This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
I am happy, on this occasion, to meet so many old comrades - stal-wart young fellows whom I knew before they aspired to shoulder-straps; with whom, side by side, I carried a musket into many bloody fights, which their valor turned to victories. I am glad to see them here to-night, safe and sound, and by their high-rank uniforms attesting that republics are not always ungrateful.
Gentlemen, the record of the United States Army is brilliant with deeds of bravery and distinguished conquests. Tracing it from the first fight of the Revolution, in 1775, to this day, when peace is in all our borders, Americans have reason to glory in its achievements, and we know that it stands well in the estimation of the world.
What the Army has been in the past, and it owes much to the courage and energy of our citizen-soldiery, we may safely rely upon it in the future, when the alarum of invasion or intestinal conflict shall be sounded. As in the past, the nation will rise as one man, and the cry of "to-arms!" will again meet with a hearty response.
There is another reason why all honor should be accorded to this important bulwark of our nation, and it is this: While in most foreign countries military service has to be enforced by conscription, or draft, or by royal edict, here the latent patriotism of the people, and the liberal provisions of the government, lead them to volunteer freely for the maintenance of the Army.
The Army also owes much to the moral and substantial support of the people at large. Who so honored as General Washington, General Grant, General Sherman and General Sheridan? Who so esteemed as the men who have fallen in defense of our flag, whose graves we decorate with spring-time flowers from year to year? My comrades, we have reason to rejoice that the American soldier, living or dead, may count his admirers by the thousands.
Gentlemen: I think you will all agree with me when I refer to this occasion as one of those bright oases in ordinary life which release us from business cares and afford us opportunity to unbend and mingle in cheerful recreation with our esteemed friends. I am sure that we all need a stimulus of this sort after a season of drudgery at the desk or counter, in order to clear away the dust and cobwebs from our brains, to revive our social natures, and to develop the finer sentiments and feelings of humanity. When I look around this generous board and see so many friendly faces, my heart warms, and there comes bubbling up the desire that these happy reunions might be more frequent in our existence. But while I rejoice with you that the hour has been a triumph of social enjoyment, we should not be forgetful of those to whose thoughtful care and hospitality we are indebted for it. Certainly we can, each one of us, appreciate the bounty and good taste that have provided this delightful banquet, and I, therefore, have no hesitation in asking you to pledge to them our warmest regards while I propose the healths of our excellent host and hostess.
Gentlemen - Friends: It would ill become me to sit still with that hearty sentiment ringing in our ears and nestling in our hearts, and, in my own name and that of my wife, I rise to thank you, sincerely and earnestly, for your very kind expressions of esteem and friendship for us. True gratitude does not require to be clothed in many words. Language is frequently inadequate, in such cases, to convey more than a mere and remote idea of the feelings that are prompted by such very gratifying and generous sentiments as you have so unanimously uttered. In all sincerity and earnestness, as your friends, we hope for your individual prosperity in all the relations of life and business, trusting that in the early future we may have the pleasure of again meeting you, under as agreeable circumstances, to renew our mutual and harmonious enjoyment.
A Toast - " The Ladies."
Response by a tender-hearted bachelor. Gentlemen: I think you must have known me and my sentiments pretty well when you assigned to me the duty of responding to the toast of "the ladies;" for I confess it is a subject to which I have given much thought, and of which I have expressed much admiration. Really, it touches a tender chord in my bosom, and I suppose I am peculiarly sensitive about it because my mother was a lady. Oh, these mothers! how much we owe to them! Our being, our earliest nourishment, our consolation, our training in the ways of life. They are our guardian-spirits, our lovers, our helpers, our teachers, our best friends. I pity the man who has never felt a mother's love," or her - slipper, when he has wandered into forbidden paths and been caught at it! I tell you these are things to remember. In imagination I can feel them tingling still; but far better comes the re-membrance to my heart, that while she caused my tears to flow, she had all she could do to keep her own from mingling with mine.
And my sister! I heartily respond for her, because, being older than I, she guided my infant footsteps over many rough places, carried me when I was tired - and boxed my ears when I was naughty.
