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Title: Opening Ceremonies of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, May 24, 1883
Author: Kingsley, William C., Low, Seth, 1850-1916, Edson, Franklin
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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MAY 24, 1883.












SETH LOW, Mayor,

JOHN T. AGNEW, Chairman Executive Committee.


OTTO WITTE, Treasurer.






1. MUSIC--





   On behalf of Trustees,
   WILLIAM C. KINGSLEY, Vice-President.


   On behalf of the City of Brooklyn,
   Hon. SETH LOW, Mayor.


   On behalf of the City of New York,
   Hon. FRANKLIN EDSON, Mayor.


   Mr. J. LEVY.





8. MUSIC--


Hon. JAMES S.T. STRANAHAN will preside.


The New York and Brooklyn Bridge was formally opened on Thursday, May
24th, 1883, with befitting pomp and ceremonial, in the presence of the
largest multitude that ever gathered in the two cities. From the
announcement by the Trustees of the date which was to mark the
turning-over of the work to the public, it was evident that the
popular demonstration would be upon a scale commensurate with the
magnificence of the structure and its importance to the people of the
United States. The evidences of widespread and profound interest in
the event were early and unmistakable. They were not confined to the
metropolis and its sister city on the Long Island shore, nor yet to
the majestic Empire State. The occurrence was recognized as one of
National importance; and throughout the Union, from the rocky
headlands of Maine to the golden shores of the Pacific, and from the
gleaming waters of the St. Lawrence to the vast expanse of the Mexican
Gulf, the opening ceremonies were regarded with intelligent concern
and approval. Nearly every State contributed its representatives to
the swelling throng that attended, while those who were unable to be
present contemplated with pride and satisfaction the completion and
consecration to its purpose of the greatest engineering work of modern

In the communities most directly benefited by the Bridge the
demonstration was confined to no class or body of the populace. It was
a holiday for high and low, rich and poor; it was, in fact, the
People's Day. More delightful weather never dawned upon a festal
morning. The heavens were radiant with the celestial blue of
approaching summer; silvery fragments of cloud sailed gracefully
across the firmament like winged messengers, bearing greetings of work
well done; the clearest of spring sunshine tinged everything with a
touch of gold, and a brisk, bracing breeze blown up from the Atlantic
cooled the atmosphere to a healthful and invigorating temperature.
The incoming dawn revealed the twin cities gorgeous in gala attire.
From towering steeple and lofty façade, from the fronts of business
houses and the cornices and walls of private dwellings, from the
forests of shipping along the wharves and the vessels in the dimpled
bay, floated bunting fashioned in every conceivable design, while high
above all, from the massive and enduring granite towers of the Bridge
the Stars and Stripes signaled to the world from the gateway of the
continent the arrival of the auspicious day.

Almost before the sun was up the thoroughfares of both cities put on a
festival appearance. Business was generally suspended. The mercantile
and professional communities vied with one another in the extent and
splendor of their decorations, while from the hearty voice of Labor
arose a chorus of ringing acclamation. Tens of thousands of men, women
and children crowded into the streets, and, after gazing admiringly
upon the decorations, wended their way in the direction of the mighty
river span. From neighboring cities and from the adjacent country for
many miles around the incoming trains brought multitudes of
excursionists and sight-seers. It seemed marvelous that they could all
find accommodation, but the generous hospitality of the cities was
cordially extended, and all were adequately provided for. The scenes
presented during the day upon the streets and avenues of New York and
Brooklyn will never be forgotten by those who witnessed them.
Notwithstanding the enormous massing of people, the best of order was
everywhere observable, and the day happily was free from any accident
of a serious nature. The arrangements for the celebration were of a
sensible and becoming character, and beside insuring an unobstructed
and speedy course for the ceremonies, contributed beyond measure to
the popular enjoyment.

Early in the afternoon the President of the United States, Gen.
Chester A. Arthur, and the Hon. Grover Cleveland, Governor of the
State of New York, the former accompanied by the members of his
Cabinet and the latter by the officers of his Staff, were escorted
from the Fifth Avenue Hotel to the New York City Hall, where they
were joined by his Honor Mayor Franklin Edson and the New York
officials. From the City Hall the procession proceeded to the New York
Approach to the Bridge. The Seventh Regiment, N.G., S.N.Y., Col.
Emmons Clark, commanding, acted as escort to the Presidential and
Gubernatorial party. The regimental band, of 75 pieces, headed the
column and played popular airs as the procession moved along the
crowded and gaily decorated thoroughfares. At the New York Tower a
battalion of the Fifth United States Artillery, under command of Major
Jackson, joined the escort, and between the lines of brilliantly
uniformed troops the distinguished guests passed upon the roadway.
They were formally received by a Committee of the Bridge Trustees,
headed by Mr. William C. Kingsley, Vice-President and acting President
of the Board.

The arrival at the New York Tower was proclaimed to the multitudes on
shore by the thundering of many cannon. Salutes were fired from the
forts in the harbor, from the United States Navy Yard, and from the
summit of Fort Greene. The United States fleet, consisting of the
"Tennessee," the "Yantic," the "Kearsarge," the "Vandalia," and the
"Minnesota," Rear-Admiral George H. Cooper, commanding, was anchored
in the river below the Bridge and joined in the salute. As the
procession moved across the roadway the yards of the men-of-war were
manned, and from the docks and factories arose a tremendous babel of
sounds, caused by the clanging of bells, the roaring of steam
whistles, and the cheers of enthusiastic people, while sounding from
afar, in delightful contrast with the clamorous discord, the silver
chimes of Trinity rang out upon the river.

In the ornate iron railway depot at the Brooklyn terminus, where the
exercises were to take place, the arrival of the approaching
procession was anxiously awaited. The interior was bright with
tasteful decorations, the prevailing feature being the sky-blue
hangings of satin bordered with silver, and the coats-of-arms of the
States appropriately interspersed amid a forest of flags. On the
Brooklyn side the duties of escort were transferred to the 23d
Regiment, N.G., S.N.Y., Colonel Rodney C. Ward commanding. The
regiment appeared upon this occasion for the first time in their new
State service uniform, and performed their duties most efficiently.
The arrangements for the procession and exercises were under the
direction of Major-General James Jourdan, commanding the Second
Division, N.G., S.N.Y., who was ably assisted by the members of the
Division Staff. The building was thronged in every part. In the throng
were many of the most conspicuous citizens of New York and other
States, including representatives of the bench, the bar, the pulpit,
the press, and all other professions. Beside the President and his
Cabinet, consisting of the Hon. Charles J. Folger, Secretary of the
Treasury; the Hon. William E. Chandler, Secretary of the Navy; the
Hon. Henry M. Teller, Secretary of the Interior; the Hon. Walter Q.
Gresham, Postmaster-General, and the Hon. Benjamin Harris Brewster,
Attorney-General; and Governor Cleveland and Staff, there were present
the Governors of several States and the Mayors of nearly all the
cities in the vicinity of the metropolis. In the vast assemblage
none were more conspicuous than the officers of the Army and Navy, who
occupied an entire section and attracted general attention.

When the Presidential party and their escort entered the hall they
were greeted with enthusiastic cheers. They occupied seats directly
opposite the stand erected for the orators of the day. The exercises
proceeded without delay in an orderly manner, and were appropriate and
impressive throughout. Music was furnished during the ceremonies by
the bands of the Seventh and Twenty-third regiments. The Hon. James
S.T. Stranahan presided with the skill and dignity gained during his
long experience in public life. Near him were the speakers, Mr.
William C. Kingsley, Rev. Richard S. Storrs, D.D., the Hon. Abram S.
Hewitt, Mayor Franklin Edson, of New York, and Mayor Seth Low, of
Brooklyn, together with the members of the Board of Bridge Trustees.
Mr. Stranahan opened the ceremonies by introducing Bishop Littlejohn,
who wore the Episcopal robes. The Bishop fervently and impressively
made the opening prayer, the great assemblage bowing their heads
reverentially during its delivery. Vice-President Kingsley was next
introduced, and was received with hearty applause. Mr. Kingsley, in
clear and distinct tones, and in comprehensive and business-like
terms, proceeded to make the formal speech presenting the Bridge to
the cities of New York and Brooklyn. The address was heard with
careful attention, and upon its conclusion a round of enthusiastic
applause swept through the building. His Honor Mayor Low followed Mr.
Kingsley with a concise and appropriate speech, receiving the
structure on behalf of the City of Brooklyn. His address elicited
several demonstrations of approval from the audience. The Hon.
Franklin Edson, Mayor of New York, who was the next speaker, was
heartily applauded as he aptly accepted the Bridge in behalf of the
authorities of the great metropolis. When Mr. Hewitt was introduced as
the orator on the part of New York City, he was warmly cheered. His
eloquent address riveted the attention of his hearers from beginning
to end, and his pointed and conclusive vindication of the bridge
management from the outset aroused the enthusiasm of his hearers to
the utmost pitch. Following Mr. Hewitt came the Rev. Richard S.
Storrs, D.D., who delivered the oration on behalf of Brooklyn. Never
did the distinguished preacher appear to better advantage, and his
oration, which was punctuated with applause, was characterized as a
masterpiece by all who heard it. Upon the conclusion of his address
the presiding officer declared the exercises at an end, and the
company in the building dispersed.

The festivities, however, did not end with the conclusion of the
formal ceremonies. The celebration was continued in both cities
throughout the day and far into the night. Thousands upon thousands of
enthusiastic people crowded the streets. After the ceremonies, the
President, the Governor, the speakers of the day, and the Trustees
were driven to the residence of Col. Washington A. Roebling, on
Columbia Heights, where a reception was held. As they passed through
the streets the people cheered as people only can who cheer in the
atmosphere of a free government. From Col. Roebling's house the
company proceeded to the residence of Mayor Low, where they were
entertained at a banquet. In the evening, under the auspices of the
Municipal authorities, a grand reception to President Arthur and
Governor Cleveland was given by the citizens of Brooklyn at the
Academy of Music, and was attended by a great multitude. Another
striking feature of the celebration at night was the display of
fireworks on the Bridge given under the direction of the Board of
Trustees. The pyrotechnic exhibition was viewed by almost the entire
populace of the two cities, and a vast concourse of visitors from
abroad. The East River was fairly blocked with craft of every
description bearing legions of delighted spectators, and the streets
and housetops were packed with people. The display was generally
characterized as one of the grandest ever witnessed in America. The
people of both cities evinced their public spirit in the decorations
by day and the illuminations by night. The illuminations in Brooklyn,
particularly, were on a magnificent scale, and excited the admiration
of multitudes of visitors to the city. In addition to the special
features of the celebration there were many entertainments in honor of
the event, including concerts in the various city parks. Throughout
the afternoon and evening the best of order was preserved; the
casualties that occurred were few and unimportant, and the auspicious
day ended without the intrusion of anything that would carry with it
other than pleasant memories of the significant event which it



The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting
arms. Deut. xxxiii.: 27.

Know therefore that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God,
which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His
commandments to a thousand generations. Deut. vii.: 9.

Remember the marvelous works that He hath done: His wonders, and the
judgments of his mouth. Psalm cv.: 5.

Marvelous things did He in the sight of our forefathers, in the land
of Egypt, even in the field of Zoan.

He divided the sea, and let them go through: He made the waters to
stand on an heap.

In the day time also He led them with a cloud, and all the night
through with a light of fire. Psalm lxxviii.: 13, 14, 15.

Oh, that men would therefore praise the Lord for His goodness and
declare the wonders that He doeth for the children of men. Psalm
cvii.: 21.

The Lord hath been mindful of us, and He shall bless us; He shall
bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great. Psalm cxv.: 12,

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost:

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without

Praise ye the Lord:

The Lord's name be praised.

