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Oration, poem, speeches, chronicles, &c., at the dedication of the Malden town hall on Thursday evening, October 29th, 1857 online

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stances, partly of their education, partly of their religion, and
wholly of the good Providence of the Supreme One. They were
not curious of w^hat they did. Those who accomplish great
acts, seldom are. They were not accustomed to draw beautiful
fancy pictures of the future, they had enough to do to live in
the stern present. They often violated their own principles,
but it was unintentionally and from a good purpose ; and there
is this wonderful power about truth that if acknowledged from
the heart, it will contend with all error and conquer it, and in
time crush it out. They were plain, practical, strong, earnest
men. They are often ridiculed, and so all positive characters
can be. It is only smooth, polished, negative persons that pre-
sent no angles on which you can fasten a joke. That face must
be totally void of expression that cannot be caricatured. Lord
Brougham is a positive man, and therefore suffers much in the
pages of Punch. Ichabod Crane was an absolute power, and
left his image on the mind of Washington Irving, and was
therefore fit to become the standing national picture for a ludi-
crous Yankee school-master. Socrates, patient and good, was
ridiculed by Aristophanes, on the Grecian stage.

Our fathers were rough and earnest, and our mothers were
their fitting companions. Would that we could see them, those
bearded and moustached ministers, erect and grave, walking
among the people as princes and oracles, and yet fearlessly crit-
icised, and boldly contradicted by any parishioner who fancied
that he or she had found some new light ; the men, grave, and
sometimes gay, ready to wrestle, pitch quoits, discuss texts, or
fight the Indians, looking forward with joy to Thanksgiving-
days when they devoured vast quantities of turkeys and pump-
kin pies, both native American dishes, and the women too, as
earnest, as brave, as independent, and as self-reliant as the men.
What if they did have their faults — who has not ? They be-
lieved in witches, did they ? Yes, and they determined too, to


rid themselves of such abominations. Even in this they show-
ed their genuine and brave sincerity, Other people believed in
witches long afterwards, and trembled at the word, but relied
chiefly on old rusty horse-shoes nailed over the door-ways for
defense— our fathers needed stronger weapons and used them
till they learned better.

They persecuted the Quakers, did they ? Yes, and a great
outcry is raised over it — though even then they were far in ad-
vance of the rest of the world on this very subject, and they had
strong temptations to this wrong, and in some cases the perse-
cuted deserved punishment for actual civil offences ; and they
saw this error and abandoned it without any instruction from
abroad. But they need no defense. They have -opened up a
new and glorious chapter in history ; and you may select any
other people that ever lived on this round earth, and seek in
vain for a more glorious career.

Are we proud of our origin ? It is an unworthy pride unless
we tread in their footsteps and honor their name. Let us then
deserve political freedom, and by deserving, secure it. Govern-
ments do not make, they are made. They are not the trunk,
they are the foliage and the flower.

How then shall we dedicate this house ? Behold it. Materi-
ally it is but a trifling work. All the brick and stone and wood,
would scarcely make a single block of an old Egyptian pyramid,
or raise the superstructure a single inch. Yes ! but in soul, in
association, in the thoughts that cluster about it, in the beauty
that plays within it, how vastly siiperior is this house ! "Forty
centuries look down upon you. Frenchmen," exclaimed Napole-
on as his fierce conquering army met on the sands of Egypt the
foes they had unrighteously attacked ! It was a sublime ex-
pression, a thunder-bolt of thought. — But were we called upon
to defend our liberties in the sight of a humble New England
Town-house, with what more than human eloquence would
these silent walls plead for liberty and right ! And that mag-
nificent structure of ancient Rome of which the poet has so
beautifully sung :

But when the rising moon begins to climb
Its topmost arch, and gently pauses there ;


When the stars twinkle through the loops of time,

And the low night-breeze waves along the air

The garland-forest, which the gray walls wear,

Like laurels on the first bald Caesar's head ;

When the light shines serene but doth not glare,

Then in this magic circle raise the dead ;

Heroes have trod this spot— 'tis on their dust ye tread

AVhile stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand ;

When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall ;

And when Rome falls, the world.
And yet could you stand before these majestic rains witliout
thinking of the thousands of Jewish slaves that toiled to build it?
And of the groans and sighs and screams and agony of the gladi-
ators that fought there, aye, and of the early Christians, men,
women and children, torn to pieces by wild beasts in the pres-
ence of tens of thousands of spectators, while the Roman ladies
looked on with delight, and by turning their pretty thumbs
downward forbade all hope of mercy to the dying martyrs ! And
even that largest structure of modern times, St. Peter's — does it
not speak to us of superstition, when men thought to pur-
chase pardon for sin by dying devotions, and the ignorant popu-
lace poured out their money to pay for safety against the Turk,
the comet, and the devil? No such associations martins build-
ing. It is the free will offering of the people. It is the temple
of Liberty, the plain, unadorned enclosure, where man meets
man on common grounds and mind meets mind, and out of the
union wisdom is born.

