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V A LEDICTORY.
REV. A. WYLIE.
GENTLEMEN OF THE COLLEGE OF TEACHERS:
The series of meetings in which, for some days past, we have been so pleasantly, and, I trust, profitably engaged, is now at a close. To me has been assigned the painful duty of bidding you farewell. It is a word which, on the present occasion, I pronounce with peculiar emotions. I have enjoyed great satisfaction in meeting you here. It is the first time I have had the privilege. I hope it may not be the last. That, however, is among the uncertainties of the future. One-Mr. Kinmont,--who participated with you in the business of your last anniversary, is not here-he is gone to the congregation of the dead. At our next meeting, whose place shall be left vacant, or, whether it may please the Disposer of events that any vacancy should occur, it would be useless to conjecture. But the loss which we have sustained which the cause of literature and education has sustained, in the event to which I have alluded, suggests the reflection which I have made, a reflection never improper for us while in a state of existence so precarious and transitory, but peculiarly in harmony with those tender and solemn feelings which naturally come over us in this hour of parting. While, however, we indulge for a moment those feelings of regret which the loss of a respected fellow laborer in the good cause of education necessarily inspires, and while we anticipate the fate which, we know not how soon, awaits us all, we will not murmur at the will of Heaven, which has assigned to us a career so short and uncertain, nor will we look forward to our own impending fate with fear or despondency. No: we will rather be stimulated, by thinking on the brevity of life, to make the most of it while it lasts, by turning to good account every moment of which it is composed and every opportunity which it presents..
That we may do this, it is important that we should never suffer ourselves to sink into discouragement under the many difficulties which beset our course. We have no aid in sustaining these difficulties from the sympathy of the world. . We can have none. They know nothing of them. They are such as experience only can explain. You know what they are, for «you have felt them. You feel them now, and the hearts of some of you are perhaps at. this moment, ready to sink under them. I refer not to the difficulties of the mercenary teacher which consist, of course, in devising and executing plans for making money. Such teachers, indeed, there are. They are the pests of the profession and the plagues of society. But I address none of this character. I pass them by:
I let them alone in their baseness. If such were here I might, perhaps, say to them: Avaunt! “Procul! 0, procul este profani. How came ye here? What prompted you, with
your love of gain, to enter the sacred temple where the young soul is to be not merely instructed in the arts and sciences, which have their objects in the world of matter, and which contemplate the interests of common life, but initiated into the sublime mysteries of wisdom and virtue-taught to love moral beauty and to loathe its opposite-to feel a sense of its own dignity and worth as the offspring of the skies and an inheritor of an immortal nature-to aspire after things worthy of its high destiny, and to glow with feelings of admiration and intense delight while contemplating the glory of the Eternal Mind as reflected from all his works. How, I would ask then, did the demon of avarice, só sagacious usually in conducting his devotees, commit such a mistake for once, as to bring you into this sacred place, with those who labor on principles which you cannot understand and for a reward which you cannot appreciate ? You have missed your way! This is not a temple of the god of wealth! Out! Begone forthwith ! and seek elsewhere the golden prize for which you pant, for no.where else are you less likely to find it than here,
Such would be my language, were mercenary teachers before me. As it is, I have other and very different things to say. You are enthusiastically devoted to that which is the legitimate object of your profession, the improvement of your pupils in knowledge and virtue: and, as all your cares and labors are directed towards this object, your troubles arise from whatever obstructs its attainment. Of these troubles, some proceed from your pupils, some from their parents or other relatives, and some from the interference of ignorant intruders.
Your pupils are of various tempers, habits, and prejudices. Some are ardent and impetuous; others, sluggish and dull. Some self-confident and aspiring; others, diffident and despondent. Some prompt and eager at first, but possessed of no steadiness of purpose ; others, slow in the beginning and hard to be excited, but resolute and persevering when their dormant energies are once awakened, and they are set upon the right track. Some are suspicious and reserved ; others, open and confiding. A few, it may be, have been blessed with good parents, by, whose instructions and examples they have been trained to correct habits; the greater number, probably, have been neglected by their parents, and suffered to grow up “like the wild ass’s colt;" and are, consequently, giddy, wayward, obstinate, and perhaps dissipated. Nor, however young they may be when they come under your tuition, do they come free from the bias of preconceived opinions and fixed antipathies. Happy ! were the bias towards virtue. Often, too often ! it is against it. Ah, me! with what feelings and views in regard to honor and religion and utility, do pupils, often come to us. How full of difficulty is the task of dealing with all their different tempers, habits and prejudices ! Nor is this all, Parents are often most unreasonable in their demands. · They look to you for what is impossible, and hold you guilty for not working miracles. They would have you impart not only instruction, but capacity, and reform habits derived by imitation of their own bad examples, and sustained by corrupt principles which they have instilled. They send you a rotten egg, and are sorely disappointed that you do not bring out of it a healthy, strong, and well-fledged bird! But of your troubles the heaviest pack is yet to be opened, and
to tell the truth, not in the humor to open it. Nor shall I. Time would not allow it, were there no other reason. I shall only roll it over, that the spectators here may have a guess at its contents. You can more than guess. · You are, I shall suppose, a president or professor in some public institution.
