President Aaron L. Chapin's Inaugural Address
President Aaron L. Chapin's Inaugural Address
July 24, 1850
Under, the solemn responsibility, now formally imposed, the thoughts of the speaker naturally run in one direction. The circumstances of the occasion must give much the same direction to the minds of his audience. Both conspire to demand, as the topic of the hour, some exposition of the principles, aims and measures which should govern the course of those who undertake to build a Christian college.
The want, on my own part, of age and experience in this kind of service -- the lack, on the part of this institution, now in its infancy, of a character established and a policy, illustrated and recommended by years of successful operation -- and the want, in the new and youthful state of society around us, of a well settled, prevailing public sentiment respecting collegiate education, occasion some embarrassment to my mind in the attempt to treat this theme. And yet, these very considerations seem the more earnestly to demand, at this time, some announcement which may help to form opinions, while it may indicate what is aimed at in this enterprise, and what may be expected of it in the future.
If my discourse shall want the assurance and authority with which an older man, enriched with experience in the work of which he speaks, and sustained by established usage and popular opinion, might present his views, it may be to its advantage that I come to the subject free from the bias of personal prejudice and habit, and from the constraint of a fixed order of things, and from the force of a known, current public sentiment -- free to study what is wise and expedient according to the exigencies of our time and place. Profiting by the light that comes from past experience, elsewhere, and contemplating the present state of things in this region, and anticipating, as well I may, the condition and wants of the vast population that is hereafter to fill this rich country, my design will be to consider carefully and candidly what this college must be and what it must do, to subserve most effectually the interests of learning, and religion.
The name College, as commonly used in this country, denotes the highest order of literary and scientific institution known among us. It is true, the name is assumed by some schools, whose real merits fall far below the high pretensions of such a title. But this is only by a license in the use of terms, which is claimed as one of the liberties of a free people. It is true also, that some of our educational institutions, aspiring after a more sounding name, and, in many cases, no doubt, reaching after a higher character have assumed the title University. But none of these have, as yet, either in actual provision for imparting instruction, or in thoroughness of scholarship developed, risen at all superior to others which are still content with the more modest appellation, while their ambition is to ennoble it and themselves under it, by giving the greatest real value to their works. For this reason, common minds make scarcely any distinction between the terms. They are used interchangeably and both are understood to mean about the same thing. The institution which styles itself a College or a University is regarded as pretending to a rank among the highest institutions of the land. We have, indeed, professional schools, which carry the education of young men on, in certain directions, to a stage of advancement, beyond what any college aims at. These, however, are but the doors, or passages, by which minds, trained by previous drilling, go forth to enter and mingle in the bustle and conflicts of active life. The college is the high starting-point for the best trained, from whom the most efficient service is expected. Hence the colleges, rather than the professional schools, are taken as the index by which the standard of learning in a state or section of country is determined.
Comparisons are sometimes instituted between the colleges of our country and those establishments of the same name, which are grouped around the English universities of Oxford and Cambridge; but such comparisons reveal as many points of difference as of resemblance. The Fathers of New England, who, in the very infancy of their colonies, formed the pattern of our American colleges, did, indeed, have before them, as their model, the institutions from which the leaders among them had been graduated; but they were compelled to make essential modifications in their plans. The necessity which was on them from their lack of means, and the actual demands, of their times and circumstances, forbade the adoption of any features of the English colleges: which were not suited to their wants and absolutely essential to provide for the liberal education of their sons. Much as they may have loved and venerated the ancient buildings and many of the time-honored usages of their "almae matres," it was quite impossible to transplant either. They could and did adopt the old name and the old titles and forms of degrees, but in all that pertained to the course of study and discipline, they were constrained to inquire what, in their own case was most expedient and wise. In the prosecution of this inquiry, they grasped the first, simple and true idea of education -- that it is a process instituted for a large and symmetrical development of the powers of a man, in preparation for use, according to the occasions of human life, with reference to a coming immortality. As well as they could, with the means at their command, they formed their colleges to meet this idea. In the exercise of a wise eclecticism, they took the classics of Oxford and the mathematics of Cambridge, and combined the two in due proportion, as the basis of a course of instruction. Then abandoning the plan of an almost monastic seclusion, which belonged to both these ancient universities, they set their teachers and scholars to prosecute their work, with eyes out on the broad arena of this busy world, where the value of the preparatory discipline must, one day, be proved in actual service, and whence the light of new discoveries is constantly flashing, forth from the earnest action of minds applying, and, at the same time, searching and contending for all knowledge.