We dedicate this house then to Freedom of Speech, to Wis-
dom and Justice. Here let right assert her own authority.
Here let Humanity reign. Here let the oppressed always have
their advocates, and tyranny never find a friend. Here let the
voice of Maiden be uttered, ringing and loud, for truth and for
God, and men never be wanting, able to prize, worthy to enjoy,
and willing to defend the noble birthright bequeathed to us by
our patriot sires.


Unarched, unpillared, plain, substantial, square,
Though here no cloud-capped turrets pierce the air,
No dome swells proudly to the eye of day,
From walls whose massive grandeur mocks decay;
His desert, tomb no haughty Pharaoh rears,
The task of nations, and the toil of years ;
Though here no deathless triumph art has won,
Breathing the life of Poesy to stone ;
Though through yon stream no white-limbed Nereid roves,
No stately Dryads haunt the unclassic groves ;
Though ne'er yon hill, by bright immortals trod.
Has bowed beneath the footsteps of a God ;
Though here, half-crazed with love of antique lore.
No foot-worn pilgrim comes from many a shore.
By mouldering arch, by nodding tower and wall.
And ivied columns toppling to their fall.
By tombs long vacant, temples long o'erthrown, j

On Times' sad wrecks to muse and mourn alone;
Though as he points you reverent to the page

Whence Learning's radiance streams through every age, ^

Like Horeb's fires which burn but ne'er consume, ;

As turns the Moslem's face to Mecca's tomb, j

Here turns nor scholar's eye, nor poet's heart, I

As to the cradle land of song and art ; i

Though to these shores Antiquity bequeathes . |

Nor hero's bays, nor minstrels fadeless wreaths, |

To our brief Past no. golden Age belongs


Of arts, and arms, and eloquence, and songs ;
Not ours the Arcadian lute, the Orphean lyre,
Nor blind old Homer's harp of deathless fire ;
Not ours the halos of undying fame.
Which round a Scipio's burn, a Caesar's name ;

Yet even these walls, where scarce the echoing din
Of labor hushes, ere these rights begin,
This spot, redeemed as 't were but yesterday
From savage beasts, and men more brutes than they,
Though mute for ages, finds to-night a tongue.
Whose voice of triumph joins the choral song
Of the world's freedom, chanting in the ear
Of its slaved millions their deliverance near.
Yes, from this spot, each kindred spot and dome
Fair Freedom hallows, her peculiar home,
From Maine's rude coast, Francisco's glassy bay,
From capes that glisten in the gulf's warm spray,
To the green prairies where the exile bears
The patriot's valor, and the pilgrim's prayers
All lifting up their voices like the sound
Of many waters, heard the world around,
Borne echoing back from every shore and sea,
Swells the high pgean, " Earth shall yet be free."

Such the proud boast, whose trumpet tones sublime
Swept from these shores and rang through every clime,
So to the Old world called the New aloud.
What time our sires those sacred truths avowed,
Whose triumph opened in the boundless West
Earth's last asylum for the World's oppressed.
Which blaze to-night and burn these walls around,
Hallow this spot and make it holy ground ;
That men born equals, none have leave to bind,
Nor hold in bonds of ignorance the mind ;
That in all lands, which throw the impartial door


Of learning open or to rich or poor,
Where meek-eyed Tolerance breaks the bigot's rod,
And leaves the conscience free to worship God,
There nations flourish, there the State shall be
Safe though self-governed, firmly ruled though free.

