Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

unrebuked, till there shall be no abode of ignorance unenlightened, till there shall be no haunt of happy industry uncheered; and so, while we judge with all lowliness and humility of ourselves, we may become, in the judgment of the observing nations around us, and perhaps in the judgment of Him who judgeth not as man judgeth, a wise and understanding people.

YORKSHIRE UNION OF MECHANICS' INSTITUTES.

Leeds, June, 1851. I HAVE sometimes felt inclined to remonstrate with my friends here for having led me to produce myself so frequently on these occasions, and, I may add, in this place. I might have thought that I had already inflicted enough in the way of lecture on the good people of Leeds, at least for some time to come ; but I may be reminded that whatever may be my respect for them, this is not merely a town, or borough, or municipal meeting, but that it represents and constitutes an association which does not even confine itself to the boundaries of our wide West Riding, but enlarges its borders and stretches its stakes to the furthest limits of our entire county of York, and, I believe, even beyond it. With respect, too, to the time of our holding this assembly, it has been felt that this year of 1851, the first of this half-century, has, in many respects, been made a sort of Jubilee year, and that it behoves all good and laudable undertakings, and among them the Yorkshire Union of Mechanics' Institutes, to put on their best countenances, and summon the greatest number of their friends, and in all ways make much of themselves, not, I trust, for the purposes of a braggart and garish vanity, but for the sake of recommending what we really look upon as commendable in itself, and as calculated for extensive usefulness, to the widest possible amount of support and of imitation. All reasons these, however, the more why an old stager like myself should seek to make no undue trespass on your attention, but bear in his mind that we happily have to-night some new faces, as well as old to encourage ; some new voices, as well as old, to instruct us. The Yorkshire Mechanics' Union can, indeed, no longer be regarded as an experiment; it is no sickly plant, no doubtful shoot, no fragile stem we have to rear, but it shows a robust and hardy trunk, and justly prides itself in its multitude of branches ; comprising as it does, I believe, 117 institutions, and including within its branches, 20,000 members. No doubt the various delegates from the separate branches who have met to-day will have had the means of comparing the different methods and processes which have answered the best in the respective localities ; this I take to be a principal advantage of these annual concourses ; they afford an opportunity for comparison ; they supply a whet-stone for emulation, not for envy; at the same time, I think it would be a mistake for each institution to consider itself bound to tread servilely in the track of every other; it is with these bodies as it is with nations at large; there will be a difference of circumstances, a difference of capabilities, a difference of humours. There are, of course, some broad rules and some obvious methods applicable to all ; but, in the adaptation of them, the convenience, and the tastes, and the wants of the respective communities may

be taken into consideration. There can be no better rule, (you must excuse me if I still find the echoes of Pope lingering about this room,)

“Consult the genius of the place in all.” I naturally do not presume to enlarge upon details, which must have formed the subject of conference among the delegates this morning. A letter has been brought under my notice, written by Mr. Sikes, of Huddersfield, strongly urging the annexing of Savings Banks to these institutions. Any step that would promote prudence and self-reliance is most deserving of consideration, but, as I have intimated, I consider any suggestion of this nature had better be left in the hands of those who have the practical manage ment of the institutions. I have already adverted to the year 1851, and as there is extremely little I can say upon the general subject of Mechanics’ Institutes which I have not, I fear but too often, before had opportunities of addressing to you, you will, I feel persuaded, make allowance for me, if, during the few minutes more I shall occupy of your time, I seek a variety from the ordinary topics of observation within that great Building, which some of you, I doubt not, have already seen, and all will have heard of, which gives to this year, 1851, now while it is gliding past us, and will probably give to it through all future time, its most distinguishing characteristic. Not that I am at all travelling out of the domain of Mechanics' Institutions when I refer to the Exhibition of 1851. Why say I this ? Oh, enter for a moment with me through one of its many portals; stand under that lucid arch of glass, at the part where the broad transept intersects the far-stretching nave, while the summer sun glistens, first on the fresh young green of our forest elms, then on the tapering foliage of the tropies, then on the pale marble of the statuary, then on the thousand changing hues of the world's merchandise. I most truly believe that, as a mere spectacle, it surpasses any which the labour, and art, and power of man ever yet displayed in any one spot. Look at that long alley of plate, the stalls of goldsmiths and silversmiths; such a bright profusion was not spread out by Belshazzar when, amid the spoils of the Old Asia, he feasted his thousand lords. Examine the jewels and tissues of India, of Tunis, of Turkey; so dazzling an array was never piled behind the chariot of the Roman conqueror, when he led the long triumph up the hill of the Capitoline Jove ;-observe the lustrous variety of porcelain, and tapestry, and silk, and bronze, and carving, which enters into the composition of furniture;-why Louis XIV. himself, could he be summoned from his grave, would confess that, although the French people had dethroned his dynasty, exiled his race, and obliterated that monarchy of which he was the special impersonation, they had carried all the arts of embellishment farther even than when he held his gorgeous court at Versailles. But I should. not have obtruded these topics on an assembly like this, had I nothing to remark upon but the jewelled diadem, or the breathing brass, or the glistening marble, or the spangled brocade; these might only be fit adornments for the palaces of the great, or for the toilets of luxurious beauty; the title which the Crystal Palace of London has upon the suffrage of the judgment as well as the admiration of the eye, is, that it is the formal recognition of the value and dignity of labour-it is the throne and temple of industry ;-industry and labour, in all their forms, as well as in all their climes, whether they are employed on the cheap gingham that makes

