“The Spirit and Ideals of Our Pioneers”
Complete text of Centennial Address by Hon. Frank T. Boesel - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
The New Bremen Sun – Friday July 7, 1933
I am again permitted to visit the Shrine of my Youth, where fancy frames anew on memory’s walls pictures of the past and fills the heart with sacred and indescribable emotions. A shrine before which we kneel in silent reverence and upon whose altar we devoutly place the precious recollections of our youthful experiences; that enchanted realm of days gone by, days of joy, and carefree gladness, of secret heart throbs, of early ambitions, of hopes and fears, and castles in the air – and of dreams.
We retrace again our steps along the well-known ways of long ago, along familiar paths and streets, passing as we go scenes which are intimately associated with incidents of our youthful experiences. Here and there some old familiar spot recalls to mind some innocent youthful and mischievous prank, which at the time perhaps caused no little annoyance and inconvenience to someone of the older and well-known denizens of this community, who for some unknown reason, which I have never been able to explain, were usually selected as the objects of such boyish attacks.
But the familiar faces which we knew so well in those days, the well-known voices which greeted us so cheerfully as we passed, we see and hear no more. They still live and abide with us, however, as the most sacred treasures of our lives.
The reminiscences of our youthful joys and early associations – of the ties of family and of home – and of school life – all rush back to the mind in maturer years with irresistible force and cling to us even in our last moments of earth. The warm affections, in the home, the school, in the church – reach their richest glory and fruition when maturer years permit of calm reflection and reminiscence. Certain common bonds are linked together during these early years of association and fellowship, which become stronger and richer as the years go by. We carry with us ever sacred recollections of those great and noble men and women of sterling worth and integrity, your forebears and mine, whose strenuous and untiring personal sacrifices have made it possible for us to enjoy our present advantages and opportunities.
This community is rich in its storehouse of treasures of the associations, experiences and joys of early youthful boyhood, and a return to its familiar scenes and places, the meeting again of life-long friends, is always a source of great happiness and pleasure. Even more so is the delight of returning to you on this particular happy occasion, this delightful “Home Coming” which is being held at this time in connection with your Centennial celebration.
I have always considered it my real good fortune to have been born, reared and nurtured in a community of moderate size, instead of a large city. And I need not tell you that I have always considered it my very good luck that the particular community happened to be New Bremen.
I agree with the late John Sherman, one of Ohio’s great statesmen, when he says in his “Recollections”: “The life of a man is greatly influenced by the place of his birth, the surroundings of his boyhood and the habits and customs of the community in which he lived.”
We sometimes move out of the quiet and serenity of rural community life, out of the wilderness, into the city, and thereby escape the tooth and claw of savage Nature, only to incur perhaps the deadlier menace of the “Microbes of Civilization”, of whose existence we learn only after suffering the mischief that they do, and then, alas, it is often too late.
I am firmly convinced that the stability and foundation of our country, as it has been in the past and as it must be in the future, is in the hands of those well-organized local communities of which New Bremen is a splendid example, where the best men and women lead and direct the life and activities of the town, have an active and intense interest and concern in its social and educational facilities and advancement, its local government, its community welfare; men and women who by their worthy life, conduct and example, give courage and inspiration to others with whom they may come in contact.
This community is particularly fortunate in the character of its early settlers. There came here in the early days of Statehood, particularly from Germany, men and women who were strong mentally and physically, who combined in their moral character the vigor, energy and ambition of the sturdy pioneer. They came at the formative period of this great state, when manner and customs were yet plastic and pliable, when strong and virile characters were certain to leave their impress and influence for years, and perhaps for all times, not only in their own generation, but upon those yet to come.
As our forefathers, the pioneers gathered in this community one hundred years ago, to raise their rude log cabins, the materials for which had just been wrested by them from the midst of the primeval forest around them (and which they sanctified by the ever appealing name of “Home”) the dwelling place of their families and their ideals, so we meet this evening, in this same neighborhood, under these most favorable auspices, to celebrate their accomplishments and to do honor to their memory.
