DELIVERED BEFORE THE
. B. K.
AT NEW HAVEN, AUGUST 14, 1838.
BY HEMAN HUMPHREY, S.T.D.
PRESIDENT OF AMHERST COLLEGE.
L.H. YOUNG, NO. 1, EXCHANGE PLACE.
HITCHCOCK & STAFFORD, PRINTERS.
GENTLEMEN OF THE SOCIETY:
If some of the most common things in the world were not at the same time the most useful and necessary, I should hardly venture to draw your present attention to a topic so exceedingly trite as that of education. For what sequestered corner of the great field is there which has not been trodden hard by a thousand feet? After so much wear and tear of the good old homespun, what shred is there left, either warp, or woof, to raise a nap on?
Nevertheless, it will be conceded, perhaps, that, like the breezes and the sunshine, which are of a still earlier date, and vastly more common-place, the time ought never to be unwelcome so long as children are all the while, springing into life to be trained up for usefulness here, and for "glory and honor and immortality" hereafter. Who ever objected to the crystal waters and the fresh air and the sweet light of heaven, that they are as old as the world itself? And when Chloris comes forth every spring decked with flowers "from the chambers of the south," who refuses to bid her welcome, and breathe her odors, because she has visited the earth in the same attire, so many thousand times before?
In every enlightened state education is or ought to be more than anything else, the great business of human life. As it demands the first, the chief and the latest care in every rising family, so it were scarcely possible to fix too early a date for its commencement in the nursery. No child should ever be able to recollect when the first lesson was breathed into its ear by the soft voice of maternal affection; and the sweet dawn of memory ought ever to identify the infant hymn and the lisped evening prayer, with a mother's smiles.
Education, wherever its blessings are duly appreciated, takes up more time, enlists more warm hearts and cultivated minds, and costs more money, than any other, might I not say, than all the other great interests and pursuits, on which the public welfare depends. The first item in this estimate, is one third of human life spent chiefly in juvenile studies. The next is the vast amount of time devoted to teaching in families, elementary schools and the higher institutions of learning. Next all the salaries of teachers, from the infant school room, up to the crowded hall of the university. And last, but not least, all the expenses of board and clothing to say nothing of numberless incidental charges, during the many long years that must be spent in elementary, classical, and professional studies. Indeed, this single item amounts to a larger sum than all the other ordinary expenditures of any well-regulated community put together. And were it possible to find a state as virtuous and enlightened as it ought to be, the disproportion would be still greater; for then, all eyes would be turned to the intellectual and moral training of the young, with intense interest. No pains or cost would be spared, to educate the whole people, for the multifarious duties of life; and all the seminaries would be fostered and cherished, according to their relative importance.
Whether the age in which we live is a golden or a tinsel age it might be thought presumptuous in me to hazard an opinion. An iron age it cannot be, without more solidity; "the march of mind," for these few years past, I honestly confess I have not been able to keep up with; and though I have now and then caught a glimpse of the smoke it has not always been my good fortune to determine which way it was going. That there is a great deal of intellect now hard at work, in combining and developing the elements of popular education, is certain. Much new light has lately been thrown upon the, subject. The philosophy of the young mind has been studied with very encouraging success. Many admirable school-books have been written and compiled, and some advance has been made in the art of teaching. Public funds to a very large amount have been created, and able Boards of Commissioners have been organized to take the oversight of the schools. Under such auspices, and with such ample means at command, it is to be hoped, that the blessings of early education will be more universally diffused, and that in a few years, the standard will be very much raised. But this must depend upon the wisdom and fidelity of those who create the funds, disburse the income, and control the popular mind. It does not necessarily follow, because a man is richer this year than he was last, that he is any better off; nor because you see him all dripping with perspiration and quite out of breath, that he has traveled more miles than ever before, in twenty-four hours. So it is with popular education. Its steady and permanent advancement must depend upon a variety of circumstances, and upon the favorable action of causes, some of which are so remote and occult, that they are extremely apt to be overlooked.
