SCIENCE AND LETTERS IN OUR DAY
BY JOSEPH STORY
Delivered before the Alpha of Massachusetts, at Harvard University,
at the Anniversary Celebration on August 31, 1826
If I had consulted my own wishes, I should not have presumed to address you on the present occasion. The habits of professional employment rarely admit of leisure for the indulgence of literary taste. And in a science, whose mastery demands a whole life of laborious diligence, whose details are inexhaustible, and whose intricacies task the most acute intellects, it would be a matter of surprise, if every hour withdrawn from its concerns did not somewhat put at hazard the success of its votary. Nor can it escape observation, how much the technical doctrines of a jurisprudence, drawn from remote antiquity, and expanding itself over the business of many ages, must have a tendency to chill that enthusiasm, which lends encouragement to every enterprise, and to obscure those finer forms of thought, which give to literature its lovelier, I may say, its inexpressible graces. The consciousness of difficulties of this sort may well be supposed to press upon every professional mind. They can be overlooked by those only, whose youth has not been tried in the hard school of experience, or whose genius gives no credit to impossibilities.
I have not hesitated, however, to yield to your invitation, trusting to that indulgence, which has not hitherto been withheld from well meant efforts, and not unwilling to add the testimony of my own example, however humble, in favor of the claims of this society to the services of all its members.
We live in an extraordinary age. It has been marked by events, which will leave a durable impression upon the pages of history by their own intrinsic importance. But they will be read with far deeper emotions in their effects upon future ages; in their consequences upon the happiness of whole communities; in the direct or silent changes forced by them into the very structure of society; in the establishment of a new and mighty empire, the empire of public opinion; in the operation of what Lord Bacon has characterized almost as supreme power, the power of knowledge, working its way to universality, and interposing checks upon government and people, by means gentle and decisive, which have never before been fully felt, and are even now, perhaps, incapable of being perfectly comprehended.
Other ages have been marked by brilliant feats in arms. Wars have been waged for the best and for the worst of purposes. The ambitious conqueror has trodden whole nations under his feet, to satisfy the lust of power; and the eagles of his victories have stood on either extreme of the civilized world. The barbarian has broken loose from his northern fastnesses, and overwhelmed in his progress temples and thrones, the adorers of the true God, and the worshippers of idols. Heroes and patriots have successfully resisted the invaders of their country, or perished in its defence; and in each way have given immortality to their exploits. Kingdoms have been rent asunder by intestine broils, or by struggles for freedom. Bigotry has traced out the march of its persecutions in footsteps of blood; and superstition employed its terrors to nerve the arm of the tyrant, or immolate his victims. There have been ancient leagues for the partition of empires, for the support of thrones, for the fencing out of human improvement, and for the consolidation of arbitrary power. There have, too, been bright spots on the earth, where the cheering light of liberty shone in peace; where learning unlocked its stores in various profusion; where the arts unfolded themselves in every form of beauty and grandeur; where literature loved to linger in academic shades, or enjoy the public sunshine; where song lent new inspiration to the temple; where eloquence alternately consecrated the hall of legislation, or astonished the forum with its appeals.
We may not assert, that the present age can lay claim to the production of any one of the mightiest efforts of human genius. Homer and Virgil, and Shakspeare and Milton were of other days, and yet stand unrivalled in song. Time has not inscribed upon the sepulchre of the dead any nobler names in eloquence, than Demosthenes and Cicero. Who has outdone the chisel of Phidias, or the pencil of Michael Angelo, and Raffaelle? Where are the monuments of our day, whose architecture dares to contend with the Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian of Greece, or even with the Composite, or Gothic of later times? History yet points to the pregnant though brief text of Tacitus, and acknowledges no finer models than those of antiquity. The stream of a century has swept by the works of Locke and Newton; yet they still stand alone in unapproached, in unapproachable majesty.
Nor may we pronounce, that the present age by its collective splendor in arts and arms casts into shade all former epochs. The era of Pericles witnessed a combination of talents and acquirements, of celebrated deeds and celebrated works, which the lapse of twenty-two centuries has left unobscured. Augustus, surveying his mighty empire, could scarcely contemplate with more satisfaction the triumph of his arms, than the triumph of the philosophy and literature of Rome. France yet delights to dwell on the times of Lewis the Fourteenth, as the proudest in her annals; and England, with far less propriety, looks back upon the reign of Queen Anne for the best models of her literary excellence.
But, though we may not arrogate to ourselves the possession of the first genius, or the first era in human history, let it not be imagined that we do not live in an extraordinary age. It is impossible to look around us without alternate emotions of exultation and astonishment. What shall we say of one revolution, which created a nation out of thirteen feeble colonies, and founded the empire of liberty upon the basis of the perfect equality in rights and representation of all its citizens? which commenced in a struggle by enlightened men for principles, and not for places, and in its progress and conclusion exhibited examples of heroism, patriotic sacrifices, and disinterested virtue, which have never been surpassed in the most favored regions? What shall we say of this nation, which has in fifty years quadrupled its population, and spread itself from the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains, not by the desolations of successful war, but by the triumphant march of industry and enterprise? What shall we say of another revolution, which shook Europe to its centre, overturned principalities and thrones, demolished oppressions, whose iron had for years entered into the souls of their subjects, and after various fortunes of victory and defeat, of military despotism and popular commotion, ended at last in the planting of free institutions, free tenures, and representative government in the very soil of absolute monarchy? What shall we say of another revolution, or rather series of revolutions, which has restored to South America the independence torn from her three centuries ago by the force or by the fraud of those nations, whose present visitations bespeak a Providence, which superintends and measures out at awful distances its rewards and its retributions? She has risen, as it were, from the depths of the ocean, where she had been buried for ages. Her shores no longer murmur with the hoarse surges of her unnavigated waters, or echo the jealous footsteps of her armed oppressors. Her forests and her table lands, her mountains and her vallies, gladden with the voices of the free. She welcomes to her ports the whitening sails of commerce. She feels, that the treasures of her mines, the broad expanse of her rivers, the beauty of her lakes, the grandeur of her scenery, the products of her fertile and inexhaustible soil, are no longer the close domain of a distant sovereign, but the free inheritance of her own children. She sees, that these are to bind her to other nations by ties, which outlive all compacts, and all dynasties, by ties of mutual sympathy, mutual equality, and mutual interest.
But such events sink into nothing, compared with the great moral, political, and literary revolutions, by which they have been accompanied. Upon some of these topics, I may not indulge myself even for a moment. They have been discussed here, and in other places, in a manner, which forbids all hope of more comprehensive illustration. They may, indeed, be still followed out; but whoever dares the difficulties of such a task, will falter with unequal footsteps.
What I propose to myself on the present occasion is of a far more limited and humble nature. It is to trace out some of the circumstances of our age, which connect themselves closely with the cause of science and letters; to sketch here and there a light and shadow of our days; -- to look somewhat at our own prospects and attainments; -- and thus to lay before you something for reflection, for encouragement, and for admonition.
One of the most striking characteristics of our age, and that, indeed, which has worked deepest in all the changes of its fortunes and pursuits, is the general diffusion of knowledge. This is emphatically the age of reading. In other times this was the privilege of the few; in ours, it is the possession of the many. Learning once constituted the accomplishment of those in the higher orders of society, who had no relish for active employment, and of those, whose monastic lives and religious profession sought to escape from the weariness of their common duties. Its progress may be said to have been gradually downwards from the higher to the middle classes of society. It scarcely reached at all, in its joys or its sorrows, in its instructions or its fantasies, the home of the peasant and artisan. It now radiates in all directions; and exerts its central force more in the middle, than in any other class of society. The means of education were formerly within reach of few. It required wealth to accumulate knowledge. The possession of a library was no ordinary achievement. The learned leisure of a fellowship in some university seemed almost indispensable for any successful studies; and the patronage of princes and courtiers was the narrow avenue to public favor. I speak of a period at little more than the distance of two centuries; not of particular instances, but of the general cast and complexion of life.
