Benjamin Edward Bates Eulogy(This article is about Benjamin E. Bates, the founder of Bates College...it is taken from the June 1878 Bates Student Vol. VI p.1, (131-149) published at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine)
Eulogy on the Life of Benjamin Edward Bates
(written by Oren B. Cheney)
The ripe fruit has fallen from the tree. Benjamin Edward Bates, having lived almost his three score and ten years, is dead. He is dead, and yet he speaks.
How do the dead, the blessed dead, speak to us? Certainly, through their lives
The life, then, of Benjamin Edward Bates is my theme on this occasion. And in order to a clearer statement of it, I shall consider it in three periods-his home life, his life in Boston, and his life in Lewiston-the first period embracing twenty-one, the second eighteen, and the third thirty-one years.
I. HIS HOME LIFE
Benjamin Edwards Bates was born in Mansfield, Massachusetts, July 12, 1808.
He was the third child of Major Elkanah and Sarah (Copeland) Bates in a family of eight children. Major Elkanah Bates was a man of much dignity of character, and was grealty esteemed by all who knew him. He was a merchant, cotton manufacturer, and a farmer. He owned a store which was the place of general resort for the people of the town, was the agent of two small cotton mills, and had two farms, one of them embracing what is now the central part of the village of Mansfield, and the other being a little out of the village.
In this store, in these mills, and on these farms, Benjamin worked until he was nineteen years of age, with the exception of the time he attended school. His only opportunities for an education were the town school and an attendance for two years --from 1823 to 1825--at the Academy at Wrentham. In this institution he was not only a pupil, but an assistant teacher.
A gentleman who was a boy with him says: "He was a pleasant, genial, lovable boys, always wearing a smiling face. He was so diffident you could not speak to him without his blushing. He had a natural "taste for manufacturing." One of his brothers relates this anecdote of him, illustrating the bravery and presence of mind that he exhibited when occasion required: "He was one day at work on one of my father's farms harrowing with two horses, when some part of the harness rbeaking, the horses started upon the run, and pulling him down, dragged him quite a distance. But he held to the reins and finally succeeded in bringing the horses to a halt. Isaw it all; but the thing was done so quickly that I could render him no assistance in his great peril."
Mr. Bates belonged to a religious stock. To go no further back, his father and mother were members of the Congregational Church in Mansfield. In 1838 a division arose in the church on the question of the divinity of Christ; and the reult was that those members holding to Uniarian sentiments were allowed to remain in the old house of worship, the other party withdrawing and organizing a new church. Major Bates was chosen one of the deacons of the new church, and he held the office as long as he lived.
He died in 1841, aged 63 years. In the sermon preached at his funeral, by his pastor, Rev. Mortimer Blake, I find the following words: "I need not parise the dead to the living who knew him well. His life is his eulogy. The confidence so often reposed in Major Bates shows that the public believed him to be a worthy and upright man; and the sympathy felt in his sickness, and now manifested by this audience, shows that the loss is a public one. We shall miss him in the house of God. One voice that joined in the praises of the sanctuary below, is hushed in death. The hands that once assisted in distributing the sacred elements, are now palsied.... During his sickness he had a calm confidence in God, and, at times, a joyful anticipation of his final release from this world."
Mr. Bates's mother died seven years before his father. Once who knew her, spoke of her, at the time, as follows: "If eulogium of the dead could benefit the living , we should be induced to speak largely in praise of her whose whole life was a pattern of moral virute; of her exemplary worth in all the relations of life, social and domestic; of her unwavering kindness and benevolence; of her mild and unassuming piety."
I have had an intimate acquaintance with Mr. Bates for the last sixteen years, and I have not unfrequently heard him feelingly allude to the reilious character of his father and mother. The fact that he had "a good father" and "a pious mother," seemed to fill his heart with gratitude to God, and to be to him the secret of any virtues he might possess, and of any success in his undertakings.
From what I have said of the father and mother of Mr. Bates, it will be readily inferred what was the character of his early home. It was a Christian home. There was in it the fear of God, the reading of the Bible, the observance of the Sabbath, the altar of prayer, the service of song, the discipline of kindness, and the teaching of truth-telling, honesty, integrity, temperance, industry, frugality, benevolence, and love of country.
The Sunday School was established in the old church in Mansfield, in 1820, and Benjamin Bates was one of the first members, being tweleve years odl. Says one who was a Sunday-School scholar with him: "We used to recite our lessons sitting in the seats in the odl square pews. Benjamin grew up under the best Christian influences. He was a good scholar."
The last two years of his minority, from 1827 to 1829, Benjamin Bates spent in Taunton, twelve miles from his home. During his stay in Taunton, he was for a short time "a boy" in a grocery store; but the most of the time he was employed in a dry goods store, in the same capacity.
A gentleman who knew him well while in Taunton, says; "he was always faithful, attending to his business incessantly."