Thus, the system of collegiate education in this country came into being, free born. It took, of course, the name of its progenitors. It had appropriated for its use on state occasions, a set of titles, forms and degrees, cut very much after the ancient fashion; and since such things must have some fashion, this was, doubtless, and is still, as good as any. But it never felt the bondage of ecclesiastical and monarchical despotism, under which those old universities originated, and whose burden oppresses them to this day. It was never fettered by the dogmas of antiquity, so as to have its action limited to a prescribed circle. It never had the will of founders and acts of parliament fixed like an iron mould to shape its limbs, and form its features against nature. No, God, in his providence, passed beforehand, an emancipation act on all the social, and civil, and religious institutions which this country was to produce and enjoy. It left all free to develop themselves naturally, under influences ordained by himself to proceed from his own fixed laws applied to present circumstances and actual wants. The educational systems of our land, all bear the impress of this freedom. The advantage of it is most apparent in the structure, the history and the manifested fruits of our collegiate institutions. Out of it came such a modifacation of the first Colleges established, that the Harvard and Yale of New England, were quite different from anything presented at either Oxford or Cambridge, in the old country. They were made to conform to the means and the wants of the age and society in which they were founded, with the design that they should stand at the head of the whole department of education, giving the most thorough discipline, the highest cultivation and the greatest expansion to all the mental faculties with respect to their most useful application. In the subsequent history of these institutions, the principle on which they were first founded, has been constantly applied, and changes have been passing which make the Harvard and Yale of 1850, again, widely different from those of 1638 and 1700. These changes have been made to meet the exigencies of an advancing state of society in a period of the world's most stirring mental activity, and most rapid progress in practical science. By such a course, has the college, which is a college, maintained its elevated character and position, and its power to lift the whole connected system of education higher and higher.* -- The propositions recently made for new modifications, and the consequent discussions, only illustrate the same principle, that our colleges are free to become and to do whatever the true interests of learning require. And again, if we look at the developed fruits of this system, in the men whom the colleges of our land have educated, we must believe that these institutions have been eminently successful in carrying out their design. They have raised up theologians, jurists, statesmen, diplomatists, yes, and scholars too, adapted to the exigencies of a new and growing country, such as the institutions of the old world, with all their superior advantages in many respects, never could have produced -- men who, on every arena of intellectual exertion, have coped with the most gifted and best trained minds of other lands, to their own and their country's honor.
Let not these remarks be received as an attempted eulogium, dictated by that small patriotism of a blind self-conceit, which would magnify the institutions of one's own land, as greatest and best, only because they are one's own. They are made under a full appreciation and a free acknowledgement of the facts, first that the straitened circumstances of even the best of our colleges have materially abridged their ability to do their work in the best manner -- secondly, that the freedom they have enjoyed from the constraint of ancient precedents and the enactments of governmental power -- the very liberty to adapt themselves to present circumstances, has made them dependent on the public favor, and in a measure subserviant to popular opinion; and hence there is developed in them a tendency to strive after a brilliant display and present eclat, rather than substantial merit and permanent influence, and to foster, instead of opposing and correcting the vitiated taste and false notions that prevail among the people. And thirdly, that these things in conjunction with the scope and demand which our country presents for the immediate practical application of all the intellectual power generated among us, have operated to hinder that perfection in scholarship, in particular departments, which has adorned the older schools of Europe with many great and brilliant lights. All this is readily admitted. It evinces that our highest institutions of learning are inferior in some important respects, to those of other lands with which it is but natural to compare them. It warns, us of defects in our present system, which we must study to supply, of dangers which we must try to avoid, of a higher elevation, another story to which we need to carry our educational edifice, as soon as the materials can be provided.
But notwithstanding these manifest imperfections, we must still believe the collegiate system which was formed in this country to have been better for the country than any other which existed at the time of its origin or that exists elsewhere now. The reason for this belief is that it was the product of an earnest consideration of the real, first wants of society by prudent, discerning, wise men. I have introduced this train of remarks that we may have distinctly before our minds what these real wants are. To attain our end, we must follow it a little further.
It is not a superstitious fancy which represents the fathers of our nation as guided, in the doing of their foundation-work, by the wisdom of a divine architect. It was not of themselves that they laid a base so broad and framed into it, so fitly, a due regard to all the greatest and best interests of men, as to provide for events they could not for-see, and make preparation complete for a growth they could not anticipate. We may admire their skill as workmen, but the chief honor belongs to God the master-builder. They went forth, as pilgrims, seeking a free home for a good conscience. God guided them to this empty continent and showed them a site to build on. As by a divinely-imparted instinct, they perceived at once that the house they wanted, could neither rise nor stand except by the pervading presence of intelligence and piety. Then, as by revelation, they understood that these great essentials must be produced by the constant action of three distinct agencies. They acted by this inspired wisdom, and set up a school house before they had completed a dwelling, in which to find shelter, and erected a church almost immediately after, and established a college as soon as their numbers were sufficiently increased for the undertaking of so great an enterprize. The first was intended to receive all as children and to impart such a development and such attainments of mind, that some should be well started to run on in the course of a most complete education, and the rest should be prepared as citizens of good common sense, devoted to the various necessary pursuits of life, freely to receive, intelligently to estimate, and profitably to improve the counsel and influence of the wisest and best. The third was designed for the highest training of those wisest and best, who must fill the public stations of influence and authority and act most powerfully in giving character to the people. The second stood as the link of connection between the other two -- the medium through which the influence of the few most learned and good should pass most readily and successfully to form intelligence and piety in the mass.