The principal cause of this change is to be found in the freedom of the press, or rather in this cooperating with the cheapness of the press. It has been aided also by the system of free schools, wherever it has been established; by that liberal commerce, which connects by golden chains the interests of mankind; by that spirit of inquiry, which Protestantism awakened throughout Christian Europe; and above all by those necessities, which have compelled even absolute monarchs to appeal to the patriotism and common sentiments of their subjects. Little more than a century has elapsed since the press in England was under the control of a licenser; and within our own days only has it ceased to be a contempt, punishable by imprisonment, to print the debates of Parliament. We all know how it still is on the continent of Europe. It either speaks in timid under tones, or echoes back the prescribed formularies of the government. The moment publicity is given to affairs of state, they excite, everywhere an irresistible interest. If discussion be permitted, it will soon be necessary to enlist talents to defend, as well as talents to devise measures. The daily press first instructed men in their wants, and soon found, that the eagerness of curiosity outstripped the power of gratifying it. No man can now doubt the fact, that wherever the press is free, it will emancipate the people; wherever knowledge circulates unrestrained, it is no longer safe to oppress; wherever public opinion is enlightened, it nourishes an independent, masculine, and healthful spirit. If Faustus were now living, he might acclaim with all the enthusiasm of Archimedes, and with a far nearer approach to the truth, "Give me where I may place a free press, and I will shake the world."
One interesting effect, which owes its origin to this universal love and power of reading, is felt in the altered condition of authors themselves. They no longer depend upon the smiles of a favored few. The patronage of the great is no longer submissively entreated, or exultingly proclaimed. Their patrons are the public; their readers are the civilized world. They address -themselves, not to the present generation alone, but aspire to instruct posterity. No blushing dedications seek an easy passport to fame, or flatter the perilous condescension of pride. No illuminated letters flourish on the silky page, asking admission to the courtly drawing room. Authors are no longer the humble companions or dependents of the nobility; but they constitute the chosen ornaments of society, and are welcomed to the gay circles of fashion and the palaces of princes. Theirs is no longer an unthrifty vocation, closely allied to penury; but an elevated profession, maintaining its thousands in lucrative pursuits. It is not with them, as it was in the days of Milton, whose immortal "Paradise Lost" drew five sterling pounds, with a contingent of five more, from the reluctant bookseller.
My Lord Coke would hardly find authority in our day for his provoking commentary on the memorable statute of the fourth Henry, which declares that "none henceforth shall use to multiply gold or silver, or use the craft of multiplication," in which he gravely enumerates five classes of beggars, ending the catalogue in his own quaint phraseology with "poetasters," and repeating for the benefit of young apprentices of the law the sad admonition,
"Sæpe pater dixit, Studium quid inutile tentas?
Mæonides nullas ipse reliquit opes."
There are certainly among us those, who are within the penalty of this prohibition, if my Lord Coke's account of the matter is to be believed, for they are in possession of what he defines to be "a certain subtil and spiritual substance extracted out of things," whereby they transmute many things into gold. I am indeed afraid that the magician of Abbotsford is accustomed to "use the craft of multiplication"; and most of us know to our cost, that he has changed many strange substances into very gold and very silver. Yet even if he be an old offender in this way, as is shrewdly suspected, there is little danger of his conviction in this liberal age, since, though he gains by every thing he parts with, we are never willing to part with any thing we receive from him.
The rewards of authorship are almost as sure and regular now, as those of any other profession. There are, indeed, instances of wonderful success, and sad failure; of genius pining in neglect; of labor bringing nothing but sickness of the heart; of fruitless enterprise, baffled in every adventure; of learning waiting its appointed time to die in patient suffering. But this is the lot of some in all times. Disappointment crowds fast upon human footsteps in whatever paths they tread. Eminent good fortune is a prize rarely given even to the foremost in the race. And after all, he, who has read human life most closely, knows that happiness is not the constant attendant of the highest public favor; and that it rather belongs to those, who, if they seldom soar, seldom fail.
Scarcely is a work of real merit dry from the English press, before it wings its way to both the Indies and Americas. It is found in the most distant climates, and the most sequestered retreats. It charms the traveller as he sails over rivers and oceans. It visits our lakes and our forests. It kindles the curiosity of the thick-breathing city, and cheers the log hut of the mountaineer. The Lake of the Woods resounds with the minstrelsy of our mother tongue, and the plains of Hindostan are tributary to its praise. Nay more, what is the peculiar pride of our age, the Bible may now circulate its consolations and instructions among the poor and forlorn of every land, in their native dialect. Such is the triumph of letters; such is the triumph of Christian benevolence.
With such a demand for books, with such facilities of intercourse, it is no wonder, that reading should cease to be a mere luxury, and should be classed among the necessaries of life. Authors may now, with a steady confidence, boast, that they possess a hold on the human mind, which grapples closer and mightier than all others. They may feel sure, that every just sentiment, every enlightened opinion, every earnest breathing after excellence will awaken kindred sympathies from the rising to the setting sun.
Nor should it be overlooked, what a beneficial impulse has been thus communicated to education among the female sex. If Christianity may be said to have given a permanent elevation to woman, as an intellectual and moral being, it is as true, that the present age, above all others, has given play to her genius, and taught us to reverence its influence. It was the fashion of other times to treat the literary acquirements of the sex, as starched pedantry, or vain pretensions; to stigmatize them as inconsistent with those domestic affections and virtues, which constitute the charm of society. We had abundant homilies read upon their amiable weaknesses and sentimental delicacy, upon their timid gentleness and submissive dependence; as if to taste the fruit of knowledge were a deadly sin, and ignorance were the sole guard of innocence. Their whole lives were "sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought," and concealment of intellectual power was often resorted to, to escape the dangerous imputation of masculine strength. In the higher walks of life, the satirist was not without color for the suggestion, that it was
"A youth of folly, an old age of cards";
and that elsewhere, "most women had no character at all," beyond that of purity and devotion to their families. Admirable as are these qualities, it seemed an abuse of the gifts of Providence to deny to mothers the power of instructing their children, to wives the privilege of sharing the intellectual pursuits of their husbands, to sisters and daughters the delight of ministering knowledge in the fireside circle, to youth and beauty the charm of refined sense, to age and infirmity the consolation of studies, which elevate the soul and gladden the listless hours of despondency.
These things have in a great measure passed away. The prejudices, which dishonored the sex, have yielded to the influences of truth. By slow but sure advances education has extended itself through all ranks of female society. There is no longer any dread, least the culture of science should foster that masculine boldness or restless independence, which alarms by its sallies, or wounds by its inconsistencies. We have seen that here, as everywhere else, knowledge is favorable to human virtue and human happiness; that the refinement of literature adds lustre to the devotion of piety; that true learning, like true taste, is modest and unostentatious; that grace of manners receives a higher polish from the discipline of the schools; that cultivated genius sheds a cheering light over domestic duties, and its very sparkles, like those of the diamond, attest at once its power and its purity. There is not a rank of female society however high, which does not now pay homage to literature, or that would not blush even at the suspicion of that ignorance, which a half century ago was neither uncommon nor discreditable. There is not a parent, whose pride may not glow at the thought, that his daughter's happiness is in a great measure within her own command, whether she keeps the cool sequestered vale of life, or visits the busy walks of fashion.
