Narragansett’s Tribute to Hon. Zachariah Allen.
March 21, 1883.
JAMES N. ARNOLD, the Editor of this Historical Magazine, attended the meeting of the Rhode Island Historical Society, of which Mr. Allen was the honored President, held in the society’s rooms, the purpose of which was to pay due honor to the memory of its late President. Mr. Arnold’s remarks were as follows:
Mr. President and Fellow Members: – With your permission we wish to say a word in praise of Mr. Allen for the Narragansett Country. We cannot more worthily honor our late President than to meet here in this manner to-night, to speak words of eulogy in honor of his memory. We have the pleasing duty before us of bestowing honor upon one who has taken his departure from among us, and who has departed full of years, and of honor. In him we feel the truth again of the old saying, “A good name is like precious ointment.” We feel in him we have lost one who was worthy of honor, and one who could bear the elevation and the plaudits of his fellowmen. His sterling good sense and true nobleness of soul was never seen in a clearer light than in his simplicity of character and humble walk in life; born as he was amid wealth and all that it could bestow, and associating throughout life among a class of men who are too apt to forget to feel for those in humbler walks in life. His sterling good sense taught him to disregard this and to honor the man, and to have a pleasing and cheering word for all. No one can number these little acts of kindness that our late President has bestowed along his pathway of life, during its long and eventful career. If these little acts are truly pi’eserved by the recording angel, then iudeed, in that higher sphere of life, his crown must be magnificently set with jewels.
His hours of leisure were not spent in flattery, or in the dissipations of fashion so common to men of wealth; but in studying well, and deeply and thoroughly, the history of this gallant little State. In him Rhode Island had few nobler sons, and certainly none that loved her more. None went further than he in studying the attacks of her enemies, and none hastened sooner with his pen to her rescue.
In our correspondence with him this fact came out so prominently that it could not be misunderstood. He saw in the Great Narragansett Questions the key-note, and the origin of nearly, if not all the calumny that has been written in passion against his own gallant State; and to read his letters urging a brother historian to vindicate the honor of our State, are as refreshing as a benediction.
These letters breathe through them the freshness and vigor of youth, united with the calm and considerate judgment of the historian. Rhode Island and her record, as written in her annals, to him was a subject ever new. Amid these scenes he never was tired of wandering, or urging upon the attention of his fellowmen. His published writings are in every way ample proof of this statement.
He loved the whole of Rhode Island. The most inland or humblest town was as near and dear to him as the wealthiest and most opulent. The fact that it made up a part of Rhode Island was enough to enlist his veneration, respect and love.
In the name of my portion of the State, let me here thank him for his words of love and encouragement. We all feel that in him we have lost a worthy and sincere friend. Let it be our duty in recognition of his worth to bestow a brother’s tears and words of sympathy here, in honor of his memory.
Finally, let us say here, his words will always be a comfort to us in our researches, and will cheer us on in our future labors, and his advice to us will be heeded like unto that of a father.
When this society named him as its honored head, that honor could not have been bestowed upon a nobler or worthier man, and he has worn that honor with credit to himself, and has proven worthy to succeed that worthy one who held that honor before him and whom this society still delights to honor.
His mantle must now fall on one of us, and he whose honor it may be has truly a great task before him. Let it be his study to prove himself worthy. Let the example of our late President be before him to guide and protect him in the line of his future duty.
SOURCE: Page(s): 10-11; The Narragansett, Volume 1. July, 1882 Number 1