PRINTED BY J. W. COPELAND.
THE maxim that "knowledge is power" has been felt and acted on, in all ages, even from the infancy of society. It is an established truism, to which the understanding at once yields its assent; and is so abundantly confirmed by the history and experience of mankind, that no ingenious subtleties of cavilling, and no refined arts of sophistry will ever be able to shake its stability, or lessen its influence upon human conduct. The importance attached to literature and science in a country, affords perhaps the best criterion by which to judge of the rank due to it in the scale of all that is ennobling and praiseworthy.
Cast your eyes over the map of the world--and as you pause to contemplate those "dark places which are full of the habitations of cruelty:"--where their piety is crime, and their morals are vices;--where the traveller reclines to rest, and a snare surrounds his bed, or, he is roused from his slumbers by the voice of the assassin: where the rights of property are unknown, and even life itself [3/4] is without protection:--where all the hateful passions of our nature agitate the bosoms and are pictured on the countenances of the savage inhabitants:--where theft and murder are pastimes:--where the domestic sanctuary is turned into a stye of pollution, and a den of wrangling--and where impurity and blood are inscribed upon the very altars of religion:--I say, as you contemplate such a revolting spectacle--such a besotted and fiendlike community of social beings--you mourn over a region, where not only the sun of revelation has withheld his rays, but where the luminaries of science are extinguished, and the salutary beams of literature are never felt. Ignorance and barbarity are intimately associated together in the relation of parent and offspring. Shew me a thoroughly ignorant man--one utterly destitute of the lights of education and learning; and I will shew you a savage, though he may be without a tawny skin, and his vernacular tongue may be the language of a refined and cultivated people.
Learning gives to a nation true elevation and dignity. It is the powerful cause which raises some countries to such a commanding eminence among the communities of the earth. In looking over the map of the world, do you behold a nation [4/5] rich, and powerful, and free--making its own soil contribute liberally to the support of its swarming, but industrious inhabitants--whitening every ocean with the sails of its commerce--laying all the elements under contribution to furnish a supply for its necessities--and gathering its comforts and luxuries from every clime:--a country where every man is free, and though poor, and holding a subordinate rank in society, yet as well secured in the enjoyment of his rights as the most rich and powerful:--where by offering to the Deity a rational and spiritual worship, and by alleviating the sorrows and heightening the joys of his fellow men, man rises to, and occupies with dignity the station assigned him in the scale of being--where the condition of society is so peaceful, virtuous, and happy, as to appear, on a comparison with barbarous nations, like Paradise when compared with Pandemonium? Do you behold a nation like this? To what will you ascribe its enviable elevation but to the influence of education and learning? Will you not behold in every part of that land, temples of science opening their portals to its youthful votaries? Will you not behold in all its institutions, the restraining, purifying influence of education?
 To every American who loves his country, it must be a cause of congratulation that our forefathers who came hither to plant a new nation in this western world, were christian and educated men; who came, not with the low and mercenary views of needy adventurers in the pursuit of better fortune, but with those enlarged and liberal designs which entitled them to honourable distinction as benefactors of the world. The foundation of the social edifice which they reared for the accommodation and benefit of posterity, was firmly laid upon the solid and immovable basis of religious principle, while they aimed to embellish the superstructure with the knowledge and refinements they had brought with them from the country which gave them birth.
One of their earliest efforts to secure permanency to their civil and religious institutions, was the making provision for the education of the rising generation. Their schools and seminaries of learning, like healthy and vigorous plants, struck their roots deep into the soil--sprouted and grew luxuriantly; and, in the unparalleled privileges of freedom, virtue, and piety, their salutary fruits are tasted by the men of this generation, and will be, as we confidently trust, by generations yet unborn.
 If the lights and blessings of education be important to the subjects of other governments and the inhabitants of other countries, they are indispensable to the sons of America. Here, a novel theatre, a scene before untried, has been laid open for the developement and exercise of man's intellectual powers. Here, the mind unshackled by the arbitrary distinctions and rude customs of society, derived from Gothic ages, walks abroad in its own majesty, having in the institutions and circumstances which surround it, nothing to suppress, and almost every thing to excite to the full employment of its most potent energies. Whether we look on the vast extent of territory which providence has assigned for our abode, the novel exhibition of the social state which is given on this continent, with its mixed population; the peculiarity of our free, federal, well-balanced government, in which elevation to the highest official dignities does not depend on noble birth, pecuniary possessions, or physical strength, so much as on intellectual cultivation and moral worth: or at the unlimited field of improvement and unmeasured march of prosperity, which has been opened to our beloved country:--we behold so many impulses to the cultivation of mind--so many powerful [7/8] stimulants to improvements upon the past, and inventions for the future.
It would be a delightful task to expatiate upon the benefits our country has already derived from the cultivation of the arts and sciences. To spew the influence which our literary institutions have exerted in the procurement of our independence,--the formation of our government,--the enactment of our wholesome and equitable laws;--in short, upon every thing connected with the refinement and happiness of society. To speculate on the important part which the people of this country are destined to play in the great drama of human affairs--the powerful arm that will be wielded by its enlightened citizens in giving a new character to the literature as well as the governments of the world. These are themes which can hardly fail to kindle the imagination of the orator, and tune the lyre of the poet. Here a field opens before us, from which the most rich and luxuriant flowers might be gathered to ornament an address. A field, on which fancy at her bidding, might summon before your mental vision, scenes of light, and prosperity, and glory--enduing them with all the forms of reality, till the senses should be rapt into enchantment by the glow of the description: the [8/9] hearer should think himself listening to the sober tale of history, instead of the conjectures of uncertain prophecy--and the beholder feel as if he were gazing upon the verities of actual existence rather than the gorgeous creations of a partial and lively fancy.
