DELIVERED BEFORE THE
PHI BETA KAPPA SOCIETY,
ALPHA OF MAINE,
IN BOWDOIN COLLEGE,
Brunswick, September 7, 1837
BY JOSEPH R. INGERSOLL
PRINTED FOR, THE SOCIETY
Portland, September 21, 1837.
As, by established usage, the Phi Beta Kappa Society are deprived of the privilege of soliciting for publication a copy of the excellent address delivered by you before the Alpha of Maine, the undersigned members of the Society, desirous that the advantages of so valuable a discourse should be preserved, and enjoyed in the most extensive manner, on behalf of their brethren and for Themselves, tender you their most sincere thanks for your very obliging and gratifying service on the late anniversary at Bowdoin College, and request the favour of a copy of your performance for the press.
With assurances of our highest regard, we are, respectfully, yours, &c.
R. H. GARDINER.
CHARLES S. DAVEIS.
ALPHEUS S. PACKARD.
Hon. JOSEPH R. INGERSOLL,
Philadelphia, October 1st, 1837.
I cannot hesitate to comply with the call which you are pleased to make for a copy of the Address recently delivered by me at Bowdoin College. My regret that the performance should not have higher claims to your approbation, is increased by the very gratifying manner in which your request has been communicated. I shall bear in lasting and cherished recollection the unexpected and unmerited kindnesses which attended my visit to Maine. I beg you to accept my sincere acknowledgements for them, and an assurance of the perfect respect and esteem with which I am,
Most faithfully yours,
J. R. INGERSOLL.
HON. STEPHEN LONGFELLOW,
R. H. GARDINER,
CHARLES S. DAVEIS,
PARKER CLEAVE LAND,
ALPHEUS S. PACKARD,
WE are assembled to record the advancement, and celebrate the triumphs of learning. We are not brought together to echo the shouts of blood-stained victor v, to swell the congratulations or the retinue, the pomp or the power of conquerors. We are not invited by any of the tumultuous feelings which sometimes agitate the bosoms and awake the sympathies of men. The occasion of our mutual greeting, the sentiments which it is calculated to excite, are of a far more tranquil character. But the occasion and the sentiments are not less elevated and unalloyed, than those which give utterance to the rejoicings of patriot soldiers over the fallen foes of their country, or of freemen at the advancement and success of the cause of liberty. Our meeting is an intellectual jubilee. It proclaims to the world, in the present condition of this nursery of science, in the interest which is felt and the pleasure which is manifested in its annual exhibitions, the rapid flight of, ignorance and error, and the steady progress of knowledge and of truth: and its continued success and expanded usefulness will record, in characters indelible as time itself, that wisdom is the genuine source of power and prosperity, the sure foundation of individual greatness and national glory. Her lessons are not the mandates of capricious tyranny, but the counsels of divine and affectionate guardianship. Her pupils are willing and grateful votaries, not reluctant or rebellious slaves. Her empire is boundless as the universe. Her triumphs are saddened by no orphans tears or widows' sighs. Innocence and purity mark her progress; contentment waits upon her cheerful labours; happiness and peace crown her achievements; the world is but her journeying-place; eternity her home. In celebrating her festivities, the widest field is opened for contemplation and research. Nature and art contribute their appropriate offerings. They are presented from every corner of the great globe we dwell in-from times of yesterday and times beyond the flood-from the deep recesses of the teeming earth-from the unfathomed depths of the ocean-from the glorious firmament, in all its golden brightness. Wherever the human intellect has ventured to direct its curious gaze-wherever the human imagination has dared to wing its adventurous flight, science has discovered subjects of interesting speculation, of profound research and of practical usefulness.
In their various aspects and relations, these topics go to make up the great volume of human knowledge. Not a star that twinkles in the utmost verge of space; not a clod of earth that moulders under the foot of the traveller, who is unconscious, perhaps, of its existence, holds its position in vain, or refuses to supply instruction to the philosopher. Lessons of wisdom may be extracted from the simplest occurrences of our lives. The child that pursues his humblest amusements, is in the exercise of them, unconsciously a philosopher. lie, exhibits the doctrine of projectiles, or experiments on the specific gravities of different bodies, as he drives his hoop along the ground, or raises his lute into the air. In the development of these principles consist the charm and the value of science, and the effort and the excellence of its teachers. By those who are about me, they are no longer unappreciated and unobserved because of their simplicity, nor are they dreaded and shunned as dark and hidden mysteries. The wisdom of the world has been unveiled for your inspection: the mighty dead of every age have been present with you and instructed you. Their graves have failed to triumph over the efforts of their immortal essence, while they have long since closed upon their mortal bodies; and the lessons of virtue and the fruits of industry, surviving the perishable parts of their existence, will live and flourish for the sake of after ages, and will continue in unfading freshness and vigour to teach, enlighten and improve mankind.
The accomplished gentlemen who have heretofore filled the place to which I have had the honour, and, I fear, the rashness to accept a call, have brought with them, on similar occasions, contributions of peculiar interest. They were already connected with you by ties of surpassing strength, rendered durable, My local concern and association. They were not less closely connected by feelings of personal attachment, founded upon habitual intercourse; by the silken cord of early friendship; by heaven-born gratitude, directed towards the place, perhaps, of their education, the scenes of their first important efforts to acquire knowledge. They enjoyed the privilege of long-tried confidence and could scarcely fail to touch the strings which would vibrate, welcome sounds. Mingling with the pleasure of their own cherished presence the recollection of absent and respected companions of former days, they have united with you in uttering for them expressions of a common and cordial esteem; in tracing their footsteps as they have pursued the, career of elegant improvement and liberal! studies in distant lands in marking their onward march to eminence at home; in exulting at the proud and honourable distinction which not a few of them have attained; and as the end of all, in stimulating the purposes of a generous ambition, which these suggestions were calculated to excite.
Turning from the many who have happily passed the early, and the often Irksome part of their allotted course before the busy world, and having successfully combated with the difficulties which surrounded it, have reached the enviable goal of honour and distinction, at which merit seldom aims in vain, you have been conducted to the tombs of those whose rich promise has not been destined to performance here. Mournful, and yet full of pleasing consolation, has been the sacred duty which you have performed together, in the recollection of the persons and the recital of the virtues of the lamented sons of Bowdoin, who sleep' in death. No affection is sincerer or more ardent than that which has been cemented by the cerements of the graves of mutual friends. It is prompted by the voice of nature, speaking from the tomb. It cherishes an admiration unmixed with envy, for the possibility of competition is at an end. It instils a love that knows no jealousy, and can fear no change. It inspires or secures esteem, confident beyond the measure of this world's hope, because the frailty of humanity has already done its worst, and its object is removed from the power of temptation and the reach of malice, so that delicacy cannot suffer from applause, and merit needs not abate a tittle of its claims. No nation has been so rude as to be insensible to the influence of the bones of its ancestors. Few individuals have abandoned them without regret, or have failed to indulge among their darling hopes, when mountains have risen and oceans have rolled between them, the fond belief that, their long pilgrimage being ended, they will return, in the evening of their lengthened day, to join their kindred dust and ashes.