A new path is thus open for female exertion, to alleviate the pressure of misfortune, without any supposed sacrifice of dignity or modesty. Man no longer aspires to an exclusive dominion in authorship. He has rivals or allies in almost every department of knowledge; and they are to be found among those, whose elegance of manners and blamelessness of life command his respect, as much as their talents excite his admiration. Who is there, that does not contemplate with enthusiasm the precious fragments of Elizabeth Smith, the venerable learning of Elizabeth Carter, the elevated piety of Hannah More, the persuasive sense of Mrs. Barbauld, the elegant memoirs of her accomplished niece, the bewitching fictions of Madame D'Arblay, the vivid, picturesque, and terrific imagery of Mrs. Radcliffe, the glowing poetry of Mrs. Hemans, the matchless wit, the inexhaustible conversations, the fine character painting, the practical instructions of Miss Edgeworth, the great KNOWN, standing in her own department by the side of the great UNKNOWN?
Another circumstance, illustrative of the character of our age, is the bold and fearless spirit of its speculations. Nothing is more common in the history of mankind, than a servile adoption of received opinions, and a timid acquiescence in whatever is established. It matters not, whether a doctrine or institution owes its existence to accident or design, to wisdom, or ignorance, or folly, there is a natural tendency to give it an undue value in proportion to its antiquity. What is obscure in its origin warms and gratifies the imagination. What in its progress has insinuated itself into the general habits and manners of a nation, becomes embedded in the solid mass of society. It is only at distant intervals, from an aggregation of causes, that some stirring revolution breaks up the old foundations, or some mighty genius storms and overthrows the entrenchments of error. Who would believe, if history did not record the fact, that the metaphysics of Aristotle, or rather the misuse of his metaphysics, held the human mind in bondage for two thousand years? that Galileo was imprisoned for proclaiming the true theory of the solar system? that the magnificent discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton encountered strong opposition from philosophers? that Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding found its way with infinite difficulty into the studies of the English Universities? that Lord Bacon's method of induction never reached its splendid triumphs until our day? that the doctrine of the divine right of kings, and the absolute allegiance of subjects, constituted nearly the whole theory of government from the fall of the Roman Republic to the seventeenth century? that Christianity itself was overlaid and almost buried for many centuries, by the dreamy comments of monks, the superstitions of fanatics, and the traditions of the church? that it was an execrable sin throughout Christendom to read and circulate the Holy Scriptures in the vulgar tongue? Nay, that it is still a crime in some nations, of which the Inquisition would take no very indulgent notice, even if the Head of the Catholic Church should not feel, that Bible societies deserve his denunciation? Even the great reformers of the Protestant Church left their work but half done, or rather came to it with notions far too limited for its successful accomplishment. They combated errors and abuses, and laid the broad foundations of a more rational faith. But they were themselves insensible to the just rights and obligations of religious inquiry. They thought all error intolerable; but they forgot in their zeal, that the question, what was truth, was open to all for discussion. They assumed to themselves the very infallibilty, which they rebuked in the Romish Church; and as unrelentingly persecuted heresies of opinion, as those, who had sat for ages in the judgment seat of St. Peter. They allowed, indeed, that all men had a right to inquire; but they thought, that all must, if honest, come to the same conclusion with themselves; that the full extent of Christian liberty was the liberty of adopting those opinions, which they promulgated as true. The unrestrained right of private judgment, the glorious privilege of a free conscience, as now established in this favored land, was farther from their thoughts, even than Popery itself. I would not be unjust to these great men. The fault was less theirs than that of the age in which they lived. They partook only of that spirit of infirmity, which religion itself may not wholly extinguish in its sincere but over zealous votaries. It is their glory to have laid the deep, and, I trust, the imperishable foundations of Protestantism. May it be ours to finish the work, as they would have done it, if they had been permitted to enjoy the blessed light of these latter times. But let not Protestants boast of their justice or their charity, while they continue to deny an equality of rights to the Catholics.
The progress of the spirit of free inquiry cannot escape the observation of the most superficial examiner of history. The press, by slow but firm steps, first felt its way, and began its attacks upon the outworks of received opinions. One error after another silently crumbled into the dust, until success seemed to justify the boldest experiments. Opinions in science, in physic, in philosophy, in morals, in religion, in literature have been subjected to the severest scrutiny; and many, which had grown hoary under the authority of ages, have been quietly conveyed to their last home with scarcely a solitary mourner to grace their obsequies. The contest, indeed, between old and new opinions has been, and continues to be, maintained with great obstinacy and ability on all sides, and has forced even the sluggish into the necessity of thinking for themselves. Scholars have been driven to arm themselves for attack, as well as for defence; and in a literary warfare, nearly universal, have been obliged to make their appeals to the living judgment of the public for protection, as well as for encouragement.
The effects of this animated and free discussion have, in general, been very salutary. There is not a single department of life, which has not been invigorated by its influence, nor a single profession, which has not partaken of its success.
In jurisprudence, which reluctantly admits any new adjunct, and counts in its train a thousand champions ready to rise in defence of its formularies and technical rules, the victory has been brilliant and decisive. The civil and the common law have yielded to the pressure of the times, and have adopted much, which philosophy and experience have recommended, although it stood upon no text of the Pandects, and claimed no support from the feudal policy. Commercial law, at least so far as England and America are concerned, is the creation of the eighteenth century. It started into life with the genius of Lord Mansfield, and gathering in its course whatever was valuable in the earlier institutes of foreign countries, has reflected back upon them its own superior lights, so as to become the guide and oracle of the commercial world. If my own feelings do not mislead me, the profession itself has also acquired a liberality of opinion, a comprehensiveness of argumentation, a sympathy with the other pursuits of life, and a lofty eloquence, which, if ever before, belonged to it only in the best days of the best orators of antiquity. It was the bitter scoff of other times, approaching to the sententiousness of a proverb, that to be a good lawyer was to be an indifferent statesman. The profession has outlived the truth of the sarcasm. At the present moment England may count lawyers among her most gifted statesmen; and in America, I need but appeal to those, who hear me, for the fact, our most eminent statesmen have been, nay, still are the brightest ornaments of our bar.
The same improving spirit has infused itself into the body of legislation and political economy. I may not adventure upon this extensive topic. But I would for a moment advert to the more benignant character manifested in the criminal law. Harsh and vindictive punishments have been discountenanced or abolished. The sanguinary codes, over which humanity wept, and philosophy shuddered, have felt the potent energy of reform, and substituted for agonizing terror the gentle spirit of mercy. America has taken the lead in this glorious march of philanthropy, under the banners of that meek sect, which does good by stealth, and blushes to find it fame. There is not in the code of the Union, and probably not in that of any single State, more than ten crimes, to which the sober judgment of legislation now affixes the punishment of death. England, indeed, counts in her bloody catalogue more than one hundred and sixty capital offences; but the dawn of a brighter day is opening upon her. After years of doubtful struggle, the meliorations suggested by the lamented Sir Samuel Romilly have forced their way through Parliament to the throne; and an enlightened ministry is redeeming her from this reproach upon her national character.