There is a class of men, of considerable intelligence and influence, who have so long dwelt upon the importance of common schools, and have heard so many loud changes rung upon every letter in the alphabet, as almost to forget, that the prosperity of these schools is any how dependent upon that of the higher literary institutions of the country. What they want, is to educate the people, the whole people, and nobody but the people. By some exceedingly well-meaning persons, our colleges are want to be regarded with extreme jealously, as great _____________________ establishments, hostile to the interests of the com___________ and even dangerous to the public safety; or, at best, ________ __________________ seventy-fours, anchored in the stream, for _________________________ to breed barnacles, and obstruct the ______________________ hard working fishermen and coaster. _________________________ which is thrown away upon ______ _________________________ in your four story palaces, ______ ______________________ country such a diffusion of intelli-__________________________ the common people, as the world has _____________________________. Now, this is just about as wise and far-_____________________________ the common people of Lower Egypt ______________________________ so high, and taking up so much ____________________________ for cultivation; or for the Swiss peasantry, in their romantic valleys, to begrudge the showers that fall upon the higher Alps, and are poured down in numberless streams, to invigorate and make those valleys fruitful.
That but few influential men in New England are afflicted with these night-mare visitations, is matter of devout thanksgiving to God, on the part of all who regard our higher seminaries as essential to the well-being of the state. But, at the same time, if I have not entirely mistaken the so much vaunted and self-glorified spirit of the age, its biases are rather hostile than propitious, to deep and sound learning. The demand now is for breadth, rather, than depth. These are times, in which the popular will claims more room for the lamb to wade, but allows the elephant less room to swim. When we look out and see the many, sporting and catching their breath in the shallows, half ancle deep, we hail it as a happy omen, and cheer them onward; but when we behold the few, launching out and heaving the lead into the dark blue waters off soundings, we are astonished at their temerity, and either hoist our signals of recall, or leave them to their own "dead reckoning."
I do not mean to intimate by these illustrations, that too much is doing for our common schools -- nor that the governmental patronage which used to be so liberally extended to our public seminaries, is wholly and forever withdrawn -- nor yet to represent that classical education in this country is absolutely on the decline. Far from it. I greatly honor those enlightened and philanthropic men, who are embarking so zealously in the cause of popular education, and I wish them all success. I am quite aware, too that the advantages which are now afforded by our highest literary institutions, are much greater than could anywhere be enjoyed, a century, or even a quarter of a century ago.
But still, I have a strong and growing conviction, that the importance of keeping the standard high, and furnishing our colleges with the means of thoroughly educating the greatest number of young men, is not duly appreciated, even in New England. We "garnish the sepulchres of our fathers," at every centennial celebration, and on every fourth of July; and we boast of living in a far more enlightened age than theirs; but it demands a doubt, to say the least, whether, if we were called upon, such scanty means as they possessed, to lay the foundations of society, as they laid them, by the light of hostile savage , we should be as prompt to plant colleges in the edge of boundless wilderness, and make as strenuous efforts to sustain them. I do not think we should -- nor that they are generally now held in as high estimation, as they were by our puritan ancestors. One thing is as clear as the sun: considering the resources and wants of the country, our public institutions are not what they ought to be made. The enterprise of the times does not flow in these channels. A hundred eloquent voices are lifted upon behalf of common education, where one is heard in favor of raising the standard higher in the public seminaries, and furnishing them with more ample means of doing good. Indeed, if I am not entirely deceived, there are now causes slowly at work, which, if not counteracted, will prove exceedingly detrimental to their prosperity.
The first of these which I shall glance at, is competition. That anybody should feel the slightest uneasiness on this score, may not improbably excite the special wonder of some of our warmest friends. It has long ago grown into a proverb, that "competition is the life of trade;" and if of trade, why not of education also? But does this maxim universally hold true, even in trade? Must it not depend somewhat upon the extent to which competition is carried, and the principles by which it is regulated? That, when kept within proper limits, and fairly conducted, the public are gainers by it, there can be no doubt. It prevents monopolies, regulates prices, and, if not too eager, is one of the best guarantees of punctuality and fair dealing. But when, as sometimes happens, competitors, in order to indemnify themselves for low prices, feel constrained to slight their work, or deal in articles of inferior quality, not only does the public suffer by the rivalship, but they injure, perhaps entirely destroy, the reputation of their establishments.
I am no more opposed to a generous and high minded competition in education, than in merchandise. Kept within due bounds, it is a healthful stimulus to increased effort. It serves to keep the friends and faculty of each college wide awake, and the apparatus bright. I hope the time may never come, when any public seminary in New England will find an hour to repose upon its laurels, however nobly won, without exposing itself to be outstripped by more enterprising competitors. Nor does it seem needful to inquire, whether any serious evil has yet resulted from conflicting efforts and expedients to secure public patronage. It will be quite as well if I can point out any danger from this source, threatening to depress the standard of liberal education.
