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was influenced by a higher principle — a determined and
unconquerable opposition to despotism."^

This speech was made but one and twenty years after the
close of a war which had been provoked by our overbearing
violence on the seas, and which was disgraced by an act of bar-
barity worthy of a horde of Cossacks. The rising town of
Washington, the capital of the United States, had been burnt to
the ground by Englishmen. " Few more shameful acts are
recorded in our history ; and it was the more shameful in
that it was done under strict orders from the government
at home."- Story's memory went back to the War of Inde-
pendence. In the small seaport town in which his childhood
was passed, peace, when at last it came, found nine hundred
widows whose husbands had fallen fighting on sea or land, all
victims to the mad folly of our government.' Had some
Englishman been present at this celebration, when he heard
such speeches as these, he might well have started from his
seat and exclaimed : —

"Some write their wrongs in marble; you, more just,
Stoop down serene and write them in the dust."

Not all the speakers were a Story and a Warren. The
American Eagle was to flap her wings and make her screams
heard, even in an ancient seat of learning. Edward Everett
was there, the president of the day, the perfection and model
of all that is bad in the oratory of the United States. The
following passage shows what was esteemed eloquence in

* Quincy's Harvard, II. 679.

2 J. R. Green's Short History of the English People, p. 808.

« Life of Joseph Story, I. 31.


a country where Daniel Webster, still in the fulness of his
power, was showing how sublime is the force of simplicity.
" Yes, in the very dawn of independence, while the lions of
land yet lay slumbering in the long shadows of the throne,
an eaglet, bred in the delicate air of freedom which fanned
the academic groves, had, from his ' coign of vantage ' on
yonder tower, drunk the first rosy sparkle of the sun of liberty
into his calm, undazzled eye, and whetted his talons for the
conflict."^ It was not in this mould that Lincoln formed that
rugged eloquence which was heard at Gettysburg over the
graves of the soldiers who fell in the great war. Whoever was
his master in speech, most certainly it was not a rhetorician.

It was for the Centennial Celebration of 1836 that Fair
Harvard was written — that song which, as the year comes
round, is sung at every commencement by the great gathering
of Harvard men. It begins, —

" Fair Harvard ! thy sons to thy Jubilee throng."

and ends, —

" Be the herald of Light and the bearer of Love,
Till the stock of the Puritans die."

The best verse is the following : —

"To thy bowers we were led in the bloom of our youth,

From the home of our free-roving years,
When our fathers had warned, and our mothers had prayed,

And our sisters had blest through their tears.
Thou then wert our parent, — the nurse of our souls, —

We were moulded to manhood by thee,
Till, freighted with treasure-thoughts, friendships, and hopes,

Thou didst launch us on Destiny's sea."

The speeches on this great day must have been brief — brief
for the speakers of the Old World, preternaturally brief for the

1 Quincy's Harvard, IL 658.

















orators of the New. It was not till the thirty-second toast that
the ladies were reached. There were forty toasts in all. " The
hour of eight o'clock having now arrived, Josiah Quincy, Junior,
moved, ' That this Assembly of the Alumni be adjourned to
meet at this place on the 8th of September, 1936.' " ^ In spite
of the forty toasts it was not, so far as I can make out, eight
o'clock in the morning when the Assembly broke up, but only
eight o'clock in the evening. The moderation of each speaker
which allowed forty toasts to be gone through in five or six
hours at most is in striking contrast with the speech delivered
at Oxford not twenty years later by the Vice-Chancellor.
There, too, it was a great day ; for the orator and scholar,
the Earl of Derby, was welcomed as the new Chancellor of the
University, the successor of the great Duke. Some of the best
speakers of England were guests at the banquet, and a fine flow
of varied eloquence was looked for. There was a flow, but
most of it came from one source. The Vice-Chancellor, a man
insignificant except for his piety, spoke for two hours and more
at a stretch. By the time he sat down the audience was ex-
hausted, the orators were dejected, and the reporters, so I am
told, were drunk.