In medicine, throughout all its branches, more extraordinary changes have taken place. Here, indeed, inductive philosophy looks for some of its fairest trophies. In anatomy, in physiology, in pharmacy, in therapeutics, instructed skill, patient observation, and accurate deduction have been substituted for vague conjecture, and bold pretension. Instead of mystical compounds, and nostrums, and panaceas, science has introduced its powerful simples, and thus given energy and certainty to practice. We dream no longer over the favorite theories of the art succeeding each other in endless progression. We are content to adopt a truer course; to read nature in her operations; to compel her to give up her secrets to the expostulations of her ministers, and to answer the persevering interrogatories of her worshippers. Chemistry by its brilliant discoveries, and careful analysis, has unfolded laws, which surprise us by their simplicity, as well as by the extent of their operations. By its magic touch the very elements of things seem decomposed, and to stand in disembodied essences before us.
In theology a new era has commenced. From the days of Grotius almost to our own, a sluggish indifference to critical learning fastened upon most of those, who administered the high solemnities of religion. Here and there, indeed, a noble spirit was seen, like Old Mortality, wiping away the ancient dust and retracing the fading lines, and in his zeal for truth undergoing almost a moral martyrdom. But the mass of professed theologians slumbered over the received text in easy security, or poured the distillations of one commentary into another, givin., little improvement to the flavor and none to the substance. They were at length roused by a spirit of another sort, which by ridicule, or argument, or denunciation of abuses, was attempting to sap the very foundations of Christianity. It made its approaches in silence, until it had attained strength enough for an open assault; and at last, in a moment of political revolution, it erected the standard of infidelity in the very centre of Christendom. Fortunately, the critical studies of the scholars of the Old World enabled them to meet the difficulties of the occasion. The immense collations of manuscripts and various readings by such men, as Mills and Wetstein and Kennicott, prepared the way for a more profound investigation of the genuineness and authenticity of the Scriptures. And the sober sense and unwearied diligence of our age have given to the principles of interpretation an accuracy and authority, to Biblical researches a dignity and certainty, to practical as well as doctrinal theology a logic and illustration, unparalleled in the annals of the Church. If Christianity has been assailed in our day with uncommon ability, it has never been defended with more various learning. If it has surrendered here and there an interpolated passage, it has placed almost beyond the reach of doubt the general integrity of the text. If it has ceased in some favored lands to claim the civil arm for its protection, it has established itself in the hearts of men by all, which genius could bring to illumine, or eloquence to grace its sublime truths.
In pure mathematics and physical science there has been a correspondent advancement. The discoveries of Newton have been followed out and demonstrated by new methods and analyses to an extent, which would surprise that great philosopher himself, if he were now living. I need but name such men as La Grange and La Place. By means of observations, the Heavens have been, if I may so say, circumnavigated, and every irregularity and perturbation of the motions of the heavenly bodies ascertained to depend upon the same eternal law of gravitation, and to result in the harmonious balance of forces. But it is in physical science, and especially in its adaptation to the arts of life, that the present age may claim precedence of all others. I have already alluded to chemistry, which has enabled us to fix and discharge colors with equal certainty; now to imitate the whiteness of the driven snow, and now the loveliness of the Tyrian dyes. But who can measure the extent of the changes in agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, produced by the steam-engine of Watt, by the cotton-machinery of Arkght, by the power-looms of a later period, by the cotton-gin of Whitney, and though last, not least, by -the steam-boat of Fulton? When I name these, I select but a few among the inventions of our age, in which nature and art minister alternately to the wants, and the triumphs of man.
If in metaphysics no brilliant discoveries have rewarded the industry of its votaries, it may nevertheless be said, that the laws of the d have been investigated with no common success. They have been illustrated by a fuller display of the doctrine of association of Hartley, by the common sense of Reid, by the acute discrimination of Brown, and by the incomparable elegance of Dugald Stewart. If, indeed, in this direction any new discoveries are to be expected, it appears to me, with great deference, that they must be sought through more exact researches into that branch of physiology, which respects the structure and functions of those organs, which are immediately connected with the operations of the mind.
I have but glanced at most of the preceding subjects, many of which. are remote from the studies, which have engaged my life, and to all of which, I am conscious, that I am unable to do even moderate justice.
But it is to the department of general and miscellaneous literature, and above all, of English literature, that we may look with pride and confidence. Here the genius of the age has displayed itself in innumerable varieties of form and beauty, from the humble page, which presumes to teach the infant mind the first lines of thought, to the lofty works, which discourse of history, and philosophy, and ethics, and government; from the voyager, who collects his budget of wonders for the amusement of the idle, to the gallant adventurer to the Pole, and the scientific traveller on the Andes. Poetry, too, has dealt out its enchantments with profuse liberality, now startling us with its visionary horrors and superhuman pageants, now scorching us with its fierce and caustic satire, now lapping us in Elysium by the side of sunny shores, or lovely lakes, or haunted groves, or consecrated ruins. It is indeed, no exaggeration of the truth to declare, --- that polite literature, from the light essay to the most profound disquisition, can enumerate more excellent works, as the production of the last fifty years, than of all former ages since the revival of letters.
Periodical literature has elevated itself from an amusement of cultivated minds, or a last resort of impoverished authors, to the first rank of composition, in which the proudest are not ashamed to labor, and the highest may gain fame and consequence. A half century ago a single magazine and a single review almost sufficed the whole reading public of England and America. At present a host crowd around us, from the gossamery repository, which adorns the toilet, to the grave review, which discusses the fate of empires, arraigns the counsels of statesmen, expounds all mysteries in policy and science, or, stooping from such pursuits, condescends, like other absolute powers, sometimes to crush an author to death, and sometimes to elevate him to a height, where he faints from the mere sense of giddiness. We have our journals of science and journals of arts; the New Monthly with the refreshing genius of Campbell, and the Old Monthly with the companionable qualities of a familiar friend. We have the Quarterly Reviewers, the loyal defenders of Church and State, the laudatores temporis acti, the champions, ay, and exemplars too, of classical learning, the admirers of ancient establishments and ancient opinions. We have on the other hand the Edinburgh, the bold advocates of reform, and still bolder political economists, hunting out public abuses, and alarming idle gentlemen pensioners with tales of misapplied charities; now deriding with bitter taunts the dull but busy gleaners in literature; now brightening their pages with the sunshine of wit; and now paying homage to genius by expounding its labors in language of transcendent felicity. One might approach nearer home, and, if it were not dangerous to rouse the attention of critics, might tell of a certain North American, which has done as much to give a solid cast to our literature, and a national feeling to our authors. as any single event since the peace of 1783.
Another interesting accompaniment of the literature of the age is its superior moral purity over former productions. The obscene jests, the low ribaldry, and the coarse allusions, which shed a disastrous light on so many pages of misguided genius in former times, find no sympathy in ours. He, who would now command respect, must write with pure sentiments and elevated feelings; he, who would now please, must be chaste as well as witty, and moral as well as brilliant. Fiction itself is restrained to the decencies of Efe; and whether in the drama, or the novel, or the song, with a few melancholy exceptions, it seeks no longer to kindle fires, which would consume the youthful enthusiast, or to instil precepts, which would blast the loveliness of the innocent.
But let it not be imagined, that in the present state of things there is nothing for regret and nothing for admonition. The picture of the age, when truly drawn, is not wholly composed of lights. There are shades, which disturb the beauty of the coloring, and points of reflection, where there is no longer harmony in the proportions.
