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The U&lirer8ity 



In presenting to the Alumni of the Philomathean Society this account of 
its Semi-Centeunial Anniversary, the Committee of Publication would say 
that they have endeavored to prepare a concise narrative of what was 
done, and to give full reports of what was said on that memorable occa- 
sion, believing it is the latter feature that w^ill impart to the work its 
principal interest. In whatever has been written by them, they have 
aimed at brevity, especially in the Historical Sketch, which, by the in- 
struction of the Society, they have prefixed to the work. A complete his- 
tory would require more space than they felt at liberty to occupy ; there- 
fore, while they have endeavored to delineate, witk some minuteness, the 
formation and early history of the Society, they have given only a brief 
outline of the most important events of subsequent years. It has been 
their constant effort to render the work perfect in its preparation, and 
faultless in its execution ; if they have failed in any respect, they can only 
plead the peculiar diiBculties with which such a labor is necessarily at* 


Committee of Publication. 



FiiLiiif iMi Eisim 





In presenting to the Alumni of the Philomathean Society this account of 
its Semi-Centennial Anniversary, the Committee of Publication would say 
that they have endeavored to prepare a concise narrative of what was 
done, and to give fuU reports of what was said on that memorable occa- 
sion, believing it is the latter feature that will impart to the work its 
principal interest. In whatever has been written by them, they have 
aimed at bre"\dty, especially in the Historical Sketch, which, by the in- 
struction of the Society, they have prefixed to the work. A complete his- 
tory would require more space than they felt at liberty to occupy ; there- 
fore, while they have endeavored to delineate, with some minuteness, the 
formation and early history of the Society, they have given only a brief 
outline of the most important events of subsequent years. It has been 
their constant effort to render the work perfect in its preparation, and 
faultless in its execution ; if they have failed in any respect, they can only 
plead the pecidiar difficulties with which such a labor is necessarily at- 


Committee of Ptiblication. 


< » • » > 

At the present time, when the power of voluntary asso^ 
ciation is brought to the aid of nearly every enterprise, 
the formation of a literary society attracts no notice, 
and gains for the founders little or no celebrity. But it was 
not so when the Philomathean was founded. Those wha, 
at that time, thus associated together, did not follow the 
example of thousands who had preceded them, as would 
be true now of a similar movement, but marked out for 
themselves a course which had as yet been pursued by 
very few. Some regard is then due to them for originality 
and independent enterprise, but more for the noble charac- 
ter which they gave to the institution at the moment of its 
birth. The Philomathean did not take its rise from a mere 
ordinary debating club — it sprung forth, at its very source a 
noble stream, at which those who first gathered around it, 
as well as those who succeeded them, slaked their ardent 
thirst for knowledge and improvement. 

The Society, originally called the Calliopean, owes its 
origin to the enterprise of some students of the Schenectady 
Academy. In one of the rooms of the Academy building, 
upon the evening of the 17th of October, 1793, Benjamin 
Romayne, John B. Romeyn, Henry Frey Yates, Moses I. 
Cantine, Levi H. Palmer, Adrian C. Van Slyck, Cornelius 


D. Schermerhorn, Thomas Romeyn and Peter C. Veeder, 
met, and " having considered the propriety and utility of 
forming themselves into a Society for promoting useful and 
ornamental knowledge and acquirements, such as composi- 
tion, speaking, reading, and such other exercises as may 
from time to time be appointed, agreed to institute a society 
to be called the Calliopean."* John B. Romeyn, Moses I. 
Cantine and Peter C. Veeder, were appointed a committee 
to draft a constitution and code of laws. 

At a subsequent meeting, this committee made a report, 
which was adopted, and the organization was completed 
by the election of proper officers. Adrian C. Tan Slyck 
was chosen first President. 

After these brief preliminary proceedings, the exercises 
were commenced with a spirit and zeal, which shows that 
a desire for self-improvement was the motive that actuated 
its founders, and that they expected to obtain this in no 
other way than by rigid discipline and untiring industry. 
There were no inactive members. At this, as at every 
other meeting, each had some duty assigned him. The 
President opened the meeting with an address. Two 
members presented compositions, two delivered orations, 
and the remaining four read and criticised some literary 
work. Extemporaneous discussion formed no part of the 
exercises of the early meetings of the Society. 

At this first meeting, they also laid the foundation of a 
library, by instructing the treasurer " to purchase a set of 
the Spectator." 

There is, in the early records, a copy of an essay read 
by Benjamin Romayne at the first meeting, an extract from 
which is introduced here, to show more fully the character 
of the Society, and the motives of its founders. The sub- 

* Extract from the minutes. 


ject is, the advantages of education, and the improvement 
to be derived from a well-regulated literary society. 

" With views as well to improve in the various branches 
of literature, as for the purpose of cultivating that spirit of 
love, harmony, and friendship, which ought always to 
prove the objects of our pursuit, and which never fails of 
procuring for us the esteem of mankind, the gentlemen who 
compose this Society, have associated together. The great 
object of this institution is to give its members a taste for 
literature, and to initiate them into the principles of compo- 
sition and oratory. By devoting our leisure hours to these 
pursuits, and to the attentive perusal of the literary pro- 
ductions which shall be presented to us, we are led to flat- 
ter ourselves that we shall not only enjoy satisfaction, but 
will be respected for learning, be an honor to our country, 
be more watchful and able guardians of our liberties, have 
our minds thereby more perfectly humanized, our manners 
more polished, and our actions more agreeable to the dic- 
tates of virtue and wisdom." 

For several months the exercises of each meeting were 
similar t© the first. The President, holding his office three 
weeks, was required to deliver an address at the opening 
of each meeting, and every member was expected to per- 
form one of the duties of composition, declamation, or criti- 
cism. Failure in the performance of any duty, subjected 
the delinquent to a fine, unless a satisfactory excuse was 
rendered. But such failures were extremely rare. 

They were also very watchful in regard to the deport- 
ment and moral character of members. When any one 
was proposed for membership, before the Society proceeded 
to ballot on his admission, two members were required to 
give assurance of the candidate's fitness in these respects. 
The least improper treatment of another, profanity, card- 


playing, or intemperance, subjected the person thus guilty 
to reproof, fine, suspension, or expulsion, according to the 
nature of the offence, and the degree of penitence manifest- 
ed by the offender. Their meetings were conducted with 
a degree of order and decorum, which it would be difficult 
to enforce at the present day, in any assembly. Upon the 
records of those times are the notices of reproofs and fines 
imposed for addressing the President without rising, for 
speaking while another had the floor, for discourteous lan- 
guage, and for other similar improprieties. 

These reproofs were kindly received and the fines 
promptly paid. After meeting contingent expenses, what 
remained of the fines, and also of the one dollar initiation 
fee, was applied to the purchase of books, for their little 
library, which was thus slowly enlarged. Each member, 
also, gave to the Society such books as he could spare ; and 
especially when any one left the society, he was expected 
to make a donation in books. 

The Society, being the first of the kind instituted in the 
city or vicinity, attracted considerable attention among the 
students of the Academy, and other literary young men of 
the city, and many were desirous to become members. 
Several graduates of Princeton College, who were studying 
divinity under Dr. Romeyn, pastor of the Reformed Dutch 
Church, were received. One of these, John B. Linn, 
the author of a volume of poems now in the Society libra- 
ry, and the able opponent of Dr. Priestly, was made a Doc- 
tor of Divinity at the early age of twenty-five. Many of 
the Academy students were unable to obtain a proposition 
for membership ; and not a few of those proposed failed of 
an election. To become a member, required intellectual 
abilities and moral worth which few possessed. And 
hence, although no limitation was fixed by the constitution, 


their number for many years did not much exceed that of 
the founders. Balloting for candidates, and trials of delin- 
quents, usually took place at special meetings, the members 
being unwilling to interrupt the stated exercises for these 

No spectators were admitted, and an injunction of secre- 
cy was laid upon the members, forbidding them to disclose 
any of the Society's proceedings. This law was rigidly 
enforced. In the minutes of the Society, mention is made 
of a fine of Is. 6d., and another of 4s. sterling, imposed upon 
individuals for reading their compositions to persons not 
connected with the Society. 

It is evident that the early members intended this orga- 
nization to be permanent. The utmost care was taken to 
preserve their records, and to transcribe all resolutions and 
orders in the book of laws. As early as December 17, 1793, 
a committee was appointed to procure a seal for the Society. 
Certificates of membership, forms of dismission, anc' diplo- 
mas for attending and honorary members, were carefully 
prepared at an early period. 

The first discussions of the Society, called Forensic, were 
in writing, and conducted by only two members, styled 
the Respondent and the Opponent. Subsequently, a third 
was added, called a Replicator, who reviewed the argu- 
ments of the other two, and decided upon their comparative 
merits. These disputants followed each other at succes- 
sive meetings, in the order they have been named. The 
first question discussed was, " Are private vices public ben- 
efits ?" 

Soon afterwards extemporaneous discussion was intro- 
duced. In this, all were required to engage, in addition to 
their other duties. They were equally divided into oppo- 
site sides, by the President. No member was considered to 


have performed his duty in the discussion, unless he had 
spoken more thdcn two minuteS' The first extemporaneous 
debate took place, March 20th, 1794, upon the following 
question : " Is Great Britain justifiable in waging war 
against France ?" The President reviewed the arguments 
and gave his decision according to their comparative 
weight. The exercise of reading and criticism was now 
discontinued, but the Forensic discussion remained as a 
regular exercise of each meeting for nearly twenty years. 

In the summer of 1794, some of the society left the Aca- 
demy and entered Princeton College. Others looked for- 
ward to the establishment of a College in their own city — 
a project that now began to arouse public attention. At 
the meeting of November 7, 1794, the subject for extempora- 
neous discdssion was, " Is Schenectady a proper place for a 
College ?" 

In 1795, Union College was organized, and commenced 
its exercises in the upper part of the Academy building, 
the lower rooms being still occupied for a grammar school. 
Many of the members entered the new institution, taking 
with them their Society, which was ever afterwards consi- 
dered as connected with the College. About the same 
time, the name of the Society was changed from Calliopean 
to Philoniathean, but it continued to meet in the same room, 
to be composed of the same members, and to conduct its 
exercises in the same manner. There was no interruption 
of its meetmgs or its business. The first meeting under 
the name Philomathean, was held October 29, 1795.* 

* Lest any one should infer that in the change from an Academy to a 
College Society, and in the change of name, the identity of the Calliopean 
with the Philomathean was destroyed, the following extract of a letter 
from Dr. Sweetman, who was an active member at that time, is here in- 
serted: "The Philomathean is one and the same with the Calliopean. 
The name Philomathean was substituted for tliat of Calliopean, by a sim- 
ple vote of the Society, to gratify the wishes of some of its members. No 


The following were the attending members of the Socie- 
ty at that time : John B. Romeyn, Levi H. Palmer, Corne- 
lius D. Schermerhorn, Andrew McCollum, John L. Zabris- 
kie, Reuben Sears, Cornelius WyckofF, Joseph Sweetman, 
Peter Myers, and Jacob Ten Eyck. The non-attend- 
ing members were Henry Wyckoff, Isaac Van Doren, Mo- 
ses I. Cantine, Adrian Van Slyck, Theodore F. Talbot, 
John B. Linn, and Alexander McLeod. 

Of these, Messrs. Sweetman, Zabriskie, Schermerhorn) 
Sears, McLeod, and Palmer, entered the new College, the 
first three composing the first class that graduated from the 
institution in 1797. In this year, John B. Linn and John 
B. Romeyn received the degree of D. D., being the first 
honorary degrees conferred by Union College. The latter 
was the first President of the Society after its name was 
changed to Philomathean. 

By a resolution passed December 20, 1795, "the members 
were allowed, at such times as they should think proper, to 
wear upon their left arm a badge of a light blue color." 
Another resolution was subsequently passed, requiring all 
to wear this badge, on every public occasion. There was 
at this time a law of the College forbidding any student to 
appear at chapel without the College badge — a piece of 
blue ribbon tied in the button-hole of the coat. 

Up to this time, as has been mentioned above, the meet- 
ings of the Society were attended by none but its members, 
who were, by its laws, forbidden to disclose any of its pro- 
ceedings. Its members were indeed well known, and the 
Society itself attracted great attention, and commanded 
much respect ; but no public exhibition of the Society, as 
such, had ever taken place. By a resolution passed January 

alteration was made in its constitution, laws, or mode of conducting busi- 
ness. It had no reference to the establishment of the College : that was 
not mentioned at the time, and probably not thought of." 


6, 1796, and afterwards engrafted into the Constitution, it was 
resolved that the society should annually celebrate its own 
anniversary, and that of American Independence. 

The Society anniversary was, for a long time, an occasion 
of great interest. It was celebrated at the close of the fall 
term ; sometimes in one of the churches of the city, but 
usually in the hall of the College. The exercises consisted 
of orations, plays, poems, and music. At first these cele- 
brations were open to all who chose to attend ; but, subse- 
quently, the audiences were select, invited by a committee 
appointed for that purpose. 

The strict attention of the society to the deportment of 
its members has been noticed. Originally, it was the duty 
of the Secretary, and the privilege of every member, to re- 
port a delinquent. In July, 1796, this duty was assigned 
to three members, elected for the purpose, and called " the 
Committee of Morals." The minutes of the Society show 
that the duties of this committee were not merely nominal ; 
frequent censures and fines prove that these duties were 
faithfully performed. Care was taken in the election of 
new members ; but if any one was elected who was not 
governed by strict principles of morality and integrity, he 
found his position of membership an uneasy one. No fail- 
ure in attendance nor in the performance of duty, nor 
the least departure from the strictest decorum, was tolera- 
ted. In the minutes of November 25, 1796, is the record of 
a fine of four fence each, imposed upon two members for 
whispering during the exercises ! 

November 21, 1797, it was resolved that the office of Com- 
mittee of Morals should be abolished, and that instead, a 
Censor should be elected, who should choose three Council- 
lors to act with him. Besides performing the duties of the 
Committee of Morals, the Censor and Council were requir- 


ed to examine, and if necessary, revise every composition 
before it was presented to the Society. Hon. Chief Justice 
Savage was the first Censor. 

In 1800, the hbrary of the Society numbered one hun- 
dred and two volumes. In this year an article was incor- 
porated into the constitution, requiring that a member of 
the Senior Class should be appointed to deliver a valedic- 
tory at the time of College commencement. This was pro- 
nounced in the College chapel, the Faculty, and members 
of other literary societies being invited to attend. This ap- 
pointment was subsequently considered the highest honor 
in the Society. 

In October, 1804, the time of meeting was changed from 
Thursday evening to Saturday afternoon. This was in 
accordance with an order from the Faculty, forbidding any 
literary society to meet during study hours, unless the offi- 
cers of College were acquainted with all its proceedings, 
and allowed to control its internal regulations. This order, 
considered by many as unjust and oppressive, was obeyed 
with a spirit which does honor to the members at that peri- 
od. The following resolutions, unanimously passed on 
that occasion, are deemed worthy of insertion. 

" Whereas a certain degree of independence, particularly 
in our internal arrangements, is absolutely necessary to the 
well-being of the Philomathean Society ; and 

Whereas, the Faculty of College have determined that we 
shall not meet during the hours of study, except on condi- 
tions which we cannot approve ; therefore, 

Resolved^ That we will cheerfully sacrifice part of the 
time we are allowed for recreation, and meet on Saturday 

Resolvedy That nothing is intended in these resolutions, 
in any way derogating from that respect for the officers, and 


obedience to the laws of College, which we shall always 
be proud to evince. Our only wish is to conduct our Soci- 
ety in the manner we have done for years, and which ex- 
perience has demonstrated to be beneficial to our literary 

Soon after this, the Society changed its place of meeting 
to the building now the West College, then recently erect- 
ed. The library was still kept in the Academy for several 
years. According to the report of a committee appointed to 
examine it, in July, 1806, the number of books was 294. 
The number of members at the same time was twenty- 

The extemporaneous discussion at this time was most- 
ly confined to the Seniors and Juniors. The Sophomores 
were allowed to join in it during the third term of the col- 
legiate year, and at such other times as they could obtain 
permission from the Censor and Council. This restriction 
was removed in 1811, and henceforth to speak on debate 
was not only a privilege, but a duty of every member. 

In May, 1811, a literary paper, called the Floriad, was 
commenced by the Philomathean in connection with the 
Adelphic. It was conducted by a committee of four from 
each Society. Its publication continued but a short time. 
During this year, a room for the library was obtained and 
fitted up in the new College. The first catalogue of the 
library was also published at the same time. The anni- 
versary exercises this year were "one Latin and four Eng- 
lish Orations, a Poem, a Colloquy and two Disputations." 
As usual these were all presented to the Society and criti- 
cised, before they were delivered in public. 

In September of this year, after repeated applications, the 
Society obtained permission from the Faculty to meet at nine 
o'clock on Saturday morning. For several years from this 


time, they continued in session during the day. The fore- 
noon was devoted to declamation and composition. The 
members were divided into two divisions, one of which read, 
and the other declaimed at each meeting. The Society 
numbering nearly fifty members, fifteen to twenty declama- 
tions and as many compositions were presented at each meet- 
ing. These occupied the entire forenoon. At half past one, 
they again met, and the extemporaneous discussion took 
place,upon which all were required to speak. This not unfre- 
quently consumed the whole afternoon, so that a third 
meeting was held in the evening for the transaction of mis- 
cellaneous business. There were comparatively few ab- 
sent from these meetings. Those who were unwilling to 
devote so much time to them, asked and received an hon- 
orable dismissal ; or through frequent absences and neglect 
of duty, with the refusal to pay the fines thereby incurred, 
were relieved from duties too onerous for them, by expul- 

By a vote passed March 14, 1812, the public celebration 
of the Anniversary of American Independence was discon- 
tinued. The succeeding one was celebrated by the Soci- 
ety with the usual exercises in their own Hall, with no au- 
dience but their own members, and in following years it 
was wholly omitted. The public celebration was not dis- 
continued on account of any apathy or indifference on the 
part of the members, but external circumstances rendered 
it expedient. 

Upon the erection of North and South Colleges, the So- 
ciety obtained the Hall they now occupy. October 12, 1816, 
Messrs. J. B. Nott, Lansing, Frothingham, Colt and Tib- 
bits, were appointed to solicit funds by subscription, and 
apply them to the fitting up of the New Hall. At the 
meeting of November 2, Messrs. Doane, Manning, King, Per- 


ter and Jarvis, were appointed a committee to remove the 
library to the room it now occupies. These committees per- 
formed the duties assigned them, and in the spring of ] 818 
the Society met in the New Hall. Resolutions were passed 
May 30, 1818, that no person but a member of the Society 
should be admitted into it, and that upon the days of meet- 
ing the President should keep the door closed until the 
members had assembled in the adjoining room, and a quo- 
rum were present. 

At that time, and for many years afterwards, upon the 
death of any attending member, or of one recently gradua- 
ted, the badge of mourning was worn for thirty days, and 
a member was appointed to pronounce a funeral oration. 
These orations were usually delivered in the chapel of the 
College, and the members of the Faculty and of the other 
literary societies were invited to attend. 

Between 1816 and 1820. large additions were made to 
the library ; considerable appropriations were made each 
term for the purchase of books. November 21, 1818, $300 
were voted for this purpose. 

As has been before hinted, dismissals and expulsions 
were not unfrequent. In 1817, an order was passed that 
the names of all members expelled should be published in 
one of the city papers. The minutes for several subsequent 
years show that this order was faithfully executed. 

Until 1830, the afternoon sessions were continued with 
only an occasional interruption. From this period they 
were held less frequently, until they ceased altogether, ex- 
cept when there was an unusual amount of miscellaneous 
business to be transacted. From that time to the present 
there is little to narrate. " Happy is the people whose his- 
tory is uninteresting." The Society has continued prospe- 
rous, it^ meetings have been regularly held, well attended, 


and full of interest, and its library steadily enlarged. The 
number of attending members at the period of the semi- 
centennial anniversary was 115 ; the number of volumes in 
the library about 3000. 

Nearly 1400 members have enjoyed the advantages af- 
forded by the Philomathean, a large proportion of whom 
are now proving their value by the stations of honor and 
influence which they occupy. During the last fifty-five 
years of her existence, the most sanguine anticipations of 
the founders and early members have been more than rea- 

The noble origin of the Society, its continued prosperity 
and increasing usefulness, must make every Alumnus hon- 
or the Institution of his choice, and feel proud to be enrolled 
among her favored sons. He can look to the future with 
the confident and well grounded hope that when Philoma- 
theans, of a future generation, shall come together to cele- 
brate her centennial anniversary, they will then rejoice in 
her onward career of usefulness for the next half century, 
as we now do in that of the one just completed. 


At a meeting of the Philomathean Society, held January 
29, 1848, WiUiam J. Magill introduced the subject of a 
semi-centennial celebration of the formation of the Society. 
He remarked that the present was the fifty-fifth year since 
it was founded, and that it was proper that its semi-centen- 
nial anniversary should no longer be deferred. His propo- 
sition met with a hearty response from the Society, and the 
following resolution was unanimously passed : 

Resolved^ That a committee of three be appointed to fix 
upon a day for the semi-centennial celebration of the found- 
ing of this Society, and also to procure an Orator and Poet 
for the occasion. 

George M. McEachron, William Mills, and M. T. Pratt, 
were appointed as this committee. 

At a subsequent meeting this committee reported that, 
although the date of the Society's organization was October 
17, yet they had fixed upon July 25, for its semi-centennial 
anniversary, as that was the day preceding commencement^ 
and therefore best adapted to secure a large attendance of 
the Alumni. They farther reported, that they had procur- 
ed Rev. Henry P. Tappen, D. D., of New- York, as Ora- 
tor, and Alfred B. Street, A. M., of Albany, as Poet. 

On motion, the report of the committee was adopted. 

At a meeting held May 20, the following resolutions 
were passed : 


Resolved^ That a committee of five be appointed as a 
Semi-centemiial Committee of Arrangements. 

Resolved^ That this committee have discretionary pow- 
er to make all necessary arrangements for the semi-centen- 
nial anniversary. 

Resolved^ That this committee be instructed to appoint 
from the graduated members a committee of inritation, 
who should address to the Alumni circulars soliciting their 

The following gentlemen were chosen committee of ar- 
rangements : Roswell G. Pettibone. Amasa McCoy, Adrian 
H. Dunning, I. Fayette Pettibone, and Andrew H. Green. 

The following graduated members were appointed a 
committee of invitation : 

Prof ISAAC W. JACKSON, A. M., Chairman. 
Rev. Joseph Sweetman, D. D., 
Hon. John Savage, LL. D., 
T. RoMEYN Beck, M. D., LL. D., 
Rev. Cornelius C. Cuyler, D. D., 
Hon. Marcus T. Reynolds, 
Hon. John C. Spencer, LL. D., 
Rt. Rev. George W. Doan-e, D. D., LL. D., 
Hon. Samuel W. Jones, 
Hon. Archibald L. Linn, 
Hon. John C. Wright. 

By the above committeet he following Circular was ad- 
dressed to the Alumni of the Society. 


to the alumni of the philomathean society. 

Dear Sir : 

It is now nearly fifty-five years since the foundation of 
our Literary Society, and yet her Semi-Centennial Anniver- 
sary has never been commemorated. Preparatory arrange- 


merits were made in part to hold this celebration during the 
past academic year, but for different reasons it was deemed 
advisable to defer it. The active members of the Society- 
are now determined, however, to delay it no longer ; and 
therefore propose to celebrate this era in a proper manner, 
on the 25th of July ensuing, being the day preceding com- 

On that day, therefore, an Oration and Poem will be 
pronounced, accompanied by other appropriate exercises, 
after which the Alumni and Active members will move in 
procession to the festive board, to partake of a dinner to be 
provided for the occasion. 

The undersigned are chosen a Committee of Invitation 
to address the Alumni. According to this appointment, we 
now earnestly solicit you, as an Alumnus of the Philoma- 
thean, to lay aside for a day the cares and duties of ordina- 
ry life ; to come up and pay a tribute of respect to the So- 
ciety that nurtured us in our youth ; to visit again her Hall, 
rendered sacred by precious associations ; and contribute to 
commemorate in a worthy manner- this interesting era in 
her history. 

ISAAC W. JACKSON, Chairman. 



Committee of Invitation, 


For the reception of the Alumni, the Hall of the Society 
had been tastefully decorated with wreaths of evergreens, 
by the acting members, generously assisted by the Ladies 
of Schenectady. Upon an arch of evergreens that spanned 
the entrance was inscribed — Gaudeo te venisse salvum. 

A large flag hung from the library window, bearing in 
conspicuous characters the inscription, PHILOMATHEAN. 

At 10 o'clock on the morning of the 25th of July, the 
day being most propitious for the exercises of the occasion, 
the Alumni entered the Hall, filling it to overflowing, their 
hearts beating responsive to the appropriate air of " Home^ 
Sweet Hcme^^ and were welcomed by the President of the 
Society, R. N. Dunham, who, in behalf of the attending 
members, addressed them as follows: 

Cherished and Respected Brothers : 

In the discharge of the pleasing duty imposed upon me 
by the attending members of the Philomathean, I most cor- 
dially welcome you back to this Hall— the home of our 
common Society. Many of you have long been known to 
us as the prominent actors in the political, literary and reli- 
gious world. We have respected you, but to-day we meet 
you with the warmer feelings of friendship and affection — 
as brothers — and although your faces appear to us as the 
features of strangers, still we remember that you once met 


in this Hall, made these walls echo the sound of your 
voices, left your names on our records, and your memo- 
ries to be cherished by every successive generation of 
members until the present time : in short, that here is a 
common interest alike dear to us and you. These recol- 
lections awaken in us the feelings of family affection, and 
make us eager to grasp you by the hand, with all the ardor 
of long and intimate friendship. This is the happy privi- 
lege afforded us by our mutual relation to our common Soci- 
ety, whose noble motto is, virtus^ scientia. et amicitia. 
Virtue elevates and purifies the soul, and gives it moral 
worth ; knowledge expands and cultivates the mind, and 
gives it intellectual worth ; friendship enlarges and softens 
the heart, and gives it social worth, and when entwined 
with virtue and knowledge, is the strong cord that binds 
man to most of his earthly happiness ; it is the brightest 
gem in the triple-jeweled crown of our society — the tender 
tie which, passing over time and space, and encircling even 
the grave, binds together to-day the hearts and memories 
of all who have ever been connected with the Philoma- 
thean. Thus closely linked together, our feelings, and we 
trust, yours, are, that this is not a company of strangers 
congregated here to-day — ^but a family gathering — a re-un- 
ion of separated kindred. 