In commemoration of this most interesting and inspiring event, I therefore ask you to consider with me, for a brief moment, the deep significance of the spirit and ideals of those, our early pioneers, whose plain, simple and solid lives and homely virtues are part of the local history of this neighborhood, in the glory of which we all have a just pride.
It would seem most fitting as we meet here this evening in the midst of the whirl and excitement of our present day life, on this great occasion of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of this town, that we pause for a few moments to do honor to those men and women, to contemplate the lives, character and services of these pioneers for the purpose of ascertaining if we can, just what inheritance of civic virtue, integrity and usefulness by their lives and examples they have left us, their successors, worthy of praise and emulation, to the end that we, their followers, may by our labors and efforts, increase, if possible, the value of their example, or at least preserve and transmit undiminished, their ideals and precepts, to those who soon will receive the torch from our hands.
We honor our community and state, in recalling to memory their careers as upright citizens, God-fearing men and women who knew and ever applied faithfully the spirit of service, in living in harmony with their fellow men, and in ever striving in their daily lives to reconcile their own personal acts and doings with the eternal principles of truth and justice. To commemorate the lives of these pioneers of former days, men who blazed the way in establishing trails through the forests, who struggled successfully with the grim and hard trials which confronted them at every step, is not only just and a worthy tribute to them, but it is distinctively an example for those who follow after them.
The richest heritage that any community can have is the record of the lives and service of its worthy citizens, those who during their life, devoted themselves faithfully and unselfishly to the cause of its institutions, local and state, under which they prospered and whose advantages and opportunities they enjoyed. Such lives furnish inspiration, give hope and faith, point the way and stimulate those of us who come after them to like useful effort and endeavor and service, by the nobility of their exemplary lives.
I repeat again, the history of local communities makes up our national history, for local history is, as it must be, the ultimate source and substance of national history. The history of its local communities is written large. Here in this community, the settlement of which antedates many of our large cities of the present, is to be found that distinctively authentic stuff which has been responsible for our nation’s growth.
The significance of local history is that it is a part of a great and wider whole. It has been well said that: “A spot of local history is like an inn upon the highway, it is a stage upon a long journey; it is a place where national history has passed through. There mankind has stopped and lodged by the way.” The transforming influence of this local community life as it developed and progressed as the years went by is therefore of transcendent importance as part of the history of this State and Nation.
We are meeting here at a time when we hear and read a great deal about “The Century of Progress Exposition” at Chicago. This name was given to the Exposition, I take it, by the men (of Chicago) who conceived the idea, and who are promoting the Exposition. Perhaps they conceived the idea of Progress as having commenced, at least in the United States, just at about the time when Chicago was founded and perhaps even contemporaneously with the foundation of that city. The well-known modesty of the men of Chicago might forbid the heraldry of this idea, but at any rate, the name given the Exposition justifies such an inference.
Jane Adams, of Hull House fame, one of the greatest and noblest citizens which Chicago has ever produced, has recently said that the period to which we go back tonight marks “The dawn of the day of emancipation and hope, opening paths of progress in all directions.”
Another writer says that when this period was opening up, “The real breath of our growth and manhood came into our nostrils.”
However, I need not confine myself to what prominent Chicagoans say of that period in our history when Chicago was founded, but I take pleasure in quoting to you what two nationally famous Ohioans have said of it. Salmon P. Chase, then a rising young Cincinnati lawyer later destined to become Chief Justice of the United States, and who occupied many other notable positions in our national history, in his introduction to the compilation of the laws of Ohio published in 1833, in describing conditions then existing in this State and referring particularly to the era of internal improvements which began just at that time, particularly the building of the canal systems of this State which has figured so prominently in its history, said: “That these improvements have attracted a large accession of population and capital and have furnished to the people a common object of generous interest and satisfaction as a means of intercourse. They have made the name and character of Ohio well known throughout the civilized world as a name and character of which her sons may be justly proud.” I take the liberty of again quoting from John Sherman’s Recollections when in discussing this period, he quotes the following language used by a writer of that time, who was describing the natural resources of the Northwestern Ohio of 1833. He said: “The land is rich and level bearing walnut trees of huge size, the maple, the wild cherry and the ash; full of little streams and rivulets, variegated by beautiful fertile valleys, covered with wild rye, blue grass and clover. Turkeys abound and deer and elk and all sorts of game; of buffaloes, 30 or 40 were frequently seen feeding in one meadow. Nothing is wanting but cultivation to make this a delightful country.”