The unavoidable tendency of free speculation is to lead to occasional extravagances. When once the reverence for authority is shaken, there is apt to grow up in its stead a cold skepticism respecting estabEshed opinions. Their very antiquity under such circumstances betrays us into suspicion of their truth. The overthrow of error itself urges on a feverish excitement for discussion, and a restless desire for novelty, which blind, if they do not confound, the judgment. Thus, the human mind not infrequently passes from one extreme to another; from one of implicit faith, to one of absolute incredulity.
There is not a remark deducible from the history of mankind more important than that advanced by Mr. Burke, that "to innovate is not to reform." That is, if I may venture to follow out the sense of this great man, that innovation is not necessarily improvement; that novelty is not necessarily excellence; that what was deemed wisdom in former times, is not necessarily folly in ours; that the course of the human mind has not been to present a multitude of truths in one great step of its glory,'but to gather them up insensibly in its progress, and to place them at distances, sometimes at vast distances, as guides or warnings to succeeding ages. If Greece and Rome did not solve all the problems of civil government, or enunciate the admirable theorem of representative legislation, it should nev6 r be forgotten, that from them we have learned those principles of liberty, which in the worst of times have consoled the patriot for all his sufferings. If they cannot boast of the various attainments of our days, they may point out to us the lessons of wisdom, the noble discoveries and the imperishable labors of their mighty dead. It is not necessarily error to follow the footsteps of ancient philosophy, to reverence the precepts of ancient criticism, to meditate over the pages of ancient exploits, or to listen to the admonitions of. ancient oratory.
We may even gather instruction from periods of another sort, in which there was a darkness, which might be felt, as well as seen. Where is to be found a nobler institution than the trial by jury, that impregnable bulwark of civil liberty? Yet it belongs to ages of Gothic darkness, or Saxon barbarism. Where is there a more endearing monument of political wisdom, than the separation of the judicial from legislative powers? Yet it was the slow production of ages, which are obscured by the mists of time. Where shall we point out an invention, whose effects have been more wide, or more splendid, than those of the mariner's compass? Yet five centuries have rolled over the grave of its celebrated discoverer. Where shall we find the true logic of physical science so admirably stated, as in the Novum, Organum of him, who more than two centuries ago saw, as in vision, and foretold, as in prophecy, the sublime discoveries of these latter days?
This is a topic, which may not wholly be passed over, since it presents some of the dangers, to which we are exposed, and calls upon us to watch the progress of opinion, and guard against the seductive influence of novelties. The busy character of the age is perpetually pressing forward all sorts of objections to established truths in politics, and morals, and literature. In order to escape from the imputation of triteness, some authors tax their ingenuity to surprise us with bold paradoxes, or run down with wit and ridicule the doctrines of common sense, appealing sometimes to the ignorance, and sometimes to the pride of their readers. Their object is not so much to produce what is true, as what is striking; what is profound, as what is interesting; what will endure the test of future criticism, as what will buoy itself up on the current of a shallow popularity. In the rage for originality, the old standards of taste are deserted, or treated with cold indifference; and thus false and glittering thoughts, and hurried and flippant fantasies are substituted for exact and philosophical reasoning. There is, too, a growing propensity to disparage the importance of classical learning. Many causes, especially in England and America, have conduced to this result. The signal success, which has followed the enterprises in physical science, in mechanics, in chemistry, in civil engineering, and the ample rewards both of fortune and fame attendant upon that success, have had a very powerful influence upon the best talents of both countries . There is, too, in the public mind a strong disposition to turn everything to a practical account, to deal less with learning, and more with experiment; to seek the solid comforts of opulence, rather than the indulgence of mere intellectual luxury. On the other hand, from the increase of materials, as well as of critical skill, high scholarship is a prize of no easy attainment; and when attained, it slowly receives public favor, and still more slowly reaches the certainty of wealth. Indeed, it is often combined with a contemplative shyness, and sense of personal independence, which yield little to policy, and with difficulty brook opposition. The honors of the world rarely cluster round it, and it cherishes with most enthusiasm those feelings, which the active pursuits of Efe necessarily impair, if they do not wholly extinguish. The devotion to it, therefore, where it exists, often becomes our exclusive passion; and thus the gratification of it becomes the end, instead of the means of life. In stances of extraordinary success by mere scholarship are more rare than in other professions. It is not, then, to be wondered at, that the prudence of some minds, and the ambition of others, should shrink from labours, which demand days and nights of study, and hold -out rewards, which are distant, or pleasures, which are for the most part purely intellectual.
Causes like these, in an age, which scrutinizes and questions the pretensions of every department of literature, have contributed to bring into discussion the use and the value of classical learning. I do not stand up on this occasion to vindicate its claims, or extol its merits. That would be a fit theme for one of our most distinguished scholars, in a large discourse. But I may not withhold my willing testimony to its excellence, nor forget the fond regret with which I left its enticing studies for the discipline of more severe instructors. The importance of classical learning to professional education is so obvious, that the surprise is, that it could ever have become matter of disputation. I speak not of its power in refining the taste, in disciplining the judgment, in invigorating the understanding, or in warming the heart with elevated sentiments; but of its power of direct, positive, necessary instruction. Until the eighteenth century, the mass of science in its principal branches was deposited in the dead languages, and much of it still reposes there. To be ignorant of these languages is to shut out the lights of former times, or to examine them only through the glimmerings of inadequate translations. What should we say of the jurist, who never aspired to learn the maxims of law and equity, which adorn the Roman codes? What of the physician, who could deliberately surrender all the knowledge heaped up for so many centuries in the Latinity of continental Europe? What of the minister of religion, who should choose not to study the Scriptures in the original tongue, and should be content to trust his faith and his hopes, for time and for eternity, to the dimness of translations, which may reflect the literal import, but rarely can reflect with unbroken force the beautiful spirit of the text? Shall he, whose vocation it is "to allure to brighter worlds and lead the way," be himself the blind leader of the blind? Shall he follow the commentaries of fallible man, instead of gathering the true sense from the Gospels themselves? Shall he venture upon the exposition of divine truths, whose studies have never aimed at the - first principles of interpretation? Shall he proclaim the doctrines of salvation, who knows not, and cares not, whether he preaches an idle gloss or the genuine text of revelation? If a theologian may not pass his life in collating the variious readings, he may, and ought to aspire to that criticism, which illustrates religion by all. the resources of human learning; which studies the manners and institutions of the age and country, in which Christianity was first promulgated; which kindles an enthusiasm for its precepts by familiarity with the persuasive language of Him, who poured out his blessings on the mount, and of him, at whose impressive appeal Felix trembled.
I pass over all consideration of the written treasures of antiquity, which have survived the wreck of empires and dynasties, of monumental trophies and triumphal arches, of palaces of princes and temples of the Gods. I pass over all consideration of those admired compositions, in which wisdom speaks, as with a voice from Heaven; of those sublime efforts of poetical genius, which still freshen, as they pass from age to age, in undying vigor; of those shed histories, which still enlighten and instruct governments in their duty and their destiny; of those matchless orations, which roused nations to arms, and chained senates to the chariot wheels of all-conquering eloquence. These all may now be read in our vernacular tongue. Ay, as one remembers the face of a dead friend by gathering up the broken fragments of his image as one listens to the tale of a dream twice told-as one catches the roar of the ocean in the ripple of a rivulet-as one sees the blaze of noon in the first glimmer of twilight.