My predecessors have presented another claim to the welcome which they have received from a willing auditory, besides the commanding weight of their own exalted worth. They have exercised, in all the purity of sentiment which properly belongs to it, the sacred and irresistible influence of home. A stranger to your classic halls, to the eminent and enlightened scholars who preside over the exercises which adorn them, to the very soil which surrounds them, feels that he can appeal to none of these circumstances in his own behalf. Themes the most cherished in themselves, and best befitting the lips of those who have used them with feeling and effect, would be incongruous and ineffective, when treated of by another.* The pilgrim of a former age, in journeying amidst toils and dangers towards a distant shrine, cast aside the fears which might, perhaps, have subdued him; and possessed of neither power to command nor wealth to purchase favour, nor wisdom to win it, but bringing with him the humble offering of a devoted heart, and trusting to that guidance which cannot err, he found, in the acceptance of his unpretending tribute, an ample recompense.
Were this humble effort the forerunner of a more extended and frequent, intercourse between the distant parts of a wide-spread empire, on occasions. of a similar character, I should be content to assume the risk of the pioneer, who alms at no higher merit than to open the way for abler hands, whose deficiencies are supplied by those who succeed him, and mature the undertaking which he but roughly hews the way to, and who derives consolation, even in the imperfection of his work, from the purity of his motive and the, fidelity of his labours. We are, I trust, about to forget that distances and differences occasionally separate us, and to regard the inhabitants of a great nation, however remote from each other in actual residence, as friends, and neighbors, and associates, with a view to combine their disunited advantages, and make them one. in useful and agreeable participation. There are elements of prosperity scattered over a wide surface, which require only to be brought together that they may produce a hundred fold.
Our country affords peculiar advantages to the mass of its swelling population, excelling, at least in this, every other on which the sun sheds his light. Its contribution to the sum of human happiness is more widely diffused, ministers more largely to the positive enjoyment and permanent prosperity of a greater number of the human family, and, above all, tends to a purer, and, as respects liability to temptation, a less perilous state of human existence, than that of any other nation on the surface of the globe. If luxury be not so pampered and profuse, frugality is not so degraded. If the few are not so elevated, the many are not so poverty-stricken and debased. If the standard of enjoyment and estimation, in some respects, be less exalted, it is, more frequently, more readily, and with more certainty attained. If comforts, and even elegancies, are fewer, and less refined, the vices which they are apt to engender are far more rare, and the practical vigour, hardihood, dexterity, and enterprise, which generally prevail, and are indispensable to the state of things around us, do not need them, and could not, without losing their own character, become adapted to them.
Yet it cannot be denied, and must not be dissembled, that the vast extent of territory which forms our country, and the peculiar and still experimental form of government, under which it has not failed to prosper, expose it to dangers, and actually threaten it with evils, which are, in a great, degree, peculiar to itself Nature and circumstances, uncultivated and unimproved, would scarcely create, even if they would permit, an identity of sentiment, any more than a close resemblance of habits and occupations, between the people of the extremes of our northern and southern latitudes. Consulting some of the causes which mark. the differences and minister to the due support of the institutions of nations, we should not readily find broader, deeper, or more clearly delineated marks of distinction, than those which have been inscribed, by Providence, among ourselves. The Saxon of hilly Maine, and the Creole of lowland Louisiana; the well provided inhabitant of the Atlantic cities, and the frontier borderer of the far, distant west, are brethren of the same republican family. To reconcile distances of position, and bring into harmonious admixture elements not only remote, but, in their physical constitution not less dissimilar, would seem to require an agency miraculous as that described in Holy Writ, when Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia and in Judwa and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, Cretes and Arabians, listened together to the same counsels, uttered in their native and familiar tongues. Unity of sentiment is endangered by the very extent of country which forms one of the ingredients of its power and prosperity. So ponderous and distant are its parts, that they threaten by their own weight and remoteness from the rest, and from any controlling and attractive centre, to destroy the general equipoise, and, in time, to break asunder the great machine which they contribute to compose, and now preserve in motion and in order.
Every nation is more or less sustained by closeness and cordiality of feeling among its inhabitants. This is often the result of Juxt-a-position, identity of interest, habits and pursuits, crowded population, or common objects of desire or danger. It is there induced by the force of circumstances. Scarcely any of those causes can be brought to bezir upon ourselves. In their absence, recourse is desireable to every spring of moral influence, to produce a habit of enlarged and liberal intercourse, and thus to infuse strength and harmony into the whole confederacy. Nature, which has rendered the distances between its different parts almost boundless, has provided some of her most majestic floods to facilitate every species of intercommunication. Modern improvements have made them subservient to the easiest and most expeditious means of transportation; and where the contributions of nature have been even less generously provided, genius, and art, and industry, have supplied the deficiency. An intercourse between nations which ages were required to systematize, and mature, has been advanced farther towards perfection in a few short years, to meet the wants and the wishes of this great republic. A limited knowledge of geography rewarded the studies of the sages of Chaldea. Navigation, as a science, cannot be said to have had any existence, while the seacoast was the lode-star of the most adventurous mariner, and the pillars of Hercules were the utmost limits of his exertions and his hopes. The compass and the quadrant, in the hands of enterprize, rendered the ocean no longer trackless, in its utmost extent; and many a gallant spirit, under the guidance of that genius to which they owe their existence, has circumnavigated the globe. Commerce, in all its perfection, with all its consequences, has been the result. More important than them all, in the great experiment of popular governments, and in promoting the happiness and the glory of already united millions, and of augmented myriads yet unborn, will be the efforts and the means which are employed to harmonize and intermix people of separate commonwealths, and thus to strengthen and perpetuate the bands that fasten the whole republic together. Much has been done, already, in successfully cultivating a frequent intercourse between the component parts of the business population of the country. Pleasure and profit have achieved their victories, in bringing together for their especial purposes, the remotest sections of this extended land. The day has not yet arrived when similar facilities, and the practical and familiar use of them, shall be exhibited in the departments of science. Yet in the regular and becoming course of things, they should precede every other kind of communication. Science must lead the improvements of a nation, or it will lag far behind them, and they will grow into rank luxuriance, which centuries may not reform. The republic of letters scarcely knows a difference of climate or soil. Oceans are but avenues, from province to province, of its wide domain; mountains are no limits to its territory, but are rather the positions, from which the eye may survey an unbounded prospect, fairer than the vale of Tempé, and more fertile than the garden of the Hesperides. It claims as its -native citizens, and as fellow citizens of each other, all who profess allegiance and attachment, and who give practical proofs of their devotion to the cause. Advancements in one department are an impulse to the whole. The discoveries and accomplishments of scholars and philosophers, no matter where they may have fixed their particular abode, are a contribution to the public store, from which, in turn, they derive resources for farther improvements and loftier aims.