It is indeed a source of pleasure to us to welcome here 
to-day so many, who have long mingled in the active 
scenes of the bustling world, and who have won there, 
honor and respect, but who still cherish a warm affection 
for the Society which nurtured them in their youth, and 
now in the meridian and evening of life, have returned to 
venerate its memory and do it honor. While there is that, 
in the recollections of the past, to sadden you and us too, 
for we can but join with you in dropping a tear to the 


memory of those who once met here with you — your 
friends and associates — our common brothers, whom the 
gloomy portals of the grave prevent from meeting with us 
to-day ; still we trust this occasion will be to you a joyous 
one, in witnessing the success of your labors, and in meet- 
ing here so many, who will hold you and them in fond 

With the past history and character of the Philomathean, 
you are all well acquainted. We present to you our con- 
venient rooms, and our large number of active and zealous 
members, as evidences of its present prosperity. Thus 
looking upon the past with pride, the present with satisfac- 
tion, and the future with hope, there is every thing to make 
this a joyous, long-remembered, family gathering ; and 
hoping that it may prove so to each of you, I once again 
bid you a hearty welcome. 

On behalf of the Alumni, Joel B. Nott, Esq., replied as 
follows : 

Mr. President : — Not until the moment I arrived, had I 
any intimation that I was to take a part in these exercises, 
but I expected to remain a silent listener. In reply, sir, to 
the warm welcome which has just been extended to us who 
come back from the midst of our pursuits in the world, to 
revisit this, the theatre of our former actions during our 
College life, a feeling mingled alike with joy and sorrow 
comes over our hearts. It is not without emotion that I 
undertake to address you. This was once the theatre in 
which moved men, who afterwards became distinguished 
in the world ; men, who were my early companions in Col- 
lege, over whom the sod now presses, and whose memory 
comes back with a freshness which I can hardly express. I 
look around me, and I see not, as I once beheld, Otis, and 


those other men of genius, who, in my time, used to make 
these walls echo with their eloquence. I look around me 
in vain to see those men of enterprise — boys they were to 
be sure, then, but their enterprise first started this library. 
I was myself among the number of those who first solicited 
from the Faculty, the possession of these rooms for that 
purpose. I was among that number who first contributed 
of our early resources largely and liberally to beautify and 
ornament these rooms. I can bear testimony to the moral 
effect which this Society has had upon that generation. I 
have before me the evidence of its continued moral influ- 
ence from that day to this. The occasion on which we 
assemble is one of remarkable interest, for there are pres- 
ent those who belong to two distinct periods in the history 
of our Alma Mater. Some have associated this Society 
with yonder West College. Such are those who belong to 
the last generation. There are present the honored relics 
of that generation, who have come up to-day, to give en- 
couragement to these young men, who have so kindly and 
so wisely invited us back to the scenes of our youth, where 
we once took pleasure in the pursuits of science, friendship 
and virtue. 

It is our earnest trust that this Society may preserve its 
prosperity and its moral influence, and that it will always 
be associated honorably with the history of this institution : 
— that the young members, the undergraduates of the So- 
ciety, may ever remember that we are the elders who 
added much to the motto which has been inscribed upon 
this banner, " Virtus, iScieniia, et Amicitia.^^ We come 
back to tell you that virtue is worth something in the 
affairs of this world : — we come to tell you, who go through 
this institution to the world in which your virtue will be 
tried, that it becomes every one to gird up his loins to meet 


the moral conflict which awaits him. We come to tell 
you that the science which we have carried with us, has 
been with us in the business of life, and that the base self- 
ishness of the world has not chilled the fountain of that 
friendship which flows in the bosom of every Philoma- 
thean, whether old or young. 

At 11 o'clock the procession was formed in front of South 
College, by Prof Jackson, Chief Marshal of the day, aid- 
ed by Wm. N. Brown, Assistant Marshal. Escorted by 
a Band of Music, it proceeded to the Reformed Dutch 
Church in the following order : 


1. Acting Members of the Society. 

2. President of the Day and Chaplain. 

3. Orator and Poet. 

4. Trustees of College and Regents of the University. 

5. Faculty of Union College. 

6. Honorary Members and invited Guests. 

7. Presidents of the Philomathean and other College Lite- 

rary Societies. 

8. Alumni of the Philomathean, in the order of their 

classes, commencing with the oldest. 

9. Members of the Adelphic Society. 

10. Members of the Delphian Institute. 

11. All others whose places are not already designated. 

On their way to the Church, the procession passed the 
building on the comer of Union and Ferry streets, fonnerly 
occupied as an Academy, and the birth place of the Philo- 
mathean Society, to which their attention was directed by 
a banner arching over the side-walk, and bearing the fol- 
lowing inscription : 




With feelings responding to this motto, the procession 
passed beneath the banner with uncovered heads. 


At the Church, which was densely filled, the exercises 
commenced with music by the Band. This was followed 
by prayer by Rev. Joseph Sweetman, D. D., President of 
the day. An ode was then sung by the Choir, after which 
the assembly listened to the following Poem pronounced 
by Alfred B. Street, A. M. 


Knowledge and Liberty ! two starry browed 

And snowy pinioned seraphs unto Man, 

Lifting his spirit to his native skies, 

Whilst leading him along his brightening path, 

Up to that summit in the azure heavens. 

Where nought shall be between his soul and God, 

But angel thoughts, quick flashing to an fro, 

Forming that golden age so long foretold 

By the old Prophets, and which rang so oft 

From rapt Isaiah's harp-strings, when the sky 

Shall with unutterable splendor blaze, 

As Cometh down the New Jerusalem, 

And the changed earth shall, at its touch, burst out 

Lito a second lovelier Paradise. 

Knowledge and Liberty ! though such their end, 

And though they should forever, hand in hand 

Have gone with man between them, borrowing aid 

Bach from the other, giving smile for smile. 

And intermingling beings ; yet, alas ! 

How oft have demon passions scared from man 

Their mutual presence, leaving him to grope 

In darkness, now with Liberty — and now 

To crouch in chains beneath the sway of Knowledge. 

Ambition hath infused her poison foul 
Within the bosom of the last, and then 
Hath placed the sword within her frowning clutch, 



And she hath stricken frighted Liberty 
Beneath her feet, and watched with jealous eyes. 
Thro' long, long centuries the writhing shape. 
And heard unmoved its wailings of despair. 
Till sometimes, tho' not oft, would Liberty, ' 
Catching a stray glance from the pointed spear 
Held at her throat by Knowledge, with w^ild strength 
Arise, and dash the foot from off her neck, 
Grasp the sharp weapon from her wondering foe. 
Bathe her rich jeweled robes in sudden blood, 
And cast her, trembling, headlong in the midst 
Of the red ocean ; but her guile would still 
Lead her to shore, and her Briareus hands 
Would shower their skillful blows, till Liberty, 
Bleeding at every pore, with hollow groan 
Would fall again, and on her panting breast 
Again the crushing foot would plant itself, 
Again the sword be pointed at her throat 
With care redoubled, and more jealous watch. 

Trace we the paths of both, from earliest times 

Up to the point whence spreads around the Present. 

Wrapp'd in its sandy robe, the ghost of Thebes 

Now lies. The broken column and the arch 

Prostrate in ruin where the Arab rests 

In the cool shadow^ with his camel's bell 

Tinkling amidst the silence, tell alone 

Where once she gleamed — the diadem of her clime. 

Did her pale shuddering habitants behold 

The deluge surging from the horizon, down 

Upon them ? Did its mighty flood dash in 

Her hundred brazen gates, and thro' her haJla 

Kush in tremendous fury, and up, up. 

Swell billow upon billow, till the last 

Wan wretch upon the city's highest roof 

Saw dome on dome sink down, before his lips 

Bubbled within the greedy element ? 

Did Thebes thus view the awful majesty 

Of that great scene ? Here Knowledge was enthroned, 

But where was Liberty ? 

POEM. ^ 31 

Upon the plains 
Of Shinar we behold the two together. 
Patriarch Liberty sat before his tent, 
And watched the sunset streaming o'er the scene, 
Lighting his flocks and herds ; and, as the gloom 
Of twilight spread across the glimmering plain, 
He saw the long rays bathing still the head 
Of that magnificent tower by Knowledge built. 
Until it seem'd a golden cloud in heaven ; 
That tower which soar'd so high, the very stars 
Seem'd larger from its summit. There it stood, 
The puny challenger of God, until 
His wrathful lightning smote it to the dust, 
And strew'd it round — the ruins of a mountain. 

Along the Nile then Kaowledge brightly trod, 

With Noah's families from the Euphrates' banks, 

And Shinar's scattered tribes of many tongues. 

Cities arose within her foot prints ; here 

The mystic Sphynx was moulded — there was reared 

The slow increasing pyramid, that gre"w 

As grows the isle beneath the coral-insect, 

O'er whose proud tops the Pharaoh's vainly deem'd 

Their names would shine to future years, as stars 

O'er Alpine peaks. But where was Liberty ? 

Helpless she lay beneath the ruthless heel 

Of Menai's line and the fierce Shepherd-Kings. 

On the Chaldean plains at length the Twain 

Were linked in mutual love. "Wliilst Knowledge soared 

Up to the stars, threading their golden maze, 

And bidding them their sparkling secrets show. 

Liberty twin'd her garlands round her crook. 

Piped her sweet airs, and watched her nibbling flocks. 

Then, bursting on the sight — a splendid orb. 

Like the magnificent morning star, when sky 

AU else is bare, but blazing o'er the spot 

Where soon will flash the dawn — great Homer sprang 

Sparkling o'er rising Greece. Then Athens rose ; 

Pentelicus oped its treasures, and their snow 

Glittered on the Acropolis in shapes 


Various as Fancy's visions ; on the plain 
The temple showed its colums of wreath'd vine 
And budding blossom, vying vdth the flowers 
Upon Hymettus ; radiant forms leap'd out 
From the cold marble, as Praxitiles 
Or Phidias touched it ; rich tints sprang from forth 
Apelles' brain, as rainbows from the sun. 
And gleamed on the ennobled canvas fix'd, 
As hues upon the opal ; Poesy 
Touch'd her bright harp along the palace-fronts, 
And in the temple squares. Philosophy, 
Seated on Plato's tongue, amidst the shades 
Dwelt of green Academus. As the bark 
Skimm'd azure Salamis, the sailor saw 
The column'd tomb of fam'd Themistocles 
Upon its Cape. The dying soldier, borne 
From the fierce fight upon his dripping shield. 
Fixed his last gaze upon the Parthenon, 
On whose v^rhite w^alls he hoped to live forever. 
The peasant, bringing to the market-place 
- His melons from the mountain, heard the words 
Of Eschylus from out the fane of Bacchus, 
Or stood entranced, as great Demosthenes 
Stem thundered from the Bema. Knowledge there 
Stood with her radiant head amidst the stars, 
But Liberty scarce deigned to show her brow 
From her steep rocky home ; or fitfully. 

If came she, chains, though w^reath'd with flowers, still chains, 
Held half her limbs ; and then with clanging speed, 
Dash'd Alexander's chariot o'er the world, 
And dragg'd her, pale and bleeding, at its wheel. 

Then fell a mighty stamp upon the Earth 

That rock'd beneath the blow. 'Twas Rome that stood 

With iron armor on his giant limbs, 

The brazen eagle glittering on his head. 

And in his grasp a spear that swept around 

Its circle, and the World, on crouching knee, 

Lifted its trembling hands, and, with blanched cheek 

And accents quivering with its terror, said, 

*' Mercy, great Rome !" 


Beside the Capitol 
Rome stood, within his left hand Knowldge grasped, 
Within his right that spear. He frowned, and lo ! 
Darkness crept o'er the shuddering brow of Eai-th, 
To the broad dashing Caspian here, and there 
To wild mysterious Britain's Druid-oaks. 
But where was Liberty ? — a shout ! — behold 
Yon Scythian dragged up the Tarpaeian Rock, 
His brawny limbs where hangs the wolf's dark skin, 
(The wolf, his hands had torn asunder near 
The Baltic's stormy waters,) knotted round 
With fetters ; mark his fierce eyes gleaming out 
From the rough ambush of his streaming hair. 
See, how he's toss'd at the contemptuous foot 
Of the stern iron warrior who unbinds ' 

His fetters, but to thrust within his grasp 
The gladiator's sword, and bid him fight 
Amid the Coliseum's jeers and taunts, 
A caged and lash'd wild beast for Rome's high pleasure. 

But whilst the brazen eagle towered the highest, 

And the mailed stride was heaviest, midst the great 

And solemn forests where the Danube roll'd. 

Where the Alps pierced the sky with icy spears, 

And sloped the Pyrenees, there Liberty, 

Run wild with scourging and made mad for vengeance, 

Was nursing her rude energies and strength ; 

Curbing the war-horse ; braving hunger's pangs ; 

Breasting the torrent and the tempest daring. 

And banding all her numbers into one. 

At length the period came. As "when its bounds 

Bursts Ocean, rolling onward -wave on wave. 

Foaming and dashing full of woe and doom — 

So burst those numbers from their Northern homes. 

Rolling upon their far and destined vray. 

Rome saw the approach and mustered all bis force. 

In sternest will and self dependence strung 

His arm to newer strength, and reared his form 

To greater grandeur, and with flashing eye. 

The shock awaited. Awful was that shock 

And terrible the strife ! The gleaming wing 



Of the proud eagle never yet had stooped, 

And thick and heavy rained that arm its blows ; 

Loud pealed the war-cry from those haughty lips, 

And at each stamping of his foot, the blood 

Of myriad victims gushed up to his brow. 

But still the foes swarm'd round him ; on Ijis shield 

The feathered arrow of the Baltic rang ; 

Upon his breast the Danube's wrar-club sank, 

The Rhine's rude battle-axe fell on his head. 

Now Alaric's shout came swelling on the wind. 

And now the cry of Attila rose shrill 

Above the rushing tempest. Back, still back, 

Rome yielded ; from his outward battlements — 

Along his streets — ^his glorious temples past — 

Beneath his arches — and now up the steep 

Where shone his Capitol. Upon its steps 

His form he planted — ^back he hurls his foe ; 

Again they spring, and back again he casts them. 

But that strong arm is weary, and the eye 

Is drooping, and those feet are clogg'd with forma 

That arm hath struck — the eye-balls of the foe 

Glare wilder — ^louder is their cry — ^their hand 

Smites fiercer — ^ha ! that crest is bowed — ^proud Rome 

Is on his knee — he sinks— and with one cry 

Of wildest joy and vengeance, up the steps 

Of the red Capitol the foeman springs. 

Strikes one more blow, and, planting then his foot 

Upon the prostrate crest, peals forth a shout 

Of triumph, which, re-echoing thro' the World 

Where'er has penetrated race of man. 

Tells that that World is free — for Rome has fallen. 

As if to prove the noted prophecy 

That when Rome fell, the Earth would perish too, 

Within the vacuum left by that proud head, 

As down it sank, there rush'd a rayless night 

Which settled in thick murky gloom, save where 

Byzantium's city glittered like an eye 

Radiant with intellect amidst the deep 

Blacl^ midnight. Liberty and Knowledge both 

Were hid beneath the curtain of the gloom. 

POEM. 35 

But Mind began to stir again, and light 

The torch of Knowledge. Architecture rear'd 

Its castles on the crags — in mountain-paths 

And by the lakes. Within the valleys green, 

Smiling in rural loveliness, it placed 

Its massive abbeys, on their columns low ; 

And in the dark, walled towns, midst high peak'd roofs 

It rear'd the gorgeous church w^ith rich grained roof, 

Wreathed pillars, sculptured niches, arches bright, 

And tinted windows. Poetry was link'd 

To music, and both dwelt within the harp 

Of the gay Troubadour, from land to land 

Who wandered, with Romance his only guide. 

The bold Crusader left his castle gray, 

And sought the East where still Byzantium's eye 

Shone steadily, returning 'with its lore — 

The Knight chivalric went thro' every clime 

With lance in rest, and his bright " ladye love" 

Upon his lips. The monk his cloister cheered, 

Tracing his parchment and his missal edging 

With glowing colors. Brunelleschi wreath'd 

His sculptured jBowers. Great Dante poured his soul 

In fire along his harp. The laurel wreath 

Was hung on Petrarch's brow. The Medici 

Made Florence like the sun. The canvas flashed 

Beneath the brush of Raphael, and contended 

Sculpture and Painting, w^hich the greenest w^reath 

Should grace the head of Angelo ; and yet 

Liberty groan'd beneath the heaviest chains 

Of stem Feudality ; her darkest hours 

Were there ; for e'en in Greek and Roman days 

She bore in deserts inaccessible 

The quiver, the Numidian lion slew. 

And told wild tales within the tent at night. 

But the bright cheering morning dawn'd at last. 
The blessed fifteenth century arose. 
And w^ondrous changes came upon the world. 
Mind threw its shackles off; the soul took wings, 
And every where, the human heart, aroused, 
Heaved with convulsive movements, till the sea 


Of being surged with high and mighty things. 
The compass pointed with its eloquent finger 
The mariner's path across the hitherto 
Dreaded and unknown billow ; the black dust, 
Imprisoning the deadly flame that changed 
Blind horrid massacre to skillful War, 
From Nature's inmost secrets had been wrung. 
The sail of great Columbus, where the West 
Shut down upon the Ocean's naked waste, 
Swept boldly, till its silvery spot was seen 
Like the far sea-bird's wing, and then was lost 
Within the misty circle, as Fear thought, 
Forever, but was destined to emerge 
Soon from that dusky ring with tidings grand 
That a New World within the West was found ! — 
The Moorish Crescent from Alhambra's towers 
Had disappeared before the cross of Spain, 
So that once more on Guadalquivir's banks 
The peasant's sickle gleam'd amidst the grain, 
And in green valleys of the Pyrenees, 
The light click of the castanet was heard 
At sunset midst the vineyards, or as glow'd 
The splendid Moon above the terraced olives. 
And last — the Printing Press ! that tongue — that foot- 
That breath of Knowledge ; the four faced — four winged- 
As in Ezekiel's vision, looking at 
The quarters four of heaven ; the chariot 
Of the inspired Nahum with its torch 
And lightning speed — the glorious Printing Press ! 
Had sprung from that great wondrous fane of thought, 
That curious laboratory — apex bright 
Of bright creation — eagle eyrie built 
On Nature's loftiest summit — crowning gem 
Of all that God hath wrought — the brain of man ! 
Knowledge arose and Liberty beside. 
Embracing, they exchanged in love their gifts. 
Liberty gave her scorn of Tyranny 
To Knowledge ; Knowledge gave to Liberty 
Her starry brow, and both then, towering up, 
Called out for Right. The cry re-echoed round. 

POEM. 37 

The hardy Vaudois took his Avooden horn, 

Whose melody had cheer'd his leaping goats 

In grassy vales, and woke the lammergyer 

From its white glacier, seized his scythe, swnng late 

Within the mountain-pasture, and went forth 

To battle. The stern Covenanter rose, 

And with his deep w^ar-hymn the eagle roused 

Within his rocky glen ; blent clash of swords 

With the low rumble of the waterfall, 

And scared the stag with shots, until at last 

He read his Bible by his musket's flash, 

And with his very weapon carved his food. 

Then a whole mighty empire sprang to arms. 

Knowledge and Liberty fought side by side ; 

And England, merry England blushed with blood 

And rang vi^ith shrieks, until at last the cloud 

Asunder broke, and from its depths stepped forth, 

As in the vision of the Apocalypse, 

Knowledge and Liberty in glorious triumph. 

Upon that lovely land, our mother land, 

Land of broad parks, green lanes and castles gray, 

Time honored lineages, time honored laws, 

Whose bayonet is the lightning of the earth, 

And mighty keel the trident of the sea. 

And whose green ivy is the emblem meet 

Of her prosperity — sweet smiling land. 

Garden of earth .' and great as beautiful ! 

Knowledge impressed her path, that, brightening in 

The lapse of years, is now the Milky Way 

Among the scattered stars of other nations ; 

Whilst Liberty, with wishes disciplined, 

Diffused a tempered lustre round the throne, 

Bending to things long settled, until now 

We see the Lion by a woman led. 

And then the twain departed, led by God 

To tame the Western World His hand had given, 

Not to one race, but universal Man, 

Upon a storm-urged vessel's reeling deck 

Stood the two angels. On the May Flower dashed, 

Now like an eagle scaling watery peaks, 


And speeding down within deep furrows now, 

As if to shelter there her frightened wing. 

Still on the May Flower dash'd ; the Winter blast 

Shrieked through her tattered sails ; still on she dash'd, 

For in her fragile hull the principle, 

The germ of a magnificent empire, lay, 

As the great oak is folded in its acorn. 

And God watched o'er it in the sable cloud. 

The dashing billow, and the whistling gale. 

At length the icy, slippery rock w^as near. 

And down the anchor of the May Flower plunged. 

She furl'd her wings, like some weak bird long driven 

By the fierce storm, but safety finds at last. 

On went those stern, pure hearted, gallant men ; 

Knowledge and Liberty with pointing hands 

Shewing the way. What though the forest stretch'd 

Broad, as another ocean, to their gaze. 

Where echoed the deep thunder of the blast, 

And the leaves toss'd like billows. What though glared 

The midnight fields with flames that wrapp'd their huts, 

Whilst the red warriors w^ith their tomahawks. 

Blending their war-whoops with the crackling air, 

Eush'd on them as they sallied forth, and dash'd 

The babe upon the earth, and wrench'd the scalp 

From age, and hushed the shrieks of womanhood 

With knives ; what though the famish'd wolf howl'd round 

Their homes> and from the mountain branches leap'd 

The panther down upon them ; what though lay 

The snow-drifts mid the boundless woods, so deep 

The hemlock show'd but half its pyramid, 

With hunger coming nearer every day. 

Whilst in the watches of the night they heard 

The wailings of the wind, that seem'd to say, 

" Wanderers, return to your old homes again ! 

The grass is greening there — the primrose sets 

Its silver star within the winding lanes — 

The breath of early flowers is rising up. 

For spring is coming ;" — what, when Summer hung 

The woods with beauty, though the settler knew 

That the rude path which left his clearing, ran 

POEM. 39 

For weary days amidst the savage wild, 

Where scarce the keenest sunbeam struggled through. 

Without a single kindred voice or hand 

To answer or meet his ; what though all these ! 

The cabin was rebuilt — the tawoiy foe 

Driven to his haunts once more — the wolf was slain — 

And the fierce panther yielded his brown skin ' 

To spread the hunter's couch, when winking stars 

Watch'd o'er the camp-fire. Ofi" the snow-drifts went ; 

Spring came, and in the hill-lot whistled sweet 

The blue-bii'd, as the brawny settler svning 

His biting axe upon the scaly oak. 

And the woodpecker rattled on its tree, 

Uutil he thought he heard once more the fife 

And drum, as once at Naseby, whilst his blood 

Thrill'd with the joy and fervor of his youth. 

Thus went the two white Angels of my theme, 

Each holding to her heart her talisman, 

Knowledge the Bible, Liberty the Law, 

Whilst Industry presented them his axe. 

And, like the mists of morn, the woods roll'd off 

From Nature, and the sunshine kiss'd her cheek, 

Until it mantled with rich life, and glow'd 

With all its fresh and virgin loveliness. 

Liberty, as the hunter, went ahead, 

Stamping light paths amidst the unknown woods 

To find the deer — ^unlocking lovely vales 

To set the trap — ^uncovering the clean spring 

To plant the hut of logs, and tracing up, 

In the canoe, just fashion'd from the tree, 

The river's course to lure the finny spoil. ^ 

And Knowledge followed after, the light path 

To widen to a road — to change the vale 

Into rich grain-fields — spread the lonely hut 

Into a city, and the river's depths 

To rouse vdth ceaseless rush of busy keels. 

And thus, the ointment of the fairy tale 
Changed scarce the desert into fields and roofs 
More sudden to the eye it touched, than these, 


The blessed Twain, our glorious country changed, 

Mowing the forests into harvest-fields, 

Or hewing their proud summits into cities. 

Survey w^e now our Empire ; Poetry 

Eesigns her harp, for every eye can see. 

And every heart can feel our power and glory. 

Near a broad river, one stern winter's day 
I stood ; its rigid chains the frost had wrought. 
The earth was cased in ice — the roofs were ice — 
The very chimnies, reeking with their fires, 
^ Were tipp'd with icy silver ; the deep sky 

Sparkled in keenest azure, with wreath'd clouds 

Crispy and sharp, strewed o'er in frothy flakes. 

So cutting w^as the edgy air, it stung 

My brow as if with needle-points ; the cold 

Appeared slow^ eating way into my heart. 

The towering pine beside me was held fast 

In fetters, and though swept a wind along. 

Not e'en the lightest fibre of its shape. 

That high and haughty woodland King, could stir. 

The slender top that bent when bland sweet airs 

Caress'd it in the summer noontide, now 

Stood like a spear-point flashing in the sun. 

Nature seemed held the tyrant Winter's slave, 

So abject in his power, her very life 

Looked stricken from her heart ; — 

Just then a gust 
Brought a deep thunder-roll upon my ear. 
And, swift advancing to the brink, I saw 
Niagara plunging headlong down its rocks, 
Shaking my very being to its center. 
And giving, with its mighty strength, the earth 
And trees one general tremor. Roar and crash 
Were blended. The majestic arch sprang o'er 
And disappeared in white and tumbling chaos, 
Whence rose again a glittering diamond shape, 
Where danced a rainbow, gorgeous as the one 

POEM. 41 

That sprang above the Ark at Ararat. 

As there I looked with my excited eye, 

It seemed like that great angel which did come 

To John's enkindled vision, " down from heaven, 

Clothed wdth a cloud," a rainbow on his head, 

With thunders uttering voices where he stood. 

Could fetters bind it ? why, it shouted hoarse 

Its deep disdain, and hiss'd its very scorn; 

Rolling and rolling, plunging, dashing down. 

In wrathful strife its fierce, tremendous floods ; 

Oh what could chain that mighty w^atery mammoth ! 

With its white tusks, its flashing, gleaming shape ! 

That Thunder- Water, as the red man called it. 

Nought ! and as on its grandeur still I gazed, 

Emblem sublime it seemed of LIBERTY. 

The summer sun was setting on the hills 

That wall the valley of that lovely stream, 

The No-wah-dah-yeh of the Iroquois, , 

And Mohawk of the English. The rich gold 

Tipp'd the thick roofs and steeples of the city, 

And, slanting, fell on fields of furrowing corn 

And billowy wheat. I stood beneath a tree, 

Where sunset, laughing in the leaves, let down 

Glimpses of golden green, like fire-fly sparkles ; 

The wind — ^made sw^eet with kissing flowers — roam'd round, 

Fainting with fragrance — touch'd the lazy grass, 

Then fell, and fluttered on my brow, as though 

'Twould die in its own perftime, and the bee 

Seem'd loud with its deep hum amidst the quiet ; 

Suddenly pealed a bell upon my ear. 

