BUT why? the reader will ask; and where is Paoli? I address myself to those who may be coming to Philadelphia or New York over the Pennsylvania Railroad, which, before the Government laid its icy hands upon it, advertised itself as the ‘Standard Railroad of America.’ Of course, not everyone comes to Philadelphia; many persons going from Chicago to New York are so ill-advised as to take the New York Central; and some, who want to come the worst way, take the B. & O., as the old music-hall joke has it. Or, if you are living in, — Boston, say, — you may take the same intellectual interest in Philadelphia that we take in, — Norfolk, for example, — and won’t come at all. Nevertheless, Philadelphia is a great city, and I am going to ask, if you approach it from the west, that, you leave the train at Paoli, and continue your way by motor along what was for more than a century the Lancaster Turnpike, now the Lincoln Highway, spanning, or destined to span, the Continent.
The complaint which is frequently brought against us, as a nation, is that we are not interesting. ‘ It is a wonderful country, but it is not interesting’ — so Matthew Arnold said when he was here; and he continued: ‘The very names of your towns and streets are lacking in distinction and suggest nothing: Washington is a beautiful, some day it will be a magnificent, city; but fancy living at 17th & K Streets!' I heard Matthew Arnold lecture on Emerson when he was in Philadelphia; but the only impression I retain of the lecturer is that he spoke with a pronounced English accent, and that he wore ill-fitting clothes; consequently, I was very much amused the other evening when I came across the follow - ing anecdote. On his return to England, Matthew Arnold called on Mrs. Procter, the mother of ‘Barry Cornwall.’ The lady was old, but not too old to be witty. He expected to be asked his opinion of America; instead, she asked what was America’s opinion of him. ‘Well,’ Arnold replied, ‘they said that my clothes did n’t fit and that I was very conceited. To which the lady made response: ‘Matthew, I think they were mistaken about the clothes.’
We, who live along the ‘main line’ of the Pennsylvania Railroad, know that Matthew Arnold’s charge will not lie against us. Two hundred and more years ago, when the early English and Welsh settlers came here, they brought their old-world names with them. And in addition to names like Merion, Radnor, and Bryn Mawr, we have some beautiful ones indigenous to the country around us, — Indian names, and names which carry us back to Revolutionary and pre-Revolutionary times. The railroad runs along a ridge of hills, almost parallel with the great highway, which is, in effect, a high street, dotted with taverns and road-houses, which administered hospitality to man and beast — what time it was not illegal to slake a thirst.
It is said that there were as many as sixty of these life-saving stations, or one to a mile, between Philadelphia and Lancaster, — for this was a busy road in the good old days when George III was King, — and they were of all grades, high and low. Authorities differ as to the best, but they all seem to be agreed that the worst was the ‘Blue Ball,’near what is now Daylesford station. And among the Balls of various colors, the Bulls and Lions and Spread Eagles and Sorrel Horses, there was an inn with a foreign name much favored by the aristocracy — ‘The Paoli.’
‘How curious!’ you may say. But listen. We are back in 1769. At that time, Pasquale Paoli’s name was one to conjure with: freedom was in the air; wherever men congregated, liberty was being discussed; and Paoli, then at the height of his fame, was known as the Liberator of Corsica; the unfortunate and not very important little island in the Mediterranean, midway between France and Italy. So, when we out here at a cross-roads in the country were busying ourselves about securing a license for the sale of intoxicants in the new road-house, as yet without a name, what more natural than that the name of Paoli, synonymous with Liberty, should be given to the tavern? The old house, and the more famous one which replaced it almost a century later, are now gone; but Paoli, the settlement which sprung up around the old landmark, is now a thriving town, the terminus of strictly suburban railroad traffic. Many express trains from the West stop at Paoli, and I think all will, if the conductor be properly approached; but as to this, I must not be quoted; for the officials of the railroad are neighbors of mine, and I want to live at peace with them.