At Harv^ard the length of the adjournment was halved by
the next generation, who met in November, 1886. Dr. Oliver
Wendell Holmes, who in 1836, at the dinner, had sung a
song which he had written for the great day, half a century
later was the chosen poet of this second commemoration.
Lowell, as an undergraduate, had witnessed the earlier gather-
ing : he was now the Orator. Our English Cambridge was
represented by the Master of St. John's, and Emmanuel College
— John Harvard's College — by Dr. Creighton, Senior Fellow

^ Quincy's Harvard, II. 706.


and Professor of Ecclesiastical History.^ Lowell ended his
oration by welcoming the guests, above all, the guests from
the foreign seats of learning. In the name of the Alumni
" I give," he said, " a special greeting to the gentleman who
brings the message of John Harvard's College, Emmanuel.
The welcome we give him could not be warmer than that
which we offer to his colleagues ; but we cannot help feeling
that in pressing his hand our own instinctively draws a little
more tightly, as with a sense of nearer kindred." This
passage, we are told, was more loudly applauded than almost
any other part of his speech.^ That " blood is thicker than
water " was felt not only by the American commodore, when he
opened fire on the Chinese forts in support of our hard-pressed
gun-boats, but by these New Englanders who had gathered
together to celebrate the foundation of their University by their
English forefathers.

Two years earlier than this Commemoration when Emmanuel
College had celebrated the three hundredth anniversary of its
foundation, " two distinguished alumni of Harvard," said Dr.
Creighton, " Professor Lowell and Professor Norton, no less by
the dignity of their presence than by the eloquence of their
speech, had almost succeeded in converting our festival into a
celebration of Harvard College in its ancestral soil of England."
" The connection of Emmanuel College with Harvard Univer-
sity," he continued, " is an episode of unique picturesqueness
in academic annals, and sets Emmanuel College in a con-
spicuous place in the intellectual history of mankind." '

^ Now Bishop of Peterborough, formerly fellow and tutor of Merton
College, Oxford.

2 Harvard University, 2jolh Anniversary, pp. 37, 236.
a lb. pp. 277, 303.


While Harvard thus keeps up her hold on the past, she at
times somewhat needlessly breaks with old customs. When
Lowell was appointed Minister to Spain, he wrote to a friend :
" You must remember that I am ' H. E.' [His Excellency]
now myself, and can show a letter with that superscription. I
dare say I shall enjoy it after I get there, but at present it is
altogether a bore to be honourabled at every turn. The world
is a droll affair. And yet, between ourselves, dear Grace, I
should be pleased if my father could see me in capitals on the
Triennial Catalogue. You remember Johnson's pathetic letter
to Chesterfield. How often I think of it as I grow older ! " '
This Catalogue — " such is the rage of innovation " — is no
longer triennial but quinquennial, and the capitals are no longer
preserved ; nay, it has suffered still more unworthy treatment,
for it is now printed in the vulgar tongue. " Since Harvard
has grown to a University," writes the editor of Lowell's Letters,
" the Catalogue has been deprived alike of the dignity of its
traditional Latin, and of those capitals in which the sons of
hers who had attained to public official distinction, such as
that of Member of Congress, or Governor of a State, or Judge
of a United States Court, were elevated above their fellow-
students. To have one's name in capitals in the Catalogue
was a reward worth achieving." Nevertheless, there must have
been a certain incongruity in a Catalogue in which Caleb Gush-
ing was printed large, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, William H.
Prescott, Wendell Phillips, and Oliver Wendell Holmes were
printed small.

'^Letters of J. R. Lowell, II. 210. "The notice which you have been
pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind ; but it
has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am soli-
tary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want it." — Bos-
well's Life of Johnson, I. 262.


Harvard, like Oxford, has been the seat of a camp, and has
seen learning yield to the rough needs of war. It was on the
Common, not a furlong from the College, beneath the graceful
branches of an American elm, that, as an inscription shows,
"Washington first took command of the American army, July
3, 1775." The Common was not the pleasant spot that it now
is, with its green lawn, its groves, and its trim paths. It was
" an unenclosed dust plain," across which the drovers, on their
way to Boston market, used to take their herds of cattle. The
two English cannon stamped G. R., which stand in the middle
as trophies of war, had not yet been captured. They were
helping to hold Boston against its own citizens. Not fifty years
had gone by since the College, in a loyal address, had assured
another G. R. that " they had shed tears over the grave of the
great King his Father." ^ In July, 1875, the centenary of this
famous day was celebrated. " We have still standing," wrote
Lowell, " the elm under which Washington took command of
the American (till then provincial) army, and under which
also Whitefield had preached some thirty years before." ^ The
tree, though broken, still retains much of its gracefulness.
Among all the spots, famous in the noble history of man's
struggle for freedom, it is by no means the least worthy of
veneration. As I stood by it and read the inscription, there
came into my mind the words of the old English Tory, the
stern enemy of American Independence — " that man is little
to be envied whose patriotism would not gain force upon the
plain of Marathon." This, indeed, was "ground dignified by
wisdom, bravery, and virtue." Washington, for many months,
had his headquarters in a fine mansion hard by, which is now
generally known, not by his name, but by Longfellow's. Here