       *       *       *       *       *


Almighty God, who hast in all ages showed forth Thy power and mercy in
the preservation and advancement of the race redeemed by the precious
blood of Thy dear Son: we yield Thee our unfeigned thanks and praise
as for all Thy public mercies, so especially for the signal
manifestation of Thy Providence which we commemorate this day. All
things--wealth, industry, energy, skill, genius--come of Thee; and
when we consecrate their triumphs unto Thee, we give Thee but Thine
own. Enable us to see in the strength and grandeur of this structure
the evident tokens of Thy power, bringing mighty things to pass
through the weakness of Thy creatures. Give us grace and wisdom to
discern in all this work the nobler uses it was ordained by Thee to
subserve. Teach us to know that all this mighty fabric is but vanity,
save as it shall promote Thy sovereign purpose toward the sons of men.
O Lord God, clothed with majesty and honor, decking Thyself with light
as with a garment, and spreading out the heavens like a curtain, with
the beams of Thy chambers in the waters, and the clouds for Thy
chariot, walking upon the wings of the wind, Thy messengers spirits
and Thy ministers a flaming fire, accept, we beseech Thee, this last
and chiefest fruit of human toil and genius as a tribute to Thy glory,
and a new power making for righteousness and peace amid all conflicts
of earthly interests, and all the stir and pomp of worldly
aggrandizement. Our life is a thing of nought, and our purposes vanish
away; but Thy years shall not fail, and with Thee the beginning and
the end are the same. Therefore we implore Thee to bless and direct
this work, that it shall be more than a highway for the things that
perish, even a path of Thy eternal Spirit lifting by His own infinite
grace, more and more, as the years roll on, the people of these cities
toward the plane of Thine own life--the life of endless peace, of
absolute unity, and perfect love, through Jesus Christ, the one
Redeemer and Mediator between God and man. Amen.



In the presence of this great assemblage, and of the chosen
representatives of the people of these two great cities, of the
Governor of the State of New York and of the President of the United
States, the pleasing duty devolves upon me, as the official agent of
the Board of Trustees of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, to announce
formally to the chief magistrates of these two municipalities that
this Bridge is now ready to be opened for public use, and is subject
in its control and management only to such restrictions as the people,
to whom it belongs, may choose to impose upon themselves. If I were at
liberty to consult my own wishes I should not attempt to occupy your
attention any further. I am not here as the spokesman of my
associates in the Board of Bridge Trustees. They are well content to
let this great structure speak for them, and to speak more fittingly
and more eloquently yet for the skillful, faithful and daring men who
have given so many years of their lives--and in several instances even
their lives--to the end that the natural barrier to the union, growth
and greatness of this great commercial centre should be removed, and
that a vast scientific conception should be matched in the skill, and
courage, and endurance upon which it depended for its realization.
With one name, in an especial sense, this Bridge will always be
associated--that of Roebling. At the outset of this enterprise we were
so fortunate as to be able to secure the services of the late John A.
Roebling, who had built the chief suspension bridges in this country,
and who had just then completed the largest suspension bridge ever
constructed up to that time. His name and achievements were of
invaluable service to this enterprise in its infancy. They secured for
it a confidence not otherwise obtainable. He entered promptly and with
more than professional zeal into the work of erecting a bridge over
the East River. As is universally known, while testing and perfecting
his surveys his foot was crushed between the planks of one of our
piers; lockjaw supervened, and the man who designed this Bridge lost
his life in its service. The main designs were, however, completed by
the elder Roebling before he met his sad and untimely death. He was
succeeded at once by his son, Colonel Washington A. Roebling, who had
for years before shared in his father's professional confidences and
labors. Here the son did not succeed the father by inheritance merely.
The elder Roebling, according to his own statements, would not have
undertaken the conduct of this work at his age--and he was independent
of mere professional gain--if it were not for the fact, as he
frequently stated, that he had a son who was entirely capable of
building this Bridge. Indeed, the elder Roebling advised that the son,
who was destined to carry on and complete the work, should be placed
in chief authority at the beginning. The turning point--as determining
the feasibility of this enterprise--was reached down in the earth,
and under the bed of the East River. During the anxious days and
nights while work was going on within the caissons, Colonel Roebling
seemed to be always on hand, at the head of his men, to direct their
efforts, and to guard against a mishap or a mistake which, at this
stage of the work, might have proved to be disastrous. The foundations
of the towers were successfully laid, and the problem of the
feasibility of the Bridge was solved. Colonel Roebling contracted the
mysterious disease in the caissons which had proved fatal to several
of the workmen in our employ. For many long and weary years this man,
who entered our service young and full of life, and hope, and daring,
has been an invalid and confined to his home. He has never seen this
structure as it now stands, save from a distance. But the disease,
which has shattered his nervous system for the time, seemed not to
have enfeebled his mind. It appeared even to quicken his intellect.
His physical infirmities shut him out, so to speak, from the world,
and left him dependent largely on the society of his family, but it
gave him for a companion day and night this darling child of his
genius--every step of whose progress he has directed and watched over
with paternal solicitude. Colonel Roebling may never walk across this
Bridge, as so many of his fellow-men have done to-day, but while this
structure stands he will make all who use it his debtor. His
infirmities are still such that he who would be the centre of interest
on this occasion, and even in this greatly distinguished company, is
conspicuous by his absence. This enterprise was only less fortunate in
securing an executive head than in obtaining scientific direction. For
sixteen years together the late Hon. Henry C. Murphy stood for this
work wherever it challenged the enmity of an opponent or needed an
advocate, a supporter and a friend. He devised the legislation under
which it was commenced. He staked in its inception a large portion of
his private fortune on its success. He upheld its feasibility and
utility before committees, and legislatures, and law courts, and in
every forum of public discussion. For years he looked forward to this
day to fittingly close the activities of a long, useful and, in many
respects, an illustrious career. It was not permitted him to see it,
but he saw very near the end, and he lived long enough to realize,
what is now admitted, that he was to the end of his days engaged in a
work from which the name of the city he loved so well will never be
disassociated, for it is a work the history of which will for all time
be embraced in the records of the achievements of American enterprise
and of American genius. I am sure I speak for the Board of Trustees in
returning their thanks to all the professional gentlemen who have been
in our employ--and especially to Messrs. Martin, Paine, Farrington,
McNulty and Probasco. For the most part these men have been engaged on
the Bridge from its commencement to its completion. It has always
seemed to the Trustees as if the highest and the humblest workmen
engaged on this work were alike influenced by the spirit of enterprise
in which the Bridge had its origin. Men whose daily compensation was
not more than sufficient to provide them and their families with their
daily bread were at all times ready to take their lives in their
hands in the performance of the imperative and perilous duties
assigned them. In the direct prosecution of the work twenty men lost
their lives. Peace hath its victories, and it has its victims and its
martyrs, too. Of the seven consulting engineers to whom the matured
plans of the elder Roebling were submitted--all men of the highest
eminence in their profession--three have passed away, and four are
living to witness, in the assured success of this structure, the one
ratification of their judgment which cannot be questioned.

It remains for me to say, in conclusion, that the two cities rose at
all times to the level of the spirit of our time and country. Their
citizens staked millions on what seemed to many to be an experiment--a
structure, it was often said, that at its best would not be of any
actual use. How solid it is; how far removed it is from all sense of
apprehension; how severely practical it is in all its relations, and
how great a factor in the corporate lives of these cities it is
destined to be, we all now realize. This Bridge has cost many millions
of dollars, and it has taken many years to build it. May I say on
this occasion that the people whom you represent (turning to where the
Mayors of the two cities stood together) would not part with the
Bridge to-day for even twice or thrice its cost? And may I remind
those who, not unnaturally, perhaps, have been disappointed and
irritated by delays in the past, that those who enter a race with Time
for a competitor have an antagonist that makes no mistakes, is subject
to no interference and liable to no accident.



GENTLEMEN OF THE TRUSTEES--With profound satisfaction, on behalf of
the City of Brooklyn, I accept the completed Bridge. Fourteen times
the earth has made its great march through the heavens since the work
began. The vicissitudes of fourteen years have tried the courage and
the faith of engineers and of people. At last we all rejoice in the
signal triumph. The beautiful and stately structure fulfills the
fondest hope. It will be a source of pleasure to-day to every citizen
that no other name is associated with the end than that which has
directed the work from the beginning--the name of Roebling. With all
my heart I give to him who bears it now the city's acknowledgment and

Fourteen years ago a city of 400,000 people on this side of the river
heard of a projected suspension bridge with incredulity. The span was
so long, the height so great, and the enterprise likely to be so
costly, that few thought of it as something begun in earnest. The
irresistible demands of commerce enforced these hard conditions. But
Science said, "It is possible," and Courage said, "It shall be!"
To-day a city of 600,000 people welcomes with enthusiasm the wonderful
creation of genius. Graceful, and yet majestic, it clings to the land
like a thing that has taken root. Beautiful as a vision of fairyland
it salutes our sight. The impression it makes upon the visitor is one
of astonishment, an astonishment that grows with every visit. No one
who has been upon it can ever forget it. This great structure cannot
be confined to the limits of local pride. The glory of it belongs to
the race. Not one shall see it and not feel prouder to be a man.

And yet it is distinctly an American triumph. American genius designed
it, American skill built it, and American workshops made it. About
1837 the Screw Dock across the river, then known as the Hydrostatic
Lifting Dock, was built. In order to construct it the Americans of
that day were obliged to have the cylinders cast in England. What a
stride from 1837 to 1883--from the Hydrostatic Dock to the New York
and Brooklyn Bridge!

And so this Bridge is a wonder of science. But in no less degree it is
a triumph of faith. I speak not now of the courage of those who
projected it. Except for the faith which removes mountains yonder
river could not have been spanned by this Bridge. It is true that the
material which has gone into it has been paid for; the labor which has
been spent upon it has received its hire. But the money which did
these things was not the money of those who own the Bridge. The money
was lent to them on the faith that these two great cities would redeem
their bond. So have the Alps been tunneled in our day; while the
ancient prophecy has been fulfilled that faith should remove
mountains. We justify this faith in us as we pay for the Bridge by
redeeming the bond.

In the course of the construction of the Bridge a number of lives
have been lost. Does it not sometimes seem as though every work of
enduring value, in the material as in the moral world, must needs be
purchased at the cost of human life? Let us recall with kindness at
this hour the work of those who labored here faithfully unto the
death, no less than of that great army of men who have wrought, year
in and year out, to execute the great design. Let us give our meed of
praise to-day to the humblest workman who has here done his duty well,
no less than to the great engineer who told him what to do.

The importance of this Bridge in its far-reaching effects at once
entices and baffles the imagination. At either end of the Bridge lies
a great city--cities full of vigorous life. The activities and the
energies of each flow over into the other. The electric current has
conveyed unchecked between the two the interchanging thoughts, but the
rapid river has ever bidden halt to the foot of man. It is as though
the population of these cities had been brought down to the
river-side, year after year, there to be taught patience; and as
though, in this Bridge, after these many years, patience had had her
perfect work. The ardent merchant, the busy lawyer, the impatient
traveler--all, without distinction and without exception--at the river
have been told to wait. No one can compute the loss of time ensuing
daily from delays at the ferries to the multitudes crossing the
stream. And time is not only money--it is opportunity. Brooklyn
becomes available, henceforth, as a place of residence to thousands,
to whom the ability to reach their places of business without
interruption from fog and ice is of paramount importance. To all
Brooklyn's present citizens a distinct boon is given. The certainty of
communication with New York afforded by the Bridge is the fundamental
benefit it confers. Incident to this is the opportunity it gives for
rapid communication.

