« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
and in 1855 he withdrew to the country, and with his relatives in Norfolk, and Colebrook, passed the last months of his life. He died at Colebrook, on the 13th of September, 1856, aged seventy-nine years, one month and two days.
Dr. Robbins was a member of the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester, and received the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from the Corporation of Harvard College in 1838, and of Williams College in 1842.
His remains are interred in the North Burying Ground of Hartford, in the immediate vicinity of the grave of the Rev. Dr. Strong, with whom in life, he was always on intimate personal and ministerial relations.
The following notice of his funeral, and the proceedings of the Connecticut Historical Society, are taken from the Connecticut Courant.
FUNERAL OF REV. Thomas ROBBINS, D. D.-The funeral of the Rev. Dr. Robbins took place Tuesday, Sept. 16th, at 5 o'clock, P. M., at the Centre Church. The services were conducted by Rev. Dr. Hawes, who made a brief but touching address on the Christian and pastoral character of the deceased, and on his own happy personal relations with him, from the outset of his own ministry in Connecticut. He spoke of his uniformly courteous, faithful, exemplary Christian life, and as almost the last representative of the manners of the early generation of Puritan ministers. There was a deep solemnity in his allusion to the closing hour of the day which was beginning to fill the church with the shadows of the coming night, and the blissful morning which would break on the spirit of the faithful Christian who departs this life like the deceased in the faith of the Lord Jesus. After the reading of appropriate selections from the Scriptures, and a prayer, solemn, impressive, and edifying, and appropriate anthems by the choir, the body was borne out of the church by four of the pastors of Hartford, and followed by the relations and friends, and the members of the Connecticut Historical Society, to the North Burying Ground, where it was consigned to the tomb just as the sun was setting behind the western hills.
A special meeting of the Connecticut Historical Society was held at the Library at half-past four o'clock, which the President, Henry Barnard, opened with the following remarks:
GENTLEMEN:—We have assembled on this occasion, by special summons, to join in an appropriate expression of our grateful remembrance of the Rev. Thomas Robbins, D. D., -one of the earliest and best friends of the Society, whose decease and funeral have been almost simultaneously announced to us. The departure of this venerable Christian Pastor, whose ministrations for a half century have been familiar to the pulpits of this city and state, and whose life, presence and teachings have seemed a connecting link between the present generation and the Puritan period of New England History-would at any time have arrested the sorrowing attention of all who seek in the past the roots of our present prosperity; but in this venerable Christian Pastor, we brethren, recognize a pioneer in historical and antiquarian research in this state-one of the founders of this Society—one named in the act of its incorporation-one of its earliest office-bearers, and one whose valuable collection of books, pamphlets, and historical memorials constitute the treasure and attraction of our library and museum.
And to add to his claims, to our grateful remembrance, Dr. Robbins has, by his Will, made the Connecticut Historical Society the Trustee of his property, a no inconsiderable sum,* by which his valuable collection of biblical, ecclesiastical, and antiquarian literature will be preserved, and gradually augmentedan ever enduring monument of his piety, patriotism, and zeal for learning, and
* About $4,000.
a source of ever widening instruction and pleasure to generation after generation. A brief notice of the Library, and of his, and its connection with the Connecticut Historical Society, can not be considered an inappropriate introduction to the Resolutions which will be submitted to your consideration.
The books which fill these numerous alcoves and shelves, and these interesting memorials of the piety, bravery, and domestic life of the fathers of Con. necticut and New England, were the gatherings of nearly fifty years' explorations of the garrets, chests, and libraries of the old families of Connecticut and the "old colony,” as well as purchases of antiquarian book-sellers and collectorg. Many of these pamphlets are very rare and valuable, and are often consulted by scholors interested in the literary, ecclesiastical, and civil history of New England.
The books were not purchased at once, out of the abundance of a largely inherited fortune, or from year to year out of the surplus of a large salary. Nor were they collected for the owner's sole or temporary gratification. Dr. Robbins has always been a Home Missionary, or the pastor of a country parish. He commenced his collection while in college, by preserving his text-books; and in 1809 made a formal beginning of a permanent library, by making a catalogue of his entire stock, consisting of one hundred and thirty volumes, with a determination that he would add at least one hundred volumes a year as long as he should live. He consecrated his design by invoking the blessing of God upon it, and declared in writing on the first leaf of his catalogue, the following to be his objects:
“ First, To assist the divinity student in the investigation of the Holy Scriptures, in the study of the history of the Church of Christ, and in such general services as may enable him to become an able and faithful minister of the gospel of salvation.
"Secondly, To assist the lover of history in his researches to discover the character of the Most High, and of man in the various events of Divine Providence. The design is now committed to God. I pray for his holy approbation and blessing."
From this small and pious beginning in 1809, by denying himself all superfluities, out of a modest income, Dr. Robbins persevered, adding year after year at least one hundred volumes to his collection, till, instead of a few shelves in a single case, we now see this spacious hall filled with many thousands of choice and valuable books.
