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'Taught in this school, and trained to the capacity, whether for speculation or for the pursuits of active life, strangers from other lands, as well as our fellow-subjects, have made our university worthily known by its fruits; nor can there be a doubt that it will continue, under its .new constitution, to prefer the same claims to general respect and gratitude. But I should not discharge the duties of the high office to which the kindness of your body has raised me, if I did not avail myself of this occasion for offering such suggestions and advice as I deem of a useful tendency, to those by whom I have the honor of being surrounded. They may be of little value, and may possess no other merit than that they result from the reflection of many long years, and of a somewhat various experience; but they are delivered with feelings of respect, only surpassed by those of affectionate kindness.
First of all, it is to be observed, that though the acquisition of general knowledge is a primary duty, and the confining our attention within the narrow limits of one or two branches enfeebles the mind, impairing its [powers, and even prevents our entire mastery of the selected branches, yet it is on every account highly expedient, indeed, all but absolutely necessary, to single out one branch as the main object of attention. This selection is required by the impossibility of thoroughly mastering different unconnected kinds of knowledge, and the risk of distraction, which, passing from one subject to another occasions, the danger even of the greatest evil occurring, that of superficial learning, —the rule being inflexible, that no one subject, or part of a subject, must be studied without going to the very bottom, fully and accurately, of what we would learn; not proposing to ourselves, it may be, to go beyond a certain length, but as far as we profess and propose to go, becoming thoroughly master of the subject. There is, however, another reason for selecting one special branch. We thus draw, as it were, a meridian line, to which all our steps in other directions may be referred. The acquisitions thus made derive additional interest from their connection with the principal and prevailing pursuit: the attention to these is kept awake, and the memory in proportion retentive, of the accessory or subordinate matters, while they lend help and illustration to the main object
of our study. That object is of engrossing though not exclusive interest j it does no! preclude a moderate attention to others; but this selection, this singleness of entire absorption, is absolutely necessary to avoid the dispersion of the faculties, caused by intemperate devotion to several subjects, whereof the certain tendency is to produce mediocrity in all, making ordinary capacity, even when united to great industry, yield but little return of value; and from the rarest endowments, which, temperately and judiciously used, might render the most important service, only obtaining the exhibition of varieties more wonderful than useful, like the displays of the mocking-bird, which can warble all the notes that make the grove vocal, but has no song of her own. [Note 14.]
That genius is of universal application cannot be denied; but the interests of science, and generally, of mankind as well as of the individual, require that it should not be so applied. The great lights of the world afford few if any exceptions to this rule. Had Barrow's [Note 3] professional studies, and his attention to the eloquence of the pulpit, not interfered with his mathematical pursuits, he would probably—Fermat [Note 3], but for his official duties and his general speculations, would certainly—have made the discovery of the calculus, to which both had so nearly approached. What might not have been expected from the bold and happy conjectures of Franklin, under the guidance of the inductive method so familiar to him in all its rigor, had ho not devoted his life to the more important cause of his country and her liberties. Priestley's discoveries, all but accidental, however important, were confined in their extent, and perversely misapprehended in their results, by the controversies, religious and political, which engrossed his attention through life. Descartes, instead of the one great step which the mathematics owe him, was destined to make vast progress in physical science, and not to leave his name chiefly known by a mere baseless hypothesis, had he not been seduced by metaphysical speculation; and Leibnitz [Note 4], but for the same seduction, joined to his legal labors, would assuredly have come near the Newtonian system in Dynamics, as he had preferred a just claim to share in its analytical renown. On the other hand, mark the happy results of concentrated powers in Bacon •wisely abstaining [Note 5] from the application of his own philosophy when he found that previous study had not fitted him for physical inquiries; Newton, avoiding all distraction, save when he deemed that his highest duties required some intermission of his habitual labors. Nay, had Leonardo da Vinci [Note 3] indulged in the investigations of natural science for which he possessed so remarkable a talent, and has left such felicitous anticipations in them, his name as one of the first of artists would have been unknown; and had Voltaire prosecuted [Note 3] the study of chemistry, in which he was so near making two of the greatest discoveries, we should never have had the tragedies, the romances, and the general history—the foundations of his fame.
But the same principle applies to active life as to the pursuits of science and letters. Every one should have n special occupation, the main object of his attention, to which all others are subordinate, and all more or less referable. With most men this is inevitable, because they are engaged in professional employment; but all ought to single out some pursuit, whether speculative or active, as the chief occupation of life. Nothing conduces more to comfort and happiness; nothing is a greater safeguard against the seductions of indolence, or of less innocent, perhaps not less hurtful, indulgences; nothing gives a greater relish and zest to the subordinate pursuits. He who has professional duties, has no right to call any time that is not earned by the discharge of those duties his own, for other occupations, whether of relaxation, or even of mental improvement. 11 is business is the master; but where there is no such servitude, I strongly recommend the voluntary forming of the relation between master and slave, by the choice of a pursuit, and submitting to its claims upon our time and our attention as paramount.
