1881 and 1883.

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1881 and 1883.
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1881 and 1883. About the time our Exhibition was to open some gentlemen of good ideas asked us to begin an agitation for a Centenary and Dominion Exhibition in 1883, in honor of the founding of our city and of the Loyalists. As we believed that we ought to have a really Maritime Exhibition in 1881, it being too long to wait for 1883, and feared that by beginning the advocacy of that of 1883 in the meantime, we might prejudice the Exhibition of 1881, we hesitated to do so. The idea of the celebration of 1883 has, however, been repeatedly presented by a contemporary; it has been well received; and as its advocates would, so far as the indications have yet appeared, be equally ready to help forward the Exhibition of 1881, our fears lest the one project might interfere with the other are allayed, and, indeed, almost removed, so much so that we feel able to cooperate with all who will assist in promoting the grand Centenary Exposition of 1883; its friends, however, co-operating with us in working also for that of 1881. We should have liked to obtain at least a small Dominion grant for the latter, but if our doing so would prejudice a liberal Dominion grant in 1883 for a celebration that will demand a very extensive series of buildings, we would drop that idea and rely entirely on the Maritime Provinces and on civic, municipal, and private aid to carry out the Exhibition of 1881. The reasons why an Exhibition should be held next year in St. John are many. It will be remembered that we set out with the idea of a Maritime Exhibition, as advocated by this journal and generally concurred in by the people and the press. The Government of New Brunswick corresponded with the other Maritime Governments and found them well disposed to enter the project. It was too late, however, to have legislation; they were willing to do what they could, more especially that of Prince Edward Island. But the difficulties that arose in connection with the erection of Exhibition Buildings in St. John; the delays and financial obstacles were so great that so far from being in a position to hold a Maritime Exhibition bona fide, it was for a time doubtful if we should have any. Owing to the same cause, many of the manufacturers of Fredericton, Moncton, Sackville, St. John and other places did not make timely preparation; some did not exhibit at all, and the Exhibition which gave so great an impetus to agriculture, etc., was deficient in manufactures; though its character, in that respect, was largely redeemed by the life, the contents and the admirable arrangements of Machinery Hall. Now what we want is to take time by the forelock and realize the original idea. There is little reason to fear that any jealousies will arise or that want of cooperation may be feared; though we agree with the Sun that we should act carefully and prudently in the matter. It is certain that Prince Edward Island will not expect a Maritime Exhibition to be held in that Province at present. Nova Scotia will, we think, see the desirableness of our carrying out in 1881 the idea already expounded, feeling assured that, when she puts her hand to the wheel in a like case, New Brunswick will not be backward in reciprocating her good offices. As regards this whole matter, if it is to succeed, it must be put in shape before the Legislatures meet, by consent of the three Governments. As soon as our Government see how they stand in regard to the Exhibition just closed – so far the financial aspect is favorable – we would ask them to take this matter into their consideration, and to act promptly and boldly. Now as to 1883. It would be to the everlasting disgrace of St. John if the arrival of that anniversary should not call forth a very grand, comprehensive, and enthusiastic demonstration. While phases of that celebration would necessarily be sentimental, social, historical, political; there would be nothing incompatible with these ideas, but the reverse, in holding such an exposition of our Agriculture, Manufacturers, and Arts would show what the descendants of the Loyalists and others had been doing during the first century of their history. To some minds, disposed to dwell on nice distinctions, the industrial idea, involving considerations of profit and loss, of “mammon,” of “filthy lucre,” seems not to harmonize with the other ideas involved in the Loyalist centenary. But then practice is better than theory and we have seen how happily both classes of ideas were blended in the great Centennial in the United States. The orators had their day, but so also had the engineers, the manufacturers, the artists, the agriculturalists, etc. The orators discoursed eloquently on the prowess of the American eagle, and on the traditions of the Stars and Stripes, but the music made by the great CORLISS engine was not the least of the attractions of the World’s Fair. In order to make the celebration of 1883 worthy of the occasion, an organization should be effected immediately, which should make a proper division of labor; organize our industries; provide the necessary ways and means; collect relics which would illustrate the history of the Province from year to year; find historians who would interpret them; orators who would fire the public heart by discoursing upon them, and poets who would sing of them in strains which posterity would not willingly forget. It is sad to think that so many of the living links which might have served to connect the present with the past have passed, or are passing away. We cannot stay the current by which the living are borne away from the shores of Time, on to the great ocean of Eternity, but we should do our duty while we can, and leave results to a Higher Power. What body will take up the matter? The Corporation of St. John? The Historical Society? The Mechanics’ Institute? A new organization largely Provincial? Perhaps the last named might be best. We must act in concert with the people of the adjacent counties, some of which like Sunbury – the mother of us all – and York have co-equal claims with St. John; others of which like Kings, Queens, etc., have been largely colonized from St. John etc. A great work is to be done, and no time should be lost in providing such an organization as may be fitted to grapple with it. The experience of others in similar circumstances will furnish valuable hints. An early meeting of the citizens of St. John would be in order.