The most prominent, direct object for which the first colleges of New England were founded, was certainly to raise up Christian ministers. But this was not the exclusive object. They were intended to cultivate and discipline minds for any and every station of trust and influence -- by thorough training and sound learning to fit men to be leaders in society, whatever might be their chosen profession. It may be well for any who object to those institutions, because they made the education of ministers the first object, to consider, whether the religious interests of a people are not matters of prime importance, and whether they who are set to watch over these interests ought not to be men of of the most thorough mental cultivation -- and whether an educated ministry does not stand first among the agencies by which general intelligence, to say nothing of piety, is promoted among a people -- and whether the same intellectual culture which is best adapted to form a capable and influential clergy, is not also the best course of preparation for all who would fill any of the higher offices, and act most directly for the well being and progress of society -- and, finally, whether it is not needful that they who are to be the teachers, the physicians, the lawyers, the statesmen, and the scholars of the land, should receive that large and generous developement which brings out the whole man, under the influence of the spirit of piety, most likely to prevail in an institution which puts the interest of religion first among the ends it seeks.
But I am not here to defend the course of our fathers, nor will I, at just this point, urge the special importance of making a college possess the spirit and advance the progress of pure christianity. Regarding only the production and maintenance of general intelligence in a people, I take the judgment of those fathers and give it a universal application. The necessity existed then and there -- it exists here and everywhere, now and always. To secure the intelligence of any people, two classes of institutions are demanded. Common schools, of various grades, must be provided to begin the education of all, and to carry it with all, up to such a point of mental development, that they may intelligently appreciate, clearly examine and wisely select or reject whatever is laid before them, either as food for the mind or as measures for the public weal. And colleges must be established for the superior cultivation of the few, who are to go forth on the boundless realm of truth and gather the treasures of knowledge, or who are to canvas the existing social state and study the movements that are at work and the action of passing events, so as politically (in the best sense of the term,) to devise and press to an adoption, wise measures, to counteract and relieve, to stimulate and control the public thought and action, for the greatest common good; or, again, who are to stand in what may be termed the place of second rank, but not of less responsibility, in communication with the discoverers and projectors on the one hand, and with the mass of the people on the other, simplifying, arranging, and distributing the contributions of knowledge and wisdom which come from the labor of the greatest intellects, so that they shall become food and drink on which the souls of all may grow, and the common life of the state be both sustained and quickened. Neither of these two orders of schools can exist by itself. You cannot have an intelligent people without the action of both. A magnetic circuit must be sustained, by which the power of each shall be combined and applied with that of the other. Under a despotic government, the power and wealth of a sovereign may suffice to establish and maintain colleges and universities, but in a free country, these institutions must rise and rest on a basis of common education, secured by the steady action of public schools on the public mind. Again, the command of a monarch may go forth and absolutely require every child in his kingdom to be educated; but with a free people the only law which will secure this result, is one written on the hearts of the people, in the love of learning and a just appreciation of an education, as a real value; and this law is written and maintained in its supremacy only by the influence of colleges and universities, coming down through the presence of educated men in the community, to form tastes and opinions. And yet, the monarch, though he may establish both the higher and the lower institutions, cannot command into being sound popular intelligence, until he brings the currents from the two to meet and mingle freely, and because the power of despotism stands, by the maintenance of factitious distinctions in society, this part of the work is omitted and the result under such management falls. The dependence in the first case, none are disposed to doubt. In the second, it is no less evident, but because oftener questioned, it will be worth our while to linger a moment on its illustration.
In the first place, I take the words of another for a general statement. "It is plain that an unenlightened population will not themselves take measures for their own education. The very fact of a general ignorance and a consequent want of taste and inclination for learning precludes this. There must be certain enlightened individuals who are capable of appreciating and undertaking the great movement. The beginning of popular education, must therefore, of necessity, lie in a higher region." This conclusion is sustained by the results of observation. The systems of popular education, of which, as Americans, we boast, originated with men of the highest education. And those who are now directly and indirectly exerting the best influence, in behalf of common schools, in those states where they are best sustained, are men of the most thorough, intellectual cultivation. Next, let us suppose for a moment, that it could be done, and that the advocates of popular education should establish a system, cutting off all connection with the higher institutions, declaring itself independent of them. How long would it be, without the stimulus which comes from looking up, along the path of learning, to the high points above, and without the genial influences and the ministry, seen and unseen, which comes from the presence of high intellectual cultivation, diffused among the people, and without the currents of fresh air which descend from the higher regions of advanced knowledge, to change the atmosphere of thought pent up and exhausted of its life -- how long would it be before such a system would either run completely out, or spend itself in training prattling parrots, rather than thinking minds
To the point that any measure of popular intelligence is sustained by the superior cultivation of the most learned, we may bring another kind of illustration. You may have heard from the stump or even from the pulpit, one boasting that he had never seen the inside of the school-house, for purposes of education, that as for books he knew nothing of them, that he took his degree at "Bush College," and considers it as good as the best. Now suppose what is implied in this boast is true -- suppose the man has, without the advantages which others enjoy, attained a measure of intelligence and good sense which fits him to be a public teacher or leader. We raise the question how he gained his acquisitions. It was not in the soil of his mind, to produce spontaneously that which can come only by cultivation in others. He is not by any means the sole and independent producer of the opinions and sentiments he proclaims with so much assurance. This is the true explanation. Some scattered seeds thrown off by the distant and lofty trees of learning have floated to him and lodged in his mind. Here and there, he has come in contact with educated men and from their speeches and conversation has imbibed some true knowledge. And he has lived in an atmosphere charged more or less highly with the intelligence which is the fruit of culture. These influences have educated him in spite of himself. From little streamlets, not always the clearest, he has drunk the waters of the very fountains he neglected and despised. The only credit due to himself is that he did value and cherish that which he received, though he contemned the source from which it came. Had he been altogether removed from the presence and influence of schools and colleges and intelligent society, then he might have learned what attainments he could make in the school of nature. It may be, he would have found in the wild children of the forest, the only real graduates of his college in the bush, a class considerably in advance of him.