Another writer says: “At that time (1833-1835) everybody was prosperous. The development created by our system of canals had opened markets for our produce. The public national debt had been paid. The pet banks chartered after the destruction of the Bank of the United States started a wild scheme of inflation. All causes combining created a dangerous and deceptive prosperity that could end only in one way.” (As it did in 1837.)
Now it just so happens that New Bremen was founded at this same time and I see no reason why we might not just as well conceive the idea of dating the real commencement of progress, at least in the United States, from the date of the founding of this town. At least, I would make that my premise if I were going to select as a topic for my remarks this evening the subject “A Century of Progress”, which as the program tells you, is not the case. That it might be quite appropriate to discuss this subject goes without saying, for I notice that books are now being written and published having the title “A Century of Progress.” It is of course very interesting to note what has happened during the 100 years that New Bremen has been in existence. I need not tell you about this for you to know it as well as I do. Suffice it to say, however, that during these 100 years, science, which at the beginning of this period was still in the “dark ages”, has entered world industry everywhere and has wrought amazing changes in everyday life. At the beginning of this period, man was groping about blindly for the laws which would enable him to mould the forces of nature to his use and comfort. Today the result of that mastery of man over Nature are evident everywhere; in new and swift means of transportation, in new and startling methods of communication, in new processes of manufacturing, in new weapons for fighting disease, (to say nothing for fear of marring the joys of this occasion, of the new weapons for the taking of innocent life in times of war.) All kinds and forms of devices have been invented and are now in use to make our physical lives and well being more comfortable, healthy and easy.
It is truly an interesting story, that of man’s conquest over Nature; the marvelous seizure of her powers and the wondrous revelation of the truth of past ages, things that have wrought a metamorphosis in at least the material life and happiness of humanity the world over. The book to which I have just referred is edited and compiled by Chas. A. Beard, and is entitled “A Century of Progress”. It tells what progress has been made during the past 100 years in such matters as Invention, Transportation, Communication, Banking and Finance, Education, Government and Law, Science, Medicine, the Arts, Literature. As to the latter, it might be well to be asked, “What progress has there been in American Literature since the days of Longfellow, Whittier, Emerson, Washington Irving, Hawthorne, Thoreau, et al?”
I ask in particular, what progress in American Literature has there been in these 100 years since the days when that greatest of all American philosophers, Ralph Waldo Emerson, began to spread his gospel throughout the nation? A man, who although of the East, belonged to the Spirit of the West; a man more thoroughly imbued with the spirit of American optimism and with the religion of the infinite possibility of the common man than any other American writer since his day. His thrilling philosophy, “Hitch Your Wagon to a Star” has stirred many an American youth to high endeavor and resolve. In no other author do we get so close to the American spirit, the spirit of the American pioneer, as in Emerson. He is in fact the mirror of the American soul at its best.
If I were discussing this matter at length, I would commence by asking a question, “What do you mean by progress?”; and I should close with the conclusion that the ultimate test of the so-called progress of a nation, its advance in civilization, lies in the character of its manhood and womanhood and not in the magnificence of its buildings, the variety of its manufactured products, or its material physical advantages. That the names of the good men and women, dead and living which have and still glorify a local community, a city, state or nation, are in my opinion its chief claims to progress and to just and lasting fame.
The trails through the woods and wilderness of 100 years ago changed into splendid highways, the rude log cabins into well built and commodious homes, the rough clearings into broad and yielding farms, the hamlets into charming villages and cities, but during all these years certain things have not changed and never can change - namely, those fundamental ideals, the ideals of the pioneers, which must ever be and remain the basis and foundation of any real and lasting progress and advancement in the life of any community, state or nation.
However, I do not intend to expand on this any further, for I am going to talk about something entirely different that does not deal or concern itself with material matters of this kind, but something which relates to and concerns the life, conduct and ideals of human beings – men and women who lived when this so-called “Century of Progress” opened up, and of course I am speaking particularly of the men and women of this community of 100 years ago, the pioneers of New Bremen, Ohio.