Starting due east, almost before you have had time to get up to speed, you will pass the Tredyffrin Country Club; men, and women too, will be playing golf; I shall not be among them, for, although I once was president of this club, when it was discovered that I did not know the difference between a foursome and a brassie, and that the nineteenth hole was the only one I could put a ball into, I was given the choice between resignation and expulsion.
But, as I was saying, as you pass the club house, turn sharply to the right, cross the first road you come to, and a few yards farther on, turn again to the right, and go down a tree-bordered avenue. In a few minutes, in a few seconds, in a swiftly moving automobile, you will come upon one of the finest old colonial houses you have ever seen. It is the birthplace of Anthony Wayne, ‘Mad Anthony,’ as he came affectionately to be called after the recapture of Stony Point from the British; subsequently Major General and Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army. His career as one of Washington’s most trusted officers is clearly written into the history of the Revolutionary War; and, if you had time, it would be a pleasant thing to swerve somewhat out of your course and visit his final resting-place, a few miles away, in the churchyard of ‘Old St. David’s’ at Radnor. But you must hasten on; for you are on your way to Valley Forge, where you will see much that will interest and delight you. So content yourself with strolling around the fine old Wayne mansion, and reading the tablet let into the south wall; then enter your motor and return to the Highway. In a few moments you will be spinning by the concrete piers at the entrance of a drive that leads to the home of the writer of this paper.
If you observe, as you may, that these concrete piers are somewhat out of plumb, be advised, dear reader, that this fact has been called to the attention of the owner many times; the explanation is that they were erected, in his absence, by several colored brothers, who had been defying successfully the provisions of Mr. Volstead, his Act.1 Had he been sure of the hour of your passing, he would have been at home to bid you welcome; indeed, he would have met you at the station and would gladly have acted as your guide; it is a great delight to him to show visitors the strip of country which lies between Paoli and Philadelphia. Indeed, it is only when approaching Valley Forge, the spot upon which was recited the winter-long soliloquy of the great Washington, that he feels his heart beat with patriotism; elsewhere he is somewhat too inclined to question the workings of democracy; but never here; for, as someone has said, no spot on earth is so sacred in the history of the struggle for human liberty as Valley Forge. But you still have several miles of good riding before you.
As you approach the Devon Garage, with a picturesque log-cabin alongside it, take a sharp turn to the left, and after climbing a short hill, you will descend into the Great Valley. The road is picturesque and, at the moment, — thanks to the policy of our enlightened Governor Sproul, — is in excellent repair. As you go, you will pass the Great Valley Baptist Church, which has been standing for well on to two centuries in a large, well-cared-for, and well-populated churchyard.
At this point I usually tell a story. Years ago, I had a distant relative, a poor and intensely proud old lady whose home was in Virginia. She was once walking in Richmond with a little girl who called her cousin, when, as they passed a small frame structure, the child remarked, ‘Cousin Nannie, what kind of a church is that?' The old lady, looking down at the child, replied, ‘That is not a church, that is a chapel.’ And they passed on. Presently the child remarked, ‘Cousin Nannie, what’s the difference between a church and a chapel?’ After a moment came the reply: ‘A chapel is where Baptists worship.’ A few moments later, the child put a final question: ‘Cousin Nannie, is it a crime to be a Baptist?' ‘No, my dear,’was the answer; ‘it is not a crime, but it is a great social misfortune.’ The finest Christian gentleman I ever met I have brought up on this story. Need I say that he is a Baptist?
After a run of a few miles over an undulating road, with trim, well-kept farms on either side, there will come into your view a fine equestrian statue of Anthony Wayne; and a moment later, a large, well-proportioned arch, a memorial to Washington and his officers; and if you are properly attuned to the occasion you will begin to murmur to yourself, —
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!’
for you will be in Valley Forge Park.
