Графични страници
PDF файл

least a great part of its freight, at the Atlantic shore, by a more safe, speedy, and cheap conveyance than any before available. That, I imagine, must be clear to all.

Again, no one can fail to perceive how greatly instrumental this road, with its extension, will prove in bringing Ogdensburg near to Boston, — as near, indeed, as Buffalo now is to Albany. This connection between Ogdensburg and the capital of New England would open at once a new thoroughfare for the products of the West, an outlet hitherto untried, through which the commodities of Lake Superior and the other upper lakes may seek and reach the Atlantic by the way of Massachusetts Bay and its chief port. I will not undertake to compare the little city of Boston with the great city of New York, preeminent as New York is, among the cities of America, for her extended commerce and her facilities for its increase. The great city of our neighboring State towers above all rivals in respect to every advantage of commercial position. Let her enjoy all the benefit she can, let her claim all the credit she can from this circumstance. Neither envy nor malice, on my part, shall contribute to rob her of one of her well deserved laurels. But without any very great arrogance, or any very undue exhibition of local pride, we may say that Boston, with her adjacent towns, throughout all the neighboring shore from Hingham to Marblehead,— which extent of country, in effect, is but one seaport, certainly one so far as commercial and manufacturing industry is concerned,—is entitled to command some degree of respect from the whole confederation of our States. Standing, indeed, upon the summit of Bunker Hill, one can look around upon a territory, and a population, equal to that of New York and her immediate suburbs. In fact, from Boston to Newburyport it is all one city; and by the development of her own enterprise, Boston, with her environs, has made herself a rival not lightly to be contemned by any city of the country. I will for one not undertake to estimate the increased extent of her commerce when all the links in her chain of railroad communication shall be completed.

There is another consideration which will commend itself to those who would contemplate the immediate future. It is this, that there will soon be an entire railroad line from New York, through New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield, not only to Boston, but up the valleys of the Connecticut and Passumpsic, to Montreal. It is the impression of many, that land in New England is poor; and doubtless such is the fact with regard to a great portion of it. But throughout the whole United States I do not know of a richer or more beautiful valley, as a whole, than that of the Connecticut River. Parts of it are worth two hundred and fifty dollars an acre for the purpose of cultivation, and there is no land in the West worth half so much. I cannot say so much for the land of the Merrimack valley for cultivation, but that portion of the country is rich in water-power, rich in manufacturing industry, and rich in human energy and enterprise. These are its elements of wealth; and these elements will soon be developed, in a great measure by the means of railroad communication, to a surprising extent. The whole region of country along this line of road, a distance say of about one hundred and twenty miles, will, before our children have ceased to be active among the sons of men, be one of the richest portions of the whole world. Such, I really believe, is the destiny of the Merrimack valley. Rich, not in the fertility of the soil on its banks, but in its almost illimitable water-power, the energy and industry of its people, and the application of these elements to the improvement and extension of productive machinery. It may soon be said of this beautiful river, with even more truth than applied to the poet's glorious lines upon the Thames,—

"Though with those streams it no resemblance hold,
Whose foam is amber and whose gravel gold,
Its greater, but less guilty, wealth to explore,
Search not its bottom, but survey its shore."

And now what is the particular cause of all the prosperity and wealth which I foresee in this valley? What is it that has chiselled down these Grafton rocks, and made this road which brings my own house so near to the home of my most distant New Hampshire hearer? It is popular industry; it is free labor. Probably there never was an undertaking which was more the result of popular feeling than this. I am told that there are fifteen hundred stockholders in the enterprise, the capital being two millions and a half. That single fact would serve to show the generally diffused interest felt by the people in its success. It is but three or four years since, when, having occasion to visit my farm at Franklin, I observed a line of shingles stretching across my fields. Asking my farmer what was the meaning of all this, I was answered, "It is the line of our railroad." Our railroad! That is the way the people talked about it. I laughed at the idea at first; and, in conversation with a neighbor, inquired what in the world they wanted of a railroad there. "Why," was the reply, "the people want a ride behind the iron horse, and that ride they will have." This day they have had it . The result has proved, not that my friend was too sanguine, but that I was too incredulous.

It is the spirit and influence of free labor, it is the indomitable industry of a free people, that has done all this. There is manifested in its accomplishment that without which the most fertile field by nature must remain for ever barren. Human sagacity, skill, and industry, the zealous determination to improve and profit by labor, have done it all. That determination has nowhere been more conspicuously displayed than here. New Hampshire, it is true, is no classic ground. She has no Virgil and no Eclogues. She has a stern climate and a stern soil. But her climate is fitted to invigorate men, and her soil is covered with the evidences of the comforts of individual and social life. As the traveller pursues his way along her roads, he sees all this. He sees those monuments of civilization and refinement, churches; he sees those marks of human progress, schoolhouses, with children clustering around their doors as thick as bees. And they are bees, except in one respect. The distinction is, that whereas the insect day after day returns to its home laden with the spoils of the field, the human creature is admitted to the hive but once. His mind is furnished with the stores of learning, he is allowed to drink his fill at the fountains of knowledge, his energies are trained in the paths of industry, and he is then sent out into the world, to acquire his own subsistence and help to promote the welfare of his kind.

It is an extraordinary era in which we live. It is altogether new. The world has seen nothing like it before. I will not pretend, no one can pretend, to discern the end; but every body knows that the age is remarkable for scientific research into the heavens, the earth, and what is beneath the earth; and perhaps more remarkable still for the application of this scientific research to the pursuits of life. The ancients saw nothing like it . The moderns have seen nothing like it till the present generation. Shakspeare's fairy said he would

"Put a girdle round about the earth In forty minutes."

Professor Morse has done more than that; his girdle requires far less time for its traverse. In fact, if one were to send a despatch from Boston by the telegraph at twelve o'clock, it would reach St . Louis at a quarter before twelve. This is what may be called doing a thing in less than no time. We see the ocean navigated and the solid land traversed by steam power, and intelligence communicated by electricity. Truly this is almost a miraculous era. What is before us no one can say, what is upon us no one can hardly realize. The progress of the age has almost outstripped human belief; the future is known only to Omniscience.

In conclusion, permit me to say that all these benefits and advantages conferred upon us by Providence should only strengthen our resolves to turn them to the best account, not merely in material progress, but in the moral improvement of our minds and hearts. Whatsoever else we may see of the wonders of science and art, our eyes should not be closed to that great truth, that, after all, "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

« ПредишнаНапред »