Looking back through the dimly lighted corridors of the past, down the long vista of time, a time when I feared not the face of mortal man, nor battalions of men, when backed by my old comrades in arms, it may seem inconsistent to say that I appear before you with a timidity born of cowardice, but perhaps you will understand better than I can tell you that twenty-five years in a prison cell fetters a man’s intellect as well as his body. Therefore I disclaim any pretensions to literary merit, and trust that my sincerity of purpose will compensate for my lack of eloquence; and, too, I am not so sure that I care for that kind of oratory that leaves the points to guess at, but rather the simple language of the soul that needs no interpreter.
Let me say, ladies and gentlemen, that the farthest thought from my mind is that of posing as a character. I do not desire to stand upon the basis of the notoriety which the past record of my life may have earned for me.
Those of you who have been drawn here by mere curiosity to see a character or a man, who by the events of his life has gained somewhat of notoriety, will miss the real object of this lecture and the occasion which brings us together. My soul’s desire is to benefit you by recounting some of the important lessons which my life has taught me.
Life is too short to make any other use of it. Besides, I owe too much to my fellow men, to my opportunities, to my country, to my God and to myself, to make any other use of the present occasion.
Since I am to speak to you of some of the important lessons of my life, it may be in order to give you some account of my ancestry. It is something to one’s credit to have had an ancestry that one need not be ashamed of. One of the poets said, while talking to a select party of aristocracy:
Depend upon it, my snobbish friend,
Your family line you can’t ascend
Without good reason to apprehend
You’ll find it waxed at the farther end
With some plebeian vocation;
Or, what is worse, your family line
May end in a loop of stronger twine
That plagued some worthy relation.
But I am proud to say, ladies and gentlemen, that no loop of stronger twine that he referred to ever plagued any relation of mine. No member of our family or ancestry was ever punished for any crime or infringement of the law. My father was a direct descendant from the Lees on one side and the Youngers on the other. The Lees came from Scotland tracing their line back to Bruce. The Youngers were from the city of Strasburg on the Rhine, descending from the ruling family of Strasburg when that was a free city.
My sainted mother was a direct descendant from the Sullivans, Ladens and Percivals of South Carolina, the Taylors of Virginia, and the Fristoes of Tennessee. Richard Fristoe, mother’s father, was one of three judges appointed by the governor of Missouri to organize Jackson county, and was then elected one of the first members of the legislature. Jackson county was so named in honor of his old general, Andrew Jackson, with whom he served at the battle of New Orleans.
My father and mother were married at Independence, the county seat of Jackson county, and there they spent many happy years, and there my own happy childhood days were spent. There were fourteen children of us; I was the seventh. There were seven younger than myself. How often in the dark days of the journey over the sea of life have I called up the happy surroundings of my early days when I had a noble father and dear mother to appeal to in faith for counsel. There had never been a death in the family up to 1860, except among our plantation negroes. Mine was a happy childhood.
I do not desire to pose as an instructor for other people, yet one man’s experience may be of value to another, and it may not be presumptuous for me to tell some of the results of experience, a teacher whose lessons are severe, but, at least, worthy of consideration. I might say, perhaps, with Shakespeare, “I have bought golden opinions from all sorts of people.”
The subject of my discourse tonight is the index of what is to follow.
I believe that no living man can speak upon his theme with more familiarity. I have lived the gentleman, the soldier, the out-law, and the convict, living the best twenty-five years of my life in a felon’s cell. I have no desire to pose as a martyr, for men who sin must suffer, but I will punctuate my remarks with bold statements, for the eagle should not be afraid of the storm. It is said that there are but three ways by which we arrive at knowledge in this world; by instruction, by observation, and by experience. We must learn our lessons in life by some one or all of these methods. Those of us who do not, or will not, learn by instruction or by observation are necessarily limited to the fruits of experience. The boy who is told by his mother that fire burns and who has seen his brother badly burned, surely does not need to have the fact still more clearly impressed upon his mind by experience. Yet in the majority of cases, it takes experience to satisfy him. By a kind of necessity which I cannot at this point stop to explain, I have had to learn some very impressive lessons of my life by the stern teacher, experience. Some people express a desire to live life over again, under the impression that they could make a better success of it on a second trip; such people are scarcely logical—however sincere they may be in a wish of this kind. They seem to forget that by the unfailing law of cause and effect, were they to go back on the trail to the point from which they started and try it over again, under the same circumstances they would land about where they are now. The same causes would produce the same effect.
