« PreviousContinue »
after-times, passing through the Essenian associations, and finally issuing out of the mystic halls of the "Collegia Artificium " of Rome, burst upon the "dark ages" of the world like a bright star peering through a black cloud, and, under the patronage of the church, produced those splendid monuments of genius which set at defiance the highest attainments of modern art. And, if in addition to all this, they had said to him, that in the year A. D. 926, one of his predecessors on the throne of England had invited them from all parts of the continent, to meet him in general assembly at his royal city of York, the answer to his inquiry—"Who did bring it Westerly?"—would have been complete.
Henceforward, for eight centuries, Masonry continued an operative fraternity; producing both in England and on the Continent, those grand and unapproachable specimens of art which are the pride of Central Europe, and the admiration of the traveler. But it is no longer an operative association. We of this day, as Masons, set up no pretensions to extraordinary skill in the physical sciences. Very few of us—accomplished Masons as we may be—would willingly undertake to erect another Temple on Mount Moriah! Very certain we are that our own honored M. W. Grand Master,—primus inter pares, as all his Brethren acknowledge him to be, would hesitate a long time before consenting to assume the duties of architect for another Westminster Abbey, or a new St. Paul's. No. At the reorganization of the Craft and the establishment of the present Grand Lodge of England in 1717, we laid aside our operative character, and with it all pretensions to extraordinary skill in architectural science. We then became a purely moral and benevolent association, whose great aim is the development and cultivation of the moral sentiment, the social principle, and the benevolent affections, a higher reverence for God, and a warmer love for man. New laws and regulations, adapted to the changed condition of the Institution, were then made,—an entire revolution in its governmental policy took place, order and system obtained where neither had previously existed, and England became the great central point of Masonry for the whole world.
From this source have Lodges, Grand and Subordinate, at various times, been established, and still exist and flourish—in France and Switzerland; in all the German States, save Austria (and there at different times, and for short seasons); all up and down the classic shores of the Rhine; in Prussia, Holland, Belgium, Saxony, Hanover, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, and even in fallen Poland; in Italy and Spain (under the cover of secrecy); in various parts of Asia; in Turkey; in Syria (as at Aleppo, where an English Lodge was established more than a century ago); in all the East India settlements, in Bengal, Bombay, Madras (in all of which lodges are numerous); in China, where there is a Provincial Grand Master and several Lodges; in various parts of Africa, as at the Cape of Good Hope and at Sierra Leone; on the Gambia and on the Nile; in all the larger islands of the Pacific and Indian oceans, as at Ceylon, Sumatra, St. Helena, Mauritius, Madagascar; the Sandwich group; in all the principal settlements of Australia, as at Adelaide, Melbourne, Parramatta, Sidney, New Zealand; in Greece, where there is a Grand Lodge; in Algeria, in Tunis, in the Empire of Morocco,—and wherever else in the Old World the genius of civilization has obtained a standpoint, or Christianity has erected the Banner of the Cross.
In all the West India islands, and in various parts of South America, as in Peru, Venezuela, New Granada, Guiana, Brazil, Chili, etc., Masonry is prospering as never before. In the latter Republic, the Grand Lodge of this Commonwealth has a flourishing subordinate, and the Grand Master has just authorized the establishment of another Lodge there.
On our own Continent the Order was never more widely diffused, or in a more healthy condition. In Mexico, even, respectable Lodges are maintained, in despite of the opposition of a bigoted Priesthood; and in all British America, from Newfoundland, through Nova Scotia and the Canadas to the icy regions of the North, Masonic Lodges and Masonic Brethren may be found, " to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and bind up the wounds of the afflicted."
On the condition of the Institution in our own country, I need not dwell. Every State and Territory—except the unorganized territory of Washington, including even Kansas, has its Grand Lodge; and nearly every considerable town and village, its one or more subordinate Lodges. If we add to these, the large number of Chapters, Councils, Encampments, and other Masonic associations, which are spread all over the length and breadth of the land, we have the evidence of a prosperity unparalleled in the annals of any other human Institution, in any age of the world.
