« ZurückWeiter »
mal proportions and simplicity, peering above trees and flagstaff, on the highest elevation of Boston Common, with the original tablets in its pedestal.
But the memorials of that day were few and economical. Nor can I regret that such honors were not awarded to living men, however illustrious. It is time enough for such distinctions, when death has closed the account and set his seal upon the record, and when the judgment of posterity has confirmed the impressions and ratified the decrees of contemporaries. It is rash to accept the applauses of the hour for the verdict of history. It is dangerous to pronounce upon the ultimate merits of a whole life, from the brilliancy of its opening, or even from the steadier lustre of its middle passages. Had their daring and chivalrous exploits during the early stages of the Revolution been crowned with such rewards, Benedict Arnold and Aaron Burr would have had statues in all our streets, to be hurled from their pedestals long before this time, dashed into pieces and crumbled into powder beneath the feet of a betrayed and outraged people!
But there is no longer any fear in commemorating, by suitable and proportionate monuments, the truly great men of the Colonial or of the Revolutionary period. Their fame is beyond the reach of accident, and their forms may well be seen decorating our halls and squares. The work has been auspiciously commenced. The wish of the Marquis de Chastellux is in process of being accomplished. The great chapters of our history may be read on the walls of our National Capitol, and even his own portrait is not wanting to at least one of the groups. Franklin may be seen, in marble or in bronze, in the cities of his burial and of his birth. Warren is on Bunker Hill. James Otis is at Mount Auburn, and Adams will soon be there with him. While there is scarce a city in our land, in which the peerless presence of the transcendent Washington - Pater, Liberator, Defensor Patria — may not be hailed upon the canvas or in sculpture. The exquisite portrait statue by Houdon came first, and nothing will ever surpass or equal it, in interest or in beauty. But the ancient and illustrious State of Virginia has now worthily set the example of a more elaborate and composite memorial, --- no huge unmeaning pile of stone, exhibiting nothing but the fidelity of the commonest mechanic art, -no grotesque combination of allegorical and exaggerated shapes, — but a glorious group of her own sainted sons, Henry and Jefferson, Nelson and Lee, Mason and Marshall, as they stood proudly and loyally and lovingly in life, clustering around him who was ever above them all, and challenging, alike for him and for themselves, the affectionate remembrance of a grateful posterity! Coming from the hands of an American artist of the highest genius, and whose early loss the country and the world have not yet ceased to deplore, it has every title to the admiration of all who shall be privileged to behold it. I have just returned from seeing it for the first time, and no one can leave it without the reflection, that the great mission of American Art has here at least been successfully exemplified, -to adorn the State, to exalt the Commonwealth, to illustrate its history, and to perpetuate, for the admiration and emulation of mankind, the memories of those matchless men, by whom the union and liberty and independence of our country were so nobly established and defended.
And now the artists of Boston — incited by the spirited and admirable design of a most meritorious brother artist — have appealed to us to aid them in placing Massachusetts by the side of Virginia in this precise mode of commemorating the Father of his Country. I rejoice that our native artists have thus spoken out, unitedly and earnestly, for themselves, and I trust and believe that their appeal will meet with a cordial and generous response. I do not forget that other and excellent designs for a similar work have recently been produced, -- one by Mr. Ball Hughes, who has so long resided in our neighborhood, and another by our own Richard Greenough, lately residing in Paris, and just returned to his native country. I trust that both of them will be called for and cast, somewhere or other, at no distant day. Philadelphia cannot do better than adopt one of them; while the other may well be taken, in due time, to decorate those consecrated grounds at Mount Vernon, which the efforts of American ladies, aided and inspired by the eloquence of our incomparable Everett, will soon have redeemed from all proprietorship less comprehensive than that of the whole people of the Yet, my friends, the end of my Address must not forget its beginning. We may go too far, we may go too fast, in these memorials. We may exhaust upon single works and single subjects all that art can rightfully claim from a whole generation. We may bestow upon monuments and memorials that which is wanted, that which is needed, for the relief of the destitute, for the education of the young, or for the institutions of religion and the worship of God. We must not forget that the soul of the humblest living man is of more worth than the dust of the mightiest dead that ever trod the ways of glory or sounded all the depths and shoals of honor. State Statues, merely, will not sustain and shore up these cherished institutions of freedom. Graven images, even of our most saintly heroes, are but a poor substitute for the worship of that Almighty Being to whom we owe it, that our horse and his rider, instead of being thrown into the sea like those of Egypt of old, have become associated for ever with the most glorious triumphs of Liberty. We must not rob our charities, or starve our churches, to decorate our squares or even to magnify our benefactors, and fortunate, fortunate, is it, when both objects can be worthily blended, as in the Memorial Church of the Puritans in London, for which an eloquent English voice is at this moment pleading among us. But no such considerations are involved in this design. It is one which contemplates no extravagant or disproportionate outlay. A single Fair, in this very Hall, — like that which finished the monument on Bunker Hill, or endowed the Asylum for the Blind, or relieved the treasury of the Boston Provident Association at a moment of its utinost need, or more recently assured the erection of a Hospital for Incurables, under the auspices of ladies like those I see before me, - will accomplish the entire work. And it will be accomplished. The artists and the lovers of art, in our city, have pronounced the imperative decree, that this admirable design of Washington, -- as he mounted his charger under the Old Cambridge elm on the 3d of July, 1775, to take command, for the first time, of an American army for the relief of Boston, - or as he stood on yonder heights and witnessed his first great victory, while the British fleet and the British forces sailed out of our harbor on the 17th of March, 1776,- or as he reined up in
yonder street to receive the homage of every true Boston heart, as First President of the United States, on the 24th day of October, 1789, — that this design shall no longer remain in precarious, perishable plaster, but shall assume a form as durable as our gratitude or his own fame. And to that decree, as to this Address, I feel assured that all who hear me will give a hearty and unanimous Amen!
THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF 1860.
A SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE UNION RATIFICATION MEETING IN BOSTON,
SEPTEMBER 25, 1860.
I THANK you, fellow-citizens, for these generous greetings. I thank my friends behind me, Colonel Saltonstall and Mr. Curtis, for their words of compliment and kindness. I am not insensible to such manifestations of welcome and regard, and yet I would gladly have been excused from this occasion. I would gladly have been still longer, if not altogether, excused from any active participation in these political proceedings. Not because I have had any doubt where to go, or under what banner to take my stand; but because, having so recently returned from a protracted and by no means unclouded tour in foreign lands, and having hardly yet recovered from the fatigues of travel and the dizziness of an ocean voyage, with a ponderous pile of unacknowledged letters, too, staring me in the face, and no small arrearage of private business to be disposed of, - I have found myself quite out of condition to do justice either to you or to myself. Nor can I deny that I should have liked a little longer opportunity for exchanging friendly greetings with neighbors and fellow-citizens of all opinions and all parties, before being, plunged into the vortex of an angry partisan conflict.
But one cannot always be the chooser of times and seasons. One must take his place in the cars when the bell rings, or they will be off without him. Indeed, the train is already in motion, and there seems no alternative but to jump on to the platform, just as I am.
Seriously, my friends, I am here, as your committee well understand, to make no long or labored speech, but I could not
[ 491 )