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Full text of "Speech, at the dinner given in honor of George Peabody, esq., of London, by the citizens of the old town of Danvers, October 9, 1856"

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SPEECH, 



DIN NEK GIVEN IN HONOR 



GEOKGE PEABODY, ESQ., OF LOSDON, 



CITIZENS OP THE OLD TOWN OF DANYEES, 



OCTOBKE il, 1856, 



BY EDWAllD EVKKEXT. 



BOSTON: 
PKINT13D liV HENRi' W, UllTTON AND SON. 



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SPEECH 



Mr. President: — 

I suppose you have calied upon me to respond to this uiter- 
cstiug toast,* chiefly because I filled a few years ago a place 
abroad, which mado me in some degree the associate of your 
distinguished guest, in the kindly office of promoting good wilt 
between the two great branches of the Anglo-Saxon or Anglo- 
Norman race, (for I do not think it matters much by which 
name you call it,) "the fail mother and the fairer daughter," 
to which the toast alludes. At all events, I had much oppor- 
tunity, during my residence in England, to witness the hon- 
orable position of Mr. Peabody in the commercial and social 
circles of London; his efforts to make the citizens of the two 
countries favorably known to each other ; and generally that 
course of life and conduct, which has contributed to procure 
him tho well-deserved honors of this day, and which shows 
that he fully enters into the spirit of the sentiment just pro- 
pounded from the chair. 

To the prayer of that sentiment, Sir, I fully respond, desir- 
ing nothing more ardently in the foreign relations of the coun- 
try, than tliat these two great nations may be rivals only in 
their efforts to promote the welfare and improvement of man- 
kind. They have already done, they are now doing much, at 
home and abroad, to promote that end by the arts of peace. 
Whenever they cooperate they can sweep everything before 
them ; — when they are at variance, when they pull opposite 
ways, it is the annihilation of much of the moral power of both. 

* The following is tlie toast, to which Mr. Everett was called upon to reply :— 
" Englaad and Ameriea, Pidckra matei; ptikhior Jilia, long may tliey liotirisli in tlie 
boniis of peace, rivals oiity in tlieir offorls to civilize and cliristiiinize the world." 



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Whenever England and America combine their influence in 
promoting a worthy object, it moves forward like a vessel pro- 
pelled by the united force of wind and steam ; but when they 
are in conflict with each other, it is like the atrna;gle of the 
toiling engine against the opposing tempest. It is well if the 
laboring vessel holds her own ; there is danger if the steam 
prevails that she may be crowded under the mountain waves, 
or, if the storm gains the mastery, that she may drift upon 
the rocks. 

It is very obvious to remark, on this occasion, and on this 
subject, while you are offering a tribute of respect to a distin- 
guished man of business, that these two great nations, which 
are doing so much for the advancement of civilization, are the 
two leading commercial nations of the world ; that they have 
carried navigation and commerce to a height unknown before. 
And this consideration. Sir, will serve to justify you and your 
fellow-citizens, if they need jtistiiication, for the honors you 
are bestowing upon the guest of the day, as it will the other 
communities in different parts of the country, which have been 
desirous of joining in similar public demonstrations of respect. 
Without wishing to disparage the services which command 
your respect and gratitude, in the walks of political, military, 
or literary life, it is natural that, in a country like the United 
States, where commerce is so important an interest, you should 
be prompt to recognize distinguished merit in the commercial 
career; a career of which, when pursued with diligence, sagac- 
ity, enterprise, integrity and honor, I deem it not too much to 
say, that it stands behind no other in its titles to respect and 
consideration ; as I deem it not too much to say of commerce 
in its largest comprehension, that it has done as much in ail 
time, and is now doing as much, to promote the general cause 
of civilization, as any of the other great pursuits of life. 

Trace its history for a moment from the earliest period. In 
the infancy of the world its caravans, like gigantic silk worms, 
went creeping, with their immmerable legs, through the arid 
wastes of Asia and Africa, and bound the human family to- 
gether in those vast regions as they bind it together now. Its 



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colonial establishments scattered the Grecian culture till round 
the shores of the Mediterranean, and carried the adventurers of 
Tyre and Carthage to the north of Europe and the south of 
Africa, The walled cities of the middle ages prevented the 
arts and refi dements of life from heing trampled ojit of exist- 
ence under the iron heel of the feudal powers. The Hanse 
Towns were the bulwark of liberty and property in the north 
and west of Europe for ages. The germ of the representative 
system sprang from the municipal franchises of the boroughs. 
At the revival of letters, the merchant princes of Florence re- 
ceived the fugitive arts of Greece into their stately palaces. 
The spirit of commercial advo;itiire produced that movement 
in the fifteenth century wliicli led Columbus to America, and 
Vasco di Gama around the Cape of Good Hope. The deep 
foundations of the modern system of iuternationai law were 
laid ill the interests and rights of commerce, and the necessity 
of protecting them, Commerce sprinkled the treasures of the 
newly-found Indies throughout the westeru natious; it nerved 
the arm of civit and religious liberty in the Protestant world ; 
it gradually extended the colonial system of Europe to the 
ends of the earth, and with it the elements of future inde- 
pendent, civilized, republican governments. 