There is one objection, however, on which I would for a moment dwell, because it has a commanding influence over many minds, and is clothed with a specious importance. It is often said, that there have been eminent men and eminent writers, to whom the ancient languages were unknown; men, who have risen by the force of their talents, and writers, who have written with a purity and ease, which holds them up as models for imitation. On the other hand, it is as often said, that scholars do not always compose with elegance or chasteness; that their diction is sometimes loose and harsh, and sometimes ponderous and affected. Be it so.- I am not disposed to call in question the accuracy of either statement. But I would nevertheless say, that the presence of classical learning was not the cause of the faults of the one class, nor the absence of it the cause of the excellence of the other. And I would put this fact, as an answer to all such reasonings, that there is not a single language of modern Europe, in which literature has made any considerable advances, which is not directly of Roman origin, or has not incorporated into its very structure many, very many of the idioms and peculiarities of the ancient tongues. The English language affords a strong illustration of the truth of this remark. It abounds with words and meanings drawn from classical sources. Innumerable phrases retain the symmetry of their ancient dress. Innumerable expressions have received their vivid tints from the beautiful dyes of Roman and Grecian roots. If scholars, therefore, do not write our language with ease, or purity, or elegance, the cause must lie somewhat deeper than a conjectural ignorance of its true diction.
But I am prepared to yield still more to the force of the objection. I do not deny, that a language may be built up without the aid of any foreign materials, and be at once flexible for speech and graceful for composition. That the literature of a nation may be splendid and instructive, full of interest and beauty inthought and in diction, which has no kindred with classical learning; that in the vast stream of time it may run its own current unstained by the admixture of surrounding languages; that it may realize the ancient fable, "Doris amara suam non intermisceat undam"; that it may retain its own flavor, and its own bitter saltness too. But I do deny, that such a national literature does in fact exist in modern Europe, in that community of nations, of which we form a part, and to whose fortunes and pursuits in literature and arts we are bound by all our habits, and feelings, and interests. There is not a single nation from the North to the South of Europe, from the bleak shores of the Baltic to the bright plains of immortal Italy, whose literature is not embedded in the very elements of classical learning. The literature of England is in an emphatic sense the production of her scholars; of men, who have cultivated letters in her universities, and colleges, and grammar schools; of men, who thought any life too short, chiefly, because it left some relic of antiquity unm tered, and any other fame humble, because it faded in the presence of Roman and Grecian genius. He, who studies English literature without the lights of classical learning loses half the charms of its sentiments and style, of its force and feelings, of its delicate touches, of its delightful allusions, of its illustrative associations. Mo, that reads the poetry of Gray, does not feel, that it is the refinement of classical taste, which gives such inexpressible vividness and transparency to his diction? Mo, that reads the concentrated sense and melodious versification of Dryden and Pope, does not perceive in them the disciples of the old school, whose genius was inflamed by the heroic verse, the terse satire, and the playful wit of antiquity? Who, that meditates over the strains of Milton, does not feel, that he drank deep
-At " Siloa's brook that flow'd
Fast by the oracle of God"-
that the fires of his magnificent mind were lighted by coals from ancient altars?
It is no exaggeration to declare, that he, who proposes to abolish classical studies, proposes to render in a great measure inert and unedifying the mass of English literature for three centuries; to rob us of much of the glory of the past, and much of the instruction of future ages; to blind us to excellences, which few may hope to equal, and none to surpass; to annihilate associations, which are interwoven with our best sentiments, and give to distant times and countries a presence and reality, as if they were in fact our own.
There are dangers of another sort, which beset the literature of the age. The constant demand for new works and the impatience for fame, not only stimulate authors to an undue .eagerness for strange incidents, singular opinions, and vain sentimentalities, but their style and diction are infected with the faults of extravagance and affectation. The old models of fine writing and good taste are departed from, not because they can be excelled, but because they are known, and want freshness; because, if they have a finished coloring, they have no strong contrasts to produce effect. The consequence is, that opposite extremes in the manner of composition prevail at the same moment, or succeed each other with a fearful rapidity. On one side are to be found authors, who profess to admire the easy flow and simplicity of the old style, the naturalness of familiar prose, and the tranquil dignity of higher compositions. But in their desire to be simple, they become extravagantly loose and iDartificial; in their familiarity, feeble and drivelling; and in their more aspiring efforts, cold, abstract, and harsh. On the other side, there are those, who have no love for polished, perfection of style, for sustained and unimpassioned accuracy, for persuasive, but equable diction. They require more hurried tones, more stirring spirit, more glowing and irregular sentences. There must be intensity of thought and intensity of phrase at every turn. There must be bold and abrupt transitions, strong relief, vivid coloring, forcible expression. If these are present, all other faults are forgiven, or forgotten. Excitement is produced, and taste may slumber.
Examples of each sort may be easily found in our miscellaneous literature among minds of no ordinary cast. Our poetry deals less than formerly with the sentiments and feelings belonging to ordinary life. It has almost ceased to be didactic, and in its scenery and descriptions reflects - too much the'peculiarities and morbid visions of eccentric minds. How little do we see of the simple beauty, the chaste painting, the unconscious moral grandeur of Crabbe and Cowper? We have, indeed, successfully dethroned the heathen deities. The Muses are no longer invoked by every unhappy inditer of verse. The Naiads no longer inhabit our fountains, nor the Dryads our woods. The River Gods no longer rise, like old father Thames,
"And the hush'd waves glide softly to the shore."
In these respects our poetry is more true to nature, and more conformable to just taste. But it still insists too much on extravagant events, --Characters, and passions, far removed from common life, and farther removed from general sympathy. It seeks to be wild, and fiery, and startling; and sometimes, in its caprices, low and childish. It portrays natural scenery, as if it vFere always in violent commotion. It describes human emotions, as if man were always in extacies or horrors. Whoever writes for future ages must found himself upon feelings and sentiments belonging to the mass of mankind. Whoever paints from nature will rarely depart from the general character of repose impressed upon her scenery, and will prefer truth to the ideal sketches of the imagination.
Our prose too has a tendency to become somewhat too ambitious and intense. Even in newspaper discussions of the merits or misdeeds of rulers, there is a secret dread of neglect, unless the page gives out the sententious pungency or sarcastic scorn of Junius. Familiar, idiomatic prose seems less attractive than in former times. Yet one would suppose, that we might follow with safety the unaffected purity of Addison in criticism, and the graceful ease of Goldsmith in narrative. The neat and lively style of Swift loses nothing of its force by the simplicity with which it aims to put "proper words in proper places." The correspondence of Cowper is not less engaging, because it utters no cant phrases, no sparkling conceits, and no pointed repartees.
But these faults may be considered as temporary, and are far from universal. There is another, however, which is more serious and important in its character, and is the common accompaniment of success. It is the strong temptation of distinguished authors to premature publication of their labors, to hasty and unfinished sketches, to fervid but unequal efforts. He, who writes for immortality, must write slowly, and correct freely. I t is not the applause of the present day, or the deep interest of a temporary topic, or the consciousness of great powers, or the striking-off of a vigorous discourse, which will ensure a favorable verdict from posterity. It was a beautiful remark of Sir Joshua Reynolds "that great works, which are to live, and stand the criticism of posterity, are not performed at a heat." "I remember, " said he, "when I was at Rome, looking at the fighting gladiator, in company with an eminent sculptor, and I expressed my admiration of the skill, with which the whole is composed, and the minute attention of the artist to the change of every muscle in that momentary exertion of strength. He was of the opinion, that a work so perfect, required nearly the whole life of man to perform." What an admonition! What a melancholy reflection to those who deem the literary fame of the present age the best gift to posterity. How many of our proudest geniuses have written, and continue to write with a swiftness which almost rivals the operations of the press. How many are urged on to the ruin of their immortal hopes by that public favor, which receives with acclamations every new- offspring of their pen. If Milton had written thus, we should have found no scholar of our day, no Christian Exaininer, portraying the glory of his character with the enthusiasm of a kindred spirit. If Pope had tten thus, we should have had no fierce contests respecting his genius and poetical attainments by our Byrons, and Bowleses, and Roscoes. If Virgil had written thus, he might have chanted his verses to the courtly Augustus; but Marcellus and his story would have perished. If Horace had written thus he might have enchanted gay friends and social parties; but it would never have been said of his composition, decies repetita placebit.