I confess that I have no inexpressible yearnings to try my life over again, even if it were possible to do so. I have followed the trail of my life for something over fifty years. It has led me into varied and strange experiences.
The last twenty-six years, by a train of circumstances I was not able to control, brought me to the present place and hour. Perhaps it may be proper for me to say, with St. Peter, on the mount of transfiguration, it is good to be here.
The man who chooses the career of outlawry is either a natural fool or an innocent madman. The term outlaw has a varied meaning. A man may be an outlaw, and yet a patriot. There is the outlaw with a heart of velvet and a hand of steel; there is the outlaw who never molested the sacred sanctity of any man’s home; there is the outlaw who never dethroned a woman’s honor, or assailed her heritage; and there is the outlaw who has never robbed the honest poor. Have you heard of the outlaw who, in the far-off Western land, where the sun dips to the horizon in infinite beauty, was the adopted son of the Kootenai Indians? It was one of the saddest scenes in all the annals of human tragedy. It was during one of those fierce conflicts which characterized earlier frontier days.
The white outlaw had influenced the red man to send a message of peace to the whites, and for this important mission the little son of the Kootenai chief was selected. The young fawn mounted his horse, but before the passport of peace was delivered the brave little courier was shot to pieces by a cavalcade of armed men who slew him before questioning his mission. The little boy was being stripped of the adornments peculiar to Indians when the outlaw rode upon the scene.
“Take your hands off him, or by the God, I’ll cut them off,” he shouted. “You have killed a lone child—the messenger of peace—peace which I risked my life to secure for the white men who outlawed me.”
Taking the dead body tenderly in his arms, he rode back to face the fury of a wronged people. He understood the penalty but went to offer himself as a ransom, and was shot to death. This, however, is not the class of outlaws I would discuss, for very often force of circumstances makes outlaws of men, but I would speak of the criminal outlaw whom I would spare not nor excuse.
My friends, civilization may be a thin veneer, and the world today may be slimy with hypocrisy, but no man is justified in killing lions to feed dogs.
Outlawry is often a fit companion for treason and anarchy, for which the lowest seats of hell should be reserved. The outlaw, like the commercial freebooter, is often a deformity on the face of nature that darkens the light of God’s day.
I need not explain my career as an outlaw, a career that has been gorgeously colored with fiction. To me the word outlaw is a living coal of fire. The past is a tragedy—a tragedy wherein danger lurks in every trail. I may be pardoned for hurrying over a few wild, relentless years that led up to a career of outlawry—a memory that cuts like the sword blades of a squadron of cavalry. The outlaw is like a big black bird, from which every passerby feels licensed to pluck a handful of feathers.
My young friend, if you are endowed with physical strength, valor, and a steady hand, let me warn you to use them well, for the God who gave them is the final victor.
Think of a man born of splendid parents, good surroundings, the best of advantages, a fair intellectuality, with the possibility of being president of the United States, and with courage of a field general. Think of him lying stagnant in a prison cell. This does not apply alone to the highway outlaw, but to those outlaws who are sometimes called by the softer name “financier.” Not long ago I heard a man speak of a certain banker, and I was reminded that prisons do not contain all the bad men. He said: “Every dog that dies has some friend to shed a tear, but when that man dies there will be universal rejoicing.”
