Page images

Tuscany what the back settlements of America now are to Britain. He had lived with the merchant princes of Florence, those men who first ennobled trade by making trade the ally of philosophy, of eloquence, and of taste. It was he who, under the protection of the munificent and discerning Cosmo, arranged the first public library that modern Europe possessed. From privacy your founder rose to a throne; but on the throne he never forgot the studies which had been his delight in privacy. He was the center of an illustrious group, composed partly of the last great scholars of Greece, and partly of the first great scholars of Italy, Theodore Gaza and George of Trebizond, Bessarion and Filelfo, Marsilio Ficino and Poggio Bracciolini. By him was founded the Vatican library, then and long after the most precious and the most extensive collection of books in the world. By him were carefully preserved the most valuable intellectual treasures which had been snatched from the wreck of the Byzantine empire. His agents were to be found everywhere, in the bazaars of the farthest East, in the monasteries of the farthest West, purchasing or copying worm-eaten parchments, on which were traced words worthy of immortality. Under his patronage were prepared accurate Latin versions of many precious remains of Greek poets and philosophers. But no department of literature owes so much to him as history. By him were introduced to the knowledge of Western Europe two great and unrivaled models of historical composition, the work of Herodotus and the work of Thucydides. By him, too, our ancestors were first made acquainted with the graceful and lucid simplicity of Xenophon and with the manly good sense of Polybius.

It was while he was occupied with cares like these that his attention was called to the intellectual wants of this region, a region now swarming with population, rich with culture, and resounding with the clang of machinery, a region which now sends forth fleets laden with its admirable fabrics to the lands of which in his days no geographer had ever heard, then a wild, a poor, a half barbarous tract, lying on the utmost verge of the known world. He gave his sanction to the plan of establishing a University at Glasgow, and bestowed on the new seat of learning all the privileges which belonged to the Univer

sity of Bologna. I can conceive that a pitying smile passed over his face as he named Bologna and Glasgow together. At Bologna he had long studied. No spot in the world had been more favored by nature or by art. The surrounding country was a fruitful and sunny country, a country of cornfields and vineyards. In the city, the house of Bentivoglio bore rule, a house which vied with the house of Medici in taste and magnificence, which has left to posterity noble palaces and temples, and which gave a splendid patronage to arts and letters. Glasgow, your founder just knew to be a poor, a small, a rude town, a town, as he would have thought, not likely ever to be great and opulent; for the soil, compared with rich country at the foot of the Apennines, was barren, and the climate was such that an Italian shuddered at the thought of it. But it is not on the fertility of the soil, it is not on the mildness of the atmosphere, that the prosperity of nations chiefly depends. Slavery and superstition can make Campania a land of beggars, and can change the plain of Enna into a desert. Nor is it beyond the power of human intelligence and energy, developed by civil and spiritual freedom, to turn sterile rocks and pestilential marshes into cities and gardens. Enlightened as your founder was, he little knew that he was himself a chief agent in a great revolution, physical and moral, political and religious, in a revolution, destined to make the last first and the first last, in a revolution destined to invert the relative positions of Glasgow and Bologna. We cannot, I think, better employ a few minutes than in reviewing the stages of this great change in human affairs.

The review shall be short. Indeed I cannot do better than pass rapidly from century to century. Look at the world, then, a hundred years after the seal of Nicholas had been affixed to the instrument which called your college into existence. We find Europe, we find Scotland especially, in the agonies of that great revolution which we emphatically call the Reformation. The liberal patronage which Nicholas, and men like Nicholas, had given to learning, and of which the establishment of this seat of learning is not the least remarkable instance, had produced an effect which they had never contemplated. Ignorance was the talisman on which their power de

[blocks in formation]

pended; and that talisman they had themselves broken. They had called in Knowledge as a handmaid to decorate Superstition, and their error produced its natural effect. I need not tell you what a part the votaries of classical learning, and especially the votaries of Greek learning, the Humanists, as they were then called, bore in the great movement against spiritual tyranny. They formed, in fact, the vanguard of that movement. Every one of the chief Reformers—I do not at this moment remember a single exception—was a Humanist. Almost every eminent Humanist in the north of Europe was, according to the measure of his uprightness and courage, a Reformer. In a Scottish University I need hardly mention the names of Knox, of Buchanan, of Melville, of Secretary Maitland. In truth, minds daily nourished with the best literature of Greece and Rome necessarily grew too strong to be trammeled by the cobwebs of the scholastic divinity; and the influence of such minds was now rapidly felt by the whole community; for the invention of printing had brought books within the reach even of yeomen and of artisans. From the Mediterranean to the Frozen Sea, therefore, the public mind was everywhere in a ferment; and nowhere was the ferment greater than in Scotland. It was in the midst of martyrdoms and proscriptions, in the midst of a war between power and truth, that the first century of the existence of your University closed.

