The Debut of Illinois.
Illinois was young; many of her citizens remembered the time when she was not yet a State; thousands remembered the time when the Indians roamed over her prairies. But she was conscious of having had a most romantic and remarkable career. Upon her prairies and along her rivers had been performed deeds of heroism equal to any famed in song or story. Here the red savage had committed some of his most bloody butcheries, and within her boundaries was fought that great battle of debate and of ballots which, in 1822, arrested the progress of the slave power and then and there fixed the doom of Slavery and shaped the future of the entire country, by determining that Illinois should forever be a free State.
On her State plains were mustered many of the great armies, and from her people came many of those renowned chieftains who crushed the mighty rebellion; and she gave to the Nation a number of statesmen whose genius shaped the policy and whose hands guided the destiny of the Republic through its darkest days.
She was also conscious of having no rival in material growth, grandeur and greatness. There was not another State in the world, four hundred miles long and two hundred miles wide, nearly every acre of which was a garden. She was the greatest agricultural State, the greatest dairy State, one of the greatest fruit States; she surpassed all other States in the extent of her coal fields, and had scarcely an equal in the extent of her quarries; her railroads penetrated every neighborhood, her manufacturing industries covered the whole field of human ingenuity, and the enterprise of her merchants was seen in every mart under the sun.
She had built great cities, and when the fury of the elements had laid one in ashes, while the embers were yet smoldering, she re-built it upon a scale of grandeur and magnificence that astonished mankind.
But while she was conscious of all these things, she had not yet formed a close acquaintance with the people of the world; she had not
350yet formally made her debut. While her older sisters had received some attention, she had stood in the background; but she now resolved to step to the front and to close this century by bringing together, in one grand group, all of the highest and best achievements of modern civilization. She resolved to celebrate the anniversary of the discovery of America by bringing together here, on her soil, the greatest material productions, as well as the creations of genius and the conceptions of the grandest intellects of the time, so that the spirit which guided the discoverer across the ocean could now, four hundred years later, at one glance, in one enchanting view, see the mighty results which followed in the wake of that lonely voyage.
With this end in view, she asked her sister States, the older and the younger sisters, to help her; and promptly, generously, nobly they responded. The nations of the earth were invited, people of all countries, of all climes, and of all conditions — from the most highly civilized to the savage — all the devotees of learning, scholars in their seclusion, scientists in their laboratories, philosophers amid their speculations, and religionists amid their devotions, were invited to come and they accepted the invitation. There are here represented nations whose histories run beyond the advent of letters, nations whose cornerstones are hidden in tradition. Their representatives have come bringing the good will of the sovereigns, and bringing with them the highest and best products of their people, material and intellectual they have come from the great empires of Europe, from the vast countries of Asia, from the snow-covered lands of the North, from the time-worn basin of the Mediterranean, from the depths of Africa, from the islands of the sea; all are here, bringing not only the product of their hands, but the achievements of their intellect.
Representative women were here from all over the civilized world. Woman, for the first time in her history, standing on an independent basis in the Congress of Nations. Men of science were here, men who have stolen from nature her secrets, men who arrest disease and strangle pestilence, men who span rivers and build cities, men who have harnessed the lightning to the chariots of men were here; men whose eyes have pierced the rocks and who have forced Mother Earth to give us an idea of her age, men who have reached into the Universe and measured the faces of the stars were here; men who paint for the ages and men who chisel for all time were here; moralists who hold their faces to the sun and look to the elevation of man were here; and the devotees of religion were here — the children of Buddha, the soldiers of Mohammed, the followers of the Cross — worshipers from every altar and from every shrine were here; not to destroy, nor even
351to athematize, but rather to confer for the good of humanity. Never since the first gray dawn of time has there been such a collection of all that was great in achievement, such an assemblage of the master Spirits of the world.
But the entertainment is drawing to a close. The sighs of autumn are heard in the air, the Spirit of Dissolution — yea, sad thought — the Spirit of Dissolution is hovering over the great Exposition; that miracle of the centuries is going the way of all the earth. And as our quests take their departure, we hope they will carry with them that same kindly feeling for us that we have conceived for them.
Gentlemen of the Old Worlds, as you go back to your ancient capitals, to your cities that are white with the frost of ages, tell your sovereigns and tell your people that the people of Illinois and of the great American Republic appreciate the honor which has been done them, and will ever remember it. We could not have succeeded without you. It was not a local, it was not a national Exposition; it was the Grand Exposition of the human race.
Say to them that Illinois affords a market for everything that grows, from the equator to the poles; for everything that is produced, from Siberia to Africa; for everything that genius can design or hand can make. Say to them that Illinois has not only been introduced into the society of Nations, but that henceforth she will keep "open house;" that she stands on the shore of the great Inland Sea and holds aloft a torch to light the way for every traveler and every wayfaring man under the sun to her gates; that at her door all honest people are welcome. Say to them that every man who comes with good intent or noble purpose, or who brings new thought or lofty sentiment; every man who comes with mind to think or hand to do, no matter at what altar he kneels or at what shrine he bows, is welcome in Illinois.