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Fellow Citizens, Ladies and Gentlemen :-You have seen fit to link this celebration with that of fifty years ago.
In the order of events, two thousand or more in this old town have closed their eyes in the long sleep since then, and the mourners have gone about the streets. The only man whose influence with the Jury Daniel Webster feared, our own eloquent Rufus Choate, was the orator. He rests in Mount Auburn, beautiful city of the dead. Rev. Dr. Crowell was the chaplain, a name equally honored with those of Wise, Cleveland and Bacon. The Committee of Arrangements were the Hon. David Choate, Charles Dexter, Winthrop Low and Uriah G. Spofford. The last named only of all the officers is living to day, if we may except the musicians. It is no easy task to follow in such illustrious footsteps and carry on the work they so well began; but the land they loved we love, and of our common land we speak centering our thoughts upon our theme, - Building a Nation.
Building à Nation. Three epochs mark our National existence; the planting of the Colonies and their growth; the struggle for freedom, national and social; and that upon which we have but just entered as a result of the late conflict.
It is in commemoration of the second period that we have gathered to-day. Not that the Nation is finished ! Not that the work is done! But standing upon the threshold of a new century, we review the principles and deeds of the past. Except the children build as the father's builded, the National symmetry and beauty is destroyed.
The events of one hundred years ago were almost as full of daring as the coming of the Pilgrims. The total valuation of Massachusetts and its province (now the State of Maine) was but ten million dollars ; and yet they dreamed with Samuel Adams of a
chieving a nationality for themselves; or rather, their dream was their faith. They openly defied England and her proud navy. Failure meant death to every officer. But against such penury and risk their king annually commanded twenty million pounds sterling in solid money to defeat them.
When the Continental Congress met, they possessed no treasury and no power to levy a tax. They called for an army, but could not grant it even an ounce of powder. Yet what Congress could not give, the people furnished. The troops of Massachusetts and New Hampshire were for a long time fer by a willing people, “without so much as calling for a barrel of four from Congress.” The fields of this old town were sown and harvested in the cause of liberty. Our fathers had 110 comforts to lose when they shut themselves out from England. The hum of the spinning wheel in every house declared our mothers' patriotism. “An Empire is rising in America” Sam. Adams said and the people responded, Amen.
Banish from your minds all thoughts of the telegraph! Think of the time when there was not a mile of railroad on the continent, nor a steamer on our seas! Two stage coaches and twelve horses constituted the great air-line to New York. Merchants lead the news in a diminutive weekly paper. Scatter a population of two and one-half millions from Maine to Florida-a popnlation equal only to that of Maine and Massachusetts at the present time. Make the Mississippi rather than the Pacific Ocean the boundary of the Great West! Surround so scattered a people with the savages liable at any moment to renew their barbarous warfare; and we have only the faintest idea of their situation. Recall the more than a thousand miles of sea coast they were to defend ! See England ready with armies for Massachusetts and South Carolina at the same time! And yet, when British troops were entering Lexington on the 19th of April, 1775, Sam. Adams greeted the rising sun as does a prophet of good tidings, “Oh what a glorious morning this !"
It was the birth day of our liberty. The buds of the trees were bursting into life; and the grass waved luxuriently “a full month before its time." When the yeomen of Middlesex and Essex had driven back with trailing banners the foe, the sun looked upon the ghastly faces of our defenders as they lay on the green and highway, -a Nation’s dead. It was not the blood of Lexington or Concord
or Cambridge or Danvers or any other mere town which was shed that day. The throbbing heart of the Republic was felt in every hamlet and parish. The pulse of the Revolution was counted here. The blood shed was the Nation's blood. When the power of England was concentrated upon Boston--shall we call it the temples of the Republic?-even South Carolina and Virginia felt the throb of uncowardly fear. The Republic,-brains, hands and feet-was one; each member of the great body politic, sensitive and true, suffering with every other member. The honors of this occasiou belong alike to every city, village and hamlet in the land.
There are, however, peculiar reasons why we may rejoice to-day ; it is something of an honor to have contributed to the great cause of liberty
The historic fields of the early war in Massachusetts are chiefly in Middlesex County. We claim our Concord and Lexington. Pardon me, if with patriotic pride I remind you of the granite shaft of Bunker Hill upon which I look every day. Pardon me when I say that the steed of Paul Revere struck out the sparks of liberty on that brave night, within what are now the limits of my parish. I daily walk upon the street over which the sturdy farmers drove the British troops in their hasty retreat. Almost in sight of my home is the tree under which Washington 101 years ago yesterday assumed command of the American Army. Historic fields indeed ! yet made such in part by the men of old Essex County. Bancroft tells us that upon the British retreat from Lexington, the troops were attacked by men chiefly from Essex and the lower towns. But patriotism is not limited to the fields of blood, and equal honor belongs to this old county. Repeat it to day,--the first to close their ports against the commerce of Great Britain were the merchants of Newburyport. Old Salem followed, ruling out all trade with Britain and the West Indies. Marblehead, quaint and generous, said to the merchants of besieged Boston, “our wharves and our houses and our harbor are at your disposal.” Salisbury counselled an American Union. Danvers soldiers, ready for action, were among the first on the field. Puritan Gloucester, inured to freedom, declared her liberty more dear than life itself. Ipswich,—and these hills and fields, these forests and this winding river were Ipswich, then it was only Chebacco parish–Ipswich advised “that the col