My sweetheart! I cannot tell you how many there were of her! I never knew - but no school-room could seat all of her. I don't know which of her I loved the best. I know some of her loved me well, but my stolen cherries, nuts and candy better! She was of all ages, all styles of beauty - white and brown - pale and quiet - rosy and a romp; but I loved her dearly, and for her I respond to-night.
My cousin! Yes, I respond in memory of her, hateful and aggravating though she was; stealing my gum, begging half my apple, cuffing me when I kissed her, wheedling me into writing her compositions for her after school - and making me like her whether I wanted to or not!
My friend! I remember her in all sweetness! She never sauced me; she never tormented me by word or deed; she never "went back" on me; I could trust her with all I had; she always kept my secrets; always gave me good advice; always sewed on my buttons, and never grumbled; taught me how to be good, and how to be polite, and how to be manly; I tell you she was a friend, indeed, to be proud of. But she is dead!
My wife! - Don't laugh. It is true that I have none now; but in the future, when I join hands with her at the altar, and proudly call her mine - though I do not now even know her name or the number of her shoe - I shall marry her because I love her. I wish for her good health wherever she is to-night!
And now, gentlemen, when the roosters are waking up and dawn is appearing, it is time to close our festivities and retire to our couches. May pleasant dreams await us there !
Response to the Toast of" The Press."
Gentlemen: To speak ably to a toast relating to a subject so important and of so much magnitude might well stagger the confidence of any individual, unless he be an editor; and the smaller the circulation of his paper, so much greater, ordinarily, would we expect to find his confidence on an occasion like this.
That I have been announced as the speaker to respond to this toast seems to me a pleasant parody, when I consider the genuine eloquence and intelligent comprehension of the topic that some older and more experienced journalist would have brought to bear upon it. But the fiat has gone forth, and I rise, in accordance with your behest, to utter a few words about my chosen profession.
Gentlemen, what the power of the press has been in the past, in shaping public opinion, correcting public morals, rebuking social and political abuses, and instructing the people, is too well-known to be repeated here in detail. Whatever progress the arts and sciences, domestic culture, legislation, education, and commerce, have achieved, is largely due to the influence of the press. Our national integrity, advancement and prosperity owe much to types and printers' ink. In truth "the press, the lever that moves the world," has done good service and with Archimedean energy has moved the world as no other earthly power could move it. Show me an enterprise of man that the newspaper has not developed and strengthened, and I will show you an enterprise that the dark ages would be ashamed to encourage.
We find much fault with the press for revealing crime and wickedness, and clothing it with attractiveness and "sensation" that it does not deserve. We accuse it of shaping public opinion to the detriment of society. Gentlemen, remember that the people rule in this country, and that the press, like Abraham Lincoln in the war, can only echo and fulfill the wishes of the people. Educate the people to think for themselves, to study and maintain their own opinions, regardless of the press, and the press will find its true level and be the exponent of the real sentiments of the public. As it is, the average citizen prefers to let the press think for him; and when he is called to serve upon a jury, his mind is so imbued with the opinions of the reporter and editor that he is incompetent to form an honest judgment on the evidence of sworn witnesses.
This is all wrong. Gentlemen, believe me the brains of the community are not all in the editor's skull. I accord to my profession all the influence, all the wisdom, that it has any reason to claim; but it is not infallible. Men and women should be more independent of it. Like the lawyer, the editor, trammeled by political ambition and personal motives, does very much special pleading as the advocate of many things which he should be ashamed to approve.
But still the press is a mighty engine for reform. It can gather and disseminate really important information with greater rapidity than the slower process of book-making and distributing can possibly do, and reach a larger class of readers. If all the motives and energies of the press are on the side of morality and truth, it will fulfill the functions of a missionary in a good cause; but if the paper is "satanic" in its principles, and its readers lack the moral stamina to resist its influences, the effect must be more or less evil.
No, the man or woman who is willing to sit calmly down, and say, "Well, my paper says so and so is right, and I suppose it is, because the editor is a sharp fellow and knows, probably, better than I do," does not comprehend the privileges he or she possesses to think and act independently.
All honor to the press as a power for good, but none for it as the conservator of immorality.