And looking round, the sun's last beams I saw 

Edging the two gray fabrics on their hiU — 

Union in name and spirit — and I thought, 

As pour'd their throngs upon the green before them, 

They stood there in their leam'd and high repose, 

An emblem bright and beautiful of KNOWLEDGE. 


Gentlemen op the Philomathean Society : 

The Literary Societies of our Colleges, like the one to 
which we belong, are voluntary associations. They have 
their origiUj partly, in the desire for more intimate and se- 
lect fellowship than that which belongs to the members of 
the College in general ; but, more essentially, in that strong 
and noble tendency of the human mind to throw itself 
upon its own resources, to create for itself means and facil- 
ities of improvement, and to attain to the consciousness of 

In the routine of College studies and discipline, we are 
under governors and tutors, who prescribe for us, and we 
have only to obey. This, of course, is demanded in the 
very conception of formal and rudimental education, where 
erudition and experience are charged with the task of fur- 
nishing the beginnings of knowledge, of guiding the first 
efforts of thought, and of initiating the unformed and inex- 
perienced into legitimate methods and a right worthy dis- 
cipline, by which they may grow up to be men, and be- 
come prepared to think and act for themselves. 

But, while this process is going on, the young mind 
gains a taste of its own capabilities ; the very effort to ac- 
complish a task calls out a sense of its own inward life and 
strength : — in receiving nutriment and quickening influen- 


ces from the soil, the atmosphere, and the sunshine, this 
self-conscious germ becomes aware of what itself contri- 
butes by its own organific force ; and perceives, very 
clearly, that the soil, the atmosphere, and the sunshine, 
would avail nothing, unless it were all the while meeting 
them with its own law and self-creating energy. Thus 
this very education under governors and tutors serves to 
develope the conception of another, and indeed the ultimate 
form of education — the education of one's-self by one's own 
thought, purpose and effort. This is the education upon 
which we enter, when we leave the Institution's of learn- 
ing, and go abroad into the world : — an education which 
runs parallel with this mortal life — which runs parallel 
with this immortal being. 

Now in the midst of our College life, where the system 
of education prescribed is wise, genial and generous, is it 
not natural for these young ardent minds, smit with the 
love of knowledge, and earnest in self cultivation, to feel an 
impulse to try their own hand at creating Institutions, col- 
lecting means of improvement, and forming modes of dis- 
cipline, by which they shall help themselves and help one 
another, and co-operate genially with the authoritative dis- 
cipline prescribed by College statutes ? Thus spring into 
existence the Society Halls, with their libraries and cabi- 
nets ; thus appear the self-imposed courses of reading, the 
stirring debates, the cultivation of composition and oratory, 
manly efforts at criticism, and all the life interest, social 
attachments and invaluable results of volmitary and inde- 
pendent literary association. 

The Philomathean is the oldest Society of this kind 
connected with our Alma Mater. It indeed began its career 
in the Academy which formed the germ of the College, and 


it has grown with its growth, and strengthened with its 

As the College increased, the same law of literary asso- 
ciation, which called into being this Society, called into 
being also other worthy societies of the same kind. Such 
a society loses much of its interest, where it embraces too 
large a number ; for then its life is too thinly diffused into 
many members, and a too abundant foliage prevents a rich 
produce of perfected fruit. Select fellowship now perishes. 
There will arise also peculiarties of views and tastes. 
Thus occasions must exist for new organizations accom- 
plishing the same general end. Then a manly competition 
will follow ; and many a talent and noble energy, which 
had been slumbering in the old all comprehending associa- 
tion, will be brought to light in the ambition and the inte- 
rest of the new undertaking. And ever afterwards side by 
side will they move onwards, striving in a race where 
many crowns are to be won ; and where the success of one 
competitor only serves to stimulate the others. In the 
Olympic Games he only wore the olive crown who had 
overcome all competitors ; and the triumph of one brought 
humiliation and despair to many. In this race, disgrace 
attends only inactivity and imbecility. Here, a just mea- 
sure of success is awarded to every worthy exertion. Wide 
and fair and full of sunlight are the fields of literature ; 
every hill is crowned with olives, every valley sparkling 
with fountains. Here, every soul smit with the love of 
truth, the love of the beautiful and the good, may drink at 
pleasure, and walk in friendship with the beautiful Apollo, 
and receive from him a fitting wreath, plucked from the 
sacred Olive. 

The Philomathean Society, in celebrating this semi-cen- 
tennial, claims to be the oldest Society of our Alma Mater, 


and the parent of the others. She looks upon them with 
eyes of benignity and love : — she blesses and is proud of 
her offspring : and she feels assured that they cannot be 
indifferent to an occasion which recals a common origin, 
common pursuits, and exalts the aims and sympathies of a 
common literary life. Or if the claim of parentage be too 
ambitious, then we will clasp hands as the sister " fair- 
cheeked" Graces ; and she will be Aglaia with Euphrosyne 
and Thalia on either hand — Splendor surrounded by Joy 
and Pleasure. 

What thoughts crowd into this hour ! Philomatheans ! 
were all here assembled who have borne our name and worn 
our badge, more than twelve hundred human beings would 
claim our fellowship— a number nearly equal to half of the 
graduates of our Alma Mater. Of these, two hundred or 
more are numbered with the dead. Some have fallen in 
early prime ; some at their noontide ; and some, after life's 
long weary day, have gone to repose with the setting sun. 
Some have died in the bosom of their homes ; some have 
left their bones on foreign shores. Among our dead, are 
names that gave glorious promise when they were un- 
timely cut down ; others, that left void, places of high hon- 
or, trust, and sacred usefulness ; and to a few has been 
allotted, what the conditions of humanity never allot to the 
many, to fill up the measure of their days in deeds of pat- 
riotism, humanity, and holy benevolence, and to be gath- 
ered in as shocks fully ripe. 

If the survivors were all present, it would be but a more 
numerous throng of what is here now represented. We 
who met in different groups, in different years, in yonder 
venerable hall, with one common character — companies of 
ardent, ingenuous, ambitious youth, eagerly looking out 
upon the wide world — to us a world of promise, — We have 


come together now, gathered from that world in which we 
have been running our race ; — We have come from com- 
munities widely separated and diversified, from every va- 
riety of pursuit, and having endured every form of human 
discipline and trial : We are men of different generations, 
shewing different touches of time. Hoary age, ripened 
manhood, manhood in its prime, and youth merging into 
manhood — we stand together on this mount of Observation ; 
around us the shadows of the past are gathered ; and upon 
us shines the light of the future : — Here are the evening 
and the morning. 

Many meet now who never met before in this fellow- 
ship : w^e are filled with emotions of strangeness and sur- 
prise as we look upon each other, and we are ready to 
exclaim, can it be that we were once alike, that we occu- 
pied the same places, and were busy in the same pursuits ! 
Some meet now who have met before in this fellowship ; — 
whose merry feet trod together the well beaten paths, who 
reclined together on these green banks, whose cheerful 
voices made accordant music, who sat together in the So- 
ciety hall, or sauntered through the library, who were 
bosom friends or manly competitors in that little secluded 
world, with its politics, strifes, interests and honors. How 
changed from what we were ! We bear the marks of the 
toil — we are covered with the dust of the conflicts of life. 
And yet the true heart within us is not changed. We look 
upon each others faces, and beneath these marks of years, 
and these scars of duty, there brighten up the features of 
our early youth. Long slumbering feelings reawaken— - 
the seal of time is melted, and the soul speaks in voices 
that we have heard before. 

The enduring property of friendship depends upon its 
character — upon the principles which Ue at its foundation. 


There are many pleasant friendships which are not deep, 
and pass away with the occasion and the hour. They are 
chance flowers scattered here and there along our path, 
yielding a grateful fragrance, and then wither and are for- 
gotten. The enduring friendships spring up from some 
remarkable congeniality of temper, from being associated 
in great and good works, and from a community of noble 
aims. Human souls, like plates of polished glass, cohere 
from the nice correspondency of their attracting points. 
But it is not in the nature of the human soul to have its 
mighty depths stirred by trivial interests ; — its strongest 
affections cannot be given without an adequate object. 
The light, the vain, and the thoughtless, can love nothing 
well and enduringly. They love themselves best of all, but 
they love themselves only as a vain show. They degrade 
their own being in reducing it to the measure of their own 
affection. But when the soul loves that which it knows is 
worthy to be loved, because, in its own inward conscious- 
ness, it perceives how it answers to its own rational idea 
and spiritual affection, then it expands itself to the great- 
ness of its object, and becomes one with it by a deathless 
affinity. Now when several souls thus love a universal 
and absolute good, they must love one another. Each soul 
becomes to the others a mirror in which are reflected the 
beautiful heavens : — nay, each becomes to the others a 
form of spiritual life which is the multiplication of its own 
spiritual life : they seem to have a multiform existence — 
an existence in themselves by the individual consciousness, 
and an existence in each other by the common exalted 
affection. Or, they seem to go out of themselves, and to 
forget themselves, in seeking the universal good and fair ; 
and in finding this, they find themselves, and meet and 
embrace each other. 


Nor does this necessarily presume the same degree, but 
only the same principle of development : for, upon many 
mountains and hills of different altitudes, rests the same 
sunlight, as they lift themselves towards the same heavens : 
and the lily aspires and grows upward, as well as the 
magnolia : and concentric circles have one centre, although 
different circumferences, where the radii of the vast are but 
the prolongation of the radii of the minute. Here is the 
harmony of souls — the unity of the spirit. 

The pursuits of Literature constitute an exemplification 
of this divine principle. Here is a community of lofty aims 
and passions which bind human hearts together : — in be- 
coming philomatheans we become philanthropists — lovers 
of learning, we are lovers of man. 

Indeed, when we speak of literature, we comprehend the 
whole action of the human mind in the pursuit and disse- 
mination of knowledge and virtue. Literature is written 
language ; and the gift of language is coordinate with the 
gift of reason, of thought, sensibihty and imagination. 
Without these high faculties and functions, man would be 
incapable of receiving, comprehending, or using language ; 
and with these he cannot but have language. As he now 
uses it, what a scope it affords to his faculties ! How it 
enables him to multiply and diffuse his being ! Has he a 
noble thought, he can now make it reappear in myriads of 
minds : he utters a few sounds, and the secret thought 
which was known only to himself, takes wings and flies 
abroad, and becomes a universal possession : he makes a 
few marks on paper, and it belongs to posterity. Has he a 
feeling boiling up from the depths of his spirit, and thril- 
ling all his faculties, he has but to frame sounds with his 
lips, and multitudes are moved as the sea when the tem^ 


pest passes over it ; or he marks down again a few lines, 
and his passion kindles up all hearts to the end of time. 

Does some beautiful vision, or some heroic theme, take 
possession of his soul, and frame itself into connected inci- 
dents and changing scenes, presenting a glorious array of 
men and things and great deeds ; — at once it runs out into 
sweet and melodious sounds, and a stirring and lofty epic 
wakes the imagination of nations and of ages. Does a 
people distinguish itself by its legislators, warriors, artists, 
poets, orators and philosophers ; — the historian holds up 
the great example, and gives it in charge to immortality. 
All passions, purposes, thoughts, discoveries, inventions, 
and imaginations — oratory, history, poetry, philosophy, sci- 
ence, find their expression in language, their vehicle of 
communication, and the instrument of their power. 

Man knows, thinks, feels, and wills. The activities of 
his mind have their definite laws and relations ; and hence 
when he seeks to give an external expression of his inter- 
nal consciousness, the external expression must have defi- 
nite laws and relations likewise. What his mind is in its 
inherent capacities, and in the degree and mode of its 
developement, such will his language be. 

There are two impulses which lead him to language. 
The first respects the individual himself: — it is an impulse 
of his intellectual nature. In attempting to know and 
comprehend the objects every where presented him, he is 
directed by a law of his mind to classify them ; but having 
classified them, he requires some common signs by which 
to represent the different classes. While he is attending to 
individual objects merely, he may carry in his mind the 
clear and full conception of each one : but inasmuch as a 
general classification is founded upon the abstraction of 
some particular quality or qualities common to all the indi- 


viduals, and yet adequately descriptive of no particular 
one, or at most descriptive of the lowest order only — it is 
plain he can make no representation in his thought which 
shall strictly embody the abstraction. For the purposes of 
his own thought, therefore, he must have some sign, some 
form of language, by which to express his classifications* 

The second impulse lies in his social nature. The indi- 
vidual man cannot isolate himself; — he is one of many, 
and the bonds are strong which bind him to his fellows. 
Indeed all sensitive creatures are impelled in some way to 
commune with their kind, and they all have signs well 
imderstood among themselves. But man has a commu- 
nity of Reason, beautiful emotions, glorious imaginings, 
and sacred sympathies ; and therefore he, least of all, is 
able to separate himself from his kind, and become an iso- 
lated being. Man's nature commands him to form fami- 
lies, neighborhoods, and nations. But in order to this he 
must have language. Language, therefore, is a spontane- 
ous outflow of his social nature. 

Spoken language grows out of the necessities of an 
intellectual and social creature, in all the conditions of his 
being: — ^man every where and always requires spoken 

Written language grows out of the necessities of civili- 
zation and refinement. The useful arts, legislation, and 
commerce, require it for recording principles, laws, and 
rules, and for facilitating the exchange of commodities. 

But these alone cannot give birth to literature. A nation 
must have sciences and scientific men, the arts of the beau- 
tiful and artists, philosophy and philosophers ; and that it 
may have poetry and history, it must have heroic and glo- 
rious recollections — a strong and glowing consciousness of 
national greatness. A mere mechanical, commercial and 


bargaining people, can have no literature ; for the mere 
calculating and utilitarian functions of the soul do not con- 
tain the elements of truth, religion and beauty ; and hence 
they cannot supply matter worthy of enduring record — 
they can only give the story of the homely and ordinary 
life, which is ever the same. 

But where a people has education and refinement and 
great men — there will be both matter for literature, and lite- 
rary productiveness. And the history of such a people 
must be perpetuated. 

The merchant, with his stately counting houses and 
proud ships may pass away ; the lofty domes of exchanges, 
banks, and custom houses, be crumbled to the ground ; ca- 
nals and railroads choked with ruins : the palaces of the 
rich and gay may vanish like a morning vapour ; forms of 
government may become an exploded experiment, and migh- 
ty states lose their existence and name in some mightier em- 
pire : but the achievements of literature will stand as proud 
and enduring monuments when every thing else is for- 

In one point of view Greece is perished and forgotten. 
For centuries trampled down as a poor slave, she lost the 
consciousness of national existence : and the feeble life of 
her modern resurrection, under the toy-like sceptre of a Ba- 
varian boy, gives no promise that the age of Pericles or of 
Miltiades will ever return. But we turn from a miserable 
bigoted people, to the remains of her ancient art and litera- 
ture. Here we say, Greece is not forgotten. The ruined 
Parthenon is worth more than the living kingdom. The 
Greece that we think of with enthusiasm, is the Greece 
which has handed down to us the remains of the chisel of 
Praxitiles and Phidias ; the poems of Homer, Hesiod, ^Es- 
chylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Pindar ; the histories of 


Thucidides, Heroditus, and Xenophon ; the logic of Aris- 
totle ; the philosophy of Plato — yes, the dialogues of the 
old man Socrates, whom the world reveres as the holiest 
and sublimest of philosophers, but to whom his countrymen 
gave the cup of hemlock : and yet they have perished 
while he lives — he lives, one of the imperishable monu- 
ments on which the name of his country is inscribed, and 
by which his coimtry is remembered. 

Nature too is exalted and immortalized by the touch of 
genius. Olympus, Parnassus, Hymettus, and Helicon, are, 
in themselves, of the ordinary type ; the Ilissus is a lazy 
insignificant stream ; the vale of Tempo like many a beau- 
tiful valley which nature hath made ; but song and philos- 
phy have given them undying voices of majesty, beauty) 
and truth. 

" Though here no more Apollo haunts the grot, 
And thou, the Muses' seat, art now their grave, 

Some gentle spu*it still pervades the spot, 
Sighs in the gale, keeps silence in the cave. 

And glides v^rith glassy foot o'er yon melodious wave." 

Literature and art alone give immortality to nations ; for, 
were it possible for a nation to atttain to greatness without 
them, still, without them, there would be no records for 
posterity. Surpassingly momentous therefore is the voca- 
tion of the men of Art and Literature — strong and holy the 
bonds by which they are united in one fraternity. To 
them are committed the paramount interests of humanity 
— the life of society is beating in their hearts. 

Alas ! alas ! their fate has been but too uniform ! While 

living, prone to be regarded as drones in the body politic : 

— they manufacture no fabrics of utility, their labors do not 

sustain war, nor extend commerce, nor make increase oi 

public wealth. Often no account is taken of them while 

toiling in sadness and poverty, and they wither by neglect, 



- — or sink into the grave by the relentless hand of persecu- 
tion — or they are compelled by inexorable necessity to 
waste energies which were designed for the world of beauty 
and truth, in the vulgar world of politics and trade. 

And when they are gone, their countrymen awake as 
from a dream ! Then they exclaim, The great and 
good were among us, and we knew it not ! We saw not 
the Angel of light, until he threw off the mortal robes in 
which he was disguised ! And yet, when they turn to 
the works which he has left behind, there are the marks of 
the Master hand — -there is that by which they ought to 
have known him. 

Then, in vain regrets, they build monuments on the top 
of sacred mountains, or in old abbeys. Then they boast 
to other nations of their great man ; — proudly they say, 
Have you a Socrates, a Milton, a Shakspeare ? The mur- 
dered philosopher, the poor old blind and persecuted poet, the 
obscure player, now become the sapphire foundations of 
national greatness and glory. Now it seems that a nation 
could spare any of the monuments of its pride and grand- 
eur, rather than the works and the memory of its great 

Could Socrates, Milton, and Shakspeare return to our 
world in their identical forms and characters, how the mul- 
titude would rush to see those kings of thought ! what a 
universal homage ! what expressions of love and admira- 
tion would be heaped upon them ! And yet, by a sort of 
metempsychosis, which sometimes takes place, let them 
reappear in other forms and under other names, and the 
same fate, which smote them in their ancient forms, might 

await them again. 


^ But are there not exceptions to this sad picture ? Have 
not Letters and Art sometimes met with noble rewg^rds ? 


And as society advances, does there not appear an auspi- 
cious change ? 

That there have been exceptions — that noble rewards 
have been bestowed, and that these rewards are becoming 
more promising, may be granted, without affecting a gene- 
ral truth which I wish here to expound, namely, that Lite- 
rature, under those forms which reach the highest and 
holiest ends, cannot look for its rewards in the vulgar gain 
of the world, but must be led on by motives of a widely 
different character. I would expound this truth not in the 
spirit of merely finding fault with the world, and patheti- 
cally and indignantly descanting upon the martyrdom of 
genius, but that we may ascertain the true mission of Lite- 
rature and Art, and see how sacred and magnanimous are 
their duties. 

In the first place, it cannot be denied that, as a matter of 
history, the picture we have drawn does apply to the high- 
est order of genius, and to those most masterly works 
which have constituted and elevated a nation's literature. 
Great men have labored without reward, and without the 
hope of reward, unless it were the anticipated judgment of 

The two highest forms of ^Esthetical Literature are, the 
Epic and the Drama : and the loftiest names which fig- 
ure in these are, Homer, Dante, Tasso, Milton, and Shak- 
speare. We may take these as our illustrations. 

The Epic and the Drama are the complements of his- 
tory. History gives only bare facts, and those chiefly 
which take place in public life. But the human mind 
does not rest satisfied with the bare facts. The grand 
events of history — those events which involve the rise and 
fall of nations, by a strong moral and spiritual instinct, it 
connects with a superintending Providence, and dignifies 


with supernatural interpositions. All nations of all ages 
exhibit this instinct, whether in the forms of a pure and 
rational religion, or of a wild and terrible superstition. 

Now Epic poetry aims to supply, by its imaginary crea- 
tions, this deficiency in history. History, we have said, 
^ives us the actions of men only as facts. Epic poetry 
takes up the same actions, and after embellishing them 
with an imaginary grandeur and heroism, and interweav- 
ing them Avith fictitious incidents, brings into the scene 
Supernatural Actors. The actions must in themselves be 
made to appear so lofty and heroic as, in a manner, to be 
worthy of divine direction and co-operation : and then the 
appearance of the divine actors both gives an unspeakable 
dignity and sublimity to the events, and explains their 
mystery by placing them in the light of the counsels of 

Hence the supernatural agency of the Epic is called The 
Machinery J since all the developements of the poem turn 
upon this agency. 

Lord Karnes has remarked with what appears to me a 
strange infatuation of criticism, that "the aim or end of an 
epic poem can never be obtained in any perfection, where 
machinery is introduced." Without attempting to refute 
the particular reason he assigns for this judgment, which 
indeed might easily be done, it is sufficient to reply, that 
the Epic admits of no just philosophical explication except 
on the ground of the machinery ; and that, in fact, to re- 
move the machinery would be to destroy every Epic poem 
in existence. Remove the supernatural from the Iliad and 
the Paradise Lost, and what would be left ? No ! the 
supernatural is the very soul of the Epic ; and answers in 
respect to history, an irrrepressible demand of the human 


There can be no question that the Epic is the noblest 
fomi of poetry ; and therefore it is called The Epic — The 
Word — the highest form of human thought and language 
— the song of songs — the poem of poems. It embraces 
some great action in the history of man ; it introduces the 
most heroic characters ; it narrates the most lofty and thril- 
ling events ; it employs a verse of the noblest melody ; it 
collects around its language all the splendor of imagery ; 
and behind this magnificent array, it places the counsels 
and agencies of divinities. 

Nor is there any thing improbable or unnatural in the 
Machinery, if it only conform to the popular or generally 
received religion of the nation from whose history the Epic 
springs. If the Epic Poet supplies the divine agencies to 
the events of history according to the mythological or reli- 
gious system of the people to whom he belongs and for 
whom he writes, he does, in truth, reach the moral effect 
of reality, just like the Dramatist who constructs his fictions 
on the basis of facts and the known principles of human 
nature. The Epic Poet cannot, indeed, give the actual and 
precise facts of divine agency, but he imagines and repre- 
sents the actions of Divinities so like what the national 
religion affirms must have happened, that by the national 
mind and heart they must seem to be the higher and more 
momentous part of the history itself The stories of the 
heroes of Homer were a most precious part of the national 
tradition, and devoutly believed by the people. The my- 
thological deities of Homer were the deities of the people ; 
and what the poet sung of their deeds in the heavens, in the 
sea, and on the earth, in the Grecian and Trojan camps, and 
amid the conflicts of the armies, appeared to them so pro- 
bable — such a natural and fit exhibition of their disposi- 
tions and might, that the religious belief, without experi-. 


encing any shock, enlarged itself to these creations of a 
sublime imagination. 

In referring to the Divina Comedia, I do not mean to 
affirm that it is an Epic poem. It is a unique poem. 
There never was — there never can be another like it. If it 
be taken as an Epic, then we must call it an Epic of indi- 
viduals, rather than of nations : not a historical, but a bio- 
graphical Epic ; and an Epic in which the lives and 
characters of men, who figured on earth, are read in the 
presence of their eternal destinies. It is altogether a crea- 
tion of the supernatural. 

To Dante's own mind it was a reality. He writes with 
the seriousness, the dignity, the sincerity and earnestness 
of a man who sees and believes. To the men of his times, 
and of the times subsequent, his book was like the leaves 
of the judgment. Here was the Theology — the strong be- 
lief of the men of the middle ages. 

Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered, is an Epic of the crusades, 
and represents the Christian Mythology of the middle ages, 
as truly as the Iliad represents the Greek Mythology of the 
age of Homer. These poems are alike the supernatural 
complements of grand heroic histories. 

Indeed, we have only to appeal to our own experience, 
in order to verify this representation. We, too, have 
a . great Epic, whose machinery is drawn from the 
strongholds of our faith. Judged by the facts and doc- 
trines of the Bible, the Paradise Lost is based upon the 
strongest probabilities. The Bible history is indeed an 
Epic history, for it contains the supernatural complement 
as a part of its veritable, facts. This elevates it above all 
other histories. But the Bible history is brief, particularly 
that part which relates to the creation and fall of man. 
But this brief history is powerfully suggestive, and taken 


in connection with numerous allusions made to it through- 
out Holy Writ, and with the doctrines of moral good and 
evil, becomes the basis of supernatural conceptions, which 
give Milton's poem the first place in point of sublimity and 
moral interest. Now would it do any violence to our reli- 
gious belief, to receive this poem as containing a statement 
of facts ? Nay, when reading it, do we not seem to be engag- 
ed with a veritable narrative, as well as with the sublimest 
and sweetest poetry ? And still more, is not our religious 
faith, with respect to the sinning angels and their malignant 
agencies, with respect to the first man, the particulars oY 
his fall, and the heavenly grace vouchsafed to him, influ- 
enced and substantially shaped by the terrible, the sublime, 
the lovely creations of Milton ? The angelic life in heaven 
seems to us like a real life. The rebellious angels, 
and their dwelling within the fiery cope and those 
burning walls of adamant, seem to us like the fiends 
and the hell of our belief That delicious Paradise, with 
its stately trees, its chrystal streams, its bowers of love, its 
genial clime, its golden fruits, its ever blooming flowers, its 
innocent creatures of strength, beauty and melody, and its 
forms of manhood, and of ideal feminine loveliness and 
grace, its circling hours of joy, its life of perfect love and 
peace, and its heavenly visitations, seems to us like the 
true form of that blissful dawn of pure and untainted life, 
of which the Sacred writings give us only a brief sketch. 
And even the counsels of the Father and the Son seem 
not unworthy of the most majestic doctrines of our The- 

Milton himself, with a noble enthusiasm — which w^ 
may pardon in him, as well as in Dante- — and with somo^ 
thing like the consciousness of one of the ancient proph- 
ets, invoked that 


" Spirit that dost prefer 
Before all temples, the upright heart and pure :" 

and while we read, we insensibly yield to the claim of 
inspiration, and feel awe struck, as if listening to a divine 

The miserable attempt of Voltaire to construct an Epic 
out of modern history, by means of the ancient Greek My- 
thology, was consistent with a genius which could artifi- 
cially combine, but which, having no sense of the divine, 
was not equal to the truth and dignity of a genuine Epic. 