And now, if you will, forget the motor car in which you have been luxuriously gliding over smooth asphalt or macadam roads; forget the friendly farms which dot the landscape, and imagine this hilly country, bleak and cold as it was during the awful winter of 1777-78. The attack upon the British at Germantown, on the outskirts of Philadelphia, had ended in failure; General Sir William Howe had settled down to spend a pleasant winter in Philadelphia; and Washington sought a place, where, by taking advantage of the protection afforded by a river, a stream, and a range of hills, he might remain unmolested until his army, starved and half-naked, men, might, with the coming of spring, once more take the field.
The history of this country — of all countries, perhaps — is the history of individuals overcoming the obstacles put in their path by groups, either willfully, or acting in the belief that they are helpers in a cause. One whose service to America has never been sufficiently appreciated, Tom Paine, the English radical, was here too, endeavoring with his pen to enhearten the fast declining spirits of the colonists. In ringing phrases, ‘These are the times which try men’s souls,’ and the like, he ably seconded the efforts of Washington, dividing his time between the Headquarters of the Army at Valley Forge and York, Pennsylvania, where a body of men calling itself the Congress was sitting. The six months, from December 19, 1777, to June 19, 1778, were undoubtedly the darkest in American history. During that time it is estimated that several thousand men perished on these Valley Forge hills; and while the soldiers were dying of neglect, Congress talked, thus setting an example which has been followed right down to the present time.
Again, if you will, forget the awful misery and suffering suggested by this gloomy picture, and in imagination come with me a short distance, less than twenty miles as the crow flies, to the city of Philadelphia, and witness a very different scene. Despite the Declaration of Independence signed in the State House only eighteen months before, Philadelphia was largely Tory. Many of the Quakers were for nonresistance. Society was frankly proBritish: that is to say, many a pretty girl, whose brother or lover was, or should have been, fighting for his country, was flirting industriously with the British officers, while the tradespeople generally preferred the golden guineas of the British quartermaster to the constantly depreciating currency which Congress was issuing as fast as printingpresses could turn it out.
In those days, war was the chosen profession of the European gentlemen; but it was not of a quality which we have recently come to understand. It was a game played by men, gloriously uniformed in scarlet and gold, during those months of the year when the weather made life in the open possible, if not pleasant. With the coming-on of winter, the campaign closed; the army went into winter quarters; the men gave themselves up to vice, drinking, and cards, while the officers beguiled the time with cards, drinking, and vice.
It was about the middle of October that Howe moved his forces into Philadelphia, and, after throwing up some few entrenchments to protect his army from possible but unlikely surprise,— for he was kept fully informed of the condition of the army under Washington, — he with his brother officers settled down to enjoy a pleasant winter in what then was the gayest city on the continent. Severity in dealing with the colonists having been tried without result, a policy of reconciliation had been begun, and little or no damage was done. Clubs were formed, concerts and dances planned, money and the essentials of life were plentiful. ‘We have all that is necessary and much that is superfluous,’ wrote home an officer, under date of January 18, 1778.
But Howe was tiring of chasing elusive Americans from place to place; he complained that he did not have the confidence of his superiors at home; and, finally, he wrote and begged that he might have His Majesty’s permission to resign. When this was accorded him, he turned over his command to Sir Henry Clinton and, after a fête of great magnificence, known to all Philadelphians as the Meschianza, given him by his brother officers, he returned to England. Those of our ancestors who took part in this historic pageant — and mine were among them —■ were glad to avail themselves of the skill of the ill-fated Major André, who planned events, painted scenery, devised costumes, and worked so indefatigably, that the affair was so successful that it was said no general of modern times had ever been so honored. At the end, a setpiece of fireworks was exploded, and a legend, ‘Thy laurels are immortal,’ was revealed against a background of night; but it has been observed that, when General Howe arrived in London, these laurels were already faded.
