Project Canterbury


Tenth Annual Festival


of the


England Society

of Pennsylvania,


at the


Continental Hotel, Philadelphia


December 22, 1890.


(an excerpt)


Times Printing House



Transcribed by Wayne Kempton 2007



Vice President (John H.) Converse said:

GENTLEMEN: We cannot but recognize the justice of the diagnosis of the characters of the Pilgrim and the Quaker, which we have heard from our talented friend, Mr. (Hampton L.) Carson. Some of the New Englanders here may feel that their habitual modesty has not been catered to as it should have been; but, if they feel that judgment has been passed upon them unjustly, they need not fear that they are going to be executed without the benefit of clergy. We are fortunate in having with us to-night, possibly an impartial witness to the virtues of both Quakers and New Englanders--one who, himself a Pennsylvanian and familiar with the Quaker blood, has, in his more recent exile to the City of New York, had an opportunity to judge of New Englanders as they live in that circumscribed and unfortunate city.

I now have the pleasure of introducing Right Reverend Bishop Potter, of New York.



The occasion is full of embarrassments. Not a great while ago I officiated at the funeral of an elderly lady, where the ritual of the occasion (if I may be pardoned the reference in this secular presence) was somewhat in advance of the simple and Quaker-like tastes of the deceased; and after the burial had been completed with a good deal of ceremony, and we had walked away from the grave, a daughter of the lady who had been buried turned to me and said, "Doctor Potter, I am glad mamma was not here." In precisely the same [40/41] spirit, gentlemen, I am, for one, profoundly thankful that the Puritan fathers are not here. (Laughter.)

It was said of a President of Harvard University, whose exclusive and aristocratic tastes during his lifetime were well known to his associates, that when he arrived in paradise, he undoubtedly put up his glasses, looked about him at the people he found there and remarked, with a good deal of surprise, "Really this is a very promiscuous assemblage." I am afraid, Mr. President, that if the Puritan fathers had found me here they would have made that remark. (Laughter.)

In the year 1768 the General Assembly of Massachusetts, addressing its Commissioner in London, said: "We understand that there are people in England to-day who are striving to send a Protestant Episcopate to America; we instruct you to resist with all your power the damnable intrusion." All the same, gentlemen, my ancestors got to America--not however by the road of the Protestant Episcopate--but as one of that distinguished lineage to whom my brother of the law (Mr. Carson) has just paid so splendid a tribute; for the stock from which I sprang (and I thank God for it) is distinctly a Quaker stock. But the Quakers of that part of Massachusetts in which my ancestors settled were hustled out of it with great vigor and found their refuge at last in the Eastern part of the State of New York.

Happy the day, Mr. President, when that earlier austerity was changed. The temper of the New England mind to-day is one of a much larger and, as you have yourself reminded us, sir, of a much more comprehensive hospitality. It is quite ready to claim all the virtues and all the graces and to trace all good things distinctly to Plymouth Rock. Indeed, as I looked upon these splendid specimens from the soil of Pennsylvania, (my friend, Mr. Lemuel Coffin, himself a descendant of Massachusetts, asks me, when he came in--degenerate Yankee that he is--what they were, and I was obliged to tell him they were pumpkins,) I recall an illustration of this large and appropriative spirit of New England, [41/42] which occurred the other day in Virginia, where a small colored boy, anxious to possess himself of a donkey, went to his master, when the old gentleman told him if he would take a pumpkin to the top of a neighboring hill and roll it down, a donkey would sooner or later appear. He did so and as the pumpkin rolled down the hill it struck a rock, out from which there shot, alarmed and perturbed, a large jack-rabbit. Instantly the darkey boy struck his leg and exclaimed, "Hurray, come here, little one; I'se your mother!" Is not that the New England spirit, sir? It is the mother of all virtues, wherever they are born; and it is glad enough to claim them.

And so, it is a happy thing that between New England and Pennsylvania there interposes that gracious alembic of which I am privileged to be the representative. The prompt and precipitate transportation of a Yankee to Pennsylvania, I think you will agree with me, might easily be accompanied with very considerable peril. There are few men who can endure such sudden transplantations from one extreme temperature to another.

The type of New Englander, excellent as it is in its way, is certainly very unlike that of Pennsylvania, and that more rugged austerity in which our New England fathers were bred could not well find a greater contrast than in the gracious gentleness, the affluent comfort, the peaceable ways--for the Puritans were men of war as well as men of prayer--which are the characteristics of this city of brotherly love.

But, fortunately, most New Englanders who come to Philadelphia come by way of New York,--not as good a place as Philadelphia, perhaps, but better, for most purposes, than Boston! New York, for a Yankee who is coming to live in Philadelphia, performs an educational function: it widens his sympathies, it softens his prejudices, it enlarges his vision, it educates his tastes; and it is therefore a fortunate thing that, between your own State and those from which your ancestors came, there interposes the territory of New York.