Homer, Dante, Tasso, Milton, wrote from knowledge and 
from faith. Theirs was a true word, and a true work of 
art. Art may be fiction, but it has no falsehood and incon- 
gruity. Art is truth under the splendid forms of the ima- 
gination. Art is nature idealized by the imagination 
striving after the perfect. Every Epic Poem, therefore, 
constructed upon just principles, sustains and gives effect 
to the facts of history. 

We have said that the Epic and the Drama are the 
complements of history. The Epic is the supernatural 
complement. The Drama is the complement of pri- 
vate individual life. History gives us the actions of 
men on the theatre of public life. We do not see its great 
actors in the relations of domestic, familiar, and ordinary 
life. We cannot be present when their meditations are 
expressed in soliloquies, nor witness those secret intrigues 
which contain the springs of public events. History gives 
us only the public man. The Epic supplies the divine agen- 
cies which lead on and govern the great actions of the Hero. 
Now we are most curious to learn the familiar every day 
life of the individual who has dazzled our imagination in 
the public events of history. We wish to learn whether 
he possesses the ordinary sympathies of the race ; whether 


he can descend to common affairs ; we desire to read his 
secret motives, and to hear him counsel confidentially 
with his intimates. Nay, we would press into his religious 
beliefs and his superstitions ; we would know even the 
dreams which unveil his character ; and if he converse 
with demons, or good angels, or read the stars of destiny, 
we would be present at these awful ministries and prophe- 
cies. It is natural for us to look upon the hero as the child 
of destiny, and he is ever prone so to regard himself 

What history cannot do with its bare facts, the Drama 
accomplishes. As the Epic reveals a probable supernatu- 
ral agency relatively to public life, so the Drama reveals 
the probable agencies, both natural and supernatural rela- 
tively to private life. The Epic gives us the hero in alli- 
ance with divinities ; the Drama gives us the man^ with 
all the influences and circumstances of humanity collected 
around him. 

In order to reach its end, the Drama must conform to 
the true constitution of man — it must be psychologically 
true. This is the first requisite. After this, it must con- 
form to the facts of history, and to the manners and cus- 
toms of the nation and age in which the action is laid. 
Those details of the private and secret life which are want- 
ing in history, the great masters of the Drama supply by 
fictions, which we believe must be very like what really 
happened, because, constructed on right principles, they are 
intrinsically probable. 

Take as examples the historical plays of Shakspeare. 
Is any violence done here to nature or to history ? Is not 
the familiar life of the old English Kings, Lords, Peasantry 
and Soldiers brought to view as a reality ? Do we not feel 
that the genius of Shakspeare has raised from the dead 
what history had buried ? The Richard III, whom history 


offers to our view in public life, must have been the marl 
whom Shakspeare describes in his secret and familiar life. 
That portion of English history contained in the plays of 
Shakspeare, is better understood, and produces a more ge- 
neral moral effect than any other portion, where his genius 
has not illumined the page, and supplied the dramatic 
complement. If all history were illustrated by dramas like 
Shakspeare's, would not history be more real, more true-, 
and infinitely more instructive ? 

Now these two forms of Literature have given us the 
greatest works of human genius ; and the five names we 
have mentioned are the greatest the world has produced in 
these relations. 

Homer, in the Iliad, became the father of Grecian life, 
Grecian literature and art, Grecian civilization — and thus 
the father of all art, literature, and civilization, save that 
which belongs peculiarly to Christianity. For centuries 
his song was sung by the Rhapsodists throughout the Gre- 
cian states : and thus was there diffused and ripened the 
two great elements of Grecian character — the heroic and 
the beautiful. The Greek drama, the Greek plastic arts, 
the battles of Marathon, Platea, and Salamis, were all in- 
spired by that one great work; It was a great gift to his 
country, and to all future ages. 

Dante and Tasso spoke a word plastic and powerful in 
their times, like the Iliad to the ancient world. It was the 
birth of a glorious language — the opening of a new foun- 
tain of literature and art. 

Milton takes the loftiest stand of all in this form of lite- 
rature. Homer was of the Grecian life. Dante and Tasso 
of the life of the middle ages. Milton's is the Epic of uni- 
versal humanity, enlightened, redeemed, purified and 
adorned by the sun of Christianity. He has sung the life 


of man from the creation to the jddgment day. He has 
sung the counsels of heaven, the mysteries of providence 
and of grace. The highest reason, the highest faith, the 
most awful truth, and the most ravishing beauty are all 
combined in his wonderful poem. He has started thoughts 
which are like sunbeams upon the earth, and then, reflect- 
ed upwards, wander through eternity. 

In the other form of literature, Shakspeare has surpassed, 
and must forever surpass all others. He is the great ex- 
pounder of human nature : he has traced human life 
to its fountains ; he has analyzed human character 
into its constitutive elements. In him the severest 
truths are presented under the most perfect forms of art : 
and poetry and action, no longer the amusement of vacant 
hours, become the august teachers of that most elevated 
science, whose title only was inscribed on the temple at 
Delphi. Homer was the founder of the Epic. Shakspeare 
may almost be called the founder of the Drama, for he first 
developed its true idea. 

Now these five master spirits of humanity, producing in 
the two loftiest spheres of literature those master v\rorks, 
the destruction of which would be a greater calamity to the 
race, than the destruction of as many kingdoms — works 
which are destined to survive all the changes of time, and 
to remain the everlasting landmarks of thought — for what 
did they labor ? And what was their portion in the lot of 

Of the first, the history is doubtful : but this very doubt- 
fulness proves that neither riches nor honors were his. A 
wandering bard he surely was ; and perhaps, as his name 
may indicate, blind. A blind poet constructing his lofty 
verse, and singing of the sublime, the heroic, and the beau- 
tiful, under the piercing experience of human suffering,. 


His mind dwelt on Ida and Olympus amid the haunts and 
the thrones of the gods ; but he was a poor blind wanderer 
upon the earth. Poets, artists, learned men, nations, hook- 
sellers^ have lived upon his thoughts. The world has gi- 
ven boundless homage to the form of greatness dimly seen 
in the remote antiquity ; but while that form moved among 
men, we hear of no munificent patrons, of no places of 
power and splendor awarded him : he drove no profitable 
trade with enterprising publishers : he threw his bread 
upon the waters, and his memory alone hath found it after 
many days. 

Dante was an exile — a persecuted, sorrow-stricken man. 
*' It came to be evident to him," says Carlyle, " that he had 
no longer any resting place or hope of benefit in this earth. 
The earthly world had cast him forth to wander ; no living 
heart to love him now ; for his sore miseries there was no so- 
lace here. The deeper naturally would the eternal world 
impress itself on him ; that awful reality over which, after 
all, this time-world, with its Florences and banishments, 
only flutters as an unreal shadow. Florence thou shalt 
never see : but Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, thou shalt sure- 
ly see. What is Florence, Can della Scala, and the world 
and life altogether ? Eternity : thither of a truth, not else- 
whither, art thou and all things bound ! The great soul 
of Dante, homeless on earth, made its home more and more 
in that awful other world. Naturally his thoughts brooded 
on that, as the one fact important for him. ***** 
Dante's heart long filled with this — brooding over it in 
speechless thought and awe, bursts forth at length into 
" mystic, unfathomable song," and his divine comedy, the 
most remarkable of all modern books, is the result." 

Never did human genius produce a more unearthly book. 
It was written under the inspiration of no earthly motive 


whatever. It was written, you may say, from a bm'sting 
heart — it was a wail of despair : No, it was written by a 
man who, in his inward greatness and strength, had tri- 
umphed over the agony and despair of earth ; and then, 
anticipating eternity, walked through the circles of Hell, 
toiled up the mount of Purgatory, and at length reposed in 
the beatific visions of Paradise. It was wrought out of the 
depths of his soul as an experience and a hope. Like eve- 
ry true work of genius, it was an irrepressible thought that 
would be spoken. 

The reward of Tassowas neglect and poverty, and seven 
years imprisonment under a charge of madness, because 
he hortored with noble, faithful love, a woman of higher 
rank than his own. Now, her only immortality is that he 
loved her : the only immortality of his enemies, that they 
were his enemies. 

" Long years ! it tries the thrilling frame to bear, 

And eagle spirit of a child of song — 

Long years of outrage, calumny and wrong ; 

Imputed madness, prisoned solitude, 

And the mind's canker in its savage mood. 

Where the impatient thirst of light and air 

Parches the heart." 

There is no sadder history in the history of genius. 

John Milton was not a victim of petty Guelph and Ghib- 
beline factions, nor of narrow, aristocratic jealousy. He 
was a martyr of great principles for which he had battled 
from prime manhood to old age. Old, poor, and blind, he 
was suffered to emerge from concealment, and to occupy 
an obscure corner of London. But his mind and character 
were unchanged. His whole being was of the most beau- 
tiful and perfect proportions. Like a Grecian temple, 
nothing unequal, nothing out of place, nothing to mar the 
grand effect. His character might be drawn as a general 


scholar, a metaphysician, a divine, a pohtician, a poet, or 
simply as a christian man, and it would appear resplendent 
in all. And were we to draw his character in all these 
respects, in the horn- of his highest prosperity ; and then 
again, when he was old and blind, poor and neglected ; 
instead of finding aught in the second portrait that would 
throw shame upon the beauty and majesty of the first, we 
should find it beaming with the same intellect, poetry and 
purity, only heightened by expressions of resignation and 
fortitude, and of a mind more heavenly, as engaged now in 
meditating that immortal song which crowned his labors. 
It was amid this wreck of his fortunes, without patrons 
without any hope on earth, but the hope of leaving a bles- 
sing behind him, that he dictated the Paradise Lost : — the 
Paradise Lost — a legacy to his country and to mankind — 
a legacy whose value cannot be expressed by the wealth 
of kingdoms ; and yet it brought him few readers and only 
fifteen pounds ! But John Milton was not disappointed 
nor cast down. He wrote not as the hireling of booksel- 
lers ; he wrote not as the flatterer of patrons ; he wrote not 
as the pander to a perverted public taste. He wrote from 
an " inward prompting which," says he, " grew daily upon 
me, that by labour and intense study, (which I take to be 
my portion in this life,) joined with the strong propensity 
of nature, I might perhaps leave something so written, to 
after times, as they should not wiUingly let die. These 
thoughts at once possessed me ; and these other, that if I 
were certain to write as men buy leases, for three lives and 
downwards, there ought no regard to be sooner had, 
than to God's glory by the honor and instruction of my 

The strong propensity of the poetical nature contemplat- 
ing ideal greatness, beauty, and perfection — the spirit of 



the artist, and the great call of duty to employ the, powers 
which God had given him in a work which, however dealt 
with in his own day, should run parallel with the race of 
time, and as a word of truth, beauty, and power, make its 
way, and work in the heart of all coming generations ; — 
these led him to form the great conception years before the 
hour of execution arrived. And as the work was great, so 
the preparation was great likewise : — " a work not to be 
raised from the heat of youth, or the vapours of wine, like 
that which flows at waste from the pen of some vulgar 
amourist, or the trencher fury of a rhyming parasite ; nor 
to be obtained by the invocation of dame memory and her 
syren daughters, but by devout prayer to that eternal spi- 
rit, who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and 
sends out his seraphim, with the hallowed fire of his altar, 
to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases : to this 
must be added industrious and select reading, steady obser- 
vation, insight into all seemly and generous arts and 

He had looked for " a calm and pleasing solitariness, fed 
with cheerful and confident thoughts," for the working out 
of his lofty plan. But the only solitariness which he 
found was that of old age, blindness, and the alienation of 
the world. And yet his majestic, unsubdued spirit accom- 
plished the task with the ease, freshness, and soaring ima- 
gination of halcyon days. The misfortunes of life could 
not cheat him out of the v/ork of life. At a time and under 
circumstances when others would have lain down to die, 
he rose with the " lark that, singing, up to heaven's gate 
ascends," and girded him to his labor. The past, to him, 
was a dream of glorious hopes, and manly exertions ; the 
present, a weary load of sorrow ; but in the future, lay his 
immortal Epic as a crown of glory^ 


Shak^peare's life was not one of deep, consuming sorrow, 
like Dante's ; nor one of high, stern conflicts for great prin- 
ciples in public places, like Milton's. And yet, it was the 
life of one combatting with fortune, unquestionably, imder 
many private sorrows and cares, until he had gained for 
himself a competency, and he went back to the banks of 
the Avon to rest himself and to die. 

He lived an obscure life — we know but little about him 
— and this alone tells of obscurity. His highest elevation 
was to be manager of a theatre. It is true he had some 
favor from the great. Southampton was his friend, and 
gave him a thousand pounds, it is said. Queen Elizabeth 
conversed with him, expressed her pleasure at his per- 
formances, and being delighted with the character of Fal- 
staif, made a suggestion which led to the composition of the 
Merry Wives of Windsor. King James issued his patent 
to the company of the Globe Theatre. And this was all. 
The Q,ueen was repaid a thousand fold by '•' the most en- 
chanting compliment ever paid by genius to royal vanity," 
in his Midsummer's Night Dream. 

But it comes to this — the greatest intellect, the greatest 
poet of England and of humanity, was approved as a play 
writer, and a play manager, and received such patronage as 
enabled him to retire on two hundred pounds a year ! 

What led to these stupendous dramas ? Was it his ne- 
cessities — this passing notice of the great — the prospect of 
this competency ? Here was the occasion — you must 
seek for the cause elsewhere. There is a heaven- wide dif- 
ference between an occasion and a cause. Many men 
have had like occasions with Shakspeare — nay, more, stir- 
ring occasions, and have done nothing. The cause was in 
the mighty genius of the man. He had occasion to write 



plays — he had to earn his bread. But genius does not Hve 
upon bread : it has its o^rn mighty inspiration in itself. 

As the developement of the reason from its profoundest 
depths, has its primary conditional or occasional starting 
point, in relation to time, in some movement of the sense — - 
a sensation of touch, or color, or sound, or perhaps, the 
mere inspiration of a breath of air ; so with genius, it may 
be some trivial circmnstance — a word — a jest — a look — 
some shock of pride — some touch of human suffering — 
an indignity and petty persecution from some Sir Tho- 
mas Lucy, which leads to the first determination, which 
occasions the first movement of the mighty thought : but 
thenceforward, it moves by its own inward strength, and 
within the sphere of its own clear and glorious perceptions. 
The occasion which awakens it, is of small account ; if it 
did not fijid one occasion, it would find some other : — soon- 
er or later it must awaken, and know itself, and do its 

In a world where the allotments^ of fortune are so mie- 
qual, it is not surprising that a sense of want should so 
often form the occasion for the development of genius. 
Want knocks at the storehouse where great thoughts and 
energies are yet slumbering : the master within awakes, and 
strives to relieve the humble, urgent petitioner ; — the doors 
fly open, and troops of angels issuing forth, scatter the 
earth with flowers, open chrystal fountains in the deserts, 
and fill the cope of heaven with melody. Want may be 
relieved, or may be forgotten, in this world of beauty where 
genius is now at work. 

One of the most remarkable characteristics of Shak- 

speare is his indifference to every thing but the exertion of 

his genius. He met the demands of want indeed — but he 

met them moderately and even humbly. Nor does he 



manifest any ambition of fame — ^he seems almost uncon- 
scious of his own greatness. He moved amid his 
own matchless creations, satisfied with his own silent 
delight, and not caring what the world would say of 
him, nor dreaming that he was to fill all future ages with 
his name. He came into the world, " the free gift of na- 
ture ; given altogether silently — received altogether silently 
as if a thing of little account ;"* and silently he went out 
of the v^rorld. The generation in Avhich he lived did not 
collect the materials of his biography, and he left nothing 
behind him written of himself He lived in his dramas 
while he lived, of no more account than the world pleased 
to make of them. But now he will live in his dramas 
while the world lives. 

We have now considered the two highest forms of Lite- 
rature, and the five great names which figure here. Ho- 
mer, of the world of ancient classic beauty. Dante and 
Tasso,t of the middle ages. Milton and Shakspeare of the 
modern world. We have nothing greater or more perfect 
in Literature to speak of. And here these men with their 
works are before us. We have only been stating facts. 
Their lot was not the lot of power, wealth, or pleasure. 
The motives which led to the stupendous creations which 
form the glory of mankind, and which, if they were taken 
away, would leave the world irreparably poor — were not 
drawn from the ordinary sources which inspire human ac- 
tivity. It were easy to add to these names from the his- 
tory of the great and good among mankind. And the con- 
clusion at which we should inevitably arrive, would be, 
that those noble and efficient labors which have led on all 

* Carlyle. 

+ Tasso himself, indeed, did not live in the middle ages, but his mind 
was there ; his great Epic is the echo of the middle ages. 


improvements, and made the world what it is in science, 
literature, art, and religion, have had their origin in lofty 
views of truth, beauty, benevolence, and duty. 

If we now proceed from the facts, to consider the true 
principle of activity and productiveness in Literature and 
the arts, we shall find that nothing less than motives drawn 
from these sources, can afford a sufficient, inspiration for 
any truly great work. The noblest natures have drawn 
their motives from all these sources combined ; others, from 
only a part ; but, altogether, or, in part, they must enter 
into the production of every great work. 

In the first place, he who undertakes any great work, 
whether in philosophy, science, art, or religion, does often, 
by that very undertaking, make an advance beyond the 
spirit of his age, and leave its sympathies behind him. 

It is common in our day, with those who make wide 
generalizations in philosophical history, to represent the 
great man as the exponent of the spirit of his age. The 
truth of this representation will depend, so far as it can be 
true, upon what we mean by the spirit of the age, and 
the character we assign to it. If we mean by the spirit of 
the age, the opinions and proclivities of the masses of the 
people, then, if these be the result of high principles of 
truth and liberty permeating the masses, he, of those who 
have gone before us, was the great man, who, rising above 
the prejudices, ignorance, and bigotry of a previous age, 
disseminated these principles, and enthroned them in the 
popular mind. And he is now the great man, who, col- 
lecting the prevalent opinions and tendencies, springing 
from so high a source, into one focus of action, works out, 
by their means, some grand reform in civil, social, and reli- 
gious life. 


But if the movement of the popular mind be in the di- 
rection of error and fanaticism, then the leader and expo- 
nent of the popular will is but a rampant demagogue, or a 
furious bigot. He may be an orator in the use of the 
isacred names of patriotism and religion : he may be an 
inflammatory and acute writer in newspapers and periodi- 
cals : he may be deeply read in human nature under its 
worst, weakest and darkest attributes, so that, as a pander 
to the appetites and perverted judgments of men, he may 
exercise a mighty influence over multitudes, and ride into 
power upon a storm of evil I in fine, he may gain his endSj 
and attain to what the world calls success ; but great he 
can never be, if truth be great, if virtue be great, if God be 

But do we mean by the spirit of the age, those doctrines 
and opinions which have obtained among the thinking 
few, who, after all, give enduring character to an age ; — 
then, the great man is he who, reviewing these by a clear 
and powerful philosophical criticism, eliminates error from 
truth, and collects results after which the thinking minds 
have in diflerent ways, and, it may be, through successive 
ages been struggling, and to which they have all contribu- 
ted something ; — have contributed even by their mistakes 
and errors : for no one that truly thinks, thinks altogether 
in vain. Cicero remarks that he would rather err with 
Plato, than find truth with his opponents ; and I think 
with good reason, for the errors of some minds are more 
suggestive than the truths of others. And so he who, 
reviewing the beliefs of his age in the master minds, 
tracing their origin and their progress, and describing their 
present development, comes at last to a logical projection of 
weighty and commanding truths, is entitled to be conside- 
red great, as the faithful exponent of the spirit of his age. 


He is an exponent of light, power, and beneficence ; for, he 
has reduced chaos to order, and distinguished between 
wandering comets, and the worlds of productiveness and 
beauty, which move in harmonious orbits around the all- 
binding centre. 

But it must be in the grand progress of thought, that the 
great teachers of truth, beauty, and goodness, shall come 
into conflict with error, perversion and malignity ; and that 
ere the battle be won, many of the noblest perish as vic- 
tims. Socrates must drink the hemlock, ere Plato can 
write his dialogues, and receive universal homage at the 
Olympic games. Gallileo must be imprisoned ere Newton 
can proclaim the true system of the universe. Jerome of 
Prague and John Huss must die at the stake, ere Luther 
can lead on the Reformation. Hampden and Sidney must 
fall ere Washington can triumph in the battles of liberty. 
Nay, Christianity herself could be introduced only by the 
crucifixion of its Divine Author, and the martyrdom of his 
Apostles. Mankind at large, in many ages, have been like 
the captives whom Plato has described, in the cave with 
their backs turned to the light, and beholding only sha- 
dows. The great man is the solitary one who turns from 
the shadows, escapes from captivity, and walks out to be- 
hold the sun in the heavens ; but who, when he returns to 
proclaim his glorious discovery to the captives below, is 
accounted worthy of death, for the very reason that he 
contradicts their science, exposes their shadowy percep- 
tions, and directs them to the world of light and reality 

The man who aims only to be the exponent of the spirit 
of his age, can never be great, for he is destitute of inde- 
pendent and original thought. He is the mere echo of the 
voice of the predominant multitude, whether in philosophy, 


politics, or religion. Even if the spirit of the age be en- 
lightened and benign, he is not great if he becomes its ex- 
ponent merely for conspicuity and influence : for now he 
is what he is, not from conviction and principle, but only 
from expediency. He is only a weathercock of a higher 
order, self-consciously trimming his plumage to the favor- 
ing gales. The great man critically examines the spirit of 
the age, and accepts it only as it accords with the princi- 
ples which govern him. Where it is wrong, he is ready 
to oppose it. He will take up his cross and follow truth 
through evil report. He will stand unmoved, like a rock 
in the ocean, when the angry voices of the multitude are 
swelling around him. He will bear calmly the persecution 
of powerful sects and parties. He v/ill consent to lie down 
in infamy, and bequeath to future generations the work of 
vindicating his name, when the truths for which he has 
battled shall have triumphed. There is in him a majestic 
composure and confidence. He lives not for a particular 
time, but for all times. He makes his secure home in im- 

But in order to prove the elevated motives which inspire 
the pursuits of Literature and Art, we may reason not only 
from the necessary position which he assumes relatively to 
the multitude who aims to effe(*t any great work ; — we 
may reason, also, from the peculiar nature and ends of 
these pursuits. The Philosopher, the Poet, the Artist, not 
only have the lot of greatness upon them, in emerging from 
the cavern and seeking a purer light; — such also is the 
work which they have to do, that they cannot do it, unless 
they turn away from vain time-shows to contemplate an 
absolute beauty, goodness, and truth. The inspiring forms 
of Art and Literature lie in an ideal world, and because an 
ideal world, a world of absolute and permanent reality. 


This, to many, may appear a contradiction, since, in the 
popular conception, the Ideal is ever the shadowy, dreamy, 
and unreal. Shall 1 myself he called a dreamer — a man 
in pursuit of shadows, if I affirm that the Ideal represents 
the highest form of reality ? Let me explain myself We 
will begin by accepting the Platonic definition of ideas 
psychologically considered, that they are the primordial 
seminal potencies in the Reason of all Knowledge. We 
will next take up ideas, logically considered, as primordial 
and general conceptions, or accepting here the Aristotelian 
notion — the categories under w^hich all our particular 
knowledges are capable of being reduced. Some of the 
most important and productive of these ideas are the ideas 
of the Perfect, the True, the Just, the Useful and the Beau- 
tiful. Now, by the idea-potencies producing the idea- 
conceptions, we not only know and comprehend, upon the 
proper sensuous conditions, that w^hich actually exists, but 
also that which is possible. But, under the possible, we 
embrace higher forms of perfection, truth, justice, utility 
and beauty, than w^hat the actual world affords. That is, 
we conceive that the principles existing and at work in 
nature might have riper and more glorious developments : 
nay, that in other worlds, they may now have such de- 
velopments. It is here that the imagination comes in as a 
mediatory, representative, and creative power, and projects 
into its own sphere the ideals of more perfect forms. Now, 
it is the effort to realize in the outer world these ideals 
which give birth to the highest productions of art. Sculp- 
ture, Architecture, the Epic, and the Drama, are embodi- 
ments of the ideal. In ideal creations, the supernatural is 
only a higher form of the natural. What then is the ideal 
but the more perfect real, not indeed the actual^ but the 
real — Truth, Justice, Goodness and Beauty, ripened to 


their highest measures 7 The actual is changeable and 
passing away by a steady progression. The ideal is that 
to which every thing is tending. Literature and the arts, 
in their finest productions, anticipate, prophecy, represent 
the end. It would be easy to show, also, how this ideali- 
sing process leads on the noblest inventions, under the con- 
ception of a more perfect utility : — how industry thus pa- 
tentiated and directed, has changed the face of the world 
• — how, reaching forward to higher purposes, it will change 
it still more, until every wilderness and solitary place shall 
rejoice, and every desert bud and blossom as the rose. The 
world is yet in its infancy, and ideals of more perfect social 
organization, of wide spread improvements, cf universal 
order and harmony, of universal peace and brotherhood, 
are even now inspiring multitudes under the dim light of 
crude philosophies, or under the clear radiance of a divine 
philosophy, basking in the sunlight of Christianity. 

What now is the mission of the man of Literature and Art? 
Is it not to study the permanent and absolute real in the 
Ideal, and by immortal works to inspire mankind with the 
sense of a higher nature, and a higher destiny — to show 
how wise and good we may become — that we are not 
mere dust and earth, but partakers of the Divine nature ? 
With such a mission, the low ends of temporary popularity, 
of worldly gain, of fading hours of pleasure, do not com- 
port. The true philosopher, the true artist, the true poet 
produce their works by contemplating the absolute and the 
perfect. They could not produce them in any other way. 
He who sets out to compass gain or political influence, 
fixes his mind upon these objects, and takes his measures 
accordingly. It is in living for these objects, that he be- 
comes what he aims to be. By the same necessity of 
thought, he who would compass great works of truth and 


beauty, must become absorbed in the true and beautiful — 
he must live in a higher and purer world. 

And this higher and pmer world, viewed in relation to 
poetry and the arts generally, is that world of ideal forms 
which the imagination creates from the idea-conceptions 
where men become more heroic and perfect, and nature 
more richly developed and beautiful — nay, where even 
evil is idealized into a ranker and more awful growth, and 
all this without violating the principles of humanity or of 
nature : and, viewed in relation to philosophy, is that 
world where truth reigns absolute, and the great problems 
of being are solved in the light of those eternal ideas which 
constitute the Intelligence of God ! 

