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The Saxons, it has been said, are the hands of mankind. But they are more than that. No hands ever smote, and grasped, and split, and builded, like theirs, that did not reach back, in their sinewy planting, to the top of the man, and get their motor forces straight from the imperial mandate there.
Now, to the realization of those results which science is in these days so liberally offering to industry, there must be a compliance with conditions — conditions requiring an earnest intellectual purpose in the individual, or else he fails of
but a very superficial advantage from the common excitement. The first of these is so simple a one as a division of time, and the consecration of hours to the Brain's private business. The notion that a man can get all the knowledge he needs for his business while his hands are busy at its details, is fatal to liberal achievements. That sluggish maxim never crowded your galleries with those trophies of triumphant wrestling-matches with Nature. Every species of work, that deserves to be done at all, deserves to be nurtured and enlivened from a higher fountain of inspiration than itself. Our capital-stock of ideas has to be replenished from another source than that where we keep our small coin in circulation. There must be a mine and a mint as well as a pocket purse and paying teller. Above the noisy streams of our outward activity are the cool head-waters of dispassionate thinking. However homely the drudgery of the employment, it has grandeur in it whenever it is followed by a workman who feels, at his daily return to it, that he steps forth out of a solitude where his intellect has been put to some strain. The common current of his transactions may look shallow or common-place; but it really borrows romance and sublimity from those heights of study whence his soul comes down into its round of commerce with the world. No great start forward was ever given to any practical art, except through
minds that kindled with this passion for knowing; minds possessed by the love of knowledge for its own sake; by the afflatus of a searching, inquisitive spirit; by loyalty to the idea of a perfect life; and all this taking form in systematic studies. One will not insist on the scientific avarice of the old scholar Buddæus, who said, at some expense of gallantry, that the only day he had utterly lost was the day he was married, because that day he “ did only manage to get six hours for reading.” But one can afford to let no ordinary and extra-matrimonial day dodge by him, without depositing in the hand of his persistent curiosity some piece of imperishable wisdom. It is yet to be popularly understood that the secret of recreation, after fatigue, is not idleness, but change of attention. After nearly all employments where the manual and observing faculties predominate, as in most mechanical and trafficking vocations, refreshment is reached by a fresh turn of thought far more effectually than by vacuity. When your mind needs rest, it does not need that you should empty yourself of your mind, and retire into a state of temporary brutism, or idiocy. If you need sleep, sleep outright. But this dozy, dreamy, soggy inertia, that stupefies so many busy men's evenings, dividing them with gossip and bad company, is not for the bealth of any part of us.
I allude to points so plain, gentlemen, out of a sincere sympathy, if I may not say loyalty, toward your vocation, as the masters of industry and machinery. You represent, nay, you are the men that are to manage the hands of the nation and the age. Whatever certain hereditary prejudices or prerogatives might prefer, men of your order, before this century is done, are to rise into more commanding posts than they have taken yet. The men of whom Franklin the type-setter was himself the type are not only to stand before kings, as he did, but in the place of kings. They are to sit on those thrones, Baconian and New
tonian and Fultonian, of which nature is the foundation, and knowledge is the power. Daniel Webster said once, speaking of this very Society, Mechanics are the men that teach us how a little country is to be made a great one. But to that end, and in order that the power may not be reckless and demoniacal the more of it the more mischief. these Hands must be guided and poised by wise and seeing heads. As I walk through your avenues of manufactures, and pause in section after section of exquisite and almost bewildering artizanship, this is the thought that ever recurs and haunts me: where are the thousands of mechanics that are not here, and have no share in this exhilarating competition? How to gain them over from their contented humdrum, and join them to this progressive company! For, remember, it is just as important that the many should be brought up with the few, as that the few should go on; and if you would find the one dividing line which separates the inventor and exhibiter from the plodding dullard, you must look for it in just that simple spot -- that hour of solitary study, and of hard thinking, beyond the necessary circuit of the trade. The one is satisfied if he does to-day what he did yesterday, and as well. The other goes up, often, with prophetic aspiration, into a loftier atmosphere than that, and comes finally to lift his whole work with him, and live with the Olympian band.
And so, I say further, there must not only be set seasons of mental exercise, but there must be a determination to bring out the intellectual element that lies latent in every trade, and to know, of every piece of work, every thing that is to be known about it.
There are two ways of doing any business, from building empires to making pins. One is to succumb to the outward necessities of the task; to grind on as before, and get a living ; to be dragged, with reluctant and abject moods, through the
wonted motions, with no elastic spring, no illumination, putting no mind into them. It is the testimony of the best practical observers among mechanics, I find, that familiarity with the details of any craft does not, by any means, dispose men to a study of its principles; but rather the contrary. And this is just what was to be expected; for it is so of every vocation under the sun. You will find in them all the plodder, the dunce, and the slave, on the one side; the vital, thinking, riddlesolving, discovering master, on the other. There are doctors that bleed and dose as mechanically as the sewing machine punches the stiches in the pillow-case. There are engineers as automatic as their engines. There are schoolmasters as regular, and hard, and smooth, and dry, as their ferules. There are preachers, — clerical grinders at the pulpit - with whom, when the text lifts the gate, the mill-wheel begins sermon-wise to go. Those that fall under this torpid monotony miss the whole charm that God has woven about every honest pursuit. They go round and round, in the old servile track, with want for their overseer, custom for their cheerless cabin, and hunger and crying children for the whip and gong of the plantation. The deadening paralysis of repetition strikes in among their most thrilling concerns, dimming their splendor and spoiling their fascination.
The other way is to bring into every-day service so much mental activity, so much curiosity as to all the methods and mysteries of that kind of work, from the origin of the raw material up to the last result and highest finish of the product, that the workman may be said to hold his work under him while he does it, and maintain an honorable mastery over his trade. Master-workman, in this sense, which is the true sense, every workman can be -- here, at least, in New England, where there is a schoolhouse in every district, and a library not far
off. Spiritual things apart, this is the foremost of all distinctions. Republicans ought to know of no other nobility. To be intellectually the commandant of one's place and calling, wheresoever — on ship's deck or at a factory-forge, in the cabinet of a nation's administration, or in the shop that makes cabinets for the people that make the administration that is to belong to the senatorial order of men. This harnessing the whole intellect to the common business is blood and titles, stars and garters, sceptres and crowns. It is this that converts the job-mason, laying brick upon brick, into the artistic designer, that carries cathedrals in his brain. It is this that makes the difference to-day between the beggarly Mexican, scooping up precious minerals and metals by the shovel-full, and the affluent Yankee, digging through rock and ice, and all the tough resistances of the earth. It is this that turned all Boston, a week ago, into a pageant of grateful memorial for the boy that began with cutting the candle-wicks in his father's chandlery, and ended with laying the capstone of the temple of a nation's freedom, and electrifying every interest and every home in civilized lands with harmless fire from the skies. It is this that has borne on the slender southern orphan to be the pathfinder of a continent, the pioneer of the last great wilderness-exploration that the globe can require, the climber of the topmost peak of the continent, with his country's flag in his hand.
The least that intellectual honor challenges of every workman is that he aim to grasp and comprehend his own employment. But let him beware of half-notions as to the limits of that demand. That study reaches further, and will last longer, than a superficial glance would imagine. Be the employment what it will, it reaches forth, by some of its ramifications, into remote recesses of creation; it strikes its roots down among the secret facts of the world. No man can thoroughly educate