Pass another hundred years; and we are in the midst of another revolution. The war between Popery and Protestantism had, in this island, been terminated by the victory of Protestantism. But from that war another war had sprung, the war between Prelacy and Puritanism. The hostile religious sects were allied, intermingled, confounded with hostile political parties. The monarchical element of the constitution was an object of almost exclusive devotion to the Prelatist. The popular element of the constitution was especially dear to the Puritan. At length an appeal was made to the sword. Puritanism triumphed; but Puritanism was already divided against itself. Independency and Republicanism were on one side, Presbyterianism and limited Monarchy on the other. It was in the very darkest part of that dark time, it was in the midst of battles, sieges, and executions, it was when

the whole world was still aghast at the awful spectacle of a British King standing before a judgment-seat and laying his neck on a block, it was when the mangled remains of the Duke of Hamilton had just been laid in the tomb of his house, it was when the head of the Marquess of Montrose had just been fixed on the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, that your University completed her second century.

A hundred years more; and we have at length reached the beginning of a happier period. Our civil and religious liberties had indeed been bought with a fearful price. But they had been bought. The price had been paid. The last battle had been fought on British ground. The last black scaffold had been set up on Tower Hill. The evil days were over. A bright and tranquil century, a century of religious toleration, of domestic peace, of temperate freedom, of equal justice, was beginning. That century is now closing. When we compare it with any equally long period in the history of any other great society, we shall find abundant cause for thankfulness to the Giver of all good. Nor is there any place in the whole kingdom better fitted to excite this feeling than the place where we are now assembled. For in the whole kingdom we shall find no district in which the progress of trade, of manufactures, of wealth, and of the arts of life, has been more rapid than in Clydesdale. Your University has partaken largely of the prosperity of this city and of the surrounding region. The security, the tranquillity, the liberty, which have been propitious to the industry of the merchant and of the manufacturer, have been also propitious to the industry of the scholar. To the last century belong most of the names of which you justly boast. The time would fail me if I attempted to do justice to the memory of all the illustrious men who, during that period, taught or learned wisdom within these ancient walls; geometricians, anatomists, jurists, philologists, metaphysicians, poets; Simpson and Hunter, Millar and Young, Reid and Stewart; Campbell, whose coffin was lately borne to a grave in that renowned transept which contains the dust of Chaucer, of Spenser, and of Dryden; Black, whose discoveries form an era in the history of chemical science; Adam Smith, the greatest of all the masters of political science; James Watt, who, perhaps,

[ocr errors]

did more than any single man has done, since the “New Atlantis” of Bacon was written, to accomplish that gloriour prophecy. We now speak the language of humility when we say that the University of Glasgow need not fear a comparison with the University of Bologna.

A fifth secular period is about to commence. There is no lack of alarmists who will tell you that it is about to commence under evil auspices. But from me you must expect no such gloomy prognostications. I have heard them too long and too constantly to be scared by them. Ever since I began to make observations on the state of my country, I have been seeing nothing but growth, and hearing of nothing but decay. The more I contemplate our noble institutions, the more convinced I am that they are sound at heart, that they have nothing of age but its dignity, and that their strength is still the strength of youth. The hurricane, which has recently overthrown so much that was great and that seemed durable, has only proved their solidity. They still stand, august and immovable, while dynasties and churches are lying in heaps of ruin all around us. I see no reason to doubt that, by the blessing of God on a wise and temperate policy, on a policy of which the principle is to preserve what is good by reforming in time what is evil, our civil institutions may be preserved unimpaired to a late posterity, and that, under the shade of our civil institutions, our academical institutions may long continue to flourish.

I trust, therefore, that, when a hundred years more have run out, this ancient College will still continue to deserve well of our country and of mankind. I trust that the installation of 1949 will be attended by a still greater assembly of students than I have the happiness now to see before me. That assemblage, indeed, may not meet in the place where we have met. These venerable halls may have disappeared. My successor may speak to your successors in a more stately edifice, in an edifice which, even among the magnificent buildings of the future Glasgow, will still be admired as a fine specimen of the architecture which flourished in the days of the good Queen Victoria. But, though the site and the walls may be new, the spirit of the institution will, I hope, be still the same. My successor will, I hope, be able to boast that the fifth

« PreviousContinue »