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render it an unspeakable blessing, that Sunday schools should exist, should be encouraged, and should be increased; and it is because I wish them well, and it is because I wish you well in the charge you have so nobly undertaken of them, that I came here to-night. But still, one and all, I should wish you to remember that the string ought not to be strained too tight, that a proper degree of rest, relaxation, and of innocent amusements appropriate to the Sabbath should not be interfered with, and that the young should be enabled to associate it with ideas of enjoyment, and of calm and peaceful happiness. In what follows, I feel sure you have no need of being admonished by me or by anybody else; but I should be very sorry if in Sunday school teaching there was any of that degree of harshness or of crossness which sometimes will occur even among the most meritorious professors of week-day education. Let nothing occur on the Sunday which shall not convey an idea of love, and be connected with thoughts of peace and pleasantness. There was another most agreeable feature in the meeting of this morning, and that was the number and variety of the different denominations which it brought together. I always think religious differences though I believe, at least in our day, they are likely to be inevitable are among the most unpleasant and distressing features of the times, and anything to promote religious sympathy, religious concord, and religious harmony, I hail, even independently of its own recommendation and merits, with added cordiality. I do not say anything to tempt you to undervalue the respective differences which you have severally been led conscientiously to adopt. I know how much that is valuable depends upon a strict and steadfast and undeviating compliance with our own. inborn sense of truth. But separate opinions may have separate spheres of action, just as in the concerns of that delightful art, which I believe you must have largely practised, from the proof and evidence I heard of this day, I mean the art of music: one voice is a bass, another is a tenor, and there are various other learned names for them, all proving that separate voices have their distinct and separate offices. When parties are called upon to sing á solo or a duo, they make a distinction of parts, but then there is nothing to prevent all those united voices joining in that common chorus of praise and adoration with which the lymn concludes ; and in that way I wish you to maintain your separate differences. Maintain them where you are bound to do so, in your own consci
ences, in your own chapels, in your own cottages, but not so as to refuse to join in that common hymn of praise and adoration which all people in this world are surely intended to send up together to their common Creator and their common Redeemer. Now I have only to renew the expression of the very sincere sympathy which I feel with your objects, the very unfeigned admiration I entertain of the zeal and activity and self-denying love with which you pursue them. I know that the common awards of fame are usually bestowed upon persons and pursuits I think far less deserving of them. They are often given, in the first place and principally, to reward the destroyers and desolators of mankind, - those who spread carnage through peaceful realms, and visit with slaughter unoffending tribes of our species. But, my friends, my sisters, and my brothers, if you will allow me to call you so, you may not have the votes of senators and of Parliaments bearing your names, they may not appear in newspapers or in gazettes, but still, trust me, your labour is not lost, your reward insures itself. It is written in the approving sense of your own consciences; it is written in the gratitude, and, still more, in the improvement of the rising generation who are springing up to life and strength, and I hope to usefulness and to virtue, around you ; it is written, above all, in the records of those awards which are to fix our fate in eternity, for I need not remind you by whom it is said — “He that doeth this to the least of these little ones doeth it unto me.” I can add nothing to such encouragements. I most gratefully thank you for the kind attention you have now bestowed upon me. I accept with pleasure the signs you gave that you received and did not reject the relationship which I claimed with you.