The courage and energy which inspired these pioneers to strike out into the forest primeval to blaze a trail long before the days of the railroad, canal, telegraph or telephone, or any other means of transportation or communication except the horse or ox cart, was most worthy in its conception. In the remote countries from which they had emigrated, they had heard of the new Eldorado of the West and they came here filled with an enthusiasm and imbued with a determination to carve out for themselves and their families, if not success, at least a livelihood under conditions far different from those prevailing in the countries which they had left, for here at least they would have the right to live as free and independent human beings.
They were men of iron mold and the acquirement of their daily arduous toil was the result of no holiday excursion. What strength the bold endeavor in the cutting down of the forests to make the clearings; what breadth of hope and longing in the building of the rude log houses, therein to rear the family; what pride in the usual well-known rivalries of the village; what noble thoughts of the Divine Creator and life eternal in the quiet of the rural church on the Sabbath Day! Here is to be found the real and true story of the men and women who put the life blood into our theory of Government as intended and established by the founders of our Constitution, for without these maintaining influences, it would ever have remained a mere scrap of paper.
The rewards of these, our early pioneers, if rewards they may be called, were largely to be found in the satisfaction which they derived from the leading of useful lives, work well and satisfactorily done; in the tilling of the soil, the making and establishment of homes, in the carrying on of their small handicrafts and stores, and the rearing of families, and in the respect, good will and esteem awarded them by their neighbors.
They possessed above all a strong ethical sentiment combined with a vigorous moral and social purpose, deeply rooted in idealism, but an idealism of a practical sort. They fully realized and ever had a firm grip on the facts of life, and so while keeping their gaze fixed on the stars, “their faces turned toward the light”, they yet kept their feet firmly on the ground. Their ideals could always be made to “stand the strain of weaving into human stuff on the loom of the real.” They ever had in mind that beautiful conception of the ideal so graphically stated by a one-time citizen of Wisconsin, the great Carl Schurz – himself an exile from his native country, in words that will always bear repetition: “Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them, you reach your destiny.” It is difficult to conjecture what human history would have been without the commanding influence of such ideals – human, moral, and religious; perhaps there would have been no human history at all.
They possessed in full measure the qualities of heart and will, which go to make up good men, good fathers and mothers, good citizens. High-mindedness was a controlling characteristic, and inflexible and incorruptible integrity was ever a distinguishing element. That spark of celestial fire usually known as conscience was ever burning within their breasts. High nobility of nature – the chief jewel of a truly good man – was a predominant trait. They ever stood upright for the higher and better things of life, for civic righteousness, social justice, right and moral living and the betterment of living conditions surrounding them. They never grew narrow and selfish in the pursuit of selfish ends, for they had at all times an all-embracing sympathy for their fellow man in all walks of life. They were able to feel with him and as has been so well said, “They had a fine ear for the heart pulses of humanity, beating under all kinds and conditions.” They carved out for themselves during their lives a splendid reputation by reason of the possession and practice of these traits of character and they have left behind them a glowing memory that these 100 years has left undimmed.
Fair and square dealing with their fellow-men were among the fundamentals upon which their conception of life and duty were based. The “Square Deal” of a few years ago, or the “New Deal” of the present era, were not necessary as political heraldry among themselves, it was taken for granted as a necessary part and parcel of that attribute which a Divine Providence instills into and bestows upon human beings, as a beacon light shining in their paths to guide, cheer and direct them as they struggled along the way towards the attainment of these real worth-while prizes which mankind has ever been groping and searching for, although they are always within its easy reach and realization. They fully appreciated that many of the finest and most abiding things in life could be had at little or no cost in money; that there was always at hand an opportunity for the self-expression of themselves in a way to give abiding satisfaction to the better and deeper desires of life, thereby bringing real and lasting pleasure and contentment, those things which President Elliott of Harvard has called “The enduring satisfactions of life”. They likewise fully realized that the least worthwhile things of life, although perhaps the most expensive, are those so to say, so abundantly displayed during these recent times often referred to as “The Jazz Age”.