up

the wardrobe of the humblest cottager, or the richest lace that forms aprons for Queen or Cardinal--on the rude block from the quarry, and the hollow brick for model cottages, or the biggest diamond of the mine, the Mountain of Light itself; industry and labour, alike necessary to furnish their daily bread to the masses and the millions, and to embody in palpable form the brightest visions of poetry and art. Said I then wrong that this undertaking, thus intended and calculated to recognise and represent labour and industry,

was not removed from the domain of Mechanics' Insti

tutes ? And when, further, I mark the space which is covered in this show-room of the world by the special industry of the West Riding of Yorkshire; when I recognise the banners which are suspended above the productions of your principal towns, with their, to me, most familiar devices-- when I pass by, not without a sort of feeling of joint ownership--the woollens of Leeds, and stuffs of Bradford, and fancy goods of Huddersfield, and carpets of Halifax-(is their excellent and spirited manufacturer, Mr. Crossley, now among us?); and the hardware of Sheffield, and many other things from many other places, which I necessarily omit, to say nothing of all that wondrous, whirring machinery to which, among others, this town has contributed so conspicuously, I need offer no excuse for having connected the mechanics of Yorkshire with the Industrial Temple of 1851. One word of counsel to those who visit the Exhibition. It is divided, as you are probably aware, into two great sections, one belonging to our own empire, the other to the rest of the world. It had been anticipated, and it so turns out, that the British section shines most in what is solid, useful, practical, durable; in what is of most importance to the greatest numbers ; while the Foreign section excels in brilliancy, in taste, in all that relates to decorative art; not that this line should be too rigidly drawn, for the Foreign division contains very much that is useful, and the British very much that is ornamental. What I would then earnestly advise every one, in his own branch of employment and skill, is, diligently to observe how, without foregoing what is valuable in his own workmanship, he can graft upon it whatever is attractive in that of others, and how, to the sterling home-bred qualities of use and durability, he may add the subtle charms of grace and beauty. This I would specially point out as an object of laudable ambition to your Schools of Design. And if I have ventured to offer one word of counsel to those who visit the Exhibition, let me conclude with one word of comfort to those whom circumstances may prevent from going there. Though I have described it justly as the most magnificent temple of industry, remember yet that the only worthy worship of industry must be carried on in the daily life and by the domestic hearth ; this worship all have the power of rendering, and I can answer for it, there are two things more precious and bright even than any thing which is now displayed in the Crystal Palace, - the persevering energy of contented toil - the sunny smile of an approving conscience.

MECHANICS' INSTITUTION,

Lincoln, October, 1851. You have heard, ladies and gentlemen, that I have been named to move the first resolution, which I find runs thus:-" That Mechanics’ Institutions, having for their object the advancement of the people in solid and useful education, deserve the support of all classes interested in the welfare of their common country." I find everything in the terms of that resolution to justify my recommending it to your cordial acceptance.

But, in offering a few brief observations in support of it, I feel that I ought to set out by making some sort of excuse to you

for appearing here at all. It always seems to me upon such occasions as the present, that, except indeed in the neighbouring county of York, where I have got into the habit of doing as I am bid, I have no business to meddle with the concerns of other people. But, after all, it is not such a very long way across the Humber, and, on this occasion, have acted under the special command of your excellent neighbour, the Earl of Yarborough. I know that he has performed the same good turn for the towns, I believe, both of Hull and of Sheffield ; and I should be sorry to appear wanting in reciprocating any such neighbourly disposition. I feel, over and above all those local considerations, that the cause of Me. chanics’ Institutions is such as to justify any co-operation, no matter, however inefficient the person, or however remote his dwelling.

I must not forget, too, that I am a member of the Yorkshire Union of Mechanics’ Institutions, an association which we think, in that county, has been of very considerable use in fostering the success of the institutions which are scattered within its borders. We understand that now for three or four years past the midland districts of our fair England have been desirous of being put under a system of equal efficiency and energy, and I feel that I may appear here once more as the representative of my old Yorkshire friends, to assure you that they heartily wish you success; and, if I know aright the feelings of those who have interested themselves in this cause, I am sure that they would hear of your complete success, even of your surpassing their own, with no other feeling but that of unalloyed satisfaction. And why should they not? England is no longer under the Heptarchy. The Humber, to

« ZurückWeiter »