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The New York Times, December 7, 1900

Elaborate Decorations, Souvenirs, and Other Features
Speaks Humorously of its Appearance and Sarcastically of its Government - Dr. Mackay on the Gospel of the Smile.


A full representation of the membership of the St. Nicholas Society assembled for the sixty-sixth annual banquet, held last night at Delmonico's. The function was attended by all the quaint Old World glitter and pomp that has characterized the banquets of the society in the past, and upward of 300 members and guests in song and oratory honored the traditions of their ancestry of Holland.

The decorations of the hall as well as the wealth of unique souvenirs distributed among the diners were suggestive of the Netherlands. Broad streamers of orange swung from the big central chandelier to the walls of the banquet hall. The table decorations were of the same color. The long guests' table was spread with a cloth of orange hue and was draped with smilax.

Above the President's chair were draped four immense American flags about the shield of the society. In addition to the regular corps of waiters were scattered about the dining hall ebon-hued servitors dressed in the uniform of a Court page of the House of Orange.

Chief among the dinner souvenirs were Holland beer mugs, upon which appeared the coat of arms of Holland and pictures of New Amsterdam in 1650, and of the present City of New York. The lids were of silver. The mugs were made in Holland for the occasion.

Frederic de Peyster Foster, President of the society, who presided and acted as toastmaster, had to his right and left at the guest table the Rev. Dr. Donald Sage Mackay, Dr. Lewis J. Parker, Baron Gevers, Minister from the Netherlands; Gen. Brooke, Admiral Barker, Nicholas Fish, Julien T. Davies, Frederic J. de Peyster, Gen. William E. Dodge, William Pierson Hamilton, ex-Judge Henry E. Howland, James G. King, and George Blagden.

Among the prominent members and guests at the small tables were Henry S. E. Davies, L. C. Deming, Bayard Dominick, Col. De L. Floyd-Jones, Austin G. Fox, Prof. Frank Goodnow, Dr. W. Tod Helmuth, Frederick A. Julliard, Ex-Surrogate Rollin M. Morgan, J. Rutgers Planter, Consul General from the Netherlands, Philip Rhinelands, R. B. Roosevelt, John H. Starin, Paul G. Thebaud, A. Cortlandt Van Rensselaer, John W. Vrooman, Evert Jansen Wendell, Prof. Barret Wendell, and Cornelius B. Zabriskie.

It was late in the evening when the first lull came in the hum of the banquet hall, and Toastmaster Foster, dressed in his sash and headgear of office, greeted the procession of standard bearers and pages and started the speech-making by saying that the past year had been a feast of plenty for the society.

He said the society had given the State a Governor and the country a Vice President. He referred to Gov. Roosevelt as a Hollander of the truest type.

In the midst of a selection by the boy choir of Grace Church, Mark Twain entered the banquet hall in custody of a committee who had been sent in a cab to seek him out at his home, he having delayed to put in an appearance at the banquet. The humorist limping a little from the effects of a rheumatic attack, was led up to he guest table, where the diners arose and gave him long-continued applause.


The first toast of the evening, "St. Nicholas," was responded to by Dr. Mackay, who said that after being invited to speak at the dinner he had looked up a religious encyclopedia to find which St. Nicholas he was to honor, for a minister of New York had his hands so full with sinners that he had precious little time to cultivate the acquaintance of saints.

"I found thirty-one worthies bearing the name of St. Nicholas," said the speaker, "so I called up a member of this society and asked him which St. Nicholas I was to speak about.

" 'Oh, any old saint will do,' he replied. [Laughter.] I finally found the one I wanted, however, and I always liked him for his rich, full-blooded, genial humanity, and I do not imagine that we could do better today than perpetuate by precept just that type of genial, sunshiny religion which the stands for. Religion has suffered more from gloom than from heresy.

"Emaciation of body does not of necessity mean fatness of soul. That, I think, with all its magnificent features, was the distinctive weakness of New England Puritanism in contrast to the broad and more tolerant religion of New Amsterdam. The Puritan made temperament rather than character the test of religion.

"So the man with the longest face became the typical saint. It is against this mawkish type of religion that is perpetually congratulating itself, not on the good things it ought to do , but on the wicked things it doesn't do, that in the name of St. Nicholas I want to protest tonight.

"There is a gospel in a smile, and in my opinion a man like Mark Twain is as much a preacher of righteousness in this world today as any consecrated Bishop, priest, or minister. [Cheers.]

