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dition under the deleterious influence of their civilized conquerors, must always be regarded with great interest.
Whatever relates to the first settlement of the country by our ancestors; all that can contribute to illustrate their character, their trials and sufferings, and the primitive institutions of the earliest settlers comes to our mind with another and still deeper interest. It is the early establishments of a people, the manners, habits, opinions, and modes of thinking which prevail at this time, that most deeply imprint themselves on the national character. The impressions then made are in their effects analogous to those made on the mind of an individual in the tender and susceptible age of childhood. Opinions and creeds are adopted with but little examination, and they take their place in the mind, and fix themselves with a firmness, bearing a pretty just proportion to the facility with which they are received. It is the age of credulity, and the faith of a people is lively and strong in exactly the same degree as their reasoning powers and habits of observation are we
and unpracticed. Their opinions, their manners, and their tastes, their religio belief, their civil establishments, and their holiday diversions, in succeeding ages pass into traditions and become fixed on the nation by habit; and their accidental and casual amusements as well as their more important civil institutions become incorporated into the civil and social condition of their posterity, or at least produce upon them very perceptible and lasting effects. From this view of the subject, it is evident that every thing which will throw light on the manners, opinions, tho civil and social condition, and domestic habits of the first settlers of the country must have a deep interest in the minds of their posterity. It not only gratifies that natural and laudable curiosity which wishes to know, intimately and thoroughly, the character and condition of our progenitors, but it will serve to explain in a great measure the causes of that civil and social state, which we now find actually existing.
This adherence to ancestral traditions does not indeed prevail in an equal degree among all nations. The principle is seen to operate in its full and entire vigor among the nations of Asia. The manners, the opinions, modes of social life, the laws and form of government which were established there at thò earliest period to which written history extends, have been preserved by an almost unbroken tradition to this day. Everything remains immovable and unchangeable. This monotonous fixedness has given occasion to a lively writer to say that, “The East always motionless, does not exist in time, but lives only in space, the image and history of nature.” In looking back through thousands of years, on that primitive seat of the human race, in contemplating all the revolutions of power, which have from time to time visited and scourged its inhabitants, and beholding the samne forms of government, the same civil and social condition, the same manners, habits, customs, and beliefs, all remaining unchanged and immovable, so that a man who had fallen asleep in the age of Sesostris, and awakened in that of Tamerlane, in mingling in society and observing the actual forms of civil and social life, would find so little new, that he might supposo he had slept but a single night; the writer seems almost justified in saying that Asia has not existed in the succession of time, but in the unchangeableness of eternity.
Other people indeed, at least, the European races, have not gone on like those of the east, century after century, in the beaten track of their ancestors, without change and without improvement. The more secluded a people are, the more they live within themselves, the slower will they be to depart from the customs of their ancestors, while the more free their intercourse with other nations, the more rapidly will be effaced the vestiges of ancient manners. The European races are endued with a migratory disposition, a restlessness and vivacity of temper, which renders it impossible for them to remain stationery, and keeps them in a perpetual struggle to advance and improve their condition. But with the same general tendency to improvement, there are diversities of character and taste which lead them in the path of improvement in different directions; and the cause of these differences as they now exist, may be found in part, at least, in the accidental diversities of the civil and social condition of the nations when they were yet rude, when the national mind was in its infancy, and received impressions which continued to have an influence in giving a direction to national manners and customs for ages after the causes, which produced these impressions, had ceased to exist. It is this silent influence of ancient custoins and opinions which renders the primitive annals of every people, who have become renowned in history, so curious and instructive to a philosophic mind. And it is this which should lead us to collect with pious and patriotic diligence, all the monuments and memorials which can place in a full and clear light the peculiarities of character that belonged to our ancestors.