II. HIS LIFE IN BOSTON
It was 1829, when, Mr. Bates was twenty-one years of age, that he left his home for Boston. As we may reasonably suppose, the two years spent in Taunton were not lost time. Far from this, for the experience he there acquired proved invaluable to him through life. It qaas in Taunton thathe learned that most important of all lessons--to rely upon himself, do his work faithfully, avoid wranglingm and bide his time.
Mr. Bates went to Boston with the best recommendations, which had already preceded him, and helped him to a clerkship in one of the first mercantile houses of the city. And these recommendations were not confined to certificates, which sometimes hear upon their face gross falsehoods. They were verbal as well as written. Men who knew him as a child at home, and a young man in Mansfield and Taunton, ran no risk in speaking of him to his new employer as one to be relied upon, and as one fitted for the place he sought.
The house in which he was employed as clerk was the dry goods store, wholesale and retail, of the late Barnabas T. Loring. It was 337 Washington Street, and was at this time the most popular one in the city.
Mr. Bates in the employ of Mr. Loring as clerk little more than a year, and during this time he became the very life of the retail department, Mr. Loring, it should be said, was in feeble health, and was therefore under the necessity of making some change in his business. This change will be best understood from the language of Mr. John G. Davis, a gentleman now residing in Boston, as a retired merchant. Mr. Davis says: "The first I knew of Mr. Bates was in the year 1830, when he was about twenty-two, an I twenty-four years of age. He was a clerk of Barnabas T. Loring. Mr. Loring was one of the first merchants of Boston. I had just reurned from the South, where I had been for my health, and meeting Mr. Loring on Washington Street, he said he was glad I had returned, for he had been waiting for me. He said he wanted me to go into company with him--that he had selected one young man and he wanted me as another. 'Step into the store,' said he, 'and let me introduce you to the young man whom I desire to be a member of our firm.' I went in and saw, for the first time, Benjamin E. Bates. There was a great crowd of customer in the store at the time and he was very busy. I was much pleased with his appearance; and in about a week the firm was organized under the name of B.T. Loring & Co. It would be safe to say that Mr. Bates had, at this time, not over seven hundred dollars. Mr. Loring was a good man, having the highest credit; so that we were as ready to go into company with him as he was to go into company with us."
In a little more than a year after the firm was organized, the junior partners proposed to Mr. Loring to give up the retail department and go into the wholesale part of the cit, which was at that time in the vicinity of Kilby and Central Streets. This change was made, although Mr. Loring was opposed to it. Of the success of the firm in Central St., Mr. Davis says: "Mr. Bates was acquainted with a great many men who lived in Bristol County, having formed this acquaintance when he was a clerk in Taunton; and I was brought up in a store that was partly wholesale, so that both of us were widely known among country merchants, and the result was that we did a good business in the jobbing and wholesale trade. We both had wholesale ideas, and his were broader than mine."
In about a year and a half after the firm moved "down town" --that is, from Washington to Central Street--Mr. Loring died, the firm having been dissolved, and a new one formed under the name of "Davis & Bates, a short time before his death. He took a deep interest in the junior partners, however, until the last days of his life."
Some idea may be gained of their high standing in the mercantile community, not only of Boston, but of New York and Philadephia, from the fact that they were able, after the death of Mr. Loring, to obtain letters from eight of the largest and most respectable houses in Boston to dry goods houses in various parts of the country--among them the house of A. & A. Lawrence, on Liberty Square, the first that sold American goods on commission. These letters gave them universal credit. With them they could have purchased a cargo of tea in China.
Mr. Davis says again: "We had been going on swimmingly in business for six months after the death of Mr. Loring, when John N. Turner came into the store one day and said he wanted to go into business with us. Mr. Bates knew him well; for the two had been Sunday-School teachers together at Park Street Church."
Mr. Turner, I may say, was a lawyer, and had been a student in the law office of Hon. Samuel Hubbard, Judge of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts. Find the law "too dry," he gave up his profession and became a merchant. So highly did Judge Hubbard regard young Turner--his honesty, ability, and excellent Christian character--that he put into his hand the sum of ten thousand dollars, on-half as a loan, and the other as a gift. I should say that in after life Mr. Turner returned the entire sum.
Mr. Turner, then going to Davis and Bates so well recommended, and with money in hand, was at once admitted into the firm, it becoming Davis, Bates & Turner. The firm was organized February 13, 1833.
Says Mr. Davis yet again: "Bates, Turner and myself were like three brothers. We were always in harmony. This pleased Mr. Bates's father very much. Maj. Bates used to come into the store quite often. He was a man of excellent character and straightforward. Every ting went on well with our business until the year 1837."
There are gentlemen present who understand what the panic of the year 1837 means in the mercantile vocabulary. I remember the time well. It was my Sophomore year in college. The relief cam ein the early part of the autumn of 1837, the panic having begun about a year before. The cause of it, I may say, was not gold, but land gambling. We had, if I remember, not only our Maine bubble, but our Illinois bubble, and our Indiana bubble.
