[Footnote: Read before the Worcester Free Industrial Institute, June 25, 1885.]
By DANIEL C. GILMAN, President of the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.
I cannot think of a theme more fit for this hour and place than handy-craft. I begin by saying "handy-craft," for that is the form of the word now in vogue, that which we are wonted to see in print and hear in speech; but I like rather the old form, "hand-craft," which was used by our sires so long ago as the Anglo-Saxon days. Both words mean the same thing, the power of the hand to seize, hold, shape, match, carve, paint, dig, bake, make, or weave. Neither form is in fashion, as we know very well, for people choose nowadays such Latin words as "technical ability," "manual labor," "industrial pursuits," "dexterity," "professional artisanship," "manufacture," "decorative art," and "technological occupations," not one of which is half as good as the plain, old, strong term "hand-craft."
An aid to hand-craft is rede-craft--the power to read, to reason, and to think; or, as it is said in the book of Common Prayer, "to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest." By rede craft we find out what other men have done; we get our book learning, we are made heirs to thoughts that breathe and words that burn, we enter into the life, the acts, the arts, the loves, the lore of the wise, the witty, the cunning, and the worthy of all ages and all places; we learn, as says the peasant poet of Scotland,
"The song whose thunderous chime Eternal echoes render-- The mournful Tuscan's haunted rhyme, And Milton's starry splendor!"
I do not pit rede-craft against hand-craft. Quite otherwise, I call them not foes (as some would), but friends. They are brothers, partners, consorts, who can work together, as right hand and left hand, as science and art, as theory and practice. Rede-craft may call for books and hand-craft for tools, but it is by the help of both books and tools that mankind moves on. Indeed, we shall not err wide of the mark if we say that a book is a tool, for it is the instrument which we make use of in certain cases when we wish to find out what other men have thought and done. Perhaps you will not be as ready to admit that a tool is a book. But take for example the plow. Compare the form in use to-day on a first-rate farm with that which is pictured on ancient stones long hid in Egypt--ages old. See how the idea of the plow has grown, and bear in mind that its graceful curves, it fitness for a special soil, or for a special crop, its labor-saving shape, came not by chance, but by thought. Indeed, a plow is made up from the thoughts and toils of generations of plowmen. Look at a Collins ax; it is also the record of man's thought.
Lay it side by side with the hatchet of Uncas or Miantonomoh, or with an ax of the age of bronze, and think how many minds have worked on the head and on the helve, how much skill has been spent in getting the metal, in making it hard, in shaping the edge, in fixing the weight, in forming the handle. From simple tools, turn to complex; to the printing press, the sewing machine, the locomotive, the telegraph, the ocean steamer; all are full of ideas. All are the offspring of hand-craft and rede craft, of skill and thought, of practice put on record, of science and art.
Now, the welfare of each one of us, the welfare of our land, the welfare of our race, rests on this union. You may almost take the measure of a man's brain, if you can find out what he sees with his eyes and what he does with hands; you may judge of a country, or of a city, if you know what it makes.
I do not know that we need ask which is best, hand-craft or rede-craft. Certainly "the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee." At times, hand-craft becomes rede-craft, for when the eye is blind the hand takes its place, and the finger learns to read, running over the printed page to find out what is written, as quickly as the eye.
In these days, there are too many who look down on hand-craft. They think only of the tasks of a drudge or a char-boy. They do not know the pleasure there is in working, and especially in making. They have never learned to guide the fingers by the brain. They like to hear, or see, or own, or eat, what others have made, but they do not like to put their own hands to work. If you doubt what I say, put a notice in the paper asking for a clerk, and you will have a, hundred answers for every one that will come when you ask for a workman. So it comes to pass that young men grow up whose hands have not been trained to any kind of skill; they wish, therefore, to be buyers and sellers, traders, dealers, and so the market is overstocked with clerks, book-keepers, salesmen, and small shop-keepers, while it is understocked in all the higher walks of hand-craft. Some men can only get on by force of arms, lifting, pounding, heaving, or by power of sitting at counter or a desk and "clerking it."
Machinery works against hand-craft. In many branches of labor, the hand now has but little to do, and that little is always the same, so that labor becomes tiresome and the workman dull. Machines can be made to cut statuary, to weave beautiful tapestry, to fashion needles, to grind out music, to make long calculations; alas! the machine has also been brought into politics. Of course, a land cannot thrive without machinery; it is that mechanical giant, the steam engine, which carries the corn, the cotton, and the sugar from our rich valleys to the hungry of other lands, and brings back to us the product of their looms. Nevertheless, he who lives by the machine alone lives but half a life; while he who uses his hand to contrive and to adorn drives dullness from his path. A true artist and a true artisan are one. Hand-craft, the power to shape, to curve, to beautify, to create, gives pleasure and dignity to labor.
In other times and in other lands, hand-craft has had more honor than it has had with us. Let me give some examples. Not long ago, I went to one of the shrines of education, the Sorbonne in Paris. Two paintings adorn the chapel walls, not of saints or martyrs, nor of apostles or prophets, perhaps I should say of both saints and prophets, Labor and Humilitas, Industry and Modesty.