Dedham (Mass.).

Proceedings at the celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the incorporation of the town of Dedham, Massachusetts, September 21, 1886 online

. (page 7 of 13)
Online LibraryDedham (Mass.)Proceedings at the celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the incorporation of the town of Dedham, Massachusetts, September 21, 1886 → online text (page 7 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

tentment to hundreds of peaceful homes ; they greet the
eye in time-worn memorials of a sagacious, discrimina-
tive, but fearless patriotism ; " they stand immutable and
immortal in the social, moral, and intellectual condition
of their descendants ; they exist in the spirit which their
precepts instilled and their example implanted."

The President: Fellow-citizens, although the
honorable gentleman who was to respond to the
first toast (the Hon. John E. Fitzgerald) is ab-
sent, I will read it to you : —

The President of the United States I Vested with the executive
power of a nation of sixty millions of people, occupying a domain
continental in extent, who can measure his responsibilities or weigh
in a balance the burden of cares and anxieties inseparable from
his supreme office? May he be blessed with wisdom, with strength,
with courage, and with abundant success !

Having paid our respects to the President of the
United States, it is our next duty, as well as the next
impulse of our hearts, to pay our respects to the
Governor of the Commonwealth, both officially and
personally. I will read a toast to which I will in-
vite him to respond : —


" The Commonwealth of Massachusetts ! The protection, safety,
prosperity, and happiness of her people have been conserved and
promoted by a long line of wise, devoted, and far-seeing supreme
executive magistrates."

Ladies and gentlemen, I have the very high
honor of introducing to you the Hon. George D.
Robinson, Governor of the Commonwealth of


Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, — When,
after many years of wandering, the traveller turns his
steps homeward and traces back the famil?kr paths to
the old homestead that rests on the hills that were so
well known to him in his boyhood, he stops by the way-
side as he nears the dear old place, and drinks again at
the spring that delighted his youth and slaked his thirst,
and finds there the water sweeter and brighter and
fresher than all the land elsewhere brings forth ; and be-
neath the grateful shade of the old trees that he loved so
well he sits, and drops the tear and breathes the sigh for
the past. All through him run the warmth of recollec-
tion and the deepness of inspiration that thrill him again
with the scenes and delights of his early life. Coming
back here to-day, travelling down over a quarter of a
thousand years, we sit again at the origin of this settle-
ment, at the beginning of its power; and though we
drew not the natural breath at the beginning of its ex-
istence, we shall find, and do find, in its history and
growth abundance of thought and recollection that
strengthen and encourage and cheer.

All over this land that is now occupied by your busy
people, where on every hand, not in name as was hoped


for as of yore, but in reality " contentment " is found;
here where these streets are now formed from the once
untrodden plain, by the river that yet as then flows on to
the sea, — we find these associations attaching us to the
past that is abundantly dear. And so too, when all Na-
ture smiles bountifully, when never was it brighter before
than it is to-day, when we have an abundant harvest ready
to enrich the husbandman, and over the head of it all
Nature's resplendent glories to be enjoyed freely by every
person, — in the midst of this wealth of experience we
come back here to revive the past, and to renew our
devotion to the associations of the great men and women
that made that past and rendered their future and our
present possible. Taking it altogether, it seems as if the
poet wrote of this time when he said : —

" It is a bright September morn,
The earth is beautiful, as if new born ;
There is that nameless splendor everywhere,
That wild exhilaration in the air,
That makes the passers in the busy street
Congratulate each other as they meet."

How true it is of what has been seen by every one to-
day in the associations of this happy occasion. And yet
the change strikes us with wonderful power. Then, the
sounds of the forest, — it might be the threatening of
the hostile savage; now, the abundant harmonies of
peace, and, instead of the war-whoop, the cheerful strains
of hundreds of children standing before the sanctuary of
God, and chanting the national anthem of free America.
And all this comes to us not through any dim tradi-
tion ; fortunately the youth of the present time find their
early history written out of well authenticated records, if
not perpetuated even in the testimony of the living.