A Boston gentleman had allowed me to pen the following description of it from his lips: "The year 1837 was the time of the greatest panic the country has ever seen. After the War of 182, business was dull for seven or eight years. The panic in New York in 1873 was more severe while in lasted. But though we are experiencing the effects of it at this late day, yet the direct and terrible pressure ofit was soon over. In 1837 the Banks could render us no hel, and there were those among the merchants of Boston who walked their chambers all night in complete agony of mind. Almost everybody failed; and Davis, Bates & Turner were severeal time reported among the list of failures. What carried them through was their good credit and the law of that time; I mean the law making borrowed money preferred.. THe men who sold them goods loaned them money.
"That you may know something of the dreadful condition of things while the panic lasted, you have only to know the general joy that was felt when it was broker. What broke it was the suspension of specie payments by the Banks. New York suspended first, in the forenoon of a certain day, and Boston suspended the next morning on hearing the news. Boston received the news from New York by special messengers, the messengers arriving only a few minutes before those sent by the speculators. There was a great joy in the city on the arrival of the messengers sent by the New York Banks, and the people gathering quickly in Faneuil Hall, George Bond was called to preside over them. Iwas present at the meeting and the scene I shall never forget. Men acted more like children than like themselves. They laughed, they cried, they threw up their hands. Some there were, who, to my knowledge, would not speak to each other on the street. But at this meeting all differences seemed to be forgotten. Strangers became acquainted; Whigs were Democrats, and Democrats were Whigs, and there was but one religion. The people were acutally wild with enthusiasm. It seems to me but yesterday, when all this occurred, and yet it was almost forty-one years ago, and nearly all the men that were in that meeting are dead."
I have called your attention more especially to the effects of the panic of thirty-seven in Boston. I was indeed a dark day in Boston, and yet there was light there. THe people had confience in their leaders as enterprising, far-seeing, and brave men. In a word, Boston was at this time full of heroes, and Benjamin Edward Bates, though but twenty-nine years of age, was one of them. Coming out of a meeting of Boston merchants and others held for consultation at a critical time of the panic, a gentleman is said to have put this question to Homer Bartlett: "Who was the strongest ma in that meeting?" "Benjamin Bates," said Mr. Bartlett. "Benjamin Bates was the strongest man there."
In 1840, Davis, Bates & Turner moved from Central to Water Street. In 1845 another change was made. This to Milk Street.
In this same year, Mr. Davis was compelled to withdraw from the firm by reason of poor health, and Stiles Bascom being admitted, it took the name Bates, Turner & Co. Mr. Bascom was the son of a Congregational minister, and every way worthy to belong to the firm of which he was a member. He died in two years after he came into the firm, and at his death the firm was dissolved. This was in 1847.
Once of the short street running from Washington to Tremont is Bromfield. Fifty years ago this was a little narrow way, called Bromfield Lane. On the south side of this street, on the lang where is now located the Methodist Building, was the old Indian Queen Tavern, a plain wooden house, three stories high. It was kept by Preston Shepard. This house was the place where many people coming from the country made their home--farmers, manufacturers, merchants, and members of the Legislature. The stages from Taunton, New Bedford, Newport and other places, stopped here, so that it was a place of general resort. To this place, Mr. Loring sent young Bates to board, on his coming to Boston, saying frankly that her sent him there to bring trade to his store.
In 1832 the old tavern was taken down, and on the site a large brick building was erected. It was named the Bromfield House. While it was being built Mr. Bates boarded with Mr. Shepard, who resided in Boylston Street, in a house on the site of the Boston Public Library Building. At the time of the opening of the new hotel, the temperance question was stirring up the people of New England, and a good deal of interest was felt upon it in Boston. Very naturally the question troubled the mind of Mr. Shepard, and he hesitated for some time as to the relation his house should sustain to the great and good reform. He desired to keep a temperance house, but he was afraid, should he do so, that his old customers might leave him. But Mr. Bates's influence, for a reason that will appear hereafter, had become very powerful in Mr. Shepard's family; and he was not slow to use in on the right side. The result was that the Bromfield House was opened as a temperance house, and it at once became very popular among the Christian people of New England. To it, through Mr. Bates's influence, a large number of young men, mainly clerks in dry goods stores, went as permanent boarders. Thse young men had but little spare time,--but being disposed to make the best use of the little they had, they organized a literary society, which they named "The Temperance Bromfield Club," Mr. Bates taking an active part in organizing and sustaining it. The object of the Club was social improvementl and its exercises were social entertainments, debates, and the reading of original poems and papers. To some of these meetings ladies were invited. Among the papers known to have been read before the Club was one on France, one on Virginia, and on on Pennsylvania. A gentleman who was a member of the Club, informs me that nearly all of its members are dead.
In May, 1832, Mr. Bates, being not quite twenty-four years odl, made a public profession of religious, his Christian experience dating back to the fall before. That he was sincere in taking this important step, is evident from his desires and efforts for the welfare of other men. I need not say that he was especially desirous that his relatives and friends might have a well-grounded faith in Christ. I have in my possession, a letter which he wrote from Boston to a sister at home, under date of Oct. 5th, 1831. In this letter he says: "If we have the love of Christ in our hearts, everything else which is necessary to make us happy in this world and in the world to come, will be added unto us. Go to Christ just as you are and he will give you peace. I hope all my brothers and sisters are engaged in the cause of Christ."
