South Danvers Wizard – April 3, 1867
“On Friday night, March 22d, Mr. George Peabody gave a private dinner to General and Mrs. Grant, and the Trustees of the Southern Educational Fund, at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York. There was an unusual interest in the event, in consequence of the public curiosity respecting the administration of the munificent fund set apart by Mr. Peabody for educational purposes in the Southern States.
“That the banquet should have crowned the debates and discussions of the Trustees as well, and the public will be pleased to learn that the Board has come to results which are satisfactory in every respect, a full report of which may be expected early this week. Mr. Peabody’s views have been consulted throughout, and the work to be done by the Trustees hereafter must speak for itself.
Ulysses S. Grant – Wikipedia
“At seven o’clock the party began to file into the hall to soft music. Quite a crowd of ladies and gentlemen had assembled in the vestibule of the hotel, adjoining the dining room, and all looked on admiringly upon the proceedings, which were devoid of ostentation although quite imposing. The banqueting hall was unadorned,, and the most republican simplicity prevailed among the surroundings of the table, which, however, had a smack of royalty about it never before seen in this country. Two tables were spread lengthwise of the hall, and these were united at the upper end by a third leaving an open space in the center for the guests, and the servants who were to wait upon them.
David Farragut – Wikipedia
“Mr. Peabody occupied the center of the north table, with Admiral Farragut on his left and Mrs. General Grant on his right. General Grant, Mrs. Farragut and Robert C. Winthrop were the vis-a-vis of Mr. Peabody, Admiral Farragut and Mrs. General Grant. Mr. Peabody personally attended to the arranging of the places for the guests, and the comfort of all was amply secured. The table was richly ornamented by a service of silver procured expressly for the occasion from Paris. This magnificent service of silver and gold, consisted of fifty pieces of exquisite designs and elaborate workmanship. Several of them were copies of those used by the Emperor of the French on state occasions. The centerpiece was an abundance, three feet in height, skillfully and ingeniously wrought, with Cupids, allegorical of commerce and agriculture.
“Another represented a fishing scene, of an emblematic character. In another was depicted the three graces sustaining a corbeille of flowers. Upon the table there were ten candlesticks of solid silver and of various designs, artistically finished. Upon one of the tables, was a service of gold, consisting of ten pieces, massive and beautifully wrought. It is doubtful if a more splendid and costly service of plate has ever before placed upon a table in this country. The pieces were of the Louis XV, and Louis XVI styles and were but recently imported by the house which furnished them to the hotel.
“The gorgeous decorations of the table were in perfect keeping with the costly viands and wines which had been prepared to gratify the palate. When the lights were in full blaze the scene was indescribably beautiful. The toilets of the ladies, brilliant with gems, reflected back the beauties of glittering silver and gold, and led on to dream for a moment of the glories of fairy land. The officers of the army and navy appeared in full uniform, and taken altogether, the whole affair was in the highest degree imposing. The viands prepared for the occasion were unsurpassed.
“Covers were laid for 73 persons, and the vacant seats at the table were occupied by gentlemen who had been invited, but whose names had not been placed upon the list till a late hour.
“Being a strictly private dinner, the toilets of the ladies were less elaborate than for ‘state occasions’. Exquisite taste seemed to actuate them on the occasion, and the dresses and ornaments were rather elegant and simple. Most of the ladies were married, and there was consequently more of the simplicity of a ‘family party’ than a ‘set dinner’, where show is the rule and simplicity the exception.
Robert C. Winthrop – Wikipedia
“After ample justice was done to the viands by the guests, Hon. Robert C. Winthrop opened the intellectual portion of the banquet in a very eloquent speech, eulogistic of the host of the evening, of whom he said: ‘His deeds of munificence are far above the reach of any praises which it is in my power to utter. Landing, as he did, here at New York, after a long absence in England, where he had already performed acts of charity without a precedent in the annals of the world, and which gave a new luster to the American name wherever that name is known. Landing here, I say, on the first day of May last, his visit to his native country has been one continual May day of benevolence and beneficence. There has been no Winter in his bounty.
‘The storms and snows of New England, which have regard around him with more than their wonted severity have not been able to repress or chill – have stimulated (___ ? ) pathway through our land has been a perfect Milky Way, leaving a reliance on the historic page as enduring as this of the sky above us. And this last, best, largest, noblest, crowning gift for aiding the work of education in the desolate South, has, above all others, touched and thrilled every heart in the land; and there is, at least, one of its trustees – I think I can speak of them all – who regards his association with that gift as the highest honor of his life.
‘It was once said on some occasion by my illustrious friend, the late Daniel Webster, in that terse and impressive language, in which he excelled almost all other men – that is an inquiry was made as to what America had ever contributed to the world, it was enough to say that she had contributed the character of George Washington. And we, of this day and generation, may now answer to that inquiry, that she has not only contributed the character of George Washington, but also the example of George Peabody. And, let me add, that if some American Thackeray should hereafter spring up to compose a series of lectures or of essays on the American Georges, he will be able to trade in them elements of true nobility, of real royalty, such as have rarely, adorned the lives of those who have wielded the scepter of earthly sovereignty in my land or age.’
“Mr. Peabody replied as follows: ‘Ladies and Gentlemen – I feel most deeply grateful to the trustees for the very kind resolutions they presented me, to Mr. Winthrop for the complimentary manner in which he has proposed my health, and to you all I give my warmest thanks for the enthusiastic reception you have given to my name. I have at times been placed in very honorable positions, but in no instance did I feel more highly honored than at this time by the presence around me, not only of the highest officers of our army and navy, deservedly renowned in both hemispheres – but by some of the most distinguished men of our nation, both North and South, whose happy union and pleasant intercourse I treat as an omen of the brighter day which I hope is soon to dawn upon our beloved country. (Applause)
‘I cannot refrain from expressing my satisfaction at the harmonious action of the gentlemen who have done me the honor, to act as my trustees, and at the happy auspices under which they have commenced their labors, which they have great confidence will be crowned by success. Although I feel that this occasion should not be one of making speeches, one or two sentiments before we leave the table, I will give. Our Country, our Whole Country, its Chief Magistrate, its Congress, its Army and Navy, and the Commanders of them both, who are with us here this evening.’
“Here the applause was very warm and enthusiastic, and after, the band had played one or two national airs, Mr. Peabody continued, expressing the hope that her Majesty Queen Victoria would long live to rule over the country in which under Providence, he and others had prospered. He gave as a concluding toast. ‘The Country in which I have long lived and prospered, and its honored and beloved Queen.’
“The New York Times makes the following statement: It is understood that the Trustees during their sessions of the past week, have matured a plan of operations for administering the fund which Mr. Peabody has placed in their hands, which will probably be soon given to the public. We believe the leading feature decided upon is that the first efforts shall be for the establishment of common schools throughout the Southern States, to be mainly in the hands of female teachers. The practical organization and administration of the system has been committed to Dr. Sears, so well and so honorably known from his long and faithful devotion to the cause of common school education in the New England States.”