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Harvard and Yale! Can any undergraduate of either institution, can any recent graduate of either institution, imagine a man responding to that toast? And here I am reminded of a story of a certain New England farmer, who said that he and 'Squire Jones had more cows between them than all the rest of the village; and his brag being disputed, he said he could prove it, for the 'Squire had forty-five cows and he had one, and the village altogether had not forty-six.

We shall all agree that it is for the best interests of this country that it have sundry universities, of diverse tone, atmosphere, sphere, representing different opinions and different methods of study to some extent, and in different trainings, though with the same end.

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For example, a good many years ago, Harvard set out on what is called the "elective" system, and now I read in the Yale catalogue a long list of studies called "optional," which strikes me as bearing a strong resemblance to our elective courses. Now, it is unquestioned, that about the year a certain number of Congregationalist clergymen, who belonged to the Established Church for we are too apt to forget that Congregationalism was the "Established Church" of that time, and none other was allowed , thought that Harvard was getting altogether too latitudinarian, and though they were [Pg ] every one of them graduates of Harvard, they went off and set up another college in Connecticut, where a stricter doctrine should be taught.

Harvard men have rather nursed the hope that this distinction between Harvard and Yale might be permanent. For example, to come at once to the foundations, I read in the papers the other day, and I am credibly informed it is true, that the head of Yale College voted to install a minister whose opinions upon the vital, pivotal, fundamental doctrine of eternal damnation are unsound. Porter had made the report.

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But now we read in that same report that Yale College is unsectarian. That is a great progress. The fact is, both these universities have found out that in a country which has no established church and no dominant sect you cannot build a university on a sect at all—you must build it upon the nation. But, gentlemen, there are some other points, I think, of national education on which we shall find these two early founded universities to agree. For example, we have lately read, in the Message of the Chief Magistrate, that a national university would be a good thing.

If it means a university where the youth of this land are taught to love their country and to serve her, we say amen [applause]; and we point, both of us, to our past in proof that we are national in that sense. For example, we have not entire faith in the trust that Congress has in the unchangeableness of the laws of arithmetic. They seem to have an impression that there is such a thing as "American" political economy, which can no more be than "American" chemistry or "American" physics.

But, gentlemen, I think we ought to recur for a moment, perhaps, to the Pilgrim Fathers [laughter], and I desire to say that both Harvard and Yale recognize the fact that there are some things before which universities "pale their ineffectual fires. Now, gentlemen, on that sandy, desolate spot of Plymouth great deeds were done, and we are here to commemorate them. Those were hard times.

CHARLES WILLIAM ELIOT

It was a terrible voyage, and they were hungry and cold and worn out with labor, and they took their guns to the church and the field, and the half of them died in the first winter. They were not prosperous times that we recall with this hour. Let us take some comfort from that in the present circumstances of our beloved country.

She is in danger of a terrible disaster, but let us remember that the times which future generations delight to recall are not those of ease and prosperity, but those of adversity bravely borne. Samuel A. The President of the Society, Robert D. Benedict, presided. In introducing Mr. Eliot, he said: "I am not aware that there were any poets among the Pilgrim Fathers. They had something else to do besides versifying. But poesy has found many a home among the hills of New England.

And many a home, not only in New England, but in Old England also, was saddened during the year that is gone to hear that the song of one of the poets of New England was hushed forever. Eliot, of the Church of the Saviour, in this city, to respond. President and Gentlemen of the New England Society in Brooklyn :—I have been given to understand, sir, that in these unpuritanic days lovers keep late hours; and as I listened to the wooing of fair Brooklyn by the eloquent son [1] of New York I thought we might be here till papa turned out the gas.

Brooklyn is a New England maiden and a trifle coy, and it may take even more than an hour's pleading and persuasive wooing to win her. I am glad to do that, for I love to trace the connections and contrasts of past and present, and to mark the growth and evolution of that New England genius and character which are illustrated at these tables. The early history of New England seems to many minds as dry and unromantic as it was hard and narrow.

No mist of distance softens the harsh outlines, no mirage of tradition lifts events and characters into picturesque beauty.


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There seems a poverty of sentiment. The transplanting of a people breaks the successions and associations of history. No memories of conqueror and crusader stir for us poetic fancy. Instead of the glitter of chivalry there is but the sombre homespun of Puritan peasants.

In place of the "long-drawn aisle and fretted vault" of Gothic cathedral there is but the rude log meeting-house and schoolhouse. Instead of Christmas merriment there is only the noise of axe and hammer or the dreary droning of psalms. It seems a history bleak and barren of poetic inspiration, at once plebeian and prosaic. How is it then that out of the hard soil of the Puritan thought and character, out of the sterile rocks of the New England conscience, have sprung the flowers of poetry which you bid me celebrate to-night?

From those songless beginnings have burst, in later generations, melodies that charm and uplift our land—now a deep organ peal filling the air with music, now a trumpet blast thrilling the blood of patriotism, now a drum-beat to which duty delights to march, now a joyous fantasy of the violin bringing smiles to the lips, now the soft vibrations of the harp that fill the eyes with tears. What is it in the Puritan heritage, externally so bare and cold, that make it intrinsically so poetic and inspiring? There is no poetry in the darkness of the Puritan's creed nor in the rigid rectitude of his morality.

His surly boldness, his tough hold on the real, his austere piety enforce respect, but do not allure affection. The genial graces cannot bear company with ruthless bigotry and Hebraic energy. Nor is there any poetry in the mere struggle for existence, and the mean poverty that marked the outward life. The Pilgrims were often pinched for food; they suffered in a bitter climate; they lived in isolation. We think lightly of these things because we cannot help imagining that they knew that they were founding a mighty nation.

But that knowledge was denied them. Generations of them sank into nameless graves without any vision of the days when their [Pg ] descendants should rise up and call them blessed. Nor is there any inspiration in the measure of their outward success. Judged by their own ideals, the Puritans failed. They would neither recognize nor approve the civilization that has sprung from the seeds of their planting.

They tried to establish a theocracy; they stand in history as the heroes of democracy. Alike in their social and religious aims they ignored ineradicable elements in human nature. They attempted the impossible. How then have their deeds become the source of song and story? Why all the honor that we pay them?

It is not because in danger, in sacrifice, and in failure, they were stout-hearted. Many a freebooter or soldier of fortune has been that. It is, as one said whose name I bear, "because they were stout-hearted for an ideal—their ideal, not ours, of civil and religious liberty. Wherever and whenever resolute men and women devote themselves, not to material, but to spiritual ends, there the world's heroes are made," and made to be remembered, and to become the inspiration of poem and romance and noble daring. Scratch a New Englander to-day, it is said, and you find the Puritan.

That is no less true of the poets than of the warriors and the men of facts and figures.


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  4. The New England poets derived their nourishment from the deep earth of that wholesome past, into which the roots of all our lives go down. Emerson is the type of the nineteenth-century Puritan, in life pure, in temperament saintly, in spirit detached from the earth, blazing a path for himself through the wilderness of speculation, seeing things from the centre, working for the reconstruction of Christian society and the readjustment of the traditional religion. An enfranchised Puritan is a Puritan still.