I was udner the preaching of Lyman Beecher that Mr. Bates decided to live a Christian life; and it was Dr. Beecher's church that he joined in May, 1832. This was a new Congregational church, organized in 1825, being composed mainly of members from the Park Street, Old South, and Union Churches. The house was on Hanover Street, nearly opposite the American House. Dr. Beecher was its first pastor, being installed in 1826. In 1830 the house was burned, and the following year a new one was built on Bowdoin Street, the churchtaking the anme of Bowdoin Street Church. Mr. Bates left the Bowdoin Street Church at the organization of the Central Church. This church first worshipped in the old Federal Street Theatre; afterwards in Winter Street; and it now worships in the beautiful structure at the corner of Berkley and Newbury Streets, largely built by Mr. Bates's means.
During all this time, I should say, Mr. Shepard's family was Mr. Bates's home. Mr. SHepard had three daughters, and the youngest, Josephine Shepard, became Mrs. Bates. Mr. Bates and Miss Shepard were married in 1834; and Mrs. Bates died December 27th, 1842, aged 27 years. "Fragrant in Heaven," is all one reads of her at Mt. Auburn.
Sunday Schools were established in Boston about the year 1820. They were not, however, connected with churches and taught in houses of worship. They were rather independent schools, being taught wherever places could be found for their accommodation. In one of these schools, located in Mason Street, Mr. Bates was a teacher; and after the Suday School became a part of divine worship, he had a class in the Park Street Church.
And here I must, for want of time, bring to an end what I have to say of the life of Mr. Bates in Boston, simply adding that, residing there until the day of his death, he was connected with various associations,--business, social, and religious, --that made his life there an active, influential, and honorable once. In proof of this and of the relations he sustained to these associations, I have only to refer you to one of the resolutions passed by them, on the occasion of his death, and published in the Boston papers.
III. HIS LIFE IN LEWISTON
By Lewiston, I mean Lewiston Falls--both sides of our beautiful Androscoggin--what ought to be, and what Mr. Bates desired should be, one city as we are one people.
While, then, it is true that Mr. Bates never resided here, it is also true that, in an important sense, for thirty-one years he lived here. Very regularly, once a month, he walked our streets, and mingled with us as a people. Angd then, our desires were his desires; our interests, his interests; our affairs, his affairs. He wanted labor for our laborers, education for our children, places of worship for our worshipers, light for our streets, water for our houses, and a hospital for our sick and our dying. I have frequently heard him say that he would not knowingly do anything against the interests of this people; and that he would sooner invest ten dollars in Lewiston than one dollar in any other place. "I love Lewiston," "I love the College," he was accustomed to say. "Say to the Trustees that I love the College, " was a special message he once sent by me to a meeting of the College Boards; and he once wrote me, "I shall be with you in spirit."
It was in the year 1847, the year in which the firm of Bates, Turner & Co. was dissolved, that Mr. Bates became interested in Lewiston. He was still at the Bromfield House; and meeting there Alexander De Witt, late Representative to Congress from Massachusetts, he heard through him of our magnificent Fall--and so much was his interest awakened that he proposed to Col. DeWitt that a visit be made to them. One gentleman gives it as his opinion that the first visit of Messrs. Bates and DeWitt to Lewisotn was quietly made ; the object of it not being known to any parties here. And yet how much was at stake on the decision at which they would arrive! I seem to see them at this moment, now walking the banks of our river, now stopping at the Falls, and ending the travels of a day by an ascent of Mount David, to secure from its summit a better view of our natural surroundings!
And what was Lewiston Falls in 1847? We know what it is to-day,--a place in which nearly thirty thousand people have comfortable and pleasant homes, and in which sixteen millions of dollars are invested. But what was it then? The land was here and the water was her, as the skies and the air are here; and this is about all that can be said of the place. It is true, we had a small cotton mill, a woolen mill, a saw mill, a grist mill, a tailor's sop, a barber's shop, and a store of two; but we had no dry goods store, no hardware store! There was no street leading out of Main Street, on the southerly side, except Park, which, under another name, extended only as far as the site of the Methodist Church. High Street was not made for it was not neededl there being but one house on the northerly side of the railroad.
It is but doing justice to the memory of Hon. Edward Little, to say that the water power here, and the lands controlling it, were purchased by him at an early day. Mr. Little was a man of noble character and decided ability; and he had believed for years that, at no distant period, a large manufacturing town would be built up by the improvement of our water power; and so he declined to dispose of his purchase until he could make arrangments for improving it with men of like faith with himself, and men, too, having the power to procure the necessary capital. He lived only to see the beginnings of his hopes, but this afforded him great pleasure, and he died believing that in the end these hopes would be realized.
