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Bth November, 1886. MISCELLANEOUS MEETING.
J. T. Danson, Esq., V.P., in the Chair.
The Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man was proposed as a member of the Society, and being ballotted for at the same time, in accordance with a Bye-Law, was declared duly elected.
Certificates of nine candidates, for election as members, were read for the first time. The Secretary explained that there was a much larger number of candidate members to be proposed, but it was not thought desirable to delay the general business of the evening, on any one occasion, by submiting a larger number to the ballot. The following donations were laid upon the table :From Gilbert James French, Esq., Bolton. A beautiful guidon of silk, four yards
long, for the Society itself. It contains the name of the Society, and the arms
and badges of the two counties. From Henry Kingsmill, Esq., Hong Kong. A Chinese Gong. The Snout of a
Sword Fish. The skull of an Albatross. From G. M. Browne, Esq. Syers' History of Everton, 1830. From Peter R. M'Quie, Esq. Adams' Weekly Courant, 30th May, 1739. The
Lancashire Omnibus, 5th April, 1832. A Norwich Play Bill, 13th May, 1799. From Joseph Mayer, Esq., F.S.A. The Official and Illustrated Guide to the London
and North Western Railway, by George Measom. From the Author. British Antiquities, their present treatment, and their local
claims, by H. H. Rhind, Esq., F.S.A. From the Author. Suggestions for a medal to record the discovery of the passage
to the North Pole; by Richard Sainthill, Esq., Cork. Also further sugges
tions by the same, dated 22nd March, 1850. From Mrs. Ann Maria Heaton, Edge Hill. Copper Calendar, 1782. Commemora
tive medals-Roscoe, Brougham. Copper political tokens-Prince Regent,
Two Russian coins.
Kt., exempting Richard Foulkes from all parish and ward offices within the
25th March, 1794. From the Author. Some observations on an ancient Talisman, brought from Syria
and supposed to be the work of the Chaldeans. By John Lindsay, Esq., Cork. The Chairman handed the Banner to Mr. Mayer, as a liberal contributor, and one of the founders of the Society, to unfurl it for the first time. It was moved by Dr. HUME, seconded by HENRY Dawson, Esq., and resolved :
That the cordial and special thanks of the Society be given to Mr. French for
his interesting donation. It was announced that the various books which had been presented to the Society during the recess, would be classified and laid before the members on the evenings of meeting appropriated to the sectional subjects to which they severally related.
Mr. James Boardman forwarded for exhibition a letter written by John Wesley, of date January, 1789, addressed to Mrs. Wagner, wife of Mr. B. P. Wagner, merchant of Liverpool. Some portions of the letter could not be deciphered without difficulty. Wesley at this time was in his eighty.eighth year.*
Dr. Hume exhibited a “ Sessions' judgment," in a dispute as to some land at Moreton, in Wirrall. It was dated 21st September, in 26th of Elizabeth.
Mr. Buxton exhibited a Sicilian Dollar of 1843, on which the objectionable words “ Olim Bomba" were impressed ; the former above, and the latter on the figure of Ferdinand. Also a silver coin of the short lived Roman Republic of 1848.
The Secretary read a communication from the Town Clerk, dated 31st October, stating that the Town Council had granted to the Society the use of the Grand Jury Room for its meetings, and of an adjoining room for refreshments, except during the period of assizes and sessions. It was moved by Joseph MAYER, Esq., seconded by PETER R. MQUIE, Esq., and resolved :
That the thanks of this Society be given to the Town Council for their com
pliance in this matter. The Secretary was authorized to communicate that the privilege of attending the meetings of the Society was granted to the Treasurer of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Liverpool, in return for a similar arrangement announced by the Secretary of that Society.
A copy of the new Catalogue of the Library and Museum, still in galley slips, was leid upon the table.
The attention of members was drawn to a list of diplomas yet unclaimed by the gentlemen to whom they severally belong.
The following paper was then read :-
We now open the Ninth Session of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire. We approach this renewal of our meetings, and of our labors in common, with increased numbers, with enlarged individual experience, and with clearer conceptions alike of our objects, and of the means by which they may be worthily attained.