The admirable address we listened to this morning,
abounding in fact and rich in suggestion, comes down to


US with the testimony of very truth, stripped of all doubt
and uncertainty, and presented before us as the fact of
life; and we never tire in this Commonwealth of this
old, old story of the beginning of our towns. How grati-
fying, indeed, it must have been to the eloquent speaker
this morning to see with what care and attention and
respectful hearing every utterance of his was listened to !
It seemed as if this story had never before been told,
as if he alone had it within his power to acquaint us
with this marvellous fact; and yet it has been written
and restated and rehearsed time after time, not only here
but everywhere, in all the old towns and settlements of
Massachusetts and New England. It is the same tale
over again, more wonderful than ever before each time
in its repetition ; and as the years come and go, and men
pass on and off the stage, they love to look with in-
creasing interest and yearning to the times that were
wrought out in so much tribulation and trial.

There is no grander sight than a collection of our own
people. Massachusetts presents no better spectacle than
the concourse of her free-thinking, broad-minded, clean-
handed, and pure-hearted men, women, and children in our
various communities ; and this assemblage could nowhere
else be so possible as it is in our own beloved New
England. That is the secret of her power. In that, so
long as it be maintained, shall we find that element of
strength which shall enable us not only to enjoy but sa-
credly to perpetuate the great institutions of the past.
Look at any such gathering of our people, consider the
power that is bound up in one town of our Commonwealth,
and you will find the secret that underlies the strength of
the American republic. The little drop among millions
that fall in the shower sheds only a sparkle, but in the sun-
light it carries within its bosom all the richness of color;
its companions, as they fall, may combine with it to make


a greater expanse of beauty, but each one In itself is entire
and glorious. And so the little town in New England, clad
in all her panoply of power, exemplifies in the greatest and
grandest and completest degree the true democracy of
America. Bring these little towns together one after an-
other; make up a State, and out of the States a nation,
so that you will illumine the whole heavens for the en-
lightenment of the world, for the glorification of men and
the uplifting of those in other lands that are oppressed, —
and you have but the testimony of what began in the little
settlement in one town.

It is undoubtedly true, in the language of the senti-
ment that the President has read to you to-day, that
Massachusetts has in times past had good executive
magistrates in her highest positions. There is no doubt
of that in the minds of all her people, and no one more
than the present speaker delights to accord that high
praise and commendation. And why is it? You will
point in your recollection to some who seem to have
excelled all the rest; you will find here and there one
that in your judgment outstrips those that preceded or
those that followed him. But look over the illustrious
group, and tell me why it was that those men so sig-
nalized their control of power. Great, were they? Yes.
Patriots indeed? Yes. And loyal and true men? Most
certainly. But that is not all. No ; you might take that
greatness alone and plant it on some distant island of the
sea, and it would there go unsought and unused. No,
rather it would be unknown if it were there. But here
in this old State of Massachusetts the citizen is always
greater than the Governor; the power is back of the
man who for a short time only holds the great elements
that guard the interests of the State. For a time he ex-
ercises that control which is put in his hands for the
safety of all; and sometimes it may be he is dehghted


with his prominence, and thinks he sways the destiny
of the State. But it is only a brief assumption on his
part; correction soon follows; and if he reads history
and keeps up with current events, in the very near future
he finds that while he thought when in office there could
be nobody else as great and grand as he, others came
after that seemed to him almost to outstrip him, — and
it is because the people push to the front the man that
is wanted and demanded, the one required for the emer-
gency. Possibly men may have thought for a little while,
before i860, that the age of great governors was gone by;
that if any time of great peril came upon us, no man
would be able to take the burdens of the hour. But
John A. Andrew was equal to any time ; it was a crisis
that placed him upon the platform of power and authority,
and it was a crisis to which he was abundantly equal.
So long as the men that we trust with our affairs in public
are more devoted to liberty and to the safety of the
people than they are to themselves and their own eleva-
tion or continuance in power, we shall have men in our
first places that are to be trusted and in the future to be
honored. So long as they, like the men of the past, are
found sober and firm in Christian virtue and truth, — in
what makes for the substantial security of home and church
and town and State, — so long it will lie in the mouth of
no one to say that Massachusetts has not honored the true
men in her high places ; and I put it to you, ladies and
gentlemen, that if the time shall ever come that Massachu-
setts shall be ashamed of her rulers, it will be because her
people fail to do their own duty. It should not be for-
gotten to-day that when this town was granted its act of
incorporation, Sir Harry Vane was Governor of Massachu-
setts, being then but twenty-five years of age, less than a
year in America, scholarly, bright, accomplished. Christian,
earnest, liberty-loving, uncompromising, full of blood and