A century passes. Washington, having overcome all obstacles, wears laurel that is indeed immortal. He is the Father of his Country. The hundredth anniversary of the evacuation of Valley Forge brings a crowd, including generals, orators, and, alas! poets, to the place. A few years later, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania acquires certain tracts of ground at Valley Forge, ‘to be reserved for a public Park.’ From this small beginning grew the present large and beautiful reservation maintained by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in honor of Washington and the Continental Army forever.
At the time of the celebration of the one-hundred-and-twenty-fifth anniversary of the departure of Washington and his ‘ contemptibles’ from these historic hills, there appears upon the scene a young clergyman, well known and loved by those who know him, brothers considered visionary and likely to get himself into trouble. When a man is called visionary, it usually means that he sees further than his fellows. Such a visionary was the Reverend W. Herbert Burk. At the time I am now considering, he was the rector of a small church in Norristown, a town in no respect different from a thousand other small towns, except that it is just across the Schuylkill River from Valley Forge. In All Saints’ Church at Norristown, on Washington’s Birthday, 1903, Dr. Burk preached a sermon, in the course of which, speaking of Washington having been discovered at prayer, alone, on the hills across the river, he said: ‘Would that we might on those hills rear a wayside chapel, fit memorial of the church’s and the nation’s most honored son.’ From saying ‘Would that we might,’ to erecting, in enduring stone, the most beautiful ecclesiastical monument on this continent, is a long and bitterly exhausting proceeding; for, having dreamed his dream, Dr. Burk awoke and proceeded to put it into effect.
Of what use is it to recount difficulties when they have been so largely overcome? Pour encourager les autres. The difficulties which beset Dr. Burk were many and sundry. The Bishop of the diocese could see no reason for erecting a chapel in a place where there were few people; and, above all things, a chapel which, before it was finished, might cost — millions. He smiled benevolently, as bishops do, and put his ecclesiastical foot down. Both feet. So did everyone else whom Dr. Burk consulted, that is to say, everyone who could by any chance have assisted him in his undertaking, among them the writer of this paper. Then, people having neither judgment, experience, nor money, came to his assistance — and made his work more difficult. It is altogether possible that, without the example of Washington himself, Dr. Burk might never have overcome the obstacles which confronted him.
Have I suggested that he is a marvelously fluent talker; that he knows what he wants; that he is a psychoanalyst, if that commits him to a study of the weaknesses of others and to the development of his own strength; or that he has the energy of half a dozen men? Little by little, men, and women too, came to believe in him. From having everyone against him, everyone was now for him. He went steadily on. He was careful to make no mistakes. Finally, after several years’ preparation, a committee was formed, and architects’ plans were invited, which, at the suggestion of Dr. Charles C. Harrison, Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, were referred to Professor Warren P. Laird, the present Dean of the School of Fine Arts of that University, whose trained judgment led him to select the plans of Milton B. Medary, Jr.
This architect had, after careful study, decided that Perpendicular Gothic architecture was best adapted for the building; and Professor Laird, in his report said: ‘The chapel dominates the group, ’ (for the chapel that one sees at present is only the first of a series of buildings connected together by cloisters, galleries, and the like,) and,
‘ while not overpowering it, is sufficient for its purpose and is placed at the right point to complete and balance the mass.’ . . . ‘The chapel, while pure in historic character and fine in proportion, has an expression of dignity, repose, and strength, which it would be difficult to carry further.’
In due time the cornerstone of this fabric was laid, by the Bishop of the Diocese, assisted by some two hundred clergy and choristers, who then marched away, leaving Dr. Burk with the plans for a fine building and a well-laid cornerstone on his hands. But Dr. Burk had only begun to fight. Prayer and advertising is his slogan. Every patriotic society in the country was appealed to: Colonial Dames, and Daughters, and Sons, and Descendants of Sons, were invited to contribute, and most of them did. The thirteen original states were shown how they could honor themselves by joining in the undertaking, which, by this time, had become national in its scope. By slow degrees the building rose out of the ground. What was done was well done; and after a time the stone walls reached to the bottom of the sills of the great gothic windows. Then temporary walls and a roof were erected, so arranged that the final structure could be carried up to its full height without interfering with the use of the chapel, in which the first service was held on Washington’s Birthday, 1905.