When all the institutions of our country shall rest upon a basis of sound philosophy-when all the well educated and informed shall compose one great family, striving, in glorious emulation, to diffuse just principles of government, and to preserve, by precept and example, universal tranquility and obedience to the laws--the utmost reach of respectability abroad, and happiness at home, will be attained, which can belong to human society. Thus, to bring together the distant parts of the republic, and to entwine them in bonds of reciprocal attachment, confidence and esteem, which reason would approve, and virtue confirm, were to perpetuate a blessed union, and to give to it a value equal to the most, sanguine hopes of its now sainted founders. National character, the great desideratum, and, as yet, the alleged deficiency of the country, were thus attained and secured. Sectional feelings, which now, unhappily, harass and perplex the whole, would become blended and absorbed in one great sentiment of devotion to the general weal. Local pride and local attachment, while they did not cease to animate the individual to a just regard for his social duties und a faithful performance of them, would expand beyond the limits now assigned them, and thus elevated and sublimed, would lend their influence to promote, in the citizen, a pure and exalted standard of patriotism. In the diffusion of the same copious language over a prodigious extent of territory, with fewer provincialisms and peculiarities, and greater uniformity of dialect than is known elsewhere, a broad basis is laid for harmony of sentiment. That language is now common to a hundred and fifty millions of the human family. It is one of no ordinary merit. The antiquarian, Camden, declared, that " though he would not say the English tongue was as sacred as the Hebrew, or as learned as the Greek, yet that it was fluent as the Latin, as courteous as the Spanish, as courtlike as the French, and as amorous as the Italian."
Thus, reading the same books, if every youth, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, could be taught the same lessons, receive instructions from the same masters, undergo the same discipline and intellectual exercise, become, in a word, in every thing that respects education, identified, it is impossible that differences in subordinate, and, relatively speaking, unimportant points, could long continue. Cultivation of taste, and a habitual intercourse with scholars and their productions, necessarily inspire a lofty tone of moral sentiment. Let this be once created, and generally diffused over the land, and it will form the genuine antidote to licentious thought and irregular conduct. All the disreputable outbreakings which continue to manifest themselves, would speedily be frowned out of existence, and literature, law, and liberty, would walk hand in hand, through a country where the want of respect for them, or a strange abuse of their character and name, has grown into an enormous evil.
Why should not the great leading efforts of melioration and example be made in that portion of our common country which, from an early moment in its eventful history, has been conspicuous for all that should precede intellectual supremacy in the annals of the human race? Other nations trace their origin to accident or crime, or lose it, in the obscurity of time, or the fictions of romance. A Sabine rape peopled one powerful nation, which had for its founders the nurselings of a beast of prey; and its whole history, in all its conduct, was imbued with a characteristic fierceness and love of conquest, which made it the terror and the mistress of the world. A dragron's teeth were the fabled seed from which sprang the armed founders of another. Conquest, and pillage, and slaughter, have marked the early history of many more. No corsair's cruelty, no thirst of gold, are discernible in the adventure of the pious pilgrims who settled upon the rock of Plymouth. If fiction were tasked for an Utopian story, in which a fabled commonwealth should guild its dawn, with hues as pure as those the chastest, fancy ever painted, it would turn for its brightest, best original, to the history of that colony. It could not draw from the imagination a picture half so vivid, or frame a model so full of virtuous simplicity and fearless devotion--one so well calculated to win the cordial esteem of men, or give character to a mortal race, as the unvarnished reality of a pious pilgrimage. Not a sordid motive influenced the departure of these unambitious travellers from their native home, or from their short-lived European sanctuary. Not an unholy desire intruded upon their painful and perilous voyage. Not an unruly passion disturbed their arrival. All, with them, was Christian charity and peace. They brought with them lowly thoughts and tranquil feelings, and they sought for thoughts and feelings such as those congenial objects, and a congenial home. They fondly hoped that nature, in her interminable solitudes, would at least be peaceful, but they found that even there, the common lot of man, his inheritance of trouble, still awaited them. They met disease, and savage enemies, and fraud and want, even as a refuge, death in every hideous shape; "non spem salutis, sed exitii solatium." Their little flock, though threatened, was not dismayed; though wounded, did not perish. It survived, and with it the institutions by which it was characterized, the establishment of equal rights, legislative provision for the education of every child, and a firm reliance upon the protection of Almighty God, and the cultivation of his religion as the basis of their civil polity.
A century and a half rolled on. The colonists, who had imbibed the fearless but unostentatious spirit of their ancestors, we're still willing to cherish it, and the first threat of danger found them ready to defend the soil and the principles which they had inherited together. A libation was poured out in patriot blood at Lexington, not less pure than that first fervent prayer which ascended in gratitude to heaven, after a deliverance from a long and perilous voyage. It was repeated, in more copious streams, at Bunker Hill, and it sanctified anew the ground which had been consecrated to the God of peace, but which willing. hearts and hands were found ready to crimson, When its occupants were threatened with oppression.
The purposes of warfare gained, the same devoted zeal manifested itself in works of peace, in efforts and enterprises for the advancement of all that was good and useful. A system of public, universal, equal, lofty education Was matured, which ensures to posterity a body of enlightened citizens, such as could scarcely have existed in another country, or another age.
War again unrolled her purple, bleeding testament. Who then struck the first, the decisive, the prophetic blow, which was to stamp the character of the American navy, to give it pride, and power, and eminence, and to place the banner of spangled stars in the same historic galaxy, where, above the blaze of glancing lightnings, had shone, for ages, the glorious oriflamme of St Denys, and the young eagle of imperial Rome? It was a son of New England! Through the whole of this, as of the former conflict, fortitude in endurance, which has not even the relief of active danger to animate and arouse; courage in battle, which is often disposed to be the companion of reckless ambition rather than of patient and reflecting wisdom, were no where more conspicuous than among his brethren of the northeastern states. Are we asked for deeds of chivalry? Scarcely a battle-field was lost or won, without a struggle and a valour one among the, New England soldiery, that would have done honour to the victors of Marathon, and would have earned a shower of crosses, to reflect the brightest rays that fell from the star of Austerlitz. Is enterprise or activity-is zeal in pursuit, energy in application, ingenuity in invention, or success in the mastery of mighty undertakings, a mark of merit? These qualities, and the consequences of them, have no where been more brilliantly displayed, or more usefully applied, than in the regions which surround us, iron-bound as are their coasts, and comparatively sterile and unproductive as is their soil. If commerce be the prevailing spirit of the country, its unchecked and prosperous career is soon exhibited among the merchants and the seamen of the cities of the north. If another policy predominate, and productive energies are called into active existence at home, every stream becomes the motive power of machinery, and the interior teems with manufactures, the products of a thousand and a thousand hands. If a momentary stagnation has been produced in the current of productive industry, by causes that seem to pervade the residence of civilized man, it will be only to prompt to the exercise of new energies, in some untried sphere. Lands which are occasionally overwhelmed by the swelling, waters of the Nile, find themselves fertilized and enriched when the river has regained its accustomed channel. While at home and abroad, two of the primary sources of national prosperity, which are, in a greater or less degree, common to every people, have been driven to extremes on their proper element, the adventurous spirit of New England sends out its own peculiar mariners to wield the, harpoon, instead of guiding the ploughshare, amidst boundless fields and gigantic furrows, which are almost exclusively its own, indulging, as it were, in creative agriculture, and reaping abundant harvests by disarming the terrors of the ocean, as it had conquered the sterility of the land. Nothing can stay its onward progress; nothing can subdue a temper which finds or forces a vent for its exuberance wherever nature would render its exercise appropriate or useful, or art can furnish weapons for its ever-varying exploits. Such a people are worthy to be free. Were their fields as barren as the banks of Lybia, they would stand conspicuous, in whatever can conduce to their own advancement and prosperity, or the elevation and improvement of the human race.
