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ADDRESS

BEFORE THE PHI BETA

SOCIETY AT DARTMOUTH COLLEGE, DELIVERED AUGUST 18, 1816.

KAPPA

It is with much diffidence, gentlemen, that I venture to appear before you. A stranger to most of those, whom I have the honor to address, I should shrink from the duty imposed on me, if I were not convinced that the same kindness, which called me here, would listen to me with indulgence. But I can hardly appeal in vain to your candor; for I am persuaded it will be extended to every exertion in the cause of sound learning, however feeble or unsuccessful the attempt.

We are assembled to express our regard to the cause of letters; to acknowledge ourselves united by a similarity of taste and pursuits; and to revive, at this seat of learning, that generous ardor for intellectual improvement, which is too often repressed by the cares and contentions of active life. It is delightful to renew, in the place which gave them birth, the bright and fleeting visions of youthful expectation. It was here you first drank at the wells of science; here were your first breathings after fame; and here your firmest friendships commenced. You have since gone forth into the

world, and, it may be, have found it cold and selfish. Your merit, perhaps, has been overlooked by some, and assailed by others; your learning despised by the ignorant, and neglected by those who were able to appreciate its value. You have found all engaged in the pursuit of wealth, or the contests of ambition; and you have been ready to believe there was no place for letters, amidst the vulgar and gross employments of common life. You have perhaps revolted with fastidious delicacy, from the necessary duties of men and citizens; and have been tempted to look with envy upon the tranquil retreats of learning in other countries; or, it may be, you have relinquished with a sigh all connexion with elegant literature, and have suffered yourselves to be borne along by the steady current of business. It may therefore be useful to contemplate the actual situation of society around us, and see if it imposes any peculiar discouragement, or affords any distinguished advantages for the cultivation of letters.

The great purpose of a just and generous education is, to prepare men for active life; and this applies as well to that education which every intelligent man gives himself, as to that which he receives from his parents and instructers. Now what condition of society would be chosen as most favorable to the developement of moral and intellectual excellence? Where would you search for vigor of understanding united with strength of principle, and activity of habit? Would it be among the oppressed and degraded subjects of a despotic government, where the manners, opinions, and religion of a nation are fashioned by the caprice of an

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individual? Or, would you look for profound thought and stern morality among the luxurious attendants of an ancient court? We are too apt, gentlemen, to suffer our imaginations to be dazzled by the "pomp and circumstance," which surround great men of other times and other countries. We attribute to the companions of a prince, a delicacy of feeling, a chivalrous sense of honor, a lofty pursuit of excellence for its own sake; but alas!"'Tis distance lends enchantment to the view; a nearer approach discloses to us laxity of principle, profligacy of conduct, and a life of perpetual idleness and discomfort. These are the unavoidable consequences of a state of society, in which a large body of men are placed above the necessity of daily employment; and in which the distinctions of birth and hereditary wealth procure that complacency and regard from others, which forms so essential an ingredient in our happiness. But would you give the human mind a chance of attaining its highest perfection, you would constitute a society in which all were equally and directly interested in the public welfare; where the highest honors of the state were open to the competition of all; and in which talents were at once wealth and power. Need I add that such a state of society is ours? Need I tell you that the principles which animated the genius of Greece, and strengthened the patriotism of Rome, are imbodied in our institutions? that honor, and fame, and political power, await the successful exertions of mind, in every pursuit of life?

A natural consequence of the popular nature of the government is the character of practical utility, which is

stamped upon all our institutions. We are a young and busy people, fearless in speculation, and adventurous in practice. The arts which minister to pleasure alone, are little valued among us. All our studies aim directly at the improvement of our situation, and are such as depend upon a knowledge of human nature, and of what contributes to our actual enjoyment. When we contemplate the noble establishments of Europe, her colleges, and halls, venerable for their antiquity, and illustrious from the minds which have there been formed; when we survey her extensive libraries, rich with the gathered wisdom of two thousand years; when we consider her seats of learning, cherished by her sovereigns, and endowed with the revenues of princes; we are apt to blush for the poverty and insignificance of our own institutions. I should pity the man who could wander among the gardens and cloisters of Oxford, and not indulge in the warmth of generous admiration. That heart must be cold indeed, which would not beat with enthusiasm on the spot, which has been hallowed by the step of so many statesmen, philosophers, and poets. But it must not be concealed that these institutions, splendid as they are, have sunk into the indolence which generally attends luxury and established reputation. Look through the catalogue of professors and fellows in these universities, and you will find them contented with a calm and languid mediocrity, or wasting their strength upon the technical parts of learning, useless as they are to every purpose of practical improvement. At Oxford, you will find the meed of glory awarded to him, who can best scan a line of Pindar, or settle a disputed quantity in a cho

rus of Euripides. At Leyden, you will find Wyttenbach, the living glory of Holland, lamenting that human life is too short to publish a critical edition of Plutarch. He has employed thirty laborious years, upon the "Treatises of Morals" alone, and will probably sink into the grave, under the burden of age, before he has perfectly illustrated his author. You must forgive me, if I prefer the plain sense and active usefulness of the Scoth Universities, as destitute of wealth and patronage as our own, to such learned and laborious trifling. In estimating their effect upon the moral and intellectual improvement of society, no rational man could hesitate in adjudging the prize of merit to Robertson, Smith, Beattie, and Stewart, rather than to Markland, Toup, Musgrave, and Porson.

I would not be understood as depreciating the importance of classical learning. No man bows with more reverence before the noble remains of ancient wisdom and eloquence. No one is more persuaded that the preservation of good taste and sound learning depends upon the constant, assiduous, and persevering study of the writers of Rome and Greece. But we should contemplate the glory of other times, only that we may kindle with emulation, and glow with rival beams. It is to be lamented, that this light of learning, as yet, has only dawned upon our country. But we trust that in the meridian day of our literature, we shall not be degraded into a herd of grovelling commentators, and hunters of syllables.

The fondness for political speculations, which is so striking a feature in the character of our countrymen, may be

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