On such themes the speaker could discourse with pleasure, because the partial feelings of the audience would be pre-engaged to assent to his most extravagant predictions, and applaud his most flattering sketches. But his dull genius has never been kindled to this rapture by prophetic fire. He had rather explore a new field, small and unpromising as it may appear, than to travel over a beaten one, every corner of which has been explored, and, as a gleaner, gather up the scanty flowers which have escaped the hands of the literary chieftains who have plucked the ornaments and pride of the field to compose the wreaths which adorn their brows. He aspires not to the dignities of the Prophet, but will be content with the humbler fame of the Historian or Chronicler.
Your Orator is willing to sacrifice ornament to utility. To forego an opportunity of acquiring some fame for the sake of promoting the interests [9/10] of this institution. The general themes alluded to in the preliminary remarks which have now been offered, might prove more interesting to a promiscuous assembly--but the theme on which I propose to dwell, if it affords nothing to gratify their taste and improve them as scholars, will awaken pleasing remembrances of past days, and warm the kindly affections of "the associated Alumni of Middlebury College."
It will not be inappropriate to the object of our present meeting, my fellow Alumni, to direct your attention to our Alma Mater--slightly sketch her history--notice her claims to affection and patronage--and suggest some means of securing her increased prosperity.
The history we have to sketch is very brief and simple. It requires no research into the pages of musty folios--no plunging into the depths of antique records for the purpose of bringing light out of obscurity, and order out of confusion.--We have no adulation to offer to the memory of titled founders, and princely benefactors. No dissertations to pronounce upon the architectural beauties and proportions of fallen columns, broken arches, and tottering walls, which mark the sites of venerable edifices, where, in by-gone ages, our [10/11] forefathers paid their devotions to science, and courted the favour of the Muses. We are not called to the task of deciphering obscure and difficult inscriptions upon mouldering tablets--or, of culling out from an endless catalogue of those who have been trained for usefulness in this seat of science, the emblazoned names of distinguished individuals who have adorned their country, and blessed mankind through a long line of successive generations.
No! it is our lot to speak of one of the youngest literary seminaries of an infant country. We need no guide but memory to enable us to select the few prominent facts which are needed to make up the outline, and are confident that the partial and interested affections of the audience will furnish all the colouring that is necessary to give beauty and completeness to the sketch.
Cast your thoughts through a small number of intervening years--a period within the memory of many present, and what was the scene then exhibited on the very spot now occupied by this beautiful and prosperous borough? It is but a few years since these fields, now smiling with cultivation or covered with fruitful harvests, and these streets enlivened by the occupations of trade and [11/12] the hum of industry, were covered with thick and impenetrable forests. The pine tree and the hemlock--the spruce, the maple and the beech, locked their branches to spread an interminable shade over the scene now arrayed in loveliness and fertility. The mountains indeed raised their majestic forms to the clouds, but no foot of civilized man crossed their summits--no devotee of science was employed in analysing their formation, or bringing to light their hidden treasures. The noble cataract poured its flood upon the subjacent rocks, but there were no intelligent lovers of natural scenery to gaze upon its beauties or listen to its murmurs. Nothing appeared to give variety to the scene of wildness but what added to its ferocity--the Indian paddling his log canoe on the yellow stream--pursuing the chase on the banks of the Otter--or, raising the war-whoop, and driving the tomahawk into the brain of his victim.
But in process of time the rays of civilization shot across the gloom, and kindled up the rising glories of a new day in this abode of darkness and barbarity. The hum of industry mingled with the sound of the cataract--one settler followed another in rapid succession, till a new community blessed with the arts and refinements and [12/13] morals of the older settlements of New-England was embosomed in the wilderness--and under the fostering hand of civilized industry, a new village sprang into being as if under the creative wand of enchantment.
The little community though formed in a savage place, were by no means willing to forego the most valuable privileges to which they had been accustomed in their former places of abode, and adopt the rude forms and uncultivated habits of savage life. To insure advancement, or even to prevent a retrograde movement in the social state, it was indispensably necessary that the means of education should be provided for the children of the settlement, and according to the wise usages of our forefathers, these means were soon furnished by the establishment of district and village schools. Those who had acquired a thirst for knowledge by imbibing its elementary principles in the primary schools, were speedily furnished with the means of gratifying it and of pursuing the more advanced branches of science, by the erection of an Academy. The slender means of a majority of the inhabitants of this then new state, could not justify the expense of sending their sons abroad to be educated for the learned [13/14] professons; and the rapidly growing population of the infant commonwealth, loudly demanded the establishment of a seminary at home, for the supply of the pulpit, and the bar, and skilful practitioners of the healing art. Hence, the Academy was soon transformed into a College, and the foundation laid for that favoured and respectable institution whose sons we are, and to promote whose interests is one leading object of the Association that I now have the honour to address.
