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Inaugural Address at the Opening of Tufts College, August 22, 1855.
THE opening of a new College is one of those occasions that rarely occur. It is an event which probably but few of us have ever attended before to-day.
In these circumstances, it may not be out of place to observe, that the real importance of the present occasion greatly transcends the impression we might receive from the unfinished state of things, which you see, and from the appearances of incompleteness which everywhere surround us on this hill. These are the natural attendants on a beginning. Time and continued effort, it is presumed, will remove what is unseemly at the outset, and supply the appurtenances that are now wanting. It would be doing injustice even to the present, did we not take the future also into view; or rather, did we not embrace in our view the design which is here going on towards fulfilment, as well as the imperfect stage at which the actual execution has arrived. We need not hesitate to say, that amidst these partial and fragmentary preparations, and underneath these usual accompaniments of a holiday,the bustle and excitement, the curiosity and undefined expectations, which the gathering has called forth,underneath all these, there lie the elements of a power mightier and wider-reaching in its ultimate developments, than we can at present measure. This is the thought with which I rose to address you. The institution that we are opening to day, if it live and do its work in the world, cannot fail to produce results that may well be called momentous; the more momentous, because the larger part of them lie deep, and out of sight at a superficial view. This institution will very sensibly affect the cause of human culture. It will contribute something towards giving direction to leading minds that shall transact the business of the world. In some degree it will temper the influences that bear sway in all the depart ments of life. Consider, that whatever power it shall
have, will operate directly on those fountain-heads of civilization, learning, science, and the intellectual progress of society. And all this for ages to come! To-day, it is entering the field to take its share of control among these deep and paramount interests; to act as a new agent in helping to form the genius of our own times, and in guiding the destinies of future generations.
In saying this, we say it in no spirit of assumption or of exclusiveness, as if we would arrogate the field to ourselves in any such way as to ignore the claims or activities of others. I trust we shall not be suspected of conceitedly overlooking the fact, that the field of liberal education is already occupied-well' occupied-by Colleges which have long been in operation, and that the work of which we speak is already prosecuted with success, under their superintendence. By ascribing so great an importance to the present occasion and its prospective consequences, we do not imply that the older Colleges have, in any respect, failed to perform their part faithfully, satisfactorily, honorably. On the contrary, if they had not answered their purpose,-if they had disappointed public expectation,-if they had proved to be inefficient, our College would never have come into existence, for want of any favorable prospect to induce a trial. It was their success that encouraged us. It was the manifest good which they have achieved, it was the powerful influences which they have so widely exerted, and the satisfaction they have given to all competent judges, that moved us to emulate their example, at humble distance. We cannot but honor them for what they have accomplished; and, if I do not mistake, the enterprise in which we are now engaged is a token of respect the most unambiguous and practical that we could render to their worth,
We are adding one to their number. And we judge of the power which this one will put forth, by the power they have put forth. We estimate its probable results, by what they have done, and are now doing,-making allowance meanwhile for difference in advantages, and dissimilarity of circumstances. And if we look at the matter in this way, through the light of these precedents, which are not likely to deceive, I think we shall see that there is little danger of overrating the importance of the field before us, even when we indulge the most enlarged anticipations.
What, then, is the field that a College, in successful operation, occupies? What is the part it performs,—not only within its own walls, but out in the concerns of human life, out among our social interests, and in the progress of the world? To give our survey some order and point, we may contemplate the field in the different departments into which our complex social life is divided, and ask, What does the College actually do in them?say, in the important province of public education and culture? what does it do in the still more important domain of the Christian ministry and church, in the professions of law and medicine, in political guidance, and in statesmanship, in science, and in literature,-I mean in the several agencies that make up nearly the whole array of moving forces in civilized society, indeed, that make -up our life.
Perhaps we might say, in answer, that the facts the most obvious to a merely casual observer, are, that the .College holds quite an honored position, standing at the topmost grade in the ascending series of public educational institutions; that it has charge of giving the highest and most extensive school instruction in learning and science, puts the finishing hand to these courses; that it makes a multitude of scholars; and yearly sends forth a - class of them to act upon the community; that it stamps a valuable reputation on young men who go out into the world, or who enter the professions, as they are called; and finally, that it is a great advantage, in point of social respectability and influence, to have an institution of the kind on one's own side.