YORKSHIRE UNION OF MECHANICS INSTITUTES,
Huddersfield, June, 1846.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, Having been promoted by you to the honours of the chair, I have, in the first instance, to return my thanks to you for the invitation and permission to fill it, and to express to you the very lively pleasure which it gives me to meet you upon so agreeable and auspicious an occasion as the present. This, indeed, is not the first time at which I have had the gratification of occupying a similar post at a meeting of the Yorkshire Union of Mechanics’ Institutes. I think it is now two years ago since I discharged the same office at the anniversary meeting then held in Wakefield. Then, gentlemen, I occupied what might be termed a private position; I was not then connected as a representative with the large constituency of the Riding in which we are now met. Since that occasion, I hope you will allow me to say, that I feel I have been regularly and legitimately qualified to fill the office which I now hold. I wish I could consider myself qualified in all respects, for I fear, as often happens to the chairmen of public meetings, that I am perhaps less accurately acquainted with the subject matter of which I have to speak than almost any of those by whom I am surrounded. I have not been able, from want of opportunity, perhaps from want of proper industry, to make myself so well acquainted as I should have wished to have been with the various operations and transactions of the separate Mechanics’ Institutions in this Riding and in this county; and, therefore, I can only hope that those who will have to follow me will be able, as, indeed, I am confident they will, to supply all the deficiencies which must necessarily be found in my method of discharging the duties of the place I now fill. I had not even the privilege of attending the meeting of this morning. Therefore your chairman feels himself in the scarcely dignified position of having but little to say to you about the proper business of the meeting. But I know enough of Mechanics' Institutes, -I know enough of the good they are calculated to effect, I know enough of the good they have effected, -I know enough of the encouragement which has been given them in this county, — and nowhere, perhaps, in a more marked degree than in the town of Huddersfield, in which we are now met, — to be able to express my full sympathy in the success of the cause which has brought us together this evening, and to join my exhortation to all the others that will be addressed to you, to give to these institutions every encouragement and support in your power. It is a rule most properly laid down at these anniversary meetings, that topics of a nature which might excite difference of opinion, and which divide the community into separate demarcations - such as questions of political interest — should be excluded from our consideration; and I am sure, for one, I heartily wish that
may be numbered among those now present, in order to join their efforts with those of my political friends in promoting an object destined to secure the common good of all. There is, however, one matter which has much occupied public attention of late, to which I cannot help briefly adverting - not for the sake of considering its political bearing, not for the sake of eliciting any opinion respecting it from any person who may be now present
- but only in so far as I think it is properly and naturally connected with the specific business of the evening. The subject to which I allude is the question of the Corn Laws. And why do I make mention of that? Because, without adverting more at length to what is now passing around us, I trust that if we are justified in considering that this large question is settled that this great controversy is cleared off, and has left an open stage, I trust I am then justified in recalling to your recollection, that there may be other questions eminently deserving of your attention, lying beyond it, and that even this question of the food of the people ought not to absorb all the legitimate benevolence — all the manly effort which may be stirring among you. I am sure that I shall be the very last person to underrate the importance of that great subject to which I have thus briefly ventured to allude. But it must be confessed, that, important as it is, it primarily at least is a question which refers to our material wants to the body's food — to the body's growth to the body's being. Now, bear in mind that the body, though it is much, though it is that without which there can be nothing else, yet still it is not all it is not the most important - it is not the most enduring_it is not the most divine part of man's nature. We
e may be right in our opinion that a repeal of the Corn Laws would not only bring more wheat for the food of man, but that it would bring more oats for horses, more maize for cattle, more provender for pigs. Well, that would be enough for them - the body's food would be enough for them. But men who think and reason men who speak and argue- men who can form themselves into societies, and can receive and impart instruction, and can enrol themselves as members of Mechanics' Institutes, know that they require more than the bread that groweth stale, and more than the meat that perisheth. What may not be effected by the physical skill and ingenuity of man? His lips may utter, and his ears may drink in, all the modulations of sound and of melody; his eye may dispose the most ingenious intricacies of the most delicate patterns, and regulate the assortments of the most striking and splendid colours ; his hand may mould the breathing brass or the speaking marble; and, above all, his mind may apply the wisdom of the past for the instruction of the future; it may solve the highest questions of science and philosophy ; it may unfold the countless mysteries, the peerless beauties of nature, or it may people time and space with the most radiant creations of the fancy. Well, then, after we have provided for the body its coarser, though indispensable nourishment, I hope that additional care and additional knowledge will be brought into play to provide for those higher requirements to which I have just adverted. When Leagues and Legislatures have done all that in them lies to provide the body's food, I hope you will feel that your next great object is more completely to educate the mind, more thoroughly to elevate the soul. We shall then expect Lord John Russell to write one of his pithy letters against the evils of ignorance, which are still more mischievous, and still more fatal, than those evils of destitution, of fever, and of mortality, which he so feelingly denounced. We shall expect Sir Robert Peel to bring in his Bills, and to carry them too, with the same stout will which has lately signalised him, for the introduction of a system for the general education of the people. And we shall expect our Cobdens and our Brights to do battle for free trade in slates and primers, for cheap arithmetic, cheap chemistry, cheap geography, cheap astronomy, for learning for the many, and literature for the millions. Now, among the undertakings and institutions which have been most successful in promoting the instruction and enlightenment of the mass of the people, Mechanics’ Institutes have occupied a prominent and distinguished place. I believe it was a Yorkshireman, the late Dr. Birkbeck, who was the first pioneer in introducing Mechanics' Institutes; and I think it must be confessed that, in Yorkshire, these noble and praiseworthy institutions, to this day, have found a congenial soil. I find, from the official records which have been presented at the regular meeting of the union, that twenty-nine institutions in this county were, before this day, connected with the union; and that twenty of these institutions contained an aggregate of 5594 members. I find that twenty-three other institutions applied, and I am happy to say, what is better than applying, they have to-day been admitted into the Union.