These are the results of no adventitious causes. Another set of men might have slumbered in profitless inactivity over the magnificent estuaries, whose sbores are instinct with animated and virtuous life. They might have abandoned the forests which have frowned from the summits of the hills, or cast their shadows on the valleys for ages, to the fires of the hunter, or the prowlings of the hungry wolf, whose lofty pines yield to the axe of sturdy industry, and minister to the comforts and the enjoyments of the inhabitants of the remotest corners of the land. New England is the chosen seat of commerce and manufactures, because man'is there enterprizing and wise. Her people are prosperous, because they are industrious. They are in possession of fortune, because they have merited her favours, and have boldly won her smiles. Good and evil are rarely the companions, and never the lasting consequences of conduct that does not invite them. Although there be " a special providence in the fall of a sparrow," a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will," the skillful and the prudent are generally the successful the unfortunate are, for the most part, the unwise.
I will not, with an irreverend hand, lift the veil that covers the sacred shades of those who, by their precept, and example, conduced to the first formation of these colonial establishments, and planted the great principles which grew up into systems that have become mature and vigorous. Peace be to their ashes! A repose which was sought in vain for the fires which once animated them, and is consecrated in the lively recollection of a grateful race, shall not now be disturbed by posthumous encomium. But the enlightened piety which shed its lustre from the conduct of the original settlers, did but serve as a lamp to guide the feet of the eminent men who, in unbroken succession, have inherited the qualities of the patriarchs of the colony, and it still shines upon their posterity, through the long avenue of time. To that portion of country which they inhabit, belongs the promised exemption, quoted by Cotton Mather, that when the world shall be consumed by the fervent heat which is announced as the consummation of all things, this favoured spot, like the ark which once floated securely amidst the deluge of waters, shall be saved from the prodigious ruin.
In what department of substantial worth shall we look for conspicuous and efficient personification, and look in vain? Soldiers and statesmen, scholars and philosophers, have filled the annals of New England with their instructions and their deeds, and have made it what it has been in history, and what it is in possession and in prospect. They have done more, much more. They have (I speak of the living, and the dead) contributed, at least as much to the general weal of the whole republic (it would be invidious to say they have contributed more) by the strength of their arms and the wisdom of their councils, as the men of any other favoured portion of the country. More gallant soldiers the war of the revolution did not know, than Greene, and Warren, and Wooster, and Stark, and Lincoln, and Putnam:
"Fame's lasting register
Shall leave their names enrolled; as great as those
Who at Philippi for their country fell."
The president of the first congress, and his compeer in patriotism, Samuel Adams, enjoyed the high honour of being marked as exceptions from the alluring pardon which was extended to all others who had shared in resistincr the oppression of the British ministry. In more recent days, when deeds of chivalry were done against the modern infidel, and the waves that washed the shores of Baibary were crimsoned, like the fields of Palestine, with Christian blood, the gallant officer that gave impulse to the exploits, was he whose birthplace and whose honoured grave are both within our present neighbourhood. No statesman or orator of the eventful crisis which succeeded the revolution stands in a position more elevated in the annals of that time, than Fisher Ames. Never did a firmer grasp sustain the sword of justice; never was its balance poised with a steadier hand, than that which formed the just pride of the parent commonwealth; and a long career of eminence and worth has left the name of Parsons only another word for all that is learned, upright, spotless, dignified and efficient, as a judicial magistrate.
I could point to living proofs, that the mantle of wisdom was still worn amongst us; that the brilliancy of learning was not dimmed; that the ermine had not become less spotless or less venerable; that eloquence had not forgotten or laid aside its once commanding character: did not the reserve that is due to the individuals themselves, plead for the judgment of an Egyptian tribunal. Such a judgment best becomes the frailty of our nature; awaiting, as it does, the period. when all that can adorn, and all that can degrade humanity is passed away; when the last impress of human character and conduct, having become irrevocably fixed by the termination of human life, the decree which then goes forth cannot be reversed or discredited by any occurrences which are incident to the imbecility of age, or the equally perilous temptations of prosperous or adverse fortune. Yet there are men among us who are elevated sufficiently above their cotemporanies by the extent and usefulness of their labours and abilities, to receive unenvied applause, and to permit an exhibition of their merits and services, without exposing their fair fame to the breath of malice, or rendering their conduct the theme of obloquy. When a judge of eminent legal learning and profound wisdom adorns his official. duties with the accomplishments of a scholar, and the researchs of a philosopher, fills up the intervals of judicial labour with the occupations of a professor's chair, or gives to the world, in highly wrought treatises and profound disquisitions, the result of his manifold exertions; when, avoiding no call of elegant literature, he omits no duty of his more immediate station; his intellect becomes, as it were, the property of his grateful countrymen. They have, at least, a right to cherish, to profit by, and to dwell upon his rich example, even while yet, in file ripeness of his fame, he is giving to it additional brightness, and filling up the outline which had been pencilled for him in his earlier days. Seldom has merit, which we felt to be exalted, attracted the notice, and extorted the applause of the sterner critics of the parent country. But the "copiousness of learning," and the "tone of legal philosophy," which distinguish the writings of this wise Jurist, have been reflected back, in proud encomium, from the ripe literature of England and Scotland, and have received the unqualified praise of the highest, of their judicial functionaries. A predecessor of that eminent man, once had the magnanimity to proclaim, in terms of peculiar eloquence, his unbounded admiration for the character of the first president of these, United States. The late Lord Chancellor Erskine, when, in the enjoyment of a reputation more elevated than rank and power could confer, the fearless and successful advocate, of the liberty and the constitution of England, addressed a voluntary letter to General Washington, of which a copy was found among the papers of lord Erskine, after his decease.
"London, March 15, 1795."