As the water of the lakes found the salt sea when the Erie Canal was
opened, so surely will quick communication seek and find this noble
Bridge, and as the ships have carried hither and thither the products
of the mighty West, so shall diverging railroads transport the people
swiftly to their homes in the hospitable city of Brooklyn. The Erie
Canal is a waterway through the land connecting the great West with
the older East. This Bridge is a landway over the water, connecting
two cities bearing to each other relations in some respects similar.
It is the function of such works to bless "both him that gives and him
that takes." The development of the West has not belittled, but has
enlarged New York, and Brooklyn will grow by reason of this Bridge,
not at New York's expense, but to her permanent advantage. The
Brooklyn of 1900 can hardly be guessed at from the city of to-day. The
hand of Time is a mighty hand. To those who are privileged to live in
sight of this noble structure every line of it should be eloquent with
inspiration. Courage, enterprise, skill, faith, endurance--these are
the qualities which have made the great Bridge, and these are the
qualities which will make our city great and our people great. God
grant they never may be lacking in our midst. Gentlemen of the
Trustees, in accepting the Bridge at your hands, I thank you warmly
in Brooklyn's name for your manifold and arduous labors.



MR. PRESIDENT--On behalf of the City of New York, I accept the great
work which you now tender as ready for the public use of the two
cities which it so substantially and, at the same time, so gracefully
joins together.

The City of New York joyfully unites with the City of Brooklyn in
extending to you, sir, and to those who have been associated with you,
sincere congratulations upon the successful completion of this grand
highway, establishing, as it does, an enduring alliance between these
two great cities. Through the wisdom, energy, zeal and patience of
yourself and your co-laborers in this vast enterprise, we are enabled
this day to recognize the fact that a common and unbroken current
flows through the veins of these two cities, which must add in no
small degree to the strength, healthful growth and prosperity of both,
and we believe that what has thus been joined together shall never be
put asunder.

When, more than fifteen years ago, you, Mr. President, foresaw the
advantages that would surely accrue to these cities from the
establishment of such a means of communication between them, few could
be found to look upon such advantages as other than, at best,
problematical. To-day, however, they are recognized, and so fully,
that before this Bridge was completed the building of another not far
distant had begun to be seriously considered.

It was forty years after the vast advantages of water communication
between the Hudson and the great lakes had dawned upon the mind of
Washington, in the course of a tour through the valley of the Mohawk,
that such a work came to be appreciated by the people, and resulted in
that grand artery of wealth to our State, the Erie Canal. So I believe
it has ever been in the past with the initiation and construction of
great public works, and with the introduction of agencies and methods
which have been of the greatest benefit to mankind throughout the
world, and so perhaps it will ever be. Yet, for the welfare of these
two cities, let us venture the hope that the tide of improvement and
of active preparation is setting in, for it behooves us more than most
are aware to be forecasting our future necessities, and to recognize
the fact that

     There is a tide in the affairs of _cities_,
     Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.

It is not difficult for most of us to look back twenty-five years and
see clearly the wonderful strides which have been made in population,
commerce, manufacturing and financial interests, and in all the
industries which help to make great and prosperous communities; nor is
it difficult to trace the wonders that have been wrought through the
agencies of steam and electricity within those years. But to look
forward twenty-five years and attempt to discern the condition of
things in this metropolis, if they shall continue to move forward on
the same scale of progress, is an undertaking that few can grasp. No
one dares accept the possibilities that are forced upon the mind in
the course of its contemplation. Will these two cities ere then have
been consolidated into one great municipality, numbering within its
limits more than five millions of people? Will the right of
self-government have been accorded to the great city, thus united, and
will her people have learned how best to exercise that right? Will the
progress of improvement and the preparation for commerce,
manufactories and trade, and for the comforts of home for poor and
rich, have kept pace with the demand in the great and growing city?
Will the establishment of life-giving parks, embellished with
appropriate fountains and statues and with the numberless graces of
art, which at once gladden the eye and raise the standard of
civilization, have kept abreast with its growth in wealth and numbers?

These are but few of the pertinent questions which must be answered by
the zealous and honest acts of the generation of men already in active
life. Here are the possibilities; all the elements and conditions are
here; but the results must depend upon the wisdom and patriotism and
energy of those who shall lead in public affairs. May they be clothed
with a spirit of wisdom and knowledge akin to that which inspired
those who conceived and executed the great work which we receive at
your hands and dedicate to-day.


Two hundred and seventy years ago the good ship "Tiger," commanded by
Captain Adraien Block, was burned to the water's edge, as she lay at
anchor, just off the southern end of Manhattan Island. Her crew, thus
forced into winter quarters, were the first white men who built and
occupied a house on the land where New York now stands; "then," to
quote the graphic language of Mrs. Lamb, in her history of the City,
"in primeval solitude, waiting till commerce should come and claim its
own. Nature wore a hardy countenance, as wild and as untamed as the
savage landholders. Manhattan's twenty-two thousand acres of rock,
lake and rolling table land, rising at places to a height of one
hundred and thirty-eight feet, were covered with sombre forests,
grassy knolls and dismal swamps. The trees were lofty; and old,
decayed and withered limbs contrasted with the younger growth of
branches; and wild flowers wasted their sweetness among the dead
leaves and uncut herbage at their roots. The wanton grapevine swung
carelessly from the topmost boughs of the oak and the sycamore; and
blackberry and raspberry bushes, like a picket guard, presented a bold
front in all possible avenues of approach. The entire surface of the
island was bold and granitic, and in profile resembled the
cartilaginous back of the sturgeon."

This primeval scene was the product of natural forces working through
uncounted periods of time; the continent slowly rising and falling in
the sea like the heaving breast of a world asleep; glaciers carving
patiently through ages the deep estuaries; seasons innumerable
clothing the hills with alternate bloom and decay.

The same sun shines to-day upon the same earth; yet how transformed!
Could there be a more astounding exhibition of the power of man to
change the face of nature than the panoramic view which presents
itself to the spectator standing upon the crowning arch of the Bridge,
whose completion we are here to-day to celebrate in the honored
presence of the President of the United States, with their fifty
millions; of the Governor of the State of New York, with its five
millions; and of the Mayors of the two cities, aggregating over two
millions of inhabitants? In the place of stillness and solitude, the
footsteps of these millions of human beings; instead of the smooth
waters "unvexed by any keel," highways of commerce ablaze with the
flags of all the nations; and where once was the green monotony of
forested hills, the piled and towering splendors of a vast metropolis,
the countless homes of industry, the echoing marts of trade, the
gorgeous palaces of luxury, the silent and steadfast spires of

To crown all, the work of separation wrought so surely, yet so slowly,
by the hand of Time, is now reversed in our own day, and "Manahatta"
and "Seawanhaka" are joined again, as once they were before the dawn
of life in the far azoic ages.

                 "It is done!
         Clang of bell and roar of gun
     Send the tidings up and down.
         How the belfries rock and reel!
         How the great guns, peal on peal,
     Fling the joy from town to town!"

"What hath God wrought!" were the words of wonder, which ushered into
being the magnetic telegraph, the greatest marvel of the many
marvelous inventions of the present century. It was the natural
impulse of the pious maiden who chose this first message of reverence
and awe, to look to the Divine Power as the author of a new gospel.
For it was the invisible, and not the visible agency, which addressed
itself to her perceptions. Neither the bare poles, nor the slender
wire, nor the silent battery, could suggest an adequate explanation of
the extinction of time and space which was manifest to her senses, and
she could only say, "What hath God wrought!"

But when we turn from the unsightly telegraph to the graceful
structure at whose portal we stand, and when the airy outline of its
curves of beauty, pendant between massive towers suggestive of art
alone, is contrasted with the over-reaching vault of heaven above and
the ever-moving flood of waters beneath, the work of omnipotent power,
we are irresistibly moved to exclaim, "What hath _man_ wrought!"

Man hath, indeed, wrought far more than strikes the eye in this daring
undertaking, by the general judgment of engineers, without a rival
among the wonders of human skill. It is not the work of any one man or
of any one age. It is the result of the study, of the experience, and
of the knowledge of many men in many ages. It is not merely a
creation--it is a growth. It stands before us to-day as the sum and
epitome of human knowledge; as the very heir of the ages; as the
latest glory of centuries of patient observation, profound study and
accumulated skill, gained, step by step, in the never-ending struggle
of man to subdue the forces of nature to his control and use.

In no previous period of the world's history could this Bridge have
been built. Within the last hundred years the greater part of the
knowledge necessary for its erection has been gained. Chemistry was
not born until 1776, the year when political economy was ushered into
the world by Adam Smith, and the Declaration of Independence was
proclaimed by the Continental Congress, to be maintained at the point
of the sword by George Washington. In the same year Watt produced his
successful steam engine, and a century has not elapsed since the first
specimen of his skill was erected on this continent. The law of
gravitation was indeed known a hundred years ago, but the intricate
laws of force, which now control the domain of industry, had not been
developed by the study of physical science, and their practical
applications have only been effectually accomplished within our own
day, and, indeed, some of the most important of them during the
building of the Bridge. For use in the caissons, the perfecting of the
electric light came too late, though, happily, in season for the
illumination of the finished work.

This construction has not only employed every abstract conclusion and
formula of mathematics, whether derived from the study of the earth
or the heavens, but the whole structure may be said to rest upon a
mathematical foundation. The great discoveries of chemistry, showing
the composition of water, the nature of gases, the properties of
metals; the laws and processes of physics, from the strains and
pressures of mighty masses to the delicate vibrations of molecules,
are all recorded here. Every department of human industry is
represented, from the quarrying and the cutting of the stones, the
mining and smelting of the ores, the conversion of iron into steel by
the pneumatic process, to the final shaping of the masses of metal
into useful forms, and its reduction into wire, so as to develop in
the highest degree the tensile strength which fits it for the work of
suspension. Every tool which the ingenuity of man has invented has
somewhere, in some special detail, contributed its share in the
accomplishment of the final result.

     "Ah! what a wondrous thing it is
     To note how many wheels of toil
     One word, one thought can set in motion."

But without the most recent discoveries of science, which have enabled
steel to be substituted for iron--applications made since the original
plans of the Bridge were devised--we should have had a structure fit,
indeed, for use, but of such moderate capacity that we could not have
justified the claim which we are now able to make, that the cities of
New York and Brooklyn have constructed, and to-day rejoice in the
possession of, the crowning glory of an age memorable for great
industrial achievements.

This is not the proper occasion for describing the details of this
undertaking. This grateful task will be performed by the engineer in
the final report, with which every great work is properly committed to
the judgment of posterity. But there are some lessons to be drawn from
the line of thought I have followed which may encourage and comfort us
as to the destiny of man and the outcome of human progress.

What message, then, of hope and cheer does this achievement convey to
those who would fain believe that love travels hand in hand with light
along the rugged pathway of time? Have the discoveries of science,
the triumphs of art and the progress of civilization, which have made
its accomplishment a possibility and a reality, promoted the welfare
of mankind, and raised the great mass of the people to a higher plane
of life?

This question can best be answered by comparing the compensation of
the labor employed in the building of this Bridge with the earnings of
labor upon works of equal magnitude in ages gone by. The money
expended for the work of construction proper on the Bridge, exclusive
of land damages and other outlays, such as interest, not entering into
actual cost, is nine million ($9,000,000) dollars. This money has been
distributed in numberless channels--for quarrying, for mining, for
smelting, for fabricating the metals, for shaping the materials, and
erecting the work, employing every kind and form of human labor. The
wages paid at the Bridge itself may be taken as the fair standard of
the wages paid for the work done elsewhere. These wages are:

Laborers,                $1 75           per day.
Blacksmiths,              3 50 to $4 00    do.
Carpenters,               3 00 to  3 50    do.
Masons and Stonecutters,  3 50 to  4 00    do.
Riggers,                  2 00 to  2 50    do.
Painters,                 2 00 to  3 50    do.

Taking all these kinds of labor into account, the wages paid for work
on the Bridge will thus average $2.50 per day.