1 Quincy's Harvard, I. 383. ^Letters of J. R. Lowell, II. 159.


the poet had his quiet home for the greater part of his life.
Washington's memorials are so many that he can afford to
yield one to literature. Cedant arma togae.

Few of the Harvard students had witnessed the great scene
in the world's drama which had been played beneath the elm.
Two months earlier the Committee of Safety had dispersed
them to their homes. It was at Harvard that many years
earlier Samuel Adams, the cousin of two Presidents of the
United States, had maintained in a thesis read before the
College the lawfulness of rebellion. In 1768, seven years
before the war broke out, the Graduating Class had unani-
mously voted " to take their degrees in the manufactures of
the country," and had appeared at Commencement in untaxed
home-manufactured garments.^ The following year, the Gov-
ernor of the Commonwealth had attempted to overawe the
House of Representatives by a display of military force. Can-
non was pointed at the door of the State House in which they
met. They refused to continue their sittings. The Governor,
who had received his orders from England, said that he had
no authority to take away the troops. He did, however, all
that a reasonable man could do. Not being able to remove
the cannon from the Legislature, he removed the Legislature
from the cannon. He adjourned the House to Harvard Col-
lege, where it met in the Chapel. One of the Fellows has
described in a letter written at the time, how " this removal
hinders the scholars in their studies. The young gentlemen
are already taken up with politics. They have caught the
spirit of the times. Their declamations and forensic disputes
breathe the spirit of liberty. This has always been encouraged,
but they have sometimes been wrought up to such a spirit of

^ Quincy's Harvard, II. 163.


enthusiasm, that it has been difificult for their Tutors to keep
them within close bounds ; but their Tutors are fearful of
giving too great a check to a disposition which may hereafter
fill the country with patriots." It was no doubt the memory
of "this spirit of liberty" which led Governor Hancock to
speak of Harvard as " in some sense the parent and nurse of
the late happy Revolution in this Commonwealth." All the
Massachusetts men who signed the Declaration of Indepen-
dence were her children. There were, however, a few Tories
among the undergraduates " who were in the practice of bring-
ing ' Indian tea ' into Commons, and drinking it to show their
loyalty. The Governors of the Seminary advised them not to
do it in future, ' as it was a source of grief and uneasiness to
many of the students, and as the use of it is disagreeable to the
people of the country in general.' " ^

The "enthusiasm " which the Tutors were unwilling to check
in these youthful patriots broke out in a rebellion within the
College. While outside the war was raging, the three upper
Classes assembled in the Hall, and voted to send a memorial
to the Corporation, in which they charged their President with
" impiety, heterodoxy, unfitness for the office of preacher of
the Christian religion, and still more for that of President."
"There was," writes Quincy, "not a shadow of foundation for
any of these charges, except the last." A Committee of twelve
" were appointed to wait upon the President, and invite him to
resign his office." The poor man, who was ignorant of his
unpopularity, was so deeply touched that he resolved at once to
retire. It was on Saturday that the deputation had waited on
him ; on the following Monday, after morning prayers, he
detained the students, and told them that he should resign.