Let the world deride thee, call thee a dreamer, account 
thee a fool in sacrificing the toys of wealth, power, and 
pleasure, O child of genius and of truth ! but hold thou on 
thy heavenward way — live in thy purer and more beautiful 
world — be inspired by the objects which surround thee, by 
the truths which beam upon thee, and do thy work faith- 
fully and manfully, and happy in thine own thoughts and 
aims, thou wilt strike out sparks of immortal light for the 
good of men and the honor of God. 

But have not men of letters and artists labored for bread 
like other men? Nay, have not some of their greatest 
works been produced under the pressure of the common 
wants of humanity ? It cannot be denied. They are sub- 
ject to all the conditions of an earthly existence. But it 
was not this which made them men of letters and artists. 
Had this been their end, it would have been better to have 
been mechanics or merchants — to have taken up any form 
of labor or business. And yet, the necessities of our earthly 
lot have had one important bearing upon the works of gen- 
ius : they have compelled to the completion of tasks which 



Otherwise might have remained in restless and unsatisfied 
thought, and in endless preparation. For he who has the 
brightest ideals, is most prone to be dissatisfied with the ma- 
terials in which he strives to give them an outward expres- 
sion, as well as with his own skill. The chisel and the mar- 
ble, the colors and the pencil, the words of human language 
already appropriated to ordinary uses, often seem imprac- 
ticable ; while, intense meditation upon a great subject re- 
veals such richness and beauty, that the hand trembles to 
attempt it : and thus a mind of the highest powers may be 
led, if not actually to distrust itself, at least, to distrust its 
present fitness and preparation ; and, instead of proceeding 
to the execution, may only involve itself in deeper study ; 
or, if making a beginning, may ever be remodelling, repro- 
ducing, retouching, in an endless struggle after perfection. 

It is here that want has sometimes made its appearance 
as the best friend of the man of genius, and as a benefac- 
tor of mankind ; and in the voice of his children, it may 
be, crying for bread, has called him away from the ideal 
contemplation — the everlasting dream of beauty, to finish 
his work. The immortal Allston, under no such rude 
compulsion to finish, grew old before his great picture ; and 
while he was still erasing and reproducing, and striving to 
perfect the expression of his ideal, death called him away 
to higher visions, from a disappointed world. 

Shall we then leave the man of genius to the dis- 
cipline and stern guardianship of want? It would 
be an unjust and cruel inference. If want has some- 
times determined him to action, it has also often fro- 
zen up the sources of thought. If it has sometimes 
called him from his meditations to finish some glorious 
work ; it has also often stood beside him a stern spectre 
accompanied by despair and death. Perhaps the truth on 

4 ORATION. 79 

this subject was never more forcibly and affectingly ex- 
pressed than by Coleridge in one of his letters : — " Compo- 
sition," says he, "is no voluntary business. The very 
necessity of doing it robs me of the power of doing it. 
Had I been possessed of a tolerable competency, I should 
have been a voluminious writer. But I cannot, as is feign- 
ed of the nightingale, sing with my breast against a 

The same thought he re-echoes in those touching lines 
composed in February, 1827. 

" All nature is at work. Stags leave their lair — 
The bees are stirring — birds' are on the wing — 
And winter, slumbering in the open air, 
Wears on his smiling face a dream of spring ! 
And I the while, the sole unbusy thing, 
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing. 
Yet w^ell I ken the banks where amaranths blow, 
Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow. 
Bloom, O ye amaranths ! bloom for whom ye may, 
For me ye bloom not ! Glide rich streams away ! 
With lips unbrightened, wreathless brow I stroll : 
And would ye learn the spells that drowse my soul 7 
Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve. 
And hope without an object cannot live." 

It was not for wealth, or political station that Coleridge 
sighed — it was merely for a "tolerable competency;" — that 
he might possess his cottage at Clevedon on the Severn, 
" o'ergrown with Jasmine, and the broad leaved myrtle," 
undisturbed by the daily anxiety, what shall I eat, what 
shall I drink, wherewithal shall I be clothed ; and that he 
might be permitted to yield himself quietly to the legiti- 
mate ideal inspirations of genius, and labor in poetry and 
philosophy for England and mankind. His intimate 
friends Wordsworth and Southey realized that " tolerable 
competency," which is the best condition for a man of let- 


ters, and nobly did they use it. Like two streams from 
the same mountain springs, have they made their quiet, 
majestic, fructifying way ; and on their banks are verdant 
meadows, smiling hamlets, and palaces of beauty. 

It is well, where the man of letters can at the same time 
yield to the proper inspirations of his high pursuits, and 
gain a competency by his literary efforts : and this in some 
departments of Literature, such as history and fiction, is 
sometimes realized. Where this is not the case, he ought 
to be in employments genial to the great end of his life^ 
by which he may be enabled to secure quietly a competent 
subsistencCj and to follow out his vein. 

It is ruinous to high and independent authorship to wait 
upon publishers. The publisher is a tradesman, and books 
are his commodities. He must therefore suit the public 
taste — ^he must meet the demand in the market. 

But the man of letters cannot write for accidental tastes, 
and a fluctuating market. He is in a region far above this 
—he is engaged with other objects. He is writing for 
truth's sake— he is writing for the determined judgment of 
taste which belongs to the great and ripened minds of all 
generations — he is writing for immortality. Great works 
cannot ordinarily, be produced to meet the demands of the 
trade. I think all will grant at once, that the staple com^ 
modities of the book trade are not, generally, works of ori- 
ginal and permanent literature. The most profitable books 
are school books and novels. The former are, generally, 
the works of industrious compilers. Some of them are 
works of great utility. Many are mere forms of specula- 
tion. There are some novels which are works of genius of 
the highest order : there are many more which are clever 
and agreeable : there are a multitude which are the mere 
froth of literature ; but, like all frothy potations, are eagerly 



swallowed. The children who need school hooks, and the 
young, inexperienced, and crudely cultivated, who are 
attracted by ephemeral novels, form a vast proportion of 
readers. Here then are the staple commodities of the 
trade ! 

We have already mentioned as exceptions, history, and 
the higher order of fiction. Prescott's histories do honor to 
Enghsh literature ; and both, on account of the strangely 
romantic interest of their subjects, and their relation to our 
hemisphere, independently of the grace of their composi- 
tion, must ever attach themselves to the popular mind. 

The Waverly Novels form a well known illustration in 
the other department. We may also mention those great 
works which, scarcely noticed in their own day, or enjoy- 
ing only a limited appreciation, have at length triumphed, 
and become the ornaments and dignified possessions of 
libraries and bookshelves, if not books of ordinary and 
general perusal. No one, now-a-days, will so dishonor 
himself as not to own a Shakspeare and a Milton. 

Where a great author has become a favorite with the 
people, and of course with the trade, the stimulus of genius 
is liable to be supplanted by the stimulus of gain and popu- 
larity. Works are now produced with astonishing rapidity 
— the supply must meet the demand ; but, alas ! there is 
a corresponding depreciation in their character. The child 
of genius and of truth is now no longer dwelling in his 
ideal world, adoring the divine and matchless forms before 
him, and speaking to the common world a word, which, 
whether men will hear or forbear, is nevertheless a word 
of import and authority — " a winged word," like the voice 
of a divine messenger : he has condescended to enter the 
market, pen, ink and paper in hand, and to cry out, A 
genius offers his services to the public and the trade — he 


will write poetry, politics, philosophy, divinity, novels, or 
reviews, where there is money to be had and influence to 
be gained. 

Walter Scott did not, indeed, pander his fine powers in 
this gross way ; but the Ballantynes and the Constables, 
the Baronetcy and Abbottsford, are associated with the 
decay of his genius, as well as with the overthrow of his 
fortunes. His Waverly was written spontaneously — from 
a pure love of the subject — a creation of his mind that 
could not be avoided : and yet it was long ere he made up 
his mind to publish it. What a diflerence between this 
work of unsoiled genius, and works which were afterwards 
thrown off with such rapidity, to meet mere pecuniary 
demands ! Can we believe that Homer could have written 
the passion of Achilles, and the wanderings of Ulysses ; 
Dante, his hill of Purgatory, and entrance into Paradise ; 
Tasso, the chivalry of Godfrey and Tancred ; Milton, his 
delicious Paradise ; Shakspeare, his Juliet, Portia, and 
Ophelia — at the bidding of a publisher, and, forsooth, be- 
cause this publisher judged that the public made a demand 
for such creations of genius ? What does the public know of 
the work of genius until it is done ? Nay, must not gene- 
rations sometimes pass away before it is known — a space 
of time that men may be able to get into the heart of the 
work, or may ascend into the clear heavenly light where 
its perfection and brightness alone can be seen and esti- 
mated ? 

We judge, therefore, that the true man of letters, and the 
true artist, have a spontaneous, uncalculating affection for 
the works they take in hand: that they are aiming to 
bring to light some great idea or conception which is labo- 
ring within them; and that this they will strive to do 
irrespective of any present rewards, and irrespective of the 



immediate judgment of mankind: that with them it is 
more necessary to satisfy themselves immediately than to 
satisfy others, while they feel assured that satisfying right 
reason now, they will finally satisfy the ripened judgment 
of ages. 

And in this persuasion they are abundantly justified : — 
for, although men may have many vain imaginations, and 
false tastes and judgments which lead them astray, yet he 
whose imagination is permeated by the ideas of the pure 
reason, and who hath right tastes and judgments, hath an 
intuitive persuasion thereof which nothing can cause to 
falter, and which is a widely different thing from the vain 
confidence of error. Like a true, conapared with a false 
prophet, he may not be able to prove to a blinded world his 
paramount title, and therefore he quietly rests until his day 
come, when the things spoken shall be tested by infallible 

But are there not other motives which may consist- 
ently govern these men of letters and artists? There 
are two other motives. That which we have named is 
the spontaneous love of truth and beauty. Of the other 
two, one relates to the individual himself personally ; 
the other to mankind. The personal motive, is that 
of developing the personal self into those forms of 
goodness and greatness for which God created man. 
Of all things which God hath created, the thinking 
and immortal spirit imbreathed into man is the noblest 
and divinest, and most like God himself A great gift, a 
great capability, a great responsibility, a germ of immortal 
thought and delight, is each man given to himself The 
true man of letters and of art, who conceives of the beauty 
of the world through the ideals which reveal its principles, 
who conceives of absolute truth and goodness, and who 


has such a sense of the divine that he cannot frame his 
Epic of human events without laying the machinery of 
thought and action in the invisible world ; — must, when 
he turns to himself, view this soul within him which thus 
conceives — is thus inspired by ideals, and projects such 
philosophies, sciences, and arts-^as something wonderful 
and holy, something to be reverenced and cherished, and 
led out, if possible, to its full measures. The soul by 
which we know and feel so much — who can tell how 
much it may know and feel? We are at the beginning, 
but where is the end of its development ? Can we con- 
ceive of a nobler experiment than that of trying its utmost 
capacity — of trying how wise and good it is possible to 
become?— and this to be forecasted not for the fleeting 
term of this present life, but for immortality. And in fore- 
casting this for immortality, we are at once reminded that 
the seeds of the future are sown in the present ; and that 
the growth of the soul forever will be in the direction that 
we give it now. But to whom can this growth of the soul 
be an object of such interest as to the man of letters and of 
art, who from this soul is announcing truth, and projecting 
forms of majesty and beauty. Has he not in what he is 
doing, a foretaste of immortal life ? He, of all others, 
ought to find his highest personal good in the cultivation 
of these high spiritual faculties — he of all others might 
be expected to live for himself in the way of making 
himself a man such as God has fitted him to be- , 
come — a man after the divine ideal of humanity. And 
as the great and good Milton has said, " The end of 
all learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents 
by regaining to know God aright, and out of that 
knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, 
as we may the nearest by possessing our souls of true vir- 


tue, which heing united to the heavenly grace of faith, 
makes* up the highest perfection ;" — so Ave may add, the 
man of letters and art might be expected to he the most 
pure minded and faithful christian. He who lives amid 
the ideals of truth, beauty, and perfection, must perceive 
the moral to be the highest form of these, and the divine 
Son of God their highest embodiment : and it would seem 
most natural and fitting that such an one should sit at the 
feet of this great Teacher of truth and duty, learning his 
doctrines, receiving his salvation, copying his example, and 
following him devoutly in the only sure heavenward way. 
Therefore would I say to thee, O thou servant of divine 
philosophy, thou man of beautiful arts, and of chaste and 
glorious letters ! whatever thou mayest fail of in earthly 
rewards, thou canst attain to this great end — thou canst 
save thyself — thou canst perfect thy being, thou canst be 
a child of light nov/, and feel thy wings growing that thou 
mayest be an angel of light in heaven, when thy work is 
done on earth ! 

And the other motive, which relates to mankind at large, 
is akin to this one, and inseparable from it. " I am long 
since persuaded," says Milton, " that to say or do aught 
worth memory and imitation, no purpose or respect should 
sooner move us than simply the love of God, and of man- ' 

The same sentiment Shakspeare has nobly expressed in 
his famous lines : 

•" Be just and fear not : 

Let all the ends thou aim'st at, be thy country's, 
Thy God's, and truth's." 

That very process by which the soul is perfected in- 
volves these ends. It is by serving truth and justice that 

the soul attams to a divine nature ; and serving truth and 



justice, it serves God and mankind. He who undertakes 
to live only for himself, violates the- highest law of his be- 
ing, and the social constitution of the universe. As he can- 
not diffuse happiness, so he cannot be happy himself. The 
sun shining from age to age loses none of his brightness : 
he is the sun because he always shines : and the great God 
whom he symbolizes is ever giving and blessing : and God 
is God because he ever gives and blesses. And man, the 
noblest creature of God in this lower world, is truly man 
only as he is godlike. 

All the great and good of our race have acted upon this 
principle. The hero dying for his country ; the martyr 
dying for his religion ; the philosopher dying for the truth ; 
the poet and the artist wearing out life in the accomplish- 
ment of great tasks for enlightening and elevating man- 
kind ; and the philanthropist, measuring some form of hu- 
man suffering and devoting his energies to its alleviation 
or removal — have all acted upon this principle. And that 
divine Form which appeared among men eighteen centu- 
ries ago, and who presented in his humanity the realized 
ideal of all human perfection, inculcated in his teaching, 
and illustrated by his life and death, the sublime senti- 
ment, " It is more blessed to give than to receive;" 

Now I conceive, that as this is the highest motive for all 
great and worthy deeds ; so there are none to whom it 
more fitly belongs than to those who make it their voca- 
tion to speak to men in the noblest forms of human speech, 
or by the symbols of the beautiful arts. To feel intensely 
the charms and inspiration of the objects of art and litera- 
ture is both noble and indispensable : to seek the highest 
elevation of one's own spiritual being is an angelic aspira- 
tion : but to let this inspiration and aspiration flow out in 


streams of blessings upon the world, is, to become a co- 
worker with God. 

Here then, O men of literature and art ! is the sublime 
spirit of your calling — to be inspired by the beautiful and 
true — to aspire after the perfection of your being — and to 
seek to make the world wiser, better, and happier — to live 
a true manly life, while ye live ; and when ye die, to leave 
behind you angel foot-prints on the sands of time. 

But we are not all men of art and literature by our vo- 
cation. Although we have all leaned on the bosom of our 
jA-lma Mater, and been nursed by the same living currents, 
we have taken diiferent ways in life. We are found in 
the various learned professions, in political stations, in 
commerce, and in the industrial arts. It is well that we 
have taken different ways. All these places should be 
filled by educated men. All these forms of activity are 
honorable. The labor of mind in literature, and the labor 
of mind in governing the arts and the arm of industry, be- 
long to the same wise and benign constitution of society. 
Without literature, man would attain to no refinement and 
elevation ; without industry, he would make no improve- 
ments in the world in which he lives. Thought and work 
are the two great energies of being. Thought and work 
fill space and eternity. 

What God never disjoins, it is the folly and error of man 
to attempt to disjoin. Man is prone to be all thought, or 
all work. In philosophy, he forgets the practical ; in the 
practical, he forgets philosophy. In contemplating the 
heavens, he leaves the earth behind him ; while working 
in the earth, he neglects to look up to the heavens. In the 
ideal he forgets the actual, in the actual the ideal. 

In this great universe God has joined together the useful 
and the beautiful. The heavens and the earth are full of 


poetry and industry. The same organific life which builds 
up the compact masses of vegetable and animal structures, 
scatters the earth with flowers, and bestows grace and 
loveliness. Man hath the two elements in his nature wed- 
ded together by a divine hand. Why should we attempt 
to separate them, and thus destroy the harmony and com- 
pleteness of our being ? 

In our age, particularly in our country, we are most 
prone to sacrifice the ideal, the heavenly, the thoughtful, 
the beautiful, the poetic element, to the industrial, the work- 
ing, the useful element. So boundless is the field of enter- 
prise, so many the opportunities of gaining wealth and in- 
fluence, that we are tempted away from our higher desti- 
nies, to pursue, too eagerly, the lower. 'But let us adopt 
the great principle of life — to live for the good of the world 
in which we live — to accomplish in our day some benign 
work in which to embalm our memories to other times — 
then shall we preserve the integrity of our souls, and nou- 
rish the divine light and power within us. 

Men who have been educated at these seats of learning 
— who have been bound together in these early literary 
associations, may carry with them in every department of 
active life these pure classical tastes. The working ele- 
ment may be made subsidiary to the ideal, the intellectual, 
and the moral. Let us not gain wealth and station for 
their own sakes, for they will perish in the using ; but that 
we may thereby promote the great end of human improve- 
ment. Let the arm of industry open the springs of truth, 
beauty, harmony, and benevolence. The history of litera- 
ture presents us instances where the hours devoted to busi- 
ness were succeeded by hours devoted to thought, study, 
and literary labor. Why should we not follow these lofty 
examples ? Why should we forever be laboring with Vul- 


can at his forge ? Do we not hear Apollo and the muses 
now singing in the serene heavens ? Look abroad ! We 
have other work to do besides building houses and ships, 
stretching out railroads, speculating in stocks, and electing 

We have two things, at least, immediately before us, of 
which this day and this occasion remind us. We have to 
create a national literature, and to found and cherish great 
institutions of learning. 

We are prone to say, We are a young nation, and much 
is not yet to be expected of us : Avhen we shall have lived 
as long as other nations, we will have reached the same 
point of development. This I conceive to be a fallacy. 
We are a young nation, but we are a branch of the great 
English stock. We have not begun our career with an 
imperfect language, and a crude and nascent literatm'e. 
The English language in its ripest condition is ours. 
The whole of English literature is ours. Chaucer, Shak- 
speare, Milton, Addison, and Burke, are ours. Why should 
we be behind the writers of Old England ? We have the 
thoughts of her centuries laid at our feet — we have the 
piled up libraries which her old men eloquent have writ- 
ten — we have the precious seed of the good old English 
hearts sown here in this fresh and virgin soil. Are we not 
called upon to do something worthy of our parentage ? 

We labor under a similar fallacy with regard to our lite- 
rary institutions. We think we do a great and sufficient 
work for the present in our Common School Education ; 
and that when we are old enough, we shall have universi- 
ties and libraries. I withhold no praise from our Common 
School Education — our moral and political life depends up- 
on it. But it is through the influence of the higher institu- 
tions that we shall perfect the Common School System. 


The masses of uneducated men do not make the first 
movement for general education. The work of education 
in all its departments belongs to educated men. Wherever 
they are located, in professionul duty, in business, and in 
social life, they exert an elevating influence-^-they scatter 
thoughts — they shape opinion. The academies and high- 
er seminaries are taught by them : — they thus create 
schoolmasters for the Comrnon Schools. Destroy the high- 
er institutions, and Common School Education would dete- 
riorate, and at length become annihilated. The more, we 
multiply educated men, the more we act upon the masses 
of the people, and raise the general standard of education. 
The first movement in education by the Pilgrim Fathers, 
was the establishment of Harvard College. Create the 
higher institutions, and all others, like the lesser lights, 
will be evolved from the bosom of these suns, and circle 
around them and be nourished by their influences. 

We require yet in our country a higher standard of pre- 
paratory classical and scientific discipline for the College 
course, and the establishment of a University course for the 
ripe prosecution of every branch of learning ; and in con- 
nection with this we need large and well assorted libraries. 
Can any good reason be assigned why we should be be- 
hind the German States in these respects ? Why should 
not the city of New- York, instead of two moderate Colle- 
ges, have a University with its hundred professors, its two 
thousand students, and its ample libraries and cabinets, as 
well as the city of Berlin ? Why should not Union Col- 
lege equal Gottingen or Halle ? We surpass the German 
States in wealth, shall we be behind them in mental eleva- 
tion and taste ? Does it require any thing more than a 
right appropriation of our wealth to enlarge and perfect our 
system of education ? The German Universities, Gymna- 


sia, and Common Schools, form one compact and complete 
system co-working harmoniously, and sustaining each 
other. Why should it not be so with us ? 

And this system is peculiarly adapted to Republican In- 
stitutions. The Universities of Germany have ever been 
the strongholds of freedom. From the'm came forth the 
Reformation. From them will yet come forth the liberty 
of the people. They have been nourished by the govern-* 
ment for no such end, but that end is even now near its 
accomplishment. Every enlightened people must be a free 

Is it not time to agitate the question, whether our Lite- 
rature Fund is not lost by its comminution and wide dis- 
persion among Common Schools ; and whether its concen- 
tration upon the higher institutions is not demanded ? 

We can sustain our Common Schools without it. Com- 
mon School Education is so cheap that it need not be 
cheapened any more. It is the lightest burden that we 
bear. Look at the trifling deduction made upon this light 
burden by the distribution of the fund : — does this rich 
people require it ? Massachusetts has no literature fund, 
and her free school system, sustained by a tax self-imposed 
in the town meetings, educates her whole population. 
Her schools certainly are not inferior to those of the State 
of New- York. Now this literature fund, concentrated upon 
our higher institutions, would soon realize for us the Gym- 
nasia, Universities, and libraries of Germany. And in 
this way, too, would fitting places be multipHed for literary 
and scientific men, where they might labor for the glory of 
their country and the good of mankind. Thus would our 
national literature be ripened. 

And let it be remembered, too, that these culminating 
institutions would as truly belong to the people as the 


Common Schools themselves. More poor men, or men in 
moderate ch'cumstances, are educated in our Colleges now 
than any other. The Universities with their libraries 
would be open to them in the same way. In truth, every 
thing in our country belongs to the people. The country 
is the people's, and the government is the people's. 
Therefore the literature fund belongs to the people ; and if 
they would consent to withdraw it from the Common 
Schools, and appropriate it to Academies, Colleges, and 
Universities, the great work would be done. Had the sur- 
plus fund, distributed among the States, been appropriated 
in this way, our great system of National Education would 
have been founded. 

Now it seems to me that on an occasion like this, 
we may think such thoughts, cherish sach purposes and 
hopes, and speak such words, with the utmost freedom and 
sincerity. The highest end of a human being, compre- 
hending all other proper ends, is, to know the truth and do 
his duty. I think I have shown, that as scholars — as lite- 
rary men, this great end presents itself to us, with com- 
manding authority and attraction. It is our esprit du 
corps : it has inspired every truly great man, and led to 
every truly great work. It is in this spirit that we are to 
ask ourselves. What can we do for perfecting our systems 
of education, and creating a National Literature ? 

For these lofty objects, we shall labor under diiFerent 
vocations; and yet actuated by the one common spirit 
which binds us together, we shall labor effectually. 

It is in itself a high and thrilling destiny, to live in such 
an age and such a country as ours, under the character we 
sustain. Our world has been doomed to ages of darkness, 
oppression, and sorrow, during which, the good spirits of 
our race have been battling with hostile elements, alas ! 


too often, only to fall in the battle. We have now just ar- 
rived at that point of progress where great principles have 
gained a vantage ground, from which they are diifusing 
their light, and making their power to be felt throughout 
the world. Our country is itself the work of great princi- 
ples. It rises up before mankind a sublime monument of 
freedom of thought, and freedom of conscience. The na- 
tions of the earth now look to us as a law and a demon- 
stration. Men can shake off the despotisms of Priests and 
Kings, and govern themselves. Men can sit, each one un- 
der his own vine and under his own fig tree, and pm'sue 
the ends of a rational existence, without the fro wing au- 
thorities of the past. Shall we not prove to them, also, 
that the ripest forms of education, that philosophy clear 
and majestic, the arts of beauty in their noblest develop- 
ments, letters in their noblest productions, all that elevates, 
refines, adorns, and perpetuates national existence, are 
native to the soil of freedom ; and that the petty States of 
ancient Greece were but prophetic miniature of the mighty 
States of Republican America ? And then inspired by our 
example, and om: success, mankind shall awake from the 
long slumber of error and weakness, and enter with us in- 
to the race of freedom, glory, and happiness. Then the 
desolations of war shall cease, and Industry, Art, Letters, 
and Christianity, shall become the circling hours of our 
globe, and lead on the glorious morning of a new heavens 
and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness : and the 
ideal of Poets, and the vision of Prophets, shall be realized 
in the Sabbath of the World. 

After an ode from the Choir, the benediction was pro- 
nounced by the Rev. Cornelius C. Cuyler, D. D. 



The exercises at the church being closed, the procession 
again formed, and marched through Church and State 
streets to the Dining Hall at the Eagle Hotel. A large 
flag floated over the Hotel, bearing the inscription, Philo- 
MATHEAN. TMs Hall had also been finely ornamented 
by the attending members of the Society, kindly assisted 
by the young ladies of the city. Extending over the Presi- 
dent's seat, was the name of the Society, 

Kojvwvia ^ikoixa&(^v 
in letters formed of evergreens ; and encircling the name 
was its cherished motto, 


Upon the opposite end of the hall was a silk banner, 
upon which were wrought in gold the names of the nine 
venerable founders of the Society — Benjamin Romayne, 
John B. Romeyn, Henry Frey Yates, Thomas Romeyn, 
Adrian C. Van Slyck, Levi H. Palmer, Peter C. Veeder, 
Moses I. Cantine, and Cornelius D. Schermerhorn. A 
double wreath of evergreens surrounded the room, and 
*upon the walls huug the portraits and framed diploma 
which deck the Society Hall. The table of the President 
and Vice-Presidents of the day, was adorned with a pyra- 
mid of flowers, presented by Dr. Harmon Wendell, of Al- 
bany. The other tables were decorated with vases of 
flowers furnished for the occasion by E. C. Delavan, Esq. 


Nor was the eye alone pleased : the less refined cravings 
of the physical man were not neglected. The tables were 
laden with a variety and profusion sufficient to tempt and 
satisfy the most fastidious appetite, and make all for a time 
willingly forget the instructions so often received from the 
venerable President of the College, that eating had nothing 
of the intellectual in it, and therefore was to be indulged in 
but sparingly. All partook freely, the Band playing exhila- 
rating music, ab ovo usque ad mala. 