I am not exactly a lead man, but it may surprise you to know that I have been shot between twenty and thirty times and am now carrying over a dozen bullets which have never been extracted. How proud I should have been had I been scarred battling for the honor and glory of my country. Those wounds I received while wearing the gray, I’ve ever been proud of, and my regret is that I did not receive the rest of them during the war with Spain, for the freedom of Cuba and the honor and glory of this great and glorious republic. But, alas, they were not, and it is a memory embalmed that nails a man to the cross.
I was in prison when the war with Cuba was inaugurated, a war that will never pass from memory while hearts beat responsive to the glory of battle in the cause of humanity. How men turned from the path of peace, and seizing the sword, followed the flag! As the blue ranks of American soldiery scaled the heights of heroism, and the smoke rose from the hot altars of the battle gods and freedom’s wrongs avenged, so the memory of Cuba’s independence will go down in history, glorious as our own revolution—’76 and ’98—twin jewels set in the crown of sister centuries. Spain and the world have learned that beneath the folds of our nation’s flag there lurks a power as irresistible as the wrath of God.
Sleep on, side by side in the dim vaults of eternity, Manila Bay and Bunker Hill, Lexington and Santiago, Ticonderoga and San Juan, glorious rounds in Columbia’s ladder of fame, growing colossal as the ages roll. Yes, I was in prison than, and let me tell you, dear friends, I do not hesitate to say that God permits few men to suffer as I did, when I awoke to the full realization that I was wearing the stripes instead of a uniform of my country.
Remember, friends, I do not uphold war for commercial pillage. War is a terrible thing, and leads men sometimes out of the common avenues of life. Without reference to myself, men of this land, let me tell you emphatically, dispassionately, and absolutely that war makes savages of men, and dethrones them from reason. It is too often sugarcoated with the word “patriotism” to make it bearable and men call it “National honor.”
Come with me to the prison, where for a quarter of a century I have occupied a lonely cell. When the door swings in on you there, the world does not hear your muffled wail. There is little to inspire mirth in prison. For a man who has lived close to the heart of nature, in the forest, in the saddle, to imprison him is like caging a wild bird. And yet imprisonment has brought out the excellencies of many men. I have learned many things in the lonely hours there. I have learned that hope is a divinity; I have learned that a surplus of determination conquers every weakness; I have learned that you cannot mate a white dove to a blackbird; I have learned that vengeance is for God and not for man; I have learned that there are some things better than a picture on a church window; I have learned that the American people, and especially the good people of Minnesota, do not strip a fallen foe; I have learned that whoever says “there is no God” is a fool; I have learned that politics is often mere traffic, and statesmanship trickery; I have learned that the honor of the republic is put upon the plains and battled for; I have learned that the English language is too often used to deceive the commonwealth of labor; I have learned that the man who prides himself on getting on the wrong side of every public issue is as pernicious an enemy to the country as the man who openly fires upon the flag; and I have seen mute sufferings of men in prison which no human pen can portray.
And I have seen men die there. During my twenty-five years of imprisonment, I have spent a large portion of the time in the hospital, nursing the sick and soothing the dying. Oh! the sadness, the despair, the volcano of human woe that lurks in such an hour. One, a soldier from the North, I met in battle when I wore the gray. In ’63 I had led him to safety beyond the Confederate lines in Missouri, and in ’97 he died in my arms in the Minnesota prison, a few moments before a full pardon had arrived from the president.
The details of this remarkable coincidence were pathetic in the extreme, equalled only by the death of my young brother Bob.
And yet, my dear friends, prisons and prison discipline, which sometimes destroy the reason, and perpetuate a stigma upon those who survive them,—these, I say, are the safeguards of the nation.
A man has plenty of time to think in prison, and I might add that it is an ideal place for a man to study law, religion, and Shakespeare, not forgetting the president’s messages. However, I would advise you not to try to get into prison just to find an ideal place for these particular studies. I find, after careful study, that law is simply an interpretation of the Ten Commandments, nothing more, nothing less. All law is founded upon Scripture, and Scripture, in form of religion or law, rules the universe.
The infidel who ridicules religion is forced to respect the law, which in reality is religion itself.