In tracing consequences to their beginnings, and effects to their causes, in moral no less than natural things, we are often forced to exclaim in the language of inspiration, "behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth!" Behold the wasting conflagration, spreading from house to house--from square to square--bidding defiance to all human efforts for its suppresion, till it has reduced a mighty city to desolation and ruin! It perhaps had its origin in a single spark which the foot of an infant might have smothered, or a single drop of water extinguished. So, one angry word, or momentary fit of passion, on the part of a sovereign or minister of state, may produce an excitement that will involve powerful nations in war,--afflict thousands with the helplessness and sorrows of [14/15] widowhood and orphanage, and deluge whole continents with blood! Take another fact which affords a more apposite example. The benevolent feelings of Robert Raikes, excited by the vices and neglected state of a few idle and ragged boys, playing in the streets of Bristol on the Sabbath, gave origin to that blessed system of Sunday School instruction which is now spreading incalculable benefits in every clime,--introducing a new era in the moral history of our race;--and transmitting an inheritance more valuable than gold to the generations that are hereafter to occupy the stage. And could we trace back the mighty river of benevolence which is now spreading spiritual fertility and luxuriance throughout the moral wilderness of this fallen world, we should find that, like some of the mighty floods which water this Western Continent, it sprang from a small fountain. The immense effects produced by those great moral engines, Bible and Missionary, Tract and Education Societies, which are preparing the way for the renovation of the world, might very probably be traced back to the holy resolutions or benevolent desires of a single Christian, formed perhaps in the interesting [15/16] hours of solitary meditation or in the sacred vigils of nightly devotion.
It would be a just ground for the charge of presumption and arrogance if we were to compare this seminary of learning with the great Christian institutions which have been named, in any thing except the smallness of its beginning. And yet, we cannot accurately compute the benefits that may arise from it to our country, the Church of God, and the world at large.
How feeble was its condition, and how painful were its struggles for life in the infancy of its existence! Was it placed on a solid foundation, and suddenly raised to maturity and strength under the fostering care of some titled and affluent patron? Was it taken under the guardianship of the state, and liberally endowed by a munificent legislature as a favoured seat of the Muses, a nursery of the arts and sciences? Was it not on the contrary, left, like a foundling child, to struggle in its weakness without the blessing of public provision;--receiving nothing from the Commonwealth but a permission to live, if it could furnish for itself the aliment that was necessary for its sustenance and growth?
 But there were some noble souls, who, prompted by zeal for the cause of letters, or by some other motive, more powerful, and perhaps not less honourable, looked with affectionate interest upon the infant College, and determined to promote the welfare of this community, by contributing to its support. Their fortunes were not so large as to enable them to confer on this seat of science, a liberal endowment, but they cheerfully contributed according to the means with which Providence had favoured them. The College had no resource to rely upon for funds, but the sums that could be spared from the hard earned profits of liberal industry. Where there were so many benefactors, and all deserving of commendation, it may appear invidious to name any as worthy of peculiar remembrance: but the recollections of boyish days spent within yonder walls, are now necessarily revived; and with them, comes up to view without my bidding, the well-remembered form of the father of the village and the seminary, standing out in bold relief upon memory's picture:--and I cannot--or, would not, if I could, resist the impulse which prompts me on this occasion to pronounce with feelings of reverence and gratitude the name of GAMALIEL PAINTER.
 In Anno Domini 1800 Middlebury College was incorporated. Its first Officers were the Rev. JEREMIAH ATWATER, President, and. JOEL DOOLITTLE, Esq. since Judge of the Supreme Court of Vermont, Tutor. It began with ten students, viz: eight Freshmen and two Sophomores. The first public Commencement for conferring degrees, was held on the third Wednesday of August, 1802, when the degree of Bachelor of Arts was conferred on one person.
We find it notwithstanding the discouragements under which it laboured for the want of public patronage, gradually improving under the judicious and energetic management of the Trustees and Faculty; acquiring an additional degree of public confidence; and enlarging its facilities for communicating knowledge to those who resorted hither for an education, till in 1808 a respectable class of twenty-three received the honour of a first degree in the Arts. In the year 1809 an essential change was made in the government of the College by the appointment of the Rev. HENRY DAVIS to the Presidency.
The well earned reputation of that gentleman acquired by the faithful and acceptable discharge of the duties of a professorship in one of the [18/19] oldest and most respectable Colleges of our country, to the presidency of which he was invited after the death of the celebrated Doctor Dwight, excited the highest hopes on the part of its friends, that the brighter day which had dawned, was only the harbinger of a new era of prosperity to the institution. The expectations of the most sanguine were realized. A new impulse was given to the energies of its friends on whose untiring liberality it has always been dependent. A large and permanent edifice was erected, in addition to the buildings previously occupied, and a broad foundation was laid for that continued prosperity, which, under the equally zealous and efficient management of the present Faculty, it has not failed to maintain.
The hasty sketch now given of the history of this seminary, which has as yet scarcely passed its infancy and attained the vigour of youth, may well excite in our bosoms the most grateful recollections. One quarter of a century only, has elapsed since the first commencement, and how glorious appears the success when we consider the poverty and feebleness of the means employed? Who that saw it then with its ten or twenty students--its unassisted Tutor--its empty treasury--its [19/20] solitary graduate--would have ventured to predict the career of prosperity, usefulness, and glory, it has since run?--run too, without legislative aid, and in defiance of a respectable and powerful opposition! What foreigner, landing upon our shores and accustomed to think of Colleges as altogether dependent upon the favour of Princes and the benefactions of the wealthy, would believe that a public literary institution had, within so short a period, risen to high respectability and usefulness, by the voluntary liberality, energy and virtue of a small community of poor republicans? And yet we could tell him with a feeling of patriotic pride, that this is not a solitary instance. We could point to many such examples in every section of our land, as the earnests of many more of a yet brighter and more astonishing character that will continue to be given by our independent and self-governing citizens, till the lights of science and virtue, which afford the best security to our liberties, shall shed their salutary rays upon every hamlet, and into every cottage of this favoured country.