"I have taken the liberty," said he, " to introduce your august and immortal name in a short sentence, which will be found in the book I send to you. I have a large acquaintance among the most valuable and exalted classes of men; but you are the only human being for whom I ever felt an awful reverence. I sincerely pray God to grant a long and serene evening to a life so gloriously devoted to the universal happiness of the world."
" T. ERSKINE."
If the eye, in glancing over existing, and not unfamiliar objects, distinguishes the keen gaze and commanding presence of a statesman, who in the labours of the Senatehouse has stood forth, conspicuously, the firm, consistent and eloquent supporter of the Constitution of these states, why should not applause be expressed, and gratitude be recorded? The efforts of Franklin and of Hancock were vain and futile, if the work of their hands is to be dashed to pieces by the first storm to which it is exposed. They shed upon the nascent institutions of their country, the influence of a patriotism, pure as the vestal fire:
"Light, more immaculate than the gorgeous East Wears,
when the prostrate Indian does adore
Its rising brightness."
But the devoted zeal which guards the rich inheritance, is scarcely less to be appreciated than the heroic virtue which secured and bequeathed it. The one would have become a mournful relic, or a departed and lamented friend, without the other.
Living or dead, these, and the like, examples, are of inestimable value, to stimulate our love of country. That feeling which is the moving spirit of a republic, derives its true aliment from the contemplation of them. it Is a feeling, without which, no country was ever served with zeal or fidelity, for which there is no Substitute lit the mere calculations of reason, in the instinct of which there is a pledge for deeds of daring and devotedness, which sometimes can alone preserve and perpetuate the institutions of freedom. If any one suppose that the love of country, in its best estate, is subordinate to self interest, or even absorbed in the social affections, let him seek for better instruction in the inspiration of some well-known spot, which has been sanctified by the devotion of unflinching patriotism. None can be more familiar, yet none more convincing, than the straits of Thermopylae. There, pausing on the hallowed ground where Leonidas and his fellow-patriots went to meet their inevitable fate, he will find no record of an achievement induced by the purest love of country, which does not unfold a motive as disinterested as the deed was heroic. No proud monument is there erected to posthumous fame, by overweening admiration. Nothing is commemorated but a submission to the law; nothing is proclaimed but the performance of a duty. "Passenger! go tell at Lacedaemon, that we lie here in obedience, to her sacred laws."
The cultivation and diffusion of a similar spirit should mark the age in which we live. Every one is competent to provide a contribution towards it. In the prodigious improvements of the day it is matter of less of surprise than sorrow, that misdirected exertions should occasionally break forth in lawlessness and mischief. It should be no less the pride than it is the peculiar office of science to counteract these tendencies; and while philosophy presides in the recesses of the schools, she will send forth her winged ministers, with wisdom for their guide, to stay the unruly passions, and substitute for their indulgence an honest pride in the glory of the republic, a warm attachment to its institutions and an ardent zeal in the support, defense and perpetuation of them. The literature of a nation is calculated especially to affect its moral tone and habits. Its wholesome, and vigorous condition; one that is at the same time free from degrading exhibitions of vice, and from highly coloured pictures of a fervid and distempered fancy--from every thing that will tend deeply to humiliate the thought or unnaturally to excite the passions, and familiarize the public taste with scenes, even in fiction, of exaggerated feeling, will contribute largely to produce a corresponding condition of society. Let literature and science maintain their proper rank, exhibit systems of elevated morality and sound practical knowledge, and teach the duties of life with all the elegancies and embellishments of taste and refinement, whichy where virtue is, are most virtuous, and they will purify the streams of public sentiment at their very source, give aim and direction to the employments of mankind, and restrain the first inclinations and efforts towards evil. The moralist and politician mourn together over the fallen state of their respective departments in that fertile and accomplisl~ed portion of modern Europe which might give character and example to all the rest. They trace it through no improbable or farfetched inferences to the vicious and corrupting literature of the day. From the rank seeds which it has sown, suicide and debauchery and murder have grown up again in the gardens of private life, as some of those enormities were, once rendered familiar by the poison of atheism and vice, which bad been infused into the arteries of the government itself. Not all the counteracting influences of a wisely administered monarchy, nor the natural good feeling which is characteristic of the people, nor the rich stores which abound of polite learning and genuine science, nor the attractions of highly cultivated taste, have sufficed to stay their rapid and destructive progress. French novels have led the way to practical corruption. No longer the amusement of an idle hour, they have become the text, book of the otherwise contemplative and studious. Instead of furnishing a fleeting pleasure to the frivolous, the ' y are a distorted standard of public sentiment. Adopted .Is teachers, their lessons are practiced in licentious deportmerit : and their Strange and unnatural delineations are but reflections, as it were, from a vast mirror of the living reality of every species of criminal conduct, however shameless; of every extent of irregular principle, however extravagant and inconsistent with the good order and permanent security of society. Counteracting restraints. upon the influence of vicious literature are less amply provided among ourselves. Unless the avenues to its admission are occupied by the emanations of a purer taste, and the lessons of a, sounder philosophy, the evils may be as extensive and as incurable as those which exist abroad.
The truth has been so often repeated, that it has lost something of its merited influence, that we live in a period of peculiar mental activity and advancement. Such at least ought to be the character of the age. Ample employment may be found by the schoolmaster, be he abroad and as industrious as he may. The development of time, and the mighty discoveries which it evolves in its rapid course, have been more striking and important during the present day, and the days which have immediately preceded it, than at any former aera. When we turn to the brighter pages of ancient history, which furnish the scholar with many theories of instruction and delight, we are rather surprised at the improvements, than struck with the deficiencies of the world, as it is there described. Arts and accomplishments then abounded, notwithstanding the seeming privations which have been supplied in the fulness of time. Without the mariner's compass, and gunpowder, and the art of printing, and the use of steam, and the phenomena of electricity, and the magnet, and galvanism, and a thousand other discoveries of later days, there were architecture, and a statuary, and a poetry, and an eloquence -- a Vitruvius and a Praxiteles, a Homer and a Demosthenes, that modern times can only hope to imitate. Approaching as near to perfection as the human judgment has standards to compare with, these masters in their several arts could have contributed feebly to the practical conveniences of life. Perhaps the long continued cultivation of particular objects of study and interest, and the comparative paucity in the numbers of them, may have heightened their excellence and embellished their charms. A less divided and distracted attention could be bestowed upon them than is permitted by the countless variety presented to the eye of the modern artist, which permits it to rest on none, but perpetually draws it aside to some new object of study, of acquisition, or of necessary employment. The progress of improvements and discoveries, at the present time, is so unchecked and speedy, that the once cherished recollections of yesterday become insignificant and vapid in the prouder possessions of to-day: and both are lost in the ardent hopes and the brighter and richer prospects of to-morrow. He that would keep pace with the movements of the age, must rouse himself to perpetual activity, and catch the fleeting moments as they fly.