It is not sufficient alone to make good and just laws, but our people must be educated, or should be, from the cradle up, to respect the law. This is one great lesson to be impressed upon the American people. Let the world know that we are a law-loving nation, for our law is our life.
Experience has taught me that there is no true liberty apart from law. Law is a boundary line, a wall of protection, circumscribing the field in which liberty may have her freest exercise. Beyond the boundary line, freedom must surrender her rights, and change her name to “penalty for transgression.” The law is no enemy, but the friend of liberty. The world and the planets move by law. Disregarding the law by which they move, they would become wanderers in the bleak darkness forever.
The human mind in its normal condition moves and works by law. When self-will, blinded by passion or lust, enters her realm, and breaks her protecting laws, mind then loses her sweet liberty of action, and becomes a transgressor. Chaos usurps the throne of liberty, and mind becomes at enmity with law. How many, many times the words of the poet have sung to my soul during the past twenty-six years:
Eternal spirit of the chainless mind,
Brightest in dungeon’s liberty thou art,
For there thy habitation is the heart,
The heart, which love of thee alone can bind.
Your locomotive with her following load of life and treasure is safe while she keeps the rails, but, suppose that with an insane desire for a larger liberty, she left the rails and struck out for herself a new pathway, ruin, chaos and death would strew her course. And again let me impress the fact upon you. Law is one of humanity’s valiant friends. It is the safeguard of the highest personal and national liberties. The French revolution furnishes a standing illustration of society without law.
There are times when I think the American people are not patriotic enough. Some think patriotism is necessary only in time of war, but I say to you it is more necessary in time of peace.
When the safety of the country is threatened, and the flag insulted, we are urged on by national pride to repel the enemy, but in time of peace selfish interests take the greater hold of us, and retard us in our duty to country.
Nowhere is patriotism needed more than at the ballot-box. There the two great contestants are country and self, and unless the spirit of patriotism guides the vote our country is sure to lose. To be faithful citizens we must be honest in our politics. The political star which guides us should be love for our country and our country’s laws.
Patriotism, side by side with Christianity, I would have to go down to future generations, for wherever the church is destroyed you are making room for asylums and prisons. With the martyred Garfield, I, too, believe that our great national danger is not from without.
It may be presumptuous in me to proffer so many suggestions to you who have been living in a world from which I have been exiled for twenty-five years. I may have formed a wrong conception of some things, but you will be charitable enough to forgive my errors.
I hope to be of some assistance to mankind and will dedicate my future life to unmask every wrong in my power and aid civilization to rise against further persecution. I want to be the drum-major of a peace brigade, who would rather have the good will of his fellow creatures than shoulder straps from any corporate power.
One of the lessons impressed upon me by my life experience is the power of that which we call personal influence, the power of one mind or character over another.
Society is an aggregate of units. The units are related. No one lives or acts alone, independently of another. Personal influence plays its part in the relations we sustain to each other.
Do you ask me to define what I mean by personal influence? It is the sum total of what a man is, and its effect upon another. Some one has said, “Every man is what God made him,” and some are considerably more so. That which we call character is the sum total of all his tendencies, habits, appetite and passions. The terms character and reputation are too often confused. Character is what you really are; reputation is what some one else would have you.
Every man has something of good in him. Probably none of us can say that we are all goodness.
I have noticed that when a man claims to be all goodness, that claim alone does not make his credit any better in business, or at the bank. If a man is good, the world has a way of finding out his qualities. Most men are willing to admit, at least to themselves, that their qualities are somewhat mixed. I do not believe that the good people of the world are all bunched up in one corner and the bad ones in another. Christ’s parable of the wheat and the tares explains that to my satisfaction. There is goodness in all men, and sermons even in stones. But goodness and badness is apt to run in streaks. Man, to use the language of another, is a queer combination of cheek and perversity, insolence, pride, impudence, vanity, jealousy, hate, scorn, baseness, insanity, honor, truth, wisdom, virtue and urbanity. He’s a queer combination all right. And those mixed elements of his nature, in their effects on other people, we call personal influence. Many a man is not altogether what he has made himself, but what others have made him. But a man’s personal influence is within his own control. It is at the gateway of his nature from which his influence goes forth that he needs to post his sentinels.
