Page images
PDF
EPUB

itself “Continental," that won freedom from the trained soldiery of Europe and gave visible form to a government that has made good the name its soldiers bore. Thei side by side our fathers fought; then side by side our statesmen sat; and the first name that appears upon that immortal Declaration cf Independence, penned by a Virginian hand, and based upon Virginia's bill of rights, is that of a Massachusetts man, President of that Congress which gave to the world and to the godlike and aspiring soul this bible of the rights of man.

Hancock and Jefferson, Adams and Mason, Otis and Henry, united those two colonies that, more than any others, gave impulse to American thought and speech and action. There was Bunker Hill; here Yorktown. Nor do we forget that mighty lawyer, born of your blood and sleeping in your soil, the great interpreter of the written Constitution of our land, nor him, of Northern birth, that Constitution's eloquent defender—Marshall and Webster —great sons of the same proud race.

It was the civilization of Jamestown and of Plymouth that made possible this Government of ours, and though for a time the clouds lowered o'er our house, thank God we are once more as of yore; as, of old, they together

encountered Tarleton's charge of fire," so again have Virginia and Massachusetts struck hands-and this time in a deathless friendship; so again in the presence of a common danger, and in honor of a common flag, have our brothers touched elbows in the ranks, slept by the same camp-fires, and together offered upon the country's altar the rich libation of their blood. History is making fast. From the Western Hemisphere has departed every vestige of Castilian power. The starry flag has become a fixed constellation o'er Asiatic seas, but, better than all, we have learned to know our Motherland. The conquering English-speaking people have come closer together—and so have we at home. It was a good day for America when the soldier boy of New England and of the Northwest enlisted under a Virginian Lee, and when the star of Wheeler glistened upon a coat of army blue.

Gone are the days of strife and bitterness and doubt; welcome the days of peace, of confidence, of lasting brotherhood.

We come to you in the closing hours of the Nineteenth

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

century, a century of wonderful development; a century of great achievements. Old empires have passed away; nations in swaddling-cloths have grown to manhood's state. Kings and czars have been born, have ruled, and been forgotten—boundaries of nations have been changed -thrones have fallen, and old dynasties been destroyed. Man everywhere is asserting the power and attributes of man. This Government of the people has shed its radiating light throughout the world. Europe, Asia, and Africa have felt its beneficent beams; individual man, under whatever government he may live, lifts his eyes higher than ever before, and while war and famine, and pestilence, and death still constitute a portion of our heritage, the path is upward, and never has God's light seemed so warm and bright to the great toiling masses of the earth as at this hour, when kingdoms and principalities and powers are but the instruments and not the destroyers of men.

Nor has the development been confined to the political world. In art, in science, in mechanics, has

“Man put forth

His pomp, his pride, his skill,
And arts that made fire, flood, and earth,
The vassals of his will."

The cotton-gin, the power-loom, the sewing-machine, the rotary printing-press, the reaper, the telegraph and telephone, the binding of electricity to man's common use, the thousand and one mechanical appliances that make our burdens light, and life more worth the living, are but a part of this century's tribute to the future. In letters and in literature what advances have been made! The printing-press has brought the richest thoughts of the best minds within easy reach of all, and the philosopher and the astronomer share their secrets with a thousand friends. Thought is purer than before, theology more simple and humane, religion more near the human heart and soul.

This is the age in which we live; this is the century that called into life that great humanitarian movement which we denominate Odd-Fellowship. It is the child of American spirit and life; it is a creation designed for daily food; it lives and moves among breathing men; it is for the

closet and for the field; it is of practical use to a practical people; its secrets are a shield and not a sword; it believes in the royal heritage of man and in the divine right of self-advancement. Teaching loyalty to established government, and obedience to law, it holds that governments are made for man and that the citizen who controls himself, who recognizes the rights of, and has faith in, his fellow citizens is the best prop and support of such a government. It believes in truth, in honor, in temperance, in the overshadowing Fatherhood of God; in the lasting, eternal brotherhood of man; in charity in thought and charity in acts; to the cry of Cain it answers, “I am my brother's keeper,” and in every hour of its existence it has blessed humanity and lessened human toil and suffering.

