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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
Mr. Copeland talked last evening in Sever 11 on the town of Concord, before a large and interested audience.
A hundred and twenty years ago at this season of the year, said Mr. Copeland in beginning his lecture, General Gage, then in possession of Boston, thought it would be a good move to sieze the colonists' stores of arms and ammunition at Concord. In spite of all the general's attempts at secrecy his plan transpired, and on the night of the 18th of April, 1775, the country was quietly alarmed by Paul Revere and other persons, and the news went forth that a detachment of British regulars had left Boston for Concord. According to the received account, they set out at half past 10 in the evening, reached Lexington at half past four on the morning of the 19th, halted there twenty minutes, and arrived in Concord at seven, an hour after sunrise. The colonists were ready for the invaders of their village, and the minute men continued to swarm in from the country during the morning hours. They hesitated, however, from habit, from loyalty, and perhaps from wholesome fear, to put themselves in the attitude of rebels. But when the detachment at the bridge fired upon our men, Major Buttrick no longer stayed his hand, but cried to his force of militia, "Fire, fellow soldiers, for God's sake fire!" This was the beginning of the Concord fight. The day went more and more against the regulars, and about noon they began to retreat. The farmers pursued them to Lexington, where, near two in the afternoon their numbers were augmented by a large reinforcement sent out from Boston, under Lord Percy. Percy and his command, however, instead of turning the unequal battle, merely joined the retreat. The regulars continued to flee, the embattled farmers to pursue, until towards sunset the British soldiers reached Charlestown, and the protection of British guns. Thus ended the Concord fight, and with it the first passage at arms of the American Revolution.
Mr. Copeland went rapidly on from this point to the time when Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and less well known members of the celebrated literary group, inhabited Concord and wrote their books there. Emerson was spoken of both as the Delphic man, through whom the gods spoke to men; as the unpractical person intensely interested in practical affairs, and delighting in "people who can do things," and as the good neighbor, caring for his friends and fellow citizens, and standing up - in the words of an old woman of the village - "just as if he thought other people were as good as he was."
Mr. Copeland dwelt briefly on Hawthorne and Thoreau, and then gave an account of a visit to Concord a year ago. The old Manse is, to his thinking, the most impressive object in Concord, and among many things which every American would care to see, the speaker described French's bronze statue of the Minute Man, and the simply commemorated graves of Emerson and Hawthorne.
The talk was followed with the reading of Emerson's "Concord Fight," which contains the lines:
"Here once the embattled farmers stood, And fired the shot heard round the world."Mr. Copeland read also a part of Lowell's "Concord Ode."
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