My friends, the responsibility of a proud history is a great conservator of virtue.
A just love of fame is the greatest stimulus of high endeavor.
We have a fierce battle before us, and must carry these with us into the fight.
On us devolves to develop the resources of our State, to plant her in her pristine place amongst the States, and above all, to transmit the influences of the great examples who have, till now, guided us on the mountain ranges of thought and of honor.
This duty done, we can say with a loftier pride than the ‘Roman Citizen,’ ‘I am a Virginian.’
And I will briefly sketch to my younger hearers the career of him whose name your Encampment bears:
Matthew Fontaine Maury
was born in Spotsylvania county
, January 14, 1806.
In 1811 his father moved with his family and slaves to a cotton plantation near Franklin, Tennessee
In 1824, Captain John Minor Maury
, the oldest son, died while serving against the pirates as Flag Captain
of the West India
Squadron, (under old Commodore David Porter
,) and next year young Matthew was appointed midshipman.
His father opposed so strongly his entry into the Navy, that supplied with money by a friend, and by the overseer with a horse, young Matthew rode away from his father's home without his father's blessing, through that great wilderness that lay between him and the career for which his spirit yearned.
If ever an unfilial act was justified by the event, this was. He was warmly greeted on reaching Fredericksburg
by his uncle, General John Minor
, who sped him on his way to Washington
, and to his dying day remembered with gratitude and affection the kindly courtesies shown him here by that examplar of our hospitality, the late Thomas B. Barton
His pay was then, as midshipman, $20 per month.
He allotted one-half of it to his widowed sister.
His first voyage was in the Brandywine Frigate
, when she took General Lafayette
And from the very outset of his professional career, diligence in its pursuit, and eager study of all the marvels of creation it unfolded to his eyes engrossed him. In the steerage of the midshipman he began the new treatise on navigation, which he completed a few years later here.
In 1834 he married Miss Anne Herndon
, sister of Captain Herndon
, and for several years their home was here, and he was occupied in forecasting measures of reform and improvement in his profession.
In 1842 he was made Superintendent of the Depot of Charts
, which, under him, was developed into the National Observatory