After the very general advice which I have offered, it may be thought that there arc many particular subjects deserving consideration ; but these may safely be left to the core of the learned and excellent persons who, in various departments, are charged with the duties of this University. On one or two matters I would ask their and your permission to dwell, and but for a few minutes;
not that I can suppose these subjects to be neglected by the teachers, but that I would earnestlyjom my voice to theirs, andinculcate the closest attention to them. The study of Attic oratory is one matter which cannot be too strongly pressed upon the pupil; that of the ancient analysis is another. The tendency of mathematical studies in the present day is to disregard the Greek geometry; that of classical studies is well to cultivate Greek learning, but rather to exalt the poets above the orators—Pace Bectoris Maynifici dixerim, qui in roitris ontnes venercs Attice dicendi consecutus, scriptis vero notius 'afnipopiAoj videtur. The immeasurable superiority of the Greek to the Roman oratory is not only evinced by the devotion of the greatest X master of the latter to the Attic models, by his constant study of them, by Ms never ceasing, even in advanced life, to practise Greek declamation, by his imitating, nay, translating from them in his finest passages; but one consideration is decisive on this head. The Greek oratory is incomparably better adapted to our modern debating, business-like habits; and while it may be truly affirmed, that, with all their excellence, hardly one of Cicero's orations could even in part ever be borne either by the senate or the forum in our times, there is hardly one of the Greek which might not, in circumstances like those for which they were composed, with a few alterations, be delivered before our tribunals and our public assemblies. Some of Demosthenes' very finest orations were those in private causes (the idiuTutot), and composed to be delivered by the parties, one of them by himself. They are very little studied now, but they well deserve ample attention both for the matter and the composition.
The example of the ancient masters is ever to be kept before you in one important particular,—their excessive care in preparing their speeches. Of this the clearest proofs remain. Cicero's having a book of passages, to be used on occasions, is well known; indeed, we have his own account of it, and of the mistake he once made in using it (Ad. Att. xvi.) i but the book of Prorcmia which Demosthenes kept has come down to us, the only doubt being raised (though I hardly think there can be any) whether they were, like Cicero's passages, kept ready for use, or prepared passages of speeches, the preparation of which in the whole he had not time to finish. One thing is certain, that he was very averse to extempore speaking, and most reluctantly, as he expressed it, " trusted his success to fortune;" and his orations abound in passages, and even parts of passages, again and again used by him with such improvements as their reception on delivery,
or his own subsequent reflection suggested, diligent practice of severe written preparaThere is even great parsimony shown in pre- tion.
serving small portions unchanged when the right composition had been attained. I have examined this subject very fully on different
It is the greatest of all mistakes to fancy that even a carefully prepared passage cannot be delivered before a modern assembly.
occasions, and I find the views taken are ap-' I once contended on this point with an acproved by Attic scholars both in England complished classical scholar, and no inconand France. But I dwell upon the subject j siderable speaker himself, Lord Melbourne, at present in order to illustrate the necessity j who immediately undertook to point out the of full preparation, and of written composi-1 passages which I had prepared, and those tion to those who would attain real excellence ) which were given off-hand and on the inin the rhetorical art. In truth, a certain j spiration of the moment. He was wrong in
proficiency in public speaking may be acquired by any one who chooses often to try it,
almost every guess he made. Lord l)enman, on a more remarkable occasion, at the
and can harden himself against the pain of j bar of the House of Lords, in the queen's frequent failures. If he is a person of no j case, made the same mistake upon the pascapacity his speeches will be very bad ; but i sage delivered before the adjournment in the
though he be a man of genius, they will not be eloquent. A sensible remark, or a fine image, may occur; but the loose, and slovenly, and poor diction, the want of art in combining and disposing of his ideas, the inability to bring out many of his thoughts, and the incompetency to present any of them in the best and most efficient form, will reduce the speaker to the level of an ordinary talker. His diction is sure to be clumsy, in
middle of the first day of the defence. The objection made, that prepared passages are artificial, and disclose the preparation, is wholly groundless. In the first place, nothing can be more artificial than a speech must, in almost all cases, necessarily be, which is any thing beyond mere conversation. Next it is the diction, not the substance, which is prepared; and, finally, if the art used is shown and not concealed, the
correct, unlimited in quantity, and of no [ artist alone is in fault. It is hardly nccesvalue. Such a speaker is never in want of i sary to observe, that the Attic eloquence has
a word, and hardly ever has one that is worth
concise and simple, and the very opposite of i consideration. [Note 7.]
