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Every lightning-rod is a monument to Franklin, of his own erection; and not a flash, which is disarmed by its magic points, passes to the ground, without a fresh illumination of his title to the gratitude of mankind. One might almost be permitted to borrow the idea of the conscience-stricken king in Shakspeare's
Tempest," and to imagine the thunder, with its deep and dreadful diapason, pronouncing the name of FRANKLIN, — not, indeed, as a name of terror, but as a pledge of safety in the storm.
Every penny-stamp, too, is a monument to Franklin, earned, if not established by himself, as the fruit of his early labors and his signal success in the organization of our infant post-office;and no man, I think, can use the invaluable little implements of modern cheap postage, - I do not mean the stamped envelopes, which are nothing less than a disgrace to American art and a caricature of the Father of his Country, but the original, separate stamps, — without rejoicing that, apart from all other advantages of the system, the noble heads of Washington and Franklin are thus brought daily to our view, and are associated in the minds and hearts of the whole people of the Union, with the unspeakable privilege of a sure and speedy communication with the absent and the loved.
And here, in our own immediate community, too, I may add, every little silver medal distributed annually to the children of our free schools, is a precious memorial of Franklin; and every boy or girl who is incited by the prizes he instituted to higher efforts at distinction in good scholarship and good behavior, is a living monument to his prudent and provident consideration for the youth of his native city. One of the last things which a Boston boy ever forgets is, that he won and wore a Franklin medal. There is at least one of them, I know, who would not exchange the remembrance of that youthful distinction for any honor which he has since enjoyed.
And though the larger provision which he made for the young and needy mechanics of our city has not quite realized all the advantages which he anticipated, yet the day is sure to arrive, when Boston and the whole Commonwealth will reap a rich harvest of public improvement from the surplus accumulation of the Franklin Mechanic Fund.
Not, then, because Franklin is in any danger of being forgotten, -- not because his memory requires the aid of bronze or marble to rescue it from oblivion, - not because it is in the power of any of us to increase or extend his pervading and enduring fame, but because, in these days of commemoration, it is unjust to ourselves, unjust to our own reputation for a discriminating estimate and a generous appreciation of real genius, of true greatness, and of devoted public service, — do I conclude this Lecture with the expression of an earnest hope, that the day may soon come, when it shall cease to be in the power of any one to say, that the great Patriot Mechanic and Philosopher of modern times is without a statue or a monument, either in the city of his burial-place or his birth-place.
The mechanics of Massachusetts, the mechanics of New England, owe it to themselves to see to it, that this reproach no longer rests upon our community and our country. And I know not under what other auspices than theirs such a work could be so fitly and so hopefully undertaken. When the obelisk at Bunker Hill, — doubly consecrated to us by the memory of those in whose honor it was erected, and of him whose consummate eloquence will be for ever associated both with its corner-stone and its cap-stone, - when this noble monument was lingering in its slow ascent, the mechanics of Massachusetts pronounced the word, Let it be finished, and it was finished. And now there is another word for them to speak, and it will be done. Let them unite, let us all unite, with our brethren of Philadelphia and of the whole Union, in erecting a suitable monument near the grave of Franklin ; — but let there not fail to be, also, a Statue of our own, on some appropriate spot of the Old Peninsula which gave him birth.
I know not of a greater encouragement which could be given to the cause of Science applied to Art, in which we are assembled; I know not of a greater encouragement which could be held out to the young apprentices, to whom we look to carry forward that cause in the future, and to supply, the places of that noble race of Massachusetts mechanics to which our
* This suggestion was immediately adopted and acted upon. See “Franklin Statue Memorial,” Boston, 1857. See, also, page 258 of this volume.
city, our State, and our whole country, have been so greatly indebted, both for laying the foundations, and for building up the superstructure, not merely of our material edifices, but of our moral, civil, and political institutions; I know not of a greater encouragement which could be afforded to industry, temperance, moderation, frugality, benevolence, self-denial, self-devotion, and patriotism, in every art, occupation, and condition of life, - than the visible presence, in some conspicuous quarter of our metropolis, of the venerable figure of Franklin, in that plain, old-fashioned, long-bodied, Quaker-like coat, with which he will be for ever associated in our minds, and in which he appeared proudly alike before kings and commoners; and with that bland and benevolent countenance, which seems to say even to the humblest and least hopeful of God's creatures, 66 I was once as you are now,- houseless and penniless, without fortune and without friends. But never despair, - be just and fear not, be sober, be diligent, be frugal, be faithful, love man and love God, and do your whole duty to yourself, to your neighbor, and to your country, in whatever circumstances you are placed, and you, also, may do good in your day and generation, - and you, too, may, haply, leave a name, that shall be remembered and honored in all ages and throughout all climes !”
