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EVERY MAN GREAT.
Every man, in every condition, is great. It is only our own diseased sight which makes him
little. A man is great as a man, be he where or what he may. The grandeur of his nature turns to insignificance all outward distinctions. His powers of intellect, of conscience, of love, of knowing God, of perceiving the beautiful, of acting on his own mind, on outward nature, and on his fellow-creatures, these are glorious prerogatives. Through the vulgar error of undervaluing what is common, we are apt, indeed, to pass these by as of little worth. But, as in the outward creation, so in the soul, the common is the most precious. Science and art may invent splendid modes of illuminating the apartments of the opulent; but these are all poor and worthless, compared with the common light which the sun sends into all our windows, which he pours freely, impartially, over hill and valley, which kindles daily the eastern and western sky: and so the common lights of reason, and conscience, and love, are of more worth and dignity than the rare endowments which give celebrity to a few. Let us not disparage that nature which is common to all men; for no thought can measure its grandeur. It is the image of God, the image even of his infinity, for no limits can be set to its unfolding. He who possesses the divine powers of the soul is a great being, be his place what it may. You may clothe him with rags, may immure him in a dungeon, may chain him to slavish tasks. But he is still great. You may shut him out of your houses; but God opens to him heavenly mansions. He makes no show, indeed, in the streets of a splendid city; but a clear thought, a pure affection, a resolute act of a virtuous will, have a dignity of quite another kind, and far higher than accumulations of brick, and granite, and plaster, and stucco, however cunningly put together.
The truly great are to be found everywhere; nor is it easy to say in what condition they spring up most plentifully. Real greatness has nothing to do with a man's sphere. It does not lie in the magnitude of his outward agency, in the extent of the effects which he produces. The greatest men may do comparatively little abroad. Perhaps the greatest in our city at this moment are buried in obscurity. Grandeur of character lies wholly in force of soul,—that is, in the force of thought, moral principle, and love; and this may be found in the humblest condition of life:
A man brought up to an obscure trade, and hemmed in by the wants of a growing family, may, in his narrow sphere, perceive more clearly, discriminate more keenly, weigh evidence more wisely, seize on the right means more decisively, and have more presence of mind in difficulty, than another who has accumulated vast stores of knowledge by laborious study; and he has more of intellectua. greatness. Many a man, who has gone but a few miles from home, understands human nature better, detects motives and weighs character more sagaciously, than another who has travelled over the known world, and made a name by his reports of different countries. It is force of thought which measures intellectual, and so it is force of principle which measures moral, greatness,—that highest of human endowments, that brightest manifestation of the Divinity. The greatest man is he who chooses the Right with invincible resolution, who resists the sorest temptations from within and without, who bears the heaviest burdens cheerfully, who is calmest in storms and most fearless under menace and frowns, whose reliance on truth, on virtue, on God, is most unfaltering. I believe this greatness to be most common among the multitude, whose names are never heard. Among common people will be found more of hardship borne manfully, more of unvarnished truth, more of religious trust, more of that generosity which gives what the giver needs himself, and more of a wise estimate of life and death, than among the more prosperous. In these remarks you will see why I feel and express a deep interest in the obscure,—in the mass of men. The distinctions of society vanish before the light of these truths. I attach myself to the multitude, not because they are voters and have political power, but because they are men, and have within their reach the most glorious prizes of humanity.
Address on Self-Culture.
GULIAN C. VERPLANCK.
GULIAN CROMMELIN VERPLANCK is, as bis name indicates, of German descent; yet he remarks, in one of his addresses, “ I cannot but remember that I have New England blood in my veins ; that many of my bappiest youthful days were passed in her villages.” He was born in the city of New York about the year 1781; graduated at Columbia College in 1801, studied law, and then went abroad, and passed several years in Great Britain and on the continent. On his return, he became interested in politics, and was elected to the State Legislature. He had very early a reputation for scholarship and taste, but published nothing under his own name till 1818, when he delivered an address before the New York Historical Society, which soon passed through several editions. In 1822, be accepted the Professorship of the Evidences of Christianity in the Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in New York; and two years after published Essays on the Nature and Unes of the Various Ecidences of Revealed Religion, which have been much admired, not only for the clearness of their argument, but for the beauty of their style.
For eight years from 1825 Mr. Verplanck was a member of Congress for the city of New York, and as such secured the respect and admiration of his associntes, by his fine manners, dignified bearing, and extensive acquirements. In 1827, he auited with Bryant and Sands in the production of an annual called the “ Talisman," wbich was illustrated with engravings, and continued three years. In 1833, he published, in one volume, his Discourses and Addresses on Subjects of American History, Arts, and Literature, and a Discourse on the Right Moral Influence and Uue of Liberal Studies, and, in 1834, Influence of Moral Causes upon Opinion, Science, and Literature. The last of his literary labors is a splendid edition of Shakspeare, in three large volumes, octavo, begun in 1844 and completed in December, 1846. Besides its judicious selection of notes of the best commentators upon difficult passages, forming a sort of comprehensive commentary, its value is not a little enbanced by the elaborate introductions and critical notes of the editor himself.
Mr. Verplanck now resides, in a green and vigorous old ago, at Fishkill Landing, on the banks of the Hudson.