Almost ten years, years of struggle against obstacles almost insuperable, were to pass before the full beauty of the Washington Memorial Chapel could be seen and understood by persons not in the confidence of those who were privileged to undertake the work. Now that the chapel is practically complete, its beauty is patent to all. Whose creation is it? Dr. Burk’s, whose dream it was, or the talented architect’s? — who, I am sure, has been inadequately paid, if indeed he has been paid at all, for his services. I venture to give the palm to Dr. Burk. It was his idea; to it he has dedicated his life, to the exclusion of all else. And if you were to ask him from whom he had received the greatest assistance and encouragement, he would say, ‘From Dr. and Mrs. Charles Custis Harrison, without a doubt.’ It is possible that without their efforts the beautiful chapel would still be far from completion. As it is, the tower only remains to be erected. This work, it is hoped, will shortly be undertaken, at the expense of the bankers of the country, in honor of Robert Morris, the nation’s first financier. In it will be placed a chime of thirteen bells, which will be rung upon special occasions, and special occasions are of almost daily occurrence at Valley Forge.
As we come suddenly upon this finely proportioned cathedral in miniature, — I am inclined to think that its site could have been better chosen, but bishops are only men with frocks on, and must have their way, — lifting itself up along the roadside among the trees, we rub our eyes in amazement; and when one is told that the completed scheme calls for a museum, a library, a large assembly, and diningrooms, where learned, patriotic, and other societies can be suitably entertained, one is astounded at the scope of the plan, and increasingly respectful of the man whose life-work it is.
Leaving our motor by the roadside we approach the chapel on foot; immediately our attention is challenged by a fine cloister which, we are told, is the Cloister of the Colonies. It consists of thirteen bays, adjoining the chapel, immediately to the west; all of these are at present completed, with the exception of those named after the states of Georgia and North Carolina. New Jersey has the honor of being the first state to erect its bay.
It has frequently been my privilege to watch the reaction of visitors upon entering the chapel, especially those coming from Europe, most of whom never heard of Valley Forge. One leaves the glare of day and of the present, and enters a shrine of exquisite, if subdued, color. Everything is in perfect taste: the ceiling is of paneled oak, each panel revealing in carving and in colors the coat-of-arms of one of the states of the Union. The pews are oak, with beautifully carved ends, in which color has been used, with great discretion, to heighten the effect. The stained-glass windows are of almost overpowering beauty. My friend E. V. Lucas, that sympathetic wanderer in Paris and elsewhere, on seeing them, immediately exclaimed: ‘They are as lovely as the windows of Sainte Chapelle.’ It gave me pleasure to tell him that they were made by an Italian artist of great distinction in Philadelphia. The wrought-iron work might have come from the hammer and chisel of Benvenuto Cellini; it also came from Philadelphia. No detail has been slighted, nothing has been overlooked; everything means something; everything has some historic significance.
In the chancel is an organ, a fine instrument, the keyboard of which is never locked. Some day, someone will come forward and give a sum sufficient to provide an organist who shall for an hour or more every day make that organ peal forth its glorious music to those who may wish, in the delicious beauty of that Chapel, to forget the cares and perplexities which press so constantly upon us. I have often heard the martial strains of the ‘ Battle Hymn of the Republic,’ or ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers,’ wafted through the open door on a fine Sunday afternoon. What a delight it would be to feel that these hymns, and others like them, are to be played daily on that instrument — forever!