I need not say that he found his men. They were Benjamin E. Bates, Lyman Nichols, George L. Ward, Alexander DeWitt, Francis Skinner, Homer Bartlett, Josiah Little of Newbury, St. John Smith, and others. In the first plans of these gentlemen for the improvement of our water power, a capital of a half million of dollars was thought to be sufficiently large; and it was not until the spring of 1849 that, after the severest struggles, they were successful in raising even this amount. In the spring of that year, however, they were successful; and their plans being perfected, and their money at call, they were ready, as they supposed, to commence operations; and they came to Lewiston with this intent. But they came only to abandon their cherished plans. These plans were not broad enough, and so they must be exchanged for others. A water power has no value in itself. It pays no dividends. Several large mills must be built, and to commence work with a less sum than one million dollars subscribed as capital, would be to hazard the whole enterprise. By sound reasoning they all reached this conclusion.
And now what shall be done, was the inquiry which arose in the minds of these men. How can we, in these days of small things, raise another half million of dollars? No wonder their faith staggered for the moment under the load they must carry, should they take another step forward. In this condition of things the returned to Boston; but on the suggestion of one of heir number, they decided to invite some of the leading capitalists of Lowell, Manchester, and Lawrence to examine their property with a view to co-operation in developing it. These capitalists accepting the invitation, careful arrangements were made for their reception on visiting our place. A grand dinner was prepared, many of the supplies for the table being sent from Boston. At length the appointed day arrived and these gentlemen came. They came--they saw what we now see, the finest water power in New England. They ate, they drank, they went back to their homes; byt they went only to laugh at the plans that had been laid before them, and to ridicule the whole enterprise from begining to end. Of course they did thism for they were shrewd enough to understand that a large manufacturing town on the banks of the Androscoggin would be simply a competitor of the cities on the Merrimack, in which they were interested.
Now, as we all know, defeats are sometimes victories in disguise. Certainly it is so where men are thoroughly in earnest in what they are attempting to do--and it was so in this case--for the builders of our town were men in earnest. They might be defeated once, twice, and again; but they were resolute and determined men, so that their ultimate success, no matter what discouragements might intervene, was only a question of time. Acting, then, under legal forms as they were, at a meeting properly called, the whole subject matter was referred to a Committee consisting of Messrs. Bates and Ward. In due time the Committee made their report. It was that the application for funds be made to a new class of men, some of larger, some of smaller means--but in most cases to men who had no interest in any manufacturing establishment. The report was accepted, and this plan was, in the main, successfully carried out, and another half million of dollars was secured. This grand success, however, had imposed heavy burdens upon Mr. Bates. He worked incessantly, sparing no pains, and often introducing parties here to examine the property.
One year had now passed--but it was a successful one to the Directors of the Water Power COmpany--for one million of dollars being at their command, in the spring of 1850 the work which was to prepare the way for founding here a large city was begun.
In regard to this work and Mr. Bates's connection with it, Mr. Ward, who was the General Gaent says: "The first year Mr. Bates visited Lewiston almost weekly to consult with the Agent, watch the work, and advise as occasion required. In calling in money on the subscriptions, it was soon ascertained that many who had subscribed were unable to pay. This embarrassed the company, and threw additional labor and responsibility on the Treasurer, Mr. Bates. Subscriptions had to be procured to make up the deficiency, as our plans were laid out with the view of spending fully a million of dollars. Mr. Bates never failed to furnish the money. When needful he advanced the money and used his personal credit to obtain it. In four years the work contemplated by the expenditure of the million of dollars was completed, two corporations started, the first mill of each being put in successful operation, and other important improvements were projected."
Mr. Ward also states another fact, which illustrates Mr. Bates's willingness to aid in promoting the general interests of our community. In what Mr. Ward says, there is an allusion to himself; and yet he will pardon me for making public the entire facts in the matter referred to: "It was necessary, in commencing work in Lewiston, to have a Bank, as there was none nearer than Brunswick. Accordingly a charter was obtained, with capital of $50,000, one-half of which was to be paid in before the Bank could be put into operation. Of htis sum only $6,000 could be raised in Lewiston. I took $6,000 and Mr. Bates $13,000--more than half. This was done by Mr. Bates to insure the starting of the Bank, and at a time when he was advancing largely form his private means to carry on the work of the Lewiston Water Power Company. This Bank, now the First National Bank of Lewiston, has a capital of half million of dollars; but it probably required more labor to raise the first $50,000 than the additional $450,000"
It is unnecessary for me to say that were there time, and were this the place, I might speak of many things done by the men associated with Mr. Bates in laying the foundation of this CIty thtat are desrving of mention. I might speak, too, of other men who have assisted in building upon the foundation so well laid. I might call the names of men--of someI see present--sons of adopted sons of this town, who have shared in the good work of building and blessing a city; but all I can say is, in behalf of a grateful people, I thank them.