spirit, and devoted to the freedom of all men. What he
attempted to establish at that time was not secured in
success, as we know, because defeat before the people fol-
lowed; and though he returned early to his home country
and there later in life met his death in sacrifice to the
principle that he had lived for, yet we to-day, rejoicing in
our entire liberty, allowing to all men the right to worship
God according to the dictates of their own consciences,
recognizing any and all sects of faith for the free adoption
of every man and woman, — we cannot but turn back with
gratitude and pride to the record of Harry Vane in 1636,
when he stood up even before the majority in Massachu-
setts, and declared that he would live for the rights of
the people to civil and religious liberty.

Having the right to demand the best service, shall the
people seek it? Do the people of the town of Dedham
insist upon it always? Are they sometimes lax in the per-
formance of their duties as citizens? If some foreign
potentate should issue a proclamation declaring that on
and after the first day of October next no man in the
town of Dedham should have the right to cast his vote or
to attend the town-meeting, every man would be as valiant
and as ready for the sacrifice as the grand old heroes
of the past were ; every man would stand at the corner
of the streets with his musket, ready to meet the power
that sought to put in force that infamous proclamation.
And yet there are men in the town of Dedham who sloth-
fully lay down their privileges every year and let them go
into the dust, as if they were not worth the sacrifices of the
past or the enjoyment of the present. You heard about
the grand old men this forenoon, — how they sacrificed,
how they stood ; how they marched, not only in Dedham,
but over into Lexington, in order to meet the enemy. Do
you read in the annals of Dedham in 1886 of all the men
shouldering the ballot when the time comes, and marching


to that strife? Are there any in the old records who are
recorded as having been so busy in the cornfield that
they could not go home to attend to the affairs of the
town or the church? Perchance there maybe men that
go to Boston and find occupation in counting-rooms;
possibly lawyers that have clients in court; possibly min-
isters who have the idea that the whole matter of politics
is too vile and foul for them to touch, — possibly there are
many people who think that somehow or other the assem-
blage of the freemen of America in our own time, clad in
the rights of citizenship by the power that secures us all,
that that union and concourse is not honorable and good
for them. I tell you such people as that would not have
had enough in them to have made a decent Puritan. That
kind of people stayed across the water, and never came
here; or, if they did, they took the first ship back. Why,
Dedham has fifteen hundred voters upon her voting-list;
fifteen htmdred men that have the right to vote, — and I say
more, that had the duty to vote, that have not any right
to be excused except for insuperable reasons ; and only
seven hundred and sixty-one out of that whole number
voted at the last election. Shame on us to come up here
to-day and sit down with unblushing faces, and listen to
the glory of the past and the greatness of our ancestors
and the sacrifices they made and of the stuff that was in
them, — and we weak, puny, insignificant, out of compari-
son ! Perhaps this is the way that the Commonwealth
should not talk ; perhaps the Governor ought to rise here
and deliver some highflown oration. But this is the only
time, at a two hundred and fiftieth anniversary, that I can
possibly have the opportunity to free my mind and soul.