Bear with me for a moment. If I am correctly informed, the present total taxable valuation, real and personal, of this city is $69,215,240. Raze beautiful Richmond to the ground; convert into coin every foot of land within its corporate limits; let every stone and timber of every factory, every business block, every dwelling-house, contribute to the sum; into the crucible put your jewels and your stores of gold and silver; market the securities, bonds, and stocks of your people; and when you shall have done all this, when you shall have converted your city's soil and buildings into scrip, when you shall have stripped your citizens of all their taxable property, you will, even then, be over fifteen million dollars short of the amount of money that this Order has expended, since 1830, in brotherly relief. You will then be short a sum equal to seven-twelfths of the entire taxable valuation of the personal property here owned. At the present rate of charitable expenditure we distribute, for such purposes, the wealth of a Richmond every nineteen years; a distribution in which there is no expense account and in which every dollar finds the pocket of the beneficiary. Pardon the illustration, Mr. Mayor. We like your city too well to despoil it; we hope to come again; but the comparison made demonstrates the magnitude of this Order's silent charitable work.

Can you question the fraternal spirit of such a brotherhood? Dare you challenge its right to live? Can you

define the future's bounds? It is not my purpose to enter into a discussion of the Order's principles, or to pronounce an eulogy upon its work. To-day it holds one million souls within its fond embrace. The streams of its unostentatious charity have flowed to every corner of our land; its white banner has led the march of fraternal life. Today we salute our comrades across the seas; our flag is uplifted in the isles of the Pacific. Our faith has overleaped the barriers of States, nor has it been retarded by the artificial distinctions of society. Virginia's sons have shared our Order's struggles and its honors. They have taught its lessons on your soil, and “ by their works ye shall know them.”

We come to-day representing every State and Territory of this great Union in answer to Virginia's call, and in response to Richmond's welcome. With us as comrades, brothers, and friends are citizens of that northward land, with whose sons we claim kinship, whose national hymn is set to the same air as ours, and whose gentle ruler is Queen of American as well as of English hearts. Within our convention hall are clustered the flags of sixteen different lands wherein this Order dwells, and over all hangs the white flag of peace, emblazoned with the scarlet links of truth.

Such an Order it is my proud privilege to represent. In its name I accept your greeting, and in its name I thank you for it. Generous as have been the spoken words, more generous has been the manner of your salutation. From the moment we entered Virginia until this hour we have been the recipients of boundless hospitality. We have traveled your beautiiul valleys with delight—we have shared in a true Virginia welcome—we are glad that we have come, and we shall bear to our several homes brightest recollections of the Old Dominion and of its sons and daughters.

To your Excellency, to you, Mr. Mayor, to the several representatives of our Order, and to you who represent our gentle sisterhood, I tender the thanks and the fraternal salutations of the Sovereign Grand Lodge, and I trust that our sojourn among you may be as pleasant to you as it is profitable and enjoyable to us.

Representatives: Virginia has formally welcomed us to

her heart; Richmond has opened wide her gates; our brothers and sisters, the portals of their homes; let us repay this courtesy by making this the most memorable session of our history—memorable for the good we accomplish, for the inspiration given to our brotherhood, for the assistance rendered to the weary soul. As the gates of a new century swing outward at our touch, let us lift our flag to loftier heights, and let us dedicate our Order anew to the great purposes that gave it birth.

We meet among a generous people and amid historic surroundings. Here, in more ancient days, people of our blood and kin laid the foundations of a mighty power. The history of this commonwealth is interwoven with that of this nation and of the English-speaking race.

Its sons have been conspicuous in the forum and on the battlefield. Again and again has it sent forth its bravest to build up other States, and to the nation it has given rulers whose name and fame will live while centuries pass away. We know its splendid history; we have faith in its bright future, and

“Again we hail thee

Mother of States and unpolluted men,
Virginia, fitly named from England's manly Queen.”

« PreviousContinue »