Mind stands related to mind, somewhat in the relation of cause and effect.
Emerson said, “You send your boy to school to be educated, but the education that he gets is largely from the other boys.” It is a kind of education that he will remember longer and have a greater influence upon his character and career in life than the instructions he gets from the teacher.
The great scholar, Elihu Burritt, has said, “No human being can come into this world without increasing or diminishing the sum total of human happiness.” No one can detach himself from the connection. There is no spot in the universe to which he can retreat from his relations to others.
This makes living and acting among our fellows a serious business. It makes life a stage, ourselves the actors—some of us being remarkably bad actors—and imposes upon us the obligation to act well our part. Therein all honor lies. And in order to do this it behooves us to stock up with the qualities of mind and character, the influence of which will be helpful to those who follow the trail behind us.
Another plain duty my experience has pointed out is that each of us owes an honest, manly effort toward the material world’s progress. Honest labor is the key that unlocks the door of happiness. One of the silliest notions that a young man can get into his head is the idea that the world owes him a living. It does not owe you the fraction of a red cent, young man. What have you done for the world that put it under obligation to you? When did the world become indebted to you? Who cared for you in the years of helpless infancy? Who built the schoolhouse where you got the rudiments of your education? The world was made and equipped for men to develop it. Almighty God furnished the world well. He provided abundant coal beds, oceans of oil, boundless forests, seas of salt. He has ribbed the mountain with gems fit to deck the brows of science, eloquence and art. He has furnished earth to produce for all the requirements of man. He has provided man himself with an intellect to fathom and develop the mysteries of His handiwork. Now He commands that mortal man shall do the rest, and what a generous command it is! And this is the world that owes you a living, is it?
This reminds me of a man who built and thoroughly equipped a beautiful church, and presented it as a gift to the congregation. After expressing their gratitude, a leading member of the church said to the generous donor: “And now may we request that you put a lightning-rod on the church to secure it against lightning?” The giver replied: “No. I have built a church wherein to worship Almighty God, and if He sees fit to destroy it by lightning, let Him strike.”
There was a church struck by lightning in New Jersey, where the big trust magnates met for worship, and the Lord is excused for visiting it with lightning. No, the Lord is not going to strike down your good works at all. He has laid out an earthly Paradise for each of us, and nothing is due us except what we earn by honest toil and noble endeavor. We owe the world a debt of gratitude we can never repay for making this a convenient dwelling-place. We owe the world the best there is in us for its development. Gerald Massey put it right when he said: “Toil is creation’s crown, worship is duty.”
Another important lesson life has taught me is the value, the priceless value, of good friends, and with Shakespeare I say: “Grapple them to thy soul with hooks of steel.” Some sage has said: “A man is known by the company he can not get into.” But truly this would be a barren world without the association of friends. But a man must make himself worthy of friends, for the text teaches us that “A man who wants friends must show himself friendly.” What I am today, or strive to be, I owe largely to my friends—friends to whom I fail in language to express my gratitude, which is deeper than the lips; friends who led us to believe that “stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage;” friends who understand that human nature and sincerity are often clothed in prison garb; friends who have decreed that one false step does not lame a man for life.
Oh, what a generous doctrine! And, although unwritten, I believe God has set his seal upon it. Honest friendship is a grand religion, and if we are true to ourselves, the poet tells us, we cannot be false to any man.