Artificial social distinctions among them were stripped open, shown to be the thin cloaks and marks of veneer, which really they were and always will be, thus bringing every man into a true and clear and intimate realization of his relation to his fellow-man. This is to me the central dominating fact and influence of our national life, its history and development, the keeping alive of this true theory and philosophy of our life, originating as it did in our rural and village communities; and it has made itself felt at all times as a most potent factor in whatever real progress we have made during these 100 years. Have we at last come to the parting of the ways, are we at the cross-roads? I do not answer the question, but I do say that we were very close to it when the dark days of October 1929 came suddenly upon us and brought us to a realization of the brink and abyss at our feet. Yes, perhaps, we are again at the cross-roads politically, socially, and economically, as we were 100 years ago. For history does in fact repeat itself.
The problems confronting us today are not new in the history of nations. It has been necessary again and again to meet and attempt to solve them in the past. If these problems are to be solved, as solved they must be to prevent civilization from collapsing, the first step must be a return to the simple yet noble ideals of life of which our pioneers, the pioneers of America, gave us such inspiring examples a century ago. To quote as strictly applicable at this time, one world idealist, Woodrow Wilson (in August 1923): “Our civilization cannot survive materially unless it be redeemed spiritually… only thus can discontentment be driven out and the shadows lifted from the road ahead.” In other words, there must be a return and a re-dedication to the things of the spirit – those subtle yet substantial and all powerful forces and influences which shape our ends, rough hem them as we will.
That generation of pioneers which produced so many great picturesque characters has in my opinion absolutely passed from the present stage of action. That we shall have them again appears to me quite problematical and doubtful. The predominately commercial and industrial spirit of the present age in which we live and that has so nearly come to our complete undoing, has unquestionably a tendency to lessen the possibility of the reoccurrence or reappearance of such characters and leaders of our past.
We are paying a great price for the increased facilities, comforts and conveniences of living which these modern industrial days and commercial life have brought us, and the price we have paid and are still paying is the disappearance and loss of that outstanding and distinctive personality, that picturesqueness of character, which was so predominant in the men of the period which we are recalling this evening.
We are a nation that has been populated by pioneers, and we are descendants of those who pushed Westward into the wilderness and laid the foundation of our present great Central and Western commonwealths. Some of you here present are but one generation removed from those pioneers. They were men of hope, courage and expectation, of energy and enterprise. They possessed a steadfastness in their bold design, which it does a present faint-hearted and almost terror stricken age good to look back upon and consider. Life for them was arduous, difficult, a perpetual and constant struggle. It called for gigantic courage and strength, physical and moral, and required above all things, confidence in one’s self. They indeed lived a “strenuous life”, for they braved the dangers of the wilderness and made their paths through unmarked forests where Nature’s forces seemed to conspire to block their way. With ax in the forests, pick in the hills, and plough on the lowlands, they pushed to completion the dominion of our people over the great wilderness, and that they have given definite shape to the destiny of our nation cannot be challenged. In doing so, they showed the characteristic traits of the typical American. As homemakers particularly, they were the great up-builders of the state and nation. They showed the dualities of daring endurance and foresightedness of eager desire for eventual victory, and stubborn refusal to accept defeat, which go to make up the essential spirit and manliness of true American character. They recognized in most practical form the fundamental law of success in American life, namely the law of worthy and honorable work – work well done, and of high and resolute endeavor.
They were dreamers of dreams of the practical and yet ideal life, which to them meant a better, richer and fuller life for every man, with full and free opportunity for each one, for advancement according to his ability or efforts at achievement. Not a dream of horses and carriages, of luxury and a life of ease, but a dream of social order in which each man and woman should be able to attain to the fullest stature of which he or she was innately capable. They believed in the valuation of others for what those others really were, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or station, and they expected as much from others for themselves. This was a dream of being able to grow to the fullest of one’s development, unhampered by the barriers of the older civilization which they had left behind, a civilization and order encompassed by artificial class distinctions, into which one had to be born in order to be admitted to its so-called sacred precincts.
