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who are teaching or questioning a set of youths who do not know them, and do not know each other, on a large number of subjects, different in kind, and connected by no wide philosophy, three times a week, or three times a year, or once in three years, in chill lecture-rooms or on a pompous anniversary.
Nay, self-education in any shape, in the most restricted sense, is preferable to a system of teaching which, professing so much, really does so little for the mind. Shut your college gates against the votary of knowledge, throw him back upon the searchings and the efforts of his own mind; he will gain by being spared an entrance into your Babel. Few indeed there are who can dispense with the stimulus and support of instructors, or will do anything at all, if left to themselves. And fewer still (though such great minds are to be found), who will not, from such unassisted attempts, contract a self-reliance and a selfesteem, which are not only moral evils, but serious hindrances to the attainment of truth. And next to none, perhaps, or none, who will not be reminded from time to time of the disadvantage under which they lie, by their imperfect grounding, by the breaks, deficiencies, and irregularities of their knowledge, by the eccentricity of opinion and the confusion of principle which they exhibit. They will be too often ignorant of what every one knows and takes for granted, of that multitude of small truths which fall upon the mind like dust, impalpable and ever accumulating; they may be unable to converse, they may argue perversely, they may pride themselves on their worst paradoxes or their grossest truisms, they may be full of their own mode of viewing things, unwilling to be put out of their way, slow to enter into the minds of others;—but, with these and whatever other liabilities upon their heads, they are likely to have more thought, more mind, more philosophy, more true enlargement, than those earnest but ill-used persons, who are forced to load their minds with a score of subjects against an examination, who have too much on their hands to indulge themselves in thinking or investigation, who devour premise and conclusion together with indiscriminate greediness, who hold whole sciences on faith, and commit demonstrations to memory, and who too often, as might be expected, when their period of education is passed, throw up all they have learned in disgust, having gained nothing really by their anxious labors, except perhaps the habit of application.
Yet such is the better specimen of the fruit of that ambitious system which has of late years been making way among us: for its result on ordinary minds, and on the common run of students, is less satisfactory still; they leave their place of education simply dissipated and relaxed by the multiplicity of subjects, which they have never really mastered, and so shallow as not even to know their shallowness. How much better, I say, is it for the active and thoughtful intellect, where such is to be found, to eschew the College and the University altogether, than to submit to a drudgery so ignoble, a mockery so contumelious. How much more profitable for the independent mind, after the mere rudiments of education, to range through a library at random, taking down books as they meet him, and pursuing the trains of thought which his mother wit suggests. How much healthier to wander into the fields, and there with the exiled Prince to find "tongues in the trees, books in the running brooks." How much more genuine an education is that of the poor boy in the Poem [Crabbe's "Tales of the Halls"]—a Poem, whether in conception or in execution, one of the most touching in our language—who, not in the wide world, but ranging day by day around his widowed mother's home, "a dexterous gleaner" in a narrow field, and with only such slender outfit
". . . as the village school and books a few
contrived from the beach, and the quay, and the fisher's boat, and the inn's fireside, and the tradesman's shop, and the shepherd's walk, and the smuggler's hut, and the mossy moor, and the screaming gulls, and the restless waves, to fashion for himself a philosophy and a poetry of his own!
[Address by Richard Olney, lawyer, statesman, Attorney-General and afterwards Secretary of State in the second cabinet of President Cleveland (born in Oxford, Mass., September 15, 1835; ), delivered in Boston, Mass., before the Boston Bar Association, February 4, 1901, at the celebration of the centennial of the installation of the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. The occasion brought together a large and distinguished gathering of lawyers, representing the Bar Associations of Massachusetts.]