It was a glorious vision that appeared to Dr. Burk twenty-five years ago! How thankful he should be that he was permitted to see his dream-chapel take form and substance. He has worked hard, he has overcome difficulties understood only by those in his confidence; but he has been permitted — not to complete his work; a century or more may elapse before ‘finis’ can be written; but — to set a standard for what remains to be done. We quickly discover, as we listen to him, why he has accomplished so much. He is positively irresistible: one must do as he wills. If he wants the President of the United States to make an address, he goes to Washington and gets him. In this way Roosevelt was brought here some years ago; and a few months since, President Harding, having said that he could not and would not leave Washington on account of important business, nevertheless came, and upon his departure had increased his admirers by the eight or ten thousand people who saw him enter the Chapel, and who later heard him address them from the pulpit under the trees. President Harding was the first President to occupy the pew set aside for the nation’s ruler.
A visit to the Washington Memorial Chapel at Valley Forge is a patriotic duty; for, as Lord Bryce, that great Englishman who understood us and our institutions so well, said in a letter to Dr. Burk, written only a day or two before his death: ‘No memory ever deserved more universal honor than Washington’s; we have, as you know, recently erected a statue of him in Trafalgar Square, one of the best positions in London.’
We leave the Chapel and look around us: near-by, just beyond a grove of trees, on the hillside overlooking the Schuylkill, is to be a large cemetery. It is sparsely populated at present — we are hardy folk out here in the country; but some day it will be densely crowded. Farther on are well kept roads sweeping over the hills, giving vistas of beauty; while here and there are little cabins which serve as guardhouses, erected in the same manner and of the same proportions as, if more substantially than, those built by Washington’s soldiers. The lines of intrenchments, earthworks thrown up by the soldiers, as much to occupy their time as to afford protection, are still to be seen skirting the hillside; while down by the river is the little stone house which served as Washington’s Headquarters, very much as it was when he occupied it. The monuments and markers here and there might detain us, were not time flying.
In reply to your question as to who attends this Chapel, I would call attention to the little hamlets through which we have passed, and may tell you that there is more quiet comfort, and unostentatious elegance between Paoli and Philadelphia than anywhere else I know. Consider the immense extent of this surburban country — not taken up by a few magnificent estates, but occupied by tens of thousands of prosperous citizens, whose motors bring the Chapel easily within reach. Besides which, there is a constant stream of visitors from all over the world.
May I recount an experience I had at the Chapel several years ago? It was at a time when we had been highly stimulated by propaganda to hate the Germans and love the French, — the natural reaction from which we are now undergoing, — that someone had the happy idea of celebrating Bastille Day, which fell upon a Sunday, at Valley Forge. A company of marines was to be brought from the Navy Yard at Philadelphia, whose patriotism was to be stimulated with sandwiches, cake, ice-cream, and coffee. It fell to my lot to preside at this part of the function. The services of a local band were requisitioned, and later there was to be a presentation of flags. Dr. Burk agreed to preach a patriotic sermon; I suspect that he would rather preach a sermon than listen to one.
‘Bastille Day at Valley Forge’ was well advertised; people for many miles about came in their motors; never before had there been such a crowd. It was midsummer, July 14; the weather — typical Philadelphia weather for that time of year — as hot as blazes. As the crowd gathered, it was decided that it would be best for Dr. Burk to make his remarks to as many as could hear him under the trees, from the open-air pulpit, an architectural feature of the cloister. The marines arrived: at a word of command they charged upon and overcame the refreshments, while the band played French and other national airs with involuntary variations.
The crowd increased; it grew hotter; the sky became overcast; it looked like rain; and I began to fear for the success of the meeting. The Chapel might hold two hundred people; there was an attendance estimated at twenty times that number, most of whom had come in motors which had been parked on the roadside for a distance of a mile or more: no one had thought of the necessity of regulating the traffic.
At length, at the appointed hour, Dr. Burk began to speak. ‘The trees were God’s first temples,’he said. There was a flash of forked lightning, followed by a crash of thunder which suggested that God’s first temples were being torn up by the roots. Then it rained as it rains only in Mr. Conrad’s stories. Instantly, there was a rush for the Chapel, which had already been sought by the wise ones; then there was a counter-rush for the motors, and the ceremony was at an end. Sauve qui peut became the order of the afternoon — but few could.