In like manner, the man who has enjoyed only such advantages as the primary school affords, and from that point rises in intelligence and influence, as it would seem, by his own energies alone, is, in truth, lifted up every step of his way by the indirect and invisible influences, which the highest institutions of the land, and the most cultivated minds are sending down and throwing around him. We admire the earnest perseverance with which Benjamin Franklin pushes his way up the hill of science against great disadvantages, till he outstrips many more favored, and takes his place among the brilliant lights of the world. But the secret of his success was in his wise and diligent improvement of all the light diffused around him from the schools of learning whose immediate benefits it was not his privilege to enjoy. We talk of "self-educated" men, but in the sense that they have had no aid from the learning of the schools, there are no self-educated men. Such is the dependence of our systems of common, popular education on the products of the higher institutions. Thus does the general intelligence of a people, which seems to be self-sustained, in reality draw its vital breath from the unceasing, yet unseen emanations that proceed from the superior intelligence of a few most cultivated minds.
Just as real too, is the dependence on the other side. Plant a college in the midst of an unintelligent people, and give it no scope to act on that people -- shut up the learning of a land in cloistered walls, away from all contact with the busy world -- train the intellect and give it no chance to employ itself in the diffusion of thought and truth to enlighten and bless a world of darkness and misery ; and the light of knowledge, however bright at first, will fast grow dim even in your academic halls -- the treasures of learning, however rich in themselves, like a miser's gold in its buried coffers, will mold and rust away -- the training of the intellect will consist in beating down the mental powers to the nicest point, for the picking of only the smallest nuts of theology and philosophy -- your whole establishment will stand a withered tree on a barren waste. The fountains of learning must have channels opened, by which they may send forth streams to fructify the earth, or they will cease their bubbling and lose their freshness and stagnate, or dry up. A learned community can have an increase of learning, only as it uses what it has. The individual mind can gain increase of power only by putting forth power. The high seat of learning must send its educated men down or out into the midst of the common people to manifest their power, to apply the charm of mental refinement and cultivation, to find or form a condition of general intelligence, then will flow back to it, by the way of the lower school, a stream of youth, all panting for knowledge and aspiring to rise in attainments above their predecessors. The wire of the telegraph is a dull and senseless thing, fit only to be the resting place for birds, or the mournful harp of the winds, till its points are joined and the electric circuit is complete. So dull and useless, are our systems of education, of either grade, till the upper and the nether points be made to meet; then do the currents freely flow, and at a thousand points record the messages of truth, and knowledge is increased and mankind are blessed.
If these views of the connection between the higher and the lower institution of learning be correct, if the influence of thoroughly educated men, filling the various commanding stations of life, be thus necessary to that general intelligence, essential to a healthy, happy social state, then each region of country whose interests and pursuits and social relations and sympathies are one and distinct, must have an institution of the higher order, as the centre around which a complete educational system may cluster. The college must begin its work not long after the common school. It must rise "pari passu," with the increase of population and the progress of society. It cannot, without being put in a false position, be made the rival or the opponent of any order of public schools which is worthy of public patronage.
From these views also, we may derive just opinions respecting the proper position, character and work of a college. In position, it must be at the head of an educational system. It must be in direct and immediate relation with every grade of school below it and with the general interests of society -- the whole busy world of human activity. It must stand with open door to youth of every rank and condition in life, and it must be near enough both to the lordly mansion and the humble cottage to make each feel its presence and its influence. In character, a college must be, by its permanent officers and instructors, as well as in its manifest fruits, mentally and morally great and good. It must give to the world a presentation of noble elevation, beautiful symmetry and attractive loveliness, animated with life and energy, controlled by reason and discretion, full of grace and truth -- in short the model of the man it would form. Its work must be, by the developement of mind, to give men first, command over themselves, so that they may use all their faculties aright as instruments for any lawful work they may please to undertake, and hence to give them command over common men, to teach and persuade, to guide and govern them for their own best good and the well being of society. This work, in its result, is to give society in general, wise counsellors and safe leaders -- in its processes, it is by a free and liberal culture, to bring forth individual souls with large capacities, to perceive, to estimate, to choose and to apply those principles and agencies which will promote the welfare of society, because, by the force of truth, they carry conviction to the judgment and persuasion to the will of those who compose society.
