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the interruption occasioned by the unusual length and severity of the last winter-have postponed this consummation until the present moment; and now, I need hardly say that any thing of elaborate out-door pageant and parade would have been alike uncongenial with the season of the year and with the circumstances of the times.
But the Commissioners were of opinion that nothing less could be done on their part, before resigning their trust, than to invite the authorities of the City, with such guests as they might think fit to bring with them, to visit and view the building ; to examine and thoroughly inspect the work which has at last been finished; and to assume and exercise the responsibility, — which rightfully belongs to them, and to them alone, -of transferring it to the custody of the Trustees of the Library, and of solemnly dedicating it to the noble uses for which it was designed.
And most happily, fellow-citizens, - most happily for us all, -this New-Year's holiday has presented itself at the precise moment when our preparations were completed, as at once the most convenient and the most appropriate day for such a purpose ; enabling us to associate all the joyous emotions, all the friendly greetings, all the cordial congratulations, and all the grateful thanksgivings, too, which belong to the opening of another of these larger periods of our lives, - to associate and identify them all with an occasion, from which is destined to be dated, as we trust, the opening of a new era in the opportunities and advantages of the people of Boston, for carrying on the great work of self-education, of mutual improvement, and of moral, intellectual, and spiritual culture.
I am persuaded, Mr. Mayor, that you could have desired no more delightful conclusion to the honorable and faithful service which you have rendered to the City as its Chief Magistrate, for two years past, than to be the medium of presenting to your fellow-citizens such a New Year's gift as I am here to deliver over to you for that purpose.
I need hardly remind you, sir, that this substantial and spacious building owes its existence exclusively to the enlightened liberality of that municipal government over which, for a few days longer, at least, it is your privilege to preside. And I avail my
self of the earliest opportunity to acknowledge most gratefully, in behalf of the Board of Commissioners as now composed, and of all who have been associated with us during its existence, the unhesitating promptness and unanimity with which every appropriation which has been asked, or even intimated as desirable, has been granted by successive city councils.
On one account, certainly, we might all have wished that those appropriations could have been fewer in number, and for a smaller aggregate amount. I will not deny that the satisfaction of this occasion would have been in some degree enhanced if the architect could have succeeded, as the Commissioners had so earnestly hoped, in furnishing an honorable exception to the too common experience in the erection of public buildings, both here and elsewhere, by conforming the expenditures more nearly to the original estimates. An explanatory statement upon this point, however, has been prepared by the architect himself, which we trust and believe will prove satisfactory to all who shall examine it, and which is to find a permanent place on the records of the Commission. And if it shall appear that the main element of increased expenditure has resulted from the desire to furnish additional
strength to the building, and additional securities against fire, no • one will be in haste to regret that any part of it has been incurred.
Meantime, it is a most agreeable and welcome reflection for the Commissioners themselves, in this connection, - and one, perhaps, which they might not have been altogether pardoned for publicly indulging under any other circumstances, — that no particle of self-interest can anywhere be traced, or can anywhere be imputed, either in regard to the postponement of the period for the completion of the building, or in regard to the increase of the cost of its construction. As to the architect, certainly, it is but just to say, not only that his remuneration has been extremely moderate in itself, but that it has been in no degree contingent either on the length of time occupied, or on the amount of money expended on the work committed to him; while, as to the Commissioners, they will be found, one and all, to have adhered rigidly to the self-denying ordinance, adopted by themselves at the outset of their proceedings, “ that no pecuniary compensation
or allowance in any form should be received by any member of he Board, for any service which he may render as such."
But there is another reflection, Mr. Mayor, which more than reconciles me to any amount of expenditure which may have been honestly incurred in the execution of our trust. The building which we are here to dedicate, is eminently and peculiarly a building for the people, — not only constructed at the cost, but designed and arranged for the use, accommodation, and enjoyment, of the whole people of Boston. Almost all the other public edifices which may be found within the limits of our City, though they may be devoted to purposes in which the many are more or less deeply and directly interested, are yet specially and necessarily assigned to the occupation and enjoyment of a few. Our convenient and comfortable City Hall is for those who, like yourselves, gentlemen, may be intrusted, from time to time, with the management of our municipal affairs. Our massive Court House is for the still smaller number who are set apart or the administration of civil or of criminal justice. Our excellent schoolhouses are for the exclusive occupation of our children. But the edifice within whose walls we are assembled is emphatically for the use and the enjoyment of all the inhabitants of Boston. Even the old Cradle of Liberty itself is far less frequently and uniformly devoted to the uses of the whole people than this new Cradle of Literature and Learning will be. A political canvass or a patriotic celebration or an anniversary festival may fill that hall ten times, or it may be twenty or thirty times, in a year; but even then, the free discussion which justly belongs to all such occasions involves an element of division and strife, of party, of sect, or of section. But this hall will always be open and always be occupied ; and the free reading which is to find a place in it involves neither contention nor controversy. Those who entertain the most discordant opinions may here sit, shoulder to shoulder, enjoying their favorite authors as quietly and as harmoniously as those authors themselves will repose, side by side, when restored to a common shelf.