So pled for truth those true, strong hearted men,
And oft repulsed, pled patiently again ;
For hearts still loyal loved their father land,
And in the tyrant's owned a sovereign's hand,
Till by long outrage forced to look on those
Once loved as brothers with the hate of foes.
The indignant farmers, fortune, honor, life,
Pledged to the chances of the unequal strife,
In few and simple, but immortal words
To heaven appealing, beat their scythes to swords ;
On yon green slope, whose shaft shall proudly tell
"While Time endures, the tale we know so well.
Silent though fearless, through the moonless night
Dug their rude trenches for the morrow's fight,
"When huge and spectral loomed the ships that lay
Moored in the stream through morning's twilight gray,
Their wakeful watch the fort's low line alarms.
And his shrill signal roused the foe to arms,
From each black frigate through the war-clouds dun
Roared the hoarse thunders of the deep-toned gun,
While our brave fathers, strengthening for the fray
Their frail redoubts with fence and new-mown hay,
Their homespun flag to June's soft breeze unfurled,
And fired the shot still echoing round the world.

Seven long years' travailing at the nation's birth,
The groans of freedom filled the shuddering earth ;
Then, while he raised his lettered hands and blessed
The young Alcides cradled in the West,


New hope each captives's kindling heart inspires,
As up the Heaven, resplendent with strange fires.
He sees the nation's natal planets rise.
The new Orion of the sunset skies.
Then Europe witnessed with pretended scorn,
But inward tremors, a Eepublic born ;
While tyrants, pointing to the fates of all
Past commonwealths, stood prophets of its fall.

Thank God ! not yet their vulture's beaks have torn
The eye, which looks undazzled on the morn,
Above their hate the fearless eagle springs,
Hope in his eye, and victory on his wings.

But hark ! the solemn voices of the past
Eepeat, republics are not born to last.
Ill-bom prosperity too soon creates
The lusts that weaken, strifes that sever states ;
Too soon the virtues of their youth decay.
Sloth saps, and vices waste their strength away.
'Twas thus with Athens, freedom's early home.
With crushed, now Papal, once republic Rome.
Through the same streets, which witnessd long ago
Of the world's victors each triumphant show,
As rich with tribute, every nation brings
EoU their red chariots drawn by captive kings.
Move the mock pageants of a faith that binds
In hopeless bondage hands and hearts and minds.
The sports of Carnival usurp the place
Of warlike games, which rear a martial race ;
The sons of Romulus their lives employ
In vacant pastime, or voluptuous joy.
On Rome's sad ruin gazing undismayed,
Shake the babe's rattle for the hero's blade,
Or murmur, basking idly in the noon,


** Hail, ' sweet do-nothing,' fortune's happiest boon."

No more forever, or in hope or fear,

Their palsied arms shall poise the shattered spear,

No blow for freedom dare their hands again

As, Slavery's self-grown sweet, they hug their chain.

God of our fathers, from our hearths and homes
Avert the terror of a fall like Rome's !
Let faith look up, and still behold thy hand,
Outstreached to save, even while it smites the land.

Nor mourn that princely opulence denied,
Which loves to mimic unrepublic pride,
For lands soon look on Freedom's setting sun
When wealth rolls in, by honest toil unwon ;
When banks their aid to lawless usury lend,
To strip the merchants, whom they should befriend ;
When the street Shylock with a heart like stone,
Sticks the meek victim with his cut-throat loan.

Through Time's far vistas with prophetic eye
Piercing the shadows of Futurity,
Behold, still safe through every hostile storm.
The star-crowned Union lifts her glorious form
With thrice the orbs, which bound her youthful brow,
That starred tiara burns and blazes now.
Still westward winds the emigrant's long train.
Their white-topped wagons gleaming o'er the plain.
There go the children whom your love pursues
With prayers and blessings, wander where they choose,-
There bring the dauntless spirit of their sires,
The heart that faints not, hand that never tires.
The restless, quenchless energies of mind
And mould, which stamps them foremost of mankind,
There win from spendthrift nature's living gold

Unmined, the wealth these barren glebes withhold,
There plant, where seaward blue Columbia foams
Each shore an Eden, new JMew England homes,
There teach their little ones the prayers they tried
To lisp in childhood, kneeling at your side.