1 Quincy's Harvard, II. 148, 163, 164, 244.


" His family, he said, would be thrown destitute on the
world, and he intimated that resolutions of a favourable
character might be of service to him. This conduct subdued
their rebellious spirits." They met again, and "with like
unanimity passed directly opposite resolutions, excepting only
his unfitness for the office of President."^ The ferment was
slow in subsiding. Channing, who entered Harvard about
fifteen years later, describes " a state of great insubordination,
and the almost total absence of the respect due to individuals
[the teachers] of so much worth. The French Revolution
had diseased the imagination and unsettled the understanding
of men everywhere. The authority of the past was gone." ^

When, in 1775, hostilities began between the mother
country and the Colonies, the seat of war in the opening years
was too near for the peaceful life of a university, and moreover
the College buildings were needed for barracks. At the end of
the vacation the students assembled at Concord, fifteen miles
or so from Cambridge. There lodgings were provided for a
hundred and twenty-five. Part of the library also was removed
and arranged on shelves in a private house.^ The Concord
"turnpike "* — since dignified by the name of Avenue — crossed
the Common. It was at Concord that the first shots had been
fired and the first blood shed. In June of the following year
the students once more assembled in Harvard. The English
army had abandoned Boston, and there was no longer an
enemy in their gates. Their buildings had suffered from the
military occupation. From the roof of the hall lead had been
stripped, no doubt to be turned into bullets. Before long, Cam-

1 Quincy's Harvard, II. 179.

2 Life of IV. E. Channing, I. 59. » lb. II. 166.
* In America turnpike is commonly used for turnpike-road.



bridge was again to be crowded, not this time with armed sol-
diers, but with prisoners of war, the remnant of Burgoyne's army.
In Lowell's day there were still to be seen in Massachusetts
Hall the hooks from which had swung the hammocks of the
red-coats.^ Late last century hooks for a very different pur-
pose were fixed up in an Oxford College. One of the Fellows
of University College whom I was visiting many years ago told
me that he had that day received a letter from an aged clergy-
man, a former member of the College, asking him to see
whether in the ceiling of a certain room a couple of hooks
were still there. From the hooks his hunting-breeches used
to be suspended, into which he let himself down from a pair
of steps. They were, according to the fashion, too tight to
draw on in the ordinary way.

The blockade of the coast by the English fleet, cutting off the
supply of luxuries from abroad, compelled the Corporation to
pass the following resolutions on August ii, 1777 : —

" Whereas by law 9th of chap. vi. it is provided, ' that there shall always
be chocolate, tea, coffee, and milk for breakfast, with bread and biscuit ^ and
butter,' and whereas the foreign articles above mentioned are now not to
be procured without great difficulty and at a very exorbitant price; Voted,
That the Steward shall provide at the common charge only bread or biscuit
and milk for breakfast; and if any of the scholars choose tea, coffee, or
chocolate they shall procure those articles for themselves; and likewise the
sugar and butter to be used with them; and if any scholars choose to have
their milk boiled, or thickened with flour, if it may be had, or with meal,
the Steward, having reasonable notice, shall provide it." ^

On the day year on which Washington had taken command
of the American army, the degree of Doctor of Laws was con-

^ Literary Essays, by J. R. Lowell, 1890, I. 56.

2 Biscuit, according to the American use of the word, is hot rolls.

^ Quincy's Harvard, II. 541.


ferred on him by Harvard. He was the first man to be thus
distmguished by the University. It was indeed a noble begin-
ning of the long line of honours. His diploma described him
as : —

" Vir illustrissimus, Georgius Washington, Armiger, Exercitus Colonia-
rum in America FcEderatarum Imperator praclarus . . . qui, postulante
Patria sedem in Virginia amcenissimam et res proprias perlubenter reliquit,
ut . . . Nov-Angliam ab armis Britannorum iniquis et crudelibus liberaret,
et Colonias cseteras tueretur, et qui . . . ab urbe Bostonia . . . naves et
copias hostium in fugam pracipitem et probrosam deturebavit.i adeo ut
cives, plurimis duritiis et stevitiis oppressi, tandem salvi loetentur, villse
vicinae quiescant atque sedibus suis Academia nostra restituatur.

" Sciatis igitur quod nos . . . Dominum supradictum, summo honore
dignum, Georgium Washington, Doctorem Utriusque Juris, turn Naturae et
Gentium, turn Civihs, statuimus et creavimus." ^

A year earlier, a few days before the fight at Concord, Oxford
had conferred a like degree on Samuel Johnson, on the recom-
mendation of its Chancellor, the Prime Minister, Lord North,
in return, there can be little doubt, for Taxation no Tyranny ;
an Answer to the Resolutions and Addresses of the American
Congress. It was thus that " the Whigs of America, Whigs
fierce for liberty and disdainful of dominion, who multiply with
the fecundity of their own rattlesnakes,"^ replied to the honour
conferred by the Tory statesman and the Tory university on
the Tory pamphleteer.

