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Gentlemen of the New England Society in the city of New York, - I must detain you no longer. In preparing to discharge the duty, which you have done me the unmerited honor to assign me in the celebration of this hallowed Anniversary, I was more than once tempted to quit the narrow track of remark which I have now pursued, and to indulge in speculations or discussions of a more immediate and general interest. But it seemed to me, that if there was any day in the year which belonged of right to the past and the dead, this was that day, and to the past and the dead I resolved to devote my exclusive attention. But though I have fulfilled that resolution, as you will bear me witness, with undeviating fidelity, many of the topics which I had proposed to myself seem hardly to have been entered upon,- some of them scarcely approached. The principles of the Pilgrims, the virtues of the Pilgrims, the faults of the Pilgrims — alas! there are enough always ready to make the most of these: - the personal characters of their brave and pious leaders, Bradford, Brewster, Carver, Winslow, Alden, Allerton, Standish, — the day shall not pass away without their names being once at least audibly and honorably pronounced :the gradual rise and progress of the colony they planted, and of the old Commonwealth with which it was early incorporated:the origin and growth of the other colonies, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and the rest, which were afterwards included within the limits of New England, and many of the sons of all of which are doubtless present here this day: - the history of New England as a whole, its great deeds and great men, its schools and scholars, its heroes and battle-fields, its ingenuity and industry, its soil, — hard and stony, indeed, but of inestimable richness in repelling from its culture the idle, the ignorant, and the enslaved, and in developing the energies of free, intelligent, independent labor: - the influences of New England abroad as well as at home, its emigration, ever onward, with the axe in one hand and the Bible in the other, clearing out the wild growth of buckeye and hickory, and planting the trees of knowledge and of life, driving the buffalo from forest to lake, from lake to prairie, and from prairie to the sea, till the very memory of its existence would seem likely to be lost, but for the noble City which its pursuers, pausing for an instant on their track, have called by its name, and founded on its favorite haunt:— these and a hundred other themes of interesting and appropriate discussion, have, I am sensible, been quite omitted. But I have already exhausted your patience, or certainly my own strength, and I hasten to relieve them both.
It has been suggested, Gentlemen, by one of the French travellers, whose opinions I have just cited, that, though the Yankee has set his mark on the United States during the last half century, and though " he still rules the nation,” that yet, the physical labor of civilization is now nearly brought to an end, the physical basis of society entirely laid, and that other influences are soon about to predominate in rearing up the social superstructure of our nation. I hail the existence of this Association, and of others like it in all parts of the Union, bound together by the golden cords of " friendship, charity, and mutual assistance," as a pledge that New England principles, whether in ascendency or under depression in the nation at large, will never stand in need of warm hearts and bold tongues to cherish and vindicate them. But, at any rate, let us rejoice that they have so long pervaded the country and so long prevailed in her institutions. Let us rejoice that the basis of her society has been laid by Yankee arms. Let us rejoice that the corner-stone of our republican edifice was hewn out from the old, original, primitive, Plymouth quarry. In what remains to be done, either in finishing or in ornamenting that edifice, softer and more pliable materials may, perhaps, be preferred, — the New England granite may be thought too rough and unwieldy, — the architects may condemn it, — the builders may reject it, - but still, still, it will remain the deep and enduring foundation, not to be removed without undermining the whole fabric. And should that fabric be destined to stand, even when bad government shall descend upon it like the rains, and corruption come round about it like the floods, and faction, discord, disunion, and anarchy blow and beat upon it like the winds, — as God grant it may stand forever! - it will still owe its stability to no more effective earthly influence, than, that IT WAS FOUNDED ON PILGRIM ROCK.
THE INFLUENCE OF COMMERCE.
AN ADDRESS, DELIVERED BEFORE THE BOSTON MERCANTILE LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, ON THE OCCASION OF THEIR TWENTY-FIFTH ANNIVERSARY, OCTOBER 15, 1845.
