« PreviousContinue »
train him to a better habit of thought and to a better condition. But if we would not exclude him, much less would we exclude the black man, in like circumstances of property and education.
By the influences now brought to bear upon the black population of this country, we shall find in them a sentiment altogether friendly to our free institutions. We shall find them a Protestant people, kindred in religion to the rest of the native born population of the country. The Irishman, by all his habits of thought and methods of treatment, will not be likely very soon to find the negro on his side in politics, and the time may come, when we shall be glad to have this makeweight against Catholic impertinence and foreign interference. It is not however in reference to such contingencies, or to any principle of mere policy, that we urge the claim of the black man. It is a matter of right before God and the law. It is to carry out the first principles of our government. It is to put everything upon a clear and solid basis for the future. If we resist and hold back, God will yet lead us about forty years in the wilderness, till the old generation and the old political heresies shall die out, and the nation shall be prepared by discipline and suffering to enter the promised land.
ARTICLE VII. PELATIAH PERIT.
THE remark was made at the funeral of Mr. PERIT, that a human life may be complete in two distinct but coördinate senses. A man may live long enough and well enough to accomplish all the various tasks assigned him by Providence, and may then fitly rest from his labors, while his works do follow him. At the same time and by the operation of the same mental, moral, and physical activities and influences, the man's character may be disciplined, elevated, and perfected, till in the truest and fullest sense his life may be called complete. The one model life of humanity is revealed to us in both these aspects. "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do," is the record of him whom as the Captain of our salvation it behooved to be made “perfect through sufferings."
Few, indeed, of the lives of prominent men in our time can justly be styled complete in either sense. The whirl of life bears them rapidly past the scene of duty, almost before they have discovered it. The cares of the world, the schemes of ambition, and the claims of society, rarely leave time for thought, still less for systematic self-culture, and the man dies, as he had lived, successful, perhaps, in the pursuit of wealth, power, or fame, but with his proper life's work essentially undone, and without attaining in his own character any part of the great result for which he was created. Such a life, whether long or short, is substantially a failure.
To such a life, however, that of PELATIAH PERIT forms a striking contrast. Few have lived so long, few so actively or so well, as he has lived in New England and New York for almost eighty years, and probably fewer still have been disciplined by such varied and peculiar experience into a character of such rare, self-contained, and self-controlled, but intensely benevolent activity, by which for so many years he has adorned the community and the church.
The accurate pen of Dr. Bacon* has detailed lucidly and compactly the leading facts of Mr. PERIT'S life. He was born. at Norwich, in 1785, and was descended from an honored Huguenot ancestry, mingled with the equally revered Puritan stock of New England. He graduated at Yale College in 1802, one year after his elder brother, John Webster Perit, who was afterwards established, as an East India merchant, in Philadelphia, where he died in 1845. He is still remembered with affectionate admiration not only there but in other cities and in distant lands. The career of PELATIAH PERIT was also wholly mercantile, and nearly all of it was in connection with the well known firm of Goodhue & Co. of New York, of which he continued a member until its final dissolution in 1863. About a year later his own decease took place at New Haven, March 8th, 1864.
In reviewing the public and private career of one so distinguished, honored, and beloved, the first thought which strikes us is that with which we commenced. Here was a
complete character and a completed life. No brilliant genius, no unusual physical or social advantages, no sudden achievement of vast wealth, no happy accident of any kind, made or helped to make him what he was. His whole career was a continuous illustration of talents well improved, of opportunities never wasted, of a mind and heart always in sympathy with duty, and ever growing in graceful conformity to the idea, which he faithfully pursued. Perhaps the most obvious characteristic which presented itself to the casual observer of business acquaintance, was the prompt and ready energy with which he encountered the successive tasks and events of each busy day. Not one of all human activities and interests could claim his notice in vain, or pass unheeded by him. His extreme rapidity of thought, decision, and action, and his habits of systematic industry, enabled him to accomplish the most multitudinous and varied tasks, and yet to find more time for the cultivation of mind and heart, than many far less burdened could have done. His fellow merchants knew how
* Hunt's Merchants' Magazine, N. Y., April, 1864, p. 245.
to appreciate these peculiar gifts, and after one year's experience of his efficiency as President of the New York Chamber of Commerce, they did not fail during nine consecutive years to reëlect him unanimously to that honorable office, where his tact, skill, gentlemanly courtesy, and quick despatch of business, were highly and universally prized. Whether presiding in their assemblies or doing the honors of their great metropolis to the Prince of Wales, and other distinguished guests, the merchants of New York were always proud of Mr. PERIT as their representative.
His invaluable business habits rendered him also conspicuous in the religious world. In 1838 he became a corporate member of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and in 1842 was made chairman of a committee "appointed to review the expenditures and finances of the Board." The report presented by him the following year was a model of good sense and practical wisdom, as well as deeply imbued with the spirit of Christian benevolence. The same conscientiousness which led him to utilize and economize every talent to the utmost, not only kept him in disinterested and unrewarded activity, but occasionally induced him to submit to tasks and responsibilities of the most irksome character. It was not in his nature to shirk a duty or ignore an obligation, and in his view duty and obligation were limited by ability alone. To his power and beyond his power he was debtor, both to Greeks and barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise. Not that he would allow any conscience but his own to prescribe the measure of his duty, for in this respect he was emphatically a law unto himself, and wholly independent of extraneous influences. But what he had decided to be his duty, that he was ready to do, promptly and unsolicitedyea, even if in doing it he was led, like his Divine Master, to be "kind to the unthankful and the evil." The city of New York has not forgotten the ready disinterestedness with which, in the hope of cutting an almost inextricable knot of political and social animosity, he consented to accept the office of Police Commissioner, and so long as he had any hope of being useful, continued to endure the inevitable annoyances of a
position which must have been eminently distasteful to all his habits and associations.
We have endeavored to depict the impression his daily life would make upon the mere casual observer. But superficial, indeed, must that observation have been, which failed to discover below the surface even of business life the signs of that wide and deep benevolence, which we hold to have been the most prominent, as it was the most attractive feature of his character. In its scope it was literally universal. His charity never allowed him to speak evil of any one, and even just and necessary condemnation was measured with a cautious and gentle hand. "Nil nisi bonum," was his rule both for the dead and the living, and he was always ready to check and chasten the hasty judgments of others. Though genial he was often not demonstrative-partly, no doubt, from the burden of care and excess of mental occupation, and at length from habit. Little did those who were disappointed by his occasional abstraction of manner, suspect the earnestness with which, in the privacy of retirement, his pen recorded and his prayers testified his kind and loving interest in their welfare. In July, 1832, that awful scourge, the cholera, invaded New York. "It is difficult for those who did not witness it to conceive the consternation which its announce ment occasioned. .. In a few days thousands had fled in every direction, and the influx of strangers had ceased." So wrote Mr. PERIT in a series of graphic sketches communicated early the following year to the New York Observer. We are tempted to transcribe a portion of them here, to illustrate the active benevolence and quiet Christian heroism of the writer. We need not ask whether, when his business engagements were thus abruptly terminated for the time, he was one of those who escaped for their lives. He does not even tell us, except by implication. "On those who remained," he says, "after the dispersion of the citizens, devolved the duty of providing for the suffering and perishing poor. It was manifest that from the prevailing alarm there would be difficulty in filling the ward committees, who were in person to see to the administration of the public charity, and influenced partly by this