The privations and hardships of the men of the pioneer community, where all were engaged in a common struggle and where a common bond of sympathy and hearty co-operation lightened the burdens of each, is a different hardship and privation from that conscious and humiliating kind which is every day forced to contrast itself with wealth and ostentation. The hardship and privation of the pioneer was but the beginning of ultimate individual independence, for he had the boundless possibilities of the future always open up before him. No man ever grew up in such a community, where in its early days house-raising, corn husking, butchering and threshing always was a matter of common interest and helpfulness with any other feeling, spirit or instinct than that of broadminded and generous charity, humanity and unselfishness.
They possessed above all things faith in themselves, and faith in others, and particularly in the self-made man for he was their ideal. For he was the kind of man that all men might become. Out of his wilderness experience – out of the freedom of his opportunities, he fashioned a formula for social regeneration – the sheet-anchor of their social system – the freedom of the individual to seek and establish his own fortune. True and genuine leadership therefore was easily developed – a leadership based on the possession of those qualities most serviceable to the young and growing community.
They had settled in a place where every man had a chance, and knew that he had it. Where every man could climb, and felt himself inclined and encouraged to climb from the lowest to the highest position in the race of life. A place where for every man there was equality of opportunity and freedom to work out his own destiny in his own way – limited only in this respect by the equal rights of his fellow man. In other words, there existed triumphant that well-known “rugged individualism” which was one of the dominant and outstanding influences in our early history. A belief in the genuine worth of each man and woman, the humblest as well as the most exalted, based on their possible capacity to benefit by and from the opportunities presented by our institutions; a firm belief in the inherent right to be restricted by no barriers whatsoever beyond and except those limitations necessarily imposed by society for its self-protection in their legitimate efforts to attain to the fullest expression of themselves.
This belief was fostered by the spirit of the times and it may be well to keep in mind that at that time – 1833 - Democracy had become triumphant as it had never been before in that Andrew Jackson had been elevated to the presidency of the United States, and with the advent of Andrew Jackson, a real and vital milestone in our national history was reached. The voice of the West had been heard from and it was now to take its active part in the deliberation and councils of government. This voice may be described as that of “Frontiersmen” which rang out clear and distinct over all the others. It was then that we really swung into the main arterial highway of our history. New partners in Government had been admitted. The East with its Adams’, Hamiltons, Madisons, and Monroes, had been displaced. Men stood amazed at the change and the conservative states of the East were startled, overwhelmed and chagrined. Another revolution was being witnessed but one without bloodshed. A champion of the common people had arisen, one who successfully challenged the rights of priority of any particular class, from any particular section to direct the destinies of the government. A man who vehemently and courageously denounced the then existing money power and its citadel of strength as he believed the then existing banking system of the States to be. He sounded a fierce tocsin of danger and stood adamant against the ever increasing power and influence of organized wealth in government and politics. The ugly serpent of secession had lifted its head during his administration and he struck it off with one fell blow just as he routed the British forces during the war of 1812. Is it any wonder that he became the great ideal of the common people of his day? And there is still real reason why he should remain such even at this time, for Jacksonian ideals of Democracy must ever remain with us.
This important historical fact must be kept in mind in the analysis of the history of the times when this community was founded, for the mind of Jackson grasped and understood as it had never been before the true American spirit as represented by the pioneers and frontiersmen of the then West. It is most fitting to refer to and recall Jackson’s name and career at this particular time, for it is just 100 years ago since his influence really permeated the entire life of the nation and it unquestionably must have reached the pioneers of this section and had its influence and effect here, as it did throughout the entire country.
May I add that a re-reading of the history of our country during this particular time leads me to the conclusion that Andrew Jackson guided and directed this Nation through chaos and dangers and difficulties as great, if not greater, than those now confronting and surrounding us. May I also add that I have an all-abiding faith that the accomplishments of Andrew Jackson will be repeated by the leader who now occupies that exalted position which Jackson held 100 years ago.
