13a.   Banquet speeches


The New York Chess Club Testimonial, May 25, 1859

Admission Ticket


Colonel Mead's Introductory speech at the New York testimonial banquet -

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The Testimonial Committee has conferred upon me the honor of presiding upon this interesting occasion. You are aware the object of our assembling tonight is for the purpose of presenting testimonials to our distinguished young countryman, Paul Morphy. He has lately returned from a visit to the Old World, where, as in the New, he has proven himself to be the master of the checkered field. He has not only acquired for himself undying renown, but has reflected honor and credit upon the land that gave him birth. He has not only been successful in winning in every contest in which he has been engaged, but also has succeeded in winning the hearts of all who have come in contact with him.

It is not my purpose to refer to the moral and intellectual influences of the science and art of chess. It is sufficient to point to one who may well be considered the embodiment of its morality and intellectuality.

In view of these considerations, a few of the crowd of his admirers and friends have been desirous of making to him some kind of acknowledgement of his unrivaled powers as well as a testimonial of their personal regard. For that purpose they have procured the chessmen and board now before you, which they desire to have presented tonight. After this has been done, the members of the Testimonial Committee also intend to present him with an additional token of their esteem.

The presentation of the chessmen and board will now be made. The Hon. John Van Buren has kindly consented to discharge, on behalf of the committee, that agreeable duty.


John Van Buren's Introduction -

John Van Buren (the son of Martin and Hannah Van Buren), lawyer, born in Hudson, New York, 18 February, 1810; died at sea, 13 October, 1866, was graduated at Yale in 1828, studied law with Benjamin F. Butler, and was admitted to the bar at Albany in 1830. In the following year he accompanied his father to London as an attaché of the legation. In February, 184,5, he was elected attorney-general of the state of New York, serving till 31 December, 1846. He took an active part in the political canvass of 1848 as an advocate of the exclusion of slavery from the territories, but did not remain with the Free-soil party in its later developments. He held high rank as a lawyer, appearing in the Edwin Forrest and many other important cases, was an eloquent; pleader, and an effective political speaker. He died on the voyage from Liverpool to New York. He was popularly known as " Prince John," was tall and handsome, and of elegant manners and appearance.
 - Edited 1887 Appletons' Encyclopedia

After Colonel Mead had spoken, Mr. Van Buren took Morphy's hand and introduced his to the cheering audience.

Mr. Morphy:

A number of your friends and admirers have deemed it appropriate to signalize your return to the United States by this reception and by the presentation to you of a testimonial of their admiration and regard. I am happy to be enrolled among their number, and feel honored at having been selected to convey you their sentiments and to offer for your acceptance this beautiful specimen of taste and skill of those to whom its execution was confided...For more than a thousand years [chess] has been played in Europe. "Like a universal alphabet" as a clever writer has said, "the chessboard is known to all nations ..."

Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask you to unite with me in welcoming with all the honors, Paul Morphy, Chess Champion of the World!

Paul Morphy's speech -

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Twelve months have elapsed since bidding adieu to my Western home. I sought beyond the blue waters the foreign skies of another hemisphere; and again I have returned to the land of my birth and affections. Another year has glided by and once more I find myself by the friends whose good wishes and approbation cheered my wandering course. I thank them - I most sincerely thank them for the more then cordial which has greeted my return to the Empire City. Well may they say that they have made their City the verdant spot in my sandy path - the green and ever-blooming oasis of repose where, like the way-worn traveler, I forget the fatigue and exposure of the journey, and gather renewed life and energy for its completion. Not satisfied, however, with showering innumerable attentions upon me, they this night cap the climax  of their favors by presenting me, in conjunction with a large number of the citizens of New York, this beautiful piece of workmanship and a superb testimonial of their regard and sympathy. How thankfully received - how dearly prized - mere words can not portray. I shall proudly take it to my Southern home and preserve it as a precious memento of my friends in New York.

I fear, ladies and gentlemen, that lengthy comments upon the game of chess might prove uninteresting to a large portion of the highly intellectual audience before me. Of my European tour I will only say it has been pleasant in almost every respect. Of the adversaries encountered in the peaceful jousts of the checkered field, I retain a lively and agreeable recollection. I found them gallant, chivalrous and gentlemanly, as well as true votaries of the kingly pastime.

A word now on the game itself. Chess has never been and never can be aught but a recreation. It should not be indulged it to the detriment of other and more serious avocations - should not absorb the mind or engross the thoughts of those who worship at its shrine; but should be kept in the background and restrained within its proper province. As a mere game, a relaxation from the severer pursuits of life, it is deserving of high commendation. It is not only the most delightful and scientific, but the most moral of amusements. Unlike other games in which lucre is the end and the aim of the contestants, it recommends itself to the wise by the fact that its mimic battles are fought for no prize but honor. It is eminently and emphatically the philosopher's game. Let the chessboard supercede the card table, and a great improvement will be visible in the morals of the community. But, ladies and gentlemen, I need not expiate on the field so ably traversed by the eloquent gentleman who has just addressed you. I thank you from my heart for the very flattering manner in which you have been pleased to receive his too complimentary remarks, and for the numerous attentions received at your hands. I shall leave New York with melancholy sorrow, for I part from friends than whom none truer can be found. Let them rest assured that along with the memory of the chessboard I possess the memory of the heart. And now, with a renewal of my sincere thanks for the splendid token of your regard with which you have presented me tonight, and the assurance that I shall cherish in unfading memory the remembrance of my sojourn here, I bid you, ladies and gentlemen, a farewell, which I fondly hope will not prove the last.