No doubt it is. All this is true, unquestionably, so far as it goes. There are far deeper considerations, however, that must be taken into account, if we would lay open the real merits of the case. For ourselves, we would pay but a moderate degree of regard to the circumstance that the College holds a high place of honor in the estimation of the world, or even that it imparts a given amount of knowledge and accomplishments to any select number of persons, if this were all, or the chief, that could be said. The fact that overshadows every thing else with respect to the matter, is this: that the College works out abroad from itself, beyond the circle of its graduates, sending its
energies forth through all other institutions, and down through all classes, even to the most unlettered; transmitting to men everywhere improved forms of intelligence and taste, which the common-sense of mankind appropriates to its use, without knowing or suspecting whence these better elements came. The College is as a vital organ, whose living power is felt through the whole body of society; for the most part unconsciously felt, unnoted, like the force of all vital organs; but, none the less on that account, does it pervade the entire system, and contribute a share of its life to the general mass. It educates and forms not only its own scholars: that is but a small part of what it does; by its indirect and secondary influences, that reach out abroad, it educates and forms, to a certain degree, the community at large. Every one is aware that it stands at the head of some of the most important instrumentalities of civilization. What I would say, is, that in many respects, it acts as a head,-as the head to the body of an individual,-sends a portion of its knowledge, thoughts, and volitions out to the very extremities; and, by hidden nerves and muscles, directs the motions of all the multitudinous members.
To see the correctness of this view, we need but take any of the leading departments of our social life, and trace the workings of the College there. For an example,One of the institutions the most widely influential on society, is the system of our Common-Schools. In them, the successive generations of our people grow up; in them, they receive nearly all the regular instruction in learning, which the majority ever obtain. Whatever affects them, will sooner or later affect all the people; for all pass through them. They are the nurseries of our future men and women, who will be influenced for life by the elements here acquired. Every family through the length and breadth of our land, has children in them, or has had children in them; and in this way, our Common-Schools act immediately, directly, on every family-circle, from the heart of your great cities out to the farthest log-hut among the mountains. No man can measure the agency they exert, in forming the general mass of intelligence in our country.
But who forms them, and inspires them with this far
reaching influence? Whence do these elements come? Who devised the system of our Common-Schools, put it in operation, and from time to time improved its character? Who, by their writings, and public lecturing, year after year, through our towns and cities, by their private suggestions, and personal influence, and importunities for legislative enactments, have roused the public, and kept it awake, to the paramount importance of the enterprize? and, this being done, have then proposed the successive forms of organization, and the methods of teaching and discipline, by which our Common-Schools have been gradually brought up to their present state of excellence? Though the people at large have engaged in the execution of these designs, with a readiness that gives them a world-wide honor, yet it is well known that the movers, who have stood at the head of the whole system, have been for the most part liberally educated men, who learned from the experience of their own superior advantages, to appreciate how invaluable to every person is the best instruction which can be given him, and the most thorough learning, that his opportunities will admit of. Let no one fear that I shall disparage the noble part which the uneducated have had in this work. To do so, would be suicidal in one who himself was never a regular graduate, and who therefore feels at liberty to speak the more freely in the case. I referred to those who moved; to those who drew the designs; who were the informing soul of the undertaking; who gave its character to it; and infused into the system a portion of their own intelligence and power. The intelligence which they brought home to our Common-Schools was that of the College; the power they put forth in the cause, was that which the College gave them. The College is working to-day in every CommonSchool in New England, from the High-School down to the Primary, helping each to be what it has become, and gradually lifting all to a more elevated plane.
Look into them, as they are scattered in our villages, and over the face of our towns. See the arrangements; see their tables covered with books, their walls hung with maps, their cabinets partially stored with specimens and instruments-the simple apparatus of their studies! By whom were these books written, and these other imple