How much purer and higher has been his satisfaction from year to year, in adding to the glorious company of the great and good-coming to him across oceans of space and time-his instructors in the noble themes which have occupied his meditation, his pen, and his voice, for nearly half a century--his resort in hours of solitude-bis recreation after severe labor-and his solace in periods of trial and amiction—than if he had expended his earnings and savings on things that perish with the using.
It was his intention from the start, that his collection should be kept entire after his death, and pass, with such conditions as should appear best calculated to secure its preservation and gradual increase, into the safe keeping of some chartered Institution; and by arrangement entered into twelve years ago, his long cherished purpose was consummated by this Society's becoming at first the Trustee, and afterward the owner of his valuable collections. By this arrangement he had the satisfaction in his own life-time to see his entire library
displayed, as it had never been before, in one of the noblest rooms of the most substantially built edifice in the State—safe from the hazards of fire, and from the vicissitudes which attach to the property of individuals, and committed forever to the custody of a Society, which, under the laws of the Commonwealth, and in the patriotism of its citizens, is destined, we trust, to a permanent existence, and ever-widening usefulness. And more than this, he was able to retire from his chosen field of labor, when he could no longer serve his Master as a Christian pastor from his failing strength, and without any apprehension that the evening of his life would be clouded by want or neglect, and here, in our midst, where he was universally respected, with those facilities and helps which his zeal and self-denial had collected, give himself up to those historical and an. tiquarian studies and pursuits which he loved so well, and which he had commenced so early in his career.
Dr. Robbins was for a long time almost the only collector in the State, of pamphlets and memorials of the past, and as far back as in 1811, in the Connecticut Evangelical Magazine, commenced a series of papers on the divines and statesmen of our early history, which were afterward collected and publishod in a volume entitled, “ First Planters of New England." In every place where he ministered, he devoted himself to the elucidation of its local and ecclesiastical history.
In 1822, in an address delivered in this city on the 4th of July, before a number of military companies, he urged the formation of an "Historical Society as a depository of ancient books, pamphlets, manuscripts, and temporary publications," and that it should be done here, “in this, the oldest town in the State." Whether growing out of this suggestion, or not, I can not say, but three years later he had the satisfaction of seeing his name among the incorporators of the Connecticut Historical Society, and of being associated with the venerable John Trumbull, and Hon. Thomas Day, among the officers of the institution. Called a few years later out of the State, he was not permitted to labor here in behalf of its objects, but he carried his antiquarian taste and labors, which were recognized by his being elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society at Worcester.
In 1844, it was my good fortune to consummate, on my own responsibility,* an arrangement by which Dr. Robbins became the librarian of our Society, and re
* At the May session of the Legislature of Rhode Island, in 1844, a Memorial was presented. setting forth “That the valuable library of Rev. Thomas Robbins. D. D, of Mettapoisett, Mass., could be procured for a public institution," and asking that it might be purchased by the State, as the foundation of a State Library. The Memorial was referred to the Committee on Education. Mr. Barnard, at that time Commissioner of Public schools, on being con. sulted by the Committee, advised that the library be purchased for this purpose, and drew up a Report and Resolution for the Chairman of the Committee, favorable to such action-remarking to the Chairman, " that if the Legislature did not act promptly and definitely at this session, it would be too late." The Committee did not adopt the Report, and the Legislature adjourned without any action on the subject. On the same day Mr. Barnard drove over to Metta poisett, and after an interview of an hour, finding that Dr. Robbins' health required a cessation of pastoral duties, gave his personal obligation for a salary for five years, equal to that which he was then receiving as pastor, if he would remove to Hartford with his library, and become Librarian of the Connecticut Historical Society. In the course of the week sollowing, he visited Hartford, raised among the members of the Society, and the personal friends of Dr. Robbins, the sum required, and presented the matter to the sanction of the society, which was promptly and cordially given. The annual payment for five years was sub. sequently converted into an annuity, in consideration of which, Dr. Robbins of his own accord transferred his Library to the Society.
moved to these rooms, as has been before stated, his valuable library, and gave to us his entire collection of pamphlets, to the number of over five thousand. And here, for ten years, with gradually failing strength, he might be seen at our monthly meetings, and day by day welcoming, with courteous attentions, the citizen and stranger to these rooms, and explaining, with almost the personal interest of an eye-witness to the reality, these memorials of a past age—himself an object of no less interest to the visitor. But by degrees the failing memorythe hesitating step—the dim eye-satisfied himself, as well as his best friends, that his work on earth was finished, and he retired to the country—to the neighborhood where he was born, and there his spirit gradually passed away, like the twilight of a long summer's day, into that solemn darkness which mortal eye can not pierce, but which to him, we doubt not, is lit up by the radiance of a never-ending noon.