There, as New Empires to quick being start.
Each claimed and welcomed proudly to her heart,
Shall the loved Union see star after star,
As yet unborn, rise flaming from afar ;
There like the apocalyptic angel stand
One foot on sea, and one upon the land ;
Her face a glory like the sun shall shed.
As mid the heavens she lifts her towering head,
One grasp the sword which won the world's release.
One radiant palm the olive branch of peace,
As the glad nations lavish at her feet
Honor and gifts unsought, and thus more sweet.
Exclaim, " not mine the eagle, but the dove
For Earth is conquered — not with arms but love,'*


At the conclusion of the Poem, the President remarked that
as the hour was yet early, and as there were several of our
citizens who would favor the audience with remarks on this in-
teresting occasion, he would first call upon Mr. Wm. H. Richard-
son, Secretary of the Committee of Arrangements. Mr. Rich-
ardson responded to the call, and spoke as follows ;

Mr. President, and Ladies and Gentlemen,

In attempting to make a few remarks in response to the call,
I feel that what I shall offer will be like the song after the feast,
or the whirl of a tiny wheel after a brilliant pyrotechnic display.
Were I to select a sentiment most appropriate to the occasion,
and in accordance with my own feelings, as expressive of our
position — it would be " our town, and our duties." To that
sentiment I will endeavor briefly to address myself.

I am fully conscious that the few moments allotted to me are
totally inadequate to a fair presentation of the ideas suggested
by so fruitful a theme. When Maiden was yet in her infancy,
and Boston was a far off City, — when her streets echoed only
to the tap of the lapstone, or the ring of the Anvil — when
the raising of a barn was an event in history, when the tything
man was vested with supreme authority, and when black-strap
— for the laborers, and wine for the ministers, was the common
beverage. Then — in those days of arcadian simplicity, it were
no difficult task to speak of " our town, and our duties." But,
when with the march of time, improvement and progress, have
taken the place of rural simpHcity, and the City with its din and
smoke, and ceaseless whirl, has become linked by bands of
iron, to our once quiet village, and our town has become the
mother of a fair and blooming daughter. Miss Melrose, who is
striving to out rival her somewhat aged parent — in view of all


these changes to attempt to do justice to the suggestions of the
sentiment, in the brief time now given mo, were to attempt] to
build a Town-House, in a night. Our Town-House, is no long-
er a remote contingency, but a palpable reality. We stand here
this night within its walls, not without, I trust, feelings of local
pride. Some one has said, that, in all creation and in all com-
position, the first step towards the realization of a thought, and
the closing step which lifts that thought into a material embodi-
ment, are the motives of a mental pause, flush with hope and
promise, and brimming with exultation. Such are the impulses
which have drawn us together this evening.

We have assembled to dedicate this beautiful Hall. We have
come with the earnest prayer — the stirring Anthem, the eloquent
oration, the classic poem, the sentiment and responsive speech,
— all combining to make this a joyous occasion. Maiden has
witnessed but few jubilees, like the one we this night celebrate.
In '49 we celebrated her natal year. Then she was adorned, and
decked with streaming flag, and emblazoned banner. Then her
sons and her daughters, came " from all the region round about."
Those whose infant years had first heard the lullaby upon the
bosom of a Maiden mother, — those who had in early manhood,
walked from her gates to seek a fortune, — or a name, then hast-
ened hither, to join with her native sons and daughters, to sing
Lang Syne, and gather new and fresher inspiration for life's du-
ties, and life's joys. These festal greetings — these dedicatory
services have a higher significance than is expressed in the sol-
emn prayer, — the oration, — the poem, or speech. These pass
with the hour, remembered for a day, soon to be swallowed
up by the returning waves of business, or house-hold cares.
This edifice should mark a step onward, and upward. It is the
exponent of our times, and the tastes of our people. The com-
pletion of this building, is the striking of another hour upon the
clock of time, telling us that we have accomplished one more
duty, and henceforward new agencies are placed in our hands,
with which to labor. Towns have their infancy, youth and ma-
turity, no less than individuals or nations, and it is every man's
duty to do what he can to make that town better and more at-
tractive for his having lived in it. What though we have been


taxed within an inch of our lives to rear this beautiful structure.
Here it stands, and the time for grumbling has past. Let us
see to it that now it has become our property, that we rightly
improve its possible benefits. It may point a moral, as well as
adorn our village. If we have been extravagant, and I should
judge from the doleful groanings which the tax-bills extort, that
we had, let us in future count the cost, and appropriate accord-
ingly. But I would speak of our duties as citizens to each oth-
er. We need more social life in our midst, and our Hall is the
common ground upon which all should meet. This Hall
should be made the fraternizer of opposing interests and clash-
ing sentiments. This Hall opens a new field where rich and
poor, learned and unlearned — politician — fireman — mechanic
— merchant — minister and layman, all can meet and learn to
respect and love one another. We are too exclusive. We live
as though each of us inhabited an inaccessible island, and the
draw bridge was constantly up.

