A valedictory addresss to the young gentlemen, who commenced Bachelors of Arts, at Yale-College, July 25th. 1776.
Dwight, Timothy, 1752-1817., Yale College. Class of 1776.
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HOWEVER happy I might be in enumerating your many good qualities, and dwelling upon your excellent conduct, especially that which re|spected myself; however strongly inclined to the pleasing, tho' melancholy task of taking a tender, and affectionate farewell of you, a regard to your inte|rest forbids me to indulge the inclination. Actuated by that regard, after having, in the name of all the Overseers and Instructors of this College, confessed the very sensible pleasure you have given us by this grateful acknowledgement of our kind offices, and the greater pleasure, we have received from your man|ly, regular and amiable conduct, thro' your whole academical existence, I cannot hesitate to spend this last opportunity, as I have already consumed a consi|derable period of my life, in attempting your im|provement.—But that I may promote this important purpose in the fullest and best manner, give the leave to describe to you the nature and circumstances of the country, which will probably be the scene of your future actions. This I will attempt with as much conciseness as possible. If I should enlarge beyond the expectations of my audience, I flatter Page  6 myself the extensive, and interesting nature of the subject will be my excuse.

THAT part of this vast continent, called North-America, extends from the 8th degree of north lati|tude to the Pole; and, according to the latest dis|coveries, from the 50th degree of west longitude, al|most to the eastern shore of Asia. The lands with|in the Artic circle, are useless and uninhabitable. Between that circle and the 50th degree of latitude, altho' the country is incapable of agricultural im|provement, yet, considered in a commercial light, it is highly valuable. From thence, to the isthmus of Darien, the southern limit, extends the finest tract on the globe. It's length is between two and three thousand miles, and it's breadth, in some places, at least as great.

IN such an extensive region, which stretches thro' so many climates, the air, being of a very various temperature, is, as we might reasonably expect, in some parts of a greater, in others of a less degree of salubrity. Except the kingdom of Mexico, which feels the usual inconveniences of the torrid zone, we may in general observe, that it is as healthy, se|rene, and delightful, as any country of the same mag|nitude on the earth.

NOR are it's advantages of soil less conspicuous, than those of the climate. Whatever may conduce to health, plenty and happiness is almost the spon|taneous product of it's fields. Our corn is of every kind, of the best quality, and of a quantity which cannot be 〈◊〉. Our cattle and fruits of every kind are without number. Our plants and flowers, for health and pleasure, appear to have been scatter|ed by the same benevolent hand, which called forth Page  7 the luxuriance of Eden. All that the wish of an epi|cure, the pride of a beauty, or the curious mind of a naturalist can ask to variegate the table of luxury, to encrease the shine of splendor, or delight the end|less thirst of knowledge, is showered in profusion on this, the favorite land of heaven.

NOR are these bounties bestowed only on the earth. The ocean, the lakes and the rivers pour forth an unlimited abundance of wealth and pleasure. Com|monly the munificence of the DEITY is equally dis|tributed. Where the soil is barren, the sea is fruit|ful, and supplies the defect. Where the land is fer|tile, the sea is empty and unfurnished. Here the ocean and the continent were evidently formed for each other by the same open hand, and stored with blessings by the same unlimited indulgence of boun|ty. That this is the unstrained voice of truth, and not the extravagant declamation of panegyric, might, with the utmost ease, be demonstrated by a bare enu|meration of the articles, which constitute the furni|ture of this mighty structure;—but as the time will not suffer such an enumeration, and especially, as none of my audience can be supposed ignorant of them, I shall pass them without further notice.

WERE all these blessings bestowed on a country, which, like many in the world, was incapable of enjoy|ing them generally, by reason of a destitution of con|veniences for navigation and commerce, a principal part of their value would be lost. But heaven, re|solving that all the circumstances of this continent should be of a piece, has blessed it with naval and commercial advantages, superior to those of any state on earth. It's seacoasts reach on both sides many thousands of miles. It's harbours are safe, spacious, Page  8 and innumerable. From these an easy, advantageous and unlimited intercourse may be extended to every corner of the globe. Whilst our rivers and lakes are not to be paralleled in number or size. Perhaps the Mississipi alone furnishes as extensive an inland navigation, as half the rivers in Europe united. Whilst innumerable other spacious streams waft plenty and happiness thro' the wide regions where they flow.

BUT all this is insufficient to complete the felicity of a country. If even these blessings; great as they are, were insecure; if they were naturally exposed to the ravages of enemies, and the desolations of war, the inhabitants would be miserable, amid all the in|dulgence of heaven. But to finish the superiority of North-America over every other country, the MOST HIGH has replenished it with every source of strength and greatness. It's present circumstances, which a|rise from events altogether political and accidental, are no objection to this account. For a war like this cannot with any probability be a second time expect|ed. I proceed therefore to observe that, beside the inconceivable wealth and power, which must necessa|rily roll in upon this infant empire, from an unbound|ed commerce, our internal supplies are of every kind; and inexhaustible. Our forests are filled with the finest timber, and exsude in the greatest abundance, tar, pitch and turpentine. Our fields may, with the utmost facility be covered with hemp and flax. Our provisions can never fail. Our mountains are every where enriched with sulphur, iron and lead. Our improvements in the art of manufacturing of salt-petre and gun-powder, are astonishing even to ourselves. Our uncorrupted manners, and our happy climate, nourish innumerable multitudes of brave, generous and Page  9 hardy soldiers, to improve these advantages, to strike terror into their enemies, and brighten the glory of their country.

