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daily tasks. The principal hardships to the growing boy were lack of leisure and lack of books. To the first he alluded in a speech to college students made when he was eighty years old: “I do not think the education of boys should be hampered with these practical labors at the time they are gaining their education. I know it was a great disadvantage to me that I could not go to school, for I never have been to school since I was fifteen years of age. To obtain the little education I have, it has cost me many evenings, Sundays after church, and scraps of time that could be devoted to it, involving far more labor than it would have necessitated if I could have been sent to proper institutions of learning to have acquired a liberal education.” The lack of books he set about supplying as soon as he began to earn money and as long as he lived found in his library one of his most solid satisfactions.
THE world into which Justin S. Morrill was born in the month of April, 1810, was a world in ferment and struggle. Europe was still convulsed by the great contest with Napoleon which had consumed blood and treasure beyond calculation, but had swept away also accumulations of tyranny, restriction, and abuse. The combat was entering upon its last phase: though Pitt was gone, his policy lived; England was pouring into the war the streams of gold that her Clives and Hastings were drawing from the hoards of India, while she was training in the Peninsula the legions and the leader who should make Waterloo possible. Everywhere in the older civilizations wars were reducing the number of workers, increasing the demand for labor, stimulating invention, spreading new ideas, and breaking down the power of privilege and tradition. America was likewise experiencing ferment and change, though the forces at work were not identical with those in action abroad. The spirit of nationality released by the War of Independence had grown apace: the consciousness of a great destiny had seized upon the imagination of her leaders, and, both in the War of 1812 and in the declaration of the Monroe Doctrine, they were asserting a new sense of power and of national dignity. Her people were not merely inspired, they were inflamed, intoxicated with the possibilities before them. They became a nation of pioneers; they overran great stretches of territory; men dreamed of private domains, and often realized them, as large as whole counties or even minor kingdoms of Europe; adventurous spirits pushed their way into the most inaccessible regions, crossed rivers and mountain ranges and penetrated to the Pacific. The older communities were stirred by the same leaven. Massachusetts and Connecticut saw new towns founded; the regions of Vermont and Maine, long held back by their semidependent status, were rapidly filled by new settlers; Vermont was made a State and admitted to the Union in 1791, and Maine followed in 1820. A similar new access of energy surged up in the social, intellectual, and religious life of the Nation. The old bonds of Puritanic restraint were broken; social experiments were ventured upon in all directions; new forces began to appear in politics, and in religion a widespread liberalizing movement set in, marked by sporadic revival movements and the great schism in New England when Unitarianism swept over the Congregational churches. -- * The time was electric with change. The transformation from colony to nation, though formally completed still left much to do in essentials. Many were still living who had seen the First Continental Congress and veterans of the Revolutionary War were to be met in every village. Washington had been dead but eleven years. Madison, the third of the great Virginian dynasty, occupied the Presidential chair. The first steamboat had passed up the Hudson but yesterday, and mails were still being carried by stage and postroad. Those who were to give the chief luster to American letters — Emerson, Longfellow, Whittier, Poe, Holmes — were all in their infancy. The slavery question had not yet spread its poison of disruption in the national veins; Garrison was a mere child, Sumner and Greeley were yet unborn, and Lincoln, who was to slay the dragon, was still in his cradle. It might well be supposed that, however powerful and stirring such world-wide social, economic, or religious movements might be, they would have little or no effect upon a remote country hamlet such as that of Strafford in which Morrill grew up. The ocean billows of national or international politics, religion and thought, would, it seems, leave scarcely a ripple mark on those quiet and secluded shores. True it is that communication was slow, imperfect, and difficult; the Boston papers were belated, and when they came brought but dim reflections of the world's affairs. But we perhaps exaggerate the benefits of copious daily drafts of miscellaneous “news.” It may well be that fewer facts more deliberately ruminated and more earnestly discussed contributed to better digested and more tenaciously held opinions. It would be a mistake to infer any intellectual torpor or social inferiority in even the remote New England village of a century ago. Its people would themselves have been the last to admit any such inferiority. “ Certainly in the account which Morrill wrote of the early settlers of Strafford after he had been in Congress there is no hint of the “fathers” inferiority:
The early pioneers of any country, starting with the idea of hewing down the forest to make homes and habitations, are naturally strong and enterprising men and often of a high order of intellect. The first settlers of Strafford were conspicuously of this sort, possessing a large share of brain power, plenty of muscle, and they lived long, unfolding wit and wisdom and much originality of character. To delineate a part of these characters only would be neglecting many more quite as worthy, but to fully embrace them all would fill a moderate volume. Little more than mere mention of their names, with a few incidents, will be attempted, but these will recall many reminiscences, among those who knew the parties and many quaint anecdotes of more value than those here recited which have been current among the people of Strafford for nearly three quarters of a century.
Among the notabilities which should be embraced in this pioneer list, not including all, are such names as Colonel Gove, Samuel Eastman, Jonathan and Abel Rich, Leonard and Freeman Walker, Deacon Moses Brown, Esq., Ben. Preston, Colonel Asahel Chamberlin, Elijah Beaman, Moses Sanborn, Captain John Powell, Willard Carpenter, Elder Aaron Buzzell, Smith Morrill, [Solomon Huntress], John Rowell, Samuel " and Levi Root, Henry Blaisdell, Frederick Smith, sen., Levi Bacon, sen., Silas Alger, Rev. Joab Young, Samuel Bliss, sen., the Barretts, Ben. Tucker, Ebenezer White, sen., Rev. Hadlock Massy, Rev. Jordan Dodge, Philip Judd, Peter Pennock, and Reuben Morey, now living, who has voted at every Presidential election since the foundation of the government, etc., etc. Of Abel Rich, as of others, many anecdotes still live. He had a droll wit, and prolonged the sound nasally of the last word of every sentence immensely. Attending an evening conference meeting where the minister was faithfully performing his duties by pressing various inquiries, he was asked whether or not he had got religion and he answered, “Not any to boast of, I tell ye-e-e.” Paying court to a girl, he offered himself, but she asked for a little time to consider the matter. “Take,” said he, “take to all etarnitee-ee-ee” – and he never went to see her more. It was his practice always to go to church on the Sabbath, and he long held the office of tytheing man, carrying with him a long rod, to the great terror of whispering boys and girls. When the revivalist Birchard was holding a protracted meeting in town, he went, and after listening to one discourse he came out very indignant and said, “I have heard there is talk of a mob-b-b. If Birchard should be mobbed and I was the only witness, I would forget it before morning-g-g, that I would-d-d.” Elder Aaron Buzzell, Free-Will Baptist, long preached acceptably to the largest church in town — performing the marriage ceremony for all that were to be married and attending the funeral service of nearly all that were buried. He was a “Bible and Dr. Watts” preacher, knowing each almost by heart. His sermons and prayers were original and peculiar. His arguments and illustrations, unlettered as he was, were often curiously apt and forcible. He was also full of lively humor, as well as of pious song. Everybody loved him because they felt that one of his aphorisms might be truly applied to himself: “There is no greatness without goodness and no goodness without greatness.” He * Brother of Governor Erastus Root, of New York.