I had been given five words to say: ‘La Fayette, we have went,’ or some such matter; but there was none to listen. It poured in torrents for twenty minutes, until we were all wet to the skin; then the rain ceased, — the sun came out, — and it was hotter than ever. There were a hundred cars between me and my motor; my wife, having been despoiled of her refreshments, was trying to save her china in a cabin far away, crowded to suffocation. I saw that it was from the circumference that help must come; I was at the centre and could do nothing. Weary and wet, I opened the door of somebody’s limousine, and sat down, determined that nature should take its course — which it did, in the direction of a heavy cold. I may be mistaken, but I have always thought that my wife blamed me for that thunderstorm.
Before finally taking leave of Dr. Burk and his glorious creation, I must refer to an order I received from a lady several years ago, to write a paper calling attention to the beauties of the Chapel — an order which I am only now, tardily, obeying. It was during the war, shortly before her death, that Mrs. Cassatt, the widow of the President of the Pennsylvania Railroad (we are back to the railroad, you see), sent for me and said: ‘ Are you aware of the greatness of the work that Dr. Burk is doing in your community, and of how shamefully you are neglecting him? Do you know that he is depriving himself of the comforts, of the very necessities of life, in order that his work at Valley Forge may go on? A physical breakdown is imminent. I have sent him away for a month or so; when he returns I wish to hear’ (she was an autocratic old lady) ‘that some of you men, prominent in your community, have agreed that in the future he shall be properly looked after. Are you one of his vestrymen ? You should be: you live not far away.’
‘But,’ I replied, ‘how about your son? He lives nearer Valley Forge than I do.’
There was just the merest trace of a smile on the face of the old lady as I referred to Colonel Edward Buchanan Cassatt, the most picturesque character in our neighborhood, a distinguished sportsman, possessed of every charm that one would not expect to find in a vestryman. (How he laughed when I told him of my encounter with his mother!)
‘The fact is, madam,’ I went on to say, ‘Dr. Burk selects his Board of Directors with the same care with which your husband used to select his; and neither of us, I fancy, sizes up to his requirements, although I dare say — ’ But no, I must not write it.
I got one hearty laugh out of the old lady when, in reply to her question as to how some money could be raised, I asked her if she was willing to invest in Dr. Burk’s newly planned graveyard and make it a live concern. The enterprise had just been started, and I had bought a lot to help the scheme along; but this was not enough. What Dr. Burk wanted was interments, and so he told me very plainly. ' You ’re little or no use to me,’ he said, ‘except, under a handsome monument — something I can point to.’ I verily believe that he would cheerfully bury his best friend, if by so doing he thought he could add to the beauty or interest of the landscape. Such are the workings of his enthusiasm. It was quite a relief when, the last time I saw him, he told me I might go on and live forever, for all he cared: things had been coming his way very satisfactorily.
And now, unless you are considering investing in cemetery lots, I need detain you no longer at Valley Forge. Let the impression of what you have seen sink in, and you will wish to come again. As you roll along the well-kept roads leading to Philadelphia, you will pass through the country of which we Philadelphians are so proud: those towers belong to Bryn Mawr College. That is the Merion Cricket Club. Philadelphia is the only place in the country where cricket is played with enthusiasm. In a few moments, you will cross the city line and enter our justly famous Fairmount Park, disfigured here and there with some bad statuary, but otherwise very beautiful. You are approaching a specimen now. I never see a bit of bad statuary without thinking of that supremely wise and witty essay by George Moore, ‘Royalty in Art,’ in his volume, Modern Painting. Take it from your shelves, reader, get it from a library, better still, buy it; if you do not enjoy it, I will lake it off your hands. The statue before you is of a soldier of our Civil War; he is of lifesize, doubtless, but he is mounted on a tall, granite pedestal, so heavy that the figure which surmounts it looks like a letter seal. Who and what can it be? The man is in the uniform of a private; he has a long drooping moustache of granite, and he leans upon a rifle of the same. Curiosity will cause you to stop and read this: —
TO THE SOLDIERS AND SAILORS OF THE CIVIL WAR
Did they succeed? Let this monument he their answer.