In assigning the college this position in direct connection with the busy, practical world, and laying down, as its work, the preparation of men for the highest executive functions of life, and also in setting forth the necessity which calls for such institutions, I have considered the first wants but not all the wants of society. For the complete independence of a nation, in respect to their educational system, another institution yet higher is demanded. It is a University, in the full sense of the term. We have nothing in our country which represents it truly. It is an institution designed to erect on the basis laid by a college training, a superstructure of eminent scholarship, either in the line of professional studies to give men the most complete preparation for the most efficient service in life, or of general study to lead them on in the prosecution of the various branches of science, out to the extreme limits of present, actual knowledge, and on into the unexplored region beyond, where new truths are to be unfolded and new treasures gained, by which the world shall be further enriched and blessed. It dispenses with the tutorial drill of the recitation room, and the regimen of direct oversight, and a fixed period, and a prescribed course, and expends its resources in the accumulation of libraries, and all other material of learning, and the support of eminent professors to set forth in lectures the fullest exhibition of truth in every branch of human learning. It pre-supposes a studious taste and habit already formed which will bring the student to a voluntary and wise improvement of the advantages furnished according to his own judgment and choice. To it the college is but an elementary and preparatory school. Such institutions must exist somewhere, and our colleges must be ever looking up to them and drawing from them fresh supplies; for as of the lower school, so of the college, when it takes any measure of present knowledge and confines its course to the constant contemplation of this, letting down its gaze from the high points yet above on the endless ascent, its life and spirit are gone, its exercises become a drill routine, wearisome and profitless.
I said we have nothing that meets this demand, as yet, in our country. We have professional schools in connection with some of our colleges, or as separate establishments, but no adequate provision has yet been made among us to carry American students to the perfection in scholarship, attained on the other continent. There are three reasons for this. In the first place, neither the means, nor the situation of our people, have permitted them to accumulate libraries, and cabinets, and extensive apparatus, and to support professors to the extend necessary for sustaining this entire devotion to study. Secondly, the demand for men in the executive offices of life, devoted directly to the practical improvement of society, has left none free to give themselves wholly to a student's life, and, thirdly, the existence of such institutions in other countries has, by the present free intercourse of nations and the rapid transmission of intelligence, met in a good degree the necessity of our case. These are indications that the day is at hand when these reasons will cease to operate, and we shall have proper American universities, born of the necessities, and formed to meet the wants of our republic. May God speed its dawning!
We can, however, wait for the establishment of one or more such institutions until the means can be spared from the necessary work of opening a new country, to make investments ample enough, and the men can be spared from the active walks of life, in numbers sufficient to ensure success. But we cannot thus wait for the way to be cast up beforehand for a college. It must have an existence early in the formation of society, and throw out the influence on which it must grow. No sooner have a people entered and taken possession of a section of country, than the masses will come under the control of leading influences which emanate from a few. The question what shall be the character of those leading influences, is one of vital interest. Unless there be men at hand, of high principle, sound judgment and commanding intelligence, the reins will fall into the hands of the reckless and the rash, and the ignorant, who will drive on fast to the wreck of public character and prosperity. Arrogant and worthless demagogues will usurp the place which belongs to the true leaders of the people, and the disastrous consequences will stretch on through many generations. And it will not do to depend on those whom emigration may bring in to meet the emergency, long. The people will not long bear the rule of foreign lords. The aristocracy of influence, to have its legitimate power, must be raised directly from the ranks of the commoners whom it is to govern. The college, like the sun, must stand in the very centre of its own system.
We look around us here, in this region, where our lot is cast, and we feel that this necessity is even now upon us. We cast a glance down the future, as far as the light enables us to see, and the pressure of that necessity is augmented a hundred-fold. The voices of millions peopling the lands within the circle by which we have presumed to define the field for which this institution must act, demand that provision be now made to secure their intelligence, virtue and piety, and the wellbeing of their social state. We hear the call and respond to it by this effort to meet its demands. In taking the name college, we unqualifiedly commit this institution to the position, character, and aim, set forth in the views just presented. While we tremble, lest we may not prove to be great and good enough to raise our charge up to our own ideal of excellence, we are convinced that nothing short of this should be our mark.
I shall quite weary the patience of my audience, already too severly taxed, if I shall attempt to carry out my original design and set forth in detail what a college must do to be true to its position and character and to realize its aim. A few thoughts loosely strung together, must suffice in place of a full developement of this, the richest part of my subject.
Whatever a college does effectually must be done by its action on individual minds. Its remote results may appear on the one hand, in the influence it exerts for the extension of the boundaries and the multiplication of the treasures of human knowledge, and on the other, by its agency in disseminating knowledge among the people, and throwing out into the active employments of life, influences, purifying and elevating. But it reaches these only through another nearer, immediate effect, and that is the making the most of each individual man on whom it directly operates. The question is raised at once over every student who enters such an institution, "what is to be done during the time that this man may spend within these walls, to develope, enlarge, enrich and strengthen the noblest capacities of his nature, in the highest degree?"
