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Let me allude to another difference between our Essex landscape, and that which meets the eye of him, who looks out upon the English counties of Surrey and of Middlesex. Within that range stand the famous schools of Westminster, Eton, and Harrow. We can point our visitor to no such establishments--hoary with age--splendid in their foundations and appointments--and rich with the classic memories of five hundred years. Yet we can show him academies, and high schools, and normal schools of which we are not ashamed, and some of which are known far beyond the limits of County and State. But especially should we call his attention to our small district schools : viles, set by our wise fore-fathers along these hills and valleys,—vines which, nurtured by their grateful children, have become plants of perennial bloom-of unfading leaf—and of never-failing fruitage. Need I add, that this institution—the free-school-standing with open door in each small neighborhood, and within easy reach of every boy and every girl—is something unknown, as yet, to our kinsfolk in England? Is it strange that ignorance and degradation way, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and France. The conclusions to which he comes on the whole subject of small properties in land, clusions which he sustains by the clearest reasoning and the strongest evidence,-are certainly very different from those of his countrymen in general, Mr. Laing, an Englishman, who had been much on the continent, even denies the alleged superiority of British farming. I transfer the following from Mill's quotation:
“If we listen to the large farmer, the scientific agriculturist, the ('English') political economist, good farming must perish with large farms; the very idea that good farming can exist, unless on large farms cultivated with great capital, they hold to be absurd. Draining, manuring, economical arrangement, cleaning the land, regular rotations, valuable stock and implements, all belong exclusively to large farms worked by large capital, and by hired labor. This reads very well; but if we raise our eyes from their books to their fields, and coolly compare what we see in the best districts farmed in large farms, with what we see in the best districts farmed in small farms, we see, and there is no blinking the fact, better crops on the ground in Flanders, East Friesland, Holstein,-in short, on the whole line of the arable land of equal quality of the continent, from the Sound to Calais, than we see on the line of British coast opposite to this line, and in the same latitudes, from the Frith of Forth all round to Dover.”
prevail to an extent no less alarming than deplorable, among the laboring population of that country ? Surely, if moral beauty is of a higher order than that which belongs to art and nature, we might claim the palm in our comparison of scenery, upon this distinction alone.
Reminded of his country's greatness and renown by what he saw before him, our Poet, as you may remember, proceeds to a descriptive enumeration of her heroes and statesmen, her philosophers and bards,-and it is worthy of remark, that in all his catalogue of glory, there is scarcely a name -from Alfred to Hampden-from Bacon to Newton-from Chaucer to Milton—which belonged any more to him, than it belongs to us.
And do not we experience the same kindling memories, whenever we survey the much-loved scenery of our native land? Need I remind you that in the chronology of New England, or at least in that of “the Massachusetts,” Essex comes next to Plymouth, or that Endicott was here, before Winthrop came? Among our ancestors, the pioneers of Essex, and their descendants from that day to our own, it is our privilege to trace a long, illustrious line—and were not the theme all too fruitful, I could wish for no pleasanter task than here to revive, for an instant, their names and their virtues.
Let us not forget that a distinguished ancestry sheds no lustre on degenerate children. Say rather, the more renowned our fore-fathers, the more conspicuous our dishonor, if we fall greatly below them. While we aim at a more profitable culture of the earth than our fathers attained-or could, perhaps, attain, let us bear in mind that there are other fields, - fields of the intellect, - fields of the heart, from which they gathered many a glorious harvest, and that the momentous question, whether these shall yield us only weeds and briars, or golden, imperishable fruits of joy, will be determined solely by our care, or our neglect of them. As we run
er the ample list of our Essex celebrities both the living and the dead-we find many statesmen, ora
tors, divines, lawyers, jurists, scholars, inventors, doctors, teachers, merchants, and farmers. But I do not think we we can lay claim to more than one great prose-writer, or to more than one unquestionable poet. And, surely, the county which gave birth to HAWTHORNE and to WHITTIER, may well feel content with her production in these two departments. No more, alas! with words of wondrous melody and power will Hawthorne delight the world. But the Poet yet lives. Long may he live to enjoy and to sing the harmonies of peace—the anthems of freedom-the triumphs of humanity!
A brief summary of Colonel Pickering's long and noble career, will, I think, interest many, who have only a vague idea of his character and services, and certainly deserves a place on the records of our Society. The following account is but little more than a chronological index.
Born, 1745, in Salem ; graduated at Harvard, 1763 ; took an active and prominent part in all the pre-revolutionary contest with Great Britain ; commanded the intrepid little squad of Salem men, who stopped Col. Leslie and his troops, at the North Bridge ; led his regiment to Medford, on the day of Lexington fight; was Register of Deeds for this county, Judge of the Common Pleas, and of Admiralty ; volunteered with his regiment in 1776, and served under Washington in New Jersey ; was by him, soon after, made Adjutant General ; fought on the Brandywine; suffered at Valley Forge; sat with Gates and Mifflin on the Continental Board of War; succeeded Gen. Greene as Quarter Master General, and performed all the duties of that responsible and laborious post, until the close of the war. On the return of peace, he settled as a farmer at Wyoming, in Pennsylvania. There, his neighbors were Connecticut men, who had planted themselves on “the Susquehanna, without leave from Pennsylvania. Falsely assuming, in their resistance to the State Government, that Col. Pickering, who held the county offices, was hostile to
them, they invaded his home, and, on one occasion, took him from his bed, -carried him, manacled, far into the forest, and kept him for weeks, vainly endeavoring to compel him, through fear or weariness, to comply with their demands. His own account of this abduction is highly interesting and characteristic. In 1790 he was a member of the Pennsylvania Convention for revising the State Constitution. Then, for four years, he was employed, under a commission from George Washington, in negotiating treaties with the great Indian tribes. From the same hand he received, in 1791, the appointment of Post Master General. Two years later he was made Secretary of War, and from 1795 to 1800, he was Secretary of State. Removed from office by John Adams, and finding himself in debt, with only a scanty (income, this “greatly independent” man took with him one of his sons, and retiring to the back-woods of Pennsylvania, where he owned some wild land, built there a log-cabin, and made a small clearing around it. But generous friends in Massachusetts soon relieved him from his embarrassments, and called him back to his native State. His debts were paid—the Wenham farm was bought—and there the warrior and statesman went to work in good earnest. Yet after all this, he represented Massachusetts for eight years in the United States Senate, and Essex County for two years in the House of Representatives. At his death in January, 1829, Col. Pickering was in his 84th year.
The following is a complete list of the annual orators, showing also the years of omission: 1818, Timothy Pickering.
1819, No address.