Robert Green Ingersoll
EFFECT OF THE WORLD'S FAIR ON THE HUMAN RACE. THE Great Fair should be for the intellectual, mechanical, artistic, political and social advancement of the world. Nations, like small communities, are in danger of becoming provincial, and must become so, unless they exchange commodities, theories, thoughts, and ideals. Isolation is the soil of ignorance, and ignorance is the soil of egotism; and nations, like individuals who live apart, mistake provincialism for perfection, and hatred of all other nations for patriotism. With most people, strangers are not only enemies, but inferiors. They imagine that they are progressive because they know little of others, and compare their present, not with the present of other nations, but with their own past. Few people have imagination enough to sympathize with those of a different complexion, with those professing another religion or speaking another language, or even wearing garments unlike their own. Most people regard every difference between themselves and others as an evidence of the inferiority of the others. They have not intelligence enough to put themselves in the place of another if that other happens to be outwardly unlike themselves. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 11 EFFECT OF THE WORLD'S FAIR ON THE HUMAN RACE. Countless agencies have been at work for many years destroying the hedges of thorn that have so long divided nations, and we at last are beginning to see that other people do not differ from us, except in the same particulars that we differ from them. At last, nations are becoming acquainted with each other, and they now know that people everywhere are substantially the same. We now know that while nations differ outwardly in form and feature, somewhat in theory, philosophy and creed, still, inwardly -- that is to say, so far as hopes and passions are concerned -- they are much the same, having the same fears, experiencing the same joys and sorrows. So we are beginning to find that the virtues belong exclusively to no race, to no creed, and to no religion; that the humanities dwell in the hearts of men, whomever and whatever they may happen to worship. We have at last found that every creed is of necessity a provincialism, destined to be lost in the universal. At last, Science extends an invitation to all nations, and places at their disposal its ships and its cars; and when these people meet -- or rather, the representatives of these people -- they will find that, in spite of the accidents of birth, they are, after all, about the same; that their sympathies, their ideas of right and wrong, of virtue and vice, of heroism and honor, are substantially alike. They will find that in every land honesty is honored, truth respected and admired, and that generosity and charity touch all hearts. So it is of the greatest importance that the inventions of the world should be brought beneath one roof. These inventions, in my judgment, are destined to be the liberators of mankind. They enslave forces and compel the energies of nature to work for man. These forces have no backs to feel the lash, no tears to shed, no hearts to break. The history of the world demonstrates that man becomes what we call civilized by increasing his wants. As his necessities increase, he becomes industrious and energetic. If his heart does not keep pace with his brain, he is cruel, and the physically or mentally strong enslave the physically or mentally weak. At present these inventions, while they have greatly increased the countless articles needed by man, have to a certain extent enslaved mankind. In a savage state there are few failures. Almost any one succeeds in hunting and fishing. The wants are few, and easily supplied. As man becomes civilized, wants increase; or rather as wants increase, man becomes civilized. Then the struggle for existence becomes complex; failures increase. The first result of the invention of machinery has been to increase the wealth of the few. The hope of the world is that through invention man can finally take such advantage of these forces of nature, of the weight of water, of the force of wind, of steam, of electricity, that they will do the Work of the world; and it is the hope of the really civilized that these inventions will finally cease to be the property of the few, to the end that they may do the work of all for all. When those who do the work own the machines, when those who toil control the invention, then, and not till then, can the world Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 12 EFFECT OF THE WORLD'S FAIR ON THE HUMAN RACE. be civilized or free, When these forces shall do the bidding of the individual, when they become the property of the mechanic instead of the monopoly, when they belong to labor instead of what is called capital, when these great powers are as free to the individual laborer as the air and light are now free to all, then, and not until then, the individual will be restored and all forms of slavery will disappear. Another great benefit will come from the Fair. Other nations in some directions are more artistic than we, but no other nation has made the common as beautiful as we have. We have given beauty of form to machines, to common utensils, to the things of every day, and have thus laid the foundation for producing the artistic in its highest possible forms. It will be of great benefit to us to look upon the paintings and marbles of the Old World. To see them is an education. The great Republic has lived a greater poem than the brain and heart of man have as yet produced, and we have supplied material for artists and poets yet unborn; material for form and color and song. The Republic is to-day Art's greatest market. Nothing else is so well calculated to make friends of all nations as really to become acquainted with the best that each has produced. The nation that has produced a great poet, a great artist, a great statesman, a great thinker, takes its place on an equality with other nations of the world, and transfers to all of its citizens some of the genius of its most illustrious men or woman. This great Fair will be an object lesson to other nations. They will see the result of a government, republican in form, where the people are the source of authority, where governors and presidents are servants -- not rulers. We want all nations to see the great Republic as it is, to study and understand its growth, development and destiny. We want them to know that here, under our flag, are sixty-five millions of people and that they are the best fed, the best clothed and the best housed in the world. We want them to know that we are solving the great social problems and that we are going to demonstrate the right and power of man to govern himself. We want the subjects of other nations to see a land filled with citizens -- not subjects; a land in which the pew is above the pulpit; where the people are superior to the state; where legislators are representatives and where authority means simply the duty to enforce the people's will. Let us hope above all things that this Fair will bind the nations together closer and stronger; and let us hope that this will result in the settlement of all national difficulties by arbitration instead of war. In a savage state, individuals settle their own difficulties by an appeal to force. After a time these individuals agree that their difficulties shall be settled by others. This is the first great step toward civilization. The result is the establishment of courts. Nations at present sustain to each other the same relation that savage does to savage. Each nation is left to decide for itself, and it generally decides Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 13 EFFECT OF THE WORLD'S FAIR ON THE HUMAN RACE. according to its strength -- not the strength of its side of the case, but the strength of its army. The consequence is that what is called "the Law of Nations" is a savage code. The world will never be civilized until there is an international court. Savages begin to be civilized when they submit their difficulties to their peers. Nations will become civilized when they submit their difficulties to a great court, the judgments of which can be carried out, all nations pledging the cooperation of their armies and their navies for that purpose. If the holding of the great Fair shall result in hastening the coming of that time it will be a blessing to the whole world. And here let me prophesy: The Fair will be worthy of Chicago, the most wonderful city of the world -- of Illinois, the best State in the Union -- of the United States, the best country on the earth. It will eclipse all predecessors in every department. It will represent the progressive spirit of the nineteenth century. Beneath its ample roofs will be gathered the treasures of Art, and the accomplishments of Science. At the feet of the Republic will be laid the triumphs of our race, the best of every land. -- The Illustrated World's Fair, Chicago, November, 1891.