Masonry is indeed a universal Institution. History does not furnish its parallel. It exists where Christianity has not gone; and its claims will be respected even where the superior claims of religion would fail. It is never obscured by the darkness of night. The eye of day is always upon it. Its footprints are to be traced in the most distant regions and in the remotest ages of the earth. Among all civilized people, and in all Christianized lands, its existence is recognized. It came to our shores at an auspicious period; and it was here rocked in the Cradle of Liberty by a Washington, a Franklin, a Hancock, and a Warren. Unaffected by the tempests of war, the storms of persecution, or the denunciations of fanaticism, it still stands proudly erect in the sunshine and clear light of heaven, with not a marble fractured, not a pillar fallen. It still stands, like some patriarchal monarch of the forest, with its vigorous roots riveted to the soil, and its broad limbs spread in bold outline against the sky; and in generations yet to come, as in ages past, the sunlight of honor and renown will delight to linger and play amid its venerable branches. And if ever, in the Providence of God, lashed by the storm and riven by the lightning, it shall totter to its fall, around its trunk will the ivy of filial affection, that has so long clasped it, still cling, and mantle with greenness and verdure its ruin and decay.
ORATION OVER ALEXANDER HAMILTON
[Funeral oration by Gouverneur Morris, statesman and man of affairs (born in Morrisania, N. Y., January 31, 1752; died there, November 6, 1816), pronounced before the porch of Trinity Church, New York City, over the body of Alexander Hamilton, just prior to the interment, July 14, 1804.]
If on this sad, this solemn occasion, I should endeavor to move your commiseration, it would be doing injustice to that sensibility which has been so generally and so justly manifested. Far from attempting to excite your emotions, I must try to repress my own; and yet, I fear, that, instead of the language of a public speaker, you will hear only the lamentations of a wailing friend. But I will struggle with my bursting heart, to portray that heroic spirit, which has flown to the mansions of bliss.
Students of Columbia—he was in the ardent pursuit of knowledge in your academic shades when the first sound of the American war called him to the field. A young and unprotected volunteer, such was his zeal, and so brilliant his service, that we heard his name before we knew his person. It seemed as if God had called him suddenly into existence, that he might assist to save a world! The penetrating eye of Washington soon perceived the manly spirit which animated his youthful bosom. By that excellent judge of men he was selected as an aid, and thus he became early acquainted with, and was a principal actor in the more important scenes of our revolution. At the siege of York he pertinaciously insisted on, and he obtained the command of a Forlorn Hope. He stormed the redoubt; but let it be recorded that not one single man of the enemy perished. His gallant troops, emulating the heroism of their chief, checked the uplifted arm, and spared a foe no longer resisting. Here closed his military career.
Shortly after the war, your favor—no, your discernment, called him to public office. You sent him to the convention at Philadelphia; he there assisted in forming that constitution which is now the bond of our union, the shield of our defence, and the source of our prosperity. In signing the compact, he expressed his apprehension that it did not contain sufficient means of strength for its own preservation; and that in consequence we should share the fate of many other republics, and pass through anarchy to despotism. We hoped better things. We confided in the good sense of the American people; and, above all, we trusted in the protecting providence of the Almighty. On this important subject he never concealed his opinion. He disdained concealment. Knowing the purity of his heart, he bore it as it were in his hand, exposing to every passenger its inmost recesses. This generous indiscretion subjected him to censure from misrepresentation. His speculative opinions were treated as deliberate designs; and yet you all know how strenuous, how unremitting were his efforts to establish and to preserve the constitution. If, then, his opinion was wrong, pardon, O pardon! that single error, in a life devoted to your service. At the time when our government was organized, we were without funds, though not without resources. To call them into action, and establish order in the finances, Washington sought for splendid talents, for extensive information, and above all, he sought for sterling, incorruptible integrity. All these he found in Hamilton. The system then adopted, has been the subject of much animadversion. If it be not without a fault, let it be remembered that nothing human is perfect. Recollect the circumstances of the moment—recollect the conflict of opinion—and, above all, remember that a minister of a republic must bend to the will of the people. The administration which Washington formed was one of the most efficient, one of the best that any country was ever blessed with. And the result was a rapid advance in power and pros