Now, if this work had been done at the time when the Pyramids were
built, with the skill, appliances and tools then in use, and if the
money available for its execution had been limited to nine million
($9,000,000) dollars, the laborers employed would have received an
average of not more than two cents per day, in money of the same
purchasing power as the coin of the present era. In other words, the
effect of the discoveries of new methods, tools and laws of force, has
been to raise the wages of labor more than an hundred fold, in the
interval which has elapsed since the Pyramids were built. I shall not
weaken the suggestive force of this statement by any comments upon
its astounding evidence of progress, beyond the obvious corollary that
such a state of civilization as gave birth to the Pyramids would now
be the signal for universal bloodshed, revolution and anarchy. I do
not underestimate the hardships borne by the labor of our time. They
are, indeed, grievous, and to lighten them is, as it should be, the
chief concern of statesmanship. But this comparison proves that
through forty centuries these hardships have been steadily diminished;
that all the achievements of science, all the discoveries of art, all
the inventions of genius, all the progress of civilization, tend by a
higher and immutable law to the steady and certain amelioration of the
condition of society. It shows that, notwithstanding the apparent
growth of great fortunes, due to an era of unparalleled development,
the distribution of the fruits of labor is approaching from age to age
to more equitable conditions, and must, at last, reach the plane of
absolute justice between man and man.

But this is not the only lesson to be drawn from such a comparison.
The Pyramids were built by the sacrifices of the living for the dead.
They served no useful purpose, except to make odious to future
generations the tyranny which degrades humanity to the level of the
brute. In this age of the world such a waste of effort would not be
tolerated. To-day the expenditures of communities are directed to
useful purposes. Except upon works designed for defence in time of
war, the wealth of society is now mainly expended in opening channels
of communication for the free play of commerce, and the communion of
the human race. An analysis of the distribution of the surplus
earnings of man after providing food, shelter and raiment, shows that
they are chiefly absorbed by railways, canals, ships, bridges and
telegraphs. In ancient times these objects of expenditure were
scarcely known. Our Bridge is one of the most conspicuous examples of
this change in the social condition of the world, and of the feeling
of men. In the Middle Ages cities walled each other out, and the
fetters of prejudice and tyranny held the energies of man in hopeless
bondage. To-day men and nations seek free intercourse with each
other, and much of the force of the intellect and energy of the world
is expended in breaking down the barriers established by nature, or
created by man, to the solidarity of the human race.

And yet, in view of this tendency, the most striking and
characteristic feature of the nineteenth century, there still are
those who believe and teach that obstruction is the creator of wealth;
that the peoples can be made great and free by the erection of
artificial barriers to the beneficent action of commerce, and the
unrestricted intercourse of men and nations with each other. If they
are right, then this Bridge is a colossal blunder, and the doctrine
which bids us to love our neighbors as ourselves is founded upon a
misconception of the divine purpose.

But the Bridge is more than an embodiment of the scientific knowledge
of physical laws, or a symbol of social tendencies. It is equally a
monument to the moral qualities of the human soul. It could never have
been built by mere knowledge and scientific skill alone. It
required, in addition, the infinite patience and unwearied courage by
which great results are achieved. It demanded the endurance of heat,
and cold, and physical distress. Its constructors have had to face
death in its most repulsive form. Death, indeed, was the fate of its
great projector, and dread disease the heritage of the greater
engineer who has brought it to completion. The faith of the saint and
the courage of the hero have been combined in the conception, the
design and the execution of this work.

Let us, then, record the names of the engineers and foremen who have
thus made humanity itself their debtor for a successful achievement,
not the result of accident or of chance, but the fruit of design, and
of the consecration of all personal interest to the public weal. They
are: John A. Roebling, who conceived the project and formulated the
plan of the Bridge; Washington A. Roebling, who, inheriting his
father's genius, and more than his father's knowledge and skill, has
directed the execution of this great work from its inception to its
completion; aided in the several departments by Charles C. Martin,
Francis Collingwood, William H. Paine, George W. McNulty, Wilhelm
Hildenbrand and Samuel R. Probasco as assistant engineers; and as
foremen by E.F. Farrington, Arthur V. Abbott, William Van der Bosch,
Charles Young and Harry Tupple, who, in apparently subordinate
positions, have shown themselves peculiarly fitted to command, because
they have known how to serve. But the record would not be complete
without reference to the unnamed men by whose unflinching courage, in
the depths of the caissons, and upon the suspended wires, the work was
carried on amid storms, and accidents, and dangers, sufficient to
appall the stoutest heart. To them we can only render the tribute
which history accords to those who fight as privates in the battles of
freedom, with all the more devotion and patriotism because their names
will never be known by the world whose benefactors they are. One name,
however, which may find no place in the official records, cannot be
passed over here in silence. In ancient times when great works were
constructed, a goddess was chosen, to whose tender care they were
dedicated. Thus the ruins of the Acropolis to-day recall the name of
Pallas Athene to an admiring world. In the Middle Ages, the blessing
of some saint was invoked to protect from the rude attacks of the
barbarians, and the destructive hand of time, the building erected by
man's devotion to the worship of God. So, with this Bridge will ever
be coupled the thought of one, through the subtle alembic of whose
brain, and by whose facile fingers, communication was maintained
between the directing power of its construction, and the obedient
agencies of its execution. It is thus an everlasting monument to the
self-sacrificing devotion of woman, and of her capacity for that
higher education from which she has been too long debarred. The name
of Mrs. Emily Warren Roebling will thus be inseparably associated with
all that is admirable in human nature, and with all that is wonderful
in the constructive world of art.

This tribute to the engineers, however, would not be deserved, if
there is to be found any evidence of deception on their part in the
origin of the work, or any complicity with fraud in its execution
and completion. It is this consideration which induced me to accept
the unexpected invitation of the trustees to speak for the city of New
York on the present occasion. When they thus honored me, they did not
know that John A. Roebling addressed to me the letter in which he
first suggested (and, so far as I am aware, he was the first engineer
to suggest), the feasibility of a bridge between the two cities, so
constructed as to preserve unimpaired the freedom of navigation. This
letter, dated June 19, 1857, I caused to be printed in the _New York
Journal of Commerce_, where it attracted great attention because it
came from an engineer who had already demonstrated, by successfully
building suspension bridges over the Schuylkill, the Ohio and the
Niagara rivers, that he spoke with the voice of experience and
authority. This letter was the first step towards the construction of
the work, which, however, came about in a manner different from his
expectations, and was finally completed on a plan more extensive than
he had ventured to describe. It has been charged that the original
estimates of cost have been far exceeded by the actual outlay. If this
were true, the words of praise which I have uttered for the engineers,
who designed and executed this work, ought rather to have been a
sentence of censure and condemnation. Hence, the invitation which came
to me unsought, seemed rather to be an appeal from the grave for such
vindication as it was within my power to make, and which could not
come with equal force from any other quarter.

Engineers are of two kinds: the creative and the constructive. The
power to conceive great works demands imagination and faith. The
creative engineer, like the poet, is born, not made. If to the power
to conceive, is added the ability to execute, then have we one of
those rare geniuses who not only give a decided impulse to
civilization, but add new glory to humanity. Such men were Michael
Angelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Watt, Wedgwood, Brunel, Stephenson and
Bessemer; and such a man was John A. Roebling. It was his striking
peculiarity, that while his conceptions were bold and original, his
execution was always exact, and within the limits of cost which he
assigned to the work of his brain. He had made bridges a study, and
had declared in favor of the suspension principle for heavy traffic,
when the greatest living authorities had condemned it as costly and
unsafe. When he undertook to build a suspension bridge for railway
use, he did so in the face of the deliberate judgment of the
profession, that success would be impossible. Stephenson had condemned
the suspension principle and approved the tubular girder for railway
traffic. But it was the Nemesis of his fate, that when he came out to
approve the location of the great tubular bridge at Montreal, he
should pass over the Niagara River in a railway train, on a suspension
bridge, which he had declared to be an impracticable undertaking.

When Roebling suggested the Bridge over the East River, his ideas were
limited to the demands of the time, and controlled by the necessity
for a profitable investment. He had no expectation that the two cities
would embark in the enterprise. Indeed, in one of his letters so late
as April 14, 1860, he says, "As to the corporations of New York and
Brooklyn undertaking the job, no such hope may be entertained in our
time." In eight years thereafter, these cities had undertaken the task
upon a scale of expense far exceeding his original ideas of a
structure, to be built exclusively by private capital for the sake of

How came this miracle to pass? The war of the rebellion occurred,
delaying for a time the further consideration of Roebling's ideas.
This war accustomed the nation to expenditures on a scale of which it
had no previous conception. It did more than expend large sums of
money. Officials became corrupt and organized themselves for plunder.
In the city of New York, especially, the government fell into the
hands of a band of thieves, who engaged in a series of great and
beneficial public works, not for the good they might do, but for the
opportunity which they would afford to rob the public treasury. They
erected court-houses and armories; they opened roads, boulevards and
parks; and they organized two of the grandest devices for
transportation which the genius of man has ever conceived; a rapid
transit railway for New York, and a great highway between New York and
Brooklyn. The Bridge was commenced, but the Ring was driven into exile
by the force of public indignation, before the rapid transit scheme,
since executed on a different route by private capital, was
undertaken. The collapse of the Ring brought the work on the Bridge to
a stand-still.

It was a timely event. The patriotic New Yorker might well have
exclaimed, just before this great deliverance, in the words of the
Consul of ancient Rome, in Macaulay's stirring poem,

     "And if they once may win the bridge,
     What hope to save the town?"

Meanwhile, the elder Roebling had died, leaving behind him his
estimates and the general plans of the structure, to cost, independent
of land damages and interest, about $7,000,000. This great work which,
if not "conceived in sin," was "brought forth in iniquity," thus
became the object of great suspicion, and of a prejudice which has not
been removed to this day. I know that to many I make a startling
announcement, when I state the incontrovertible fact, that no money
was ever stolen by the Ring from the funds of the Bridge; that the
whole money raised has been honestly expended; that the estimates for
construction have not been materially exceeded; and that the excess of
cost over the estimates is due to purchases of land which were never
included in the estimates; to interest paid on the city subscriptions;
to the cost of additional height and breadth of the Bridge; and the
increase in strength rendered necessary by a better comprehension of
the volume of traffic between the two cities. The items covered by the
original estimate of $7,000,000 have thus been raised to $9,000,000,
so that $2,000,000 represents the addition to the original estimates.

For this excess, amounting to less than thirty per cent., there is
actual value in the Bridge in dimension and strength, whereby its
working capacity has been greatly increased. The carriage-ways, as
originally designed, would have permitted only a single line of
vehicles in each direction. The speed of the entire procession, more
than a mile long, would, therefore, have been limited by the rate of
the slowest; and every accident causing stoppage to a single cart
would have stopped everything behind it for an indefinite period. It
is not too much to say that the removal of this objection, by widening
the carriage-ways, has multiplied manifold the practical usefulness of
the Bridge.

The statement I have made is due to the memory not only of John A.
Roebling, but also of Henry C. Murphy, that great man who devoted his
last years to this enterprise; and who, having, like Moses, led the
people through the toilsome way, was permitted only to look, but not
to enter upon the promised land.

This testimony is due also to the living trustees and to the engineers
who have controlled and directed this large expenditure in the public
service, the latter, in the conscientious discharge of professional
duty; and the former, with no other object than the welfare of the
public, and without any other possible reward than the good opinion of
their fellow-citizens.

I do not make this statement without a full sense of the
responsibility which it involves, and I realize that its accuracy will
shortly be tested by the report of experts who are now examining the
accounts. But it will be found that I have spoken the words of truth
and soberness. When the Ring absconded I was asked by William C.
Havemeyer, then the Mayor of New York, to become a trustee, in order
to investigate the expenditures, and to report as to the propriety of
going on with the work. This duty was performed without fear or favor.
The methods by which the Ring proposed to benefit themselves were
clear enough, but its members fled before they succeeded in
reimbursing themselves for the preliminary expenses which they had
defrayed. With their flight a new era commenced, and during the three
years when I acted as a trustee, I am sure that no fraud was
committed, and that none was possible. Since that time the Board has
been controlled by trustees, some of whom are thorough experts in
bridge building, and the others men of such high character that the
suggestion of malpractice is improbable to absurdity.