A LECTURE DELIVERED BEFORE THE BOSTON MERCANTILE LIBRARY ASSOCIATION,
DECEMBER 21, 1853.
On the 26th day of April, in that great year of our Lord and of Liberty, 1775, one of the noblest spirits of our revolutionary period - one of the noblest spirits of any period in the history of mankind was summoned to the skies. 66 Within sight of that beloved country, which he was not permitted to reach (to use the language of one bound to him by the nearest and dearest ties),- neither supported by the kindness of friendship nor cheered by the voice of affection - he expired; not indeed as, a few weeks afterwards, did his friend and copatriot Warren, in battle, on a field ever memorable and ever glorious, but in solitude, amidst suffering, without associate and without witness; yet breathing forth a dying wish for his country, and desiring to live only to perform towards her a last and signal service.”
I refer, I need hardly say to any one who is familiar with New England, or with American, history, to that JOSIAH QUINCY, Junior, whose trumpet-tongue was among the earliest and most effective instruments in rousing the American colonies to the resistance of British oppression; whose pamphlet, entitled “ Observations on the Act of Parliament commonly called the Boston Port Bill," as published by “Edes & Gill, in Queen Street, Boston, 1774,” is among the most stirring appeals for Liberty in our language; and who, as early as 1767, at the youthful age of three and twenty, when “the writers of seditious pieces” (as they were called) were threatened with being sent to England to be tried for high treason, uttered these memorable and heroic words: “ Blandishments will not fascinate us, nor will threats of a “halter’ intimidate. For, under God, we are determined that wheresoever, whensoever, or howsoever, we shall be called to make our exit, we will die freemen.”
It was the same Josiah Quincy, Jr., who knew how to bid defiance to unjust prejudices at home, as well as to arbitrary and tyrannical practices abroad, and who boldly united with his illustrious friend and copatriot, John Adams, in defending the British Captain Preston, when capitally indicted for the part he had taken in what is known to history as the Boston Massacre. It was the same Josiah Quincy, Jr., to whose Journal, while in England, whither he had afterwards gone for the benefit of his failing health, we owe the best account in existence of the matchless eloquence of Chatham, when pleading the cause of the American Colonies. It was the same, in a word, who, though dying on shipboard, alone and desolate, as we have described him, at the early age of thirty-one years, has left an imperishable name upon our annals, worthy to be associated for ever with those of James Otis, and Joseph Warren, and Patrick Henry, and the other heroic pioneers in that great revolutionary struggle, which terminated in the establishment of American Independence.
It is not of Josiah Quincy, Jr., however, that I propose to speak to you further on this occasion. An admirable Memoir of him is already in existence, too brief to be condensed, too fresh to be forgotten, and prepared by one whose eminent ability for the service, and whose filial affection for the subject, can have left nothing to be supplied by others.* It is, or ought to be, in all your libraries. It is, or ought to be, in all your hearts. But, happening to be turning over its pages about the time at which I was originally called on to prepare this Lecture, I was attracted to a passage which I at once resolved to take as my text and topic. It is a sentence from the last will and testament of this distinguished and lamented patriot, dated February 28, 1774, and is as follows:
“I give to my son, when he shall arrive to the age of fifteen years, Algernon Sidney's Works, John Locke's Works, Lord Bacon's Works, Gordon's Tacitus, and Cato's Letters. May the Spirit of Liberty rest upon him!”
* "Memoir of the Life of Josiah Quincy, Jr., of Massachusetts : by his Son, Josiah Quincy. Boston: Published by Cummings, Hilliard & Co. 1825."