« ZurückWeiter »
LIFE AND CHARACTER
Hon. WILLIAM PARKINSON GREENE.
AN ADDRESS DELIVERED BEFORE THE
ALUMNI OF THE NORWICH FREE ACADEMY,
JANUARY 25, 1865,
ELBRIDGE SMITH, A. M.,
PRINCIPAL OF THE NORWICH FREE ACADEMY.
ALUMNI OF THE Norwich FREE ACADEMY:
Ladies and Gentlemen, — We have met this evening to manifest our regard for the memory of one who, for forty years, was one of the most marked and influential men in this community. The motives which have prompted you to this commemorative service do you honor, not only as graduates of the Free Academy, but as citizens, as men and women. Good lives are not so common that we can afford to permit those that are preëminently so to pass from among us without pausing to notice the elements of their excellence and derive from them the lessons which they seem specially designed to impart. The life of every man has been declared to be a plan of God; even Shakspeare has said,
“ There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will." And a greater than Shakspeare has said, “Ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building." True lives, it is no exaggeration to say, are divine; they present the lineaments of that divine image in which man was first cre. ated; they enlarge our ideas of the capacity of our nature; they stimulate and encourage, they rebuke and warn us. Such were the effects of the life and teachings of Socrates upon the gifted but wayward Alcibiades. “ Whenever I heard Pericles or any other great orator," he says in the “ Banquet,” “I was entertained and delighted; I felt that he had spoken well; but no mortal speech has ever excited in my mind such emotions as are kindled by this magician. When I hear him, I am, as it were, charmed and fettered; my heart leaps like an inspired corybant; my inmost soul is stung by his words as by the bite of a serpent; it is indignant at its own rude and ignoble character. I often weep tears of regret, and think how base and inglorious is the life I lead. Nor am I the only one who weeps like a child and despairs of himself; many others are affected in the same way.”
History has been defined to be philosophy teaching by example. But history is made up largely of biography. The lives of communities and States, which are recorded in history, are but the resultants of the lives of the individuals that compose them; and the direction and character of these composite lives which we see in communities, in States, and empires, in the whole course of human history, are determined by comparatively few individuals, who become, as it were, the file-leaders in the great march of human events. What is the secret of that reverential awe which we experience as we enter the sacred shades of Mount Vernon ? Is it merely that there are entombed the remains of a statesman and a warrior ? Or is it rather the feeling which moved Lord Erskine to write to Washington while living: “I have a large acquaintance among the most valuable and exalted classes of men ; but you are the only being for whom I ever felt an awful revercnce. I sincerely pray God to grant a long and serene evening to a life so gloriously devoted to the universal happiness of the world.” A Chaldean sheik went out from his native country, not knowing whither he went, and became the father of the faithful in all succeeding generations. A single life, of short duration, spent mainly among the hills and valleys of Galilee and ended in ignominy at Calvary, has become the light to lighten the world. But not to multiply examples, how frequently do we find that one true life has moulded the life of the entire community in which it was passed. Who that has witnessed the enthusiasm awakened by the appearance in public of such men as Josiah Quincy and Benjamin Silliman, has not felt how large a portion of their lives has been breathed into the academic and civic life with which they have been associated ?
Such is the character of the life which we are this evening met to commemorate,- a life so related to this whole community as to constitute an important element of its history, and so related to you in particular as to command your gratitude and love.
WILLIAM PARKINSON GREENE, the second son of Gardiner* and Elizabeth Hubbard Greene, was born in Boston, the 7th of September, 1795. His father was one of the most eminent merchants of his time, and is still well remembered in Boston as one of the leading financiers and capitalists of the first quarter of this century. He received his elementary education in the schools of Boston, and principally under two teachers whose names have become historic in the State of Mas
* See Appendix, Note A.