Hanover (Plymouth County)

HanoverLocation: Next to the First Congregational Church, 547 Hanover Street, Hanover
Coordinates: 42°07’00.2″N 70°50’38.4″W
Date dedicated: July 17, 1878
Architect/Sculptor/Manufacturer: John Williams Beal, architect
Number of names: 23 men lost in the war

The primary inscription reads, “Erected by the People of Hanover in Grateful Memory of her Sons who Died in the War for the Preservation of the Union, 1878.” It was built at a cost of $1,700, half through fairs and public subscription and half through a town appropriation.

The monument committee published a history of the effort and a full transcription of the lengthy exercises on the day of dedication. In this account, it is noted that the monument was first proposed by a speaker during the town’s Memorial Day exercises in 1877 who observed that too much time had elapsed since the end of the war without any memorial. The unnamed speaker, “suggested that the ladies–always first in every good work–should take the matter in hand, and by means of a Fair should endeavor to aid in procuring such an amount of money as would suffice.”[1] The efforts of “the ladies” were swift and successful and the necessary funds were raised in less than a year. Made of Concord, New Hampshire granite, the monument was designed by local architect John Williams Beal. He was a novice at the time but would go on to design many elaborate mansions throughout New England. The dinner following unveiling had a staggeringly long roster of speakers and must have lasted many hours. General Nathaniel P. Banks was among them.

IMG_2508One speaker deserves some comment due to the surprisingly fiery nature of his remarks, uncharacteristic for such a ceremony. The Hon. Edward Y. Perry was President of the Hanover Branch Railroad. His remarks reveal that he was a Radical Republican, a proponent of equal rights for African-Americans and women, and desirous of harsh punishment of former Confederates. He did not mince words. His explosive speech must have come as a surprise to the monument committee and audience alike. Perry’s words are representative of the frustration felt by Radical Republicans shortly after the Compromise of 1877 which effectively ended Reconstruction and removed the remaining Federal troops from the South, resulting in the reversal of civil rights efforts, the institution of Jim Crow laws and extreme violence against African-Americans. This recent change in federal policy and the ominous developments it portended must have weighed heavily on Perry’s mind as he composed his remarks. A sample here of Perry’s rhetoric:

I do not stand here to-day to indulge in oratorical platitudes or patriotic rhapsodies, but only to utter a few sentences that seem to me to be true…it is of devotion to principle, to human rights, to the equality of all before the law, to equal suffrage, to an equal chance for education…and all these without any let or hinderance on account of color, race, or condition, and I wish I could say, sex…I am grieved, I am disgusted, I am indignant, in view of the shameful sentiment…to cover up these awful distinctions, these terrible characteristics of the war, and thereby to rob these brave soldiers of their true glory…Were not these martyr-boys murdered? Are not their bones bleaching to-day at Antietam, in the Wilderness, and under the walls of Andersonville?…These Southern rebels, like their master before spoken of [he had earlier named Satan], will beat you at conciliation every time…Because they loved oppression, and hated human rights. Because they loved slavery, and hated liberty…Now, sir, have these rebels changed? Not a whit…Your children’s children will volunteer to put down this second rebellion…No earthly influence can avert such a calamity, unless this Government awakes from its silly dream…[2]

Perry address stands out as unique among the hundreds of monument dedication ceremonies in Massachusetts. It no doubt took a great deal of courage to state his views so boldly on the end of Reconstruction. His full address can be viewed here.

[1] The Record of the Procession and of the Exercises at the Dedication of the Monument (Wednesday, July 17 A.D. 1878) Erected by the People of Hanover, Massachusetts, (1878), 54-56
[2] Record of the Procession, 5

6 thoughts on “Hanover

  1. It would be helpful to include the full speech.

    The comments about the speech seem disrespectful and insensitive to the context. The end of Reconstruction signaled resignation and a betrayal of the ideals of abolitionism. This was followed by Jim Crow laws, segregation, intimidation, poll taxes, lynchings and cross burnings.

    Respect to Mr Perry and the people of Hanover!

    1. Mr. McCarthy, thanks for your comments. I believe my comments about the speech actually echo what you have said. I think we agree, so I’m not sure what is disrespectful here. Indeed, I admire the bravery it took for Perry to state his views so passionately. I was merely trying to suggest that his speech must have seemed surprising and unusually fiery for such a ceremony. But he was absolutely correct about the betrayal of civil rights, as is clear to us. One of the most interesting aspects of this research is reading the changes in dedication addresses from emancipationist to reconciliationist as the country as a whole retreated from Reconstruction. Mr. Perry defied that trend. His speech is absolutely remarkable and it deserves to be highlighted. It would be unwieldy to include all the text of his very long speech (people spoke for hours back then) but I will add a link. I appreciate your comment.

      1. Dear Patrick,
        Thank you for your quick reply. I don’t mean to criticize the good work. However, although the description had noted the period context, my read was that it implied that the comments were inappropriate for such an event. Also, it seemed to select highlights that could make the speaker seem ridiculous. In that sense I was concerned that the presentation could be disrespectful or incorrect (presuming a level of discomfort in the audience that may not have been present; the speaker was a Hanoverian, after all.). For example, it’s hard to follow the statement about whitening bones.

        Well, my assumption is that they channeled the feelings of the moment—but that is my uninformed assumption. To state that these comments were received one way or another may require sources that may not be available.

        Thanks for your review and updates!
        This is an important project.


      2. John, I appreciate the feedback. As this project evolves I find that perhaps the most important thing I can relate is what they had to say about the monuments at the time. I want to do it right and so your comments are much appreciated. Yes, to presume a level of discomfort was not appropriate. And I’ll take another look at the excerpt to see if I’m doing him justice.

    2. I’ve made a few changes which hopefully clarify the context. His remarks were rare and remarkable and I hope that is now more clear. To have someone take such a bold stance on civil rights at this event is something of which the people of Hanover should be proud.

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