« PreviousContinue »
The early settlers of the Western Reserve, for the noble purpose of bettering their condition, left old settlements where comforts were abundant to found new ones where they were comparatively few. Not having a surplus of means they proposed to earn them, by setting up for themselves and executing their own plans instead of being the mere executers of the plans of others. This developed in them true manhood. Clerks and employes they might have been among the kinsfolk and friends they left behind them, but this did not suit their plans of life. The command that “ in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,” they did not regard “ a mistake of Moses.” If intended as a curse, they turned it into a blessing. Hence all useful labor of hand or brain was regarded as equally respectable, and the farmer, the mechanic, the merchant, the artizan, and the professional man were on terms of social equality. Occupation was not the ground of social ostracism among the early settlers. Their habits and circumstances developed in them an independent personality which dependence tends to destroy. The facilities of trade and commerce were quite limited, with little circulating medium as an agency of exchange. They used due bills and notes payable in commodities, raised or manufactured. I found a few years ago among my father's. papers one of their mediums of exchange, which is worth more than its face as evidence of the manner in which the early settlers transacted business. I will read it: “Four months after date I promise to pay to Samuel Hutchins one dollar and fifty cents, for value received, in 'twelve pounds of good pork. Vienna, September 10, 1812. Jacob Humason.” Just seventeen days before the date of this paper I made application to my father's house for board and lodging. Whether this fact had any connection with my father's desire to add to his supply of pork, I do not know. The maker of this note was a good scholar for those days, as the note indicates. He had been educated in the schools of Connecticut, and the style of writing is the old style—the George Washington and John Hancock style.
The early settlers were subject to many privations, and at times to multifarious inconveniences to which we are strangers. They encountered evils with which they had to struggle. They wrestled with intemperance, and some of them were thrown by it. The times are now largely changed, for better or for worse; for better in many respects, and in some for the worse, I fear; but that may depend upon the manner we heed the lessons the early settlers have given us. Cleveland, as well as the whole country, has made rapid advancement in wealth and population. When your, honored President came to Cleveland in 1824, to make it his home, it had only a population of about four hundred, and its mechanical, manufacturing and mercantile capital was then quite limited, but probably adequate to the wants of the country. It now contains a population of over two hundred thousand, and its wealth and the means of producing it have prodigiously increased. The increase of wealth and population of a country and city is generally regarded as evidence of their prosperity. That depends largely upon the character of the population and the manner in which wealth is employed. An idle population is likely to be vicious, learned or ignorant, rich or poor, and adds little, if any, to the prosperity of either city or country, and wealth which is employed exclusively or mostly for the selfish aggrandizement of those who possess it, is not a blessing without alloy. .
“ Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates and men decay;
General Garfield, in September, 1880, when he was candidate for President of the United States, on the Northern Ohio Fair Grounds made a few remarks from which I make brief quotations:
"All who have thoughtfully considered the reports of the
National census during the last thirty years have observed the great growth of our cities and the comparatively small growth of population in our agricultural districts. * * * Let me ask you to reflect whether this is a good indication. I have time to notice but one feature of this problem. A careful study of the men who have won distinction in every field of activity, public and private, professional and commercial, will show that a large majority of them were born and bred in the country.
* * Gentlemen, would you willingly see the present tendency continue until the majority of our people are the inhabitants of great cities? * * * I see at this table lawyers and merchants whose eyes brighten at the remembrance of their country homes. One of the prominent lawyers and jurists of this State—an honored citizen of your city--does not regret his pioneer life in the woods of Portage county. I am sure that Judge Ranney does not regret the hardships and inspirations which country life gave to his boyhood.” More than twenty years ago, Benjamin F. Wade, then a Senator in Congress, in a conversation I had with him, expressed thoughts similar to those I have quoted from General Garfield's remarks.
In connection with this subject it may be well to notice that none of the men who have been elected President of the United States were born and bred in our large cities. Only one of the present judges of our Court of Common Pleas was born and bred in the city of Cleveland, and he was born of parents who were among the prominent early settlers of Cleveland, and who believed with Solomon, “in training up a child in the way he should go.”
In our cities the “Fagans," the “ Bill and Nancy Sykes" have their hiding places, and intemperance, followed by its ghastly train of evils, and seeking to perpetuate itself by the inherent tendencies of its own demoralization, has its strongest support in our populous cities. Our large cities are the centers of wealth and capital, and in them combinations are liable to be
formed which tend to interfere with the natural course of trade and commerce, and which seek to regulate, for selfish purposes, the business of the country. Capital, clothed by law with the attributes of succession and perpetuity, may be, and frequently is, employed oppressively and unjustly. No one need be surprised at the present day to learn respectable gentlemen had filed with the proper authority an application for a charter to trade in and control the air we breathe.
With the increase of wealth and population the habits and customs of pioneer life will naturally be changed, and in some respects it may be well, but the benefits of a change which dispenses with the industry and economy of pioneer life, and which stamps with disrespect any useful labor connected with it, may well be questioned. There is a tendency now-a-days among young people to seek occupations and positions which are lighter and esteemed by many as more respectable than the drudgery of work in any of the avocations of life. Clerkships in private establishments and in government offices are much sought after by young men starting in life. These employments may be well enough as means to an end, and as stepping-stones to a higher plane of activity, but for a young man to make those avocations his business and to seek nothing above and beyond them is to dwarf his manhood and to make him dependent upon brains not his own. Among the least desirable of these lighter occupations (I call them lighter because they seldom produce heavy results) is employment in the numerous departments of the government. The labor is responsible and hard, but the chances of promotion to independent positions are small. They tramp and tramp on the same track year after year in the government treadmill. They have some privileges, to be sure, not enjoyed by the convicts in our penitentiaries. They are permitted to go home once a year and vote, but the convicts have privileges not enjoyed by government employes. They are not obliged by “ voluntary contributions” to pay a certain percentage of their earnings to keep their places.
There is a tendency among parents who have the means to do it, to give their children the best opportunities and all the advantages that our schools and colleges afford, without regard, always, to the tastes or capacity of the children; hence many young men and women are forced or dragged through a course of study which they may never use to much advantage to themselves or others, and which may be the means of spoiling them for the rugged duties of honorable and productive labor, on the farm, in the workshop, or in the counting-room. A farmer in the oil regions of Pennsylvania sold his farm for a sum which made him a millionaire, and he had a dear daughter: who had been educated up to the standard of the circle in which she moved, but her kind father was not satisfied with this, as he wanted her to be a bright and shining light in the higher branches of education, and especially in music, but his daughter had little inclination or taste in that direction. The father was not to be baffled in his laudable desire to elevate and refine his daughter, so he sent her to a professional teacher of music for instruction. In about three months he visited his daughter to see how she was getting along in her studies. The teacher told him she was not progressing as well as he could wish-she did not seem to have a capacity for music. “ Capacity,” replied the father, “ go and buy her one; I have plenty of money.” : A young man or woman who has the will to obtain a thorough education, and an ability to use it, will, at this day, find a way to acquire it. Leonard Case, Sr., is said to have acquired a good knowledge of arithmetic when making baskets on his father's farm. John Bright, of England, in a speech recently made at Birmingham, referred to a Scotch peasant authoress, Janet Hamilton, who never had any education except that derived from the reading of the plays of Shakespeare, which she had committed to memory. She was untaught in the rules of grammar, yet she wrote English according to the best standards. No writer has been able to tell us, when, where,