However, I am forced to admit that there are many brands of friendship existing these days which had not birth in our time. For instance: A number of men have visited me in the prison, and assured me of their interest in a pardon, etc. They have talked so eloquently and earnestly that I thought I was fortunate to enlist the sympathies and aid of such splendid men. After the first or second visit I was informed as gently as possible that a price was attached to this friendship; how much would I give them for indorsing or signing a petition for a pardon? I remember how I glared at them, how my pulse almost ceased beating, at such demands. What injustice to the public to petition a man out of prison for a price! If a man can not come out of prison on his merits, let him remain there. I hold, too, that if there is honor among thieves there should be among politicians and pretentious citizens. I hate a liar and a false man. I hate a hypocrite, a man whose word to his friend is not as good as gold.
My friends, there is just one thing I will say in my own defense if you will so far indulge me. I do not believe in doing under the cover of darkness that which will not bear the light of day. During my career of outlawing I rode into town under the glare of the noonday sun, and all men knew my mission. Corporations of every color had just cause to despise me then. But no man can accuse me of prowling about at night, nor of ever having robbed an individual, or the honest poor. In our time a man’s word was equal to his oath, and seldom did a man break faith when he had once pledged himself to another.
What I say to you, fellow citizens, I say not in idle boast, but from the soul of a man who reverences truth in all its simplicity. Think of it—a price for a man’s proffered friendship. On my soul, I do not even now comprehend so monstrous a proposition, and, believe me, even the unfortunate creatures about me in prison looked more like men than your respectable citizens and professional men with a price for their friendship.
I should like to say something to the ladies who have honored me with their presence. But as I have been a bachelor all my life I scarcely know what to say. I do know, though, that they are the divine creatures of a divine Creator; I do know that they are the high priestesses of this land; and, too, I say, God could not be everywhere, so He made woman. One almost needs the lantern of a Diogenes in this progressive age to find an honest man, but not so with a good woman, who is an illumination in herself, the light of her influence shining with a radiance of its own. You will agree with me that the following lines contain more truth than poetry, and I bow to the splendid genius of the author:
Blame woman not if some appear
Too cold at times, and some too gay and light;
Some griefs gnaw deep—some woes are hard to bear.
Who knows the past, and who can judge them right?
Perhaps you have heard of banquets “for gentlemen only.” Well, it was upon one of these occasions that one of the guests was called upon to respond to a toast—“The Ladies.”
There being no ladies present, he felt safe in his remarks. “I do not believe,” he said, “that there are any real, true women living any more.” The guest opposite him sprang to his feet and shouted: “I hope that the speaker refers only to his own female relations.” I never could understand, either, when a man goes wrong it is called “misfortune,” while if a woman goes wrong it is called “shame.” But I presume, being in prison twenty-five years, I am naturally dull, and should not question a world I have not lived in for a quarter of a century. I tell you, my friends, that I know very little of women, but of one thing I am morally certain: If the front seats of Paradise are not reserved for women, I am willing to take a back seat with them. It seems to me that every man who had a mother should have a proper regard for womanhood. My own mother was a combination of all the best elements of the high character that belong to true wife and motherhood. Her devotion and friendship were as eternal as the very stars of heaven, and no misfortune could dwarf her generous impulses or curdle the milk of human kindness in her good heart. Her memory has been an altar, a guiding star, a divinity, in the darkest hour when regrets were my constant companions. It is true that I was a mere boy, in my teens, when the war was on, but there is no excuse for neglecting a good mother’s counsel, and no good can possibly result. I was taught that honor among men and charity in the errors of others were the chief duties of mankind, the fundamentals of law, both human and divine. In those two commandments I have not failed, but in other respects I fell short of my home influence, and so, my young friends, do not do as I have done, but do as I tell you to do—honor the fourth commandment.
There is no heroism in outlawry, and the fate of each outlaw in his turn should be an everlasting lesson to the young of the land. And even as Benedict Arnold, the patriot and traitor, dying in an ugly garret in a foreign land, cried with his last breath to the lone priest beside him: “Wrap my body in the American flag;” so the outlaw, from his inner soul, if not from his lips, cries out, “Oh, God, turn back the universe!”