Oh, no ! some men after they have heard a splendid ex-
altation of the idea of the Massachusetts town-meeting,
what a grand theatre it is for the operations of freemen,
say, " Oh, yes," as they walk along the street and button up


their coats for fear of contamination, — " Oh, yes, that would
do in times past, when they had good town-meetings!"
Ah ! if there are in that seven hundred and fifty men who
stayed away from the polls in Dedham any who think that
affairs ought to be better than they are, any believing that
in the town there are fellow-citizens that do not appreciate
to the full their rights and their duties, there is abundant
call for them to go in and stimulate, elevate, encourage,
and strengthen. You think the citadel of power is in dan-
ger? You think that the enemies of good government are
storming our strong places at the present time? Well,
then, the business for you is to rush into the breach, and
to stay there until security is assured.

I hear from time to time a good deal said about how this
republic of ours and how our State is to go to ruin; that it
is to go down through the path of luxury, it may be; that
it will go down through some contest between labor and cap-
ital ; that it will go down to destruction in one or another
of many different ways. But I tell you no such thing. If
it goes down at all, it will go down over men that have
become corpses before there was any struggle at all ; if it
goes down, it will be because our people will talk of the
greatness of the town system, will extol the record of the
past, will boast of their Puritan ancestry, and will elevate
themselves in the estimation of the world, but will not do
one single thing if it interrupts their leisure, or go one step
aside from their course or their pleasures, to keep in power
the principles that the grand old Puritans established.

When I stood before the humble monument on the
Green at Lexington; when in my boyhood I read the
record of that inscription for the first time ; when I saw
the old house in which the heroes lived, and out of which
some of them went for the last time on that eventful
morning, and talked with the men that survived that
onset, — I received an impulse into my very nature that


has made me ever stand for the exercise of that power
which under the blessing of God our patriotic fathers
made possible for this generation.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have far exceeded any reason-
able limit of time that could be set me ; but my only excuse
shall be that I can by no possibility be with you all again
two hundred and fifty years hence. So, for this time and
this occasion only, I bid you in behalf of our mother-State
the most cordial greeting, the best wishes for the future, —
that you shall have all these privileges that you have a
right to ask for and that you are fit to enjoy, because you
show your purpose to use them. If we do that, if you in
this town will take hold of that responsibility and work out
that result, the coming historian two hundred and fifty
years hence will not be compelled to stop his recital as he
approaches the year 1886, but will go on with his glowing
periods of power and influence, telling what his ancestors
— we of this day — did to secure and perpetuate America's
liberty and greatness ; and he will recite all that, and present
our great future, as the abundant fruition of the still more
glorious past.

The President then read the following toast : —

" The City of Boston ! Distinguished not more for its literary,
educational, and scientific institutions, than for the honor, integrity,
and magnificent generosity of its inhabitants."

I have the very great pleasure and distinguished
honor of introducing to you the Honorable Hugh
O'Brien, Mayor of the city of Boston.



Mr. President, and Ladies and Gentlemen, — After
listening to the very eloquent speech of His Excellency
the Governor, I have no hesitation in saying, and I know
that you will indorse every word I say, that he is a worthy
successor of the distinguished men who have hitherto
filled the executive chair of the State.

The city of Boston greets the town of Dedham on her
two hundred and fiftieth anniversary. Four hundred thou-
sand people, your neighbors, rejoice in your prosperity and
the happy auspices under which you celebrate this memo-
rial. What a remarkable history is that of the nation of
which you are a part ! Two hundred and fifty years ago
this country a wilderness, now a nation of sixty millions
inhabitants ! What marvellous growth ! what astonishing
prosperity ! The city of Boston, your neighbor, is fast
enlarging her limits ; her boundaries now reach the Ded-
ham line. Who knows what may take place in the next
two hundred and fifty years? The city of Boston, the great
metropolis of New England, two hundred and fifty years
hence, with five millions or six millions of inhabitants, the
great city of the North, may then include Dedham within
its limits.