The Bridge has not only been honestly built, but it may be safely
asserted that it could not now be duplicated at the same cost. Much
money might, however, have been saved if the work had not been delayed
through want of means, and unnecessary obstacles interposed by
mistaken public officials. Moreover, measured by its capacity, and the
limitations imposed on its construction by its relation to the
interests of traffic and navigation, it is the cheapest structure ever
erected by the genius of man. This will be made evident by a single
comparison with the Britannia Tubular Bridge erected by Stephenson
over the Menai Straits. He adopted the tubular principle, because he
believed that the suspension principle could not be made practical for
railway traffic, although he had to deal with spans not greater than
470 feet. He built a structure that contained 10,540 tons of iron, and
cost 601,000 pounds sterling, or about $3,000,000. Fortunately he has
left a calculation on record as to the possible extension of the
tubular girder, showing that it would reach the limits in which it
could bear only its own weight (62,000 tons), at 1,570 feet. Now,
for a span of 1,595-1/2 feet, the Brooklyn Bridge contains but 6,740
tons of material, and will sustain seven times its own weight. Its
cost is $9,000,000, whereas a tubular bridge for the same span would
contain ten times the weight of metal, and though costing twice as
much money, would be without the ability to do any useful work.

Roebling, therefore, solved the problem which had defied Stephenson;
and upon his design has been built a successful structure, at half the
cost of a tubular bridge that would have fallen when loaded in actual
use. It is impossible to furnish any more striking proof of the genius
which originated, and of the economy which constructed this triumph of
American engineering.

We have thus a monument to the public spirit of the two cities,
created by an expenditure as honest and as economical as the
management which gave us the Erie Canal, the Croton Aqueduct, and the
Central Park. Otherwise, it would have been a monument to the eternal
infamy of the trustees and of the engineers under whose supervision
it has been erected, and this brings me to the final consideration
which I feel constrained to offer on this point.

During all these years of trial, and false report, a great soul lay in
the shadow of death, praying only to stay long enough for the
completion of the work to which he had devoted his life. I say a great
soul, for in the spring-time of youth, with friends and fortune at his
command, he gave himself to his country, and for her sake braved death
on many a well-fought battle-field. When restored to civil life, his
health was sacrificed to the duties which had devolved upon him, as
the inheritor of his father's fame, and the executor of his father's
plans. Living only for honor, and freed from the temptations of narrow
means, how is it conceivable that such a man--whose approval was
necessary to every expenditure--should, by conniving with jobbers,
throw away more than the life which was dear to him, that he might
fulfill his destiny, and leave to his children the heritage of a good
name and the glory of a grand achievement? Well may this suffering
hero quote the words of Hyperion: "Oh, I have looked with wonder
upon those, who, in sorrow and privation, and bodily discomfort, and
sickness, which is the shadow of death, have worked right on to the
accomplishment of their great purposes; toiling much, enduring much,
fulfilling much; and then, with shattered nerves, and sinews all
unstrung, have laid themselves down in the grave, and slept the sleep
of death, and the world talks of them while they sleep! And as in the
sun's eclipse we can behold the great stars shining in the heavens, so
in this life-eclipse have these men beheld the lights of the great
eternity, burning solemnly and forever!"

And now what is to be the outcome of this great expenditure upon the
highway which unites the two cities, for which Dr. Storrs and I have
the honor to speak to-day? That Brooklyn will gain in numbers and in
wealth with accelerated speed is a foregone conclusion. Whether this
gain shall in any wise be at the expense of New York, is a matter in
regard to which the great metropolis does not concern herself. Her
citizens are content with the knowledge that she exists and grows
with the growth of the whole country, of whose progress and prosperity
she is but the exponent and the index. Will the Bridge lead, as has
been forcibly suggested, and in some quarters hopefully anticipated,
to the further union of the two cities under one name and one
government? This suggestion is in part sentimental and in part
practical. So far as the union in name is concerned, it is scarcely
worth consideration, for in any comparison which our national or local
pride may institute between this metropolis and the other great cities
of the world, its environment, whether in Long Island, Staten Island,
or New Jersey, will always be included. In considering the population
of London, no one ever separates the city proper from the surrounding
parts. They are properly regarded as one homogeneous aggregation of
human beings.

It is only when we come to consider the problem of governing great
masses that the serious elements of the question present themselves,
and must be determined before a satisfactory answer can be given. The
tendency of modern civilization is towards the concentration of
population in dense masses. This is due to the higher and more
diversified life, which can be secured by association and co-operation
on a large scale, affording not merely greater comfort and often
luxury, but actually distributing the fruits of labor on a more
equitable basis than is possible in sparsely settled regions and among
feeble communities. The great improvements of our day in labor-saving
machinery, and its application to agriculture, enable the nation to be
fed with a less percentage of its total force thus applied, and leave
a larger margin of population free to engage in such other pursuits as
are best carried on in large cities.

The disclosures of the last census prove the truth of this statement.
At the first census in 1790 the population resident in cities was 3.3
per cent. of the total population. This percentage slowly gained at
each successive census, until in 1840 it had reached 8.5 per cent. In
fifty years it had thus gained a little over five per cent. But in
1850 it rose to 12.5 per cent.; in 1860 it was 16.1 per cent.; in 1870
it was 20.9 per cent., having in this one decade gained as much as in
the first fifty years of our political existence. In 1880 the
population resident in cities was 22.5 per cent. of the whole

With this rapid growth of urban population, have grown the
contemporaneous complaints of corrupt administration and bad municipal
government. The outcry may be said to be universal, for it comes from
both sides of the Atlantic; and the complaints appear to be in direct
proportion to the size of cities. It is obvious, therefore, that the
knowledge of the art of local government has not kept pace with the
growth of population. I am here by your favor to speak for the city of
New York, and I should be the last person to throw any discredit on
its fair fame; but I think I only give voice to the general feeling,
when I say that the citizens of New York are satisfied neither with
the structure of its government, nor with its actual administration,
even when it is in the hands of intelligent and honest officials.
Dissatisfied as we are, no man has been able to devise a system which
commends itself to the general approval, and it may be asserted that
the remedy is not to be found in devices for any special machinery of
government. Experiments without number have been tried, and
suggestions in infinite variety have been offered, but to-day no man
can say that we have approached any nearer to the idea of good
government, which is demanded by the intelligence and the wants of the

If, therefore, New York has not yet learned to govern itself, how can
it be expected to be better governed by adding half a million to its
population, and a great territory to its area, unless it be with the
idea that a "little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." Is Brooklyn that
leaven? If not, and if possibly "the salt has lost its savor,
wherewith shall it be salted?" Brooklyn is now struggling with this
problem, it remains to be seen with what success; but meanwhile it is
idle to consider the idea of getting rid of our common evils by adding
them together.

Besides it is a fundamental axiom in politics, approved by the
experience of older countries, as well as of our own, that the sources
of power should never be far removed from those who are to feel its
exercise. It is the violation of this principle which produces chronic
revolution in France, and makes the British rule so obnoxious to the
Irish people. This evil is happily avoided when a natural boundary
circumscribes administration within narrow limits. While, therefore,
we rejoice together at the new bond between New York and Brooklyn, we
ought to rejoice the more, that it destroys none of the conditions
which permit each city to govern itself, but rather urges them to a
generous rivalry in perfecting each its own government, recognizing
the truth, that there is no true liberty without law, and that eternal
vigilance, which is the only safeguard of liberty, can best be
exercised within limited areas.

It would be a most fortunate conclusion, if the completion of this
Bridge should arouse public attention to the absolute necessity of
good municipal government, and recall the only principle upon which it
can ever be successfully founded. There is reason to hope that this
result will follow, because the erection of this structure shows how a
problem, analogous to that which confronts us in regard to the city
government, has been met and solved in the domain of physical science.

The men who controlled this enterprise at the outset were not all of
the best type; some of them, as we have seen, were public jobbers. But
they knew that they could not build a bridge, although they had no
doubt of their ability to govern a city. They thereupon proceeded to
organize the knowledge which existed as to the construction of
bridges; and they held the organization thus created responsible for
results. Now, we know that it is at least as difficult to govern a
city as to build a bridge, and yet, as citizens, we have deliberately
allowed the ignorance of the community to be organized for its
government, and we then complain that it is a failure. Until we
imitate the example of the Ring, and organize the intelligence of the
community for its government, our complaint is childish and
unreasonable. But we shall be told that there is no analogy between
building a bridge and governing a city. Let us examine this objection.
A city is made up of infinite interests. They vary from hour to hour,
and conflict is the law of their being. Many of the elements of social
life are what mathematicians term "variables of the independent
order." The problem is, to reconcile these conflicting interests and
variable elements into one organization which shall work without jar,
and allow each citizen to pursue his calling, if it be an honest one,
in peace and quiet.

Now, turn to the Bridge. It looks like a motionless mass of masonry
and metal; but, as a matter of fact, it is instinct with motion. There
is not a particle of matter in it which is at rest even for the
minutest portion of time. It is an aggregation of unstable elements,
changing with every change in the temperature, and every movement of
the heavenly bodies. The problem was, out of these unstable elements,
to produce absolute stability; and it was this problem which the
engineers, the organized intelligence, had to solve, or confess to
inglorious failure. The problem has been solved. In the first
construction of suspension bridges it was attempted to check, repress
and overcome their motion, and failure resulted. It was then seen that
motion is the law of existence for suspension bridges, and provision
was made for its free play. Then they became a success. The Bridge
before us elongates and contracts between the extremes of temperature
from 14 to 16 inches; the vertical rise and fall in the centre of the
main span ranges between 2 ft. 3 in. and 2 ft. 9 in.; and before the
suspenders were attached to the cable it actually revolved on its own
axis through an arc of thirty degrees, when exposed to the sun shining
upon it on one side. You do not perceive this motion, and you would
know nothing about it unless you watched the gauges which record its

Now if our political system were guided by organized intelligence, it
would not seek to repress the free play of human interests and
emotions, of human hopes and fears, but would make provision for their
development and exercise, in accordance with the higher law of
liberty and morality. A large portion of our vices and crimes are
created either by law, or its maladministration. These laws exist
because organized ignorance, like a highwayman with a club, is
permitted to stand in the way of wise legislation and honest
administration, and to demand satisfaction from the spoils of office,
and the profits of contracts. Of this state of affairs we complain,
and on great occasions the community arises in its wrath, and visits
summary punishment on the offenders of the hour, and then relapses
into chronic grumbling until grievances sufficiently accumulate to
stir it again to action.

What is the remedy for this state of affairs? Shall there be no more
political parties, and shall we shatter the political machinery which,
bad as it is, is far better than no machinery at all? Shall we embrace
nihilism as our creed, because we have practical communism forced upon
us as the consequence of jobbery, and the imposition of unjust taxes?

No, let us rather learn the lesson of the Bridge. Instead of
attempting to restrict suffrage, let us try to educate the voters;
instead of disbanding parties, let each citizen within the party
always vote, but never for a man who is unfit to hold office. Thus
parties, as well as voters, will be organized on the basis of

But what man is fit to hold office? Only he who regards political
office as a public trust, and not as a private perquisite to be used
for the pecuniary advantage of himself or his family, or even his
party. Is there intelligence enough in these cities, if thus organized
within the parties, to produce the result which we desire? Why, the
overthrow of the Tweed Ring was conclusive evidence of the
preponderance of public virtue in the city of New York. In no other
country in the world, and in no other political system than one which
provides for and secures universal suffrage, would such a sudden and
peaceful revolution have been possible. The demonstration of this fact
was richly worth the twenty-five or thirty millions of dollars which
the thieves had stolen. Thereafter, and thenceforth, there could be no
doubt whether our city population, heterogeneous as it is, contains
within itself sufficient virtue for its own preservation. Let it never
be forgotten that the remedy is complete; that it is ever present;
that no man ought to be deprived of the opportunity of its exercise;
and that, if it be exercised, the will of the community can never be
paralyzed. Our safety and our success rest on the ballot in the hands
of freemen at the polls, deliberately deposited, never for an unworthy
man, but always with a profound sense of the responsibility which
should govern every citizen in the exercise of this fundamental right.