Such are some of the considerations, which have appeared to me fit to be addressed to you on the present occasion. It may be, that I have overrated their importance, and I am not unconscious of the imperfections of my own execution of the task.
To us, Americans, nothing, indeed, can, or ought to be indifferent, that respects the cause of science and literature. We have taken a stand among the nations of the earth, and have successfully asserted our claim to political equality. We possess an enviable elevation, so far as concerns the structure of our government, our political policy, and the moral energy of our institutions.' If we are not without rivals in these respects, we are scarcely behind any, even in the general estimate of foreign nations themselves. But our claims are far more extensive. We assert an equality of voice and vote in the republic of letters and assume for ourselves the right to decide on the merits of others, as well as to vindicate our own. These are lofty pretensions, which are never conceded without proofs, and are severely scrutinized, and slowly admitted by the grave judges in the tribunal of letters. We have not placed ourselves as humble aspirants, seeking our way to higher rewards under the guardianship of experienced guides. We ask admission into the temple of fame, as joint heirs of the inheritance, capable in the manhood of our strength of maintaining our title. We contend for prizes with nations, whose intellectual glory has received the homage of centuries. France, Italy, England, can point to the past for monuments of their genius and skill, and to the present with the undismayed confidence of veterans. It is not for us to retire from the ground, which we have chosen to occupy, nor to shut our eyes against the difficulties of maintaining it. It is not by a few vain boasts, or vainer self complacency, or rash daring, that we are to win our way to the first literary distinction. We must do, as others have done before us. We must serve in the hard school of discipline; we must invigorate our powers by the studies of other times. We must guide our footsteps by those stars, which have shone, and still continue to shine with inextinguishable light in the firmament of learning. Nor have we any reason for despondency. There is that in American character, which has never yet been found unequal to its purpose. There is that in American enterprise, which shrinks not, and faints not, and fails not in its labors. We may say with honest pride,
"Man is the nobler growth our realms supply,
And souls are ripen'd in our Northern sky."
We may not then shrink from a rigorous examination of our own deficiencies in science and literature. If we have but a just. sense of our wants, we have gained half the victory. If we but face our difficulties, they will fly before us. Let us not discredit our just honors by exaggerating little attainments. There are those in other countries, who can keenly search out, and boldly expose every false pretension. There are those in our own country, who would scorn a reputation ill founded in fact, and ill sustained by examples. We have solid claims upon the affection and respect of mankind. Let us not jeopard them by - a false shame, or an ostentatious pride. The growth of two hundred years is healthy, lofty, expansive. The roots have shot deep and far; the branches are strong, and broad. I trust that many, many centuries to come will witness the increase and vigor of the stock. Never, never, may any of our posterity have just occasion to speak of our country in the -expressiveness of Indian rhetoric, "It. is an aged hemlock; it is dead at the top."
I repeat it, we have no reason to blush for what we have been, or what we are. But we shall have much to blush for, if, when the highest attainments of the human intellect are within our reach, we surrender ourselves to an obstinate indifference, or shallow. mediocrity; if, in our literary career, we are content to rank behind the meanest principality of Europe. Let us not waste our time in seeking for apologies for our ignorance, where it exists, or in framing excuses to conceal it. Let our short reply to all such suggestions be, like the answer of a noble youth on another occasion, that we know the fact, and are every day getting the better of it. What, then, may I be permitted to ask, are our attainments in science and literature, in comparison with those of other nations in our age? I do not ask, if we have fine scholars, accomplished divines, and skilful physicians. I do not ask, if we
have lawyers, who might excite a generous rivalry in Westminster Hall. I do not ask, if we have statesmen, who would stand side by side with those of the Old World in foresight, in political wisdom, in effective debate. I do not ask, if we have mathematicians, who may claim kindred with the distinguished of Europe. I do not ask, if we have historians, who have told with fidelity and force the story of our deeds and our sufferings. I do not ask, if we have critics, and poets, and philologists, whose compositions add lustre to the age. I know full well that there are such. But they stand, as light-houses on the coasts of our literature, shining with a cheering brightness, it is true, but too often at distressing distances. In almost every department of knowledge the land of our ancestors annually pours forth from its press many volum , the results of deep research, of refined taste, and of rich and various learning. The continent of Europe, too, burns with a generous zeal for science, even in countries, where the free exercise of thought is prohibited, and a stinted poverty presses heavily on
the soul of enterprise. Our own contributions to literature are useful and creditable; but it cae rarely be said, that they belong to the highest class of intellectual effort. We have but recently entered upon classical learning for the purpose of cultivating its most profound studies, while Europe may boast of thousands of scholars engaged in this pursuit. The universities of Cambridge and Oxford count more than eight thousand students trimming their classical lamps, while we have not a single university, whose studies profess to be extensive enough to educate a Heyne, a Bentley, a Porson, or a Parr. There is not, perhaps, a single library in America sufficiently copious to have enabled
Gibbon to verify the authorities for his immortal History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Our advances in divinity and law are probably as great, as in any branch of knowledge.
Yet, until a late period, we never aspired to a deep and critical exposition of the Scriptures. We borrowed from Germany and England nearly all our materials, and are just struggling for the
higher rewards of Biblical learning. And in law, where our eminence is least of all questionable, there are those among us, who feel, that sufficient of its learning, and argument, and philosophy
remains unmastered, to excite the ambition of the foremost advocates.
Let me not be misunderstood. I advert to those considerations, not to disparage our country, or its institutions, or its means of extensive, I had almost said, of universal education. But we should not deceive ourselves with the notion, that, because education is liberally provided for, the highest learning is within the scope of that education. Our schools neither aim at, nor accomplish such objects. There is not a more dangerous error than that, which would sooth us into indolence, by encouraging the belief that our literature is all, it can, or ought to be; that all beyond is shadowy and unsubstantial, the vain theories of the scientific, or the reveries of mere scholars. The admonition, which addresses itself to my countrymen respecting their deficiencies, ought to awaken new energy to overcome them. They are accustomed to grapple with difficulties. They should hold nothing, which human genius or human enterprise has yet atta-ined, as beyond their reach. The motto on their literary banner should be, Nec timeo, nec sperno. I have no fears for the future. It may not be our lot to see our celebrity in letters rival that of our public polity and free institutions. But the time cannot be far distant. It is scarcely prophecy to declare, that our children must and will enjoy it. They will see, not merely the breathing marble, and the speaking picture among their arts, but science and learning everywhere paying a voluntary homage to American genius.
There is, indeed, enough in our past history to flatter our pride, and encourage our exertions. We are of the lineage of the Saxons, the countrymen of Bacon, Locke, and Newton, as well as of Washington, Fra n, and Fulton. We have read1he history of our forefathers. They were men full of piety and zeal, and an unconquerable love of liberty. They also loved human learning, and deemed it second only to divine. Here, on this very spot, in the bosom of the wilderness, within ten short years after their voluntary exile, in the midst of cares, and privations, and sufferings, they found time to rear a little school, and dedicate it to God and the church. It has grown; it has flourished; it is the venerable university, to whose walls her grateful children annually come with more than filial affection'. The sons of such ancestors can never dishonor their memories; the pupills of such schools can never be indifferent to the cause of letters.