And there are other professors associated with you. Aye! and they are all just what-what--they should be. That is well. You are fortunate. But there is a Board of Trustees. Who compose it I should like to know? Here is a list of names ; let me read—Solomon Black, Ned Roarer, Grimace Graceless, Nicholas Van Puff, Minimus Tiny, etc. etc. These worthy men are your trustees; and it-must not be said respecting them, “ Tractent fabrilia fabri-Ne sutor ultra crepidam ;'-for, with their appointment to office, they received their qualifications, and they are competent, ex officio, not only to manage the external affairs of your institution, but its internal also. As if a company, undertaking to build a bridge or a factory, should not only employ an architect, but direct him how to proceed in his work; what tools he is to use; how the joints and mortices and braces and pins and pillars and arches are to be made ; and how the whole structure is to be fitted and framed together!
In such circumstances, what must be the troubles of the architect may be readily imagined. “One sinner destroyeth much good," ; says the proverb'; and the truth of it is in no case so easily and so lamentably verified, as in the concerns of a literary institution. A faithful and aceomplished teacher, after having succeeded, by years of incessant and anxious toil, in rearing up a seminary to a high state of reputation and usefulness, sometimes has the mortification to see the result of all his labors scattered to the winds, in consequence of the interference of some impertinent blockhcad, who wishes to appropriate to himself the glory of the achievment;or', if failing in this, sets to “ with axes and hammers, making havoc with the “carved work," thinking to gain to himself the honor at least of a reformer.
Such are some of the difficulties incident to the employment in which you are engaged. Suffer me to suggest some considerations .which may help to encourage you under them.
And let me remind you, in the first place, that nothing great and good in human life .can be effected, without encountering difficulty and opposition. So it has always been, and so it must always be. Think not, therefore, to escape the common lot. Let your difficulties, be met with firmness. Zeal and perseverance will surmount them. “ Be not overcome of evil; but overcome evil with good.”.
Consider next, the high importance of the work in which you are engaged, as it stands connected with the best interests of our beloved country. Our condition, as citizens of these United States, is peculiar, and without example in the history of the world. Neither Greece nor Rome, so much celebrated for their free institutions, knew any thing of the liberty, civil or religious, whieh we enjoy. The governments of Europe know nothing of it. Ours is pre-eminently a government of the people. The will of the people directs and controls every thing. I rejoice and glory in it. So do you all. In other countries, the direction in which influence passes is downwards, from the rulers to the people ;-in ours, it is upward, from the people to the rulers. With them a privileged few make the laws; and their minions, guarded by the bayonets of the military, put them in execution. We, the people, make our own laws ; our executive officers are our servants; and they have no other protection than what they derive from the moral sense of the community, which imposes an invisible but an effective restraint upon violence. With other nations government is a thing of mechanical contrivance, moving along in a slow and safe track, guarded on both sides by those defences which authority has, at infinite expense, erected to secure its prerogatives from encroachment on the part of the people—the objects of its hatred and fear. With us, government is an affair of reason and sentiment—not of force. With the eagle for its appropriate em
blem,--(the arrows and avenging bolt have not a domestic, but a foreign reference,)-our government pursues a loftier course in a region above the clouds. But its very elevation makes its position dangerous. If it fall, the disaster will be proportionably great. In other and plainer terms, we are making an experiment, by which the capacity of the people for self-government is to be tested. It is an experiment for the world, and for future ages. If it fail, a second, probably, will never be tried. All philanthropists, not among ourselves only, but in every nation throughout the world, are anxious for the result; and are earnestly looking on, some with confident hope, others with trembling solicitude. For my. self, I am determined “never to despair of the Republic.” But my trust respecting its destiny is not founded on its excellent constitution, though it resulted from the deliberations of the purest patriots, enlightened by the wisdom which they had collected from the experience of ages ;-nor is it founded on the physical relations which nature has established in the geography of the different states, however they may be strengthened by those numerous channels of inter-communication, by which, as by so many chains and bands, the different sections of the Great Confederacy may, by means of a wise system of internal improvement, be linked and bound together ;- nor yet on the abilities of our statesmen, though statesmen we can boast, whose great capacity and distinguished public services have brought safety and glory to their glory. Much less do I rest my hopes on our widely. extended territory, reaching through so many degrees of latitude, and across the continent from sea to sea ; nor on our gallant navy, illustrious for its exploits ; nor on our armies so often crowned with victory; nor on our accumulating wealth, or our spreading commerce, or our thriving manufactures, or our improving agriculture, covering the teeming soil with its rich, various and abundant productions, vegetable and animal. I do not rest my hopes on any, nor on all, of these advantages, which a benignant Providence has, with a liberality so bountiful, accumulated in our condition : for I well know an infatuated people may frustrate them all.
God never bestows blessings so great, so numerous, or so well guarded, that man (who, when he pleases, is omnipotent in mischief,) may not convert them into occasions of guilt, and instruments of ruin. I therefore repose no part of my confidence, as it respects the future prosperity of my country, in any of her privileges or external advantages ;-but, under God, I repose it in you, and your fellowlaborers in the cause of education. For, to you it belongs to form the rising age, and to transmit through the channel of the living mind a diffusive and sound moral influence. On this depends our liberty. A people morally corrupt, cannot be free. Public sentiment must be pure, and preserved pure, else the spirit of liberty will forsake our institutions. Now, it is to you, and others