Address at the Opening of the Illinois Building.
Mr. President of the Illinois Board of World's Fair Commissioners, and Madam President of the Illinois Woman's Exposition Board, and Ladies and Gentlemen:
We have met to formally open the Illinois Building and make it, with its contents, a part of the Columbian Exposition, an exposition whose grandeur neither pen nor pencil can picture.
We feel that this is a great day for the people of our State, for it is the first time in their history that they have attempted to stand beside the nations of the earth for the purpose of comparing achievements.
We are, in a sense, the host of the world, which has gathered within our borders to exhibit the products of its highest civilization, and, as these products are addressed to the eye, and silently tell the story of the past and the condition of the present, we are endeavoring, as host, to respond in kind. This building, with its grand proportions, its majestic height, its symmetry, and beautiful lines, will testify to our skill in the art of building, and we expect the numerous exhibits gathered here to tell, in silent eloquence, the brilliant history of Illinois. But, my friends, while we are thus vying with the nations of the earth, in showing the wonderful things accomplished, let us not forget that all that we see here is emblematical. This exposition, while surpassing even the dreams of genius, is but intended to commemorate a great event in the history of the world. These life-like statues; these Grecian columns and Roman arches; these temples of industry, of science and of learning, which challenge the admiration of the gods, are but the language, they are but the words, the exclamations with which this age expresses its admiration for the achievements of Christopher Columbus.
More than four centuries ago, when the world was about to awaken from a long night; when literature showed new signs of life; when art began again to breathe; when science and philosophy again lifted up their heads; when the centuries were in labor to give birth to a new era and new civilization, in which man might again walk the earth, not with his head bowed, his hands shackled and his spirit crushed, but with mein erect and his face to the sun; a civilization in which woman should no longer be a beast of burden, but a companion to man; then there went through the universe a silent call for a new land with a new atmosphere in which to rock and nurture the new time, for the countries of the old world were so covered with the malaria which had thickened during centuries of tyranny, of superstition and darkness, that nothing beneficial to mankind could flourish there.
Responding to this call, there came forth a young man who knew little of the fashions of his day, took no part in the gay frivolity of his time, did not live in luxury nor go forth in fine raiment. The idle aristocrats felt that they were of greatly more consequence than he; but he had what all men who have helped mankind had, and that is, industry, perseverance and self-reliance. He was a sailor and was
323familiar with the hardships and dangers of a sea-faring life, and instead of going to banquets he spent his nights pondering over charts, until he conceived the idea of finding a new route to India by sailing westward. The art of navigation then consisted of sailing from head-land to head-land. The earth was supposed to be flat, and the regions beyond the horizon to be peopled with monsters. He sought assistance from the commercial people and they laughed at him; he applied to the learned and they pronounced it impossible; he appealed to the men in office and they said he was insane; finally he appealed to a sympathetic woman, and she assisted him. In three little vessels, which to-day would be pronounced unseaworthy, he embarked on an unknown ocean. He sailed for months, with the world against him, the elements against him, the crew against him, and starvation in front of him; but he never faltered a moment, and finally sighted land. He had defied and conquered the learning of his time; the influences of his time, the authorities of his time, as well as the danger of the elements and the frown of the fates, and he gave to the world a new science, a new navigation, a new geography, a new continent, and ultimately, a new civilization and a new hope. It was on the continent discovered by Columbus that there was the first successful experiment among men of absolute freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of action, and the highest form of a free man's government. It was here that the first successful attempt was made of lifting up the masses by universal education. And it is this continent which has given to the world most of those wonderful inventions which have revolutionized industry, have brought all people close together, and are covering the earth with intelligence. Nowhere else have the possibilities of human achievement, when the mind is given freedom of action, been so fully exemplified as here.
Let me say in conclusion, that it was proper that this celebration of the discovery of America should be held in the United States, because the important results following that discovery had their birth here. Again, it was fitting that it should be held in Illinois, for it possesses, not only the richest, most productive and extensive agricultural resources of any State in the Union, but, extending over more degrees, of latitude, it has a greater variety of climate, and consequently of products, than almost any other State; and particularly was it fitting that the great Exposition should be located in the city of Chicago, which exemplifies more than any other city in the world, not only the possibilities of human achievement when the mind is given freedom of action, but has demonstrated to the world that men
324of all nationalities, of all religions, and all conditions can live harmoniously in the same community; can toil side by side and rally to the support of the same flag.
I am proud to open this building because it is not the creation of either King or Emperor, but of the independent citizens of the State of Illinois, and the marvels that are on exhibition here are the work of their hands, and they will go away from here with higher ideals, with newly kindled patriotism; with renewed confidence in themselves and their high destiny, and they and their children will stand nearer the altar of our common country than ever before.
Let me tell you another thing. In preparing for this Exposition, women of different lands have learned to help each other, and thus the nucleus of an international woman's organization has been formed, the ultimate, far-reaching influence of which in the emancipation of her sex no man can foresee.
Now, ladies and gentlemen of the Illinois Board, I commit the management of this, the distinctive Illinois exhibit, to your hands, and in doing so I would remind you that a great responsibility rests on you. Our people are proud of this State, they know its riches and its resources, they are proud of its achievements and its glorious history, and being in a sense the host, they want to make an exhibit that shall be a credit to them. They have been liberal, even lavish, in supplying means for this purpose, and will examine your work with a critical eye; but, judging from what you have already done, I am satisfied that the honor and the glory of the State are here safely left in your hands.