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AT THE BANQUET IN
THE BIRMINGHAM TOWN HALL,
ON THE OCCASION OF LAYING THE FIRST STONE
BIRMINGHAM AND MIDLAND INSTITUTE.
[ NOVEMBER 22ND, 1855.]
[An Address having been presented by the Corporation,
His Royal HIGHNESS in reply said—]
MR. MAYOR AND GENTLEMEN,— THE cordial reception I have met with from
you demands my warmest acknowledgments. You only, I assure you, do me justice in giving me credit for a deep interest in whatever may tend to promote the advancement of either the moral or the material good of the people of this country; but you are doing so in too flattering a manner, and attach too high a value to any service that it may have been in my power to render in this cause. I feel it would be a high privilege to be associated in any way with those who are making such noble efforts — and nowhere with more energy and perseverance than in Birmingham — for the improvement of their fellow-countrymen; and to be allowed to witness the success of those efforts will be a more than sufficient reward for any assistance I may myself have been enabled to afford.
[Lord CALTHORPE having read the Address of the Council of
MY LORDS AND GENTLEMEN,—
It is with more than ordinary pleasure that I have accepted your kind invitation to take part in the ceremony which is this day to mark the first step towards the establishment of an Institution, from which I join with its warmest supporters in looking for the most advantageous results.
I cannot, indeed, doubt for a moment that the expectations of those who believe that the “value " and dignity of human labour will receive a “ manifold increase, when guided by the light “ of scientific knowledge,” will be amply realized. And it is most gratifying to me to hear the expression of your opinion that the desire for the “keener and more comprehensive study of the “ principles by which the exercise of man's pro
“ ductive powers is controlled,” from which you anticipate such advantage, has been stimulated by the Great Exhibition of 1851, to my connection with which you have been pleased to allude in such flattering terms.
I cannot forget that the example of such Industrial Exhibitions had been already set by this town, and with the best results; or that to the experience so acquired the Executive Committee of the greater undertaking of '51 were much indebted in carrying that work to a successful issue. As Birmingham was thus foremost in giving a practical stimulus to the works of Art and Industry, so she is now one of the first in the field to encourage a scientific study of the principles on which those works depend for success.
I trust with you, and confidently believe, that the moral as well as the material welfare of this great community will be advanced by the union, for scientific objects, of men of all classes and of all opinions, in such institutions as that of which I am to-day to have the honour of laying the first stone. And most heartily do I join with you in congratulating the country that not even such a war as that in which we are now engaged, calculated as it is to enlist our warmest sympathies and to engage our more immediate interest, can divert Englishmen from the noble work of fostering the Arts of Peace, and endeavouring to give a wider scope to the blessings of freedom and civilization,
[Lord CALTHORPE, the President of the Institute, proposed
“ The Health of PRINCE ALBERT, and the other Members
“ of the Royal Family.”
His Royal HIGHNESS replied—] T AM much obliged to you, my Lord, for your
proposing my health in such kind terms, and I cannot but be much gratified by the cordial reception which you, gentlemen, have been pleased to give to this toast.
It has been a great pleasure to me to have been able to participate, in however trifling a degree, in a work which I do not look upon as a simple act of worldly wisdom on the part of this great town and locality, but as one of the first public acknowledgments of a principle which is daily forcing its way amongst us, and is destined to play a great and important part in the future development of this nation and of the world in general : I mean the introduction of science and art as the unconscious regulators of productive industry.
The courage and spirit of enterprise with
which an immense amount of capital is embarked in industrial pursuits, and the skill and indefatigable perseverance with which these are carried on in this country, cannot but excite universal admiration; but in all our operations, whether agricultural or manufacturing, it is not we who operate, but the laws of nature, which we have set in operation.
It is, then, of the highest importance that we should know these laws, in order to know what we are about, and the reason why certain things are, which occur daily under our hands, and what course we are to pursue with regard to them.
Without such knowledge we are condemned to one of three states : either we merely go on to do things just as our fathers did, and for no better reason than because they did them so; or, trusting to some personal authority, we adopt at random the recommendation of some specific, in a speculative hope that it may answer; or lastly —and this is the most favourable case—we ourselves improve upon certain processes; but this can only be the result of an experience hardly earned and dearly bought, and which, after all, can only embrace a comparatively short space of time, and a small number of experiments.
From none of these causes can we hope for