One of the very conditions prescribed by our principal benefactor, - that large-hearted and open-handed native of Massachusetts (JOSHUA BATES), whose bust is at this moment looking down upon us with that kind and genial expression so characteristic of its honored original, one of the primary conditions of his magnificent endowment was that this library should be “ free to all, with no other restrictions than are necessary for the preservation of the books.” Here, then, Mr. Mayor, there is to be no invidious discrimination of station or condition, of occupation or profession, of age or of sex. No passport of personal pretension or popular election will be required for entering these doors. It is to be a library for the whole people, and the building which contains it is thus, above all others, the people's building.
And which one of us, in this view, fellow-citizens, could find it in his heart to cavil at the cost, or to complain that more of economy and parsimony had not been observed in its construction? Which one of us is disposed to maintain that the people of Boston, in this day and generation, ought to have been content with a cheaper and more ordinary edifice for a purpose common to them all, and pre-eminently dear to all their hearts? Which one of us is ready to assume the ground, that the building is too good for its objects, or too good for its rightful occupants and owners? I rather begin to fear that it may not be considered good enough.
When a celebrated ruler and orator of Greece was arraigned for the costliness of some one of the many magnificent structures which are associated with his administration, and whose very ruins are now the admiration of the world, he is said to have replied, that he would willingly bear all the odium and all the onus of the outlay, if the edifice in question might henceforth bear his own name, instead of being inscribed with that of the people of Athens. But the people of ancient Athens indignantly rejected the idea, and refused to relinquish, even to the illustrious and princely Pericles, the glory of such a work.
Nor will the people of Boston, I am persuaded, be less unwilling to disown or abandon the credit which is legitimately theirs, for the noble hall in which we are assembled ; and while the munificence of benefactors, abroad and at home, and the diligence and devotion of trustees or of commissioners may be remembered with gratitude by us all, the City herself, -"our illustrious parent," as she was well entitled by our venerable benefactor, Mr. JONATHAN PHILLIPS, - will never fail to claim the distinction as exclusively her own, - that, with no niggardly or reluctant hand, but promptly, liberally, and even profusely, if you will, she supplied the entire means for its erection.
For myself, certainly, Mr. Mayor, I have no excuses or apologies to offer here to-day; nor shall I ever be found shrinking from my just share of the responsibility for the expense which has been incurred here. Conscious of having omitted no effort in our power to secure all reasonable economy, if censure should ever fall upon the Commissioners from any quarter, which I have not the slightest reason to apprehend, - we shall arm ourselves, I imagine, with the panoply of that philosophy which fell almost unconsciously, at one of our meetings, from the lips of our valued associate, Alderman BONNEY, when he said, in language not unworthy of being included in the next edition of “The World's Laconics," _“I am not afraid of the blame I may get, but only of that which I may deserve."
It would hardly be becoming in me, fellow-citizens, to indulge on this occasion in any phrases of compliment, or even of acknowledgment, towards those who have been connected with me in the interesting commission which is now about to terminate. It is well known to the City Council, that Mr. SAMUEL G. WARD and Dr. NATHANIEL B. SHURTLEFF, together with myself, have been members of the Board from its original organization, on the 20th of December, 1854. Mr. JOSEPH A. Pond has also been with us, on the part of the Common Council, since the 13th of April, 1855. Alderman BONNEY has been a member of the Board for two years; the Hon. EDWARD EVERETT for a year and a half; and Mr. WILLIAM PARKMAN, of the Common Council, for nearly a year.
We are all here to-day, fellow-citizens, in your presence, to render an account of our stewardship, jointly and severally; and it is fitter, in every view, that others should pass judgment upon us and upon our acts than that we should presume to bear witness to the fidelity of each other. I may not forget, however,