The following gentlemen were the officers appointed for 
the dinner : 

Rev, JOSEPH SWEETMAN, D. D., President 


Levi H. Palmer, Hiram P. Hunt, 

John L. Zabriskie, N. P. Tallmadge, 

John Savage, John W. Edmonds, 

John W. Taylor, George W. Doane, 

Cornelius C. Cuyler, William Kent, 

T. RoMEYN Beck, Joel B. Nott, 

Adam Empie, Cyrus Morgan, 

Aaron Clark, Henry White, 

John C. Spencer, William Wilson, 

Alfred Conklin, Francis Haimilton, 

Alex. McClelland, John Foster, 
Jonathan Pearson. 

At three o'clock the President called the assembly to or- 
der, and a blessing was pronounced by Rev. C. C. Cuyler, 
D. D. After the repast, the President opened the literary 
exercises of the occasion with the following address : 

Gentlemen — Brethren of the Philomathean So- 
ciety : — I congratulate you on our present social meeting. 


The transactions of this day are peculiarly interesting to 
some of those present. Fifty years have passed away 
since many of the early members have attended a meeting 
of this Society. Amidst the many and great changes we 
have witnessed, while travelling throiigh this portion of 
time, we have passed in safety the dangers that have 
encompassed us, and now meet with friends and brethren 
in circumstances of comfort, and enjoy the privilege of 
spending an hour in social communion. In entering upon 
the anticipated satisfactions of this hour, you will allow me 
the privilege of offering a few expressions, suggested by 
the present occasion. It is not forgotten that the law of 
propriety forbids my attempting to detain you with a 
lengthy speech, from other proceedings that may be more 
interesting than any thing I shall present. 

We have met to celebrate the semi-centennial era of the 
existence of this Society. Our meeting affords a pleasant 
opening to revive old friendships, and cultivate the ac- 
quaintance of younger brethren. The brotherly kindness 
and good feeling depicted on the coimtenances of this assem- 
bly, indicate a willingness to co-operate in the acc(^mplish- 
ment of so desirable an end. We have reason to celebrate 
this day with thankfulness. It testifies to us that the Phi- 
lomathean Society has lived and flourished through more 
than half a century. This Society dates its origin at an 
earlier day than the charter of Union College. It was form- 
ed by a few young men, who belonged to the academy 
existing in this place anterior to the College. 

It could not have entered into the minds of those who 
originated this Society, that it would at any future time 
accomplish what it has already achieved. Here, a succes- 
sion of young men have mutually assisted, encouraged, and 
stimulated each other in literary pursmts and useful acqui- 


sitions. This Society has not only existed since 1793, but 
it has through this long period been progressive— acquiring 
strength, gaining influence, and extending its usefulness. 
What future progress may be anticipated under additional 
and accumulating advantages ? It has now a respectable 
and generally well selected library, which puts its mem- 
bers in possession of a literature to which they could not 
otherwise have access. It is readily conceded that the 
later members of this Society enjoy greater advantages and 
are more benefitted than earlier members, who were con- 
nected with it when it was an infant, striving to retain its 
hold on life, and casting about for any kind and helping 
hand that might offer fostering care. The members now 
realize their advantages in the business of the Society. 
Here they become habituated to thinking, debating, compo- 
sing, and speaking. Even in the early stages of its exist- 
ence, Avhen its advantages were comparatively few, and 
you might have carried its library under your arm, it was 
not altogether inefficient in the accomplishment of useful 
purposes. It compelled its members to put forth their 
efforts to gather up attainments made, and apply them for 
present use, and to submit to the excision of protuberances 
that might have impeded their after progress. 

What this Society has accomplished in filling up the in- 
terstices of a collegiate course, in exciting the youthful 
mind to improve its resources, cultivate social feelings, and 
strengthen the ties of friendship, furnishes the proof of its 
beneficial effects, and establishes its claims to our regard. 
May we not, in celebrating the past, anticipate the future- 
with high expectation ? What will be the state of the 
Philomathean Society at the end of the next fifty years ? 
What seer can tell? We hope for the best. But who 
shall be there to recount the past, or conjecture for the fu- 


ture ? We trust the Adelphic Society will be there. Let 
that and this travel on together ; not as rivals, but as co- 
workers in the accomplishment of useful and laudable 
ends. Let them, if it must be so, imitate each other in 
generous sentiments, as well as literary attainments. But 
never let party spirit engender strife and create discordant 
feelings. But who more shall be there? Few — perhaps 
none of this assembly shall reach that era. Let not this 
thought damp the joyous and social feeling of the present 
hour. All we trust will be right, though loe be not there. 

In the review of what is past — in the survey of what is 
present — in the hope of what is yet to come, we have rea- 
son to be thankful, and congratulate each other on our 
comfortable and safe arrival at the present point in our 
journey on to the future. We look around on our junior 
brethren, and bid them welcome to their present station, 
and give them our best wishes in all the future stages of 
their progress through life. And now, brethren, let us for 
a little season give reins to the feelings the occasion in- 
spires, and let our tongues be free to. utter the sentiments 
of our hearts, and the counsels of wisdom and truth. 

At the conclusion of this address, the following ode, 
written for the occasion by Rev. Henry P. Tappan, D. D,, 
was sung by the assembly. 



Air — " God Save Avierica." 
Brothers ! we're here once more — 
Not as in days of yore, 

When life was young, 
And 'mid that morning light, 
Hope, as an angel bright, 
Before our raptured sight. 

Her visions hung. 


Men of the ripened prime, 
Men of the hoary time. 

Here we have come ; — 
From the midst of human life, 
From weary toil and strife, 
And with experience rife, 

Brothers at home ! 

Home of our early thought ! 
Where hand in hand we sought 

Knowledge and truth, 
Keceive us back again, 
Coming as care-worn men, 
As you received us then. 

In early youth. 

Well have we done our part, 
And kept unstained our heart ? 

Then wilt thou bless : 
Or having gone astray, 
Seek we our home to-day, 
Thou wilt not say us — nay— 

Or love us less ! 

Lovers of Learning I* we 
Cannot forgetful be 

Of this fair spot : 
Fair memories arise, ^ 
Thoughts that now fill our eyes, 
When shone those halcyon skies 

Upon our lot. 

Some are not with us here — 

Their mem'ry claims a tear — 

The hallowed dead ! 

To brighter worlds now flown, 

Their work of life well done, 
For noble thoughts w^ere sown, 

Ere they had fled. 

• Philomathean. 

DINNER. 101 

Perhaps e'en at this hour, 
We feel their gentle power 

Upon us shed : — 
A mystery of the skies 
Upon the earthly lies — 
Our holiest sympathies 

Are with the dead ! 

Here let us pledge our truth, 
As erst in early youth, 

Faithful to be : 
The honored name w^e bear, 
The holy trusts we share, 
Claim that w^e do and dare 

AU manfully. 

A higher life to live, 

More precious gifts to give, 

This is our part : 
That when our work is done, 
And we the prize have wron. 
We, like the setting sun, 

May hence depart. 

Upon the conclusion of the singing, the venerable Presi- 
dent resigned the chair to Joel B. Nott, one of the Vice- 
Presidents, who read the first regular toast. This, he said, 
was intended to compliment the man whom every member 
of the Society deeply reverences, and highly honors. 
Though the winds of many a winter have weakened the 
physical man, they have not diminished the brilliancy and 
power of his mind. Old as he is in years, he yet sympa- 
thises with us, his juniors, in every thing that affects lite- 
rature, science, morals, and the well-being of our race : and 
he feels the highest interest in these young men who are 
just coming forward upon the stage of life, and upon whom 
he hopes, as do we also, that his example may have its 

desired effect. 



He then read the toast, which was received with great 


The Venerable President of the Day — Most ancient oak of a goodly 

To this toast Dr. Sweetman rephed as follows : 
I tender my acknowledgments to the Philomathean So- 
ciety for the sentiment now expressed, and fully concur in 
the justice of its passing over myself and resting upon my 

Now, gentlemen, you have got me on my feet, I would 
give you to understand I feel very large, though some- 
what embarrassed. I have just heard the brethren say 
that I am a " venerable oak," not a shrub oak, but a sturdy 
oak of " a goodly forest." One difficulty is now over. I 
am up, and begin to feel at ease. But another remains, 
and may not so soon be disposed of; and that is, to get me 
down again. Perhaps it will be thought, before all is over, 
the Scotch proverb is applicable to the present case : 
which, done in plain Saxon, means, " It is easy enough to 
raise the devil, but not so easy to lay him." But that I 
may proceed with my response, you must bear the inflic- 
tion of a speech, and I accordingly go on to say, first, it 
ought not to pass unnoticed that the second growth of tim- 
ber is better than the first — more solid — the interstices bet- 
ter filled up, the layers more compact, and the whole body 
better fitted for use and durability. We are glad to see 
the forest so well supplied with young and thrifty trees, 
and anticipate from them a goodly supply of timber to 
build our temples, adorn our legislative halls, and orna- 
ment all our best and most valued structures. 

It would be rather misplaced to attempt to criticise upon 
a sentiment so partially and favorably expressed, and 

DINNER. 103 

which has expanded my dimensions to an oak. But not- 
withstanding all the bulk it assigns to myself, I may be 
permitted to say, (however much my interest as to size 
may be at stake,) I am not sure that some slender and fra- 
gile tree would not have been more appropriate in the 
comparison, as far as I am personally concerned. Leav- 
ing this, however, to be corrected or confirmed, as kindness 
and good feeling may decide, I proceed onward with my 
speech. And here I should say, secondly, according to the 
usage of all great speakers, but I do not aspire to so high a 
rank, fearing I might become dizzy with the elevation, and 
to avoid the danger, claim the right to dispense with my 
own proposed form, and choose to take the place of my 
respected friend and brother, Levi H. Palmer, Esq., who 
was expected to respond to this toast, but is detained at 
home by sickness. 

The reference to the " goodly forest" carries me back, in 
thought, to other days, when we that are old were young 
and felt the fire of youth, indulged the hopes of early life, 
shared in the beginning of this Society, and exulted in the 
establishment of Union College, If we travel back 
through fifty-five years, we find this Society in its very be- 
ginning — its formers, though young, and full of hope, 
doubting whether it could long survive, and not presuming 
at all on its actual progress and future usefulness — a few 
boys, (mark this,) mostly of rustic habits, and but little 
acquainted with the ways and attainments of literary life, 
belonging to an academy of no distinguished celebrity, 
formed themselves into a society for mutual improvement 
in knowledge and the requisite qualifications for future 
employment. They had no nucleus to gather themselves 
around, nor any cotemporary of like design in their neigh- 
borhood, nor in the limits of their acquaintance, to guide 


or modify their proceedings. But they went on to orga-^ 
nize as they best could — to form a constitution and draw- 
up by4aws to regulate their proceedings. In all this new 
employment your speaker had his share — can narrate facts 
as they occurred, and can bear his testimony that the 
young society, on the whole, succeeded fully up to their 
liighest expectations, and as they had no similar society 
within the compass of their personal acquaintance, with 
which to compare themselves, or outstrip them in succesSj 
they in all simplicity and honesty really thought they were 
accomplishing great matters. They went on in their own 
way with their plan of improvement, in perfect harmony 
and good feeling, with a single exception. One of the 
most prominent members, and who had contributed more 
largely than any other to the formation of their little libra- 
ry, became dissatisfied with some trifling occurrence, and 
withdrew the books he had deposited. This proceeding 
called forth animadversion, and for a time, under excited 
feelings produced alienation amongst the members. This, 
however, was but a temporary affusion, and at length 
wore away and harmony was restored. 

Though this outbreak took place in the infancy of this 
Society, be it remernbered we were then Calliopeans, and 
it must never be educed as an example to justify similar 
jarrings amongst Philomatheans, especially in the pursuits 
and under the friendly wing of Union College. That this 
Society is based upon union and mutual good will — that 
kind and friendly feelings have been predominant in it at 
the early stages of its existence, is a fact known to its hon- 
or. In illustration of the good feelmg and brotherly sym* 
pathy which prevailed in this Society, in the early stages 
of its existence, permit me to mention a single incident 
which occurred in 1797. A member, who had been one of 


the number from the beginning, was about to leave the 
Society, to prosecute his professional studies at another 
place, happened to be appointed with another member, ac- 
cording to the usual order of business, to read before the 
Society written essays of their own composing : he, not 
expecting to meet with the Society again, wrote a sort of 
farewell address. The effect was what he had not antici- 
pated, and for which he was not prepared. The Society 
was moved to tears — ^his own feelings were enlisted — the 
reading was finished with difficulty. At the close, a mem- 
ber rose, much excited, and moved that a copy be request- 
ed, and the same be recorded on the minutes of the Soci- 
ety. But such copy was not furnished. Could it have 
been found, it would have been here, on the present occa- 
sion, and if called for, read in your hearing. 

The first public exhibition of this Society was on the 
4th of July, and if I am not mistaken, in the year 1796. 
Two of its members were appointed to deliver addresses 
on that day, which they did, in the old Dutch Church, 
long since demolished, to a crowded and attentive auditory, 
and whether well or ill done, the multitude appeared to be 
pleased, and retired satisfied, and in their ignorance and 
simplicity said, Zabriskie and Sweetman bid fair, one day^ 
to become speakers. This was one of tha first attempts to 
celebrate that day in this place by public addresses. Now 
I have the floor, and as I have already apprised you it 
will be no easy matter to get me on my seat, and I protest 
I will neither be coaxed nor driven to that alternative till 
you hear me out — for what else did you get me up, and 
read such a wooden toast, and make me feel so hig. 

Before I take my seat, brethren, permit me to repeat a 
few names, as I may be able to recall them to memory, of 


those who formed this Society, and who are not now 
amongst the Uving. 

John B. Romeyn, who in subsequent hfe was a distin- 
guished minister of the gospel, and justly ranked with the 
most accomplished and acceptable public speakers of his 

Moses I. Cantine, whose respectability and standing in 
public life, claim our respectful remembrance. 

Alexander McLeod. I pronounce his name with respect. 
Than Alexander McLeod, but few men of the age in which 
he lived possessed a stronger mind, a wider range of 
thought, and a more discriminating judgment. His wri- 
tings will perpetuate his memory, and his influence long 
be felt in the particular community with which he was 

Morris S. Miller : kind, social, generous, noble — after en- 
tering upon his professional business, he was chosen a rep- 
resentative from this State in Congress, and discharged the 
duties of this office to the satisfaction of his constituents, 
and with honor to himself, and continued to retain the con- 
fidence and respect of his acquaintance to the close of his 

Adrian G. Van Slyck. Amiable and promising, we love 
to pronounce his name. We remember with what kind- 
ness and amenity he presided in the first meetings of this 
Society. He was carried to his grave in early life. No 
record tells his fame. 

But there is one not known to the present generation, 
and almost forgotten amongst the living — Benjamin Ro- 
mayne, the most active and influential individual in origi- 
nating this Society. His attainments and capacity for 
acquirement exceeded the greater part of those who were 
engaged with him in this undertaking. But his course 

DINNER, 107 

was short — his days were few, and no unpression remains 
of what the man might have been. A few essays from his 
pen, of a humorous and sarcastic character, over the signa- 
ture of Misogunikos, were published in the Mohawk Mer- 
cury, edited by G. C. Wyckoff. but they are lost, and prob- 
ably could not be recovered if sought for. With the pros- 
pect before him of distinction and usefulness, he was cut 
off in early life, before he had finished his collegiate 
course. No monument of his work remains, save this Soci- 
ety. Here let his name be retained — here let his generous 
and noble, and successful efforts to establish this Society, 
be acknowledged and appreciated. 

Why may I not indulge my partiality in naming another 
individual who, though not numbered with the departed, 
was an early member of this Society. I allude to the 
Hon. John Savage, who has held so many civil offices in 
this State, with acceptance, and occupied the bench of 
Chief Justice with integrity and fidelity, and has proved 
himself, through a long life, worthy of regard and entitled 
to our esteem.. 

And now, brethren, after all the threatenings I have 
uttered as to a long speech, and the fuss I have tried to 
make about getting me down, and you know an old oak, 
and this you have made me, cannot be felled without a 
crash, I will now, however, quietly take my seat, and give 
place to others better able to speak and entertain this kind 
and indulgent assembly than myself 

I say I have done. The thought is solemn, that I shall 
never again be in like circumstances, but this is my own 
concern. I must still add, I own I cannot repay the com- 
pliment you have paid me. I must therefore plead to re- 
main your debtor, but nevertheless will say. If no storm 
shall prostrate^ nor blighting influence mar the growth of 


younger trees^ the old and decaying timber can well he 

Dr. SwEETMANj after saying that every thing — societies 
and colleges — beginnings and endings — had been toasted, 
the main thing was overlooked — the place in which all the 
wonderful things we have recounted were acted — offered 
the following toast : 

Old Dorp — The Mohawk is by her side. Let her renew 
her age like the eagle, stretch forth her energies, apply her 
resources, and show that she is worthy of the religious and 
literary institutions which dignify her name, and give her 
a place amongst our most favored cities. 

The chairman then announced the 


The Venerable Founders of the Philomathean — The little tree planted 
by their hands more than half a century ago, now towers in beauty and 

[Owing to the absence of Levi H. Palmer, Esq., one of 
the founders, who was expected to respond to this toast, no 
reply was made.] 


John B. Eomeyn, Chairman of the Committee which draughted our first 
Constitution — Honor to his memory. 


The Memorable Class of Three — AU Philomatheans before they were 

-^Rev. John L. Zabriskie, who, with the President of the 
day, were of the " memorable three" who comprised the 
first graduating class of Union College, and who had been 
requested, by the committee of arrangements, to reply to 
this toast, transmitted to the chairman the following 

DINNER. 109 

Millstone, June 10, 1848. 

Dear Sir : — It is with sincere regret that I feel obhged 
to deny myself the gratification of attending the semi-cen- 
tennial celebration of the Philomathean Society, on the 
35th of next month. For although age and its attendant 
influences forbid my joining the social re-union of the sons 
of our Alma Mater on that occasion, it has not extinguished 
or diminished the ardor of my attachment for her. As one 
of the earliest graduates, I have ever pecuHarly felt a just 
pride, as well in the high stand taken and maintained by 
our College and Society among the literary institutions of 
this continent, as in the fraternity of their distinguished 
sons. It would be grateful indeed to revisit those scenes 
once more, and have the evening twilight of life lit up, by 
awakening the bright associations connected with its 

Assure the committee that I receive with heartfelt emo- 
tions of pleasure, the attention shown by their special invi- 
tation, so kindly extended through you, showing that the 
eldest sons of the Philomathean are not forgotten by their 
junior brethren. 

With the highest respect, 
I remain, 

Yours, truly, 


The chairman here remarked : — We have heard from 
our venerable friends something in relation to our own So- 
ciety, its noble founders and early members. We wish 
now to hear something in relation to other societies, and as 
I see in the room a member of the Adelphic, I propose to 
give the following toast : 



The Adelphic Society — Non diversa tamen, qualem debet esse sororem. 

Rt. Rev. Bishop Potter, being called upon, replied to 
this toast as follows : 

I am not as familiar with my classics as formerly, but I 
believe there was something in that toast about a sister. 
That sister, Sir, has a great many sons, and I do not know 
by what right I should arrogate to myself the privilege 
of replying to any thing which is intended to reflect 
honor upon her. I understand it, however, to be the pleas- 
ure of the chairman that I should acknowledge this cour- 
tesy, in behalf of the sister association to which I belonged 
during my College course. I beg leave, therefore, to ten- 
der to you, and through you to the members of this frater- 
nity, our cordial acknowledgment for your kindness and 
civility. These institutions. Sir, are sisters; they were 
born in the same family, reared under the same roof, fed 
from the same maternal breast, enlightened by the same 
paternal counsel, and sent forth into the world with the 
same benediction. As sisters, let them ever be known, 
emulous in respect to whatever is lovely, honest, and of good 
report, and bound to each other by the ties which should 
always connect those who are members of the same lite- 
rary household. Mr. President, the Adelphic Society can 
well afford to reciprocate your kindness, to acknowledge 
the debt of gratitude which an enlightened, noble, elder 
sister, ever must impose on her junior sisters. I always 
pity the only daughter of a large family : I have always 
thought that to attain the perfection of feminine excellence 
it is necessary that sisters should rise, side by side, cheer- 
ing and animating each other — the younger guided and 
stimulated by the achievements of the elder, and instructed 
at the same time by her painful experience. Sir, there will 


always be momentary clouds passing across the sunshine 
of that affection which should attain between sisters. 
When I arrived here, a few days ago, I found these two 
sisters pouting at each other. It was only because they 
were both so ambitious of the favoring smiles of the gen- 
tlemen. But it was found that this difficulty was soon 
dissipated, good hmiior restored, and the sisters are not 
only loving sisters still, but they have in fact resolved to 
open their halls together to-day, so that, in the language of 
Jefferson translated mto the dialect which befits this place 
and this day, we are now all Philoniatheans and all Adel- 
phics. And we are brethren, not only in this family, 
claiming descent from the same Alma Mater, but also in the 
still larger family, the Republic of letters, and also in that 
older, holier family, the family of our common humanity. 
Young men within the walls of College, in the ardor of 
their emulation, may sometimes feel too keenly their exclu- 
sive allegiance. They sometimes imagine themselves too 
closely bound to their respective societies. But how is it 
when they get abroad in the world ? Where are these 
societies then? Are they here on yonder hill side ? No, Sir ! 
they are over the length and breadth of the land. The 
great majority of their respective members are doing battle 
with the duties and responsibilities of life in their various 
spheres and callings. How is it with them there? How 
is it with the Adelphic when he meets a Philomathean ? 
Does he feel that he meets a rival, a foe ? No ! only a 
brother. How is it with you and me, Mr. President ? We 
met here three years ago, at the semi-centennial anniver- 
sary of our College, as brethren. You seem to wish to 
meet me now only as a cousin. I beg your pardon, Sir, 
you are a brother still. Whatever achievement in arts, in 
learning, in high duty, can be reached by the members of 


this Society, we of the Adelphic Society claim part and 
parcel in it. For after all, did we not all drink of the same 
milk? Was not our ambition fired at the same altar? 
Surely, so that now and always when we meet on these 
grounds, we meet as the common children of one Common 

Mr. Chairman, I will not detain you. I am obliged to 
you for your kindness expressed towards the Adelphic So- 
ciety, and I am thankful for the courtesy which has per- 
mitted me to hold a place on the muster roll of this Society, 
as one of its honorary members. Appearing here as your 
invited guest, and grateful for that courtesy, still I cannot 
divest myself of my character, as an Adelphic. I therefore 
give you as a sentiment, " The Philomathean Society." 
Let me imagine myself charged with a message from your 
Sister. Let me say for her, Sir, that she sends greeting to 
you and your fellow members, wishing health, wealth, 
prosperity, and she gives you, as her responsive toast, 
" The Philomathean Society — Felix "proleP 

The chairman then said : — Finding that this sister is 
determined to be regarded, not as a cousin, but as a mem- 
ber of the same family, let us now hear what are the feel- 
ings of another sister. I propose the following toast : 


The Youngest Sister of the Noble Trio — The Delphian Institute. 

To this toast Hon. David Spraker replied as follows : 
Mr. President : — I had hoped that some one better 

qualified than myself, would have attempted to respond to 

the toast just given. 

I cannot, however, refrain from expressing the deepest 

feelings of gratitude, for the kind and afiec donate manner 

DINNER. 113 

in which the Delphian Institute, of which I am proud to 
be 9- member, has been noticed on this occasion. 

Sir, I might dwell, with pride and satisfaction, on the 
subject you have afforded for discussion. I might allude 
to its early history, to the difficulties attending its origin, to 
the obstacles which it has surmounted, and to its progress 
to the present day, but it is due to the occasion that I 
should forbear. 

I do not profess to be numbered among its most promi- 
nent members ; yet there are but few whose membership 
can be dated at an earlier period, or who have felt a deeper 
interest for its welfare and prosperity. 

The same common objects, which lie at the foundation 
of all literary societies, the suppression of vice, the promo- 
tion of virtue, and the cultivation of the human mind, have 
ever received the fostering care of the Delphian Institute. 

Permit me, Sir, in behalf of the members of that Society, 
to say, that they have ever felt a lively interest in the cha- 
racter, reputation, and influence of the Philomathean Soci- 
ety ; a Society, Sir, which has added more to human 
knowledge, done more to obviate human misery, and more 
to promote the cause of humanity and justice, perhaps, than 
any other literary society in the country. 

In whatever point of view we may contemplate her cha- 
racter, it is replete with interest and instruction. Her his- 
tory is identified with that of Union College, and, as a tri- 
bute of respect, it is due to her to say, that she has contri- 
buted largely to that moral and intellectual worth, for 
which that noble institution has so long been distin- 

That she may ever continue in her prosperous condition, 
is my most fervent wish. As it is not my purpose to delay 
the proceedings of the festival by speaking at length, per- 


mit me, Sir, in conclusion, to offer you the following senti- 
ment : 

The Elder Sister of our noble Trio, ichose semi-centennial anniversary we have 
this day met to celebrate. 


Kindred Societies in American Colleges — Nurseries of eloquence — 
brightest ornaments of their respective institutions. 

Rev. John Todd, D. D.,* responded to this toast as fol- 
lows : 

Mr. President : — Were I now sitting by your side, in 
some retired nook of College, and were I on terms of suffi- 
cient familiarity with you, to enter into conversation in a 
cozy kind of way — yankee-like — I should begin by asking 
you some questions. I would say, do you remember your 
feelings on your first, second, and subsequent visits to your 
Alma Mater? How, at the first visit, there was a feeling 
of sadness — the walks did not seem to own you, the halls 
did not pour out the old familiar faces — the loved voices 
were not to be heard, and it seemed as if strangers had 
come in and taken possession of what was yours. The 
exile returned only to feel that he had lost his possessions. 
" Impius haec tam culta novalia miles habebit ?" How, on 
the second visit, the feeling of strangeness had increased, 
and the fact that your classmates were scattered, never 
again to be regathered upon earth, forced itself upon 
your notice ; and then men and things began to appear 
less than they used to appear ! And on subsequent visits 
you see men gather with locks touched by the frosts of 
time, who once seemed to be so far from age that you 

*Dr. Todd, and also Hon. J. C. Spencer, were, by some unavoidable 
circumstances, prevented from delivering the remai-ks which they have 
kindly written out for publication. 

DINNER. 115 

never dreamed that they would be any thing but young 
men — ardent, aspiring, confident, and full of hope ! 