I come now to the connection of the name of Bates with the Institution of learning located herel for this it is really that calls us together--and, so far as we can see, without this, the name in due course of time would have been forgotten. To the honor of human nature, be it said, men live as they interest themselves in the work of improving the condition of their fellowmen. THings material perish with their using; and stores and cotton mills and bank are things material. Things spiritual never die; and thought employed and workds uttered and gifts bestowed, with the object to make the world morally better, are things spiritual. The names of Harvard, Yale, Brown, Dartmouth, Williams, Bowdoin, Colby, Tufts, and Bates are immortal, because, provided there shall be no violation of the most sacred pledges by those who are to live after us, they will always indicate something done in the interests of a true Christian civilization. The latter name, as I know, is a household word, always lovingly spoken, in thousands of families. It is the name that went before me to foreign shores, and secured for me attentions which I should not otherwise have received.
Mr. Bates's first subscription to this Institution was made January 19, 1862, in the sum of $6,000. One of the conditions to it was, that the Agricultural College should be located here. This condition not being met, and he still desiring to aid the Institution, a pledge of $25,000 was substituted for the original subscription, so that I regard this sum as virtually his first pledge. There was a condition to it, and I need not say that the condition was met and the pledge redeemed.
His second subscription was made July 11, 1868, in the sum of $75,000, and the condition to it being met, the securities for that amount were placed in the hands of the Treasurer of the College.
His third subscription was made February 21st, 1873, in the sum of $100,000. The conditions to it were that an equal sum should be raised within five years. These conditions, as you may know, were met on the 19th day of February last, thirty-eight days after the death of Mr. Bates, and two days before the time expired.
And here I should say that while Mr. Bates placed conditions to his subscriptions, it was his purpose, as he assured me, to pay them in any event. He annexed the conditions only to secure additional means for the College.
What induced Mr. Bates to subscribe to this College the large sum of $200,000? This is a question which, of all others that might be asked on this occasion, demands an answer. That he would have given this money away for some good object, is evident; for he was naturally benevolent, and he saw the danger of being rich. He once said to a friend: "If a man acquires his money rapidly, there is danger of his getting to love it for its own sakel and I know of no better way to prevent this than to keep the channels of benevolence wide open."
The policy of New England in founding colleges, has been to place them under the superintendence of a particular Christian people, the object undoubtedly being by such a policy, to seucre for them a more watchful care, and to throw around them a healthier moral influence. "CHRISTO ET ECCLESIAE" is the motto of Harvard.
Bates College is the property of the Free Baptist churches of New England. Every dollar contributed to its funds has been given with this understanding; and under the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, in the Dartmouth College case, I think I am warranted in saying, the College can never pass into the hands of any other people or party without the consent of these churches or their proper representatives.
The Free Baptist denomination as you all now, is a small one. And yet it has thirteen hundred churches, thirteen hundred ministers, eight thousand communicants, a constituency of half a million of people at home, and three millions and a half in India. Their churches have been mainly confined to the country, and hence the number of persons among them of large means is comparatively few. For more than a half century they were poorly supplied with suitable places of worship. WHen I was a boy, in many towns they held their meetings in private houses, school-houses, and barns. To meet the wants of the people of my native town my father converted a part of his paper mill into a place for the worship of God, fitting it up with rough seats and a rough pulpit; and I recall, to-day, their joy that they were to be so well provided for on the Sabbath. During this time, also, Free Baptist ministers preached without stipulated salaries. The founder of the denomination I have the honor to represent on this occassion, was Benjamin Randall; and, in justice to his memory, it should be said, he had no more idea of founding a sect, than Washington, a Republic. He was simply a Baptist minister in good and reular standing in the Baptist denomination; but fellowship was withdrawn from him because his views on the atonement. He also held to the doctrine of open communion. Mr. Randall organized the first church in the denomination, at New Durham, N.H., June 30th, 1780.
Now I have no desire to conceal the fact that, in the earlier days of our history, the prejudices among our people against a special education of young men to be set apart for preaching the gospel, were very strong. So it was not until the year 1832 that the first Academy in the denomination was founded. This was Parsonsfield Seminary in this state. We now have a large number of Academies. Our first Theological School was founded in 1840. It is virtually the School now located here. We now have two schools. Our first College was founded in 1855. It is located in Hillsdale, Michigan. We now have several colleges.
In 1854 our school building at Parsonsfield was destroyed by fire, supposed to be the work of an incendiary; and the same year the work was commenced of establishing a new Institution in a more central part of the State. So the Maine State Seminary was chartered March 16th, 1855, the charter giving the Trustees power to locate the Institution. The charter also made an appropriation of $15,000 to the Trustees on condition that an equal sum be raised; and Lewiston offering to raise this sum, the School was located here.
And here I must ask you to keep in mind that Lewiston was in the infancy of its existence. The four years' work by the Water Power Company, now called the Franklin Company, had but just been completed, and the Company having new plans in view, needed all their means for their own purposes. The means too, of the people of Lewiston were small; and yet the $15,000 were promptly raised--the Franklin Company, through their President, Mr. Nichols, leading off with a subscription of $5,000, and the people following with $10,000. This latter sum, I should say, was raised through a public meeting called for the purpose of securing, if possible, the location of the School in Lewiston, and through the special efforts of a large number of our leading citizens,--among them William R. Frye, Alonzo Garcelon, Albert H. Kelsey, William H. Waldron, Joseph S. Burgess, John M. Frye, John W. Perkins, Daniel Holland, Archibald Wakefield, and James Lowell.