been dwelt upon, and the example of the Attic orators, without reference to their language, so well adapted to nil the uses as well of poetry as of prose, by its flexions, its particles, and its roots and idoms both original and enriched from other dialects. But our Saxon English, though far inferior, has great power, and is capable of much refinement in its use, keeping it pure from all undue admixture of foreign tongues, whether modern or ancient, and from barbarous coinage of new words and phrases; while its possible improvement, by the adoption of somewhat from the classical Scotch, may deserve
only teaches upon rare occasions. Nor is there a better corrector of the faults complained of in the eloquence of modern times than the habitual contemplation of the ancient models, more especially the chaste beauties of the Greek composition, and the
The ancient analysis or Greek geometry, the other subject specified, well deserves diligent attention. The preference of the modern analysis, justified by its far greater power, has been found not only to supersede but unnecessarily to exclude ail study of the ancient. This is very unfortunate; for the Greek geometry has eminent and, in some respects, peculiar merits. Its elegance is the object of admiration even with those most devoted to the methods that have supplanted it. The exercise which it gives to the reasoning faculties is as peculiar to its investigations as the elegance by w hich they arc distinguished. At each step the preceding steps are kept present to the mind, and the result is arrived at, not by a mechanical operation, but by a sustained chain of reasoiling. That it is incomparably less power- | nent mathematician that has appeared in
ful than the algebraic geometry, which we owe to the happy suggestion of Descartes I and the t>absequeut discovery of Newton and Leibnitz, cannot be denied. But that its powers have been much underrated is manifest from the extraordinary success of Matthew Stewart in solving problems before deemed beyond its reach, Kepler's problem and the inverse problem of centripetal forces; although it may well be questioned if he could by mere geometrical analysis have pursued these investigations had Newton's demonstration not been known to him. In one respect, however, the ancient analysis has a singular merit, the discussion of limits. Its careful exhaustive process of examining all the cases in which any solution is possible, and thus preventing all oversight, is invaluable, and might furnish suggestions of importance to the modern analyst. The remarkable error into which Newton fell in his solution of the problem— justly termed by him longe omnium difficilUmum (of finding the comet's trajectory from three observations), could never have occurred under the ancient method; for, in discussing the limits, it would have been found that the 16th Lemma has a porismatick case, and that it is the case of the comet, a matter never observed until F. Boscowich hit upon it in 1739, all of which was known before, being that the Newtonian solution must be erroneous, because it threw the comet of that year on the wrong side of the sun. Though these merits unquestionably belong to the ancient analysis, nothing can be more inaccurate than the view sometimes taken by its admirers, that it is more strict in its demonstrations than the modern; there can be no degrees of certainty, and the proofs are absolutely certain in both.
When the study of the Greek geometry is recommended to those whose rule with the Principia, must be nocturna versate manu, versate diurnd, it should be borne in mind how highly the author of that immortal work prized the ancient method of investigation, as we learn both from the internal evidence of the book itself, and from the statement of his friend and follower Halley, himself a diligent student of the Greek geometry. Let the high authority of M. Chasles be added, himself a great master of the most recent improvements of the calculus j and in this place it would be wrong to pass over the distinguished names of Wallace and Ivory, both deeply imbued with the principles of the modern analysis, and expert in their application, but diligently cultivating the ancient also. They were great analysts in all respects; and the latter the most emi
this country since Sir I. Newton.
