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E'en then, however keen the throe,
for ourselves to die;
Eliza Cooli, fatherland, native country.
rover, wanderer. chequered, varied.
peasant, countryman. gems, precious stones.
glance, sight. regal, royal.
chilled, cooled. dome, an arched roof.
throe, agony cherish, to love.
1. George Peabody, the distinguished philanthropist, merchant, and banker, a “self-made man” in every sense of the word, was born at Danvers, Massachusetts, February 18, 1795. His father was of French descent, and in humble circumstances. When George was eleven years of age, he was apprenticed to a grocer in his native town, where he remained for four years. At the expiration of this time he desired to become acquainted with business on a larger scale. With this object in view, after a year spent with his grandfather in Vermont, he joined his brother David in 1811, in a “dry goods" shop which the latter had opened at Newburyport. A fire, however, destroyed the greater part of the town, including the warehouse of the Peabodys. But George was not made of such stuff as to give way to despair, or even to despondency. He remembered that he had an uncle, John Peabody, who was settled in the district of Columbia; and just as the youth was thinking of going in search of him, he received an invitation from his uncle to come and join him. The boy went, and soon became the leading spirit and the mainstay of the business intrusted to his hands. This was in May, 1812. War with England was close at hand. Two months later a British fleet sailed up the Potomac, and menaced Washington and the neighbouring ports. In this emergency, the young clerk, though not yet of age, joined a volunteer company of artillery, and did active duty for some months at Fort Warburton; and, to use the words of an American writer, “if he gained here no military honours, at least he showed that he had within him the soul of a patriot, and the nerve of a soldier.”
2. Having spent two years in the service of his uncle, we next find him attracting the attention of a Mr. Elisha Riggs, who invited young Peabody to join him in business; Mr. Riggs finding the necessary capital, and his young partner transacting and managing the business. To all concerned, the partnership of Riggs and Peabody proved a most satisfactory and successful arrangement.
3. In 1815, the establishment was removed to Baltimore; seven years later its extended operations were such as to justify the opening of branches at Philadelphia and New York; and about the year 1830, by the retirement of his partner, George Peabody found himself at the head, and the virtual director, of one of the largest mercantile firms in the United States. Having spent several years in managing the house in Baltimore, where, in addition to his ordinary business, he undertook several important financial negotiations for the state of Maryland, of which Baltimore is the capital; Mr. Peabody next resolved to take up his abode in England. In 1837, he came to London; and retiring a few years later from the American firm, established himself in the city as a merchant, banker, and money broker. .
4. He did not become a banker in the ordinary English sense of the term; but to use the words of a writer in the Times, he was "like the Rothschilds and the Barings, he loaned money, changed drafts, bought stocks, and held deposits for customers; but he did not, like English bankers, pay out money." The magnitude of his transactions in this capacity perhaps fell short of one or two other great houses of the same class; but in honour, faith, punctuality, and public confidence, the firm of George Peabody & Co., of Warnford Court, City, stood second to none.
5. Shortly after Mr. Peabody came to London in 1837, the affairs of his native land, financially speaking, could hardly have been more critical. American credit was shaken, and banks suspended payment one after another in quick succession. “ The default of some of the states," said his friend Everett, “the temporary inability of others to meet their obligations, and the failure of our moneyed institutions, threw doubt and distrust on all American securities. That great sympathetic nerve of the commercial world, credit, as far as the United States were concerned, was, for a time, paralysed. At that moment—and it was a critical one-Mr. Peabody not only stood firm himself, but he was the cause of firmness in others. There were not at that time, probably, half a dozen other men in Europe who, upon the subject of American securities, would have been listened to for a moment in the parlour of the Bank of England. But his judgment commanded respect; his integrity won back the reliance which men had been accustomed to place upon American securities. The word of an honest man performed the miracle of turning paper into gold.”
6. Mr. Peabody, at this trying period, róse far above the mere financier he placed himself in the first rank of public benefactors. Towards Maryland, his adopted State in America, his services were of a special character. Under an act of the Maryland Assembly, he had been made in 1835, one of three commissioners to negotiate a loan for the State. The loan was obtained, and the credit of the State, after suffering for a time, was restored. For his services in this matter Mr. Peabody declined all compensation, but in 1848 he was rewarded by a special vote of thanks on the part of the Legislative Assembly.
7. In 1851, when the American productions intended for the Great Exhibition had arrived, it was found that the portion of the building set apart for their display was a barn-like
in which neither platform nor counter, show-case nor decoration, had been prepared. The United States government had appropriated no funds for the purpose, and everything seemed to presage an utter failure. In this dilemma Mr. Peabody came to the
Not a person connected with the Exhibition had ever seen him. As agent or exhibitor, consigner or juror, no claim could be made upon his help. But without pretence or show, upon the ground of a simple business transaction as he considered it, with no valid security, and simply that his native land might not be disgraced, he promptly supplied the sum of $15,000.
8. In June 1852, the town of Danvers celebrated the centenary anniversary of its foundation. A public dinner was given, but Mr. Peabody, being in England, could not attend. He sent a letter of apology, however, inclosing a cheque for $20,000 for educational purposes in his native town. This handsome donation he subsequently followed up with others on a larger scale; and the “Peabody Institute” now stands as a lasting memorial of no less than $500,000, bestowed by Mr. Peabody as a free gift during his own lifetime.
9. In 1852 his money was readily given, in conjunction with that of Mr. Grinnell, to fit out the brig Advance under Captain Elisha Kent Kane, to go in search of the English explorer, Sir John Franklin. At his own expense he founded and endowed the Literary and Scientific Institution of Baltimore. To the American Southern Educational Fund he contributed no less a sum than $2,000,000.
10. But the deed by which the name of Peabody will be longest remembered in this, his adopted country, is his noble gift of a quarter of a million sterling for the purpose of erecting suitable houses to be let at low rents to the poorer classes of London.
11. This act of “princely munificence," as it was styled by Queen Victoria in an autograph letter which she addressed to Mr. Peabody, was one on which the Times commented as "wholly without parallel.” In conveying her thanks to the generous giver, her Majesty said that it was an act “which will ever carry its best reward in the consciousness of having contributed so largely to the assistance of those who can so little help themselves as the London poor.” All sorts of honours were offered to Mr. Peabody in recognition of his generosity; among others, “ that of either a baronetcy, or the Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath,” by the Queen herself; but he declined to accept any, wisely contenting himself with the thought that he would be best remembered on both sides of the Atlantic as plain George Peabody. This letter was accompanied by the offer of a beautiful miniature of Her Majesty, which she desired to have painted for him. In replying to it, Mr. Peabody said, “the portrait which your Majesty is graciously pleased to bestow on me I shall value as the most precious heirloom that I can leave in the land of my birth; where, together with the letter which your Majesty has addressed to me,