Laying of the Corner-Stone of the National Monument to the Forefathers, 1863, Article
We are happy in being able to announce to the public that the corner-stone of the National Monument to the Forefathers has been laid. This event took place at Plymouth on the 2d of August, 1859, the celebration being intended to commemorate the two hundred and thirty-ninth anniversary of the embarkation of the Pilgrims at Delft-Haven.
In order to have been strictly correct in point of date, the ceremony should have been performed on the 1st of August; but as that day fell this year on Monday, a very inconvenient day for persons residing at a distance from Plymouth to be present, it was deferred for one day.
A large concourse of people, estimated at ten thousand, in addition to the inhabitants of the town, assembled from every portion of the country to witness the' ceremonies, and take part in them. At first an address was delivered by the President of the Pilgrim Society, Richard Warren, Esq., of New York, -- of which the following is substantially the eloquent conclusion: --
"We are now about to lay the corner-stone of a structure, grander than any of the kind the world has ever witnessed, and which is intended to mark the events of the landing of 1620, in the Nation's History, -- that decisive event, which, in reality, began this our great and happy country. Let it rise speedily, -- that, as from distant ocean the toil-worn mariner approaching home shall look hither, and view it reaching toward the clouds, he may also see inscribed on it a motive for action -- an aid to every worthy purpose.
"Many have found fault with the magnitude of the undertaking. Some have derided it, and pronounced it unsuitable for the events it is designed to commemorate. Others would have it erected in a city. No! Here where we stand is the spot for it. From hence, cast your eyes across yonder waters. In a clear day, Cape Cod is visible. There, at Provincetown, the Pilgrims first cast anchor, -- and within the arms of that Cape they found shelter. There is Clark's Island, named for the mate of the May-Flower. There the Pilgrims worshipped on their first Sabbath, in a temple not made with hands, --
The waves around were roaring,
The chilly winds were blowing.
Perhaps an Indian was watching without, as if comprehending that they, too, were speaking to the Great Spirit, whom he himself ignorantly worshipped. After this holy service they returned to their small vessel, their only refuge for the night. In peace they rested, watched over by their God. In front of that island the May-Flower anchored. On the left you see Duxhury, the home of Elder Brewster, and Captain's Hill, the residence of Myles Standish. On our right rises the burial hill, -- beneath whose sods rest Bradford and the son of Robert Cushman. Monuments have been erected there to their names by grateful descendants. Beyond lies Watson's Hill, on which the first treaty was made between the white man and the Indian!
"Nearly in front of where we stand is Marshfield, the home of the Winslows, and in later days of Daniel Wehster. And not far off, on our left, is Jones' river, in Kingston, where Elder Cushman lived. As these places meet our view, how does the past come back to us. As We stand on Monument Hill let that past nerve us all with new strength for our life work.
"The monument can be built if the People say it shall be. Whenever they have fully determined to do anything it has been done, -- say it in regard to this, Sons of the Pilgrims, Daughters of the Pilgrims ! Say it with faith that it can be, and bring your energies to bear upon it, and all doubt will be removed. The cost, large as it appears, is nothing in reality, to the capability of those who are asked to do it.
"Six years ago, a noble merchant of New York, princely in work and in gift, wrote that he would 'be one of fifty to subscribe $1,000 for a monument.' Not all of the forty-nine others have come, but some have done so. Where are the others to respond ? Would that I had the ability as I have the desire, to be not merely one such man, but all combined. The merchant paid his money, not waiting for others. Such large amounts are not, however, needed. A small pittance from each of the favored children of our country will complete it in a few years. Is there such a child anywhere who will not contribute to rear these commemorative stones ? I am not willing to entertain such a thought. Think of the Fathers but for one moment, any hesitating one, and you cannot help aiding in the work. Never doubt the accomplishment of what we today begin, any more than the Fathers doubted of final success. Let every one give and the work is done. It cannot be done without your aid. No miracle will be worked to finish this structure. It is for you, who have reverence enough for the Fathers, to be willing to show that reverence by acts. Some say the best monument to the Pilgrims is the hearts of their children. Such a monument is apt to crumble. There needs something to look upon -- some of the granite of the earth moulded into beautiful symmetry to impress on those hearts the story of the past -- the heroism of former times.