The name of John Jay is gloriously associated with that of Alexander Hamilton in the history of our liberties and our laws. John Jay had completed his academic education in this college several years before the commencement of the Revolution. The beginning of the contest between Great Britain and the colonies found him already established in legal reputation, and, young as he still was, singularly well fitted for his country's most arduous services, by a rare union of the dignity and gravity of mature age with youthful energy and zeal. At the age of thirty, he drafted, and in effect himself formed, the first constitution of the State of New York, under which we lived for forty-five years, which still forms the basis of our present State government, and from which other States have since borrowed many of its most remarkable and original provisions. At that age, as soon as New York threw off her colonial character, he was appointed the first Chief Justice of the State. Then followed a long, rapid, and splendid succession of high trusts and weighty duties, the results of which are recorded in the most interesting pages of our national annals. It was the moral courage of Jay, at the head of the Supreme Court of his own State, that gave confidence and union to the people of New York. It was from his richly-stored mind that proceeded, while representing this State in the Congress of the United States, (over whose deliberations he for a time presided,) many of those celebrated state papers whose grave eloquence commanded the admiration of Europe, and drew forth the eulogy of the master orators and statesmen of the times,—of Chatham and Burke; whilst, by the evidence which they gave to the wisdom and talent that guided the councils of America, they contributed to her reputation and ultimate triumph as much as the most signal victories of her arms. As our minister at Madrid and
Paris, his sagacity penetrated, and his calm firmness defeated, the intricate wiles of the diplomatists and cabinets of Europe, until, in illustrious association with Franklin and John Adams, he settled and signed the definitive treaty of peace, recognising and confirming our national independence. On his return home, a not less illustrious association awaited him, in a not less illustrious cause, —the establishment and defence of the present national constitution, with Hamilton and Madison. The last Secretary of Foreign Affairs under the old confederation, he was selected by Washington as the first Chief Justice of the United States under the new constitution.
His able negotiation and commercial treaty with Great Britain, and his six years' administration as Governor of this State, completed his public life.
After a long and uninterrupted series of the highest civil employments, in the most difficult times, he suddenly retired from their toils and dignities, in the full vigor of mind and body, at a time when the highest honors of the nation still courted his acceptance, and at an age when, in most statesmen, the objects of ambition show as gorgeously, and its aspirations are as stirring, as ever. He looked upon himself as having fully discharged his debt of service to his country; and, satisfied with the ample share of public honor which he had received, he retired with cheerful content, without ever once casting a reluctant eye towards the power or dignities he had left. For the last thirty years of his remaining life, he was known to us only by the occasional appearance of his name, or the employment of his pen, in the service of piety or philanthropy. A halo of veneration seemed to encircle him, as one belonging to another world, though yet lingering amongst us. When, during the last year, the tidings of his death came to us, they were received through the nation, not with sorrow or mourning, but with solemn awe, like that with which we read the mysterious passage of ancient Scripture,—“And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”
Address Delivered at Columbia College, 1830.
THE SCHOOL MASTER.
Next in rank and in efficacy to that pure and holy source of moral influence—the Mother-is that of the Schoolmaster. It is powerful already. What would it be if in every one of those school districts, which we now count by annually increasing thousands, there were to be found one teacher well informed without pedantry, religious without bigotry or fanaticism, proud and fond of his profession, and honored in the discharge of its duties? How wide would be the intellectual, the moral influence of such a body
of men! Many such we have already amongst us, men humbly wise and obscurely useful, whom poverty cannot depress, nor neglect degrade. But to raise up a body of such men, as numerous as the wants and the dignity of the country demand, their labors must be fitly remunerated, and themselves and their calling cherished and honored.
The schoolmaster's occupation is laborious and ungrateful; its rewards are scanty and precarious. He may indeed be, and he ought to be, animated by the consciousness of doing good, that best of all consolations, that noblest of all motives. But that, too, must be often clouded by doubt and uncertainty. Obscure and inglorious as his daily occupation may appear to learned pride or worldly ambition, yet, to be truly successful and happy, he must be animated by the spirit of the same great principles which inspired the most illustrious benefactors of mankind. If he bring to his task high talent and rich acquirement, he must be content to look into distant years for the proof that his labors have not been wasted, that the good seed which he daily scatters abroad does not fall on stony ground and wither away, or among thorns, to be choked by the cares, the delusions, or the vices of the world. He must solace his toils with the same prophetic faith that enabled the greatest of modern philosophers,' amidst the neglect or contempt of his own times, to regard himself as sowing the seeds of truth for posterity and the care of Heaven. He must arm himself against disappointment and mortification, with a portion of that same noble confidence which soothed the greatest of modern poets when, weighed down by care and danger, by poverty, old age, and blindness, still
“In prophetic dream he saw The youth unborn, with pious awe,
Imbibe each virtue from his sacred page." He must know, and he must love to teach his pupils, not the meagre elements of knowledge, but the secret and the use of their own intellectual strength, exciting and enabling them hereafter to raise for themselves the veil which covers the majestic form of Truth. He must feel deeply the reverence due to the youthful mind, fraught with mighty though undeveloped energies and affections, and mysterious and eternal destinies. Thence he must have learned to reverence himself and his profession, and to look upon its otherwise ill-requited toils as their own exceeding great reward.
If such are the difficulties and the discouragements, such the duties, the motives, and the consolations, of teachers who are
Bacon, “Serere posteris ac Deo immortali.”