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twain, — the glorious banner of a free, independent, and united Republic!
Certainly, Gentlemen, almost from that early day, the history of the rise and progress of our city is the history of the rise and progress of its commerce. For the first few years, indeed, the trade of the place was confined principally to a little barter with the natives for furs and skins. And for some years afterwards, the records of mere mercantile transactions are overlaid by the more important registration of the establishment of towns and churches and schools, of fundamental laws, and the tribunals for their administration and execution. As early as 1633, however, we find mention of the building of another ship of twice the burden of the first; and in 1634 we hear of John Cogan setting up the first shop on the peninsula, who thus, perhaps, may be entitled to be remembered as the first Boston merchant. In 1639, we learn that the ship-builders and fishermen of this and the neighboring settlements of the colony, had become so numerous and of such importance in the estimation of the people, as to be made the subject of a special exemption from what our fathers, in their ignorant simplicity, considered as among the most imperative of their civil and Christian duties military trainings. And in the same year, we catch another most interesting glimpse of the operations of our growing trade, in a complaint solemnly considered by the General Court, against alleged oppression in the sale of foreign commodities; when Mr. Robert Keayne, who kept a shop in Boston,—(who will be remembered, perhaps, as the first commander of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, and who has secured for himself a less enviable notoriety as the author of a Will which occupies no less than one hundred and fifty-seven pages on our Probate records,) — having been convicted of taking in some above sixpence in the shilling profit, in some above eight-pence, and in some small things above two for one, was adjudged to pay a penalty of two hundred dollars !
On this occasion, the Church, as well as the State, has left record of its views of commercial matters. Not only was Captain Keayne subjected to the censure of the ecclesiastical synod, but Mr. Cotton, the ever-honored pastor from whose residence at
Boston, in Lincolnshire, our city derived its name, laid open in the most solemn form, on the next lecture day, the error of the principles upon which Captain Keayne had attempted to justify his extortion, and gave sundry special directions for the conscientious conducting of mercantile business. The most important principle of commercial dealing which was condemned from the pulpit on that occasion as false, was, “that a man might sell as dear as he can, and buy as cheap as he can;" while it was prescribed as one of the positive rules of trade, that * where a man loseth by casualty of sea, it is a loss cast upon himself by Providence, and he may not ease himself by casting it on another; for so a man should seem to provide against all providences, so that he should never lose.” The first of the preacher's doctrines soon after received a practical illustration and enforcement, in the case of a mechanic, who for asking an excessive price for a pair of stocks which he had been hired to frame for the purposes of justice, had the honor to sit in them the first hour himself!
I need not say, Mr. President, that it could not have been by “recking the rede' of that day's lecture, that the commerce of Boston continued to advance. But most rapid progress it certainly made, as we find ample evidence in the facts, that before the year 1645, more than two hundred years ago, a ship of over 400 tons was no stranger to our shipwrights; and that in the course of this single year we hear of the arrival of twelve or fourteen large ships bringing stores of linens, woollens and other commodities from London, and carrying back in part payment, more than 20,000 bushels of corn. Concurrent testimony is found, also, in the quaint but significant expressions of Edward Johnson, who tells us, in his Wonder-Working Providence, that " our maritan towns began to increase roundly, especially Boston, the which of a poor country village, in twice seven years is become like unto a small city, and is in election to become mayor town suddenly, chiefly increased by trade by sea.”
I may not take up more time in describing the gradual stages by which our city has advanced to the condition in which we now find it. Nor is any such description necessary to substantiate the well-understood fact, that in all periods of its history, commerce has been the grand and leading element of its prosperity and progress. Indeed, if there were no historical records to appeal to, it would require but a glance at Boston as it was, to convince any one, that nothing but the most judicious, enterprising, and fortunate improvement of commercial advantages could have made it what it is. What but Commerce, gathering about itself those mechanic arts which are its indispensable and honored handmaids, could have converted into such a crowded scene of life and labor as we see around us, that old plain neck, which was but six hundred acres in extent, when it was purchased of William Blackstone for thirty pounds, and which even now, when as many more acres have been redeemed from the sea and added to its dimensions, is still hardly larger than an ordinary Western farm! Agriculture, it is plain, could have found no elbow-room for swinging a scythe here; while as to maufactures, the only motive power to turn a spinning-wheel, within the reach or the knowledge of our fathers, was one, which, without any disparagement to its magic influence either in that day or this, whether in a glass slipper or a prunella boot, could scarcely have rocked out the destiny of a great city.
