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those of Shakspeare, Bacon, and Newton, and other kindred minds of ancient and modern times, ought, in all countries and in all ages, to find a home and an altar in a place of liberal education. Woe to the man, and woe to the college, and woe to the country, that seeks to break up this great intellectual community of our race; to cut asunder all these grand moral traditions; and to launch the individual man or the individual generation upon an ocean of vague and sceptical speculation, without looking to the recorded wisdom of the past for compass, chart, or pilot!
Heaven knows I am no enemy to progress. In my humble measure I have longed for it, and toiled for it; in reference to some deep questions, I have wept and prayed for it; but let it really be progress. Movement is not necessarily progress; it may be sideways or backward. I doubt that progress which denies that the ages before us have achieved any thing worth preserving. I believe in both parts of the apostolic rule, — Prove all things, and hold fast that which is good. True progress is thoughtful, hopeful, serene, religious, onward, and upward. To the youthful mind especially, an entirely unsuggested and original course is an arrogant delusion. No such thing is possible. It will lean on some support and follow some guide; and the alternative is that of the truths which have stood the test of ages, and of which a great and liberal seat of learning should be the intelligent expositor; and the doubtful neologisms of the day, which, nine times out of ten, are superseded by the equally doubtful neologisms of to-morrow. That navigator is best fitted to discover new worlds, whether of matter or of mind, who, like Columbus, has learned from the elder pilots the depths and shallows, the islands and the continents, of the known seas. He may launch boldly forth; and if dộiven by stress of weather to a port of refuge, he will take care to cast anchor in terra firma, and not in the “ scaly rind” of some uncouth sea-monster, where the best ground-tackle will stand him in little stead.
These, however, are great topics of discussion, better fitted for the lecture-room than the dinner table; and I would end, brethren, as I began, by bidding you welcome to this academical festival. Let us bring to it a kindly feeling of attachment to each other, and of reverence to our common intellectual parent. Let us cherish the memory of the teachers of our youth, and return them an ample, though perhaps a tardy justice, for the care and pains to which, probably, at the time we were too little sensible. Let us especially not forget the great and good men from Harvard down, — the long line of benefactors of earlier and later days, - to whom we owe the enjoyment of these privileges and blessings. Let us do something, if I may use the expression, to organize our attachment to our Alma Mater, so as to strengthen her in her relations with society, and increase her means of usefulness.
And now, brethren, I think the less of ceremony on this occasion the better. We are honored with the company of several distinguished friends not belonging to our body, whose voices you will deem it a privilege to hear. There are those of our own academic family at the table, who never speak but to please, instruct, and animate. There is not a class present from which you would not be glad to hear. The chair will exert itself to call upon those gentlemen and brethren to whom that mark of respect is first due, and trusts that such omissions as may take place from the want of time will be ascribed to any other cause than intentional neglect.
EDUCATION AND CIVILIZATION.*
The morning is far advanced, Mr. Chairman, and I really do not like to consume any portion of a day like this, which belongs to our young friends. I feel as if it was wrong for the veterans to occupy any of the time which belongs on this occasion to the cadets. Still, however, it is a fundamental principle of our Massachusetts school system, that the authority of the school committee is paramount, in all matters within their sphere, and I will not set our young friends so bad an example as to call it in question
I regret, sir, that it was not in my power to attend the examinations yesterday. I have just returned from an excursion to the White Mountains, and found so many things requiring my attention had accumulated in my absence, that it was impossible for me to spare the day. An examination like that which was held yesterday is a more satisfactory test of the condition of a school, than such an exhibition as we have witnessed this morning, however pleasing and well conducted. A diligent study and a thorough knowledge of the elementary branches of learning form the great object of school education, as far as the intellect is concerned, and how far that object is attained can, of course, be much better seen in an examination, than in an exhibition like that which we have attended with so much pleasure this morning. I am happy to understand from several members of the committee, that the examination was of the most satisfactory character; showing that the school continues to deserve its high repu
* Speech at the Exhibition of the Cambridge High School, on the 7tb of August, 1852.
tation. Such I had no doubt would be the case, from opportunities I have enjoyed of informing myself as to its condition. Of the estimation in which I have held it, I have given the best proof which a parent can give.
On the exercises of this morning it is not necessary to comment at length. They have spoken for themselves. Among those to which I listened with the greatest pleasure, was the recitation in moral philosophy. It showed, on the part of our young friends composing the class, an acquaintance with this difficult and important subject, far beyond what is usually possessed by persons of their age. I was rather sorry, Mr. Smith, that want of time obliged you to omit the recitation on the Constitution of the United States. That, too, is a very important subject, and one on which none too much knowledge prevails, even in our own country. As to foreign countries, I saw three or four weeks ago, rather a striking specimen of the ignorance prevailing on the subject of the provisions of the Constitution of the United States, on the part of very well-informed persons. A member of Parliament, of great intelligence, by way of correcting a statement made by one of his colleagues, informed the House of Commons that the Senate of the United States is chosen for life.
With regard to the exercises in reading and speaking, which have taken up the greater part of the forenoon, I would not have it inferred from the remark made by me a short time since, that I look upon them as unimportant branches. Far, very far from it. They are of great importance and value. Provided a man has any thing to say worth hearing, the better he says it, the more he will be listened to. I am afraid, even, that on many occasions the manner is more thought of than the matter. Lord Chesterfield tells us that the bill for introducing the reformed Calendar, or New Style, as it is commonly called, into England, was brought forward in the House of Lords by the Earl of Macclesfield, a man of science, – President of the Royal Society, if I am not mistaken, and well acquainted with the astronomical merits of the question, but a dull speaker. As the project encountered some prejudice, there was danger that it would fail. Lord Macclesfield, however, engaged the coöperation of the Earl of Chesterfield, who, though no mathematician, was an accomplished speaker. He knew but little of the merits of the question, scientifically considered, but he made such good use of what he did know, and unfolded the subject in such a clear and persuasive manner that the bill prevailed, and the New Style was adopted in England. It became necessary, as you are aware, to carry forward the current computation of time eleven days. The first of August became the twelfth; and it is an amusing example of the extent of popular delusion, that when the son or grandson of Lord Macclesfield offered himself, years afterwards, as a candidate for Parliament, he was called upon by the voters at the hustings to “ give them back the eleven days out of which his father or grandfather had cheated them.” It might not be easy to produce a grosser specimen of ignorance and want of candor in our own electioneering annals, and that is saying a good deal.
The attendance of this day, this respectable assembly, the frequency of similar occasions in this community, the legislation of the Commonwealth on the subject of our schools, attest the great interest which is taken by the people of Massachusetts, in common with their fellow-citizens in many other parts of the country, in the cause of popular education. It is a legitimate interest. It is an all-important cause in every free country, and there are, as it seems to me, peculiar reasons why, in America, there should be the deepest sense of the importance of public education, as a great system of general mental culture, to which, as far as human causes go, we are indebted for the blessings of our civilization. There is one particular fact, of a historical and local nature, stamped, as it were, upon the face of the continent itself, to which, perhaps, all the attention has not been paid which it merits, and which, of itself, is sufficient to justify the lively interest that has been taken from the first in the cause of education, and