Now, as colleges are multiplied, and most of them depend chiefly on term bills for support, the time is probably near at hand if it has not already arrived, when the number of young men to be educated, will be insufficient to sustain them all. In other words the demand for students will be greater than the supply; and this will create a strong temptation to forestall the preparatory schools, and beat up for volunteers. And then, as will always be the case to some extent, when candidates are but poorly fitted, they, or rather their term bills, will be so much wanted, as to make it hard to refuse them, especially if there should be a moral certainty that some other famine-stricken institution will feel constrained to take them in. Thus, as soon as it comes to be understood, by the successful application of a few, that there is no difficulty in entering somewhere, though but half prepared, because so many colleges want the avails of tuition, others wilt be tempted, in like manner, to neglect their preparatory studies, or to offer themselves before they have had time to go over the ground; and, in this way, the general standard of scholarship will be depressed.
Nor can the evils of extreme competition in this shape, if it should work itself into general favor, be confined to the minor colleges. Those that are the best endowed, or have the greatest number of students, will be obliged, also, to lower their requisitions, or lose a considerable part of their patronage. Buildings, apparatus, books, funds, and learned professors, will no, more make a college than forts and cannon balls and veteran officers will make an army. There must be students, as well as halls and cabinets and teachers. If the catalogue does not show respectable classes, your college, however worthy of public confidence, will find it hard to retain its popularity. And how long can full classes be induced to enter by a rigid adherence to requisitions, which are much above the common standard? A few will like such a college all the better; but the great body of young men will be apt to resort to other respectable seminaries, where the terms of admission are easier; and the public will not be likely to give themselves the trouble to investigate the causes. In a bustling age, like the present, there is always a shorter method. "The facts," it will be said, "speak for themselves. With all its reputation and advantages, the college is on the decline. The young men whom it ought to educate are going elsewhere, which is prima facie evidence that it is not well managed."
Now, how many colleges could be expected to submit voluntarily and quietly to such a disparagement, when they could so easily wipe it off, by yielding to the popular demand, and lowering the standard of admission to meet it? Here and there one might possibly hold out, till the good sense of the community should come to its rescue; but the cases would be extremely rare. Under popular and highly democratic institutions like our own, the many will make the law, and fix the standard, and the few must ultimately conform to that standard, whether it be elevated or depressed. Indeed, I do not believe it would be possible, in this country, for any college charging term bills, to require a great deal more study for entrance than others require, and yet maintain its ground for any number of years, against the competition which it must unavoidably encounter.
Moreover, it is exceedingly obvious, I think, that, should this cause ever come into general action, it will be apt to excite a restless spirit in many students, extremely hostile to a high standard of intellectual and classical attainments. Whenever they come to find, even after they have entered the college of their choice, that they could hold a respectable standing elsewhere, with fewer weeks of term time, and a less amount of study, many will be tempted to change their relations; while, on the other hand, a desire to retain them and to guard against having others drawn off in like manner, may very naturally lead the friends of the college to ask, whether good policy does not require a corresponding relaxation and letting down of the standard ? And can it be strange, if what first comes up in the simple form of a query, should presently assume the tone of a demand, which few will have the power to resist?
Another cause, which at present has an unpropitious bearing upon the standard of education in this country, is the poverty of a large and growing class of students. While the wealth of the country has increased many fold, and the people are in far easier circumstances than they were half a century ago the majority of undergraduates in most of our colleges are much poorer. This arises from that unprecedented demand for educated men in one of the professions, which it has been found impossible to meet in the ordinary way. As the only resource to supply the deficiency, our Christian philanthropists have been led to search out talents and piety in the humblest walks of life, and to devise means for extending to them the advantages of a classical education. In this way, a great multitude of indigent young men have already been induced to forsake their secular employments, and betake themselves to study. Now while I regard this as one of the most auspicious movements of the age in which we live, it seems to me perfectly obvious, that its tendency is to depress the literary standard. I shall endeavor to show directly, how this tendency may be counteracted; but my present object is, to prove that it exists.