"Of course by this I don't mean to go to the other extreme in our genial religion, but St. Nicholas stands in history, not only for genial religion, but for practical religion. I don't think he was famous for any theological treatises he ever wrote, but if his religion was not strong in doctrine it was strong in practice.

"He stands as a type of man to whom the doing of God's will is more important than his belief in a human creed. The religion the world wants today is a religion like that of St. Nicholas, that lays hands of brotherly love upon the crying needs of our helpless brethren."


When Mark Twain arose to respond to the toast "Our City," he was cheered for fully five minutes.

"These are prosperous days for me, he said. "Night before last Bishop Potter complimented me and thanked me for my contributions to theology. [Laughter.] Tonight the Rev. Dr. Mackay has elected me to the priesthood. [Laughter.] I thank both these gentlemen for discovering things in me which I had long before discovered, but which I had begun to fear the world at large would never find out. [Laughter.]

"Returning to New York after an absence of nine years, I find much improvement in it - a great moral improvement. Some think it is because I have been away, [laughter,] but the more intelligent think that it is because I have come back. [Laughter.] But we'll not discuss that. Let's get down to the business end of this toast - our city.

"We take stock of a city like we take stock of a man. The clothes and appearance are the externals by which we judge. We next take stock of the mind, the intellect. These are the internals. The sum of both is the man or the city. New York has a great many details of the external sort which impress and inform the foreigner. Among these are the sky scrapers, and they are new to him. He hasn't seen their like since the Tower of Babel. He is shocked by them. I am not.

"As seen by daylight these skyscrapers make the city look ugly. Too chimneylike - like a mouth full of snags. Like a cemetery with all monuments and no gravestones. But at night, when the great walls of masonry are all a-sparkle, the city is fairy-like. It is more beautiful than any other city since the days of the Arabian Nights. When the disgruntled foreigner has exhausted his objections by day, let us float him down the river by night.

"Certainly the skyscraper has its advantages, and we don't need to apologize for it. Then we have elevators in them that elevate - not like the cigar boxes of Europe called 'lifts.' The European lift is always stopping to reflect between floors. That's well enough in a hearse horse, but not in an elevator. [Laughter.]

"In Europe, when a man starts to the sixth floor on a lift he often photographs his family so he may recognize them when he gets back. [Laughter.] Then look at our cable and trolley and elevated cars. They are the cleanest, simplest, most comfortable in the world, and all of them were created and conferred upon us by the New York hackman. [Laughter.] He did it, and we ought always to be grateful to him. We have a custom of erecting monuments to our benefactors. We owe him one. Not a permanent one, maybe. We might build it of plaster, and, after gazing upon it for a while, tear it down."

The reference to me Dewey Arch was quickly perceived and applauded by the audience.

The speaker then went on to describe the London bus and underground roads.

"You can get no one to believe that you rode on a London underground road," said he, "unless you have a cinder in your eye, and, as for the buses, some find it cheaper to ride on a London bus than to pay board. [Laughter.]

"New York is also cleaner than it used to be. It is cleaner than Bombay. But I'm not here to flatter Bombay." [Laughter.]

When the speaker got around to what referred to as the internal characteristic of the city he lapsed into sarcasm of the most biting sort, interrupted frequently by applause.

"By the municipal government of a city," he said, "a foreigner distinguishes it character. He sees now that you have the best municipal Government that the world has ever seen. The purest, the most fragrant. The angels in heaven must envy you. You got it by your noble fidelity to civic duty, by your stern and watchful exercise of the powers conferred upon you with your citizenship. You got it by your manly refusal to sit inert while men made high places and took them.

You who have made this city the envy of the world and when you enter the gates of heaven the angels will say, 'Here they come! The citizens who saw their civic duty and did it. Turn on the limelight.' '

Baron Gevers, in responding to the toast "Holland the Founder of New Amsterdam," referred to the friendship that had always existed between America and the Netherlands. "Now, when we are next-door neighbors in the Far East," said he, "there is reason why those ties that have always bound us should be drawn closer." [Cheers.]

The health of Queen Wilhelmina was drunk at the conclusion of the Minister's speech.

Other toasts were drunk and responded to as follows: "Our Country," the Rev. J. Lewis Parker; "The Army," Gen. Brooke; "The Navy," Read Admiral Barker; "The Close of the Nineteenth Century," ex-Judge Henry E. Howland.

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