The most marked feature in their character has been generally supposed to be their piety or sense of religious obligation. It is perhaps that which stands out in bolder relief than any other, and is therefore more apt to strike a cursory observer. But it may be doubted whether it is their most peculiar and discriminating trait. This is one which belongs to them more in common with the mass of mankind, than some others. All people, especially in the earlier stages of the progress of their improvement, are strongly marked by their devotion to the duties of religion, in some form or other. The pilgrims of New England were as much distinguished by their unquenchablo jove of civil liberty, as by their devotion to religion. If to these be added the high but not exaggerated value they placed on the general education of all classes of the people, and a hardy spirit of enterprise which no obstacles or hardships could overcome or discourage, we shall have a group of the most striking and salient traits in the character of the New England Pilgrims. These were their governing and absorbing passions, and they are such as mark a generous and proud elevation of character. Their religion was intellectual, dwelling more in the understanding than in the imagination, and stripped of all the parade of external show which addresses itself to the eye. It was abstruse and metaphysical, adapted rather to sharpen the reasoning faculties, than to refine and purify the taste; and while it drew its resources from a cultivated logic, it disdained and proscribed the fascinating and elegant arts of painting and sculpture as aids to devotion. Abounding in abstruse dogmas and subtle distinctions, it was naturally disputatious. To maintain a dispute on the refined dogmas of a metaphysical creed, requires intellectual cultivation, and it was this metaphysical character of their religion, more perhaps than any other cause, that led them to place so high a value on the advantages of general education.
If the religion of the pilgrims was shaded with bigotry, and dishonored by an intolerant and persecuting spirit, it is only a proof that they were not in all respects superior to the age in which they lived; and it shows the powerful and lasting influence of national traditions on the national mind, that these very blemishes on the brightness of their religious character are now pleaded, as an apology or justification of something like the same intolerance at the present day.
It will be an important as well as a pleasing part of the duties of this society, to collect and preserve all the memorials remaining, which will serve to illustrate the character of our ancestors. If these exhibit some defects, they are such as belong rather to the age, than such as distinguish them from their cotemporaries; while the brilliant parts of the picture, particularly that zeal and holy perseverance with which they laid a broad foundation of a system of general education of all classes of the people, at the public expense, and that zealous and enlightened spirit of liberty which disdained all compromise with despotic or usurped power, and established as wise a, system of safeguards for the protection and preservation of civil liberty as has ever been devised, honorably distinguishos them not only from men of their own, but of every other age of the world.
The plan of our publication will include particular and local histories of towns, and we would especially call the attention of such as are disposed to contribute to our collections to the history of the earliest settlements connected with anecdotes of persons, who have been most distinguished for their enterprise or influence in the early state of the settlements. Biographical sketches of men remarkable for their public services or for any peculiar traits of character, topographical descriptions of towns, mountains, rivers, &c., the natural history of animals, birds, and fishes, accounts of the former and present modes of cultivation, and improvements that have been made in husbandry, description of vegetable productions, minerals, &c., observations on the weather and climate, and the changes that have taken place since the first settlement of the country, accounts of epidemic diseases, which may have prevailed, accurate bills of mortality, singular instances of longevity or fecundity, will all fall within the plan of our publication, aud furnish materials for future history.
ACT OF INCORPORATION.
STATE OF MAINE,
In the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty-two.
AN ACT TO INCORPORATE THE MAINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
SECTION 1. Be i enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in Legislature assembled, That William Allen, Albion K. Parris, Prentiss Mellen, William P. Preble, Ichabod Nichols, Edward Payson, Joshua Wingate, Jr., Stephen Longfellow, Jr., George Bradbury, Ashur Ware, Edward Russell, Benjamin Orr, Benjamin Hasey, William King, Daniel Rose, Benjamin Ames, Isaac Lincoln, Benjamin Vaughan, Nathan Weston, Jr., Daniel Coney, Robert H. Gardiner, Sanford Kingsbery, Eliphalet Gillet, Thomas Bond, John Merrick, Peleg Sprague, James Parker, Ariel Mann, Ebenezer T. Warren, Benjamin Tappan, Reuel Williams, James Bridge, Hezekiah Packard, Samuel E. Smith, William Abbot, Leonard Jarvis, John Wilson, William D. Williamson, Jacob McGaw, David Sewall, John Holmes, Jonathan Cogswell, Josiah W. Seaver, William A. Hayes, Joseph Dane, Ether Shepley, Enoch Lincoln, Horatio G. Balch, and Judah Dana, (1) with their fellows, or associates, and successors, be, and they hereby are, made a body politic and corporate, by the name of the Maine Historical Society; and by that name may sue and be sued, plead and be impleaded; and may have a common seal which they may alter at pleasure; and may hold real estate to an amount not exceeding the yearly value of five thousand dollars, and personal estate to an amount not exceeding, at any one time, fifty thousand dollars; and may choose a President, Librarian, Treasurer, and such other officers, as they may think proper; and may make and ordain by-laws for the government of said Society; provided the same are not repugnant to the constitution and laws of this state.