United by the bond of a common duty—that of advancing, during our own time, and to the extent of our power, the learning of our own locality we have before us as noble a task as ever exercised the faculties of civilized man. Not yet can we expect to com. prehend all that is required for the fulfilment of such a task. Much of it lies in the yet undiscerned future. But much also is open to view, and nothing more so than that each session, as we return to it, we are called upon not merely to continue, but to extend our past efforts. Our onward course admits of no medium between progress and decline. Nor is it desirable that it should. What we do is not for ourselves alone. Else were it little worthy of the time and labour we bestow upon it. We rejoice to feel that it shares, in some sort, the significance and the value due to every earnest endeavour of mankind to increase and disseminate knowledge; and that it shares, too, the same onward impulse. Our prosperity assures us that, limited and imperfect as our operations have hitherto been, they have supplied a real and a growing want. Also it assures us that if we would secure a success thus dependent upon surrounding cir.
* Near London, January, 1789. My dear Mrs. Wagner,
Yon send me very welcome news respecting your two daughterg. I hope they will not he content with an outward change, but will give God their hearts. It avails nothing to be almost Christians. Let them be Christians altogether, enjoying all the mind that was in Christ, and in all walking as Christ walked. With regard to the great man, [George III.) there is no possibility of access to him, he is so entirely hedged in with physicians, otherwise I believe I myself could cure him. The will of the Lord be done.
If it should please God that I live till March, I shall hope to wait upon you at North Hall.
I am, my dear Mrs. Wagner,
cumstances, we must, in no degree, neglect that progressive improvement of method and elevation of purpose which, more than aught else, so honorably distinguish the age in which we live.
To us, indeed, unimpeded by ubstacles that beset the paths of most other public bodies, with no vulgar inducements to obstruct, and many noble incentives to promote the adoption, in every case, of the course most consonant to the loftiest intelligence,-to us, I say, it would seem not improperly to belong, by such means as our humble powers may afford, to preserve, to promote, and if possible to make more prevalent, these most promising characteristics of the public action of our time.
And peculiarly fit does it seem, that when assembled on an occasion like the present, we should, with somewhat more than accustomed vigilance, scan the drift of our proceedings, and mark, each for himself, its relation to those great outlines of our collective duty, a close regard to which constitutes the best security for our continued well-doing, and our only valid title to the prominent place we have assumed among our fellow citizens.
To associations more even than to individuals is such occasional self-examination needful. The best practicable union falls short of unity. As a body we must always lack the safe-guard of self-consciousness. Our sense of duty, however clearly defined the duty itself may be, must, wben compared with that of an individual man, be more or less vague and imperfect. What should equally concern many, is apt sufficiently lo concern none. And thus in the absence of special excitement, or an occasional revival of the sense of duty, our energy tends to wane, our aspirations and hopes of the future to fade into indifference, and our powers to fall more or less under the insidious despotism of routine.
To no better purpose, then, does it seem to me that I can use the opportunity afforded by the request of your Council, that I would address you at this, the first meeting of the Session, than to call to our remembrance the high purposes for which we are associated, and by what means we can best, in the immediate future, seek their accomplishment.
And who amongst us, standing aside from the current occupation of the hour, can regard the position we now occupy as a Society and not feel his soul uplifted before the magnitude of the duties we may make ours, and the amplitude of the means tempting us to their fulfilment. In part this position has been won by our own exertions. In part we owe it to circumstances. Need I add that the grateful pride its contemplation inspires, assumes that our aims are worthy of the vantage ground it affords; that its true value lies in the opportunity it offers for future well doing.