If the lesson of the Bridge, which I have thus sought to enforce,
shall revive the confidence of the people in their own power, and
induce them to use it practically for the election to office of good
men, clothed, as were the engineers, with sufficient authority, and
held, as they were, to corresponding responsibility for results, then,
indeed, will its completion be a public blessing, worthy of the new
era of industrial development in which it is our fortunate lot to

Great, indeed, has been our national progress. Perhaps we, who belong
to a commercial community, do not fully realize its significance and
promise. We buy and sell stocks, without stopping to think that they
represent the most astonishing achievements of enterprise and skill in
the magical extension of our vast railway system; we speculate in
wheat, without reflecting on the stupendous fact that the plains of
Dakota and California are feeding hungry mouths in Europe; we hear
that the Treasury has made a call for bonds, and forget that the rapid
extinction of our national debt is a proof of our prosperity and
patriotism, as wonderful to the world as was the power we exhibited in
the struggle which left that apparently crushing burden upon us. If,
then, we deal successfully with the evils which threaten our political
life, who can venture to predict the limits of our future wealth and
glory--wealth that shall enrich all; glory that shall be no selfish
heritage, but the blessing of mankind? Beyond all legends of oriental
treasure, beyond all dreams of the golden age, will be the splendor,
and majesty, and happiness of the free people dwelling upon this fair
domain, when fulfilling the promise of the ages and the hopes of
humanity they shall have learned how to make equitable distribution
among themselves of the fruits of their common labor. Then, indeed,
will be realized by a waiting world the youthful vision of our own

       "Here the free spirit of mankind at length
       Throws its last fetters off; and who shall place
     A limit to the giant's untamed strength,
       Or curb its swiftness in the forward race?
     Far, like the comet's way through infinite space,
       Stretches the long untraveled path of light
     Into the depths of ages; we may trace
       Distant, the brightening glory of its flight,
       Till the receding rays are lost to human sight."

At the ocean gateway of such a nation well may stand the stately
figure of "Liberty enlightening the World;" and, in hope and faith, as
well as gratitude, we write upon the towers of our beautiful Bridge,
to be illuminated by her electric ray, the words of exultation,
"_Finis coronat opus_."




MR. CHAIRMAN--FELLOW-CITIZENS: It can surprise no one that we
celebrate the completion of this great work, in which lines of
delicate and aerial grace are combined with a strength more enduring
than of marbles, and the woven wires prolong to these heights the
metropolitan avenues. After delays which have often disturbed the
popular patience, and have oftener disappointed the hopes of the
builders, we gratefully welcome this superb consummation: rejoicing to
know that "the silver streak" which so long has divided this city from
the continent, is conquered, henceforth, by the silver band stretching
above it, careless alike of wind and tide, of ice and fog, of current
and of calm.

To the mind which, for fourteen years, has watched, guided, and
governed the work, looking out upon it through physical organs almost
fatally smitten in its prosecution, we bring our eager and unanimous
tribute of honor and applause. He who took up, elaborated, and has
brought to fulfillment the plans of the father whose own life had been
sacrificed in their furtherance, has builded to both the noblest
memorial. He may with truth have said, heretofore, as the furnaces
have glowed from which this welded network has come, in the words of
Schiller's "Lay of the Bell:"

     "Deep hid within the nether cell
       What Force with Fire is moulding thus,
     In yonder airy towers shall dwell,
       And witness wide and far of us."

He may, at this hour, add for himself the lines which the poet hears
from the lips of his House-Master:

     "My house is built upon a rock,
     And sees unmoved the stormy shock
     Of waves that fret below."

It must be a superlative moment in life when one stands on a
structure as majestic as this which was at first a mere thought in the
brain, which was afterward a plan on the paper, and which has been
transported hither, from quarry and mine, from wood-yard and workshop,
on the point of his pencil.

He would be the first to acknowledge also, if he were speaking, the
intelligent, faithful, indefatigable service rendered in execution of
his plans by those who have been associated with him, as assistant
engineers, as master mechanics, or as trained, trusted, and
experienced workmen. On their knowledge and vigilance, their practiced
skill and patient fidelity, the work has of necessity largely depended
for its completed grace and strength. They have wrought the zealous
labor of years into all parts of it; and it will bear to them
hereafter, as it does to-day, most honorable witness.

Some of our honored fellow-citizens, who have borne a distinguished
part in this enterprise, are no more here to share our festivities.
Mr. John H. Prentice, for years the Treasurer of the Board, wise in
counsel, of a liberal yet a watchful economy, of incorruptible
integrity, passed from the earth two years ago; but to those who knew
him his memory is as fresh as the verdure above his grave at
Greenwood. More lately, one who had been from the outset associated
with what to many appeared this visionary plan, to whose capacity and
experience, his legal skill, his legislative influence, his social
distinction, the work has been always largely indebted, and who was
for years the President of the Board, has followed into the silent
land. It is a grief to all who knew him that he is not here to see the
consummation of labors and plans which for years had occupied his
life. But his face and figure are before us, almost as distinctly as
if he were present; and it will be only the dullest forgetfulness
which can ever cease to connect with this Bridge the name of the
accomplished scholar, the experienced diplomatist, the untiring
worker, the cordial and ever-helpful friend, Mr. Henry C. Murphy.

But others remain to whom the work has brought its burdens, of labor,
care, and long solicitude, sometimes, no doubt, of a public criticism
whose imperious sharpness they may have felt, but who have followed
their plans to completion, without wavering or pause; who have,
indeed, expanded those plans as the progress of the work has suggested
enlargement; and who, to-day, enter the reward which belongs to those
who, after promoting a magnificent enterprise, see it accomplished.
Among them are two who were associated with it at the beginning, and
who have continued so associated from that day to this--Mr. William C.
Kingsley, Mr. James S.T. Stranahan. The judgment cannot be mistaken
which affirms that to these men, more than to any other citizens
remaining among us, the prosecution of this work to its crowning
success is properly ascribed. They are the true orators of the hour.
We may praise, but they have builded. On the tenacity of their
purpose, of which that of these combining wires only presents the
physical image,--on the lift of their wills, stronger than of these
consenting cables,--the immense structure has risen to its place. No
grander work has it been given to men to do for the city, which will
feel the unfailing impulse of their foresight and courage, their
wisdom in counsel, and their resolute service, to the end of its

Mr. William Marshall, Gen. Henry W. Slocum, were also connected with
the work at the outset, and, with intervals in the period of their
service, have given it important assistance to the end; while others
are with us who have joined with intelligence, enthusiasm, and
helpfulness in the councils of the Board at different times. We
rejoice in the presence of all those who, earlier or later, have taken
part in the plans, at once vast and minute, which now are realized. We
offer them the tribute of our admiring and grateful esteem. We trust
that their remembrance of the work they have accomplished, and their
personal experience of its manifold benefits, may continue through
many happy years. And we congratulate ourselves, as well as them, that
the city will keep the memorial of them, not in yonder tablets alone,
but in the great fabric above which those stand, while stone and steel
retain their strength.

But, after all, the real builder of this surpassing and significant
structure has been the people: whose watchfulness of its progress has
been constant, whose desire for its benefits has been the incentive
behind its plans, by whom its treasury has been supplied, whose
exultant gladness now welcomes its success. The people of New York
have illustrated anew their magnanimous spirit in cheerfully supplying
their share of the cost, though not anticipating from such large
outlay direct reliefs and signal advantages. The people of Brooklyn
have shown at least an intelligent, intrepid, and far-sighted
sagacity, in readily accepting the immediate burdens in expectation of
future returns.

Such a popular achievement is one to be proud of. St. Petersburg could
be commenced 180 years ago--almost to a day, on May 27th, 1703--and
could afterward be built, by the will of an autocrat, to give him a
new centre of empire, with a nearer outlook over Europe; its palaces
rising on artificial foundations, which it cost, it is said, 100,000
lives in the first year to lay. Paris could be reconstructed,
twenty-five years ago, by the mandate of an emperor, determined to
make it more beautiful than before, to open new avenues for guns and
troops, to give to its laborers, who might become troublesome, desired
occupation. But not only have these cities of ours been founded,
built, reconstructed by the people, but this charming and mighty
avenue in the air, by which they are henceforth rebuilt into one, is
to the people's honor and praise. It shows what multitudes,
democratically organized, can do if they will. It will show, to those
who shall succeed us, to what largeness of enterprise, what patience
of purpose, what liberal wisdom, the populations now ruling these
associated cities were competent in their time. It takes the aspect,
as so regarded, of a durable monument to Democracy itself.

We congratulate the Mayors of both the cities, with their associates
in the government of them, on the public spirit manifested by both, on
the ampler opportunities offered to each, and on those intimate
alliances between them which are a source of happiness to both, and
which are almost certainly prophetic of an organic union to be
realized hereafter. And we trust that the crosses, encircled by the
laurel wreath, on the original seal of New Amsterdam, with the Dutch
legend of this city, "Union makes Strength," may continue to describe
them, whether or not stamped upon parchments and blazoned on banners,
as long as human eyes shall see them.

The work now completed is of interest to both cities, and its enduring
and multiplying benefits will be found, we are confident, to be
common, not local.

We who have made and steadfastly kept our homes in Brooklyn, and who
are fond and proud of the city--for its fresh, bracing, and healthful
air, and the brilliant outstretch of sea and land which opens from its
Heights; for its scores of thousands of prosperous homes; for its
unsurpassed schools, its co-operating churches, the social temper
which pervades it, the independence and enterprise of its journals,
and the local enthusiasms which they fruitfully foster; for its
general liberality, and the occasional splendid examples of individual
munificence which have given it fame; for its recent but energetic
institutions, of literature, art, and a noble philanthropy; and for
the stimulating enterprise and culture of the young life which is
coming to command in it--we have obvious reason to rejoice in the work
which brings us into nearer connection with all that is delightful and
all that is enriching in the metropolis, and with that diverging
system of railways, overspreading the continent, which has in the
commercial capital its natural centre of radiation.

We have no word of criticism to speak, only words of most hearty
admiration, for the safe and speedy water-service on the lines of the
ferries which has given us heretofore such easy transportation from
city to city, without delays that were not unavoidable, and with
remarkable exemption from disaster. So far as human carefulness and
skill could assure safety and speed, in the midst of conditions
unfriendly to both, the management of these ferries has been peerless,
their success unsurpassed. To them is due, in largest measure, the
rapid growth already here realized. They have formed the indispensable
arteries, of supply and transmission, through which the circulating
life-blood has flowed, and their ministry to this city has been
constant and vital. But we confess ourselves glad to reach, with
surer certainty and a greater rapidity, the libraries and galleries,
the churches and the homes, as well as the resorts of business and of
pleasure, with which we are now in instant connection; and the horizon
widens around us as we touch with more immediate contact the lines of
travel which open hence to the edges of the continent.

If we have not as much to offer in immediate return, we have, at
least, a broad expanse of uncovered acres within the city, for the
easy occupation of those who wish homes, either modest or splendid, or
who shall wish such as the growth of the metropolis multiplies its
population into the millions, crowds its roofs higher toward the
stars, and makes a productive silver mine of each several house-lot.
And to those who visit us but at intervals we can open not only yonder
park, set like an emerald in the great circular sweep of our
boundaries from the waters of the Narrows to the waters of the Sound,
but also their readiest approach to the ocean. The capital and the sea
are henceforth brought to nearer neighborhood. Long Island bays, and
brooks, and beaches, are within readier reach of the town. The winds
that have touched no other land this side of Cuba are more accessible
to those who seek their tonic breath. The long roll of the surf on the
shore breaks closer than before to office and mansion, and to tenement

The benefits will, therefore, be reciprocal, which pass back and forth
across this solid and stately frame-work; and both cities will
rejoice, we gladly hope, in the patience and labor, the disciplined
skill, the large expenditure, of which it is the trophy and fruit. New
York has now the unique opportunity to widen its boundaries to the
sea, and around its brilliant civic shield, more stately and manifold
than that of Achilles, by the aid of those who have wrought already
these twisted bracelets and clasping cables, to set the glowing margin
of the Ocean-stream.

