Imágenes de páginas

tion - to vast numbers of young men, who in successive years shall be enrolled among its members. I see gathered nightly in its halls, within well-stored alcoves, and around tables spread with whatever can nourish the intellect or stimulate the soul of man — a feast " which, after, no repenting draws” – those who might otherwise be led away by the temptations of profligacy or crime. The fresh and unstained country boy, sent out in the first flush of his young heart from the parental home, to encounter the contaminations of a great city as he may, with a hope which has no horizon short of gaining the whole world, but without a thought of the peril of losing his own soul; the young lad of yet sadder fortune, to whom, in the providence of God, there remains no parental home, no precious influence of a father's or a mother's eye, beneath which he may shelter himself after the toil of to-day is over, and gather fresh strength for the trials and temptations of to-morrow; and those whom a hundred other nameless peculiarities of condition or of temperament

may render the ready victims of the snares that lie concealed, or of the pitfalls that gape openly, at the corners of every street of a crowded metropolis like this ; — I see them all, not merely drawn off from their exposure to evil, but provided with the means of innocent recreation and valuable improvement.

If there be a class of institutions more important than any or all others, to the moral character of our community, it is that which furnishes entertainment and employment during the evenings — the long winter, and the short summer evenings, too — for young men; and more especially for those, who either have no homes to which they may resort, or for whom the influences of the paternal roof have been in any way paralyzed. Libraries and reading-rooms for the merchants' clerks and the mechanics apprentices of our city, numerous enough and spacious enough to accommodate them all, and furnished with every temptation which the amplest endowments can supply; - these are among the most effective instruments which can be devised, for advancing our highest moral and social interests, and are entitled to the most liberal encouragement of all true philanthropists. It is not enough, that the tippling-shops and gambling-tables are broken up. There is mischief still for idle minds to devise, and for idle hands to do. Innocent entertain. ment and useful occupation must be supplied, and supplied with some circumstance of interest and attraction and fascina. tion, if possible, or you have only driven dissipation and vice from the public haunt to the private hiding place, where they will lose nothing of their grossness or their guilt, by losing all their apprehension of exposure. And when the cheering spectacle is exhibited of the young men of the city, associating themselves for this great end of their own self-defence; organize ing themselves, not into a company, like that recently instituted by the merchants' clerks of London, for making up to their employers out of a common stock, the losses which may result from their own annual, ascertained, average of fraud and roguery, but into a company to insure themselves against the vices and immoralities and idleness from which those losses and those frauds flow as from their fountain, — what heart can refuse them its sincerest sympathy, what tongue its most encouraging word, what hand its most efficient aid!

If there be an appeal for sympathy and encouragement which no patriotic or philanthropic breast can resist, it is that of young men struggling against the temptations which beset their path, and striving to prepare themselves, intellectually and morally, for discharging the duties which are about to devolve on their maturer life. And if there be a spectacle calculated to fill every such breast with joy, and to reward a thousand-fold those who may have contributed in any way to the result, it is that of young men who have thus striven and struggled with success. There is a name in history. It is associated with some of the proudest achievements of the proudest empire in the world. It has been shouted along the chariot ways of imperial Rome on occasions of her most magnificent triumphs. Whole volumes have been filled with the brilliant acts which have illustrated that name in three successive generations. But there is a little incident which takes up hardly ten lines on the historic page, which has invested it with a charm higher and nobler than all these. The Sybils, we are told, had prophesied that the Bona Dea should be introduced into Rome by the best man among the Romans. The Senate was accordingly busied to pass judgment who was the best man in the city. And it is no small tribute to the Roman virtue of that day, that all men are said to have been more ambitious to get the victory in that dispute, than if they had stood to be elected to the highest and most lucrative offices and honors within the gift of the Senate or the people. The Senate at last selected Publius Scipio; of whom the only record is, that he was the nephew of Cneus, who was killed in Spain, and that he was a young man, who had never attained to that lowest of all the public honors of the empire, for which it was only necessary for him to have reached the age of two-and-twenty years. We may admire we must admire - the resistless energy, the matchless heroism, of those two thunderbolts of war — Scipio, the conqueror of Hannibal, and Scipio, the destroyer of Carthage. But who does not feel that this little story has thrown around that name a halo of peerless brilliancy; yes, one

Which shall new lustre boast,
When victors' wreaths and monarchs' gems

Shall blend in common dust!