There is little risk in asserting, though I have not been able precisely to verify the fact, that in territorial dimensions, Boston is one of the very smallest incorporated cities in the world. In the order of population, there are nearly a hundred cities which stand before it. What place it holds on the scale of intelligence and influence and reputation and honor at home and abroad, it may not become us to pronounce. It is a city set on a hill yes, on three hills; it cannot be hid. Let others praise us and not our own mouths, - strangers, and not our own lips. Yet we may not shut our eyes to the fact, that in view of its mercantile relations, it is already the second city on the American continent, and hardly below the fourth, certainly not below the fifth, on the face of the globe. Nor may we be blind to the operation of commercial causes, which, if not frustrated by want of intelligence and enterprise, seem to promise, that the rapidity of its progress in time past, shall bear but the same proportion to that in time to come, which the velocity of the creaking and trundling wagons which were so lately its only vehicles of inland transportation, bears to that of the gigantic enginery, which is now shooting along our highways at every hour of the day and from every quarter of the compass, with a whistle like that of Roderick Dhu, and with a tramp heavier than that of any host of armed men which that whistle ever mustered either to the feast or to the fray!
In preparing yourselves, then, Mr. President and Gentlemen, to take the places of the merchants of Boston, you are preparing yourselves to carry on that great business which has made our city almost all that it is, and which must make it all that it is to be. Upon your intelligence and information, upon your energy and enterprise, upon your integrity and honor, it will in no small degree, under God, depend, - whether its course shall still be onward and upward, or whether, when the present generation shall have passed away, it shall begin to follow the fortunes of other commercial cities, once the renowned of the world, whose merchants were princes and their traffickers the honorable of the earth, but which have now a name and a place only in history.
But I have alluded thus far, Mr. President, to the least and most inconsiderable part of what is implied in the idea of taking the places of the past and present merchants of Boston. You are to take their places not merely as merchants, but as men; not merely in conducting commerce, but in sustaining character; not merely in accumulating the aggregate wealth which is to swell the importance of Boston in the columns of a statistical table, but in the possession and use of that individual wealth of which this aggregate is made up, and on the manner of whose employment the truest glory of our city must always in so great a degree depend. What has given us our noblest distinction as a community in time past? To what page of our history do we point with the liveliest and justest pride? By what record would we be most willing to be judged this night, of men or of angels? That, beyond all question, which contains the account current of our public and private charities. That, beyond all question, so recently and admirably summed up by a late distinguished mayor of our city, (Mr. Eliot,) which exhibits the long catalogue of those munificent donations by
which the great interests of education, morality, and religion have been sustained and promoted at home and abroad; by which almost every want of suffering humanity is supplied or alleviated; by which, in all but the miraculous sense which may be attributed to God alone, the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the deaf hear, and the poor have the gospel preached unto them.
And from whence has this munificence proceeded ? From whom have these princely endowments come? To what profession or calling in life belonged, or still belong, the great majority of those whose names are inscribed on so many of our halls and hospitals and asylums and athenæums and chapels, on the professorships of our colleges, the lectures of our insti. tutes, the prizes of our common schools? Who was that Peter FANEUIL, whose name is written where it will be remembered, if not as long as the sun and the moon shall endure, yet certainly as long as a single star of our own constellation shall be left, to guide the worshippers of American liberty to its cradle ? Who were John McLean, Samuel Eliot, James Perkins, Israel Thorndike, Samuel Parkman, John Lowell, Jr., John Parker, Benjamin Bussey, Israel Munson, and a host of others among the dead? I may not violate the proprieties of such an occasion, by asking in what profession are enrolled the names of men no less distinguished by their munificence, but still living in our midst, and some of them present here with us to-night. Yet you would not forgive me, gentlemen, nor could I excuse it to myself, were I to omit a more distinct allusion to the latest and largest benefactor of your own association; one, whose liberality within the past year has more than doubled your pecuniary resources; one, by whose encouragement you are now cherishing the hope, that those resources may soon be relieved from the exhausting load of a large annual rent, and that no distant day may find you engaged, as your sister association of Philadelphia has but now been, in dedicating a hall of your own. Thomas HANDASYD Perkins, however, I need not say, depends on no acts of liberality or words of encouragement to this association, for his title to the affection and admiration of us all. To a long life of unsurpassed commercial enterprise and honor, he has