"No victory has ever been so pregnant in its consequences; no event, in human story, save that which occurred at Bethlehem, has produced so vast a revolution in the destinies of the human race, as the emigration of the Pilgrims of the May-Flower. It is worthy then of a nation's self-denial, were it necessary, to erect a memorial of gratitude, which shall embody in its design the leading characteristics of the Pilgrim mind."
Mr. Warren ended by presenting to the audience his Excellency N. P. Banks, Governor of the Commonwealth, from w:hose powerful and impressive address the limits of this work only permit the following quotation, as peculiarly adapted to the present purpose: --
"What a harvest reap we in our day from the seeds of Christian civilization sown by the Puritans in darkness and danger, but also in hope and in faith ! Appreciate we the full flood of almost Divine favors which daily refresh our million of souls ? Measure we the prosperity that lifts us above our deserts as above other States ? Confess we to the full capacity of acknowledgment by whose wisdom, whose valor, whose great faith we have reached these Pisgah heights ? Or believe we that our genius, our industry, our enterprise, has created that which surrounds us,-- that States, more than continents or empires, have other origin than the slow growth of centuries ?
"No fairer scene than that which meets our view attests the triumphs of any pioneers in the work of civilization. In whatever direction we move, towns and cities rise to meet us. The Connecticut, the Merrimac, and the rivers that skirt the southern coast of the Commonwealth, boast as proud monuments of industrial success as the enterprise of man has ever created. The valley of the Charles, in which sleep thirty or forty villages, towns and cities, crowned on the one hand by the metropolis of New England, and on the other by the highlands of the interior, presents, from every commanding eminence, a scene uniting as many of the beauties of Art and Nature combined as any upon which the eye of man ever rested. These are monuments of the prowess of the settlers of New England, and the prosperity and happiness of their descendants. Not unto us, but unto them be the honors paid. No monumental shaft, no tongue of poetry or eloquence can offer to them a more appropriate or elaborate eulogy than that spoken for them in their works.
"Nevertheless, it is for us a pleasure and a duty to connect the events of the Present and the Past by some marked and visible sign, to make apparent to careless and indifferent beholders the relation which the inestimable privileges of our time bear to the heroism and devotion of the Forefathers. Never did monument rise to commemorate nobler deeds or greater heroism than theirs. No fortress, citadel, or temple -- no pyramid, arsenal, or obelisk -- no triumphal arch or marble statue bears testimony to holier virtues that yet live in Greek or Roman fame than the innumerable and imperishable evidences of great purposes and powers which make illustrious the fame of the New England fathers. The monument, then, that we plant to-day is for us as for them. It is for our instruction -- to remind our children, and our children's children, so long as the seed of woman shall bruise the serpent's head, that our life is their life -- that out of their trials and sorrow we pluck prosperity and happiness -- from their oppression springs our freedom. It is for this we plant, here and now, in the very heart of the earth, the headstone of the corner. It is for this we bid the monumental pile rise to Heaven. It is for this we are assembled by thousands to cheer on the work and to implore the blessings of heaven npon its progress and its completion. Let it rise to commemorate the virtues of the fathers, the gratitude of the children. Let it rise to connect the trivial events of life, the evening's pleasures and the morning's duty, the labor of the week and the rest of the Sabbath, -- the joys of life, the sorrows of death, with the never-ceasing memories of the Pilgrims; to light the eye of infancy as it opens upon the world, and cheer the transit of age to a better and a brighter existence. Let it be said forever and forever that it marks alike the acquisition and the maintenance of the freedom of our land.
"It was a harsh and forbidding horoscope that the Fates apparently cast for the Pilgrim Fathers. An inner, not an outer, light cheered their path. They saw a hand we cannot see; they heard a voice we cannot hear. It spake to them of us and of the future -- of Time and of Eternity."
The address of Gov. Banks was followed by prayer by Rev. Richard S. Storrs, D. D., and then by the Masonic ceremonies of laying the corner-stone and consecration by the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Massachusetts, -- including a most pertinent and eloquent address by the Grand Master, Col. John T. Heard. In the under side of the corner-stone is a cavity, in which a leaden casket, eleven inches by seven and five inches in height, was placed by Dr. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, of Boston, at the request of the Building Committee.
1. "Laying of the Corner-Stone of the National Monument to the Forefathers," The Illustrated Pilgrim Memorial, 1863, pages 32-33.
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