Even before the Revolution was brought to an end the
patriots of Harvard found that, not only in a monarchy but
also in a democracy, injustice and insolence may have to be
borne and borne patiently. George III. was down, but Gov-
ernor Hancock was up. In an evil day for the University that

1 In this headlong and shameful flight the two cannons that now stand
on Cambridge Common had been thrown into the harbour.

2 Quincy's Harvard, II. 506. ^ Boswell's Life of Johnson, II. 314.


favourite of the people had been appointed Treasurer. "He
embarrassed it during a period of nearly twenty years." He
would neither discharge the duties of his office nor resign his
post. The Corporation, after patiently waiting for two or three
years, appointed his successor. To conciliate the great man
they passed a vote, that a committee should " wait on the
Hon. John Hancock, Esq., with the most respectful compli-
ments of the Corporation, and request that he should permit
his portrait to be forthwith conveyed to the College, and placed
in the Philosophy Chamber, by that of his late honourable
uncle." He neither sent his portrait nor settled his accounts.
He had been " exposed to those severe trials of human char-
acter, — great wealth suddenly acquired and unbounded and
long-continued popularity." So powerful was his position that
the Corporation did not dare to bring him before a court of
law. They could scarcely have been worse off had they had to
deal with George HI. himself. It was not till full eleven years
after their first demand that he condescended to state the
amount of the balance still owing by him to the College. On
being pressed for payment he would do nothing more than
give a bond and security. It was in vain that the distress
of the Professors was laid before him. Their salaries were
unpaid, but neither interest nor principal could be got out of
the great man. He died in 1 793, leaving ample means, but
the debt still owing. It was not till eight or nine years later
that his heirs discharged it. With some reason does President
Quincy remark at the end of this strange story : " In republics
popularity is the form of power most apt to corrupt its pos-
sessor, and to tempt him, for party ends or personal interest, to
trample on right, or set principle at defiance." ^

1 Quincy's Harvard^ II. 182, 203-209, 523.


However much Harvard distinguished herself in the long
struggle for the independence of the Colonies, unhappily she
did not always range herself on the side of hberty. All
through the opening scenes of the great struggle between
freedom and slavery she was the champion of the slave-holder.
When on one side stood the President and Congress, the
Legislatures of almost all the States, the judicature, the Civil
Service, the Churches, the mobs, the wealthy, the cowardly, all
the " safe " men, all the " moderate " men, and on the other
side William Lloyd Garrison and his little band, " harsh as
truth and uncompromising as justice," she chose the part of
shame. To serve the Union, stained and darkened though it
was by the Fugitive Slave Law, she was ready to sacrifice
justice, mercy, and honour. She showed that even in a re-
public a university is too apt to side with the powers that be
against the right that ought to be. Not even Oxford and Cam-
bridge have ever disgraced themselves more than the New
England University by taking the part of the strong and the
privileged against the weak and the helpless. What Loyal
Address to the Crown was more shameful than the toast given
at the Centennial Celebration in 1836: "Massachusetts and
South Carohna; they stood by one another nobly in the
darkest days of peril and adversity ; may long years of mutual
prosperity find them undivided." ^ Their mutual prosperity
was the prosperity of slave-owners and slave-traders, of
planters who grew cotton by slave-labour, and of merchants
who dealt in it, and manufacturers who spun it and wove it.
This prosperity was threatened by a few " fanatical and factious
Abolitionists," as Daniel Webster called them ; ^ threatened
far more by the still small voice of conscience, which, under

1 Quincy's Harvard, II. 683. ^ Life of Daniel Webster, II. 516.


the upbraidings of these men, was beginning to make itself
heard in ten thousand bosoms. To silence this voice cant
was called in at the Banquet, as, in like circumstances, it is
called in at all times and in all places. After this toast to the

Online LibraryGeorge Birkbeck Norman HillHarvard college, by an Oxonian; → online text (page 3 of 26)