This spirit and these ideals were in truth the spirit and ideals of the pioneer of our so-called Middle West. For the ideal of equality, freedom of opportunity, faith in the common man, are deep rooted in this entire section comprising the old Northwest Territory, for years the economic and political center of our nation, and of which your state - my adopted state - were a part. The early inhabitants of this Territory seem to have been deeply influenced by the provisions of that charter of Government under which they lived during their early history, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, a really great achievement in statesmanship and democracy and which blazed the way for the expanding empire. The frontier stage, through which this Territory passed, left abiding traces on the entire life of this section. The emigrants who poured into this territory and the territory of the Middle West sought this country with great hopes and faith. Their ideals began in the log huts set in the midst of the forest of a century ago. While his horizon was still bounded by the small clearing that his ax had made, the pioneer was dreaming of other and greater conquests. The vastness of the wilderness kindled his imagination. His vision saw far above and beyond his immediate surroundings. These men and women were idealistic at heart, and they had the power and will and moral stamina to make their dreams come true for they possessed all those traits of character which are so essential to success - individual activity and initiative, resourcefulness, physical endurance, self-reliance and courage and an all abiding Faith in the great Architect of the Universe.
The Spirit of the American Pioneer represents and typifies the everlasting struggle of man for a better and higher type of social organization. To the peasant farmers and artisans of the Old World theretofore bound by the clanking chains of an inevitable social class as old as history itself, such a community as this offered an exit into a free life and greater well-being, with natural resources that demanded only manly exertion and physical courage and endurance, and that in return gave the chance for an almost limitless ascent in the scale of social advance and well-being. They came into this land of opportunity – which has since its settlement been the goal of all idealists – knowing that here there was a new social order, that here the bonds of social past and privilege of the old homes in Europe had been rent asunder, that here they had at least a chance to work out for themselves an unlimited reward proportioned to the material powers that God had given them - a chance to live and to bring up their families under conditions which insured a larger, fuller, richer and happier life.
The picture of the Pioneers, and the Nation established by them, portrayed by Carl Schurz, to whom I have already referred to, is perhaps one of the finest to be found anywhere. He said: “Thus was founded the great colony of free humanity, which has not old England alone, but the world for its mother country. And in the colony of free humanity whose mother is the world, they established the Republic of equal rights where the title of manhood is the title to citizenship. My friends, if I had a thousand tongues, and a voice as strong as the thunder of heaven, they would not be sufficient to impress upon your minds forcibly enough the greatness of this idea, the overshadowing of this result. This was the dream of the truest friends of man from the beginning; for this the noblest blood of martyrs had been shed; for this has mankind waded through seas of blood and tears. There it is now, there it stands, the noble fabric in all the splendor of reality.”
It is good that such men, such pioneers, have lived and that they will continue to live and abide with us. They fully measure up to the high estimate of the great Webster when he said, “A truly good and great man is not a temporary flame burning bright for a while and then expiring, giving place to returning darkness. It is rather a spark of fervent heat as well as radiant light, with power to enkindle the common mass of human kind, so that when it glimmers in its own decay and finally goes out in death, it leaves the world all light from the potent contact of its own spirit.”
Such men give hope and strength to those of us who come after them. They cheer and lighten life’s burdens. When they go from us they leave rich memories of manly and virtuous lives and noble achievements, the recollection of which inspires us anew to the performance of every duty and prompts to the emulation of their example. To be thus enshrined in the hearts of our fellows is to attain the very summit of human effort, endeavor and aspiration. As long as lofty character, commanding abilities and loyalty to what is true and right and good constitute just and abiding claims to the admiration of our fellow man, we shall always be proud of their leadership and grateful for their example. Nobler and more worthy models on which the youth of today may mould his future career cannot be found in the local annals of any city or state. The spirit of their lives, and the light of their exemplary characters, will be potent to help sustain the noblest institutions of the State and will always abide with us, as their noble bequest which they have left to us, their followers.
“O may I join the choir invisible of those immortal dead who live again in minds made better by their presence, live in pulses stirred to generosity, in deeds of daring rectitude, in scorn for miserable aims that end with self, in thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars, and with their mild persistence urge man’s search to vaster issues.
So to live is heaven - to make undying music in the world, breathing as beauteous order that controls with growing sway the growing life of man.” -Frank T. Boesel