The claims of any institution to support and patronage, are grounded upon its utility. I would say, of every political arrangement; of every civil [20/21] office or usage; of every establishment in the community, whether it be professedly devoted to commerce, literature or morals;--if it be not useful; if it is not calculated to promote the real interests of man in his individual or social capacity--as an inhabitant of this world, or the expectant of immortality in another; let it perish!
We know there are some who have imbibed strong prejudices against the highest class of literary institutions in our country. They consider them as very suitable appendages to a monarchy, where arbitrary distinctions of rank prevail; where those of noble blood, if they would maintain their elevation, must receive a different education, and acquire different habits and principles from those of the lower classes of society. But in this land, where all men are free and equal; where the title to honour does not, like the excellence of a horse, depend on pedigree and blood; where the factitious distinctions which originated in a Gothic age, have been swept away before the strong current of the enlightened principles of liberty; they look upon Colleges with suspicion and distrust, as inconsistent with the genius of our institutions; unseemly excrescences upon the body politic:--a kind of literary luxuries which cherish [21/22] the pride of the rich, and excite the envy and jealousy of the poor:--and as nurseries for the training up of a learned aristocracy, which will be scarcely less dangerous to the liberties of the republic than an aristocracy of blood.
But we may ask, by whom were our liberties achieved--our rights defined--our liberal constitution and our equal laws established? Who have been, in all ages and countries, the advocates and defenders of freedom? Have they not been men of education and science, trained up within the walls of an Academy; furnished with armour and qualified for the combat they have successfully carried on against despotism and arbitrary forms of government, by the rigid discipline and laborious investigations of scholastic life? Is it not an established axiom in politics, that free governments can only be sustained by the intelligence and virtue of the people? The civil and moral character of an individual or a nation, is debased by the absence of knowledge; and when a people become ignorant, they are "ipso facto," incapable of self-government: they can neither understand nor maintain their rights: and are only fit to place their servile necks under the foot of a master, and bless him that he condescends to tread [22/23] upon them;--to be transfixed by the bayonets, or ground to dust by the car of a military despot--
Who "doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus; and we petty men,
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves."
O my country, let not the voice of all past history address to thee its monitory notes in vain! Let him be considered as a recreant to liberty, and hostile to all thy most precious interests, who would prostrate the walls consecrated to literature and the arts, or dry up the fountains of science within thy borders!
Some may be of the opinion that common schools will answer the purposes of the nation, and diffuse all the intelligence which is necessary to preserve our liberties. It is indeed true, that these will be the direct instruments of raising up an intelligent and virtuous people; the principal media by which the elements of knowledge will be disseminated through the community at large. Without them, the nation would derive comparatively as little benefit from Colleges and Universities, as the land would do from the mighty rivers, which here and there, at remote intervals, pour down their floods, without those springs which supply the wants of the respective families that [23/24] inhabit it,--or those small rivulets and streams which convey moisture and fertility to the different farms into which it is divided. If in any one of their institutions more pre-eminently than others, the Fathers of New-England displayed that forecast and prudence by which their descendants are said to be distinguished, it was in that noble system of common schools, which made sure provision for the training up of a people more generally intelligent and virtuous than any other community upon the surface of the globe. Let this system be cultivated and cherished as essential to the public weal: as one of the most in powerful engines which can be employed in elevating the public character, purifying the public morals, and ensuring perpetuity to public happiness and liberty.
But we may ask, how are public schools to be maintained upon a respectable footing, and made to subserve the great ends of their institution, without Colleges? From what other source can intelligent and gifted teachers be obtained? If the dependence be upon the schools themselves, and men are employed as instructors who have never advanced a step in the paths of science beyond the point to which they are required to conduct [24/25] others; a most powerful motive to diligence in the teachers, and emulation on the part of the pupils, would be taken away; there would be a retrograde movement, a rapid deterioration in the system; and before many years, we should behold in every public school, one blockhead employed in training up a generation of blockheads.
And as higher seminaries of learning are thus necessarily required to keep the primary schools in successful and salutary operation--to furnish the best qualified agents to guide the minds of our rising youth, and mould into proper form the elementary principles of which future society is to be composed; so is their influence necessary to the maintenance of the existing forms and proper operations of social life; to say nothing of the improvements they are susceptible of, and which must appear so desirable to every lover of his country.
