“To Her Majesty Victoria, Queen of Great Britain—
“The President cordially reciprocates the congratulations of Her Majesty the Queen on the success of the great international enterprise accomplished by the science, skill, and indomitable energy of the two countries. It is a triumph more glorious than was ever won by any conquest on the field of battle. May the Atlantic telegraph, under the blessing of Heaven, prove to be a bond of perpetual peace and friendship between the kindred nations and an instrument designed by Divine Providence to diffuse religion, civilisation, liberty and law throughout the world. In this view will not all nations of Christendom spontaneously unite in the declaration that it shall be forever neutral, and that its communications shall be held sacred in passing to their destination, even in the midst of hostilities.
It is interesting to compare the elemental quality, the inner character of these national flashes of feeling, that came so comparatively soon after the days of the revolution in America. It was a sort of prose poetry of the new century. This recollection came back to me, on my return from Europe, upon the opening of the new Tabernacle, a symbol of the eternal human progress of the world. Materially and spiritually we were striving ahead, men of affairs, men of religion, philosophers, scientists, and poets.
I was present in 1891 at the celebration of Whittier’s eighty-fourth birthday. He was on the bright side of eighty then. The schools celebrated the day, so should the churches have done, for he was a Christian poet.
John Greenleaf Whittier was a Quaker. That means that he was a genial, kind, good man—a simple man. I spent an afternoon with him once in a barn. We were summering in the mountains near by. We found ourselves in the barn, where we stretched out on the hay. The world had not spoiled the simplicity of his nature. It was an afternoon of pastoral peace, with one who had written himself into the heart of a nation. How much I learned from that man’s childlikeness and simplicity!
If he had lived to be a hundred he would still have remained young. The long flight of years had not tired his spirit, for wherever the English language is spoken he will always live. He was born in Christmas week, a spirit in human shape, come to earth to keep it forever young. He was the bell-ringer of all youthful ages. And yet he remembered also those who for any reason could not join in the merriment of the holidays. To those I recommend Whittier’s poem, in which he celebrates the rescue of two Quakers who had been fined L10 for attending church instead of going to a Quaker Meeting House, and not being able to pay the fine were first imprisoned and then sold as slaves, but no ship master consenting to carry them into slavery they were liberated. The closing stanza of this poem is worth remembering:—