Cape Cod – Genius Loci – Pt. 3

ALL of us have our land of refuge: for one it is a town, or a house endeared by its remembered atmosphere of simplicity and health; another needs but to cross the threshold of a room where sits the being who has been the best friend of every year; a third has only the land of dreams to people at his will. And one refreshes the ideals of his youth, perhaps, or seeks to wipe out with forgetfulness the scar of some old sin; others, faint with terror for the fate of ships that drift in black seas of hate and lust, find the comfort of cleared vision and steadier brain.

The nation has its land of renewal in the genius of our fathers. Those early Pilgrims, the first immigrants, had by nature the spirit of democracy. They recognized what one man owes another: they were “tied to all care of each other’s good.” They were prepared for growth and change. With good John Robinson, they kept an open mind, nor did they believe that God had “revealed his whole will to them.” “It is not possible,” they held, “that full perfection of knowledge should break forth all at once.” For their Fundamentals, they took over the best body of law that the time afforded, but with no rigid mind: they adapted and added to the law of their fathers with a flexibility that gave genuine freedom to men of their day and promised freedom to the future. The laws they passed were calculated to ensure a man’s loyalty, and to help him live straight. “Government exists that men may live in happy homes,” might have been their dictum. They were entirely human: they enjoyed the free life of the open, and feasting, and the sober perfection of their dress; they liked a fair fight and no favor; they liked best of all a man’s job, and labored unswervingly to bring to pass their ideal of what life should be. Their feet were on the ground, and they exulted in the fact that their vision reached beyond the clouds. If it be true that “no country can escape the implication of the ideas upon which it was founded,” it were well that our feet should be set on that same ground of vigorous simplicity and faith, our vision, though with another aspect than theirs, reach above the clouds. They passed on an inheritance of sane and clear and just thought that we should do well to use: that, and belief in the progressive revelation of truth. And by happy chance the spot they chose for home — New England, Plymouth, the dunes and meadows of the Cape — typifies their very spirit: the homely beauty, the invigorating atmosphere, the health of salt winds and cleansing of the sea.