There is yet more in our present circumstances to inspire us with a wholesome consciousness of our powers, and our destiny. We have just passed the Jubilee of our Independence, and witnessed the prayers and gratitude of millions ascending to Heaven for our public and private blessings. That independence was the achievement, not of faction and ignorance, but of hearts as pure, and minds as enlightened, and judgments as sound, as ever graced the annals of mankind. Among the leaders were statesmen and scholars, as well as heroes and patriots. We have followed many of them to the tomb, blest with the honors of their country. We have been privileged yet more; we have lived to witness an almost miraculous event in the departure of two great authors of our independence on that memorable and blessed day of Jubilee.
I may not in this place presume to pronounce the funeral panegyric of these extraordinary men. It has been already done by some of the master spirits of our country, by men worthy of the task, worthy as Pericles to pronounce the honors of the Athenian dead. It was the beautiful saying of the Grecian orator, that "This whole earth is the sepulchre of illustrious men. Nor is it the inscriptions on the columns in their native soil alone, that show their merit; but the memorial of them, better than all inscriptions, in every foreign nation, reposited more durably in universal remembrance, than on their own tomb."
Such is the lot of Adams and Jefferson. They have lived, not for themselves, but for their country; not for their country alone, but for the world. They belong to history, as furnishing some of the best examples of disinterested and successful patriotism. They belong to posterity, as the instructors of all future ages in the principles of rational liberty, and the rights of the people. They belong to us of the present age by their glory, by their virtues and their achievements. These are memorials, which can never perish. They will brighten with the lapse of time, and, as they loom on the ocean of eternity, will seem present to the most distant generations of men. That voice of more than Roman eloquence, which urged and sustained the Declaration of Independence, that voice, whose first and whose last accents were for his country, is indeed mute. It will never again rise in defence of the weak against popular excitement, and vindicate the majesty of law and justice. It will never again awaken a nation to arms to assert its liberties. It will never again instruct the public councils by its wisdom. It will never again utter its almost oracular thoughts in philosophical retirement. It will never again pour out its strains of parental affection, and in the domestic circle, give new force and fervor to the consolations of religion. The hand, too, which inscribed the Declaration of Independence is indeed laid low. The weary head reposes on its mother earth. The mountain winds sweep by the narrow tomb, and all. around has the loneliness of desolation. The stranger guest may no longer visit that hospitable home, and find him there, whose classical taste and various conversation lent a charm to every leisure hour; whose bland manners and social simplicity made every welcome doubly dear; whose expansive mind commanded the range of almost every art and science; whose political sagacity, like that of his illustrious coadjutor, read the fate and interests of nations, as with a second sight, and scented the first breath of tyranny in the passing gale; whose love of liberty, like his, was inflexible, universal, supreme; whose devotion to their common country, Eke his, never faltered in the worst, and never wearied in the best of times; whose public services ended but with life, carrying the long line of their illumination over sixty years; whose last thoughts exhibited the ruling passion of his heart, enthusiasm in the cause of education; whose last breathing committed his soul to God, and his offspring to his country.
Yes, Adams and Jefferson are gone from us for ever-gone, as a sunbeam to revisit its native skies-gone, as this mortal to put on immortality. Of them, of each of them, every American may exclaim:
"Ne'er to the chambers, where the mighty rest,
Since their foundation, came a nobler guest,
Nor e'er was to the bowers of bliss convey'd
A fairer spirit, or more welcome shade."
We may not mourn over the departure of such men. We should rather hail it as a kind dispensation of Providence, to affect our hearts with new and livelier gratitude. They were not cut off in the blossom of their days, while yet the vigor of manhood flushed their cheeks, and the harvest of glory was ungathered. They fell not, as martyrs fall, seeing only in perspective the salvation of their country. They lived to enjoy the blessings earned by their labors, and to realize all, which their fondest hopes had desired. The infirmities of life stole slowly and silently upon them, leaving still behind a cheerful serenity of mind. In peace, in the bosom of domestic affection, in the hallowed reverence of their countrymen, in the full possession of their faculties, they wore out the last remains of life, without a fear to cloud, with scarcely a sorrow to disturb its close. The joyful day of our Jubilee came over them with its refreshing influence. To them, indeed, it was "a great and good day." The morning sun shone with softened lustre on their closing eyes. Its evening beams played lightly on their brows, calm in all the dignity of death. Their spirits escaped from these frail tenements without a struggle or a groan. Their death was gentle as an infant's sleep. It was a long, lingering twilight, melting into the softest shade. "
Fortunate men, so to have lived, and so to have died. Fortunate, to have gone hand in hand in the deeds of the Revolution. Fortunate, in the generous rivalry of middle life. Fortunate, in deserving and receiving the highest honors of their country. Fortunate in old age to have rekindled their ancient friendship with a holier flame. Fortunate, to have passed through the dark valley of the shadow of death together. Fortunate, to be indissolubly united in the memory and affections of their countrymen. Fortunate, above all, in an immortality of virtuous fame, on which history may with severe simplicity write the dying encomium of Pericles, "No citizen, through their means, ever put on mourning."
I may not dwell on this theme. It has come over my thoughts, and I could not wholly suppress the utterance of them. It was my principal intention to hold them up to my countrymen, not as statesmen, and patriots, but as scholars, as lovers of literature, as eminent examples of the excellence of the union of ancient learning with modern philosophy. Their youth was disciplined in classical studies; their active life was instructed by the prescriptive wisdom of antiquity; their old age was cheered by its delightful reminiscences. To them belongs the fine panegyric of Cicero, "Erant in eis plurimm litterm, nee eae vulgares, sed interiores queedam, et reconditae; divina memoria, summa verborum et gravitas et elegantia; atque haec 'omnia' vitm decorabat dignitas et integritas."
I will ask your indulgence only for a moment longer. Since our last anniversary death has been unusually busy in thinning our numbers. I may not look on the right, or the left, without missing some of those, who stood by my side in my academic course, in the happy days spent within yonder venerable walls.
"These are counsellors, that feelingly persuade us, what we are, " and what we must be. Shaw and Salisbury are no more. The one, whose modest worth and ingenuous virtue adorned a spotless life; the other, whose social kindness and love of letters made him welcome in every circle. But, what shall I say of Haven, with whom died a thousand hopes, not of his friends and family alone, but of his country. Nature had given him a strong and brilliant genius; and it was chastened and invigorated by grave, as well as by elegant studies. Whatever belonged to human manners and pursuits, to human interests and feelings, to government, or science, or literature, he endeavoured to master with a scholar's diligence and taste. Few men have read so much, or so well. Few have united such manly sense with such attractive modesty. His thoughts and his style, his writings and his actions, were governed by a judgment, in which energy was combined with candor, and benevolence with deep, unobtrusive, and fervid piety. His character may be summed up in a single line, for there
To Haven every virtue under Heaven."
He had just arrived at the point of his professional career, in which skill and learning begin to reap their proper reward. He was in possession of the principal blessings of life, of fortune, of domestic love, of universal respect. . There are those, who had -fondly hoped, when they should have passed away, he might be found here to pay a ble tribute to their memory. To Providence it has seemed fit to order otherwise, that it might teach us "what shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue." We may not mourn over such a loss, as those who are without hope. That life is not too short, which has accomplished its highest destiny; that spirit may not linger here, which is purified for immortality.