SECTION 2. Be it further enacted, That the annual meeting of said Society shall be held at Brunswick, on the Tuesday next preceding the annual Commencement at Bowdoin College, for the choice of officers, and the admission of fellows, and a general examination into the state of the funds and concerns of the Society.
SECTION 3. Be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of said Society to collect and preservo, as far as the state of their funds will admit, whatever, in their opinion, may tend to explain and illustrato any department of civil, ecclesiastical, and natural history, especially of this State, and of the United States. And the Legislature of this state shall ever have the right to examine into and Åscertain the condition of said Society, and to alter, limit, restrain, enlarge, or repeal any of the powers conferred by this charter of incorporation.
(1) of the forty-nine corporate members, pine wore living in February, 1864 viz: Wm. Allen, Ashar Ware, Isaac Lincoln, Nathan Weston, Robert H. Gardiner, Peleg Spragu, Jacob McGaw, Jonathan Cogswell
, and Ether Shepley. of these, Judge Spregue is the youngest, having entered upon bis 71st year in April, 1883.
SECTION 4. Be it further enacted, That Prentiss Mellen, Ichabod Nichols, and Edward Payson, or any two of them, are authorized to call the first meeting of said Society, for the purpose of organizing the same, to be held at such time and place as they may designate, by publishing a notification of such intended meeting two weeks successively in such of the public newspapers, printed in Portland and Hallowell, as they may think proper.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, February 4, 1822. This bill, having had three several readings, passed to be enacted.
BENJAMIN AMES, Speaker.
In the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight. An Act repealing the second section of an Act entitled “ An Act to incorporate the Maine Historical
Society," passed February 5th, A. D. 1828, (should be 1822) and for other purposes.
SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in Legislature assembled, That the second section of the act aforesaid, to which this is in addition, be, and the same is hereby repealed.
SECTION 2. Be it further enacted, that the said Maine Historical Society, be, and hereby are authorized to hold their annual and other meetings, at such times and places as they may think proper.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, February 13, 1828. This Bill, having had three several readings, passed to be enacted.
JOHN RUGGLES, Speaker.
IN SENATE, February 14, 1828. This bill, having had two several readings, passed to be enacted.
ROBERT P. DUNLAP, President. February 15, 1828.
The first meeting of the MAINE HISTORICAL SOCIETY was held at the Council Chamber in Portland, April 11th, 1822, when it was duly organized, and the following officers chosen, viz:
ALBION K. PARRIS, President.
ARTICLE 1. Those members of the society who shall reside in the State of Maine shall be denominated resident members; all others corresponding members, resident members alone shall be required to contribute to the funds of the society.
Art. 2. Each resident member shall pay three dollars at the time of his admission, and one dollar annually, to create a fund for the benefit of the institution. But any member who shall at the time of his admission pay the treasurer ten dollars shall be exempted from said payments. And any member shall be exempted from the annual payments who will at any time pay the treasurer seven dollars in addition to the sums he may have before paid.
Art. 3. If any resident member shall neglect to pay his admission money for one year after being apprised of his election, the said election shall be considered void. And if any member shall neglect to pay his annual assessment for the space of two years after it becomes due, the treasurer shall notify him of his neglect, and unless payment shall then be made, he shall no longer be considered a member of the society. Each member at his election shall be furnished with a copy of the by-laws and regulations of the society.
Art. 4. All elections of officers and members shall be made by ballot. No member shall nominate more than one candidate at the same meeting; and all nominations shall be made at a meeting previous to that at which the ballot is to be taken.
Art. 5. It shall be the duty of the president, and in his absence, of the recording or corresponding secretary, to call occasional meetings of the society, on the application in writing of the standing committee, or any five members.
Art. 6. There shall be chosen at the annual meeting a president, recording secretary, corresponding secretary, a treasurer, a librarian, a cabinet-keeper, a standing committee of five, and, whenever shall be thought proper, a pub. lishing committee.
Art. 7. For the election of members, as well as for making alterations in or additions to the by-laws and regulations of the society, it shall be necessary
1. These By-laws were revised and amended in 1859, and are printed in the 6th Volume of the Collections.