That numerous and worthy class of students, then, of whom I am speaking, having, for the most part, enjoyed but scanty early advantages, and coming late, if not poorly fitted into college, need every moment of the time, to do any thing like justice to their studies, and keep up with those whose opportunities have been far superior to their own. But, with all the aid that friends and education societies afford them, and the best economy they can use, the majority of them soon find their resources inadequate to meet their expenses. Now, in this state of embarrassment and perplexity, what is to be done? Shall they be allowed to go out and earn the money, or be advised to relinquish their studies? These seem to be the only alternatives; and it is extremely hard to choose either. If they were to teach school merely in vacations, it would seriously interrupt their literary course, by exhausting their strength, and unfitting them for study in term time. But the case is much worse, when large encroachments are made upon term time also. Supposing the class to advance as fast as it ought during their absence, how are they to keep up, and retain their standing? Will you require them to master all their college lessons, while, at the same time they are teaching six or eight hours a day, in a heated school room? If you do, what will their services there be good for? And suppose you could exact more than double labor for the quarter, what, in the long run, would be gained by the affair? How many excellent young men have by this forcing process entirely broken down their health, and been made invalids for years, if not for life. You may tell your beneficiaries, of whose hard lot I am now speaking, that you can make no allowance for absence, and you may go through with the form of examination when they return; but, with most of them, the standard of scholarship is, and must be, let down. You may still keep them on your catalogue four years; but, if they are absent a fourth part of term time, how can you make their actual course of study more than three? In this view of the subject, it is only necessary to consider, how large a proportion of our undergraduates are now poor, to see that any great interruption to their classical course, must seriously affect the general standard, even if they were the only sufferers.
But they are not. In some of the colleges, when the annual season for school-keeping arrives, the classes are so much reduced, as almost inevitably to paralyze the energies of those that remain; insomuch, that not a few of them soon begin to invent every possible excuse for going home themselves; while nearly all are quite willing, if not entirely to suspend their studies, to proceed very leisurely at least, till their companions return. And then, what result so likely, as that those who actually stay, to shiver and dream away the winter solstice, will lose about as much as those who go; and that, if the latter retain their classical standing, it will I be just because the former quietly slide down to the same level.
The only expedient, I believe, that has yet occurred to obviate this evil, is a collateral course for such as remain. It were the easiest thing in the world to find enough for them to do but, the question is, will they do it? Can a reasonable amount of study be in this way secured ? Were I, with the little knowledge I have of young men, to utter a prediction, it would be unfavorable to the success of such an experiment. It might succeed tolerably well while it was a new thing; but, if it should, it would not help those whose poverty, by driving them away to earn money for the payment of their bills, takes from them one fourth, or one sixth part of their time for study. It would merely enable them to graduate, with so much less time devoted to their classics than has been heretofore required. The senior examination for diplomas, would be upon a three years', and not upon a four years' course; and how could this fail of lowering the standard of scholarship?
I cannot do justice to this part of the subject, without mentioning another way in which the pecuniary necessities of young, men, seeking a public education, tend to depress the standard. Every college Faculty, I am sure, will bear me witness, that nothing pleads so eloquently for a little indulgence in preparatory studies, as the case of an estimable young man, who, in the practice of extreme self-denial, and with the purest motives, has made every possible effort to prepare himself for admission, but has fallen short. His talents, his age, his credentials, his piety, and the tear of disappointment which he strives in vain to hide, all taken together, make an appeal to the sympathies of college officers, which it is hard to resist. Under such circumstances it certainly would not be strange, were examiners sometimes to relax the rule a little, from a sense of duty; and it would be strange indeed, if they were never to relax at all, even contrary to their better judgments.
I remark again, that the restless and meddling spirit of innovation, by which the present age is characterized is extremely adverse to a high standard of classical attainments. On this topic, it is difficult to speak with all the coolness and gravity befitting the occasion. It used to be thought not only that children must be allowed a few years to grow in, and have something more solid than pap to make bone and muscle of, but that young men in college must have time, and quiet, and leisure, for making the most substantial intellectual attainments. It was on all hands considered reasonable, that, before they launched out into the tempestuous ocean of life, they should be allowed to lie peaceably at anchor under the headlands, long enough to get ready for the voyage; and it would have been regarded as extremely intermeddling, if not only every smatterer in navigation had insisted upon boarding their craft and giving them lessons, but every skipper had come along side, to cut their cables and set them adrift, before they had learned the use of the compass or the quadrant.