Our aims bave more than once been ably and clearly defined. Though primarily local, they are-under the changes recently effected in the structure and working of the Society-adapted to as wide a field of action as, while we own any local ties whatever, we can profitably occupy. Nor, wide as is the work before us, and well adapted as our arrangements now are for compassing its utmost bounds, are the external facilities awaiting its performance in any degree less ample. In all these respects we are fortunate. In all of them is the lot that has cast us upon this time and place a happy one. In an age distinguished from all former ages by the predominance of the commercial tendency, we find ourselves placed exactly where this tendency has received its highest developement. The manufacturing district of Manchester, and the port of Liverpool, taken together, form, at this moment, the most remarkable and most progressive, if not in every respect the most important centre of the commercial activity of the world. Nowhere else is so fully revealed, so obvious to the contemplation of man, the exquisite wisdom of the arrangement which has made commerce the overpowering and universal instrument of material civilization-a mean whereby the primary necessities of our nature are made at once subservient to the diffusion of knowledge, and powerfully suggestive of the natural brotherhood and mutual dependance of mankind. Fit scene to direct enlightened curiosity to the almost infinite variety of human activity, 80 multifarious in direction and result; and irresistibly suggestive of speculation on the ultimate destiny of a race whose progress is now made by steps so gigantic, that the hopeful dreams of one generation become the familiar realities of the next. Fit also to
remind us that great advantages have ever their counterpoise; and that those who would achieve great ends, must not hope to avail themselves of easy and unincumbered methods.
We can hardly look long upon this scene, and fail to learn that all human action in the presence of great events is subject to collateral influences of commensurate power, the full scope of which, in our time, we may in vain endeavour to comprehend, but of which it behoves us never to be forgetful. Tbe astonishing progress-rapid beyond all precedent during the last half century-of which our own district has afforded the most eminent example, has been achieved only by a mental devotion to the purposes of the hour which, well as it is said to befit our English character, and tempting as are its material fruits, it would ill become our Society to aid in fostering.
And here we encounter one of the most delicate, and not the least difficult, of our duties: that of watchfully regarding, and, while willingly using, never slavishly submitting ourselves to, the ruling ideas of our time. Germs, these, capable of infinite expansion-insinuating themselves wherever may be found the requisite facilities for their growth ; and always directing, more or less exclusively, the tendencies not merely of science, literature, and art, but those of politics, legislation, and history itself. Ideas rule. Facts not constituting science, furnishing but the data on which it rests, the superstructure can be raised only under prior conceptions of the general principles to which the facts are to be referred. These conceptions are necessarily the offspring of the pbilosophical ideas of the time. Literature and art, scarcely less dependent on a trained exercise of the observing faculties, but less rigidly bound by logical inference to the observed facts, still more freely follow the track of the reigning philosophy. National policy and legislation, too, whether determined by despotic or by popular modes of government, are equally swayed by the same influences. And history, best performing its office when most truly embodying the spirit of passing events, is, when drawn from contemporary sources, unavoidably permeated, and too often delusively coloured, by the leading philosophical dogmas of the age.
The widely varied character of the topics we are in the habit of treating, though it may make less marked the effect of particular doctrines on the course of our proceedings, also brings us more effectually, even because less palpably, within the range of the peculiar philosophical tendencies of the time; of those which, as they are more or less vividly impressed upon all cultivated minds, need seldom be distinctly expressed. And without canvassing, in the remotest degree, the comparative merits of prevailing systems, or hazarding a single remark that might be deemed depreciatory of any, I may affirm, what is indeed too obvious, that the close attention so generally given during the last eighty or ninety years, by the leading nations of the world, to the physical sciences, and to the physical well-being of man, has impressed upon the mental and moral training of the existing generation a leaning towards materialism, and an inaptitude to appreciate the more abstract and recondite conceptions upon which the physical laws themselves ultimately repose, by no means favorable to an equable and unbiassed extension, in these days, of the yet narrow circle of our knowledge ; and which, receiving, as it very probably does, undue encouragement from the daily avocations of a manufacturing and mercantile life, we may justly deem it our duty, on behalf of a less partial standard of truth, rather to criticise or to oppose than implicitly to follow. Unless I am greatly mistaken, it is especially incumbent upon us, here and now, to seek and steadily to adhere to & sound mean between the popular empiricism, which moves only within the limited range of sensation, and the lofty idealism, owding no bounds, wbich would discard the method of induction for one of mere hypothesis. And even in so doing to remember the bias we inherit from a prior age, and share in this and to lean, if lean we must, rather against than towards that bias.
