Page images

country. Do not fear but the giants will follow your lead, if you are willing to show them the way. If, as Cadmus did, you choose to build cities, do not fear but the new resources of the land will be drawing your water, hewing your timber, mixing your cement, and piling your stones. The humane arts, or the liberal arts, are from their very nature the contriving and directing arts. The men who are trained in them, from the nature of things, lead all other men. You are to accept the position of leaders. Modestly, but certainly, because the substance is more than the show, because the idea controls the form, because mind rules matter, because spirit rules all, you are to take the position of spiritual leaders of the land.

Why, it was long since observed that, even in superficial fashions, all men follow the lead of the liberal professions. As they spell, all men try to spell. As they write, all men try to write.

As they live, all men try to live. Even as they dress, all men try to dress. The black coat of the clerk becomes the dress-suit of the gentleman. Gold lace falls off, the sword-knot is forgotten, the sword disappears, and the great army of men affect, in their outward costume, on all days of ceremony, to belong to the company of men of liberal training. So the millionaire of yesterday builds a palace to-day, and his architect arranges a library as certainly as he arranges a kitchen. Then he comes to you, gentlemen, to say that he has five thousand square feet of book-room, and that he will thank you to select the books for them. And, as his son grows up, he will send him to Cornell, and as his daughter grows up, he will send her to Sage College. He is determined that the future shall have what he did not have. He comes to you for the direction of these useless millions, which he has created from the winds and the waves and the dead soil.

These are the most trivial and superficial illustrations, mere straws which show the current. They are all the better for my purpose. No fear but you can lead the land, if you want to lead it and wish to lead it. Your only questions are where, when, and how.

A thousand voices this week will tell you that the first duty of the well-trained scholar is to go into the caucus, and control the partisan arrangements of the country. Some of these voices will probably address us here. You

will be told how William Pitt, the younger, was Prime Minister of England when he was twenty-three, and you will be urged to go and do likewise. Such is doubtless one duty of the American scholar; but I do not believe that it is his first duty. Fortunately for us, every fundamental principle in our political order has been settled, and rightly settled in most instances, a century ago. With us, fortunately, all the drift and weight of conservatism are on the side of institutions founded in the most radical democracy. For this reason is it that our partisan questions, compared with those of other lands, are mere ripples on the surface of a summer sea. Our real interests are in the better and nobler training of our people, in the making men more manly, woman more womanly, and the land more godly. It may be that these interests shall call one in fifty of you into Administration. But, with us, Administration is not Government. With us, the people govern. In their homes, they govern, and not by any proxy. Presidents, governors, secretaries, and senators are their clerks and messengers; do well, indeed, when they are obsequious and obedient clerks and messengers. What the scholar of America is to do is to elevate the people, to enlighten the people, and give to it new life.

V. Observe again that, wherever the people are, the scholar must be there also, if he is to carry on this work. D'Artagnan and Aramis and Quentin Durward had to go to Paris, to the capital, to seek their sovereigns, if they would serve the State. But, with us, the sovereign is working in the mines of Lake Superior. The sovereign is herding cattle in Colorado, he is feeding the world from the wheat-plains of Dakota. The empire of this country is not in the hands of the large cities, though the writers in the large cities try to make you think so. It is in the hands of those large country towns, where the best men lead the town and direct its education, its local government, and give tone and courage to its people, towns without rings, towns not governed by barrooms. It is the men from these towns who are pushed forward into important public life, and loyally sustained by the American people.

Emigrants from Europe, still blinded by European prejudices, settle in clans in large cities, and are led blindly

by other men. But the American people is still true to that enthusiasm for local government which so surprised De Tocqueville, and which, to this hour, not one foreign writer in ten understands. Find for me the States or parts of States which, on the whole, direct the American policy in her public affairs, and you find States or parts of States which are under the empire, not of the few large cities of America, but of her numerous smaller cities or larger towns. Literally, gentlemen, it does not matter, for the sway that you are to have over the next halfcentury, whether you go to the wilderness of Lake Superior or the most crowded ward in New York. A man's a man. A leader is a leader. If you have in you the stuff of which leaders are made, you will lead. That is, if you rely on the Idea, if you make yourself an ally of the Almighty, speak his word and do his deed, you will, of course, take place and authority among men.

So much for the question, Where?

