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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, nietaphysicians, 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,
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
century of the University has even been more glorious than the fourth. He will be able to vindicate that boast by citing a long list of eminent men, great masters of experimental science, of ancient learning, of our native eloquence, ornaments of the senate, the pulpit, and the bar. He will, I hope, mention with high honor some of my young friends who now hear me; and he will, I also hope, be able to add that their talents and learning were not wasted on selfish or ignoble objects, but were employed to promote the physical and moral good of their species, to extend the empire of man over the material world, to defend the cause of civil and religious liberty against tyrants and bigots, and to defend the cause of virtue and order against the enemies of all divine and human laws. I have now given utterance to a part, and to a part only, of the recollections and anticipations of which, on this solemn occasion, my mind is full. I again thank
I again thank you for the honor which you have bestowed on me; and I assure you that, while I live, I shall never cease to take a deep interest in the welfare and fame of the body with which, by your kindness, I have this day become connected.