But these studies are less connected with the business of active life than others; the Greek geometry not at all, and the Attic oratory only important as refining the taste, and being subservient to the perfection of our own. Eloquence, however, can only in these times be worthily employed for furthering objects little known to, or if dimly perceived, little cared for by the masters of the art in ancient days: the rights of the people—the improvement of their condition—their advancement in knowledge and refinement— above all for maintaining the cause, the sacred cause, of peace at home and abroad. Sufier me to dwell somewhat upon the intimate connection of this last most important subject with the education of youth, the formation of their opinions, the cherishing of right feelings upon the merits of those whose
history is taught, or who are known as contemporaries, at least as having flourished in times near our own. Historians and political reasoners, the instructors of the people, have ill discharged their duty in this most important respect. Partaking largely in the delusions of the vulgar, which they were bound to dispel, and dazzled by the spectacle of great abilities, and still more of their successful exertion, they have held up to admiration the worst enemies of mankind, the usurpers who destroyed their liberties, the conquerors who shed their blood—men who, in the pursuit of power or of fame, made no account of the greatest sufferings they could inflict on their fellow-creatures. The worst cruelty, the vilest falsehood, has not prevented the teachers of the world from bestowing the name of Great upon these scourgers, as if themselves belonged either to the class of ambitious warriors and intriguing statesmen, or to the herd of ordinary men whom successful crimes defrauded at once of their rights and their praises; and to this must be ascribed by far the greater part of the encouragement held out to unprincipled, profligate conduct in those who have the destinies of nations in their hands. It is not, however, merely by abstaining from indiscriminate praise, or by dwelling with disproportioned earnestness upon the great qualities, and passing lightly over the bad ones, of eminent men, and thus leaving a false impression of their conduct, that historians err, and pervert the opinions and feelings of mankind. Even if they were to give a careful estimate of cacli character, and pronounce just judgment upon the whole, they would still leave by far the most important part of their duty unperformed, unless they also framed their narrative so as to excite our interest in the worthy of past times ; to make us dwell with delight on the scenes of human improvement; to lessen the pleasure too naturally felt in contemplating successful courage or skill, whensoever these are directed towards the injury of mankind; to call forth our scorn of perfidious designs, however successful; our detestation of cruel and bloodthirsty propensities, however powerful the talents by which their indulgence was secured. Instead of holding up to our admiration the "pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war," it is the historian's duty to make us regard with unceasing delight the ease, worth, and happiness of blessed peace; he must remember that—
"Peace hath her victories,
And to celebrate these triumphs, the progress of science and of art, the extension and security of freedom, the improvement of national institutions, the diffusion of general prosperity, exhausting on such pure and •wholesome themes, all the resources of his philosophy, all the graces of his style, giving honor to whom honor is due, withholding all incentives to misplaced interest and vicious admiration, and not merely by general remarks on men and on events, but by the manner of describing the one and recording the other, causing us to entertain the proper sentiments, whether of respect or interest, or of aversion or indifference, for the various subjects of the narrative. Consider for a moment what the perpetrators of the greatest crimes that afflict humanity propose to themselves as their reward for overrunning other countries and oppressing their own. It is the enjoyment of power, or of fame, or of both—
"Ho can requite tliec, for he knows the charms That call I'umc on such material acts as these, And lie can spread thy name over lands and
Whatever clime the sun's brood circle warms.' —Milton.
Unquestionably the renown of their deeds, their name being illustrious in their own day, and living after them in future ages, is, if not the uppermost thought, yet one that fills a large place in their minds. Surely, if they were well assured that every writer of genius, or even of such merit as secured his page from oblivion, and every teacher of youth, would honestly hold up to hatred and contempt acts of injustice, cruelty, treachery, whatever talents they might display, whatever success they might achieve, and that the opinions and feelings of the world would join in thus detesting, and thus scorning, it is not romantic to indulge a hope that some
practical discouragement might be given to the worst enemies of our species. That in this, as in every thing else, there is action and reaction, cannot be doubted. The existence of the popular feeling in its strength, beguiles the historian, and instead of endeavoring to reclaim, he panders to it. Sounder and better sentiments might gradually be diffused, and the bulk of mankind weaned from their fatal error, of which the heavy price is paid by themselves in the end.
It is not to be denied that the degree of reprobation due to such crimes must partially depend upon the age in which they have been committed, and the nation to which the offender belongs. It would be a gross exaggeration of feelings, right in themselves, were the same blame attached to usurpation or conquest among eastern nations as among Europeans; or among Europeans in the dark ages, as all, when calmly considering their conduct, without hesitation pronounce upon tyrants and conquerors in the present day. But one consideration, oftentimes referred to, is never to be admitted as an extenuation, much less a defence, of unjust hostilities—the propensity of man to war, called the incurable propensity by those who make no attempt to cure it. This is the very worst and most vulgar form of necessity—the denying man's free will, and impiously making Heaven the author of our guilt j but the absurdity is equal to the wickedness of the pretext. The self-same topic might be used in excuse, or in palliation of the ordinary crimes of pillage and murder; nay, might be applied as well to physical as moral evil, and given as a reason against using the lightning rod to protect us from the storm, or against taking precautions to escape the venom of the snake when his rattle warns us, or the fury of the tiger when he howls in the forest. Yet, what but the proneness of men to succumb under great genius, wickedly used, can be urgucd in extenuation of Napoleon's usurpation, by which he made France pay for her delivery from the anarchy and bloodshed of the republic, with the utter loss of her freedom; and in extenuation of his dreadful wars, waged to gratify an almost insane ambition, at the cost of the people's misery, and the massacre and pillage of their neighbors? From the height to which his arms had raised him of all but emperor of the west, and from the eminence so dearly purchased by the French, of having dictated terms to all the sovereigns in their own capitals—he and they were hurled. Twice they had the bitter mortification of receiving the law in their own capital from those they had once trampled upon; and his fate and their