This work is important, too, we cannot but feel, in wider relations;
for what it signifies, as for what it secures, and for all that it
promises. Itself a representative product and part of the new
civilization, one standing on it finds an outlook from it of larger
circumference than that of these cities.

Every enterprise like this, successfully accomplished, becomes an
incentive to others like it. It leads on to such, and supplies
incessant encouragement to them. We may not know, or probably
conjecture, what these are to be, in the city or the State, in the
years that shall come. But, whatever they may be, for the more
complete equipment of either with conditions of happiness and the
instruments of progress, they will all take an impulse from that which
here has been accomplished. Such a trophy of triumph over an original
obstacle of Nature will not contribute to sleep in others; and
whatever is needed of material improvement, throughout the State of
which it is our pride to be citizens, will be only more surely and
speedily supplied because of this impressive success.

It is, therefore, most fitting to our festival that we are permitted
to welcome to it the Chief Magistrate of the State, with those
representing its different regions in the legislative councils. We
rejoice to remember that the work before us has been assisted by the
favoring action of those heretofore in authority in the State; and we
trust that to those now holding high offices in it, who are present
to-day, the occasion will be one of pleasant experience, and of
enlarged and reinforced expectation.

Indeed, it is not extravagant to say that the future of the country
opens before us, as we see what skill and will can do to overleap
obstacles, and make nature subservient to human designs. So we gladly
welcome these eminent men from other States; while the presence of the
Executive Head of the Nation, and of some of the members of his
Cabinet, is appropriate to the time, as it is an occasion of sincere
and profound gratification to us all. Without the concurrence of the
National Government, this structure, though primarily of local
relations, as reaching across these navigable waters, could not have
been built. We feel assured that those honorably representing that
Government, who favor its completion with their attendance, and in
whose presence political differences are forgotten, will share with
us in the joyful pride with which we regard it, and in the inspiring
anticipation that the physical apparatus of civilization in the land
is to take fresh impulse, not impediment or hindrance, from that which
here has been effected. The day seems brought distinctly nearer when
the Nation, equipped with the latest implements furnished by science,
shall master and use as never before its rich domain.

Not only the modern spirit is here, even in eminence, which dares
great effort for great advantage; but the chiefest of modern
instruments is here, which is the ancient untractable iron,
transfigured into steel.

It was a sign, and even a measure, of ancient degeneracy, when the age
of Gold was followed if not forgotten by one of Iron. Decadence of
arts, of learning and laws, of society itself, was implied in the
fact. The more intrepid intelligence, the more versatile energy, amid
which we live, have achieved the success of combining the two: so that
while it is true now, as of old, that "no mattock plunges a golden
edge into the ground, and no nail drives a silver point into the
plank," it is also true that, under the stimulus of the larger
expenditure which the added supplies of gold make possible, the duller
metal has taken a fineness, a brightness and hardness, with a tensile
strength, before unfamiliar.

The iron, as of old, quarries the gold, and cuts it out from river-bed
and from rock. But, under the alchemy which gold applies, the iron
takes nobler properties upon it. Converted into steel, in masses that
would lately have staggered men's thoughts, it becomes the kingliest
instrument of peoples for subduing the earth. Things dainty and things
mighty are fashioned from it in equal abundance:--gun-carriage and
cannon, with the solid platforms on which they rest; the largest
castings, and heaviest plates, as well as wheel, axle, and rail, as
well as screw or file or saw. It is shaped into the hulls of ships. It
is built alike into column and truss, balcony, roof, and springing
dome. To the loom and the press, and the boiler from whose fierce and
untiring heart their force is supplied, it is equally apt; while, as
drawn into delicate wires, it is coiled into springs, woven into
gauze, sharpened into needles, twisted into ropes; it is made to yield
music in all our homes; electric currents are sent upon it, along our
streets, around the world; it enables us to talk with correspondents
afar, or it is knit, as before our eyes, into the new and noble
causeways of pleasure and of commerce.

I hardly think that we yet appreciate the significance of this change
which has passed upon iron. It is the industrial victory of the
century, not to have heaped the extracted gold in higher piles, or to
have crowded the bursting vaults with accumulated silver, but to have
conferred, by the sovereign touch of scientific invention,
flexibility, grace, variety of use, an almost ethereal and spiritual
virtue, on the stubbornest of common metals. The indications of
physical achievement in the future, thus inaugurated, outrun the
compass of human thought.

Two bridges lie near each other, across the historical stream of the
Moldau, under the shadow of the ancient and haughty palace at
Prague--the one the picturesque bridge of St. Nepomuk, patron of
bridges throughout Bohemia, of massive stone, which occupied a century
and a half in its erection, and was finished almost four centuries
ago, with stately statues along its sides, with a superb monument at
its end, sustaining symbolic and portrait figures; the other an iron
suspension-bridge, built and finished in three years, a half century
since, and singularly contrasting, in its lightness and grace, the
sombre solidity of the first. It is impossible to look upon the two
without feeling how distinctly the different ages to which they belong
are indicated by them, and how the ceremonial and military character
of the centuries that are past has been superseded by the rapid and
practical spirit of commerce.

But the modern bridge is there a small one, and rests at the centre on
an island and a pier. The structure before us, the largest of its
class as yet in the world, in its swifter, more graceful, and more
daring leap from bank to bank, across the tides of this arm of the
sea, not only illustrates the bolder temper which is natural here, the
readiness to attempt unparalleled works, the disdain of difficulties
in unfaltering reliance on exact calculation, but, in the material out
of which it is wrought, it shows the new supremacy of man over the
metal which, in former time, he scarcely could use save for rude and
coarse implements. The steel of the blades of Damascus or Toledo is
not here needed; nor that of the chisel, the knife-blade, the
watch-spring, or the surgical instrument. But the steel of the
mediæval lance-head or sabre was hardly finer than that which is here
built into a Castle, which the sea cannot shake, whose binding cement
the rains cannot loosen, and before whose undecaying parapets open
fairer visions of island and town, of earth, water, and sky, than from
any fortress along the Rhine. There is inexhaustible promise in the

Of course, too, there is impressively before us--installed as on this
fair and brilliant civic throne--that desire for swiftest
intercommunication between towns and districts divided from each
other, which belongs to our times, and which is to be an energetic,
enduring, and salutary force in moulding the nation.

The years are not distant in which separated communities regarded each
other with aversion and distrust, and the effort was mutual to raise
barriers between them, not to unite them in closer alliance. Now, the
traffic of one is vitally dependent on the industries of the other;
the counting-room in the one has the factory or the warehouse
tributary to it established in the other; and the demand is imperative
that the two be linked, by all possible mechanisms, in a union as
complete as if no chasm had opened between them. So these cities are
henceforth united; and so all cities, which may minister to each
other, are bound more and more in intimate combinations. Santa Fé,
which soon celebrates the third of a millenium since its foundation,
reaches out its connections toward the newest log-city in Washington
Territory; and the oldest towns upon our seaboard find allies in those
that have risen, like exhalations, along the Western lakes and rivers.

This mighty and symmetrical band before us seems to stand as the type
of all that immeasurable communicating system which is more
completely with every year to interlink cities, to confederate States,
to make one country of our distributed imperial domain, and to weave
its history into a vast, harmonious contexture, as messages fly
instantaneously across it, and the rapid trains rush back and forth,
like shuttles upon a mighty loom.

It is not fanciful, either, to feel that in all its history, and in
what is peculiar in its constitution, it becomes a noble, visible
symbol of that benign Peace amid which its towers and roadway have
risen, and which, we trust, it may long continue to signalize and to

We may look at this moment on the site of the ship-yard from which, in
March, 1862, twenty-one years ago, went forth the unmasted and
raft-like "Monitor," with its flat decks, its low bulwarks, its
guarded mechanism, its heavy armament, and its impenetrable revolving
turret, to that near battle with the "Merrimac," on which, as it
seemed to us at the time, the destiny of the nation was perilously
poised. The material of which the ship was wrought was largely that
which is built in beauty into this luxurious lofty fabric. But no
contrast could be greater among the works of human genius than between
the compact and rigid solidity into which the iron had there been
forged and wedged and rammed, and these waving and graceful curves,
swinging downward and up, almost like blossoming festooned vines along
the perfumed Italian lanes; this alluring roadway, resting on towers
which rise like those of ancient cathedrals; this lace-work of
threads, interweaving their separate delicate strengths into the
complex solidity of the whole.

The ship was for war, and the Bridge is for peace:--the product of it;
almost, one might say, its express palpable emblem, in its harmony of
proportions, its dainty elegance, its advantages for all, and its
ample convenience. The deadly raft, floating level with waves, was
related to this ethereal structure, whose finest curves are wrought in
the strength of toughest steel. We could not have had this except for
that unsightly craft, which at first refused to be steered, which
bumped headlong against our piers, which almost sank while being towed
to the field of its fame, and which, at last, when its mission was
fulfilled, found its grave in the deep over whose waters, and near
their line, its shattering lightnings had been shot. This structure
will stand, we fondly trust, for generations to come, even for
centuries, while metal and granite retain their coherence; not only
emitting, when the wind surges or plays through its network, that
aerial music of which it is the mighty harp, but representing to every
eye the manifold bonds of interest and affection, of sympathy and
purpose, of common political faith and hope, over and from whose
mightier chords shall rise the living and unmatched harmonies of
continental gladness and praise.

While no man, therefore, can measure in thought the vast
processions--40,000,000 a year, it already is computed--which shall
pass back and forth across this pathway, or shall pause on its summit
to survey the vast and bright panorama, to greet the break of
summer-morning, or watch the pageant of closing day, we may hope that
the one use to which it never will need to be put is that of war; that
the one tramp not to be heard on it is that of soldiers marching to
battle; that the only wheels whose roll it shall not be called to echo
are the wheels of the tumbrils of troops and artillery. Born of peace,
and signifying peace, may its mission of peace be uninterrupted, till
its strong towers and cables fall!

If such expectations shall be fulfilled, of mechanical invention ever
advancing, of cities and States linked more closely, of beneficent
peace assured to all, it is impossible to assign any limit to the
coming expansion and opulence of these cities, or to the influence
which they shall exert on the developing life of the country.

Cities have often, in other times, been created by war; as men were
crowded together in them the better to escape the whirls of strife by
which the unwalled districts were ravaged, or the more effectively to
combine their force against threatening foes. And it is a striking
suggestion of history that to the frightful ravages of the
Huns--swarthy, ill-shaped, ferocious, destroying--may have been due
the Great Wall of China, for the protection of its remote towns, as
to them, on the other hand, was certainly due the foundation of
Venice. The first inhabitants of what has been since that queenly
city--along whose liquid and level streets the traveler passes,
between palaces, churches, and fascinating squares, in constant
delight--its first inhabitants fled before Attila, to the flooded
lagoons which were afterward to blossom into the beauty of a
consummate art. The fearful crash of blood and fire in which Aquileia
and Padua fell smote Venice into existence.