Such men as Witherspoon, and Edwards, and Johnson, and Dwight, were accustomed, in their day, to dilate upon the importance of laying the foundation broad and deep, by hard labor. Their notion was that the advantages of a public education do not lie in shallow miscellaneous acquisitions, but in thorough mental discipline, and rich scientific and classical attainments. As things always look large in the dusk, so it appeared to them that four years was little time enough for a student to devote to mathematics, philosophy, literature, and languages; and they did not want to have his mind diverted by every exciting topic which might happen to agitate the community. Living in those old fashioned times, when creeping preceded walking, and when children had to pass through that obsolete state styled minority, before they came of full age, our fathers thought that, while their sons were in college, it was best for them to stick to their lexicons and theorems, and let older men keep the world right side up, if they could.
But we have fallen upon very different times; whether for good or for evil, results will show. If "the march of mind," in college and out of college, holds on a few years longer, we may expect, upon some rainy and leisure day, to hear the question gravely propounded, what the term undergraduate means, and by what moth-eaten monk of the dark ages it was invented. Shade of Abelard! what if the reproach should fall upon thy luckless memory! One of the latest discoveries in the science of education is, that it is no science at all; or, if it is, there are so many royal roads leading to its proud temple, that anybody may now reach it, with a facility which would have been pronounced miraculous by Sir Francis Bacon, or the inventor of the Differential Calculus. It is found out, or rather, to keep a little nearer up with the improvements of the age it is being found out, that our young men were not made to be cloistered up four precious years, like so many anchorites in the dark ages, but that they were born for action, action, action, and nothing else.
The Novum Organum of our modern ________ "perched on Alps," is, that as our sons are to live and move in the great world they ought to feel its agitations while they are in college, so as not to lose their interest in what is going forward; and that in fact where there is so much to do they ought to put a hand to the work, let what will become of their dead and dry classics. From the doctrines broached, and the measures pursued by some of the trancendental philosophers of the age, one might infer, that they hold the human mind to be a sort of polypus, which suffers nothing by being cut up into a thousand pieces; -- or, more charitably, perhaps, that they believe it to be, like matter, infinitely divisible; and, as a corollary, that it can act on an infinity of subjects at once, without the least distraction. It is getting to be the popular doctrine, that not only should every exciting topic be freely discussed in college, but that the students should be organized into as many societies as possible, for efficient and heated action; -- and, in fine, that, since every young man in America was demonstrably born to move the world, it is a monstrous waste of time and power to spend so many years in finding the pou sto. The lever of Archimedes must therefore be put into the hands of the tyro, long before he has learned where to place the fulcrum, or at which end the power is to be applied.
Without stopping to prove that this is a literal translation of the new philosophy, I might appeal to the highest college authorities for its general correctness. To say nothing here of the great increase, within a few years, of itinerant lecturers, by whom our professors are liable to be anticipated in the more showy and popular parts of their respective courses, the numerous agencies, by which the most exciting topics are thrust in, to keep the pulse of students up to a hundred and forty, are ominous of great evil; and, if these agitations are not discountenanced and allayed by the enlightened friends of sound learning they must exert an extremely deleterious influence upon our public seminaries.
I might now proceed to glance at some other hostile developments, of minor importance; but it is quite time to inquire, what remedies can be suggested for the evils which I have already pointed out?
In the first place, how can the advantages of a healthy competition be secured, and its opposite tendencies be guarded against? My answer is, the colleges must be better endowed. The great interests of the country absolutely require it. It is in vain to think of sustaining them upon term bills. The policy has always been to keep these bills as low as possible; and it is a wise policy. It opens our doors to hundreds of young men, who cannot afford to pay the whole expense of their education; and what better use could be made of the public funds, than to supply the deficiency? Who would complain of liberal appropriations for such an object -- for helping to work the richest of all mines and to bring out its "hid treasures?" It is the common people who would be chiefly benefitted; and would they complain? Would the more wealthy classes, who must pay the greater part of the money, complain? It were doing them great injustice to suppose it.