The school was opened Sept. 1st 1857; and up to the time of its anniversary in 1863, besides its other work, it had fitted seventy-six young men for college.
It was, then, in the spring of 1863 that the suggestion of establishing a College to be under the superintendance of the Free Baptists of New England, was made to Mr. Bates, and the suggestion was made with the simple statement of the facts as I have just related them, in giving a concise history of our people. In other words, the wants of the Free Baptist denomination, especially in New England, in an educational point of view, were laid before him with the request that he could favorably consider them.
To be more particular, there were two things that made a powerful impression upon his mind, and that led him, after mature reflection, to come to that decision which was the cause of so much rejoicing among thousands of our people.
1. A College under our care would do a missionary work at home in opening the way for a large number of young men to acquire a liberal education who would otherwise remain uneducated. In this number there would be many who would enter the Christian ministry.
2. It would do a missionary work abroad by sending many of its graduates to preach the gospel to the benighted.
This is the simple truth in this whole matter. It was never said to Mr. Bates that it was his duty to aid in founding a College here, for the reason that he was the owner of a large amount of property here. It was never said to him that if he would make the first subscription for a College in Lewiston, the College should bear his name. He was never consulted as to the name. He was asked to give money for founding a college in New England in the general interests of eduation, and for the especial benefit of a religious denomination that needed one, and he gave it. This was the whole. Not a word was said at the time as to what name the College should bear. Neither did he know what the name was to be until the question was decided. Then he wrote me these words. They are under date of May 18, 1863: "In regard to the name of your College I can only say my choice is that it should have some more worthy name than the one suggested." And after the Trustees, by unanimous vote, had asked the Legislature to change the name of the Maine State Seminary to that of Bates College, the next time I met him he said, "I am sorry the Trustees have named the College after me, for now I cannot raise it so much money, as people may think I am asking money for myself--and yet I feel that I have been greatly honored by the action of the Board."
Such, in some of tis particulars was the life of Benjamin Edward Bates. That his end was peaceful, is what might naturally be expected. His death was suffen; yet it would seem, from conversations with his friends, he had a premonition it was near. I visited him, at his shoue, on Friday evening, Dec. 28th, on business relating to the College, and as I was leaving, the conversation turned upon the subject of religion. Among other things he said, was this: "Were it not for others, I have no desire to live." "How is it on the other side, Mr. Bates," I inquired, "all bright?" "Yes," he replied, "it is all bright." I saw him Sunday at church. Iwas the last time he attended, and he wrote his friends in New York, the next day, how much comfort he received from the very reading of the text. The texts was, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." I met him for the last time on Monday, the last day of the old year, on the stairs near his office door, and stopping a few moments, he spoke most encouragingly in regard to the prospects of the College. He was taken sick the next Friday. Several times, during his sickness, he repeated the hymn, "My faith looks up to Thee, Thou Lamb of Calvary." On the Sabbath before he died, he had one of Mr. Moody's sermons read to him, saying of Mr. Moody, as the reading was finished, "We should have a better world, if there wre more such men it it." He was accustomed to go to the Tabernacle to hear Mr. Moody. He died on the 14th of January, 1878. On the 18th, a summer day in winter--a day so beautiful that one might almost be allowed to say, it was made for the occasion, not a cloud being in the sky--his remains were laid away in Mount Auburn. "After life's fitful fever, he sleeps well."
Mr. Bates was married, August 8th, 1860, to Miss Sarah C. Gilbert, youngest daughter of the late Dea. Joseph T. Gilbert, of GIlbertsville, N.Y. Mrs. Bates survives her husband, as do four children--one son and three daughters--survive their father.
Mr. Mayor, Gentlemen of the City Council, Gentlemen of the General Committee, and Fellow Citizens
You asked me to deliver a eulogy on the life and character of Benjamin E. Bates. This invitation I accepted so far as to say that I would speak on this memorial occasion--and what I promised to do, I have endeavored in a sincere and faithful spirit to perform. I have shown you his life; and now, as I feel, there is nothing for me to do but to leave that life to make its own impression on your minds.
As was said of the father at his funeral, so I say of the son on this occasion: HIS LIFE IS HIS EULOGY.
"He being dead yet speaketh." Benj. E. Bates is dead. Under the sentence, "Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return," he has fallen. What of him was mortal has been committed to the earth from which it was taken. And yet he speaks. From his grave a voice comes, gentle, yet clear in its tones, so that we need not mistake its meaning, telling us of things the purest and the noblest that can enter into the thoughts of a human soul--and such a voice, coming from the grave of the rich man or the poor man, we always do well to hear.
