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us may moulder and crumble, but the man of whom it may be said that be enjoyed the sincere friendship, and secured the respect, veneration, and affection of Washington, has won a title to the world's remembrance which the lapse of ages will only strengthen and brighten.
Behold him, “the sage of antiquity coming back to give austere lessons and generous examples to the moderns," — the wise old man of his own apologue of 1757, discoursing to the multitude of frugality and industry, of temperance and toleration! Behold Poor Richard, — pointing the way to wealth and dealing out his proverbs of wit and wisdom, -- that wisdom" which crieth at the gates” and “standeth by the way in the places of the paths," that wisdom “which dwells with prudence, and finds out knowledge of witty inventions !” Behold him, with that calm, mild, benevolent countenance, never clouded by anger or wrinkled by ill humor, but which beamed ever, as at this instant, with a love for his fellow-beings and “a perpetual desire to be a doer of good” to them all.
Behold him, children of the schools, boys and girls of Boston, bending to bestow the reward of merit upon each one of you that shall strive to improve the inestimable advantages of our noble free schools! Behold him, mechanics and mechanics' apprentices, holding out to you an example of diligence, economy, and virtue, and personifying the triumphant success which may await those who follow it! Behold him, ye that are humblest and poorest in present condition or in future prospect, – lift up your heads and look at the image of a man who rose from nothing, who owed nothing to parentage or patronage, who enjoyed no advantages of early education which are not open
a hundred-fold open to yourselves, who performed the most menial offices in the business in which his early life was employed, but who lived to stand before kings, and died to leave a name which the world will never forget. Lift up your heads and your hearts with them, and learn a lesson of confidence and courage which shall never again suffer you to despair, - not merely of securing the means of an honest and honorable support for yourselves, but even of doing something worthy of being done for your country and for mankind ! Behold him, ye that are highest and most honorable in the world's regard, judges and senators, governors and presidents, and emulate each other in copying something of the firmness and fidelity, something of the patient endurance and persevering zeal and comprehensive patriotism and imperturbable kind feeling and good nature, of one who was never dizzied by elevation, or debauched by flattery, or soured by disappointment, or daunted by opposition, or corrupted by ambition, and who knew how to stand humbly and happily alike on the lowest round of obscurity, and on the loftiest pinnacle of fame!
Behold him, and listen to him, one and all, citizens, freemen, patriots, friends of liberty and of law, lovers of the Constitution and the Union, as he recalls the services which he gladly performed, and the sacrifices which he generously made, in company with his great associates, in procuring for you those glorious institutions which you are now so richly enjoying! Listen to him, especially, as he repeats through my humble lips, and from the very autograph original which his own aged hand had prepared for the occasion, - listen to him as he pronounces those words of conciliation and true wisdom, to which he first gave utterance sixty-nine years ago this very day, in the convention which was just finishing its labors in framing the Constitution of the United States :
“Mr. President, I confess that I do not entirely approve this Constitution ; but, sir, I am not sure that I shall never approve it. I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. . . . In these sentiments, sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such. ... I doubt, too, whether any other convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. ... The opinions I have had of its errors I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die. . . . On the whole, sir, I cannot help expressing a wish that every member of this convention, who may still have objections to it, would with me on this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument."
Upon this speech, followed by a distinct motion to that effect, Hamilton and Madison, and Rufus King and Roger Sherman, and the Morrises of Pennsylvania, and the Pinckneys of South Carolina, and the rest of that august assembly, with Washington at their head, on the seventeenth day of September, 1787, subscribed their names to the Constitution under which we live. And Mr. Madison tells us, that whilst the last members were signing it, Dr. Franklin, looking towards the president's chair, at the back of which an image of the sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art a rising from a setting sun. “I have, said he, “ often and often in the course of the session, and of the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun."