But why should we dwell on the past ? What is it (hat 
gives vigor to the civilization of the present day but the world- 
wide extension of commercial iiitercourse, by which all the 
products of the earth and of the ocean — of the soil, the mine, 
the loom, and the forest — of bounteous nature, creative art, 
and untiring industry, are brought by the agencies of com- 
merce into the universal market of demand and supply. No 
matter in what region, the desirable product is bestowed on 
man by a liberal Providence, or fabricated by human skill. 
It may clothe the hills of China with its fragrant foliage ; it 
may glitter in the golden sands of California; it may wallow 
in the depths of Arctic seas; it may ripen and whiten on 
the fertile plains of the sunny South ; it may spring forth 
from the flying shuttles of Manchester i» England or Man- 
chester in America — the great world-magnet of commerce at- 



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tracls it n.11 alilro. and gatlitsrs it all up for the service of man. 
I do not speak of English commerce or American commerce. 
Such detiuctions enfeeble our conceptions. I speak of com- 
merce in the aggregate — the great ebbing and flowing tides of 
the commercial world — the great gulf-streams of traffic which 
flow round from hemisphere to hemispherCj — the mighty trade- 
winds of commerce which sweep from the old world to the 
new, — that vast aggregate system which embraces the whole 
family of man, and brings the overflowing treasures of nature 
and art into kindly relation with human want, convenience 
and tasle. 

In carrying on this system, thirjk for a moment of the stu- 
pendous agencies that are put in motion. Think for a mo- 
ment of all the ships that navigate the sea. An old Latin 
poet, who knew no waters beyond those of the Mediterranean 
and Levant, says that the man must have had a triple casing of 
oak and brass about his bosom, who first trusted his frail bark 
on the ragmgsea. How many thousands of vessels, laden by 
commerce, are at this moment navigating, not the narrow seas, 
frequented by the ancients, but these world encompassing 
oceans ! Think next of the mountains of brick, and stone, 
and iron, built up into the great commercial cities of the world ; 
and of all the mighty works of ancient and modern contrivance 
and structure, — the moles, the lighthouses, the bridges, the ca- 
nals, the roads, the railways, the depth of mines, the titanic 
force of enginery, the delving ploughs, the scythes, the reap- 
ers, the looms, the electric telegraphs, the vehicles of all de- 
scriptions, which directly or indirectly are employed or put in 
motion by commerce ; and last, and most important, the mil- 
lions of human beings that conduct, and regulate, and combine 
these inanimate, organic, and mechanical forces. 

And now, Sir, is it anything less than a liberal profession, 
which carries a quick intelligence, a prophetic forecast, an in- 
dustry that never tires, and, more than all, and above all, a 
stainless probity beyond reproach and beyond suspicion, into 
this vast and complicated system, and by the blessing of Prov- 
idence, works out a prosperous result? Such is the vocation 



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of the merchant — the man of hnsiiiess— pnrsiied in many de- 
partments of foreign and domestic trade— of finance, of ex- 
change — but all comprehended nnder the general name of 
commerce ; all concerned in weaving the mighty network of 
mutually beneficial exchanges which enwraps the world. 