Colonel Mead announced that William James Fuller would present Morphy a watch on behalf of the Testimonial Committee.

Morphy's Watch

Morphy accepted the watch with this speech -


It has been my good fortune, on a previous visit to your City, to form acquaintances which have ripened into friendships. You are the organ, Sir, of some gentlemen with whom my intercourse has more particularly assumed the character of intimacy.  The presentation of the very elegant watch you have handed me must necessarily be less formal that that which has just taken place. Words of learned length or thundering sound would ill become the nature of the occasion. I will simply say that I value this testimonial not less highly than the other. It is friendship's gift - the vade mecum that must accompany me everywhere I go, to remind me that in whatever section of this broad Republic my abode my be planted, there will be in the far North friends whose anxious gaze will be turned to my home, whose hearts will watch with deep emotion the part I sustain in life's great drama, eager to see me touch the goal of success. Interpreting it in such a manner as a token of interest felt in my future career  by those you represent, I receive this beautiful piece of workmanship with unaffected pleasure. Long may the hands on its dial mark golden hours for my friends, and may no untoward mate ever arrest their course of success on the great chessboard of the world.


Samuel Morse's Letter -

During his speech, John Van Buren read a letter from Samuel Morse:


To S. D. Bradford, Esq., Chairman of the Testimonial Committee

                                                                                                    Poughkeepsie, May 24, 1859
I have this moment received your polite invitation and ticket, as Chairman of the Testimonial Committee, to witness the "presentation testimonials" to our distinguished countryman, Paul Morphy, Esq., and assigning me a seat on the platform on the occasion. While I regret exceedingly that my engagements will prevent my being present, I would yet take this opportunity to offer you my humble tribute of admiration not merely to the man of unequaled skill in the time honored game of chess (the most valuable for certain kinds of mental discipline, of all existing games), but to the man of modesty, who can receive such demonstrations of enthusiasm as have been showered upon him without any show of vanity or conceited inflation. I was so fortunate to have been present at Paris, at the Café de la Régence, at the marvelous contest of Mr. Morphy with the most skillful European players, when he engaged them in eight different games at the same time, and without seeing their boards, unaided by but his most extraordinary memory, and unrivaled skill. I witnessed not only his marvelous triumph, but his modest and unassuming bearing in the moment of victory and not the least gratifying part of the scene was the spontaneous outburst of generous and magnanimous applause from his French antagonists that filled the air with shouts as they conducted him in triumph to his carriage. It was beautiful proof to me that the flame of a high souled chivalry still burned in the hearts of Frenchmen.

In asking that my personal gratulations to Mr. Morphy maybe allowed to mingle with yours on this occasion, I remain Sir, with respect, your most obedient servant,

                                                                                                       Samuel F. B. Morse

The Boston Chess Club Testimonial at the Revere House Hotel

While in Boston, Morphy stayed at the Revere House Hotel.

David Lawson, Frances Parkinson Keyes and Phillip Sergeant refer to the place simply as the Revere House. Unfortunately, the Revere House - the original home of Paul Revere, now a preserved historical site -  is an entirely different place. Their indifference to the distinction seems to indicate ignorance of the distinction.

The Revere House Hotel was the most elegant hotel in Boston in 1859 and, as opposed to the actual Revere House, it rented rooms and had banquet facilities .


excepts from Oliver Wendell Holmes' speech -

 We have met, gentlemen, some as members of a local association, some of us as its invited guests, but all of us as if by a spontaneous, unsolicited impulse, to do honor to our young friend who has honored us and all who glory in the name of Americans, as hero of a long series of bloodless battles, won for our common country...there is no gap in the forest, there is no fresh trodden waste in the prairie which has not heard the name of the New Orleans boy, who left the nursery of his youth, like one of those fabulous heroes of whom our childhood loved to read, and came back, bearing with him spoils of giants whom he had slain, after overthrowing their castles and appropriating the allegiance of their queens... Honor went before him and Victory, followed after...

"I propose the health of Paul Morphy, the world's Chess Champion: His peaceful battles have helped to achieve a new revolution; his youthful triumphs have added a new clause to the declaration of independence!"

Morphy's Reply -

Mr. President and Gentlemen:

I sincerely thank you. To one and all I tender the expression of my warm and heartfelt acknowledgements. But, gentlemen, on such an occasion as present, unprepared as you know I am, I must be allowed to say, gentlemen, that I rise with peculiar embarrassment and unaffected diffidence in attempting to speak before an intellectual aristocracy such as I have never before witnessed, whose celebrity and literary achievements are a part of our country's history. In such an illustrious presence, it would ill become me to make a speech. I can only tender my thanks to the committee, with an expression of my sincere acknowledgements for the pleasure of being surrounded by a company so distinguished.