It would be unjust even in these brief remarks not to notice his life long interest in the prosperity of our New England colleges, and his constant care of the common school, in every place where he ministered as pastor. He was seldom absent from the commencement exercises of Yale and Williams, and never failed to visit once, and generally twice every district school in his parish, during each season of schooling. He was a member of the first Society formed in this country to improve common schools, and on the nomination of Governor Everett, was appointed a member of the Massachusetts State Board of Education, on its establishment in 1837.
Dr. Robbins took an active part in all the religious and benevolent move. ments of the day, and in the foundation of most of the institutions of charity, which adorn and bless our city. He was particularly active in commending the cause of the insane to individual and legislative aid, and was invited by Dr. Todd and the Trustees, to pronounce a Discourse on the dedication of the Retreat for that class.
Before we go out hence to pay our last tribute of respect to our deceased brother and venerable friend, by joining in the funeral services, and following his body to the tomb, let us unite in placing on our records our high appreciation of his pure, useful, and Christian life, and our grateful remembrance of his many services to the cause of sound learning and intelligent piety-and especially in opening to the student of History and the Bible this valuable, and, we trust, ever-increasing Library.
The following Resolutions were then adopted:
WHEREAS it has pleased Almighty God to call from his earthly labors, our late Librarian, the Reverend Thomas Robbins, Doctor in Divinity
Resolved, That in his death the Connecticut Historical Society has lost one of its original projectors, founders, and office-bearers, whose antiquarian zeal did much to enlist others on the promotion of its objects, and whose reverence for God's Word and ways, has led to the acquisition of a valuable library, and of large historical material, into the possession of which this Society has entered, with the means bequeathed by him to make the same still more valuable * to the student of the Holy Scriptures, and the lover of history in his researches to discover the character of the Most High, and of man in the various events of Divine Providence."
Resolved, That as a Christian Pastor we honor his memory as at once devoted and exemplary-firm in his own convictions, and candid and liberal toward those who differed with him in opinion, and in all his transactions with others, eminent for his Christian courtesy and kindness.
Resolved, That, as a Society, we will proceed hence to the Centre Church, to assist in the funeral solemnities, and to follow his body to its last resting-place.
Thomas Dowse died at his residence in Cambridgeport, Mass, on the 4th of November, 1856, in the 84th year of his age. We abridge the following notice from an article in "The Historical Magazine," for January, 1857.
Thomas DoWSE was a native of Charlestown, Mass., and was born Dec. 28th, 1772. He was the son of Eleazer Dowse, and a descendant of Lawrence Dowse, an early settler at Charlestown. After the burning of that place by the British, in 1775, his parents removed to Sherborn, where they continued to reside till their death. When about six years of age, he met with an accident by which he was rendered a cripple. This accident, by preventing his engaging in the active sports of boyhood, no doubt had some influence in developing his studi. ous habits. At an early age he became an apprentice to Mr. Samuel Waitt, a leather-dresser of Roxbury; and was afterward his partner in business. In 1801, he removed to Cambridgeport, where, in connection with different individuals, he carried on his business until about ten years since.
He began early to collect a library, which by degrees grew to be a very val. uable one. In 1831 it was brought to the notice of the public by Hon. Edward Everett, in a lecture delivered at Boston.
“I scarce know if I may venture to adduce an instance nearer home, of the most praiseworthy and successful cultivation of useful knowledge on the part of an individual without education, busily employed in mechanical industry. I have the pleasure to be acquainted, in one of the neighboring towns, with a person who was brought up to the trade of a leather-dresser, and has all his life worked, and still works at this business.* He has devoted his leisure hours, and a portion of his honorable earnings, to the cultivation of useful and elegant learning. Under the same roof which covers his workshop, he has the most excellent library of English books, for its size, with which I am acquainted. The books have been selected with a good judgment, which would do credit to the most accomplished scholar, and have been imported from England hy himself. What is more important than having the books, their proprietor is well acquainted with their contents. Among them are several volumes of the most costly and magnificent engravings. Connected with his library is an exceedingly interesting series of paintings, in water colors, copies of the principal works of the ancient masters in England, —which a fortunate accident placed in his possession, and several valuable pictures, purchased by himself. The whole forms a treasure of taste and knowledge, not surpassed, if equaled, by any. thing of its kind in the country."
This library, which he had spent a lifetime in collecting, Mr. Dowse felt unwilling to have dispersed at his death; and, as early as July last, being admonished by failing health, he proposed to the Massachusetts Historical Society to receive his treasures into their keeping.
Through the immediate agency of Mr. George Livermore, the immediate neighbor and confidential friend of Mr. Dowse, and the President of the Society, Ilon. Robert C. Winthrop, this design was consummated. At a special meeting of the Society on the 5th of August, this noble deed was formally announced by the President, and resolutions adopted, by which the Society obligates itself to keep the collection of books thus presented, “in a room by themselves, to be used only in said room,"
Resolved, That the collection of books thus presented and accepted shall be known always as the Dowse Library of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and that an ap
* Mr. Thomas Dowse, of Cambridgeport.