The answer to this question must point to some course, of general application. -- For the main features of the mental constitution are the same with all, and the education of the college has to do with the general development, preliminary to the particular pursuit which may afterwards be adopted according to the peculiar taste and genius of the individual. To make the most of a man for any particular profession, he must have the various capacities of his nature unfolded in due proportion and all his faculties cultivated to a healthy growth. The discipline which is to effect these results will be reduced to one solid, thorough method, and established as a general law. However much advantage there may be in giving the student freedom to follow his own inclination in the choice of a subsequent course of study, it is incompatible with the ends sought in that stage of education, for which the college is to provide. To bring the man out to the extent of his real capacity for greatness, will often require, at that period, a discipline, in one direction or other, quite contrary to the taste and inclination of the student. It is a short-sighted policy which proceeds on any other principle. We have reason to believe that the introduction of the variety and freedom of the university arrangements into the college course, will tend only to lower the general standard of education, and favor the acquisition of superficial attainments, to the neglect of profound learning and high mental development.
In considering the general course fit to be adopted we must have regard to the twofold nature of the youth who is the subject of this college training. He has a body and a soul, joined in a relation of mutual dependence and the education imparted, must have respect to both. The body must be sound and healthy or the mind will suffer. A college, therefore, must watch for the health of those committed to its charge, and must give scope and encouragement for the cultivation of bodily vigor.
Yet the mind is the chief thing and requires chief attention. Here it is to be observed, that the college takes the mind midway on its course of improvement. It does not begin the soul's cultivation. It does not finish the work. But it takes the mind, at its best estate, when in the vigor of youth its powers are full of life and activity and after they have begun to exercise themselves under discipline. It follows up that discipline so as to develope a manhood of the soul, noble and great, both in knowledge gained and in practical executive energy, and then sends it out to advance indefinitely, by its own real, manly action in the world.
Now to see precisely what kind of doing is to make the soul flourish thus, we must look a little into its nature. In essence, that soul is a spark of the divine intelligence. It is formed for immortality. It has its beginning in connection with a tenement of clay and with it passes through period of infancy; of growth, of maturity and of apparent decline; but in itself, it knows no decay. It is nourished on a spiritual food, which sustains an undecaying imperishle life. That food is Truth. From the begnining of its existence, on to the eternity which measures the soul's life-time, it must feed on truth. Its whole organization, is formed for the reception, digestion and incorporation with itself of truth. As the perverted invention of men has brought a maddening alcohol out of the nourishing grain, so it has transformed truth into a thousand forms of poisonous and captivating errors. And as, when you give alcohol to the body, it seems to receive an increase of life, so you may feed the soul with disguised falsehood, and it will seem to flourish with greater vigor than on the pure and simple truth. But in either case, it is the unnatural life of delirium which must shortly go out in a death of awful terror. Nothing but truth will really nourish the soul. The great business of education, then is simply to help the soul to this, its natural aliment.
The world is full of truth, which came from God. It is provided, in rich abundance and variety for the sustenance of souls. It is accessible, but it does not in general lie open on the surface of things. It is obtained by research. It is the reward of mental toll. The soul that would live on such truth as can be obtained without effort, will fare no better than the body of one who would depend on the wild berries of the wood for his support. As it is decreed for man that in the sweat of his brow he shall eat bread, so is it decreed that by the earnest labor of the mind, the soul shall gain its needful food. And the decree brings with it no curse but a blessing, for the effort required for its acquisition, sweetens every morsel to the taste.
It is another feature of the soul's constitution, that it can grow on nothing which it does not obtain and digest for itself. Truth is not truth to my mind, until my mind has analyzed, resolved and apprehended it, by its own voluntary effort. The power of thus analyzing truth for the soul's own nourishment is attained in great measure by exercise, and is exerted in each case at the control of the will. It is not enough that the mind be seated at a table, spread with, no matter how, goodly viands of knowledge. An appetite must be awakened, and a capacity to receive and digest it must be imparted before the truth will enter into the life of the soul. And these are to be secured not by reducing truth to plain statements and simple illustrations, not by any outside appliances, but by calling forth the energies of the soul in lively, earnest action, on this very business of taking its food.
Again, the soul can act, according to its true relations, either towards God or towards men, only by the outgo of truth. Truth in action, which is uprightness -- truth in statement, which is verity -- truth in affection, which is sincerity -- this in its wholeness forms the only affinity between man and God, the only power of blessed influence between man and man.
And one thought more in this category. It covers and qualifies all that has been said before. When I speak of truth, as the food of the soul, I refer not to the bare facts which lie outside the mind alone, but to these facts, as clothed with the character which the mind gives them as truth, and as seized on with the avidity of a mind in love with them for their very truthfulness. This action of the mind connects all the truth on which it feeds with God the fountain of all truth. And the force of the remark is this, that no soul can grow its proper symmetrical growth or live its own immortal life, without looking up through the truth of whatever kind it feeds on, to God from whom it emanates -- to whom it leads.