[43] [Rev. Merritt Hulburd here created a fresh ripple of merriment by exclaiming, in an undertone, "The purgatory."]

No, not the purgatory. Gentlemen, that is the malignant interjection of my Methodist brother, Dr. (Merritt) Hulburd; and he makes it in order, if possible, to prevent my stating to this assemblage that he has brought here deliberately and in cold blood, to-night, a sermon which it took forty-five minutes to preach last night, which he proposes to repeat to this audience. (Laughter.)

In the year 1787, as I was about to say, the people of Connecticut were asked to send deputies to the Federal Convention then about to sit, which was to include representatives from all the States. A General Huntingdon represented the importance of the election of these deputies on the ground that, unless it was done, and the rights of Connecticut were defended in the Federal Convention, the territory of Connecticut would be divided up, as he said, between Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York and thus would fall a prey, he added were, "to the turbulence of the one, to the selfishness of the other and to the righteousness of the third." And "the third" was New York! (Laughter.)

I am sorry to hear this derisive cheer, gentlemen--you evidently have not heard the result of our municipal election in New York, you do not know the lofty standard of virtue that we have erected there. Very well--come to New York and find it out for yourself. (Laughter.) You may be like a friend of mine, who, the other day, started out, on the East Side, to find some refreshment, and, upon encountering a corner bar-room, he read in a window a sign, in the French tongue, "Ici on Parle Francais." He went into the place, walked up to the bar and addressed the Celtic gentleman who presided behind it, "Parlez vous Francais, Monsieur?" "Shure?--shure--what?" said Paddy. "Oh, don't you speak French, sir ?" said the gentleman. "Why should I speak French?" said Pat. "Only because the sign in the window says you speak French." "The sign in the window"--said [43/44] Pat"--"what does the sign say?" Well, the sign says, in the French tongue, "Here they speak French." "Bedad," said the Irishman "I bought that sign from a Hebrew gentleman who said it meant, 'God bless our home'." (Laughter.) You see, gentlemen, how we convert centres of refreshment into the pillars of the domestic virtues.

But, believe me, it is not in vain that you have transplanted the New Englander, brought him to Pennsylvania and sent him to the great West. The other day, when Mr. Stanley was lecturing somewhere, after he had gotten through a New Englander, one of these transplanted ones, came up to him and said: "I have been reading your book with a great deal of pleasure, Mr. Stanley." "Have you?" said Stanley. "Yes," was the reply; "but I encountered one thing there that I could not make out at all. You described that long stop you made when you were waiting for supplies to come up; and you state how, day after day, the rations grew smaller and smaller, until you were almost starved to death. Why, Mr. Stanley, you were camped on the bank of a river, weren't you?" "Yes." "Well, why didn't you fish?" Stanley looked at him a moment and said, "Well, I never thought of it before." (Laughter.)

There you have a characteristic illustration of that readiness in emergencies which has made Americans foremost in so many things, and which has been especially illustrated in what New Englanders, wherever they have been transplanted, have accomplished. When I was a lad in a commercial house in this city I well remember the New England names that might be read on the signs that marked the commercial highways of this great city. Many of them are represented at this table. Many more of them have passed into the civic and social history of the community, and I am sure that, to-night, Philadelphia will gladly own that she is stronger because of the ability and energy and integrity with which, in business, in letters, in science, in art, in the pulpit and at the bar, her native stock has been enriched. If there were [44/45] time for it I might recall illustrations of this familiar to you all, but one such illustration is to be found in that pre-eminent New Englander, and that p re-eminent Pennsylvanian, to whom allusion has already been made to-night; that great American citizen to whom appropriately, Turgot, as you remember, applied the motto: "Eripuit coelo fulmen septrum que tyrannus." I think that if our America has produced one specimen more perfect than another, of the ideal American citizen, it is that resplendant man--accomplished, wise, forecasting, without early advantages, without privileges of great lineage, without the opportunities that fall to so many men to-day--who, out of every deprivation in youth, snatched, step by step, one intellectual triumph after another, until he lifted himself to the highest places of the world. Over all our American history, next to--yes, I am bold enough to say, beside that of--Washington, I write the name of Benjamin Franklin, the Boston boy, whose wisdom, great as it was, was never more brilliantly illustrated than when he ran away from Boston. Have you ever thought what he would have been if he had been reared on the baked beans which we have been eating to-night? Wise man that he was when he exchanged them for Augustin croquettes and Philadelphia terrapin; and wise are the children, and the children's children who come here to-night to remember their New England lineage, and to thank God that they live in Pennsylvania. (Applause.)

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