We meet together only upon Town-meeting days, each por-
tion of the town anxious to get her part of the public money.
That divided or " used up," we repair to our homes caring only
for what individually concerns us. " Lands intersected by a nar-
row frith abhor each other." If we can only get at each other,
we shall find that there are mines of gold, which we can coin
into blessings, richer far than California's glittering dust. Here
we stand hedged about by our own little jealousies and foolish
idiocyncrasies — each suspiciously eyeing the other, with cat-like
keenness, ready to jump upon every little fault we see, but don't
understand, allowing differences of opinion, which alone ennoble
dignify and elevate us, to become so many impassable barriers to
each other's hearts and affections. I was pleased with a remark
made by an orthodox brother the other evening at their festival,
which although there had been a good deal of pipe-laying prev-
ious to the levee, and much gas was permitted to escape, yet was
a genial, high toned and truly social occasion — on enquiring
whether enough would be realized to pay the outlay, he replied
" I don't care whether we make a cent or not — this social gath-
ering is worth all our trouble." So long as we withdraw our-
selves from these social communions, just so long will jealousies


and divisions exist. " A community strictly defined, ceases to
exist, when it ceases to have common pursuits, — common in-
terests and common objects of affection and pride." God speed
the day, when instead of coldness and stiffening formality — when
instead of separating into factions, and laying an embargo upon
the kindliest affections of the heart, we shall cause gleams of
sun-shijie to radiate from soul to soul, and commence that inter-
change of courteous communication, which should always exist
between those bound together by the same municipal ties, and
the same local interests.

The fact is, there are those whom we pass every day, and only
know by a nod of recognition, or perhaps, pass without saluta-
tion, and whom we ignorantly suppose have no elements of
character congenial with our own : when, could wc but lift the
mask which conceals their views and thoughts, we should, be
surprised and delighted with their companionship. Now we
owe it to ourselves as citizens of one town, which is, rightly con-
sidered, but one great family, to throw off our exclusiveness,
and introduce ourselves to each other. Emerson says that
« Politeness is the ritual of society, as prayers are of the Church."
Socialism, my friends, is a sub-rehgion, and I verily believe, we
shall advance the cause of practical religion, by striving to know,
and benefit each other in the manner pointed out, ten thousand
times more than by practising a formal asceticism, or a vain and
narrow exclusiveness, which is the sure indication of a weak
head, and an experience which is bounded North by our " sect "
— East, by our church, — West, by our family, and South by
any snob that may perchance be introduced, into the family.

Some one has said that it is a popular delusion to suppose
that a man belongs to himself. No man does. He belongs to
his wife, or his children, or his relations, or his creditors, —
(there is no mistake about the latter remark in these days, it is a
most uncomfortable nearness,) or to society in some form or
other. It is for their especial good and behalf that he lives and
works, and they kindly allow him to retain a certain per cent-
age of his gains to administer to his own pleasures, or wants.
In short, society is the master, and man is the servant ; and it
is entirely according as societv nrovns a ffood, or bad master,


Our duties then are simple but yet imperative. This incrus-
tation of self is all wrong. Let us make this occasion the key-
note to a broader public spirit and a more enlightened individu-
alism, so that we may all fall into line and keep step to the mu-
sic of this new Union.

A few words concerning the adornment of our town. I was
pleased with some portions of an address delivered by the Hon.
N. P. Banks, at the late Domestic Festival, at "Waltham. In
speaking of the attractions which gave a town its true glory, he
referred to the grand old trees, whicli^ deck her brow and adorn
her streets.

These, he contended, were the wreaths which made her so at-
tractive to residents and strangers. He spoke also of her beau-
tiful gardens, and the importance of horticulture, thereby prov-
ing himself not only a good Bank's man, but a good Gardner
man. We, Mr. President, need to pay more attention to the
adornment of our streets — the regularity of buildings — so that
instead of bald and unattractive thoroughfares — lines of houses

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Online LibraryMass MaldenOration, poem, speeches, chronicles, &c., at the dedication of the Malden town hall on Thursday evening, October 29th, 1857 → online text (page 3 of 5)