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[87]

‘The Cambridge idea.’

Rev. David Nelson Beach.
Some four or five years ago, a phrase broke in upon our Cambridge speech with such suddenness, energy, and large significance as are hard even yet to realize. Who first used it I do not know. My impression is that our present Superintendent of Parks, then a leading writer on our Cambridge newspapers, was one of the earliest to apprehend its potency, and that he with his skillful pen somewhat furthered its becoming widely used. But whoever it may have been that first uttered it, and however serviceable the writer alluded to, or any other persons, may have been in bringing it into current use, certain it is that it survived and became a power of its own accord, and in a way that no single individual or group of individuals could either have initiated or prevented. It was like a new star coming into the heavens. It was like a newly discovered force offering itself to the uses of man.

That phrase stands at the head of this article; and the privilege has been accorded me of giving some account of the circumstances which rendered possible this phenomenon of human speech, and which led up to its making itself a felt power among us. I am desired, also, if I shall be able, to suggest its sweep, its puissance, and its vast promise among us for the time to come.

First, however, a word more about the phrase itself. Everybody began using it. It expressed something to their minds which had before been inexpressible. This was the secret of its popularity and of its ever-growing force. Moreover, its use was not confined to any single class or type of persons. The most cultivated men and women in our city, plain daylabor-ers, individuals of very large insight and vision, persons of the most circumscribed intellectual endowment, children, old people, those of all varieties of opinion and shades of ideas,—

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Charles Parks (1)
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