But I proposed to speak of your Institution in its relations rather to the future pursuits, than to the present circumstances, of those of whom it is composed. I see before me and around me, as its members, the future merchants of Boston; those, who in the progress of time, are to take the places of the intelligent, the enterprising, the wealthy and honorable men, who now carry on the vast foreign and domestic trade of this great commercial emporium. To take the places which have been filled by the past and present merchants of Boston! How much, Mr. President, is included in this idea! How much of solemn responsibility for you and your associates; how much of deep concern and momentous import to the prosperity and honor of our beloved city! Let us pause, before passing to less local and limited views, and reflect for a few moments on the influence which has been exerted by commerce, and by those who have been engaged in commerce, on the fortunes and character of the pleasant place, in which we all thank God this night and every night of our lives, I trust, that our lots have been cast.

The site of our City seems originally to have been selected with no particular reference to commercial advantages. Other thoughts than those of trade engrossed the attention of the first settlers of Boston.

They sought security from the mingled political and ecclesiastical oppressions of the old world, and a refuge for the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty. These they could find nowhere but in the wilderness of this new Hemisphere; but having sought them and found them here, all other matters were, at the outset, certainly, comparatively indifferent to them. On what precise spot of this vast solitude, -" all before them, where to choose," — they should plant themselves, mattered little, save as their immediate safety and sustenance and quiet might be affected; and by these considerations, far more than by any larger views of future advantage or aggrandizement to themselves or their posterity, they seem to have been governed in the selection of that spot.

They desired safety from the assaults of merciless savages. Hence they would not go far into the interior, where they might be surrounded and cut off. They desired to be as near as three thousand miles of perilous and pitiless ocean would allow them to be, to the dear friends and families from whom they had just been sadly separated in England; to be where they could readily receive and welcome and embrace those who might still be moved to come over and join them, and where they might hear as often and as early as possible from those who might continue to stay behind. The many necessities of food and clothing, too, which must still be supplied them from abroad, would add a yet stronger link to the considerations which thus chained them to the coast.

There were some necessaries of life, however, which must be furnished on the spot, or not at all. One of these was fresh water to drink. And strange as it strikes us in these days, when it would seem impossible — nay, when it is impossible — for the thirst of our people to be palatably or wholesomely slaked from day to day, unless Long Pond, or Spot Pond, or Charles River, be brought bodily into our midst, and when we are likely to suffer the tortures of Tantalus until conflicting interests and discordant opinions have fought themselves into a state of recon

ciliation or compromise, - strange, I say, as it appears at such a moment, it was the fresh water, and not the salt water, advantages of the situation, which determined the locality of our city. “ An excellent spring of water” is recorded — and I cannot but wish that it still existed somewhere else than on the ancient records as among the most prominent causes for planting Boston upon this peninsula ; while not a word is said of yonder capacious and noble harbor.

Other views, more or less capricious, entered into the choice of a location. “Governor Winthrop, (we are informed by Captain Clap,) purposed to set down his station about Cambridge, or somewhere on the river ; but viewing the place, he liked that plain neck, that was then called Blackstone's neck.” And Wood, in his New England Prospect, would seem to imply that our fathers might have been influenced by their desire to obtain security from other foes besides the Indians, - when he enumerates, with so felicitous an example of the climax, among the principal recommendations of this "plain neck," its singular exemption from those three great annoyances, “ wolves, rattlesnakes, and mosquitos !”

At any rate, the idea of founding a great commercial metropolis was not in all the thoughts of the first planters of Boston. And yet within a very few years from its original settlement the commercial destiny of the place was shaped and determined. Indeed, I can hardly consider as any thing less than a clear foreshadowing of that destiny, - if rather it were not the first step in its fulfilment, — the building and launching on the Mystic river, by Governor Winthrop himself, in 1631, within one year from the day from which the existence of our city bears date, of the first Boston vessel. A little bark of only thirty tons though it was, yet called the Blessing of the Bay, and launched on the fourth day of July, it seems a beautiful archetype of those countless blessings of the Bay, which were to be witnessed and enjoyed here, when the commerce of Boston should have had time to establish and expand itself, and when another and more memorable, far distant but even then inevitable and almost foreseen, Fourth of July, should have thrown over that commerce, never, I trust, to be furled or rent in

« AnteriorContinuar »