I know it has been said that large funds breed drones, and pamper idleness; and that therefore the best policy is to keep the colleges poor; but how poor? How near the point of naked and shivering starvation? Is there no medium between a surfeit and a crust? Does it follow, because we sometimes
see persons becoming emaciated at their sumptuous tables, that they would grow fat upon nothing? I am no advocate for princely college endowments. They befit not the genius of our free institutions. They invite the moth and the rust. But, after all the eulogy that can be lavished upon industrious poverty, it must be confessed, that a college, as well as an individual, may have too much of it. The golden mean is what we pray for. "Give us neither poverty nor riches." Furnish your Boards of Trustees with the means of placing the public seminaries upon the most respectable footing. Give them the buildings, the apparatus, the cabinets, the libraries, which your own reputation and the public interest alike demand. Place your colleges on such a pecuniary basis, that with good management, they can not only stand firm, but continually advance, without the aid of a scrambling competition; but at the same time leaving them sufficiently dependent upon their own reputation and efforts, to secure the highest industry, in all the departments of instruction. This is precisely the ground on which, it seems to me, every enlightened friend of education must wish to see all the higher literary institutions of the country placed. And is there not intelligence and liberality enough to secure an object of such vast importance? It would leave all the room that is wanted for a generous competition, while the evils to which the principle, when stimulated by inexorable necessity, tends, would be avoided.
In the mean time let the colleges have a perfect understanding, and, as far as possible, act in harmony with respect to the terms of admission. Let them consult their own, and the general interest by helping each other, not merely to keep the standard of scholarship up, but to raise it higher. If candidates for admission find that they cannot be received into any respectable seminary, without thorough preparation, they will rarely offer themselves; and although a few may be discouraged or kept back a year longer, by the certainty of a rigid examination, there will be a great public gain upon the whole for the number of thoroughly educated men will be very much increased.
But what can be done to prevent the standard from being depressed, by those indulgences which the poverty of growing numbers of students so imperatively demands? If the only alternatives were, either to send them back to their shops and ploughs, or to run the hazard of some depression, I should prefer the latter, as a less evil than the former. It will never do to send them back. They must be educated; and others of the same class must be encouraged to enter upon a course of liberal studies. "The Lord hath need of them." The churches and the country can look to no other source for an adequate supply of competent religious teachers. Nor can the loud Macedonian cry of perishing millions on the dark mountains of paganism, be otherwise responded to.
But is there no way of eschewing the evil, without sacrificing a greater good? Must those who come and say, "Silver and gold we have none," be admitted to college before they are prepared, and then be excused every year to teach in term time, or not be educated at all? Will not the friends of learning and religion, enable the Education Societies to increase their appropriations? Will not the churches to which these young men belong, do more to aid them? And will not their personal friends make greater efforts to furnish them with means, rather than see them driven out every winter to keep
school, when they have no time to spare from their important studies? I am sure that those, who, from the best motives, have done so much already, will cheerfully do more, as they may see it to be needful. Let me not be understood as wishing to have indigent students entirely supported by others. They have resources within themselves, on which they ought, partly to rely. But let their earnings be chiefly before they enter college and let them not apply for admission till they are well fitted. My view of the case is this, that when beneficiaries have little or nothing to begin with, they should be advised to remain out till their industry places them upon a better footing. And if after having been a year or two in college, they find themselves too much straitened to proceed with comfort and advantage, let them leave for a time, and resume their studies again as soon as they are in funds to go on. It is true, it will take them longer to complete their education in this way, than if they were to earn their money by teaching in term time. But will not the church be more than compensated for the delay, by obtaining an abler ministry in the end?
It is not necessary, then, either to discourage the indigent from entering our colleges, or to depress the standard for their accommodation. Even with the aid which they now receive, and by taking a little more time, they may distinguish themselves as scholars, and thus help to elevate the standard of public education in the country, at the same time that they are laying a more solid basis for future usefulness.
But I have detained you too long with these homebred topics, which, in far more skillful hands than mine, would scarcely admit of the slightest literary embellishment. In such regions there are no "sheltered places of the imagination to revive and vivify the seeds of fancy." The utile is what I have all along aimed at; leaving the dulce to flow from the younger, warmer, and more polished lips.
I cannot close without adding, however, that if it is incumbent upon every section of this great republic, to foster and elevate all the higher seminaries of learning as well as the common schools, it is especially so upon New England. New England! my heart leaps up to meet my tongue in the utterance of thy dear name -- a name always dear, but now, thrice so; as to me the declining sun illumines thy western declivities. I esteem it an infinitely richer blessing to have been born in one of thy humblest cottages than had I drawn my first breath under a canopy of state. Dearly, however, as I love thy fleece-clad hills and bright skies -- thy charming valleys and sweet gushing waters -- thy vernal breezes, and songs and smiles, and fragrance -- thy gorgeous autumnal mantle -- and thy virgin drifted snow -- I claim no higher pre-eminence for thee, than that of privileges and obligations.
