats. Itwas an eyo-soro to the neighborhood,
but In his works It 'Is converted Into a fairy retreat. Ho withdrew
from social life because he was thoroughty convinced that tho devel
opment of man Is retarded, If not prevented, by tho restrictions of
society- Ho proposed to demonstrate, by u practical example, how
an Ideal life could be led, freo from nil tho lumber of conventionality.
His life thoro was not intended to bo ono of inertia, but full of activ
ity. Ho did not innrry; not because ho failed to realize that tho
family Is tho corner-stono of every strong and healthy common
wealth, but because his Ideal family could not bo realized. Other ment
disgusted by tho emptiness of ordinary social life, havo given thorn
solves up to cynicism and hatred. Thoreau was more noblo. Ho
withdrew to solltudo to provo that, until soul and Nature uro har
monized, no spiritual expansion is possible. Howontlnto retirement
to prepare himself for social life, In which he might bo forevor after
wards free, vigorous, and Independent.
Thoreau had an Indlr.n's lovo and vonoratlon for Nature. To him
Nature was perfection, mid tint attempt to Improvo her, mutilation.
No Indian lamented the Inroads upon the forests inoro deeply thau
ho. Ho thanked (lod that no axo could cut down tho clouds. Evory
phenomenon of Naturo, howovor trivial, corresponded to a general
law of tho universe. He pleaded earnestly and effectively for inoro
recourse to Naruro, and to receive from her whatever Impulse and
Instincts shohnd to offer. Then thoy could return to society, with
double tho capacity for new enjoyment and new service.
Thoreau was no Idle dreamer. Ho was u man of action. In llos
ton, when tho Christian church, a sluvo to the calloused prejudices of
creeds and dogmas, In tho belief thut It was acting In accordance
with tho fundamental laws of our governi it, approved tho sondlng
of Anthony lliirns. u fugitive slave, back to bondage In Iloston,
Thoreau, first of all, darod to defend John Drown. With asoul over
flowing with conviction, ho oxclalmed: "I know this well: If 1,000, If
1(H), If 10 men whom I could name, If 10 Iionnt mon only, ayo, If onk
honest man In tills state of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves,
wero actually to withdraw from this co-partnership, and bo lockod
up In Jail therefor, It would be the abolition of slavery in Amorlca."
When John Drown lay bleeding In a Virginia Jail; when lator tho
country was suffering tho agonies of civil wur, tho full force and
meaning of Thoreau's teachings burst upon tho intolllgonco of tho
Thoreau has beou accused of favoring tho abolition government.
In ii perfect st nt oof soclory, government Is reduced to a minimum.
Ho was prepared for this condition, but. was In advauco of his ago.
In his forest retreat ho refused to pay his tax and gladly went to
Jail, becauso he knew, no matter how dark his cell or how thick his
prison walls, his convictions wouldhelp to mould tho character of
tho raco. Certainly a beautiful example of tho 1'urltnn spirit of free
dom. Thoreau's llfo, asa whole, represents tho hlghestldeal of an Individu
ality that should bo thofoundatlon of allcult.iredandprogresslveso
cloty. Ho knew that society was diseased; the best, the most so.
Ho sacrlllced himself In ordor to point out this disease to his agu.
He graduated from Harvard whan Harvard brains worn la groat de
mand. Every profession would gladly havo welcomed him. His In
tolloct could have procured him social prominence and wldolnliiioiico.
Vouhg men on all sides were rushing Into active llfo and gaining rec
ognition for' wisdom and discretion. Thoreau could havo boon
foremost among thorn all. Ease, comfort, leisure, wealth, an hide
pendent llfo, and powerful Influence were within his grasp. Hut lit
erally scorning all, ho gavo himself up to his age, mid taught It, ouco
for all, a lesson of purity and simplicity, tho silent liiflueiico of which
Is active and potent to-day. A man miiy becomo great whon
strengthened and upheld by tho conveiitlonnlltlesof his times. Much
greater Is Thorouu, who utterly disregarded the liomngo and sym
pathy of tho world. For the sakoof a great moral principle, without
hope of reward, ho took his stand alone. Independent, and solf-sufll-clent.
Tho pure mid simple mm! who has Inspired and humanlzod
tho raco should command Its grutltudo and rovoronco,
Mr. Stephens strength lay in deliberation and omphasis.
His voico was deep and onunciation distinct. Ho was
slightly nervoiiH and ill at ease.
Tho laBt speaker wits Miss Myra Clark, who eulogized
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