There is another subject I want to say a word about—one which I never publicly advocated while in prison, for the reason that I feared the outside world would believe it a disguise to obtain my freedom. Freedom is the birthright heritage of every man, and it was very dear to me, but if the price of it was to pretend to be religious, the price was too high, and I would rather have remained in prison. Some men in prison fly to it as a refuge in sincerity—some otherwise. But to the sincere it is a great consolation, for it teaches men that hope is a divinity, without which no man can live and retain his reason.
But now that I have been restored to citizenship I feel free to express my views upon religion without fear that men will accuse me of hypocrisy. I do not see why that word “hypocrisy” was ever put in the English language. Now, I am a lecturer, not a minister, but I want to say that I think it is a wise plan to let the Lord have his own way with you. That’s logic. The man who walks with God is in good company. Get into partnership with Him, but don’t try to be the leading member of the firm. He knows more about the business than you do. You may be able for a time to practice deception upon your fellow men, but don’t try to fire any blank cartridges at the Author of this Universe. There are a great many ways to inspire a man with true Christian sentiment, and I must say that the least of them is sitting down and quoting a text from Scripture. Religious men and women have visited me in prison who have never mentioned religion, but have had the strongest influence over me. Their sincerity and conduct appealed to one more strongly than the bare Scripture. I can see in imagination now one whom I have so often seen in reality while in prison. She was a true, sweet, lovely, Christian young lady. I remember once asking her if all the people of her church were as good as she was. She replied, honestly and straightforwardly: “No; you will not find them all so liberal toward their unfortunate brothers, and every church has its share of hypocrites—mine the same as others. But God and the church remain just the same.” There are some don’ts I would call to your attention. One of them is, don’t try to get rich too quickly by grasping every bait thrown out to the unwary. I have been in the society of the fellows who tried to get rich quickly for the past twenty-five years, and for the most part they are a poor lot. I do not know but that I would reverse Milton’s lines so as to read:
‘Tis better to sit with a fool in Paradise
Than some of those wise ones in prison.
Don’t resort to idleness. The boy who wears out the seat of his trousers holding down dry-goods boxes on the street corners will never be president of the United States. The farmer who drives to town for pleasure several days in the week will soon have his farm advertised for sale. An idle man is sure to go into the hands of a receiver. My friends, glorious opportunities are before us, with the republic’s free institutions at your command. Science and knowledge have unlocked their vaults wherein poverty and wealth are not classified—a fitting theater where the master mind shall play the leading role.
And now, with your permission, I will close with a bit of verse from Reno, the famous poet-scout. His lines are the embodiment of human nature as it should be, and to me they are a sort of creed. He says:
I never like to see a man a-wrestling with the dumps,
‘Cause in the game of life he doesn’t always catch the trumps,
But I can always cotton to a free-and-easy cuss
As takes his dose and thanks the Lord it wasn’t any wuss.
There ain’t no use of swearin’ and cussin’ at your luck,
‘Cause you can’t correct your troubles more than you can drown a duck.
Remember that when beneath the load your suffering head is bowed
That God will sprinkle sunshine in the trail of every cloud.
If you should see a fellow man with trouble’s flag unfurled,
And lookin’ like he didn’t have a friend in all the world,
Go up and slap him on the back and holler, “How’d you do?”
And grasp his hand so warm he’ll know he has a friend in you,
An’ ask him what’s a-hurtin’ him, and laugh his cares away,
An’ tell him that the darkest hour is just before the day.
Don’t talk in graveyard palaver, but say it right out loud,
That God will sprinkle sunshine in the trail of every cloud.
This world at best is but a hash of pleasures and of pain;
Some days are bright and sunny, and some are sloshed with rain;
An’ that’s jes’ how it ought to be, so when the clouds roll by
We’ll know jes’ how to ‘preciate the bright and smilin’ sky.
So learn to take things as they come, and don’t sweat at the pores
Because the Lord’s opinion doesn’t coincide with yours;
But always keep rememberin’, when cares your path enshroud,
That God has lots of sunshine to spill behind the cloud.