As to the question, When you shall take this direction, there is never but one answer-Now. To-day. Now is the accepted time. I trust that your four years at college are not to be flung away like an old garment. I think you have just whetted your appetite in literature, in art, in science, in philosophy. As Paul Jones said, You are just ready to begin. You are not to stay here longer. No. But you are to go on in just those studies which please most, with the freedom of manhood joined to the training of youth, and to carry them on, in one direction or another, till you die. You are, I trust, enthusiastic about alma mater. I hope you are always going to say that Cornell is the best college in the world. Do not be satisfied with saying 50.

Show it, wherever you go. Show what a man of liberal education is, by the eagerness with which you pursue that education. No one need shrink, because he is going into what is called business. Any man and woman of you can secure, and ought, two hours a day for generous reading or study. No man or woman needs more to keep up bravely and well the line of education which he has selected for his own. Make it your duty then to carry, wherever you go, be it to the ranch, be it to the mine, be it to the cotton plantation, the spirit, the thoroughness, even the elegancies of this

University. Why, Bernard civilized Western Europe by sending out from Clairvaux two hundred and fifty swarms of educated men, who made two hundred and fifty other centers of faith and of knowledge in countries then barbarous. More than this is in the power, nay, more than this be the future, of Cornell University in the next thirty years.

Thus, it is the duty of every man and woman of you to level up from the first moment the public education of the place where you shall live. The village school, the high school, the county academy or college, the public library, these live and grow, or starve and die, according as you determine, you and those others who have received what you have received from the lavish love of the State and of the nation. We have all seen what we call Ideal Communities, where effort in this line has been crowned. One comes to a village of Friends, sometimes, of the people called Quakers, where there was never a pauper, where every child receives what we call a high school education, where to each family the public library supplies the last and best in literature. And this is possible everywhere. A man need not be on the board of school supervisors to do it. I met, the other day, a learned judge who told me that for more than twenty years he had met every winter, in his own library, once a week, a club of his neighbors, men and women, who came, and came gladly, that he might guide them in the study of history. And all those people," said he, laughing, there are three of four hundred of them now, scattered over the world, “they all know what to read, and how to read it.” You see that village is another place because that one man lived there. Yet there is only one man who chose to make himself so far an apostle to carry forward the light which his alma mater had kindled.

Or consider for a moment how the great national pulpit might be improved, “ that pulpit to which ten men listen for one who sits in church or chapel on Sunday," I mean the daily and weekly press of the land, if every man of liberal culture, in any humblest village of the land, saw it was his part and privilege to hold up the hands of the spirited printer, who has carried into the wilderness a few pounds of type, who prints the legal notices and the

advertisements of the country stores. What folly to hold back from him and ridicule him! What a chance, if

, you will only make friends with him and help him! He does not want to make a bad newspaper. He wants it to be as good as the London “Spectator.” What graduate does not want it the same thing! What might not the local press of this country be, if the educated men of this country came loyally and regularly to the duty and privilege, I do not say of making it the mouthpiece of their convenience, but the educator and enlivener of the community in which they live! Do not let such a prophet be undeserving of honor in his own home.

And I might say the same thing of the beauty of the town you live in. You are to carry to it the traditions of College Hill. I say the same of its health. You carry to it what you have been learning of hygiene and of engineering. Í say the same of its social order. The possible social order of an American village is as far beyond anything revealed to us in an English or French novel of social order in England or France as the Constitution is beyond the clumsy makeshifts of the feudal schemes. I say the same of the hospitality of this imagined village where you are to plant a nursery of your Cornell seedlings, the hospitality in which it shall welcome strangers. The Norwegian boy, the Irish girl, as they grow to manhood and womanhood in that community, shall always bless God for two critical days, if they know for what they should be grateful. One is the day when the Old World faded blue out of the horizon in the distance, the other day when a son or daughter of Cornell or Sage College accepted the charge, God-imposed, of making that community to be the very City of God and the gate of Heaven.

VI. Such victories are possible to him or her who accepts the great alliance, who in the phrase of Paul, the omnipotent sage, is willing to be a fellow-workman together with God. That man, that woman, in accepting the Universe, takes Infinite Power as an ally. For this, this apostle of the highest manhood and womanhood keeps himself pure. The wisdom that is from above it first pure. . And it is the pure in heart who see God, and they only. Character is the foundation stone on which this City of

« PreviousContinue »