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN OF THE MERCANTILE LIBRARY ASSOCIATION,
I am greatly honored by the part which you have assigned me on this occasion, and by thus being permitted to add my name to the list of distinguished persons who have addressed you at your anniversary celebrations. John Davis, George Putnam, Rufus Choate, Edward Everett, - I need name no more of them to justify me in saying, that any one may feel proud at being called on to follow in such footsteps. I need name no more of them, certainly, to warrant me in adding, that no one can fail to feel some touches, also, of a less welcome and less inspiriting emotion than that of pride, as he finds himself rising to tread in such tracks, and begins to realize, by something of a practical experiment, the full measure of the strides before him. It is grateful to remember at such a moment, that I am any thing but a volunteer in your service, and that there are those present who can bear witness, how gladly I would have been excused again, as more than once in years past, from encountering its perilous contrasts. And now, in complying at last with your kind solicitations, I propose to enter upon no labored discussion of formal topics, but rather conforming myself to the spirit of an anniversary and an introductory address, as well as to what I understand to be your own expectations and wishes this evening, to find the subject of my remarks in the circum
stances of the occasion, and in the character of the institution before me.
You have arrived, Gentlemen, at a marked epoch in your history. You are assembled to commemorate your Twenty-Fifth Anniversary. A quarter of a century has passed away since, at a little meeting held at the Commercial Coffee House in this city, under the lead of a gentleman, whose name has been honorably connected with more than one of our most valued institutions, as well as with repeated terms of popular and efficient administration of the chief magistracy of our city, (Mr. Theodore Lyman,) your association took its rise. Your progress was for many years slow. The excellent report of your last board of directors exhibits a record of early trials and struggles, such as no institution, not founded upon the rock of true prin. ciple and real merit, could have survived. It points, indeed, to more than one period in your history, when you found it all but impossible to maintain your organization, and when you had little more than a name to live. The persevering energy of some of your early members, however, has not been unrewarded in the end. Within a few years past all obstacles to your advancement have been overcome. Large additions have been made to your funds, to your library, and to your numbers, now amounting to nearly eight hundred; and you have given a fresh pledge, within a few months past, that your institution shall be sustained and perpetuated, by asking and accepting a charter from the Commonwealth. At the close, then, of a quarter of a century since the date of your original organization, you have assembled here to-night, in the enjoyment of every circumstance, both of prosperity for the present and of hope for the future, and in the presence of this crowded company of patrons and friends, to celebrate your first anniversary as an incorporated association.
I congratulate you, gentlemen, most cordially on this consummation. I congratulate this community, that your association has outlived the discouragements and embarrassments of its infancy, and has at length taken its place among the public and permanent institutions of our city. A legislative charter has of itself, indeed, added little to your claims to consideration. In
some quarters, it may rather be thought to have rendered you an object of suspicion, jealousy, and odium; though I think it would puzzle the sturdiest decrier of corporations to put his finger upon the clause in your charter, which clothes you with powers formidable to any thing, but idleness, ignorance, and vice. But it has certainly furnished you with facilities for selfgovernment, and for the management and transmission of property, and for setting a just limit to the responsibility of your members, and for securing a just accountability for the bounty of your benefactors, which cannot fail to exert a most auspicious influence on your future condition and progress. And may it not be hoped, as among its incidental advantages, that it may have armed you thus early against prejudices, which may, at any time or under any influences, seek to get possession of your minds, in reference to a species of social machinery, which has been, in my judgment, more potent than power-loom or steam-engine, in advancing the best interests of society ? May it not be hoped, that your early enlistment in the ranks of a chartered company, may impress you indelibly with the true idea, that though, according to the musty and moth-eaten maxim of the law, corporations may have no souls, those who constitute them have; and that they are entitled to be judged, in their corporate as well as in their individual capacity, by their designs, their objects, and their acts ?
Your designs, Mr. President and Gentlemen, are inscribed, in brief but comprehensive terms, on the face of your charter. You have been made a corporation for the purpose of diffusing and promoting knowledge among young men, (including all from fourteen years of age upwards) now engaged in, or destined for, the mercantile profession;" and while you are faithful to such ends, you cannot fail to meet with the respect, the encouragement, the cordial approbation and support of all good men. For myself, certainly, in whatever light I look at such an association, whether in regard to the present circumstances or the future pursuits of those who compose it, its interest and importance seem hardly susceptible of exaggeration.
I see in it, in the first place, an instrument of unspeakable profit and preservation - intellectual profit and moral preserva