But even the city thus born of war must afterward be built up by
peace, when the strifes which had pushed it to its sudden beginning
had died into the distant silence. The fishing industry, the
manufacture of salt, the timid commerce, gradually expanding till it
left the rivers and sought the sea, these, with other related
industries, had made Venetian galleys known on the eastern
Mediterranean before the immense rush of the crusades crowded
tumultuously over its quays and many bridges. Its variety of industry,
and its commercial connections, turned that vast movement into another
source of wealth. It rose rapidly to that naval supremacy which
enabled it to capture piratical vessels and wealthy galleons, to seize
or sack Ionian cities, to storm Byzantium, and make the south of
Greece its suburb. Its manufactures were multiplied. Its dockyards
were thronged with busy workmen. Its palaces were crowded with
precious and famous works of art, while themselves marvels of beauty.
St. Mark's unfolded its magnificent loveliness above the great square.
In the palace adjoining was the seat of a dominion at the time
unsurpassed, and still brilliant in history; and it was in no fanciful
or exaggerated pride that the Doge was wont yearly, on Ascension Day,
to wed the Adriatic with a ring, as the bridegroom weds the bride.

Dreamlike as it seems, equally with Amsterdam, the larger and richer
"Venice of the North," it was erected by hardy hands. The various
works and arts of peace, with a prosperous commerce, were the real
piles, sunken beneath the flashing surface, on which church and
palace, piazza and arsenal, all arose. It was only when these unseen
supports secretly failed that advancement ceased, and the horses of
St. Mark at last were bridled. Not all the wars, with Genoa, Hungary,
with Western Europe, the Greek Empire, or the Ottoman--not earthquake,
plague, or conflagration, though by all it was smitten--overwhelmed
the city whose place in Europe had been so distinguished. The
decadence of enterprise, the growing discredit put upon industry, the
final discovery by Vasco da Gama of the passage around the Cape of
Good Hope, diverting traffic into new channels--these laid their
silent and tightening grasp on the power of Venice, till

                       "the salt sea-weed
     Clung to the marble of her palaces,"

and the glory of the past was merged in a gloom which later centuries
have not lightened. There is a lesson and a promise in the fact.

New York itself may almost be said to have sprung from war; as the
vast excitements of the forty years' wrestle between Spain and its
revolted provinces gave incentive, at least, to the settlement of New
Netherland. But the city, since its real development was begun, has
been almost wholly built up by peace; and the swiftness of its
progress in our own time, which challenges parallel, shows what, if
the ministry of this peace shall continue, may be looked for in the

When the Dutch traders raised their storehouse of logs on yonder
untamed and desolate strand, perhaps as early as 1615; when the
Walloons established their settlement on this side of the river, in
1624, at that "Walloons' Bay" which we still call the Wallabout; or
when, later, in 1626, Manhattan Island, estimated to contain 22,000
acres, was purchased from the Indians for $24, paid in beads, buttons
and trinkets, and the Block House was built, with cedar palisades, on
the site of the Battery, it is, of course, commonplace to say that
they who had come hither could scarcely have had the least conception
of what a career they thus were commencing for two great cities. But
it is not so wholly commonplace to say that those who saw this now
wealthy and splendid New York a hundred years since, less conspicuous
than Boston, far smaller than Philadelphia, with its first bank
established in 1784, and not fully chartered till seven years later;
with its first daily paper in 1785; its first ship in the Eastern
trade returning in May of the same year; its first Directory published
in 1786, and containing only 900 names; its Broadway extending only to
St. Paul's; with the grounds about Reade street grazing-fields for
cattle, and with ducks still shot in that Beekman's Swamp which the
traffic in leather has since made famous: or those who saw it even
fifty years ago, when its population was little more than one-third of
the present population of this younger city; when its first Mayor had
not been chosen by popular election; when gas had but lately been
introduced, and the superseding of the primitive pumps by Croton water
had not yet been projected--they, all, could hardly have imagined what
already the city should have become: the recognized centre of the
commerce of the Continent; one of the principal cities of the world.

So those who have lived in this city from childhood, and who hardly
yet claim the dignities of age, could scarcely have conjectured, when
looking on what Mr. Murphy recalled as the village of his youth, "a
hamlet of a hundred houses," that it should have become, in our time,
a city of nearly 70,000 dwelling houses, occupied by twice as many
families; with a population, by the census rates, of little less than
700,000; with more than 150,000 children in its public and private
schools; with 330 miles of paved streets, as many as last year in New
York, and with more than 200 additional miles impatiently waiting to
be paved; with 130 miles of street railway track, over which last year
88,000,000 of passengers were carried; with nearly 2,500 miles of
telegraph and telephone wire knitting it together; with 35,000,000 of
gallons of water, the best on the continent, to which 20,000,000 more
are soon to be added, daily distributed in its houses, through 360
miles of pipe; with an aggregate value of real property exceeding
certainly $400,000,000; with an annual tax levy of $6,500,000; with
manufactures in it whose reported product in 1880 was $103,000,000;
with a water-front, of pier, dock, basin, canal, already exceeding 25
miles, and not as yet half developed, at which lies shipping from all
the world, more largely than at the piers of New York; and, finally,
with what to most modern communities appears to flash as a costly but
brilliant diamond necklace, a public debt, beginning now to diminish,
it is true, but still approaching, in net amount, $37,500,000!

The child watches, in happy wonder, the swelling film of soapy water
into whose iridescent globe he has blown the speck from the bowl of
the pipe. But this amazing development around us is not of airy and
vanishing films. It is solidly constructed, in marble and brick, in
stone and iron, while the proportions to which it has swelled surpass
precedent, and rebuke the timidity of the boldest prediction. But that
which has built it has been simply the industry, manifold, constant,
going on in these cities, to which peace offers incentive and room.

Their future advancement is to come in like manner: not through a
prestige derived from their history; not by the gradual increments of
their wealth, already collected; not by the riches which they invite
to themselves from other cities and distant coasts; not even from
their beautiful fortune of location; but by prosperous manufactures
prosecuted in them; by the traffic which radiates over the country; by
the foreign commerce which, in values increasing every year, seeks
this harbor. Each railway whose rapid wheels roll hither, from East or
West, from North or South, from the rocks of Newfoundland or the
copper-deposits of Lake Superior, from the orange groves of Florida,
the Louisiana bayous, the silver ridges of the West, the Golden Gate,
gives its guaranty of growth to the still young metropolis. On the
cotton fields of the South, and its sugar plantations; on coal mines,
and iron mines; on the lakes which winter roofs with ice, and from
which drips refreshing coolness through our summer; on fisheries,
factories, wheat fields, pine forests; on meadows wealthy with grains
or grass, and orchards bending beneath their burdens, this enlarging
prosperity must be maintained; and on the steamships, and the
telegraph lines, which interweave us with all the world. The swart
miner must do his part for it; the ingenious workman, in whatever
department; the ploughman in the field, and the fisherman on the
banks; the man of science, putting Nature to the question; the
laborer, with no other capital than his muscle; the sailor on the sea,
wherever commerce opens its wings.

Our Arch of Triumph is, therefore, fitly this Bridge of Peace. Our
Brandenburg Gate, bearing on its summit no car of military victory, is
this great work of industrial skill. It stands, not, like the Arch
famous at Milan, outside the city, but in the midst of these united
and busy populations. And if the tranquil public order which it
celebrates and prefigures shall continue as years proceed, not London
itself, a century hence, will surpass the compass of this united city
by the sea, in which all civilized nations of mankind have already
their many representatives, and to which the world shall pay an
increasing annual tribute.

And so the last suggestion comes, which the hour presents, and of
which the time allows the expression.

It was not to an American mind alone that we owed the "Monitor," of
which I have spoken, but also to one trained in Swedish schools, the
Swedish army, and representing that brave nationality. It is not to a
native American mind that the scheme of construction carried out in
this Bridge is to be ascribed, but to one representing the German
peoples, who, in such enriching and fruitful multitudes, have found
here their home. American enterprise, American money, built them both.
But the skill which devised, and much, no doubt, of the labor which
wrought them, came from afar.

Local and particular as is the work, therefore, it represents that
fellowship of the Nations which is more and more prominently a fact of
our times, and which gives to these cities incessant augmentation.
When, by and by, on yonder island the majestic French statue of
Liberty shall stand, holding in its hand the radiant crown of electric
flames, and answering by them to those as brilliant along this
causeway, our beautiful bay will have taken what specially illuminates
and adorns it from Central and from Western Europe. The distant lands
from which oceans divide us, though we touch them each moment with
the fingers of the telegraph, will have set this conspicuous double
crown on the head of our harbor. The alliances of nations, the peace
of the world, will seem to find illustrious prediction in such superb
and novel regalia.

Friends, and Fellow-Citizens: Let us not forget that, in the growth of
these cities, henceforth united, and destined ere long to be formally
one, lies either a threat, or one of the conspicuous promises of the

Cities have always been powers in history. Athens educated Greece, as
well as adorned it, while Corinth filled the throbbing and thirsty
Hellenic veins with poisoned blood. The weight of Constantinople broke
the Roman Empire asunder. The capture of the same magnificent city
gave to the Turks their establishment in Europe for the following
centuries. Even where they have not had such a commanding pre-eminence
of location, the social, political, moral force proceeding from cities
has been vigorous in impression, immense in extent. The passion of
Paris, for a hundred years, has created or directed the sentiment of
France. Berlin is more than the legislative or administrative centre
of the German Empire. Even a government as autocratic as that of the
Czar, in a country as undeveloped as Russia, has to consult the
popular feeling of St. Petersburg or of Moscow.

In our nation, political power is widely distributed, and the largest
or wealthiest commercial centre can have but its share. Great as is
the weight of the aggregate vote in these henceforth compacted cities,
the vote of the State will always overbear it. Amid the suffrages of
the nation at large, it can only be reckoned as one of many consenting
or conflicting factors. But the influence which constantly proceeds
from these cities--on their journalism, not only, or on the issues of
their book-presses, or on the multitudes going forth from them, but on
the example presented by them of intellectual, social, religious
life--this, for shadow and check, or for fine inspiration, is already
of unlimited extent, of incalculable force. It must increase as they
expand, and are lifted before the country to a new elevation.

A larger and a smaller sun are sometimes associated, astronomers tell
us, to form a binary centre in the heavens, for what is, doubtless, an
unseen system receiving from them impulse and light. On a scale not
utterly insignificant, a parallel may be hereafter suggested in the
relation of these combined cities to a part, at least, of our national
system. Their attitude and action during the war--successfully closed
under the gallant military leadership of men whom we gladly welcome
and honor--were of vast advantage to the national cause. The moral,
political, intellectual temper, which dominates in them, as years go
on, will touch with beauty, or scar with scorching and baleful heats,
extended regions. Their religious life, as it glows in intensity, or
with a faint and failing lustre, will be repeated in answering image
from the widening frontier. The beneficence which gives them grace and
consecration, and which, as lately, they follow to the grave with
universal benediction, or, on the other hand, the selfish ambitions
which crowd and crush along their streets, intent only on accumulated
wealth and its sumptuous display, or the glittering vices which they
accept and set on high--these will make their impression on those who
never cross the continent to our homes, to whom our journals are but

Surely, we should not go from this hour, which marks a new era in the
history of these cities, and which points to their future indefinite
expansion, without the purpose in each of us, that, so far forth as in
us lies, with their increase in numbers, wealth, equipment, shall also
proceed, with equal step, their progress in whatever is noblest and
best in private and in public life; that all which sets humanity
forward shall come in them to ampler endowment, more renowned
exhibition: so that, linked together, as hereafter they must be, and
seeing "the purple deepening in their robes of power," they may be
always increasingly conscious of fulfilled obligation to the Nation
and to God; may make the land, at whose magnificent gateway they
stand, their constant debtor; and may contribute their mighty part
toward that ultimate perfect Human Society for which the seer could
find no image so meet or so majestic as that of a City, coming down
from above, its stones laid with fair colors, its foundations with
sapphires, its windows of agates, its gates of carbuncles, and all its
borders of pleasant stones, with the sovereign promise resplendent
above it,--

     "And great shall be the Peace of thy children!"

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Opening Ceremonies of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, May 24, 1883" ***

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