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As lately as when I had the honor to be the Governor of the Commonwealth, I signed the pension warrant of a man who lost his arm, in the year 1757, in a conflict with the Indians and French in one of the border wars, in those dreary Canadian forests. His Honor the Mayor (Mr. Bigelow) will recollect it, for he countersigned the warrant as Secretary of State. Now, sir, by the magic power of these modern works of art, the forest is thrown open, the rivers and the lakes are bridged, the valleys rise, the mountains bow their everlasting heads; and the Governor-General of Canada takes his breakfast in Montreal, and his dinner in Boston, reading a newspaper leisurely by the way which was printed a fortnight ago in London. In the excavations made in the construction of the Vermont railroads, the skeletons of fossil whales and palæozoic elephants have been brought to light. I believe, sir, if a live spermaceti whale had been seen spouting in Lake Champlain, or a native elephant had walked leisurely into Burlington from the neighboring woods of a summer's morning, it would not have been more wonderful than our fathers would have thought Lord Elgin's journey to us this week, could it have been foretold to them a century ago, with all the circumstances of despatch, convenience, and safety.
But, sir, as I have already said, it is not the material results of this railroad system in which its happiest influences are seen. I recollect that seven or eight years ago there was a project to carry a railroad into the lake country in England, into the heart of Westmoreland and Cumberland. Mr. Wordsworth, the lately deceased poet, a resident in the centre of this region, opposed the project. He thought that the retirement and seclusion of this delightful region would be disturbed by the panting of the locomotive, and the cry of the steam whistle. He published one or two sonnets in deprecation of the enterprise. Mr. Wordsworth was a kind-hearted man, as well as a most distinguished poet, but he was entirely mistaken, as, it seems to me, in this matter. The quiet of a few spots may be disturbed by a railroad; but a hundred quiet spots are rendered accessible. The bustle of the station
house may take the place of the druidical silence of some shady dell; but gracious heavens! sir, how many of those verdant cathedral arches, entwined by the hand of God in our pathless woods, are opened, for the first time since the creation of the world, to the grateful worship of man by these means of communication!
How little of rural beauty you lose, even in a country of comparatively narrow dimensions like England, how less than little in a country so vast as this, by works of this description. You lose a little strip along the line of the road which partially changes its character, while, as the compensation, you bring all this rural beauty,
“ The warbling woodland, the resounding shore,
The pomp of groves, the garniture of fields,”
within the reach, not of a score of luxurious sauntering tourists, but of the great mass of the population, who have senses and tastes as keen as the keenest. You throw it open, with all its soothing and humanizing influences, to thousands who, but for your railways and steamers, would have lived and died without ever having breathed the lifegiving air of the mountains; yes, sir, to tens of thousands, who would have gone to their graves, and the sooner for the privation, without ever having caught a glimpse of the most magnificent and beautiful spectacle, which nature presents to the eye of man; — that of a glorious combing wave, a quarter of a mile long, as it comes swelling and breasting toward the shore, till its soft green ridge bursts into a crest of snow, and settles and dies along the whispering sands!
But even this is nothing compared with the great social and moral effects of this system, a subject admirably treated last Sunday in many of its aspects, in a sermon by Dr. Gannett, which has been kindly given to the public. All important, also, are its political effects in binding the States together as one family, and uniting us to our neighbors, as brethren and kinsfolk. I do not know, sir, (turning to Lord Elgin,) but in this way, from the kindly seeds which have been sown this week, in your visit to Boston, and that of the distinguished gentlemen who have preceded and accompanied you, our children and grandchildren, as long as this great Anglo-Saxon race shall occupy the continent, may reap a harvest worth all the cost which has devolved on this generation
THE HUSBANDMAN, MECHANIC, AND
1 Am really, sir, much obliged to you and the company for this very friendly reception. If I still filled the place which I formerly, through the favor of the people of the Commonwealth, had the honor to fill, I should know better how to take it. I should regard it, in a good degree, as a tribute of respect to the office. But being nothing but a poor old hunker of an ex-governor, I hardly know how to thank you as I ought, for so friendly and cordial a welcome.
I am present to-day, sir, with a real and deep interest in the occasion. You have spoken of the Society of Middlesex Husbandmen and Manufacturers, as one of fifty years' standing. For more than half that time, I have had the honor to be a member of it; an unprofitable one, I must confess; and I attempted, a good many years ago, to perform, at the request of the Society, that duty which has been so ably and acceptably performed by the gentleman on my left, (Hon. Linus Child,) who has just addressed us, in another place.
I deem the great objects of the society and those of the Mechanic Association, whose members unite with it in this festival, of the utmost importance. They comprehend no small part of all that has been done for the culture and civilization of man. We do not, perhaps, enough reflect how much we owe to the arts of the husbandman, the mechanic, and the manufacturer; how much they do for us all, every day of our lives. Strip society of all that these arts do for it, and you reduce man at once to pastoral and savage life. You turn him out, like the wandering Arab or Tartar, to roam, with his flocks and herds, over arid deserts and dreary steppes; or like the aborigines of this continent, to earn a precarious living by hunting and fishing.
* Remarks made at the festival of the Middlesex Society of Husbandmen and Manufacturers, held at Lowell, on the 24th September, 1851, Judge E. R. Hoar in the chair.
But although reflecting persons feel, when they consider the subject, that it is the arts and industry of the husbandman, mechanic, and manufacturer, by which man has been elevated in the social scale, and brought within the reach of moral influences, we do not enough consider that we have not yet gone as far as we can or ought; that vast as the progress is, which has been made in the cultivation of the useful arts of life, particularly of late years, we are still, no doubt, in the infancy of improvement; that man always must be in this respect in a state of infancy, because there are absolutely no bounds to his possible progress. The individual man grows old; but the race does not grow old; a tide of new life is for ever pouring in; fresh minds start into being, adding to their native powers all the advantage of the teachings of their predecessors; and thus keeping the race, (where no causes of degeneracy exist,) always young, vigorous, and progressive.
It has ever been a favorite idea of mine, sir, that we live on the verge of new improvements and discoveries equal to any yet made; that in the earth we tread, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the substances of all kinds — mineral, vegetable, and animal — which we daily handle, there are the materials and elements of new discoveries, which, when made, will astonish the world. Yes, sir, the quarry and the forest, the soil and the air, the streams and the winds, are full of elemental principles, and hidden arts, and unseen adaptations to human comfort;- they are replete, bursting, I might say, with great truths. The intelligent artisan, I appeal to the worthy President of the Mechanic Association, (Mr. Francis,) if he has not experienced the emotion, the intelligent artisan can almost hear them address him like the imprisoned genius in the eastern tale, imploring him to touch VOL. III.