Other winters are less stern and heavy than thine; other suns are earlier; other soils are richer; other rivers broader and deeper, and other domains vastly more extensive. Thine is a little triangle, a sort of evanescent quantity upon the extreme icy corner of the map, where it is every day becoming more and more difficult for the geographer to find thee. For many things, New England is dependent upon other and remote sections of the country. We look to the west for our fine flour, and to the south for our cottons. Pennsylvania helps us to our fuel, and Louisiana to our sugars.
Have we any thing equally valuable and more lasting besides broadclothes and muslins, to offer them in return? Yes, it makes one proud to see our everlasting granite and beautiful marbles, rising into magnificent palaces two thousand miles from the quarries; and to find, that in erecting the most superb and costly literary edifice in America, the builders are obliged to come to New England for their materials.
But she has a far richer and more enduring staple than granite, or marble which needs only to be wrought and polished, to create an increasing demand throughout the whole land. I allude to her Anglo Saxon mind, than which there is no better staple, between the two oceans, nor beyond them.
What, then, with such advantages in her hands, is her wisest policy and her bounden duty? In what way can she do most for herself, for her country, and for the world? It seems to me that Divine Providence is pointing out her duty, and setting it in the clearest light. Whatever else she may do -- however she may multiply her spindles and her powerlooms -- whatever foreign breezes she may woo with her canvass -- whatever seas she may continue to "vex" with her "barbed irons and fish spears," and into whatever new channels she may pour the tide of her enterprise -m let her remember, that education has higher claims than any of these if not than all of them, upon her physical, intellectual, and moral energies. In this respect, she occupies a more enviable position than can be found in the world besides. History furnishes no example of two millions and a quarter of people, having it in their power, through their schools and public seminaries, to do so much for fifteen millions; and to exert so mighty an influence in moulding the character, forming the institutions, and shaping the high destinies of a thousand millions, yet to be born, between the Atlantic and the Pacific.
In ploughing their prairie seas, and raising cattle, and growing wheat, and cotton, and the sweet cane, our brethren at the south and west, avail themselves of advantages which other sections of the Union do not enjoy at all, or not in an equal degree; and why should not enjoy at all, or not in an equal degree; and why should not New England act on the same principle? Why should she not cultivate the minds of her sons, with as much assiduity, at least, as they do their alluvial soils? While they are constantly sending us their two great staples of bread and clothing, and the finest of both, why should not we reciprocate the kindness, by rearing and sending them good-principled and liberally educated men? No return we can make, would be so creditable to ourselves, or so acceptable to them. And I can see no reason in the world, why New England should not, for a century to come, at least, be made the great manufactory of all good learning, and the literary emporium of the United States. Our friends, I know, may be amused at the ambitious suggestion; and let them surpass us if they can, and as I am sure they will, unless we wake up to a sense of our duty. But in this high and honorable competition, we have every advantage which any people could reasonably desire. New England teems with young men, of good talents and sober habits, who can very well be spared from the common occupations of life, and educated for the public service. It would be perfectly easy to find them in sufficient numbers, upon her mountains and in her valleys, to turn out two thousand graduates a year, which would be scarcely one to two hundred families. As we have the men, so we have colleges ready to receive them, with no lack of competent instructors in any of the departments of a thorough classical education. We have the means, too, of doing just what we please, for the endowment of all our public institutions. We can make education just as cheap as is compatible with that degree of stimulus to personal efforts and sacrifices, which is essential to secure the object. And I may add, that there are at this moment thousands of fathers in New England, who could, without the least inconvenience, carry their sons through all the stages of a liberal education, but who, as yet, have scarcely thought of the advantage, or the duty. And why should they not select the most promising, and send them to college? In commercial phrase, is there any danger of glutting the market? Not in the least, if we take care to merit and keep up a high reputation for the quality of what we have to spare. Our brethren in the new states have as good materials as we have. The same blood flows in their veins, and the same intelligence sparkles in the eyes of their youthful population. But their colleges are yet in their infancy, and it requires more time, especially in a new country, than is generally supposed, to create a literary atmosphere. And then, they have not the students. They want the help of their most gifted sons, to carry out their plans in the boundless fields of enterprise which lie before them; and if it were otherwise, few young men, lured on by such golden prospects, would be willing to linger long enough in academic bowers, however enchanting, to earn so small a thing as a diploma.