"The old Scythians
Painted blind Fortune's powerful hands with wings,
To show her gifts came swift and suddenly:
Which, if her favourite be not swift to take,
He loses them for ever."
Scarcely had the navigator reached a skill and proficiency in his art, which enabled him to turn to his own account the streams and currents of the ocean, and by availing himself of their powerful assistance, to traverse its broad bosom with a certainty and speed before unimagined, when the aid of winds and waters is disregarded, and their strength and hostility are defied and baffled by means of another element, which is selected and subdued for purposes of augmented celerity and precision in a no longer devious tract. Turnpike-roads have come into existence and almost departed from it within the recollection of persons yet in the meridian of life. The terrors of a formidable inquisition have vanished. Even the Persian harem has been opened; and the bands of Turkish Janizaries, at whose name their despot master trembled, have been dissolved. Every where the sceptres of superstition and prejudice have been broken. The great impediments of commercethe narrow but stubborn isthmus which divides the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the want of a north-western passage, are threatened with being overcome. But what shall we say of discoveries, of revolutions in knowledge, compared with the confession of philosophy and religion combined, that Christendom has been at all times plunged in error as to the period of the creation of the earth? Science now traces its history in characters inscribed by the hand of nature herself, "recognized in the works as well as the word of the Creator," too well defined and intelligible to be misunderstood, too deeply marked to be subject to the razure of oblivion, myriads of ages perhaps beyond the limit which had heretofore been fixed of six thousand years.
The present acre would not tolerate the elevation to dignity and power of the illegitimate son of a debauched and adulterous pope, much less his triumphal career of profligacy, murder, incest and fratricide. Yet Cęsar Borgia attained to the highest honours in church and state in the sixteenth century, and has been gravely proposed by Machiavelli as an examplo to princes who would become wise and politic tyrants.
Why is it that modern times exhibit such infinite variety, such rapid progress in improvement; such prompt transition from discovery to discovery; such multiplied productions of things new and useful, any one of which would once have been the content and the admiration of the age? Why are there no resting-places for invention? Why is each onward step but an initiate or progressive movement in a swift career, in which positions reached are only fresh starting points for farther and loftier attempts? It is because science is emphatically the parent of the improvements of the day. Whatever other errors may be incident, and perhaps peculiar, to the period in which we live, false philosophy and empiricism, to any considerable extent, are not among them. The crucible of the chemist is no longer filled with strange combinations of matter, with a view to detect the philosopher's stone among the lurking secrets of nature. The observatory of the astronomer is not vexed with horoscopes to mark the fancied destiny of men or nations. Alchymy and astrolooy, not less than witchcraft and necromancy, are exploded arts. Even "the eye of childhood" does not fear "a painted devil." The classic age of polished Athens abounded with spells, and incantations, and magic in its various delusive forms. But the delusion has every where worn away, and the decree of the lawgiver has ceased, practically at least, to aim its vengeful shafts against these mysterious and not always harmless practices of the cunning upon the unwise.
Let us take warning from the misapprehensions which are incident to particular periods, and are often speedily dispelled, and not rely too confidently upon the exemption of our own age from frailties of a similar character. The wonder-working manifestations of time, perpetually prove that conclusions, however boldly drawn by an existing generation, may be utterly fallacious. When Horace Walpole records his own sentiments, and those, perhaps, of the moment, that Garrick was no actor, and that Frederick of' Prussia was a coward, he exposes himself to early contradiction, by the widely extended fame of the artist whose death "eclipsed the gaiety of nations," and by the dauntless deeds of the soldier whose nerves were as firm as steel. When Waller wrote that "the old, blind schoolmaster, John Milton, hath published a tedious poem on the Fall of Manif its length be not considered a merit it hath no other," his false taste was soon corrected. The verdict of the world, in undissenting concert, speedily declared that there was but one place in the temple of fame by the side of Homer and Virgil, and that had been reserved for the author of Paradise Lost. The comparative imperfection, and perpetual growth of science, are shown in the occasional errors of history, which ought to be an unvarnished relation of the truth, and, in the misconceptions of criticism, which should be governed by the dictates of natural judgment, cultivated only by experience and taste.
What mighty efforts of unnecessary labour, what misdirected ingenuity and skill, are exhibited in the most toilsome productions of hurnan hands, if they have not been guided by knowledge previously acquired, moving upon principles matured and understood! Inferior to none of the proud works of ancient art, the Roman aqueducts still lift their massive columns in commemoration of the skill, the industry, and the ignorance of their builders. An acquaintance with one of the least obscure of the phenomena of nature, or rather with what would now be considered as one of her plainest truths, which it seems extraordinary should have been for a moment overlooked, would have obviated the necessity of these misguided efforts, or would have conducted them more philosophically, and, therefore, more directly to their useful ends. The axiom that water will seek its own level, seems to have escaped the ken of ancient philosophy. Would it be fanciful to predict that time, in its vast analysis, may develop some new mystery, which will lead the architect of after generations, when other two thousand years shall have added their accumulated wisdom to the stores which are, now provided for the uses of mankind, to smile at the unwieldy machinery which are the pride and boast of the nineteenth century? Lofty viaducts, elevated thousands of feet above the surface of the earth (the corresponding labours of our day), may be regarded with the same wonder and pity that are now bestowed upon the possibly no less unnecessary aqueducts of ancient Rome. Yet the pride of philosophy will admit, with reluctance, that any thing can be superadded to the energy and speed which is derived from the great agent of modern mechanism. Archimedes would scarcely have asked for a fulcrum to move the earth, if he had possessed the power of steam.
While we are in the act of proclaiming its mighty influence, a yet more efficient enginery is in the progress of development, which, combining the strength of agents not even known by name until the last few years, may lend to mechanic will a power, to mechanic uses a momentum and a speed, to which even steam itself is still a stranger.
It is vain to expect stability in human affairs. The world will never be stationary; and man, its aspiring occupant, happily, will never be at rest. Let changes come; they are for good, and not for evil. The hope which prompts them is the spring of sublime aspirations, the harbinger of prosperous fortune. It beckons towards the great summit of melioration, which diminishes the distance between men and angels. It is our privilege and our duty to encourage the belief that the advancement is illimitable; and that no end is too remote, or difficult for accomplisliment, except the discovery of the secrets of the tomb: but that, piercing through the dark shadows which, to our senses, envelope other worlds, we may yet be able to scan the living universe, and may find a check to our bold designs, only when we shall attempt to
"Cancel and tear to pieces the great bond
Which makes us pale."