Yes, venerated sage, privileged to live on
“ Till old experience did attain
To something like prophetic strain,"
yes, that was, indeed, a rising sun,“ coming forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber, and rejoicing as a giant to run his course." And a glorious course he has run, enlightening and illuminating, not our own land only, but every land on the wide surface of the earth, "and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof." God, in his infinite mercy, grant that by no failure of his blessing or of our prayers, of his grace or of our gratitude, of his protection or of our patriotism, that sun may be seen, while it has yet hardly entered on its meridian "pathway, shooting madly from its sphere and hastening to go down in blackness or in blood, leaving the world in darkness and freedom in despair! And may the visible presence of the GREAT BOSTONIAN, restored once more to our sight, by something more than a fortunate coincidence, in this hour of our country's peril, serve not merely to ornament our streets, or to commemorate his services, or even to signalize our own gratitude, but to impress afresh, day by day, and hour by hour, upon the hearts of every man and woman and child who shall gaze upon it, a deeper sense of the value of that Liberty, that Independence, that Union, and that Constitution, for all of which he was so early, so constant, and so successful a laborer!
Fellow-citizens, the statue which has now received your reiterated acclamations owes its origin to the mechanics of Boston, and especially to the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association. Or, if any fortunate word of another may be remembered as having suggested it, that word was uttered in their service, and by one who is proud to be counted among the honorary members of their fraternity. The merchants and business men of our city, members of the learned professions, and great numbers of all classes of the community, came nobly to their aid, and in various sums, large and small, contributed to the cost of the work. Honor and thanks to them all!
But honor and thanks this day, especially, to the gifted native artist, - Richard S. Greenough, - who has so admirably conceived the character, and so exquisitely wrought out the design, committed to him !
Honor, too, to Mr. Ames, and the skilful mechanics of the foundry at Chicopee, by whom it has been so successfully and brilliantly cast! Nor let the Sanborns and Carews be forgotten, by whom the massive granite has been hewn, and the native verd antique so beautifully shaped and polished.
It only remains for me, fellow-citizens, as chairman of the subcommittee under whose immediate direction the statue has been designed and executed, -- a service in the discharge of which I acknowledge an especial obligation to the President, Vice-President, Treasurer, and Secretary of the Mechanic Association, and to Mr. John H. Thorndike and Mr. John Cowdin among its active members ; – to those eminent mechanics, inventors, and designers, Blanchard, Tufts, Smith, and Hooper; — to Dr. Jacob Bigelow, President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; to Mr. Prescott, the historian ; to Mr. Henry Greenough, the architect, to whom we are indebted for the design of the pedestal; -- to Mr. Thomas G. Appleton and Mr. Epes Sargent, cherished friends of art and of artists, one of them absent to-day, but not forgotten; to Edward Everett and Jared Sparks, whose names are so honorably and indissolubly associated with the noblest illustration of both Franklin and Washington ; to David Sears, among the living, and to Abbott Lawrence, among the lamented dead, whose liberal and enlightened patronage of every good work will be always fresh in the remembrance of every true Bostonian ; — it only remains for me, as the organ of a committee thus composed and thus aided, to deliver up the finished work to my excellent friend, Mr. Frederic W. Lincoln, Jr., who, as Chairman of the General Committee,- after the ode of welcome, written by our Boston printer poet, James T. Fields, shall have been sung by the children of the schools, — will designate the disposition of the statue which has been finally agreed upon in behalf of the subscribers.
Sir, to you, as President of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, and as Chairman, ex-officio, of the Committee of Fifty appointed under their auspices, - yourself, I am glad at this hour to remember, a direct and worthy descendant of that patriot mechanic of the revolution, PAUL REVERE - I now present the work which your association intrusted to our charge, hoping that it may not be counted unworthy to commemorate the great forerunner and exemplar of those intelligent and patriotic Boston mechanics, who have been for so many years among the proudest ornaments and best defenders of our beloved city, and to whom we so confidently look, not merely to promote and build up its material interests, but to sustain and advance its moral, religious charitable, and civil institutions, in all time to come!