I feel quite sure, that if we could annually furnish two thousand educated men of the right stamp, they would all be wanted in the liberal professions, and in the various departments of benevolent, scientific, and educational enterprise. And if we do not meet this wide and growing demand, who can? Our sons will emigrate by thousands to those lands of promise, whether we educate them or no; and why should we not strain every nerve to fit them for the greatest usefulness? Why should not New England take it upon herself, to send able and discreet religious teachers to the base of the Rocky Mountains, and still onward, to the shores of the Pacific just as fast as they are wanted? Why should she not train up the men, in her literary institutions, to go and stud all those vast regions with churches and schools and colleges? It would only be following the children of her own bowels, with the blessings which she herself enjoys, as they leap over the rivers, and scale the mountains, in their western march.
Am I raising my feeble voice to wake up this generation to higher aims than our fathers cherished, or to do more than they did to promote the interests of learning and piety, in regions beyond their own bounds? I must then have read the history of New England to very little purpose. From the first settlement of this country, down to the year 1830, full half the educated men, I believe, had proceeded from Harvard and Yale: and about half the remainder, from the other New England colleges. Many of them, it is true, were sent here to be educated, from other parts of the union, but by far the greater number drew their first breath under our own deep-blue heavens.
Who sent the first missionaries across the Hudson, and planted the most fertile regions of the "Empire State" with churches, and school-houses, and higher seminaries of learning? Who are the leading men, and whose are the blessed institutions, on your own Western Reserve? Whose blood is it that circulates most warmly and briskly through all the great arterial channels west of New England and north of the Ohio? Suppose that, amid the workings of some mighty convulsion, she were to go down to-morrow, with all her mountains and people, and the ocean were henceforth to roll its thousand-fathomed waters over every acre of her territory, would there be no New England left in America? Would she not still live in the millions of her children, whom she has sent forth from the paternal domain with her laws, her literature, her religion, and her blessing? Yes, her image and superscription would be found engraved upon all the great and good institutions, of far wider and more fertile regions. More of the Puritan race would still survive, than had perished in the catastrophe.
What our fathers did for infant states, which are now so flourishing, populous, and enlightened, be it our care to do for all the remaining west, as she travels on to overtake the setting sun. What they did by the light shining out from their halls of learning and from off their holy altars, to illumine that broad belt, which, traced from Plymouth rock, has already crossed the Mississippi, let us do to increase its brightness, as it spans the continent, and is reflected from the fathomless waters that lave its occidental shore.
Upon you, gentlemen of the society, and other educated men, must it chiefly devolve, to watch over all the great and precious interests of our public seminaries, and to elevate the standard of classical education, -- to keep these fountains full, sparkling, and pure, and to direct the streams where to flow. Some of you have long sustained these responsibilities; but you cannot sustain them always. Our younger brethren will soon stand in your places, as they now gather round you, to thank you for what you have done, and to hold up your hands, till the going down of the sun.
"Juvenes dilecti: Gird yourselves up for the arduous duties which await you. Be prepared to take the keys, and the parchments, and the reputation of our colleges, into your safe and industrious keeping. It will never satisfy the country, and let it never satisfy your consciences, to keep them where they are. In your hands, under your watchful guardianship and diligent cultivation, may they "flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon."
Especially, my young brothers, be it your care, tenderly, piously, to cherish our Alma Mater, and, by your filial assiduities, to convince her how mindful you are of obligations which it will never be in your power fully to repay. In what she has done for religion and learning; for jurisprudence and legislation; for the bar, the pulpit, and the healing art; for the old thirteen and the new thirteen; we have a sure pledge that, under the smiles of a favoring Providence, she will "hold on her way." Be it our united and daily prayer, that she may "wax stronger and stronger." Into the walls of every new edifice that shall rise under her maternal auspices, let Christo et Ecclesia be so effectually wrought, as never, by any ingenuity, to be obliterated, without leveling them to the foundations; and when, in some distant age, her sons shall come from the banks of the Columbia to attend her commencements, wafted in a day, over mountains and prairies, by agencies now entirely unknown, may they find her "youth renewed like the eagle's;" and, down to the latest times, may her children "rise up and call her blessed!"
Di, probos mores docili juventę,
Di, senectuti placidę quietem,
Romulae genti date, remque prolemque,
Et decus omne.