The movements of mankind, at different periods, mark the diffierences between the complicated and objectless efforts of a blind credulity, which blunders for ages through a series of unsatisfactory experiments, and the plain and obvious purposes which wisdom has matured. Science is infinitely more simple and direct in her operations than ignorance. Philosophy accomplishes its ends with a facility and an aptitude which folly cannot conceive. Man is taught, by the workings of omnipotence in his behalf, a lesson of especial utility in the simplicity of its operations, and the seemingly feeble means which are applied to the accomplishments of the sublimest ends. Is the great source of human enjoyment, the element of the most delicate and enraptured sense, the medium through which beauty proclaims its power, the sublime organ which communicates to the soul the forms of outward things, is "holy light, offspring of heaven first born!" to be shed upon the universe? It is spoken into existence with a word. Is the mighty ocean, in all its majesty and power, when tossed into mountain-waves, and threatening to engulf navies in its capacious and impenetrable depthsis this raging world of tempestuous waters, in the utmost fury of its seemingly ungoverned course, to be kept within its proper bounds? The little sands form its insuperable bars.
In the use and application of familiar agents, and the happy employment of means, which are accessible to all, are manifested the powers of genius, the proofs of an immortal mind. Strictly speaking, there is nothing new under the sun. Even the faculties of men, in their innate character, are provided by nature with a far less discriminating hand, than the exercise of them would seem to imply. It is in the successful cultivation of them, and the consequences which ensue, that the great differences consist between individual and individual. By speech, the human family is distinguished from the rest of animated beings. It is common to every condition of life, to every order of intellect. But the effective utterance of it is not only a mystery, but a mystery which has seldom been solved, in the long course of time. It was a subject of inquiry and wonder to Cicero himself, the parent and the Model of correct elocution, why so few should have excelled in doing that which is done by all.* The remark did not impute an incapacity to conceive sublime thoughts, or to give them a corresponding dress in written language. Not a few nations contain, in their literature, proofs of the existence, and the exercise of genius and taste, in compositions which have deservedly received the applause of their own day, and have stood, as monuments, for the merited admiration of after ages. But the communication of original thought and feeling, directly from the lips to the hearts and understandings of men, the inspiration of delivery, the power to touch the strings which give back the sounds of willing acquiescence and delight, with words to "rob the Hybla bees, and leave them honeyless," are phenomena which history rarely has recordedto which living witnesses can seldom testify. Eloquence must be regarded as an occasional result of the inborn faculties of a gifted few, and, therefore, out of the reach of art to fashion, or even of study, essentially, to improve; or, as the reward of perseverance and industry, almost superhuman. A command of happy tboughts, or apt and swelling diction, will not always make an orator, if the inspiration of utterance be not superadded. Trace the noblest language of' dramatic poetry, the fine conceptions of Shakespeare, which, when fresh from the fountain of genius, are bright as drops of morning-dew distilled in natures own alembictrace them through the lips of almost any one of his living representativesthey will fall coldly upon an indifferent, if not a reluctant ear. It would seem as if nothing but fire, snatched from the altar by an angel's hand, can give to human lips the thrilling influence of inspiration.
Or must we reluctantly submit to the belief that the days of eloquence have departed with the genius of the ancient republics? It is within the scheme of Providence that all is not retained which may have been once acquired. The attainments of one era are the lamented or forgotten wants of another. Fashion, and taste, and occupations, undergo never-ceasing changes, and with them, objects which they have fancied or approved, are cast aside, as caprice may become satiated, or necessities and desires expand. Arts, as well as empires, have existed, and are decayed. But the same opportunities and causes which called into exercise the mighty powers of ancient orators, may arise again, and nerve anew an arm, and animate a voice that
"Shook the dictator in his curule chair,
And through the Roman senate thundering rung
Its bold philippics in Antonius ear."
As long as human nature shall indulge its propensities towards evil, vice will exist, to call forth the indignant eloquence of the forum, and oppression will require, and receive, the stern and vindictive rebuke of popular assemblies. To a mind animated by genuine ambition, and influenced by patriotic motives, the temptations are irresistible. What sordid recompense of fleeting wealth, what hope of pleasure, can compare with the elevating thought of triumphing over the intellects of men? If there be a genuine feeling of exalted and becoming pride, a sentiment that in moral sublimity excels every other that can swell the human heart, it is derived from the consciousness that we have enlightened and dignified our race, and are thence in possession of the rich reward of unbounded gratitude, and unenvied glory. Are we told of the long reign of kings? the reign of Aristotle over the intellectual world, according to the annals of philosophy, lasted two thousand years. Do we talk of the extent of the fame and dominions of the Cęsars? The name and the influence of Newton have penetrated into the remotest parts of the residence of civilized man, shed rays of intellectual light into his darkest regions, have given to the mere efforts of calculation the seeming and the infallible result of supernatural predictions, and verified the assertion that power, in its widest extent, its loftiest aim, consists of knowledge. Do we envy the felicity of sovereigns? One, at least, of the Roman emperors, shed tears upon the purple as he put it on. His humanity was melted at the necessity of becoming a tyrant. His fears were not aroused at the personal dangers to which he might be exposed. If, according to the best historians, not one of the Caesars, from the dictator to Vespasian, died a natural death; if, according to the philosophy of politics, a wise prince, at the head of a despotism, must incline to severity; and if the Roman empire enjoyed the most happiness under Tiberius, Nero and Domitian, a virtuous mind would shrink from the exercise of absolute power.
Many circumstances are combined to render the pursuits of this Anglo-Saxon progeny such as lead to happlness, and the true formation of national character. Liberty has at all times been inscribed upon their banners. Whether they read the story of their race in the record of a long line of British ancestry, or trace their outline in the forms of the aboriginal possessors of the soil, their inheritance of freedom is equally sustained. A spirit of independence, animated at times into a proud defiance of oppression, distinguished both. It has been transmitted, in undecaying strength, to those who have discarded the land, and shaken off the supremacy of the one, and who are fast melting away the population of the other. It continues to manifest itself in the tone of insubordination and reluctance, even to due restraint, which is the effect of the excess of liberty. But it exists, in better illustration, in the happy institiltions which have grown up under it, and the habits and feelings which they have contributed to preserve. It has resulted, in a general education of the peoplea consciousness of equality, which lifts the thoughts of the humblest individual to the dignity of a sovereign citizen, and the exercise of his freeborn prerogativean ability diffused throughout all descriptions of persons to reach the highest honours, the richest emoluments, and the greatest stretch of power (happily limited in each particular) which the republic can confer. These peculiarities mark the individual American, notwithstanding the closeness of his alliance, as a being altogether different from his fellow-being abroad, who exercises like natural functions with different characters of improvement, and for uses essentially varying from our own. The inhabitant of the western forests, before the foot of civilized man had invaded the vast continent of which he was the unchartered. master, scarcely differed more from the polished courtier of the reign of Elizabeth of England, or an accomplished cavalier in the train of her great contemporary, the fourth Henry, of the rival realm. The innate peculiarities of that unconquered race have been preserved in singular integrity, by those who have merely succeeded to their places of residence, with hardly any intermixture of blood. TheAnglo-Saxon intruder has fixed his domestic altars on the same fields which smoked with the bloody sacrifices of the Indian. He has extinguished the fires, and with them has superseded the wandering habits and the savage propensities of the lord of the forest. He has submitted to the restraints, while he has sought the refinements; he has suffered the keener pains, and enjoyed the more exalted pleasures of civilized life. But he has retained the stubborn independence, the hatred of oppression, and the proud and jealous defiance of tyranny, in all its shapes, of the people whom he could not unite with him, and whom he has contrived effectually to supplant.