Gentlemen Of The Bar:—I have felt much hesitation about taking even a small part in these exercises. The theme is too large for treatment in short space; it must suffer at the hands of whoever undertakes it without a command of time and leisure which but few favored mortals possess; it has been spoken to and written of by orators, historians, and statesmen for nearly seventy years, and it is to-day freshly and elaborately dealt with throughout the Union by many of its most eminent citizens. Indeed, for present purposes, what could be more intimidating than what has been just going on in this very community; than to know that the interesting utterances to which we have just listened [address of Henry St. George Tucker, of Virginia, special guest of the Association, whose remarks immediately preceded those of Mr. Olney] only supplement a morning of official and judicial eloquence at the Court-house and an afternoon of learned dissertation at Sanders Theater? In depressing circumstances like these, I can only hope for indulgence if you find me reiterating a thrice-told tale, and can promise nothing, except to make your ordeal tolerably brief.
I wish to remark upon but three things connected with the career of John Marshall. It is not obvious what most of us are born for, nor why almost any one might as well not have been born at all. Occasionally, however, it is plain that a man is sent into the world with a particular work to perform. If the man is commonly, though not always, unconscious of his mission, his contemporaries are as a rule equally blind, and it remains for after generations to discover that a man has lived and died for whom was set an appointed task, who has attempted and achieved it, and who has made the whole course of history different from what it would have been without him.
John Marshall had a mission of that sort to whose success intellect and learning of the highest ordpr. as well as special legal ability and training, might well nave proved inadequate. Yet—the mission being assumed—the first thing I wish to note, and the wonderful thing, is that to all human appearances Marshall was meant to be denied anything like a reasonable opportunity to prepare for it. For education generally, for instance, he was indebted principally to his father, a small planter, who could have snatched but little leisure from the daily demands of an exacting calling, and presumably could not have spent all that little on the eldest of his fifteen children. The parental tuition was supplemented only by the son's attendance for a short period at a country academy and by the efforts of a couple of Scotch clergymen, each of whom successively tutored him for about a year and in that time did something to initiate him into the mysteries of Latin.
Such, briefly put, was the entire Marshall curriculum in the way of general education. It was all over before he was eighteen, when the shadow of the revolutionary struggle began to project itself over the land, and Marshall joined the Virginia militia and became immersed in military affairs. As lieutenant of militia and lieutenant and captain in the Continental army he was in active service during almost the entire war, fought at Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth, was half-starved and halffrozen at Valley Forge, and during that terrible winter ate his share of the Dutch apple-pies, ever since historically famous for their capacity to be thrown across a room without damage to either inside or outside.
Marshall's opportunities as a student of law were on a par with his educational opportunities generally. Though he is said to have begun his legal studies when he was eighteen, they were at once and continuously interrupted by the military pursuits which occupied him until near the close of the war. The only exception to be noted is that, in an interval between the expiration of one military commission and the issuance of another, he attended a course of law lectures by Chancellor Wythe of William and Mary College.
Meagre as the knowledge and training thus acquired would seem to be, they sufficed to procure him his license, and in 1780 or 1781 he began to practise. In view of what he subsequently became and achieved, it would be a natural supposition that during the next twenty years he must have been exclusively devoted to his profession and by the incessant and uninterrupted study and application of legal principles must have made up for the deprivations of earlier years. Nothing could be further from the truth. During those twenty years he was almost constantly in public employment, and in public employment of an exciting and engrossing nature.
In this period arose and were settled the novel and difficult questions following in the wake of the War of Independence, questions of vital moment to each State as well as to the country at large. Marshall was in the thick of every discussion and every struggle. He was a member of the Virginia Assembly; an Executive Councillor; general of militia; delegate to the State convention which adopted the Federal Constitution; member of Congress; envoy to France; and when he was appointed Chief Justice at the end of January, 1801, he was Secretary of State in John Adams' cabinet and continued to act as such until after Jefferson's inauguration. During this entire period I doubt if there were any three consecutive years during which Marshall was giving his entire time and attention to the practice of his profession.
Contrast the poverty of this preparation with the greatness of the work before him. He probably did not appreciate it himself—it is certain, I think, that his fellow citizens and contemporaries were far from appreciating it. To most of them the State was closer, dearer and vastly