And at such visits, what of College life remains distinct, 
clear, full, and imperishable 7 What are the visions which 
pass over the stage where memory sits down to watch 
them ? First comes the form of the President — the high- 
est and the greatest man we ever saw or ever expected to 
see, when students. We see him as he used to preside — 
counsel, guide, enlighten, by his great experience, win by 
his love, and charm by his wisdom. We see him still — 
unaltered — save that time hath wrestled with him — the first 
in the vision. (In regard to the venerated head of this insti- 
tution — let me say, in passing, that he hath grown no 
smaller as the eye of the beholder has dilated and taken a 
wider range. His evening is like our own unequalled au- 
tumns — soft and mild, gentle and tender, while the forest 
trees put off the green of summer, and seem unconscious 
that a thousand rainbows have broken and fallen upon 
them ! 

" milii tarn longae maneat pars ultima vitae."^ 

Next in the train come the teachers — each with his own 
peculiarities and excellencies, his taste and zeal, and each 
feeling an honest conviction that if his department was 
faithfully studied, we could hardly fail of making men ! 

Then, Mr. President, would come forward in the vision, 
the youthful orators and debaters in the Literary Societies 
of our College — would they not — just as they used to meet 
and deliberate, with a gravity that would honor a Roman 
Senate, and an earnestness that could hardly be surpassed, 
were the fate of an empire at stake. There we learned the 
order, the decorum, the gravity, and the etiquette of the 
deliberative assembly. Here we learned the usages of par- 
liament, and to bow in submission to the decisions of the 


chair. Here we learned to scan each other, to measure 
each other, to judge of proportions of character, to weigh 
evidence, to sift argument, to reject sophistries, and, what 
is of still more consequence, to measure ourselves, to com- 
pare- ourselves with others, and thus to know just where 
our place was. How many have come into these socities, 
not having a doubt but their gun was of the heaviest cali- 
bre, the longest in its reach, unrivalled in its accuracy, and 
the deadliest in its aim, have soon found it to be a mere 
pop-gun, loaded with wind and wadding only ! Here we 
learned to do something approaching what is practical in 
life — at least the drill and the handling of weapons similar 
in shape and kind to those to be used on the arena of life. 

If I am not misinformed. Sir, our seminaries of education 
are very unlike those of the old world. Those were born 
in other ages — as places in which light might be preserved, 
while darkness was gathering over all classes of society. 
They were to be the receivers of light — not the dispensers 
— ^built for religious houses, in which monks might be 
gathered, and keep the taper of learning from going entirely 
out. They gathered into them a few tracts in manuscript, 
which they kept chained, lest they should run away. 
They tell us of the antiquity of their Universities. Yes, 
but what were they ? In 851, ambassadors were sent from 
France to Rome to beg a copy of Cicero de Oratore, Gluin- 
tilian's Institutes, and some other smaller works, because a 
complete copy of these was not to be found in all France. 
In the beginning of the tenth century, a single copy of the 
Bible had to serve for the use of several monasteries in 
Spain. The convent of Rochetta every year pronounced a 
sentence of irrevocable damnation on every one who should 
dare to steal a copy of Aristotle, or even to obliterate a tit- 
tle ! Previous to the year 1300, the library of the Univer- 

DINNER. 117 

sity of Oxford, (Eng.,) contained only a few tracts, which 
were either chained or carefully locked up in a chest. At 
the commencement of the fourteenth century, the Royal 
Library of France contained only four classical authors, 
and a few devotional works. These old Universities were 
papal institutions, transferred, with their rust and rubbish 
all gathered in them. True, they have now immense 
libraries, and are the repositories of the mind of past gene- 
rations ; but it is covered with the accumulations of ages 
also. To be a scholar there, you must have your private 
tutor alone, and depend upon him to instruct you, and 
the examination to test your scholarship. But our Colla- 
ges were formed in the present times, and for them. 
They take the mass of mind that comes to them, and 
drill and discipline it, give it the power of instructing 
itself, and show it what tools it needs. I consider the 
daily, constant drill of the recitation room, to be the great 
thing that gives our Colleges their power and efficiency. 
Nothing can supply its place. 

But auxiliary and subsidiary to this, comes in the aid of 
the free, voluntary, literary Societies of these Colleges. 
They, too, fill a place that nothing else could. If faithfully 
and punctually attended, if they have a good, practical 
library easy of access — if they draw out the reasoning pow- 
ers, rather than declamation — they are invaluable. In 
after life, we look back and feel that there we began life. 
There we took first and important lessons. And if we 
look back and call up the things in College life, over which 
our regrets are deep and sincere — our not having more 
faithfully improved the advantages of these societies, will 
be among the number. 

I do rejoice, Mr. President, that with my humble powers, 

I may this day unite with the gifted, the great, and the 



eloquentj in doing honor to one of these societies, so pecul- 
iar to our Colleges — so congenial to the form of our govern- 
ment — so improving in its exercises, and so lasting in its 
influence. If I wanted any proof of the correctness of the 
sentiment with which I had the honor to precede these 
crude remarks, the proof would be before us, in the gather- 
ing of so much that is intellectually strong, and honorably 
useful — a gathering for the purpose of honoring the Society 
of their early love. Though each one of us feels sure that 
he graduated at the best College in the land, and belonged 
to the only really good class that ever did graduate, and to 
the only society that was perfect in its organization — yet 
our charity is so large, that we can afford to allow others a 
great deal of commendation, and to hail all similar socie- 
ties as sister luminaries — ^bright ornaments to their institu- 
tions — ^the nurseries of eloquence, and the handmaids of 
learning. To each one we cordially say, macte virtute ! 
Esto perpetua ! 

The chairman then read the next regular toast, introdu- 
cing it with these remarks : 

We have been speaking of ourselves and our sister soci- 
eties, but let us remember something is also due to Alma 
Mater. I give you the following sentiment : 


Union College — Our Society rejoiced at her birth — she has watched her 
growth with interest — she now glories in her fame. 

I perceive that the one who was expected to reply to 
this toast is absent, but my friend on my left, always 
ready to do his duty, will doubtless give us a response. 

Hon. Bradford R. Wood, being thus called upon, 
spoke as follows : 

I have to thank you, gentlemen, for the very kind invi- 
tation which fell into my hands this morning, to attend 

DINNER. 119 

this reunion. I thank you, also, for the kindness which 
has substituted me in the place of another gentleman, who 
was expected to reply to that toast. I saw, in a note ap- 
pended to the card of invitation, that I was expected to 
speak after dinner. Now, though this is something like "no 
song, no supper," yet I am willing to make the effort ; but 
as I have had a very short notice, you must be satisfied 
with a very short song. I would not, on any account, in 
these temperance times, suspect that it is with us, as it was 
wont to be in days of yore, when neither the guests or the 
speakers themselves could remember what was said. As 
far as my remarks are concerned, for myself I might wish 
it were even so now. Since I Avas notified, by a learned 
professor, that it would be expected of me to respond to this 
toast, I have been informed that I am accused of having 
delivered, last evening, a very radical address, and it has 
occurred to me, that he, the professor, wished to entrap me 
into delivering a very conservative one to-day. Most cor- 
dially, Sir, do I respond to all the conservatism implied in 
that toast of " Union College ;" and yet, Sir, I am fully 
conscious of my inability to do justice to the distinguished 
sons of this Institution, to its more distinguished President, 
and the able professors who have made it what it is. You 
know. Sir, as well as myself, the various elevated positions 
in which the members of this Institution have been and 
are found. In the desk, at the bar, on the bench, in the 
halls of legislation and of science, among distinguished au- 
thors, and at the head of the government. There is no 
position in society they have not filled. Now, Sir, it is not 
in my power to do justice to such an array of distinguished 
worth. There is a weight of honor implied in that toast, 
for which I am wholly incompetent. But I can. Sir, speak 
of the practical character and good feeling which I have 


ever found among the sons of Old Union. And wherever 
found, whether North or South, in the private walks of life 
or on the political arena, there was a bond of fellowship 
among her sons, which softened much of the asperity of 
unavoidable earthly conflict. 

The very organization of this Institution, the catholic 
spirit in which it commenced and has been sustained, 
knowing no religious sect or party, has insured for it no 
small measure of usefulness and success ; and the sending 
forth from such a seat of learning young men thus liberal- 
ized, is doing untold good. But, gentlemen, permit me to 
call your attention to another " union," in whose affairs a 
crisis is coming, and around, and through, and over which a 
conflict is impending, that calls for all our moral and intel- 
lectual powers. In that conflict, where will the sons of 
Union College be found ? Who are the men among you, 
who will then stand forth and do battle for the true, the 
right, and the free ? I trust, gentlemen, that there are 
among you those, who, in that respect, will do far more 
honor to this Institution, than any who have preceded you, 
and who will meet that crisis, and that conflict, in such a 
manner as will reflect honor on their Alma Mater. 

In closing, permit me to give the name of a member of 
this Society now providentially absent. I give you — 

John Savage, Ex-Chief Justice of this State — The able 
jurist, the incorruptible judge, the honest man. 

The chairman then offered the 


Dr. Eliphalet Nott, the beloved and venerated President of Union Col- 
lege — Serus in ccelum redeas. 

Ill health preventing Dr. Nott from gratifying the de- 
sire he had expressed of being present upon this occasion, 

DINNER. 121 

Rev. C. C. CuYLER, D. D., who was a member of College 
at the time of Dr. Nott's election to the Presidency, there- 
fore responded as follows : 

Mr. President : — As I lise upon the present occasion, 
my thoughts are at once carried back to my early years, to 
the time when, with what early instruction I had received 
from my father, I came to this city as a student. Here I 
enjoyed the privileges of academic instruction under teach- 
ers, whose names^probably unknown to most of you — are 
still fresh in my memory, associated with pleasing and 
grateful recollections ; for they were teachers, kind, faith- 
ful, and efficient — whom it is a privilege to mention on 
this occasion, as a tribute of respect justly due to their 
memories. They were Luther Halsey, Col. Taylor, and 
Henry P. Wyckoflf. My academic course having been 
completed in 1803, I entered Union College, and became a 
member of the Philomath ean Society. Dr. Maxcy was 
then President, but he was soon succeeded by the venera- 
ted man, whom the sentiment to which you have called 
upon me to respond, is designed to honor. 

Great was the curiosity and anxiety with which we 
watched the course of the new President. We soon dis- 
covered that the government and management of College 
had fallen into efficient hands. New arrangements were 
introduced into every department Avith such strictness, that 
the word " blue-laws" not unfrequently escaped the lips of 
the students. But there was no resistance nor rebellion ; 
for while they complained of the comparative severity, 
they could but acknowledge the justice and salutary effect 
of the new regulations. A new energy was infused through 
the institution, and a progress begun, which has steadily 
continued during the long period of forty-five years — a pe- 
riod unparalleled in the history of our literary institutions 


— during which Dr. Nott has presided over it. To him 
Union College is indebted for her present proud position 
and enviable reputation. Many there are, now occupying 
stations of honor and influence in the world, who attribute 
much of their success in life to his counsel and instructions. 
To him I owe much ; his lessons of wisdom and caution 
I have found of use to me in the world ; and in common 
with all who have enjoyed the same privileges, I ever 
think of him, not with respect merely, but also with grati- 
tude and affection. Most cordially, then, do I respond to 
the sentiment you have read. 

Permit me also to acknowledge my obligations to the 
Philomathean Society, for the advantages it afforded me in 
my collegiate course, and to express my satisfaction in 
view of the cheering evidences I have seen to-day, of its 
increased usefulness and prosperity. I have in my hand 
the badge of the Society which I wore when I was an act- 
ing member. (It was a belt of blue silk, to which was at- 
tached a silver plate, on which were engraved the name and 
motto of the Society. It was worn over the right shoulder 
and under the left arm, so that the plate rested on the left 
breast.) I was proud to wear it then, and (putting it on) I 
am proud to wear it now, and thus to testify my respect 
and affection for the Philomathean. 

The chairman then gave the 


The students of Paris, Vienna, and Berlin — True sons of science are 
ever the friends of Liberty. 

He added — " I have the name of a gentleman who was 
to respond to this toast, but I do not see him in the room ; 
perhaps he has dodged ; but I see another, who has visited 
the celebrated literary institutions of those places, whose 

^DINNER. 123 

writings you have all read, and of whom I might say a 
great many pretty things, but they may be summed up 
in this : he too is a son of science and the friend of liberty. 

Rev. J. T. Headly, being thus called upon, responded 
as follows : 

I too might also have dodged^ if I had been notified be- 
forehand that I was to respond to that toast. Still I 
believe in the sentiment it contains. Students, in every 
age, have always been the first to rally on the side of free- 
dom, the first to sympathise with the oppressed, the first to 
sacrifice themselves for the good of their country. I once 
saw the King of Sardinia, (who by the way is the basest 
king that occupies a European throne, and of whom, not- 
withstanding his present pretensions, the friends of liberty 
may say, " Thneo Daiiaos et dona ferentes^''') pass the 
University of Genoa, and while the populace were doing 
him homage, receive nothing but silent contempt from the 
students. As the royal oppressor walked by the porch, the 
young men coolly turned their backs upon him, and kept 
their hats upon their heads. I might speak of the French 
revolution of 1 830, and describe the students of the poly- 
technic school marching into the house of Lafayette, gath- 
ering around the gray haired chieftain, and receiving from 
him their last instructions, go forth to lay down their lives 
for their country. While the alarm drum was beating, the 
tocsin sounding, and explosions of cannon were shaking 
the city, those students were seen leading the people on to 
victory. I might speak of the students of the University of 
Pavia, " always ready to die in defence of liberty." When 
the shout of freedom first arose from Rome, after the coro- 
nation of Pius the Ninth, these young men answered it, 
and the streets of Pavia were crimsoned with their blood. 
I might point to the students of Vienna and Berlin; indeed 


of almost every University of Germany, who have stood 
foremost in the recent revolution which has shaken Europe 
to its centre ; but you are familiar with the history of these 
events. A volume might be written on this subject — I will 
only ask, When have students refused to be allies of the 
people in a struggle for liberty ? 

If I had been notified of the part I was to take in this 
celebration, I would have gone somewhat into details — giv- 
en historical facts which would have been worthy of every 
thoughtful man's consideration, and presented institutions 
of learning in a different phasis from that in which they 
have been usually contemplated. 

There are two causes tending to produce this love of 
freedom in students. In the first place, literature itself en- 
nobles the heart as well as expands the intellect. It is full 
of lessons of virtue. To resist oppression — to defend the 
weak — to die, if need be, for the right — these are the les- 
sons it teaches. The learner's heart kindles over the glo- 
rious deeds of brave men battling for their country— the 
poets of olden times sing to him of liberty, and he is taught 
to despise the calculations of selfishness, and abhor that 
tyranny which would rob the innocent and helpless. 

In the second place, professors are distinguished for their 
disregard of mere outward distinctions, and their high ap- 
preciation of what constitutes the true MAN. The les- 
sons they inculcate are those of virtue, of noble ambition, 
of patriotism. Hence, to the teachers in our i'nstitutions, 
students owe much of that generous impulse and noble 
sympathy which make them the friends of freedom. All 
honor to them. 

I have but a single remark to make further. We are 
allowed to boast a little, and to believe that our Alma Ma- 
ter is the best in the world. The pecuHarity of Union Col" 

DINNER. 125 

lege, it appears to me as I move around in the world, is 
this : — it makes the students practical men, and hence, like 
' the Universities of Germany, fits them to take an active 
part in life, and gives them practical power, whenever their 
assistance is needed. There is nothing more common than 
to find men of science deficient in practical education ; 
consequently they disappear before men of the world. 
People will not wait for those who have not the spirit of 
the age in which they live,, in them. The mere scholar is 
perhaps the hardest to move from fixed reverence to old 
things. Men sent forth from this College are not such. 
They are not like one lost in the forest, who moves perpe- 
tually round in a circle. They start, like Minerva from the 
head of Jupiter, all armed in panoply, and this has given 
occasion sometimes for persons to accuse us of not furnish- 
ing thorough scholars. We seem too practical, and smell 
more of the bustle of life than of the seclusion of the clois- 
ter. Now, Sir, when men Avere required to talk in Latin, 
that was a practical advantage of a certain kind ; definite 
terms were needed in metaphysical philosophy, and a com- 
mon language for the learned of every nation was called 
for. At all events, custom made this show of scholarship 
necessary. But in this age it would be folly to seek the 
kind of education they sought then. We might speak in 
Latin, but no one would listen to us — we might spend our 
time in Academic groves, discussing ancient philosophic 
subtleties, but all the great events of life Avould come and 
go without feeling our influence. The world needs, and 
must have the aid of the practical^ not the dreamy scholar 
— the educated man^ not the mere bibliopole. 

I have seen students who reminded me of an incident in 
Dickens' " Dombey and Son." Old Capt. Cuttle, a simple 

minded, honest, kind hearted sailor, loved a lad named 



Walter. When the youth went to sea^ the Captain accom- 
panied him to the ship, and with a tear stealing down his 
weather-beaten cheek, bade him good bye, and puUing an 
immense silver watch from his pocket, (which, as Dickens 
says, made a noise very much like pulling the bung from 
a barrel,) gave it to him, saying, " take this, Walter, and 
put it forward half an hour every morning, and a qarter 
every arternoon, and it is a watch that will do you credit." 
Now this might well apply to a great many learned men : 
■ — if you would only put them forward a half an hour ev- 
ery morning and a quarter every evening, they would do 
you and themselves great credit. But I have never seen 
students of Union College that wanted putting forward to 
do the College credit, and I attribute it to the instruction 
they receive tending to make them practical men. 

In conclusion, I give — " The Faculty of Union College^ 

Prof Foster, being repeatedly called upon from all 
parts of the room, rose and said : 

I rise, Mr. President, to protest against the usage I 
am receiving. An assembly like this reminds one of the 
reunion of a family on a Thanksgiving or New Year, 
after a long separation. After years of business, we gather 
here, and meet around the festive board of our old home- 
stead. For me, now, to occupy your time, would be like 
a young stripling, who has never travelled beyond the 
bounds of his paternal acres, monopolizing to himself the 
conversation, describing what new appearances were visi- 
ble, and what fine buildings had been recently constructed. 
I apprehend that, though common politeness, or possibly 
family pride, would suffer him to proceed, yet there would 
be a terrible thinking, and a very general feeling that if a 
few more years were on his head, or a few more brains in 

DINNER. 127 

it, he might have learned that older and wiser heads 
should occupy the time. I am determined, therefore, not 
to be seduced into such a youthful and palpable impro- 

The Constitution of the United States — The magna charta of the world. 

The reply to this toast was made by Hon. John C. 
Spencer : 

I have been requested by your committee, gentlemen of 
the Philomathean Society, to make some observations upon 
this toast, and my desire to promote, by any means in my 
power, the prosperity of a Society to which I belonged 
and was warmly attached, when a member of Union Col- 
lege, prompts me to comply with your request. 

The spirit which dictated this sentiment, is inost com- 
mendable. It is antagonist to anarchy, and acknowledges 
the principle of submission to a supreme law, established 
for the security of a community of freemen. It admits that 
liberty cannot exist without law. The acknowledgment 
of this fundamental axiom, by young men of your intelli- 
gence, at a time when restraint is called tyranny, and 
licentiousness is identified with freedom, is refreshing, and 
invigorates hope for the future. 

It is an American spirit, and is the key to that mystery 
of mysteries which so perplexes the political philosophers 
of Europe, namely, how it is possible to reconcile so much 
liberty with so much order. In order to enjoy our liberty, 
we set bounds to it, in humble imitation of the economy of 
Providence, which prescribes the universal rule that safety, 
life, and happiness are to be preserved only by moderation, 
which fixes limits to enjoyment. This rule, when applied 
to political science, is sustained by another of pure justice, 


namely, that no one shall be restrained by law more than 
another, and that no other restraint upon individual liberty 
shall be imposed, than such as is necessary to protect the 
rights of each. The more you reflect upon this rule, the 
more will you be satisfied that it presents the true and ex- 
act limit of legislation ia a democratic government. You 
must not steal your neighbor's property, you must not in- 
jure his person or his feelings, because your neighbor has 
the same right to the enjoyment of his acquisitions, to the 
security of his person, and to the pursuit of happiness, that 
you have ; and you have the same right that he possesses, 
but no more. Your mutual security and happiness require 
that you should both stop at the line which separates me- 
um from tuum. When the deposed Dey of Algiers, living 
in Europe, wished to cut off" the heads of two servants who 
had offended him by some trivial indiscretion, and was told 
that such a practice would not be allowed, and that he 
would endanger his own head by indulging his wish, he 
expressed the utmost surprise, and enquired whether he 
was not in a land of liberty ? This was precisely the op- 
posite of your idea ; — he would have liberty without reci- 
procity — in other words, liberty without law, which secures 
and enforces reciprocity. 

It was this great, sublime, and yet simple principle, 
founded upon the inspired rule of doing to others what you 
may justly require them to do to you, that guided our illus- 
trious forefathers in the establishment of that body of pow- 
ers, checks, restraints, and limitations, called the constitu- 
tion of our country. The application of the principle to 
the individual free citizen, was not attended with much 
difficulty. But when they came to deal with the organized 
communities that had been fortuitously formed into Prov- 
inces and States, with adverse interests, and with more 



adverse prejudices ; — ^when the pride of local sovereignty 
was to be humbled and circumscribed, then commenced a 
task more difficult than had ever been encountered by 
human intellect. Some States were so feeble as only to 
offer a temptation to their powerful neighbors to trample on 
and despise them ; others were so situated, locally, that 
they were mere dependants for trade upon the forbear- 
ance of rivals ; it was the business of the Convention to 
make the weak strong, and the strong weak, and to place 
all upon the same level. Among the adverse interests and 
prejudices, that which was the most difficult of adjustment, 
grew out of the monstrous abuse which had been converted 
into a legal right — property in a human being. On one 
side were deep religious feehng, intense sympathy, and the 
very fundamental principle on which the government was 
to be constituted — equality of political rights among im- 
mortal bemgs. On the other side were inveterate prejudi- 
ces — the utter destruction of the property and means of 
subsistence of the people who then constituted a majority 
of the States, and what was far more formidable, honest, 
and probably well founded apprehensions that the im- 
mediate emancipation of the slaves would jeopard the very 
existence of the whites. History affords no parallel to the 
awful fearfulness of this question. It mixed itself with 
every proposition that had any bearing upon the powers, 
rights, and relative weight of the States in the federal 
councils. For weeks and months had the Convention de- 
bated and discussed these propositions, without coming to 
any conclusion. The prospect was dark, dreary, and 
almost desperate. Disruption, commotion, and war and all 
its horrible evils, seemed inevitable. Finally Franklin 
arose, and reminding the assembly how fruitless had been 
their search for political wisdom among human institutions, 


ancient and modern, solemnly asked, " How has it hap- 
pened, that we have not hitherto once thought of applying 
to the Father of light, to illuminate our understandings ? 
If," said he, a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without 
his notice, is it possible that an empire can arise without 
his aid ?" The very reference to a superintending Provi- 
dence, and to the responsibility of the members of the Con- 
vention, seems to have had its proper influences — for there- 
after we find their proceedings more harmonious. 

Under the blessing of heaven, these difficulties were 
overcome ; and the principles tipon which they were ar- 
ranged, are worthy of our special consideration at this 
time. The members seem to have come to the conclusion 
that mortals, however gifted and patriotic, could not arrest 
the course of nature — that they could not change the con- 
dition of society, or the nature of men — that they could not 
make a new world, but must deal with the one they were 
in, as they found it ; but yet that they could shape laws 
and institutions so as to bring about, at a time not very 
distant, those consequences, which, in the then state of 
affairs, were utterly impracticable. They would not ven- 
ture, like some of our recent philosophists, upon the experi- 
ment of remodelling society — but with becoming modesty, 
were content to plant principles, which would be sure to 
germinate, grow, and expand like the mustard tree, until 
it shadowed the whole country. The different sides were 
too patriotic to insist on their extreme views, and thus to 
minister to their own pride of opinion, at the expense of all 
that was dear to themselves and their constituents. They 
were patriots — not demagogues. They submitted to exist- 
ing evils which could not be eradicated by human power, 
trusting that time, with the advance of liberal knowledge 
and opinion, which they foresaw as the inevitable result of 

tUNNER. 131 

their work, would do more than authority or obstinacy. 
They compromised — each yielded something of peculiar 
interests ; and principle, in the case of slavery, was vindi- 
cated so far as the power of the federal government could 
be extended, by authorizing Congress to prohibit the import- 
ation of slaves at a fixed period. Farther they could not 
proceed, consistent with the principle of State sovereignty, 
in respect to municipal laws, which the Constitution itself 
established. The result was, a union, instead of a confed- 
eracy of the States. Sixty years of national prosperity, 
amid perilous dangers from intestine divisions, with three 
foreign wars, and when political earthquakes have rocked 
the nations of Europe — have attested the wisdom and the 
sound, far-seeing patriotism of that glorious band who 
sent forth from Independence Hall the inestimable Consti- 
tution which your toast commemorates. 

Much and justly as we admire and wonder at the forti- 
tude, patience, and bravery, of those who resisted the en- 
croachments of the British Parliament ; — fervently as we 
applaud, and gratefully as we acknowledge the privations, 
the sacrifices and the devotion of life, in our long revolu- 
tionary struggle, yet we cannot but acknowledge, that when 
it was ended, the work was not half completed. A new 
people was born into the world — but it was not a nation. 
That had yet to be formed — -and those who had conquered 
the British legions, had a far more difficult labor to perform 
• — they had to conquer themselves. The thirteen separate 
sovereignties had none but centrifugal forces ; — the contin- 
uance of their very existence demanded that the centripe- 
tal force should be given them. It was done, and they 
have been kept in their orbits. 

My purpose, in this sketch of the labors of the Conven- 
tion, has been, not so much to record the great and unap- 


preciable merits of its members,* as to excite your attention 
to the principles by which they were guided, and to their 
conduct in the application of those principles. To an hon- 
est and ingenuous mind, a single principle involving the 
interests of humanity, assumes an importance and a mag- 
nitude which absorb our sympathies and cast into shade 
other principles not less important. We do not stop to ex- 
amine the bearing of our favorite dogma upon other vital 
maxims, nor to study their mutual relations. This is ob- 
viously contrary to sound reason in any department of sci- 
ence, intellectual, moral, or physical ; but particularly in 
the affairs of life and in the science of government, which 
is in its nature practical, and not theoretical, these 
antagonist interests and principles, are as much op- 
posed as the centripetal and centrifugal forces that 
keep the planets in motion ; and regularity, order, and 
success are to be attained, not by yielding absolute 
sway to any one of these principles, interests or for- 
ces, but by the combination of the whole, securing the 
mutual reaction of each upon the other. This was emi- 
nently the policy of the framers of our constitution, and to 
that policy is to be attributed the success hitherto of our 

It is this policy which I would commend to you. and to 
all our fellow-citizens, as indicating with all the certainty 
that can be predicated of human contrivance, the safe 
channel by which our country can be conducted through 
the shoals, quicksands, breakers, and rocks, that threaten 
her on either side. I counsel not the abandonment of any 
principle, but I urge, as a duty as well as sound poUcy, 
that in maintaining it, the same respect for the principles, 
interests, opinions, and even prejudices of others, be ob- 
served, that you claim for your own. 