You refer in your sentiment, Mr. President, to the city of
Boston as promoting and establishing literary, educational,
and scientific institutions. Boston is a large, prosperous,
and wealthy city; during the past fifty years her population
has increased seven-fold, her valuation twelve-fold. Fifty
years ago the entire valuation of the city was about
sixty million dollars ; now it is upward of seven hundred
milHon dollars. Our citizens feel that liberal expendi-
ture for educational purposes is a good investment. In
our public schools we have from sixty-five thousand to


seventy thousand scholars, and we expend every year
about two million dollars for schoolhouses and school main-
tenance, — an average of thirty dollars for each pupil. We
consider this an investment that brings about good re-
sults. It seems a large expenditure when we consider that
it costs thirty dollars a year for each scholar ; but it gives
our boys and girls a good start in life, and plants a foun-
dation for good citizenship. We do not stop here ; with
schools of technology and our public library, we place in
the hands of our children the means of perfecting them-
selves in any branch of learning. Next to our public
schools, the public library is the great educator of our
people; it contains a wealth of literature and science
and practical knowledge that tempts the ambition of the
young and old, and is a source of pleasure to all classes
of readers. The best facilities should be extended to
young men desirous of perfecting themselves in any
branch of knowledge, and Boston has always felt it to be
her duty to extend these facilities. If by a liberal pol-
icy we produce a man in our day and generation so
pre-eminent in any branch of knowledge that he will be
considered a public benefactor, it will more than repay
us for the expense.

The city of Boston has grown and prospered in part on
account of her institutions of learning, for which her ex-
penditures are so liberal, but more particularly on account
of the energy and business integrity of her citizens. We
have no mineral wealth, no agricultural wealth, but we
have energy and push ; and with intelligence and educa-
tional advantages we stand to-day second only to the
great city of New York. As for our benevolence and
generosity, we have only to point to what has been done
during the past two weeks for the distressed city of
Charleston. Upward of sixty-six thousand dollars of
voluntary subscriptions have already been received, and


the fund will probably reach one hundred thousand

I conclude with the hope that Boston and Dedham
may long continue good neighbors; and that at some time
in the distant future Boston may have incorporated the
smaller community within her boundaries.

The President : I have now this toast to pro-
pose : —

" The Fathers of New England ! Surrendering with reluctance
a proud and exclusive individuality in the interest of the common
defence and the general welfare, these plain and sober but brave
masters of a commanding common-sense constructed a frame of
civil government unsurpassed in strength and endurance."

I have the high honor of inviting Dr. George E.
Ellis, President of the Massachusetts Historical
Society, to respond to this toast.


Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, — I have
reason to believe that seven generations of my ancestry, in-
cluding my parents, lie in the soil of this town. My library
fire is kept cheerful by wood grown on the paternal acres
here ; and as I saw Mr. French with a load of excellent
wood passing in your procession, I hoped that he might
leave that at my house. From my earliest years I have been
familiar with the names of localities which I suppose are
known only to the residents of Dedham. Singular words
they are, — " Cutham," " Tiot," "Clapboardtrees," " Purga-
tory " (I hope that is a figurative expression), and " Fox-
hill." My own habits and taste of reading have led me to
interest myself very much in the characters and institutions
of those who founded these country towns, the original


Puritan stock of Massachusetts. The scenes all around us
of thrift and prosperity, of beauty and neatness, — these
delightful homes and tidy farms and autumn fields, — are all
legacies, results, effects. They certify to us the toil, the
self-sacrifice, the wisdom, the virtues, the thought for their
posterity of those who first entered this wilderness. More
safe, more sure to yield their steady returns, than the de-
posits in all our banks and the investments in all bonds,
are the hard labors and the simple virtues of ancestral gen-
erations in securing varied and permanent advantages to
those who succeeded them.

Many of you must have taken note of the usage which
has steadily and rapidly advanced among us in New England
in recent years in the preparation of most elaborate town
histories, with extended genealogical tables of our New Eng-
land families in all their ramifications. This usage, if not

1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryDedham (Mass.)Proceedings at the celebration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the incorporation of the town of Dedham, Massachusetts, September 21, 1886 → online text (page 7 of 13)