Do not laugh, dear reader; hurry away, save your risibles for something worthy. As you pass the Memorial Hall, a relic of the Centennial Exposition, you will come upon and pass through a meaningless architectural bit, a sort of glorified gateway leading nowhere. On either side is a very tall granite shaft, something over one hundred feet high, and on the top of each shaft is a statue; but observe that, one of the figures is walking. One foot is raised; should he do the obvious thing and put his foot down, he will plunge headlong into the shrubbery a hundred feet below. I wish that he might. I have passed this artistic abomination half a dozen times a week for years. Has no one on the Fairmount Park Art Commission, or whoever it is that has authority in such matters, a sense of humor? Surely everyone must see how absurd it is. A man with courage and a rope could bring that statue to the ground in a jiffy — I have the rope. What is it that Max Beerbohm says? ‘Only a sculptor and his mother would maintain that sculpture is not a lost art.’
Yonder is Philadelphia. No longer a clever, green town built by Quakers, but an enormous manufacturing wen which calls itself the Workshop of the World. Perhaps it is. Certainly it is a city of foreigners; the Quaker has disappeared, the American is submerged. There are whole districts where, for blocks, — squares we call them, — only Yiddish, or Polish, or Italian, is spoken: where a newspaper published in the English language cannot be had.
Is this democracy, or, simply, anarchy? I sometimes wonder — I am given to wondering — whether this holy experiment, as Penn called it, of democracy would be thought successful by its founders. When I consider how clumsily we have solved, if indeed we can be said to have solved, our governmental problems, I am inclined to doubt. Washington fought for, and secured for us, a continent. Are we not foolish to be robbed of our noble inheritance by the anarchist and the agitator? In letting down the bars, — perhaps it would be more exact to say, in erecting no bars whatever around our possessions, — we have placed in jeopardy our most precious institutions, and in exchange we have secured — what? Cheap labor, nothing else. We mistake the rapid exploitation of this continent for a logical operation of democracy.
I wish that we might pause and take stock of ourselves. Is it not time for us to go slow, to ‘stop, look, and listen,’ as the railway signs have it, at dangerous crossings? I wish that we might descend to a higher order of living. I wish that we might not fell all our trees, burn all our coal, exhaust all our mines. Let us leave something for our children. As I look about me, I see much that disturbs me: the influence of the stock of Washington disappearing, and in its place two great political parties, bankrupt of ideals, led by rival demagogues interested only in securing or retaining power. I see one gigantic ‘Alain Street,’ a Corso along which is a reckless race for wealth. I wish that we might close our doors and keep them closed until we have assimilated our enormous foreign population.
I remember Goldsmith’s lines: —
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.
I wish that an intellectual and property qualification limited the franchise, which politicians refer to as our most precious possession. I suppose that it is for this reason they have given it to men who do not speak our language or understand our institutions; who are permitted to vote practically upon their arrival on our shores. Will ‘votes for women’ remedy this condition, or aggravate it?
Emerson says somewhere that ‘When God thinks of Kings, he smiles.’ May He not also sigh as, looking at us over the rim of the world, He says to Himself: ‘My children down there are always going to extremes’?
- My friend McLanahan, whose whiskey is such a solace in these days of drought, observing that these posts were out of plumb, was much too considerate to call my attention to the fact, but asked me if I remembered the story of the Irish mason building a wall: someone came along and said, ‘That wall is out of plumb.’ ‘You’re a liar,’said the mason, and getting a line on it exclaimed joyfully, ‘Sure, it’s more than plumb!’ — A. E. N.↩