Now, if I may jump at once from these hurried statements, to some deductions which may answer the question what a college must do to the mind that comes to it for education, I remark,
- It must set that mind down in the midst of universal truth. Not that it should try to show him even all truth discovered by man, much less all that fills the boundless expanse open to the range of the Infinite One. This were impossible. But it can and must bring him as to a cabinet, where he may have before him illustrations of truth in all its varied forms, in all its multiplied relations, in all the beautiful harmony and order of adjustment, by which the wise author of truth has made a grand and perfect whole out of innumerable diversities. It must take him to the entrance of the many outgoing avenues, along which research may go forth to range over a boundless field, and give him a telescopic view of worlds beyond worlds, till he realizes the vastness of truth. It must take up some particular form and with microscopic observation and analysis reveal the perfection of truth. It must point out to him here and there the interweaving lines of connection which form the complicated tissue, and give him an idea of the oneness and wholeness of truth.
- Then, secondly, the college must ply that mind with influences gentle and strong, to awaken admiration, to arouse desire, and to stimulate ambition to be itself possessed, that it may be the possessor of truth. Having thus awakened its aspirations and called forth its efforts for the acquisition, it must guide its action, teaching it where and how labor may be most wisely and profitably bestowed.
Thirdly, and most important of all, the college must unceasingly practise that mind in all those exercises which will train it into familiarity with the modes and processes by which truth may be seized, handled, varied, analyzed and compounded. It must have an order of drill exercises by which that mind shall learn what attitudes to take, what instruments to employ, what strength to put forth, how, in short, to use its own faculties to the best advantage in the work of investigation, discrimination, demonstration, and expression, so as to get for itself and to give to others, the truth in purity and power. It is no part of the business of a college to cram a mind with knowledge, hardly to impart knowledge at all except in an incidental way. Its work is a work of training by which the mind is taught, animated and stimulated to seek and acquire for itself, and by the digestive process of thought and reason, incorporate all knowledge gained into the muscle and sinew of its own constitution.
I dare not affirm that the course of study adopted by this, in common with most other colleges of our land, is perfect in its adaptation to give this intellectual training. The time will not permit me now to discuss at length its merits or demerits. I have much confidence in it as it is, and at the same time, I hope for its improvement. There is, however, a view of it which may fitly be introduced in connection with the point before us, to show that there is wisdom in its general arrangement. This course of study comprises three general departments, the classical, the mathematical, and the scientific. The first has to do with language which is the matrix of all truth as it lies in one's own mind and the medium of expression by which truth passes from one mind to another. It is not itself the truth, but as the instrument of thought and communication, the mind can have no cognizance of truth without it; and according to its use, truth itself is, to us, in a great measure made or marred. The study of language is therefore, of first importance. More than any other one form of study, it brings all the mental faculties into a united effort. By it, also, the mind gains command of its chief instrument for all kinds of service. The second department of study, that of pure mathematics, presents truth in its abstract, absolute forms. The study of it, carries the mind through processes of close and severe reasoning. By these it acquires the power and the habit of seizing and holding, and communicating truth in its fixed forms and necessary relations. This mode of discipline makes the intellect quick and correct in the discernment and strong in the apprehension, and clear and convincing in the expression of truth. The scientific department, including what pertains to both physical and metaphysical philosophy, and the economy of the social and civil state, calls the mind to investigate and deal with truth as it lies in the mixed and confused forms of nature and human history. Here, its arrangements and associations often hide the reality under false and delusive appearances, and pure truth is obtained only by means of continued observation and careful induction. The range for study here is immense. It comes not within the compass of any definable course to go over the whole. Yet the business of life makes it needful for us all to know how to gather and to use the knowledge which is thus scattered through the world. To this work all the advantage gained, from the study of language and of mathematics, may be directly applied. Hence, the college course is designed to give each student an introduction to this which is the life long labor of the mind. It pretends to do no more than to give this introduction. And this part of the study is put near the end of the course, that the mind may come to it in its maturest, most prepared state.
Each of these departments contributes its portion of useful knowledge to the mind. As combined in one course of discipline, they impart that symmetrical development which brings all the faculties out and preserves among them that balance of power which is the prime element of intellectual greatness. This is the theory of our collegiate systems, and as such, it is sound and good. It behoves us to search into and remove any obstacles which hinder its successful application.
- Now, to proceed, I remark, fouthly, Besides the things already named, a college must bring an influence to bear directly on the mind of the student, through the discipline of formal, external requirement. It is essential to the carrying on of such an establishment that system and order be maintained, that students be made to control themselves to a becoming behavior, that they have appointed exercises and meet them with punctuality, and that they treat one another and their instructors with marks of courtesy, respect, and deference. But the discipline which enforces these things, has a higher aim, and yields a richer result, than the mere preservation of order in the operations of the college. It is more for the interest of the students themselves than for that of the college, that such discipline be rigidly enforced; for it contributes directly and essentially to form a habit of self-control and of close, persevering application, without which no acquisitions of knowledge can be employed to much advantage. On this point, let me add that, in all which respects the government and discipline of a college, instructors and students have a common interest. Such an intercourse should be maintained between them, that both parties should feel this, so that the idea of opposite alms and distinct interests should be excluded from the minds of all.