1 know there is a shade to this bright picture : where among 
the works or the fortunes of men shall we find one that is all 
siinlighl ? Napoleon the First thought he had said enough to 
disparage England when he had pronounced her a nation of 
shopkeepers ; and we Americans are said by some of our own 
writers to be slaves of the almighty dollar. But these are sal- 
lies of national hostility, or the rebukes which a stern moral 
sense rightly administers to the besetting sins of individuals or 
communities. Every pursuit in life, however, has its bright 
and its dai'k phase ; every pursuit may be followed in a gener- 
ous spirit for honorable ends, or in a mean, selfish, corrupt 
spirit, beginning and ending in personal gratification. But 
this is no more the case with the commercial than any other 
career. What more different than the profession of the law, 
as pursued by the upright counsellor, who spreads the shield 
of eternal . justice over your life and fortune, and the wicked 
pettifogger who drags you through the thorns and brambles of 
vexatious litigation ? What more different than the beloved 
physician, the sound of whose soft footstep, as he ascends 
your staircase, carries hope and comfort to the couch of wea- 
riness and suffering, and the solemn, palavering, impudent 
quack, who fattens on the fears and frailties of his victims ? 
What more different than the pulpit which reproves, rebukes, 
and exhorts in the spirit and with the authority of the gospel, 
and the pulpit which inflames and maddens, perplexes or puts to 
sleep ? What more different than the press, which, like the 
morning sun, sheds liglit and truth through the land, and the 
press which daily distils the concentrated venom of personal 
malice and party detraction from its dripping wings? I be- 
lieve that the commercial profession is as capable of being pur- 
sued with intelligence, honor, and public spirit, as any other; 
and, when so pursued, is as compatible with purity, and eleva- 



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tion of character as any other; as well entitled to the honors 
which a community bestows on those who adorn and serve it ; 
the honors which yon this day delight to pay to our friend 
and guest. 

I was not the witness of the commencemenl of his career 
abroad; but we all know that it soon fell upon that disas- 
trous period when all American credit stood !ow — when the 
default of some of the States, the temporary inability of 
others to meet their obligations, and the failure of several of 
ouv moneyed institutions, threw doubt and distrust on alt Amer- 
ican securities. That great sympathetic nerve (as the anato- 
mists call it) of the commercial world — credit — as far as Ihe 
United States were concerned, was for a time paralyzed. At 
that moment, and it was a trying one, our friend not only 
stood firm himself, but he was the cause of firmness in others. 
There were not at the time, probably, a half a dozen other 
men in Europe, who, upon the subject of American securities, 
would have been listened to for a moment, in the parlor of the 
Bank of England. But his judgment commanded respect — 
his integrity won back the reliance which men had been ac- 
customed to place on American securities. The reproach in 
which they were all indiscriminately involved was gradually 
wiped away, from those of a snbstantial character ; and if on 
this solid basis of unsuspected good faith he reared his own 
prosperity, let it be remembered that, at the same time, he re- 
trieved the credit of the State of which he was the agent ; 
performing the miracle, if I may so venture to express myself, 
by which the word of an honest man turns paper into gold. 

A course like this, however commendable, might proceed 
from calculation. If it led to prosperity and opulence it might 
be pursued from motives exclusively selfish. But Mr. Peabody 
took a different view of the matter, and immediately began to 
act upon an old fashioned New England maxim, which I dare 
say he learned in childhood and carried with him from Dan- 
vers, — that influence and property have their duties as well as 
their privileges, He set himself to work to promote the con- 
venience and enhance the enjoyments of his travelling fellow 



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comitryi'neii — a numerous aad important class. The traveller 
— often the friendless traveller — stands greatly in need of good 
offices in a foreign land. Several of you, my friends, know 
this, I am sure, by experience ; some of you can say how per- 
sevenngly, how liberally, these good offices were extended by 
our friend, through a long course of years, to his travelling- 
countrymen. How many days, otherwise weary, have been 
winged with cheerful enjoyments through his agency ; how 
many otherwise dull hours in health and in sickness enlivened 
by his attentions ! 

It occurred to our friend especially to do that on a large 
scale, which had hitherto been done to a very limited extent 
by our diplomatic representatives abroad. The small salaries 
and still smaller private fortunes (with a single exception) of our 
ministers at St. James, had prevented them from extending the 
rites of hospitality as liberally as they could have wished to 
their fellow-citizens abroad. Our friend happily, with ample 
means, determined to supply the defect ; and brought together 
at the social board, from year to year, at a succession of enter- 
tainments equally magnificent and tasteful, hundreds of his 
own countrymen and of his English friends. How much was 
done in this way to promote kind feeling and mutual good 
will, to soften prejudice, to establish a good understanding, in 
a word, to nurture that generous rivalry inculcated in the sen- 
timent to which you have bid me respond, I need not say. I 
have been particularly requested by my friend. Sir Henry Hol- 
land, a gentleman of the highest social and professional stand- 
ing, to state, while expressing his deep regret that he cannot,, 
in conformity with your kind invitation, participate in this 
day's festivities, that he has attended several of Mr. Peabody's 
international entertainments in London, and felt them to be of 
the happiest tendency in promoting kind feeling between the 
two countries. 

We are bound as Americans, on this occasion particularly, 
to remember the very important services rendered by your 
guest to his countrymen who went to England in 1851, with 
snecimens of the nroducts and arls of this country, to be exhib- 



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