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or The Rooms of the New York Historical Society are in the University Building, and are open daily, exclusively to members, and strangers who may be introduced by members. Stated meetings of the Society are held on the first Tuesday evening of every month, excepting July, August, and September.
The Library now contains about 12,000 printed volumes, several thousand pamphlets, 1500 volumes of Newspapers, 2000 Maps and Charts, nearly 15,000 Manuscripts, and a valuable cabinet of coins, medals, busts, portraits and curiosities. The Society has published seven volumes of Collections, and six volumes of its Proceedings, for the years 1843, '44, 245, '46, ’47 and '48.
ANNIVERSARY DISCOURSE, DELIVERED AT THE REQUEST OF THE NEW YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY, IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK,
NOVEMBER 19, 1847.
BY BENJAMIN FRANKLIN BUTLER.
" In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas
SECOND SERIES, VOL. II.
NEW YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
At a meeting of the New York Historical Society, held in the Chapel of the New York University, on Friday evening, 19th November, 1847, 10 celebrate the forty-third Anniversary of the Society,
Mr. E. C. BENEDICT offered the following resolution, which was adopted :
Resolved, that the thanks of the Society be presented to the Hon. BENJAMIN F. BUTLER for his very able and interesting address, and that he be requested to furnish the Society a copy for publication.
Extract from the Minutes.
Our present anniversary, Fellow MEMBERS Or the New York HISTORICAL Society, finds us in circumstances of peculiar interest. A new frame of government for our State has recently been devised by delegates of the people; has been submitted to, and approved by the people themselves; and, during the last ten months, has been gradually displacing the former Constitution. Some of the new provisions came into active operation at the beginning of the present year; others a few months later; and the final measures necessary to the complete organization of the system, have just been taken.
Standing upon the threshold of this recent fabric, and marking the peculiarities of its structure and details-perceiving how essentially it differs from that which it has displaced—the first thought which strikes the reflecting mind, is one of grateful wonder, that a work so serious as the pulling down of the old, and the building up of the new, should have been accomplished with so little of mischief or inconvenience. The change from one system of social economy to another, is often accompanied by convulsions as great as those which mark the first transition from chaotic confusion to a state of established order. We are apt to expect some decay in prevailing forces, some dissolution of existing restraints, before those that are destined to succeed them can assume vitality and vigor; between the laws that have just expired and those that have just been created, an interval without law; a pause to commemorate the passage from the one era to the other, by its independence of both; a period of disorganization unchecked by past legislation or present authority; a crisis of abuse which previous wrongs could scarcely justify, and subsequent reforms hardly atone for. But the change which we are now contemplating has been accompanied by no such disastrous effects. It has proceeded with much of the physical stillness and something of the moral grandeur, which attend the great processes of Nature. Demanded by the exigencies of a free people : controlled by their active will; established by their deliberate sanction; whatever may be our individual opinions as to its present value or possible results, it is a fresh illustration of the force and dignity of Republican Institutions. It teaches, with a new emphasis of cheering encouragement and significant warning, the great lessons of American Freedom--change without violence; progress without disorder; revolution without anarchy.
* Note.—In preparing the following Discourse for the press, the author, besides retaining some passages omitted in the delivery, and revising the whole, has endeavored, by the addition of references and occasional notes, to render his performance more worthy of the Society under whose auspices it is published, and more useful and therefore more acceptable to those by whom it may be consulted.
As we look more closely at the new edifice, and its various parts, we are instinctively led to compare it with that in whose place it stands. Nor are we content thus to limit our examination. We would visit the original foundation; trace the history of the successive superstructures ; and note the times and the persons, when and by whom, the corner stones were laid, and the several fabrics erected or demolished, altered or renewed. We would mark the form and style of each, and make some attempt to ascertain its value, and to determine the merits of its authors.
Aside from the pleasure which a liberal curiosity may derive from these inquiries, they answer one of the highest ends of historical research. The organic laws of a community, and the changes which from time to time are made in them, are the most authentic proofs of its civilization- the most instructive monuments of its progress.
Assured that my associates participate in this sentiment, and believing it will unite the sympathies of my whole audience, I propose to place before you, the means of compar: ing our present Constitution with the several frames of government which preceded it; and to give you some of the more important facts historically connected with the changes they have undergone. With this view, I ask your attention to an outline of The ConstitutIONAL HISTORY OF THE COLONY AND STATE Or New York. An outline it must be, for fully treated it would form a volume.
Using the terms Constitutional History, in their broadest sense, and as including all the fundamental rules by which the nature of governments, the powers of rulers, and the duties of citizens, are defined and regulated-whether existing in the written compacts of modern times, in ancient