DINNER. 133 

You, my friends, will soon occupy positions in Society, 
where the influence of your opinions and your example 
will be felt, and probably more extensively than you can 
now calculate. Public sentiment is the real law of this 
country. Constitutions and statutes are but cobwebs in 
opposition to it. However unpalatable or humiliating it 
may be, it is nevertheless an undeniable truth. It would be 
easy to enumerate instances of palpable violations of our 
Constitution, knowingly committed in obedience to a nearly 
universal public opinion. And you need not be told how 
many of our statutes are worse than dead letters. The 
reason is, that our government is that of the people, and 
this sovereign may trample upon powers, compacts, laws, 
and constitutions, with as little remorse as any single des- 
pot of the old world. And the explanation of our having 
escaped from more numerous instances of despotic tyranny, 
is that in the union a sound, honest public sentiment has 
been maintained, nearly up to the level of our Constitutions. 
Let not this picture dishearten you, or diminish your confi- 
dence in free institutions, and in the republican principle. 
For, after all, there is less danger of abuses by large mass- 
es — ^by the whole people, or by large majorities of them, 
than by single despots, or by an oligarchy ; and there is 
more certainty of reform and return to sound principle by 
those who are sure to be the suflerers from irregularities 
and excesses, than by the few whose position exempts 
them from the common lot. But rather let the reflections 
which these views may awaken, stimulate your exertions 
to inform the public mind, to keep it sound and intelligent, 
to prevent it from running to extremes, to moderate its ten- 
dency to impulsive movement, and to sustain it by the 
constant exhibition of those eternal principles of truth and 

righteousness, which have been revealed to us, and which 



we are told from an indisputable authority, only can " ex- 
alt a Nation." 

The Philomatheans of former days — They are welcome to their ancient 

Rev. Henry P. Tappan, being called upon, responded 
as follows : 

Mr. President : — You, Sir, one of the founders of the 
Philomathean Society, and its oldest surviving member, 
from your heart — a heart, whose fine and generous sym- 
pathies age has only ripened, not quenched — you can re- 
spond to this sentiment. In framing the words of this 
response, I feel that I am speaking in behalf of all the Philo" 
matheans of former days — that their united spirit is flowing 
through my heart — that I am, at this moment, speaking 
under the inspiration of a venerable presence which seems 
to collect here all our past history. You, who were pres- 
ent at the dawning of our day, are now here when our sun 
hath risen high in the heavens ; and voices then unborn 
welcome you as the first-born, and us of a later date as old- 
er brothers. We have met together in our ancient home. 
We have met at the call of our younger brothers, who, still 
at home, while we have .been wandering up and down in 
the world, have invited us to come and see once more the 
old familiar places, renew old associations, exchange heart- 
felt salutations, and eat with them a thanksgiving dinner. 

When this invitation reached us, our hearts at once said, 
it is worthy of our brothers who keep the old homestead, 
thus to call us back ; and it is fit that we should go and 
do honor to the Lares who early protected and cherished 
us, and whose influence has followed us through life. 

DINNER. 135 

Half a century has passed away since our house was 
founded. Since then many spacious additions have been 
made to it, and much store of good and choice things col- 
lected. Its grounds also have been extended and embel- 
lished. The trees early planted have grown up to become 
the tall monarchs of the forest. There are gushing foun- 
tains, beautiful walks and groves — fit haunts of the muses. 
This progress in all that elevates, refines and adorns, it is 
grateful to contemplate. 

And when we entered this festal hall, so well arranged, 
and so tastefully adorned ; when we read these inscriptions 
upon the walls ; when we looked around upon these glow- 
ing and happy faces ; — many and holy were the remem- 
brances and associations that were called up ; — the beauti- 
ful past, and the beautiful present were wedded together. 

The influence of such a scene is like that of music 
heard once more, which, in our early youth, coming from 
lips that we loved, awakened a delight which has left its 
immortal traces in our minds ; and which, now revived, 
brings along with it the image of cherished scenes with all 
the beauty and kindness, and every thing dear and sacred, 
by which they were hallowed. Many brothers have gone 
forth from this spot into the wide world. But they have 
not all returned to-day. Some are unavoidably detained. 
Some have finished their race on earth. The memory of 
the dead saddens, but, at the same time, hallows and gives 
dignity to our festivities. We who have come together 
thank om- younger brothers for their invitation, and for all 
the arrangements and hospitalities which have made our 
meeting so convenient, so agreeable, and so full of lofty in- 
spirations. Noble spirits have honored our house : noble 
spirits possess it now. We cannot but cherish the hope 
that it will ever be the abode of Virtue, Science, and 


Friendship. Did I yield to my feelings, I might say 
much more. But I have occupied your attention long 
enough this day, in the honorable and the pleasant duty I 
was called to perform. Permit me, therefore, to give, in 
conclusion — 

The Acting Members of the Philomathean Society — ^Wor- 
thy successors of the Philomatheans of former days — fair 
examples to those who shall come after them. 

The following Poem from Mrs. Sigourney, written for 
the occasion, with the accompanying note were then read : 

"Mrs. Sigourney sends, by request, a Poem for the 
approaching Jubilee of the Philomathean Society of Union 
College, with the hope that this gathering of choice and 
classic spirits, throughout our wide-spread lahd, to a spot 
hallowed by high associations, may be productive of all 
they anticipate." 

Hartford^ June 16, 1848. 


What Spirit from the sacred realms 

Of Learning's sceptred sway, 
Comes forth in vigor unimpaired, 

While ancient thrones decay ? 

What whispereth to the man of God, 

Who wars with sin and pride, 
And brings a sunbeam o'er his thought. 

When all is dark deside ? 

What, like a dovelet's dewy wing, 

Doth fan the statesman's brain. 
And from the brow of toil and care 

Unbind the coiling chain *? 

What moves the sage of hoary hairs ? 
The lover in his bowers 1 

DINNER. 137 

And o'er the prairie's boundless breast, 
Sweeps like the breath of flowers 1 

What beckoneth with a viewless hand, 

From homes that seas divide, 
Back to the cloister'd halls of yore, 

The Alma Mater's side 1 

Back to the earliest student-cell, 

The tomes of lore refined, 
Back to the quiet twilight walk. 

Where heart with heart was twined ? 

Back to the fine, old classic groves, 

The haunts that flowers adorn, 
Where 'neath the sunset's crimson cloud, 

At flush of eve — 'twas born. 

Oh soul of friendship ! knit to strength, 

'Mid youth and learning's might, 
Still strike thy rooted memories deep, 

Till time's receding light. 

And link thyself with love divine. 

That when life's dream is o'er. 
Thou, with a seraph's lyre, mayst stand 

Upon the eternal shore. 


On motion of Joel B. Nott, Esq., it was unanimously 
resolved that Hon. John C. Wright, Hon. Archibald 
L. Linn, and Thomas Palmer, Esq., in connection with 
a committee from the acting members, address the Alumni, 
soliciting them to unite in raising a semi-centennial contri- 
butioHj to be applied to the enlargement of the Society 


The following letters were received from different Alum- 
ni and invited guests. 


Richmond, (Va.,) June 8, 1848. 
Mr. Am AS A McCoy : 

Dear Sir : — I have just received from your hands, an 
invitation to attend the Semi-Centennial Celebration of the 
Philomathean Society of Union College. Give me leave to 
assure you, sir, and through you the Committee of Invita- 
tion, (three of whose members, once my own fellow-stu- 
dents, I always remember with distinguished respect,) that 
I highly appreciate, and feel much flattered by the particu- 
lar and pressing invitation with which they have honored 
me ; and that it would aflbrd me great pleasure, did my 
health and duties permit, to unite with them in the literary, 
social, and festive exercises and gratifications, to which 
they are looking forward. Union College, its President, 
and the Philomathean Society, to which it ever was my 
pride to have belonged, have always been cherished by 
me, in a kind and grateful remembrance. They have al- 
ways been associated in my own heart, with feelings of 
gratitude to Heaven, and with the memory of (a thousand 
collegiate) joys that are past ; and I am never more inte- 


rested, gratified, or disposed to be loquacious, than when I 
meet with a friend who has much to say about my che- 
rished Alma Mater. 

Although, therefore, I cannot enjoy the high gratification 
of personally greeting you, and of sharing in the delightful 
associations and reminiscences that will cluster around the 
coming anniversary, (my infirmities and duties preventing,) 
yet I beg the Philomatheans to be assured that I cherish 
the memory of them all as literary brothers, and that I hope 
they may realize, at the coming festival, all the benefit and 
all the pleasure which their most sanguine anticipations 
can lead them to expect — Increasing prosperity, usefulness, 
and honor, to our distinguished Alma Mater, and to her 
noble auxiliary, the Brotherhood of Philomatheans. 
I have the honor to be, Sir, 
With great respect, 

Your friend and servant, 



Wareham, (Mass.,) June 21, 1848. 

Dear Sir : — It is with great reluctance that I decline 
the invitation to join in your approaching celebration. An 
infirm state of health compels me to confine myself to my 
necessary duties, especially at this season of the year. 

I must not, however, let the opportunity pass, without 
expressing my deep sense of obligation to the Philomathean 
Society. I have every reason to be thankful to Union Col- 
lege for its faithful and skillful care, but its service is al- 
ways remembered in connection with our Association. The 
voluntary diligence of a Collegiate Society supplies a most 


important place in the formation of a young man's charac- 
ter — in fitting him to make the most of Ufe. Especially, 
extemporaneous debate, connected with thorough studies 
and careful writing, begins the true economy of public life. 
The rapid and various research beforehand, and the 
prompt recollection, arrangement, and application of one's 
knowledge, employ and strengthen the whole man without 
sacrificing the opportunity which the College affords. I 

may, in accordance with these views, offer to the assem- 


bled brotherhood the following sentiment: 

The Philomathean Society — An indispensable aid of 
Union College in the training of her sons. In high or low 
estate, they shall do good service whose self-directed man- 
hood is faithful in continuing the work which both began. 

It is not to be supposed that the young men who gave 
us our name were unmindful of the highest mathema. At 
least, those who remain to old age, and my own cotempo- 
raries of forty years ago, will join me in the assurance 
which long experience has given, that were it for this life 
only, for its necessities and occasions, they only are pre- 
pared who learn of the Brother and the Lord of human 
kind. Too deeply have I felt this, to think that the young 
men will not approve the letter to Philomatheans, which, 
after all, " turns out a sermon." 

With great interest in the whole Brotherhood, 



Pittsburg, July 3, 1848. 

Dear Sir : — I have delayed acknowledging the receipt 

of your letter of the 26th of May, inviting me to the pro- 



posed Semi-Centennial Anniversary of the Philomathean 
Society, on the 25th instant, from the uncertainty of being 
enabled to absent myself from my parish at that time. 
Having been so fortunate as to obtain the assistance of a 
clerical friend during my absence, I lose no time in signi- 
fying to you my acceptance of the very gratifying invita- 
tion of the Committee. It is now thirty-four years since I 
had the pleasure of meeting, as " an attending member," 
with a^ Society in which, during my collegiate course, I 
took a deep interest, and which is associated with some of 
my most delightful recollections of the past. I have never 
had an opportunity of participating in its exercises as a 
"non-attending member." But I have heard, with sincere 
gratification, of its great increase in numbers, and of its 
continued prosperity ; and I anticipate no little pleasure in 
personally beholding its present flourishing condition, and 
in meeting, among the many who are necessarily strang- 
ers, some, I trust, with whom, in by-gone days, I was wont 
to associate in friendly intercourse and in literary pursuits, 
in its well remembered hall. 

Very truly and respectfully, 

Your fellow Philomathean, 

Mr. Amasa McCoy. 


Troy, May 31, 1848. 
Mr. Amasa McCoy : 

Sir : — I have to acknowledge the receipt of an invitation 
to the Anniversary Celebration of the Philomathean Socie^ 
ty, on the 25th of July next, together with your kind note 


attached to the same, and urging my attendance. In re- 
ply, be pleased to accept my thanks, both for the mvitation 
and the manner in which the same was communicated. 
Amidst the labors of an arduous profession, in which I have 
been engaged for more than a quarter of a century, it is a 
relief to look back to the years of my academic life, and to 
be assured, that after a lapse of thirty- two years, my name 
has not wholly disappeared from the Society to which I 
was ardently attached, is grateful to my feelings. 

And allow me, through you, to say to the Society, that 
experience has confirmed my early convictions of the util- 
ity of the association in training and fitting its niembers 
for the duties of active life. I cannot, therefore, but look 
with deep interest, to the success of the Society, and of the 
literary institution to which it belongs. 

Should my professional engagements be such as, (by 
possibility,) to allow me to attend your celebration, I shall 
most cheerfully comply with your Invitation. 
Respectfully yours, &c.j 

H. P. HUNT. 


Rhtnebeck, July 22, 1848. 
My Dear Sir : — In the month of May last I received a 
Circular to the Alumni of the Philomathean Society, 
Union College, inviting me to participate in the comme- 
moration of a Semi-centennial Anniversary of our Society, 
on the 25th of the present month. As you are chairman 
of the Committee of Invitation signing said Circular, permit 
me to address to you my reply to the same. Were it not 
for the reason which I shall presently assign, it would af- 


ford me much pleasm-e to join on that day in the celebra- 
tion of an event so interesting as the foundation of a Lite- 
rary Society of which I had the honor of being a member 
while I was at Union College — to meet in social, yet 
chastened, festivity the Alumni of that Society, many of 
whom I still hold in friendship's remembrance, and some 
of whom among the members of your committee I recog- 
nize as personal acquaintances — to lend a listening ear to 
the Oration and Poem which shall on that occasion be 
pronounced, and to share in the friendly salutations which 
shall then be exchanged Avith each other — to brighten my 
recollections of past scenes and hours of youthful enjoyment 
— to revive my sentiments of affection for those from whom 
I have been so long separated, and to renew my acquaint- 
ance with those with whom my intercourse has been so 
long suspended. 

But an afflictive event, a painful dispensation of an all- 
wise and all-good Being, prevents me from seeking to en- 
joy that pleasure ; from being one to mingle with you in 
that hour of rational and social gratification. The recent 
death of an only and beloved daughter, unfits me for any 
other scene and place at present than the retirement of 
home, disqualifies me for adding any thing to the sum of 
hilarity and cheerfulness looked for at such a time, and 
incapacitates me to relish the excitement connected with 
such an occasion. Allow me, therefore, under these cir- 
cumstances, to make this letter my representative on the 
anticipated occasion, and to request you, dear sir, to com- 
municate its import, at least, to my friends assembled on 
that day, in that hall where we were wont to convene. 
Please assure my associate Alumni of the Philomathean 
Society of my regard and friendship for them; of the de- 
light with which I should meet them, if certain emotions 


were not so prominent in my bosom ; of my continued inte- 
rest in all true science and learning, especially in the 
knowledge, combined with the practice, of the will of the 
Almighty Father of us all, who would make of one ever- 
enduring Society, in perfect love and harmony, all the 
nations of the world. If sentiments are offered at your 
festive board, and if there be a language in flowers, I would 
cull this one of sweet promise from the Paradise of God, 
and, while all people except our own are in commotion, 
and the kingdoms of this world are bemg shaken, would 
present it, saying, " Knowledge and wisdom shall be the 
stability of thy times and strength of salvation." 
With sincere regard I am, Sir, 
Your Friend, 


Prof. Isaac W. Jackson, 

Chairman of Committee of Invitation. 


Burlington, July 8, 1848. 
Dear Sir : — From the telegraphic despatch just receiv- 
ed, I gather that my answers to former letters have not 
been received. I deeply regret my inability to comply 
with the request of my young friends, and deeply feel the 
kindness which has prompted it. I hold the Philomathean 
Society in most honorable remembrance, and heartily de- 
sire for it length of days, and for all its members honor and 

Ever your faithful friend, 




Philadelphia, June 8, 1848. 
Gentlemen : — Having promised to deliver the oration 
before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Dartmouth College, 
this year, I find that it will prevent my being present at 
the Semi-Centennary of the Philomathean Society. I can, 
therefore, only express my deep regret, thank you for the 
honor of your invitation, and wish the brethren, more for- 
tunate than myself, the highest enjoyment of their refined 

With great respect, yours, 

Prof. Isaac W. Jackson, 

Chairman of Committee of Invitation. 


Auburn, July 19, 1848. 
Dear Sir: — I have refrained, thus long, from reply- 
ing to your letter of the 12th of this month, inviting me to 
attend the Semi-Centennial Anniversary Celebration of the 
Philomathean Society, under a hope that I might control 
my engagements, so as to allow myself so great an indul- 
gence as an acceptance of the invitation would afford. 
But an unexpected summons to Baltimore places that pleas- 
ure entirely beyond my reach. I beg you to present to the 
Committee my grateful acknowledgments for the honor 
they have shown me, and express to them my great satis- 
faction in learning that the Philomathean Society main- 


tains all its ancient reputation, and continues to enlarge its 
sphere of usefulness. 

I am, Dear Sir, 

Very respectfully. 

Your obedient servant, 

Mr. Amasa McCoy. 


Melrose, near Auburn, July 22, 1848. 

Dear Sir : — It was not until to-day that I reluctantly 
gave up the hope of being able to attend the approaching 
celebration of the Semi-Centennial Anniversary of the 
Philomathean Society of Union College, announced in the 
circular of the committee of which you are chairman. 

Anticipating the pleasure, as 1 have all along indulged 
myself in doing, of being present on this highly interesting 
occasion, I have naturally been led to revert to the long- 
past years of my own collegiate pupilage, and to dwell 
upon the cherished and yet vivid remembrance of those 
with whom, as instructors and fellow-students, it was my 
good fortune to be then associated. 

It is now just forty years since I entered the college. 
At that time Dr. Nott — clarum et venerabile nomen — was, 
as, most happily, he has ever since been. President. Dr. 
Allen, erudite, serene and majestic, who had the diagram 
of the forty-seventh proposition engraven on his seal, and 
was himself the very personification of the noble sciences 
he taught, was Professor of Mathematics and Natural 
Philosophy. Dr. Davis — learned, conscientious and inde- 
fatigable in the performance of his duties ; a rigid discipli- 


narian in theory, but too benevolent to be severe ; for, in 
taking his nightly rounds, he usually gave timely notice of 
his approach, especially to the domicils of the more mercu- 
rial students, by striking his cane heavily on the floor — 
was Professor of Greek. Mr. (afterwards the Rev. Dr.) 
McCauley — a faithful instructor and kind-hearted gentle- 
man, who, as I know by experience, if a student could not 
find a satisfactory definition of a Latin word in his duode- 
cimo dictionary, would in the most obliging manner throw 
open his ponderous quarto — was Professor of Latin. I 
bear testimony with the greater alacrity to my recollection 
of the excellent qualities of this gentleman, because he 
became, during my time, the object of a wanton and cruel 
persecution, in which, I am pained to say, I had some 
share, though not by any means so great a share as one of 
the circumstances connected with the unhappy affair, 
seemed to indicate. It was an unmerited, and, in truth, 
groundless aggression, undertaken without much reflection, 
quite as much in sport as in earnest, and prosecuted with- 
out any just appreciation of the pain it could not but have 
occasioned. It has ever since been fresh in my recollection, 
and I have never thought of it but with remorse. The 
youngest, and only remaining professor of that time, was Mr., 
(afterwards the Rev. Dr., and for many years past. Bishop,) 
Brownell, Professor of Rhetoric, Belles Lettres and Chem- 
istry ; a fine scholar, and a modest and courtly gentleman. 
He went to England shortly before our class was gradua- 
ted, to purchase chemical apparatus, and performed a tour, 
chiefly pedestrian, through, as 1 understood, a great part 
of England, if not of Scotland also. 

It strikes me as somewhat remarkable that of all these 
eminent and excellent men, old enough, forty years ago, to 
fill the high and responsible posts they occupied, one only 


has died. Dr. Allen, alone, has "shuffled off this mortal 
(foil," and passed into a new state of being ; and if it be 
true that the complexion of our future existence takes its 
hue from our character here, I cannot but believe that he 
has been a gainer by the transition. He left the college 
while I was there ; why, the students were not permitted 
to know. His sudden departure was, to us, a profound 
and painful mystery. We called a class meeting, and 
sent after him a letter expressive of om' love and respect 
for his character, and our sorrow at the separation. We 
never received any answer to our communication. If he 
ever got it, he probably deemed it indiscreet to acknow- 
ledge its receipt. 

Dr. Allen was succeeded by Professor Hassler, since 
widely known as a profound mathematician. He was an 
eccentric and highly sensitive man. He had a work-shop 
in the upper part of his house, where, with his own hands, 
he fabricated many things pertaining to his scientific pur- 
suits. Owing partly to his want of familiarity with om* 
language, and, paradoxical though it may seem, to his vast 
learning, he was not a successful instructor. While await- 
ing the tardy decision of the Government upon his appli- 
cation for employment in its service, he fell sick of " hope 
deferred ;" took to his bed, from which there seemed to be 
little probability of his ever rising ; but when, at length, the 
wished-for answer came, he at once arose, dressed himself, 
and set about the necessary preparations for his departure. 

But I am growing prosy ^ and I fear you will find my 
remeniscences more tiresome than interesting. 

Believe me, Dear Sir, with great respect and regard, 

Very truly yours, 


Prof. Isaac W. Jackson. 




New-York, June 5, 1848. 

Dear Sir : — ^I deeply regret that inextricable engage- 
naentSj long since formed, will detain me far from Schenec- 
tady on the 25th of July next, and prevent my joining in 
the celebration of the Semi-Centennial Anniversary of the 
Philomathean Society. 

No invitation could have addressed itself more forcibly 
to my feelings, nor summoned up more visibly before me 
the events, studies, joys, and friendships of early youth, so 
many of which are connected with that Society, the anni- 
versary of which you kindly invite me to celebrate. 

Though' absent from your meeting in July, I shall be 
with you in sympathetic feeling ; and, while recollection of 
the past remains, I shall be proud to feel and declare my- 
self a loyal and attached member of your distinguished 

I have the honor to be. Dear Sir, 

Your most obedient and humble servant, 

Mr. Amasa McCoy. 


Hamilton College, June 13, 1848. 
Mr. Amasa McCoy : 

Dear Sir: — I have the honor to acknowledge your 
friendly invitation to attend a reunion and festival of the 
Philomathean Society, on the 25th of July ; and I thank 
you for the very complimentary terms in which the invita- 
tion was conveyed. That my humble name should " not 
be forgotten," among so many of greater worth and wider 


celebrity, which adorn the Catalogue of the Philomathean 
Society, and shed lustre on our venerable Alma Mater, I 
deem no ordinary distinction. 

Your invitation, (I say it sorroAvfully,) I am obliged to 
decline. I have been promising myself the pleasure of 
attending commencement at Union for several years ; and 
with more emphasis the present than any preceding year ; 
and now, when I vividly perceive how much that pleasure 
would be enhanced by your contemplated meeting and its 
incidents — outstretched palms of old comrades, and remi- 
niscences of old campaigns, to say nothing, but think much, 
of the oration, poem, dinner, speeches, et caetera, (a combi- 
nation to make a Professor of Rhetoric run mad,) the inte- 
resting event must still be deferred to a more auspicious 
future. An engagement in the cause of education in Ohio 
will call me to that State a fortnight previous to the meet- 
ing, and probably detain me there until the middle of Sep- 
tember. Please express my regrets to your committee, and 
believe me, 

Very truly a Philomathean, and 
Your obedient servant, 



Albany, June 5, 1848, 
My Dear Sir : — I found, on my return from court, a 

very gratifying evidence of remembrance on the part of my 

collegiate friends, in your letter and the accompanying 

Such a compliment was peculiarly acceptable from the 

Philomathean Society ; for there are few of the brother- 


hood to whoiii the Old Hall is not endeared by many pleas^ 

ing and grateful associations. 

I shall certainly endeavor to attend the Semi-Centennial 

Jubilee,* and the occasion will doubtless suggest some few 

words to say in an after dinner talk, if there should be a 

dearth of speakers-^a thing, by the way, which we can 

all say with honest pride, is not likely to occur at a Philo* 

mathean Jubilee. 

• » » * * • « 

Yours, very truly, 


Mr. Amasa McCoy. 

* Judge Porter, and also Dr. Upfold, were prevented from attending 
by circumstances which occurred after their letters were transmitted. 


The memorable enjoyments of the day were succeeded 
in the evening, by the no less acceptable pleasures of a 
Soiree. At nine o'clock, the members and invited guests as- 
sembled in the spacious Hall occupied during the afternooUj 
and now elegantly furnished for the social pleasures of the 
evening. The vases of flowers, wreathed mottos, and 
other decorations for the day still adorned the walls, har- 
monizing Avell with the beauty of the scene. Excellent 
music lent its enlivening strains to the enthusiasm that 
pervaded the assembly. The pleasures of the occasion 
were not now confined to the members alone, but were 
shared and heightened by a large number of their fair 
friends, invited from the city and abroad, and the Philo- 
mathean never received a more acceptable compliment, 
than when Beauty displayed on her snowy robes the pink 
insignia of membership. The refined enjoyments of the 
Soiree were peculiarly grateful to the cloistered student 
who had just closed the labors of another collegiate year, 
as well as to the returned members, in whom was revived 
the enthusiasm of earlier years. 

" Agnosco veteris vestigia flammae." 

Thus closed the Semi-Centennial Anniversary of the 
Philomathean Society — an occasion highly interesting and 



gratifying to those present — ^honorable to the enterprise of 
its members — a testimonial of its past usefulness, and the 
interest still taken in its welfare — and, we may be permit- 
ted to hope, an auspicious indication of its future pros- 

[Note. — It was the design of the Society to append to the work a list 
of the donors to the " Semi-Centennial Contribution for the improvement 
of the Society Library," but owing to unforseen circumstances this in- 
tention could not be carried into eflfect.] 

LB m 




028 363 472 3 


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