As in the human body many organs are essential, each having distinct offices to perform, and each essential to the symmetry and perfection of the whole; so it is in every civilized and well regulated society. Providence has made different members and orders mutually dependent upon each other; so that one cannot say to another, I [25/26] have no need of thee. They have different offices to perform for the general good, and these offices require different degrees of intellectual power and cultivation. It requires no genius or science to hold a plough, make a shoe, or perform a thousand other useful and honourable offices that are necessary to the comfort and existence of man in the social state. These works are daily performed, and well performed, by multitudes whose minds never conceived one poetical idea; who have no relish for the beauties of Homer or Virgil; and who never could contemplate a mathematical figure as any thing else than an uncouth and unsightly picture. But are these men, or those of the same grade of intellectual improvement, qualified to perform other offices that are equally necessary to the comfort and well-being of society? Would you employ men to enact and execute your laws who are ignorant of the history of jurisprudence, and unacquainted with those principles of the social compact which bind men together in one community, which clearly define and protect the rights and liberties of individuals, and regulate the intercourse between separate and independent governments? Would you entrust your health and lives to the cruel, because blind, protection [26/27] of individuals who have not literature enough to understand the nomenclature of the medical profession, nor science enough to perform the most common operations of pharmacy? Or, would you select those to be the expounders and defenders of your faith, your instructers in morals and religion, your guides in the pathway to Heaven, who are ignorant of the Holy Scriptures, and destitute of all that correlative learning which is necessary to the judicious and faithful exposition of them? If then, the professions of Law, Medicine, and Theology, are necessary to the order, the safety, the happiness of civil society, which few, I apprehend will have the hardihood to deny; it follows as a necessary consequence, that there must be seminaries where the youth of our country may be liberally educated: for, few indeed, are the gifted men, who, without such an education, could fill those professions with dignity, and efficiently discharge the responsible duties connected with them.
On the general ground now stated of the utility of Colleges at large, we might safely rest the claims of this institution to patronage and support. But affection for our "Alma Mater" prompts me to occupy for a few moments, more exclusively [27/28] appropriate ground--and to dwell, with satisfaction, with pleasure, and perhaps with pride, upon some specific proofs that she has not failed to exert a salutary influence upon the nation and the church, even in the infancy of her existence, affording pledges of still greater benefits to be conferred by her when she shall have reached the age of maturity.
Can any one acquainted with the history of Vermont hesitate to admit the many civil and moral benefits which have accrued to it from this school of literature and science? Might we not point to many sons of your hardy mountaineers, once rude and uncultivated like their native forests, tamed, refined, elevated by the influence of this institution? In this intellectual laboratory many pure gems and diamonds have been freed from the earthy and drosslike particles which before prevented their sparkling and concealed their beauties.--Here, under the forming hand of education, many of the sons of our sturdy yeomanry have been prepared to strengthen and adorn society, as, in the workshop of the mechanic, the rough trees are prepared and moulded to serve as pillars or ornaments of the material edifice. Much of the genius that would otherwise have lain dormant has [28/29] been called into exercise, and is now usefully employed in different professions; imparting dignity and honour to some of the most responsible offices in this commonwealth. Has not the character of your state been elevated, and a new tone given to the intelligence, the religious principles, the moral habits of its population? None can doubt the fact; and the mind must be sadly prejudiced, which can fail to ascribe it in a great degree, to the influence put forth by this and other kindred institutions.
But in exhibiting the claims of this seminary to patronage and support, it would be doing injustice to the theme to permit our views of its usefulness to be limited by the boundaries of this state. Though situated in a retired corner of this immense empire, its salutary influence has extended to every section of the confederated republics.--Nay, its moral power has been felt on every other continent of the globe, and has been beneficially exerted in some of the remote Islands of the Pacific Ocean. We could point to some of her sons in different territories of this extended Union, who are imparting to other Colleges the fruits of the learning acquired at this; or, in private seminaries honourably and successfully employed in [29/30] training up the rising youth of our country to those habits of literary study and virtuous action, which will prepare them to play their parts with credit upon the theatre of life. We could point to some who have risen to respectability if not to eminence, in the medical profession: to others, who bid fair to become ornaments of the bar; and to others again, who have with dignity and honour occupied seats in the General Assemblies of different states, or in the highest legislative councils of the nation. But the profession, associations, and habits of the speaker, prompt him to notice more particularly the influence which has been exerted by this institution upon the cause of our holy religion; upon the interests of man, considered not merely as an inhabitant of this world, but as a candidate for the retributions of eternity, and the unspeakable joys of the world to come.
Religion and learning are intimately associated. The latter is the appropriate handmaid of the former, and in a state of separation, both must languish and expire. It is true, that genius and learning have in some instances been found in connection with all that is sceptical in religion, and all that is loose in morals. But their tendency has then been, not to refine and elevate, but to brutalize, [30/31] and even demonize the human character.--There is nothing in unbaptised literature or infidel philosophy, that is adapted to soothe the sorrows, improve the sensibilities, tame the passions, and purify the affections of our nature. Nothing to cheer man's mournful pilgrimage through the present life, or shed the consolations of hope upon that which is future. All is cold and cheerless and forbidding. Even the literature of Voltaire, the philosophy of Hume, the taste of Rousseau, and the poetry of Byron, may each be compared with the "aurora borealis," which occasionally illuminates the darkness of a northern sky, whose very brightness indicates the coldness of those frozen regions where it has its origin.
