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Time flows on in its rapid and ceaseless course. Man can neither stay its progress, nor accelerate its speed. Now and then he leaves his footprints lingering upon the sand," which seeing, we take heart again.”
The custom of celebrating important events, of recalling to the mind the act which marks an era, of summoning the past to our companionship, and the present to its destiny, is wise and good; it is respectful to the memory of the age that has gone, it inspires faith in that which is to come.
The river to its fountain. The race to its founders. Let the robust vigor of manhood retrace its steps to the sweet innocence of infancy.
We have assembled, Mr. President, and Gentlemen of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of its institution. The sober cares of our several daily avocations have been laid aside, that we may consult upon their public influence and usefulness. We have come together upon this, our Festival, to grasp each other by the hand, and to sit down to meat, at a common board. We hope to strengthen our sympathies, to brace anew the bands which make us one. A half century ! fifty years in their course have rolled on to the ocean of eternity, but we need no whining monody
upon their rapid flight. Every moment has been precious; but if, as it has passed, it has carried with it some deed of private beneficence or public spirit, the season should be one of joy and congratulation, and such be the emotions of the hour. Joy, not that the Association has survived, has lingered so long, but that it has lived so well, and accomplished so much, the tears of private worth that it has dried, as well as the energy of public virtue it has inspired, alike bear testimony that it has, in some degree, been faithful to its day and generation. I apprehend that but few are aware of the measure of its deeds, or the amount of good influence which it has silently shed abroad upon this community. In tracing the history of its proceedings, I have been sorely perplexed, which most to admire, the wisdom of its designs, or their glorious results. Nearly every page of its records bears witness, not only that something was attempted, but something actually done.
This occasion is a civil Festival; it is public and peculiar in its character; its morn, indeed, is not ushered in by the pealing of bells, nor is it announced in monosyllable tones from the cannon's mouth. No trainband of armed men marshal your procession through our streets, for such demonstrations would add neither to its dignity, nor its significance. The Mechanic Arts, whose beneficial results we this day memorialize, are the rich sources from which civilization and refinement spring. As mankind become enlightened, the victories of peace will be considered greater than those of war, the anniversary of a new invention, deserving of more remembrance than a bloody battle, and the first application of some power of nature to man's subjection, of more consequence than the conquest of rich provinces and walled cities. As the arts spread over the world, methinks I hear, as of old,
the song of the angels, "peace on earth, good will, to man." That sweet strain of the heavenly minstrels floats over the nations which announced the advent of the Prince of Peace, our Savior and our Lord, but whose social position among men was that of the carpenter's son.
Gentlemen, custom and the proprieties of the occasion, place some one of your number in the post which I now occupy. Your Government has seen fit to select one of the youngest of your Association for the high honor. Under such circumstances, the themes of the speaker should be aspirations rather than experiences. Advice should come from those whose years give the weight of authority, whose interest in the subject is confirmed by long continued labor in its behalf, and whose social position and rank would confer honor upon the Association. Destitute of these requisites, not having arrived at that age when “discretion waits upon the judgment,” pressed into the service by kindness, and a promise to be exonerated from the charge of presumption, the best thoughts, which the anticipation of the occasion has suggested, shall be laid before you, with the hope that you will pardon their weakness, in consideration of the motives that prompted them.
The world in which we live is a vast magazine, full of capabilities and powers, the development of which constitutes man's discipline and perfection;-in infancy, the most helpless of the creatures of the earth, yet he is destined to be its master and lord. According to the degree of growth to be attained, so is the period of time for its fulfilment. The mushroom springs up in a night, it takes years for the acorn to become the sturdy oak. The brute attains the full expansion of his powers in a few months, his progeny neither advance, nor improve.
To man's development is assigned the race, and generations are required for its accomplishment. The earth, with its hidden forces, and man, with his unrevealed powers, move onward in the course of centuries, gradually unfolding themselves, until the one shall become a paradise fitted for the other's highest enjoyment and happiness. The whole universe is latent with gifts; science discovers them, the mechanic embodies them in forms of beauty and convenience, and applies them to the well-being of the race. The history of the useful arts, is the history of civilized man; no nation of refinement could exist without them; their beginning was contemporary with the discovery of metals. The first worker in them, was the first mechanic. Iron, the most valuable in its uses, and the most universally diffused throughout the earth, was probably the first discovered.
The sacred record informs us, that the seventh regular descendant from our first parents, Tubal Cain, was "the instructer of every artificer of brass and iron.” They were regarded with such esteem by the civilized nations of antiquity, that their mythology ascribed their introduction to the gods. One nation affirmed that there came down from Heaven, a plough, a yoke, an axe, and a goblet; and similar traditions prevailed among the most polished of the ancients. Saturn gave them to the aborigines of Italy. Virgil, in giving a description of their condition, says,
“ Nor laws they knew, nor manners, nor the care
As the primitive employment of man was the cultivation of the earth, his inventive powers must first have been called into action in fabricating rude instruments to aid him in his work. The farmer's, we consider the most original, as it is the most important of man's stated avocations, yet how scanty would be the harvest, if art did not furnish him the implements of his industry !
When man's physical wants are supplied, then he becomes conscious of those higher elements of his nature, to which he must minister to secure his greatest degree of happiness. As these become developed, he rises in the scale of being and civilization is the result. Civilization adds nothing to his original powers; it brings them into full play, and fills up their measure. The boast of our age is its civilization, but it is the product of generations of growth. The experience of six thousand years are embodied in our present social forms. Our mental ideas, as well as our physical comforts, the whole past has been preparing.
It might be of interest, to trace, step by step, the history of invention, and the necessary results which followed in its train; but it is inexpedient, as it has been a favorite subject upon former occasions, and is, in itself, so expansive in its range, as to exclude other topics, equally pertinent to the time and place.
The mighty elements of nature seemed to have been made for instruments in man's hands to conduce to his happiness and welfare. He discovers their properties, and then puts them in harness, and tasks them day and night.
Water, apparently the least substantial form of matter, which we cannot even grasp with our fingers, when he