Finally, from the views just now presented, it comes as a necessary consequence, that the godliness of a pure practical Christianity, must be directly cultivated by a college, in the mind of every student who employs its privileges. We shall fail utterly of bringing the mind to see the truth as it ought, unless we bring it to see God, the author of truth. That is a partial and insufficient love of truth which does not carry with it the love of God. That mental training in the investigation and use of truth, is mischievous rather than beneficial, which does not train the mind with all its faculties and acquisitions to be employed in the service and for the glory of God. That government of a college is most stable and firm - that discipline of students is most pleasant and salutary which is maintained by the sway of a good conscience, enlightened by the gospel of Christ, and led by the Holy Ghost. A college cannot help the soul to that truth which will feed and nourish its immortal life, without being filled with the presence and pervaded by the Spirit of the Most High God.
On the seal just put into my hands, I read this motto, "Scientia vera cum fide pura." I understand it to express a necessary and indissoluble union between the principles of true knowledge, and the spirit of Christian faith. It declares it as the sentiment of this college, that, there can be no separation of this marriage tie, which God hath joined, without violence to nature and mischief to the world. It declares it as the purpose of this college to regard them ever as one, and to know no aim but that of extending and perpetuating their combined influence and power to the remotest ends of the earth -- to the furthest reach of time. Again, I see here a simple emblem. It is an open book with a dove descending in light upon it. I understand it to express the attitude which this college would take and hold, laying all its material of learning, and its corps of instructors, and its body of students - all spread out before Him who sitteth on the throne, while it waits and prays for the descent of that holy influence which alone is able to sanctify the whole for his service and glory. To the full import of this expressive symbol, I do here solemnly respond a strong and hearty Amen.
These remarks may serve imperfectly to indicate the views with which I enter on this responsible office. You know, sirs, that it is not an office of my own seeking. God knows as none but He and myself can know, the diffidence with which I come to undertake this high trust. But I am here, as I believe, at the call of Him whose right it is to command my service at his will, and I shall not be deserted, except I first depart from him.
I am cheered to my work by the warmth and earnestness with which this Board of Trustees have, in solemn form, pledged me their unqualified sympathy and co-operation and by the interest, zeal, and wisdom with which they have thus far given their energies to this enterprize. I know these my colleagues in the Faculty of instruction and government, and we are one in heart and aim; I feel assured both of their will and wisdom to supply, as far as human counsel and aid can supply, what I am conscious is wanting in me. I feel too, the united heart of this community, beating pulses of sympathy and prompting to deeds of benevolence towards this college and my soul is nerved to bear with patience and perseverance its load of heavy care. I am further encouraged by the substantial tokens received, that this enterprise is fast gaining a place in the sympathies of Christian hearts, both at the West and at the East. But, most of all, do I feel sustained by the manifest favor of divine Providence, which in answer to the continuous prayers that have been offered in behalf of this enterprise, from its first incipiency, has opened the way before us and led us on step by step in ways that we knew not, with rapidity we could not anticipate, raising up for the infant college generous friends, and watering it with the refreshing dews of the Spirit. I rest and hope in the conviction that this work is of God, and he will not suffer it to fail.
Now, in the day of small things with us, when difficulties and obstacles are many and great, and we find but little satisfaction in looking at things as they are, there comes before me a blessed vision of the future. I see this college grown to manhood. The blessing of God has followed it on through years of growth and progress. It stands in the midst of a dense population, rich in the material of learning and strong in the intellectual power of its instructors. God is with it, by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. Intelligence, virtue and piety are promoted by it, in its immediate vicinity. Far and wide among the thriving settlements on these verdant plains, it sends forth a refining, elevating influence. All classes feel it, and are blessed. Year by year, it gathers into its bosom a crowd of bright youth drawn from families of every rank and profession. Year by year it sends out its classes of minds developed in symmetry and trained to think and reason, to judge. and to act truthfully, in all the posts of influence and honor. The streams of a benign influence stretch on in every direction, eastward to the Atlantic, westward to the Pacific. The heralds of the cross, thoroughly furnished to their work, and strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus are going forth from it to every quarter of the globe, and distant nations are blessed by its agency. It stands on the basis we are constructing, honored of men, beloved of God -- a fountain of intelligence, the home of piety, a promoter of the nation's liberties, a bulwark of the Church of Christ. I see and rejoice in the prospect, then, with a confident belief that, with them who shall come after us, the vision shall become reality, it seems privilege and honor enough to have some little part in these small beginnings, which lead to ends so great and precious.
I have nothing here to pledge or to promise, but the devotion of an honest purpose, so long as it shall please God to keep me here, to give my undivided energies to the building up of this college for the service and glory of him who is the Head of all, by whose will I would be guided, whose blessing I crave.