Would you know the influence of infidel literature and philosophy upon communities? Learn it from that fearful example which, towards the close of the last century, was exhibited for the warning and reformation of a guilty world. It introduced that anarchical and sanguinary period which has been appropriately styled "the reign of terror." It mingled the stories of the altar with the fragments of the throne. It erected the guillotine as the only settler of controversies--the only arbitrer of right and wrong. It converted the most refined people [31/32] upon earth into a nation of savages. It acted like a withering sirocco upon all the finer sensibilities of our nature and the tender charities of life.--Under its diabolical sway, the heart of the most polished city in Europe was changed into a slaughter-house, and its purlieus into a brothel. The only chaunts sounded in its praise consisted of the groans of widows and the sighs of orphans: and its damning eulogy, written in characters of pollution and blood, will be transmitted by the faithful page of history to the latest generations of mankind.
Who that has read the history of revolutionary France, will not fervently pray Heaven in its infinite mercy to avert from our beloved country the desolating visitations of that demon of infidelity, which is more to be dreaded than the foul and accursed demons of the pit? Who will not feel commiseration for any deluded and wretched individual who will close his eyes against the pure light shed forth by the sun of revelation to illuminate our pathway to immortality, and resign himself to the guidance of the "ignes fatui" of that sceptical philosophy which is comfortless as it is cold, and blind as it is cruel! The case of such an individual, maddened by a false and fatal religious [32/33] theory, may be compared with that of a mariner, who, under the influence of real madness, should leave a comfortable and well-furnished ship which had often performed the voyage in safety, and attempt to effect his passage across the ocean on one of those icebergs which often float in such terrific majesty upon the bosom of the deep. He might for a time be amused with the novelty and brilliancy of the scene. He might gaze with rapture upon the seemingly frozen castles or forests that adorn the surface of his floating Island;--or at the rainbow light reflected by the spray rising from the mountainous waves that are dashing against its sides. He might congratulate himself that he had purer air, and a wider scope of vision than he enjoyed on board the ship. But, he is without food to satisfy the cravings of hunger, and without fire to prevent his being chilled and benumbed by the cold. He has no compass or rudder to guide him to any haven either of happiness or rest. He is made the sport of the floods, and driven at the mercy of the winds; till at length the storm comes on in its fury--the agitated billows overwhelm him--his deceitful vessel sinks into the fathomless abyss--and the mantle of darkness covers him forever.
 It is a cause of sincere congratulation that this College, founded for the promotion of man's moral no less than intellectual improvement, and consecrated pre-eminently to the cause of virtue and religion, has ever repelled the dark and scowling spirits of infidelity from her walls, exclaiming
"Procul O! procul, este profani,
totoque absistite luco!"
Here the "mountain of the Lord's house has taken its appropriate station upon the top of "Parnassus." Here the fountain of "Helicon" and the "dews of Zion" have united to form those streams which have annually flowed forth to "gladden the city of our God." Here the treasures of natural science have been unfolded, and the gems of classical literature collected, chiefly that they might be employed in enriching the Church and adorning the service of her altars, as the gold and precious stones of Egypt were used to beautify the Temple at Jerusalem. To speak without a figure, perhaps the highest claims of this seminary of learning to patronage and support, arise from the important aid which many of its graduates have afforded in sustaining the cause and promoting the interests of true religion. From time to time the institution has been favoured with especial visitations [34/35] of heavenly grace; and, as a consequence of them, many of its pupils have been constrained by the love of Christ to devote themselves to the ministry of reconciliation.
A delicate regard for the feelings of the living, forbids me to notice some valued brethren, who, as pastors of Churches, or professors of theology, are successfully employed in promoting the glory of the divine Saviour and the best interests of those whom he died to redeem. But the sacred feelings awakened by the occasion, will not permit me to consign the names of the pious dead to oblivion, or pass them over without a grateful and affectionate memorial. This single remark would prompt me to shed a tear to the memory of the respected President of this society, [* The Rev. WALTER CHAPIN.] who has recently been summoned to another world, and of one and another of my classmates, [* Rev. Richard Hall, and Rev. H. Rowe.] whose names, though unknown to earthly fame, are destined, I doubt not, to be inscribed, with the honours due to faithful ministers of the Lord Jesus, in the imperishable register of Heaven. But this is not the occasion for the indulgence of private grief: We refer, therefore, only to those of our departed [35/36] associates whose talents or stations, have connected their names with the reputation of our College.
The chord I have now touched vibrates in every bosom, and excites many painful but pleasing recollections in which we all participate. We think of the noble form, the intelligent countenance, the melodious voice, the graceful action, the fertile imagination, the glowing zeal of our own LARNED. We well remember with what feelings of astonishment and delight the crowded and refined auditories in our cities, listened to those exhibitions of pulpit eloquence which have seldom been equalled, and perhaps, never surpassed. We mourn that his career was so short, but are consoled by the reflection that it was so brilliant; and that it closed amidst his arduous and disinterested efforts to spread the light of religion and the influence of virtue, through the population of a city where superstition and vice had long been struggling for the ascendancy--or, perhaps to speak more properly, had harmoniously reigned together.
Passing in imagination to the shores of India, we dwell with grateful emotions upon the meekness, the devotion, the love of the lamented WARREN, who was one of the first messengers sent out by the American churches, to assure the swarming [36/37] population of that heathen land of our compassion for their ignorance, and our earnest desires, for their salvation. The sorrowful feelings awakened by the remembrance of his death, are soothed by the reflection, that some of his fellow graduates still remain in that region of darkness and idolatry, to emulate his virtues, and shed their tears upon his tomb.