A pregnant instance of the need for such caution is at hand in the utilitarian bent of the particular community of which we form part. While it is neither possible por desirable that we should ignore the special value possessed by knowledge applicable to purposes of immediate utility, it would still less become us to overlook the mental degradation, the dwarfing and crippling of the faculties, which surely awaits a too exclusive attention to such knowledge. True it is that all learning derives its value from the prospect of a practical application, whether this be near or distant. True, also, that direct and immediate utility is the most certain test of the reality of all our acquirements. But no less is it true, that were the boundaries of our knowledge enlarged only under the influence of considerations so limited, not only would utility itself be, in the end, but poorly served, but we should be deprived, in great part, of the highest and best result of the pursuit of knowledge; that systematic and expansive developement of the mental faculties which, to so large an extent, marks our elevation in the scale of being, and determines our ability to contemplate, with due breadth of view, and in a fitting spirit, the ways of the Deity, as revealed in his works. And though no authoritative definition of the functions of a Society like ours yet exists in our literature to warrant the assertion, I will venture to affirm that in no efforts we may make to form or to mature an effective public opinion in favour of a liberal and equable pursuit of all sound knowledge, without reference to the probability of its yielding an immediate and mercantile profit, shall we in any degree overstep the most rigidly correct outline of our duties as a Society. Nay, I am even disposed to think that if our operations have to the community any value worthy of especial note, it is to be looked for here—to be found in the tendency they have to withdraw some of its more active minds from close and constant contemplation of particular parts and details of the mighty system around us, and to fix them at times, and for a while, through the medium of knowledge not commonly deemed useful, on the less apparent and more general laws underlying and connecting these, and thence, with expanded views, on the system itself, and finally upon the infinite majesty of its Author.
With means so large within our grasp comes, of course, a commensurate responsibility for their use. Confronting and comprehending opportunities so great, we realize one of those crises in human existence the issue of, which determines our fitness for the place we fill. That the work now before us is to be done admits not of reasonable doubt. As little can it be doubted that we who have found, and put our bands to, can also accomplish it. We have but to raise our conceptions to the level of what lies before us-to be worthy of the part we have ourselves chosen--to find awaiting our use ample facility for shewing once more in England what may be done by even a few men earnestly and intelligently bent upon the furtherance of a noble design, conceived, and capable of being executed, in accordance with the spirit of the time.
There are, and we know there are, conditions of the success we crave. We know that they must be complied with. The prize is for the winner, not for the wisher merely. We are beset with temptations to error. And vast as are the advantages we possess, we have yet much to do ere we learn how best to use them.
Above and before all, we have to guard ourselves against the assumption-fatal to many who have indulged, and justly indulged, hopes quite as bright as ours—that whilst our labours are continued in form, they are also continued with effect. The principle of association is now so familiar to us, as a means of achieving with ease results beyond the utmost efforts of individual men, that a corresponding effect is commonly looked for wherever we see that principle in action. Especially deceptive is this tendency as applied to literary and scientific societies. Whence, for the most part, a too easy and too early satisfaction with what is done. Their meetings are made agreeable by the mutual good-will with which men of business assemble to relieve the mind of its daily load of care. Those who take upon themselves to provide for the instruction or amusement of the rest, are met with a feeling of gratitude at once natural and laudable. Compliments, for the most part, take the place of criticism. And, excepting the provision of a passing recreation for minds of a certain degree of culture, little is effected—very little that endures, or by which it might be known that such associations had existed. To suppose that we can entirely avoid an error so common, were to be too sanguine. But having once recognized the liability, we can at least be on our guard against its commoner indications.
Nor can it safely be inferred that because power is present, and is applied, it is also well directed. In many ways it may be misapplied ; and in none, perhaps, is it more commonly wasted than through the want of a degree of combination which prior communication among the working members of the Society might readily effect. Doubtless