It becomes its all to look around us, and determine how we can most promptly and effectually cancel the debt we have each of, us contracted by living in an age of enterprise, activity and zeal, and in a country of unlimited energy and ardent hopes. That we too must partake of the same character, and become, ourselves, enterprising, active and zealous as the one, and energetic and aspiring as the other, is the necessary result of circumstances, and leaves us scarcely the indulgence of a choice. Inglorious would be the combatant who should be defeated in the toils of modern warfare, because he would consent only to wield the worn out weapons of the Roman legion or the Macedonian phalanx, now hung up "like a rusty mail in monumental mockery." The fields of exertion and fame are infinitely varied, and many of them are full of difficulty, and beset with dangers. There is one, not less honourable and useful than the rest, perhaps one only, whose paths are only paths of pleasantness. Whatever embarrassment may attend the due application and use of knowledge, the acquisition of it is an employment of unmixed satisfaction and delight. It is the privilege only of the student to select, among the countless multitudes of all past time, untiring companionship, and to find in it perpetual freshness and never-ceasing fertility. To bring together in generous contribution all that they have written and all that they have done, and to apply it to honourable and useful ends, undisturbed by other duties, unharassed by any care, is to amass stores of wealth without the toil which usually accompanies their accumulation, and to luxuriate in the enjoyment of them without the weariness of satiety or the dread of loss.
If you would descend into the vale of science, and gather wisdom from the profound researches of the wise, you may trace their progress from the period of the burning glasses of Archimedes to that of the safety-lamp of Sir Humphrey Davy. Would you rise on the wings of fancy and soar among the bright worlds of poesy? Then visit Parnassus with old Męonides, or seek with the last bards of border minstrelsy the romantic highlands, whose shadows sleep upon the lochs of Scotland. If your game be man, his passions, principles, habits, governments, motives, actions; the fields of history are open to you from the days of Herodotus. Are your aims higher and holier than these? The sublime record of creation, the everlasting law sounding in thunders from mount Sinai, the prophetic strains of inspired psalmody, the gentle influences of evangelic purity, with all that human intellect has provided for instruction and guidance in the great pursuit, are within your reach. There only are your discoveries limited, though vast; your researches, however penetrating, are expansive still. If the longest line of mortal knowledge should fail to reach the depths of unfathomable wisdom, the same inspired studies which teach us all we ought to know, instil upon us, no less, the duty patiently to submit and devoutly to adore.
Our destiny through life may depend essentially upon an indulgence in the happy, useful and honourable gratifications for which the moments of college instruction afford the golden opportunitymoments which, if permitted then to pass unheeded, refuse to be recalled. They are like
waters which have flowed by us in rapid currents downward to the ocean, and are mingled with its indistinguishable flood, irrevocably and for ever. More fleeting and, evanescent than any visible current, they move in tranquil and sublime devotion towards the great abyss, in which time and all its interests must be engulfed, there to bear witness as accusing spirits against those by whom they have been neglected. Fruitless and bitter have been the lamentations of the literary master-spirits of the day they whom the world has delighted to honour for the extent of their knowledge and even the vigour of their application over the mispent hours of their early youth. How would this regret be aggravated into remorse if it were not happily softened by the redeeming assiduity of later years. Sir James Mackintosh, in his autobiography, thus speaks of his deficiencies at school. "I went and came, read and lounged, as I pleased, &c. But no subsequent circumstance could make up for that invaluable habit of vigorous and methodical industry which the indulgence and irregularity of my school life prevented me from acquiring, and of which I have painfully felt the want in every part of my life." And Scott, universal and delightful as he is, makes his confessions in these striking terms "It is with the deepest regret that I recollect in my manhood the opportunities of learning which I neglected in my youth: through every part of my literary career I have felt pinched and hampered by my own ignorance; and I would at this moment give half the reputation I have had the good fortune to acquire, if, by doing so, I could rest the remaining part upon a sound foundation of learning and science."
Whether our career be long or short, public or private, literary or scientific, amidst the turmoil of forensic or legislative conflict, or in the peaceful musings of the academic grove,the rich mine of intellectual wealth is here. It is found in habits of application (without which natural parts are worse than useless), and in the first fruits of their active exercise.
I will not suspect, any where, the existence of indolence; a vice which the age has far outgrown; which, springing at all times from inordinate selfishness, is unsuited to the generous temper of the young. Nor of a preference of pleasure to study (I address the younger part of my auditory), for their aim is intellectual and moral excellence, not degradation and disgrace. But mere freedom from indolence and vicious inclinations will not suffice to realize the expectations of anxious friendsto fulfil the hopes and gratify the pride of a country which claims more than negative virtues at your hands. Destined as you are to eminence, contentment must not be found midway to your allotted rank.
"The high-born soul
Disdains to rest her heaven-aspiring wing
Beneath its native quarry."
Yet zeal itself, the great secret and earnest of success, wants its brightest ornament, if it do not wear a crown of modesty. While we strive with all our hearts to gain the steep ascent, our efforts will be unavailing, as well as presumptuous and unamiable, if they are not made with deep humility. The pride of knowledge is an infirmity next only to the pride of ignorance. Access to the world of intellectual, must be sought, like access to the world of spiritual light (not to speak it profanely), like little children. To know one's self, is not only the first lesson of wisdom, but that first lesson is misdirected and imperfect, if it do not teach the deficiencies and inaptitudes of the learner. Newton himself, with all his godlike faculties, frequently declared, that if there were any difference between himself and other men, it consisted in his fixing his eye steadily on the object which he had in view, and waiting patiently for every idea, as it presented itself.
Shall we, then, retire of necessity from congenial intercourse, and seek only in the solitude of the cloister the way to eminence and fame? No! In the emulation of virtuous companionship there is incentive to exertion. In the cheering plaudits of approving friendship, there is reward for toil. Purity of conduct does not require the sacrifice of Democritus, who put out his eyes, that he might not behold the objects which would have excited envy in his heart. Successful study does not need the seclusion of Zamolxis, the disciple of Pythagoras, who shut himself up for years in a subterranean cave; or of the wise Epimenides, who renounced the society of men, and condemned himself to a banishment of half a century. Let every aspirant for honourable distinction adopt the principle, and apply it to practice, of the amiable Raphael d'Urbino, who laboured all his life to excel himself; and he cannot fail to merit and receive the benedictions of an approving conscience, the approbation of an admiring country, the esteern and favour of a grateful world.