Mr. Bates's intimate friends were few in number. Yet he had some. There are men living to whom he intrusted his thoughts and plans and purposes, without reserve--and one of them, a gentleman of worth and high standing, I requested a few weeks since, to give me briefly his views of the life and character of his friend, He very cheerfully and promptly complied with my request; and here follows his answer. It is under date of June 11, 1878.
"My acquaintance with Mr. Bates commenced about 1850, and from that time to his death I had been in very intimate association with him, during which time, many circumstances have occurred in our various relations, which have tested his power and his character. He was always, since I knew him, in large enterprises, doing something to advance the interests of society. He was a builder. In all his labors and thoughts, while seeking to advance his own interests, he was working in the direction of the material and moral progress of the community. His hands were always full, eith for himself or others. He was thorougly individual, self-reliant, and hopeful, believing thoroughly in the growth and wealth of his country, and that all laudable enterprises tending to develop its great interests would survive and rise triumphant from the financial cyclones which at times encircled them.
"He was most sympathetic in his nature. An appeal to him, whether to relieve phsical or financial distress was always listened to, and relief given where it was possible, and doubtless in some instances when it was unfortunate for him, and no favor to those he assisted, His defects of character, if he had any, were in his strong sympathies and large hopefulness which are to the credit of human nature.
"I have known him for twenty-five years, perhaps, as intimately as any one, and I hesitate not to pronounce him, in my judgment, an able, industrious, honest man, kindly in his nature, seeking to do all in his power for the good of his friends, the community, and society."
I know you will pardon me in saying that in the death of Mr. Bates I have lost a friend. HE LOVED THIS COLLEGE. For this reason, he was my friend. For this reason, I consulted him on every important question relating to its welfare, feeling perfect liberty so to do. And this I say, not only in justice to him, but in justice to myself. Many times he said to me: "Go on as you are going. The College shall not fail. We shall come out right in the end."
In what must be called the great struggle in the history of the College--that relating to its rank among New England colleges, beginning in 1865 and ending in 1869, if I had any strength to stand, it was because he supported me; if he had any, it was because God supported him.
About a year since, in conversation with him at his Bank Offic, he gave me to understand that he had met with heavy losses of property, and should the hard times continue much longer, he was in danger of suffering still more.
And here you will allow me to say there was one thing growing out of my relations with Mr. Bates that had for some time been to me a source of much unhappiness; and so as a favorable opportunity had presented itself to converse with him freely upon the subject, I proved it, and said: "Mr. Bates, there is one thing that makes me very unhappy." "What is it?" said he. "I sometimes feel," I replied, "that when you are subjected to these great losses of property of which you speak, you feel you have done too much for the College." "Oh, no," said he. "Give yourself no uneasiness about that. I have lost during my life enough to endow two or three college, and I only wish the College at Lewiston had it all."
To those associated with me in the government of the College I will say: We have important trusts committed to our hands. Not to mention other gifts from thsoe not connected with the people we represent, we have received $35,000 from the State, and we are to realize $200,000 from the subscriptions of Mr. Bates. While, then, in good faith we have a work to do for the denomination that owns the College, we have also a work to do for this City--for the State--for New England--for the country--for the world.
In a letter to me, dated June 18, 1873, Mr. Bates says: "You know very well that I am not sectarian in my feelings. If I were, I should have left you long since, as much has been said to me on that subject by those interested in other institutions." Equally with the great benefactor of the College, we are liberal in our feelings. The Bates Platform to-day is Soul Liberty for man and for woman. Let it remain what it is. The spirit of the age demands this; and the spirit of the ages to come will only emphasize the demand.
Young Gentlemen of the Graduating Class:
In the death of Benjamin Edward Bates you, also have lost a friend. In the letter from which I ahve just quoted he says: "I am an advocate of education to the fullest extent, and I intend to do what I can to advance the cause--a most valuable legacy to young men. A liberal education was the early dream of my childhood, but it may be well that I was disappointed in my fondest hopes."
I may be well. It may be well that our grain should come through his loss. Such is the divine plan. Some men must make sacrifices for the sake of other men. It always has been so, and we have no reason to suppose there will be any change in the plan. And it is because the number of those who are ready to make these sacrifices is increasing, that the world is growing better every day. This is the path our Great Master trod; and this is the one I urge you to walk in through life. That it is your purpose to do this, --a purpose more resolutely resolved upon as you tkae leave of your Alma Mater--I understand very well. God help you to adhere to it.
It was the purpose of your classmate who fell so early in the great battle of life to walk in this same path. That purpose God has accepted instead of actual service performed; as he always accepts the purpose to do good things whether we live, or whether we do not live to do them.
Young gentlemen, I need not say more. In bidding you farewell, I simply leave with you the life which I have made my theme on this occasion as one after which you may pattern. It is not a perfect life; for then it would not be human--but it is a life, pure, honest, honorable, and consecrated to the work of removing ignorance, bigotry, and every form of evil from the world, thus to bring in the latter day glory of the Lord--a life which the Lord himself will accept when he shall make up his jewels in the day of his coming.
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