In the midst of this memorial of our departed fellows, Africa, with all her oppression and degradation; with all her tears and blood, arises to our view; and near to the little civilized spot upon her Western coast, which, redeemed from the barbarism that surrounds it, appears like a beautiful Oasis in her deserts, we behold the grave which covers the remains of the modest, humble, pious, charitable ANDRUS, whose life fell a sacrifice to his zealous efforts to commence the operations of a system, which is perhaps, destined in the Providence of God, to spread the light of civilization and Christianity throughout that dark and afflicted continent, on whose oppressed and captive children the curse of Ham seems to have descended with accumulating weight. His body has returned to dust; but, the rising prosperity of the infant colony, gives assurance that his memory will never perish: [37/38]--and when "Ethiopia shall stretch out her hands unto God," thousands of her redeemed and regenerated children will rise up and pronounce benedictions on his name.
Quicker than I can guide them, your minds will pass to Syria and the Holy Land, reflecting upon the elevated principles, the noble gifts, the untiring diligence, the self-immolating benevolence, of two kindred spirits, who during the whole of their collegiate, theological, and ministerial course, were sweetly and inseperably united; and of whom, it may be almost said, "in death they were not divided." We all remember the thrill of joy which was sent through the hearts of American Christians, when it was announced that FISK and PARSONS were about to visit Jerusalem, to erect the standard of the cross upon the hill of Calvary, and preach the doctrine of the resurrection at the mouth of the holy sepulchre. We know the self-denial, the labours, the watchings, the fastings, the perils, to which they submitted in that interesting but distracted region--the scene of former glories, but of present desolation. We shared the general grief occasioned by the tidings of their death. We now fondly cherish their memory; and rejoice in the hope, that the sainted spirits of those our [38/39] fellow Alumni now form a part of a more pure and elevated society, and hold fellowship with the blessed Apostles, who in the infancy of our religion, travelled through the same regions and proclaimed the same tidings of great joy.
It is to be considered as one of the highest recommendations of this literary institution that it has been such an efficient auxiliary to that cause upon which the best interests of our race are dependent. Scarcely a benevolent enterprise of considerable extent has been undertaken by the citizens of our country, in which one or more of the sons of Middlebury has not borne an agency. Scarcely a Foreign Missionary station has been occupied by the American Churches, where the moral and intellectual energies here strengthened and improved, have not been successfully and ardently devoted to the melioration of human misery and the advancement of the divine glory. The friends of religion look upon the College with interest and gratitude as having strong claims to patronage and support;--and all who form a due estimate of the happy influence it has exerted upon the social and moral condition of the globe, will cheerfully exclaim "esto perpetua!"
It was my intention to treat somewhat at large, [39/40] of the most promising means that should be employed to advance the prosperity of this College. But I have so long claimed your attention, that I fear, that even the deep interest which we may all be supposed to feel in relation to the theme, will not justify a farther encroachment upon your time and patience. We must be contented with a hasty glance at the most prominent of them.
It would be easy to shew that it is the true interest of the State to extend its fostering care and aid to this institution, intimately connected as it is, with the intelligence, morals, and liberties of its population. One similar institution in the state, has shared some portion of the public funds. We rejoice in it; and so far from lessening her portion, desire only to participate with her in the favours that may be conferred in future. Let the strife which has heretofore existed between them, cease: and like two sister seminaries, let them dwell together in unity; having no contest except for the palm of usefulness--and no emulation but that of doing most service to the community which they were intended to benefit and adorn. The support of good schools and respectable colleges, is no less necessary to the well being of a state, and no less proper an object [40/41] of public bounty, than the construction of roads and bridges. No brighter lines can be drawn on the escutcheon of any government than those which record its liberal grants for the support of science, and the patronage of literature and the arts. Such acts would give a reputation to your State, solid and stable as her mountains; perpetual and refreshing, as the verdure which crowns their summits.
Should, however, the policy of the civil government in relation to this school of learning, remain unchanged; let us indulge the hope, that there will likewise, be no change in the policy of that little community in whose bosom it has been cherished, and which has always looked upon it with the most indulgent favour, and contributed to its support with the most commendable liberality.--But the zeal which has never become cold, the liberality which has never yet been exhausted, but like a perennial spring becomes more pure and abundant by constantly discharging itself into a living stream, need no other prompting and encouragement than are afforded by the common motives of self-interest; and the higher and purer ones arising out of the joys connected with the [41/42] exercise of beneficence in this world, and the rewards promised to it in that which is to come.
May I be permitted to suggest, that the continued prosperity of the institution depends more on the faithfulness and ability with which the different members of the Faculty discharge their responsible duties, than upon any other means which can be employed--as upon the healthy action of the heart, more than any thing else, depend the vigour of our animal system, and the regular, efficient operation of the different members of the body.
The spirit of the age calls for the exercise of the purest catholicism in religion; and no literary institution can be popular and flourishing, from which sectarian bigotry is not most carefully excluded. In the Southern section of our country, there is a jealousy and dread of some of the Colleges of New-England as indulging a spurious and corrupt liberality of religious sentiment; and of others, on the score of too great assiduity in inculcating upon the minds of pupils the prevailing theology of this region. Wise and prudent overseers of such an institution, will doubtless sedulously guard against these opposite grounds of hostility and dissatisfaction.
 A gradual and judicious addition to the requirements for admission and graduation; and a uniform, dignified exercise of a rigourous but parental discipline, are also manifestly important means of insuring the increasing respectability and prosperity of an institution like this. The past success of the respectable Faculty to whose protection the fame and interests of our "Alma Mater" are now entrusted, affords the surest pledge of the prudence, fidelity, and zeal, that will characterise their future course.
Suffer me, before passing to a conclusion, to remind the members of "the Associated Alumni of Middlebury College," that they are, in some sense, responsible for its reputation: its prosperity or adversity, is, in no small degree, dependent upon them. By the cultivation of our intellectual powers; by the pursuit of literature and science; and above all, by the thorough and successful devotion of our talents to the promotion of our country's honour, the welfare of mankind, and the glory of our God, let us perform the part of so many epistles of recommendation, sent out in successive years, to enlarge her patronage and promote her fame. For any reputation we may possess in the different professions, and for any degree of influence [43/44] we may have acquired in the various ranks of society we are destined to move in, we are in a great measure indebted to the instructions received from our "Alma Mater," and the habits of mental discipline to which we were trained within yonder walls. We should cherish the same kind of feelings towards her that an affectionate and ingenuous son does towards the mother who nourished him, and the paternal domicile in which the happiest days of his childhood were passed. The grateful sense of the benefits she has conferred upon us, should ever prompt us in our respective spheres, to advocate her interests and labour to multiply the number of her sons.
May we not, with safety and confidence, recommend her, as a faithful guardian of the virtue, and a prudent guide to the intellect of our rising youth? If this College is, in some respects, inferior to the older seminaries of New-England, is it not, in others, superior to them? If some branches of education are not here carried to as high a degree of polish and refinement as at Harvard or Yale; is not the defect more than counterbalanced by the greater security which is afforded for the correct moral principles and habits of youth in this comparatively sequestered borough, [44/45] so remote from the common dissipations of vulgar life, and the more dangerous, because more refined, temptations of the fashionable world.
We may confidently aver, that the foundation which is necessary for literary and scientific fame, is faithfully laid in the instructions which are here given. That no branch of education which is necessary to usefulness in any profession, is neglected, or superficially taught: and that there is no seminary in the land where a collegiate education can be acquired with more pecuniary economy, more safety to morals, and more probability of religious improvement, than at Middlebury College. Let us then, direct the youthful student with his thirsting mind to this fountain of science. Let us, when dispersed again to our various places of residence, keep in memory the great object of our association. And if, through our vigourous efforts, a new impulse should be given to the prosperity of the College a favourable reaction upon our own interests and reputation will be produced,--as the standing of children in society bears some proportion to the rank to which their parents have attained.
May the prosperity of this College bear a due proportion to the growing prosperity of our beloved country! [45/46] The most attached and devoted heart could desire no more. For that country has entered upon a career of glory, whose end, no human prescience can discern; whose rapidity almost outstrips the march of time; and whose height, the loftiest effort of imagination can scarcely transcend.
Where are the noble tribes who once called this whole continent their own? Who lighted their council fires on the very spots where our cities now lift their proud domes and spires to the clouds, or, hunted the chase through those very regions where our cultivated fields are now smiling with plenty? Alas! they have receded to the Western wilds, before the tide of our advancing population. They are falling off one after another like the leaves of autumn. They are gradually wasting away--not before the refinements of society, but before the deadly influence of those worse than savage vices which march in the van of civilization;--and it is to be feared that its comforts and refinements will not overtake them, till their last sigh shall have been heard on the banks of the Oregon, and the last relic of their existence swept away, and overwhelmed by the waves of the Pacific!
 O my country! How heavily art thou indebted to the original proprietors of this fair land! Well mayest thou weep over their hapless fate, and labour to avert it! But the sinking of the tribes, is only the signal of the rising of the nation. Their disappearance only makes room for the forthcoming millions of thy own more highly favoured children. The wigwam is supplanted by the substantial dwelling. The warrior and the hunter give way to the tradesman and the farmer!
But what mortal can display the scroll of prophecy, and pronounce whether the future destiny of this widely spreading republic is written in dark, or in bright lines;--in characters of gladness or of woe? What but the benign influence of education, can prevent the millions of white men that are hereafter to people this continent, from exhibiting the same odious features of stupidity and barbarism, which marked the condition of the Aborigines? What, but the diffusion of intelligence and virtue among the people, can prevent this fair land from becoming the scene of anarchy--or, being given up as a victim to the ravages and cruelty of despotism? Nothing--nothing, but religion and learning, can cause the fame of our beloved country, so bright even in the [47/48] infancy of her existence, still to shine on through future ages with undiminished splendour. Nothing--nothing, but moral and intellectual cultivation, can secure unimpaired to our posterity those civil and religious privileges, which were purchased by the toil, and sweat, and blood of our forefathers.
Let, then, every lover of his country, cling to her literary and religious establishments, as the only sheet anchor of her safety. Let him labour to increase their number, and add to their efficiency and influence. Then may we hope, that the teeming generations who are hereafter to occupy every region of this widely extended country, will present such a spectacle as the world has never seen before. The spectacle of fifty or a hundred millions of men, peaceable--united--happy, under the protection of wise and liberal institutions.--The spectacle of an immense community of free educated--virtuous citizens! A spectacle which shall excite the admiration and praise of the whole earth! A spectacle on which the benevolent spirits of Heaven, and even the all glorious Jehovah himself, may look down with complacency and approbation.