BUT were we destitute of these advantages, it is a most important interest of every nation on earth, to cultivate our friendship, and open their ports to our ships. That this is the case might be easily de|monstrated, by a description of the political and commercial interests of the various kingdoms of the world; but this would be the subject of a volume; however, I cannot but observe, that, if any kingdom should unwisely become our enemy, the immense dis|tance between us and them, the consequential diffi|culty of transporting troops hither, and of furnish|ing them with provisions when they arrive, (if we are faithful to ourselves) must blast their brightest prospects, and whelm them in ignominy and ruin.

BUT the fairest part of the scene is yet to be un|folded. Not all the articles I have mentioned, could spread happiness through the continent, if the man|ners of the inhabitants were corrupted and luxurious, or their civil government arbitrary and slavish. But a few observations will convince us that political, as well as natural advantages promise in this western world, the existence of the greatest empire the hand of time ever raised up to view.

THE southern and western parts of North-Ame|rica, subject to the dominion of Spain, if we may be|lieve their own historians, are peopled with as vici|ous, luxurious, mean-spirited and contemptible a race of beings, as any that ever blackened the pages of infamy. Generally descended from the refuse of mankind, situated in a hot, wealthy and plentiful Page  10 country, and educated from their infancy under the most shocking of all governments, the tyranny of servants invested with unlimited power, and sent to make their own fortunes, by squeezing their subjects; a tyran|ny rendered ten times more horrible by the infernal domination of an abandoned priesthood; can we won|der that they have lost every trace of that generous pride, which prompts to brave, disinterested actions the European Spaniard, and are tainted with all the vices and blots of their parent nation, increased and deepened by an endless multitude of their own? This concise, but very just account of them must necessa|rily convince us that, the moment our interest de|mands it, these extensive regions will be our own; that the present race of inhabitants will either be en|tirely exterminated, or revive to the native human dignity, by the generous and beneficent influence of just laws, and rational freedom. A distinction there|fore between them and ourselves, in the present con|sideration of the necessary, future greatness of the Western World, will be useless and impertinent.

I PROCEED then to observe, that this continent is inhabited by a people, who have the same religion, the same manners, the same interests, the same language, and the same essential forms and principles of civil government. This is an event, which, since the building of Babel, 'till the present time, the sun never saw. That a vast continent, con|taining near three thousand millions of acres of va|luable land, should be inhabited by a people, in all respects one, is indeed a novelty on earth. Diffe|rences in religion always produce persecutions and bloodshed. Difference of manners, as we are natural|ly Page  11 and fondly attached to our own, cannot but occa|sion coldness, contempt and ill-will. Contending interests ever exist with disputes and end in war. Without sameness of language, it would be impossi|ble to preserve that easiness of communication, that facility and dispatch in the management of business, which the extensive concerns of a great empire in|dispensably require. Essentially various forms, and unlike principles of government create all the diffe|rences I have mentioned, and are consequently the parents of endless contests, slaughter and desolation. A sameness in these important particulars, cannot fail to produce the happiest effects. It wrought mi|racles in the minute, microscopic states of Greece. What may we not expect from it's benign influence on the vast regions of America. All the great em|pires of the world, tho' much inferior to this in ex|tent of valuable territory, and every other natural ad|vantage, were infinitely less our inferiors in these re|spects, than in the interesting circumstances above mentioned. They consisted of various nations, not so widely separated by mountains, desarts and seas, as by a discordance of manners interests, and princi|ples both of religion and civil government. Their grandeur was created by bloodshed, and preserved by despotism. The glory of this New World will necessarily result from the natural increase of inhabi|tants, and will be widely enlarged, and durably esta|blished by untainted principles of policy and religion. The glory and greatness of these states however have been the admiration of the whole earth. But when we reflect on the disadvantages which attended them from their infancy, the seeds of decay and ruin which Page  12 were planted even at their birth; we must necessarily see that their splendor, compared with that of A|merica, was but the twinklings of the day-star, to the full beauty and effulgence of the rising sun.

IN the next place, I beg leave to remark, that this empire is commencing, at a period, when every species of knowledge, natural and moral, is arrived to a state of perfection, which the world never be|fore saw. Other kingdoms have had their foundati|ons laid in ignorance, superstition and barbarity. Their constitutions were the off-spring of necessity, prejudice and folly: Even the boasted British-con|stitution is but an uncouth Gothic pile, covered and adorned by the elegance of modern architecture. The entailment of estates, the multitude of their san|guinary laws, the inequality of their elections, with many other articles, are gross traces of antient folly and savageness. American empire is designed for more illustrious scenes, and it's birth attended with more favorable circumstances. Mankind have in a great degree learned to despise the shackles of cus|tom, and the chains of authority, and claim the privilege of thinking for themselves. Every science is handled with a candor, fairness and manliness of reasoning, of which no other age could ever boast. At this period our existence begins; and from these advantages what improvements may not be expected? Our Ancestors, inspired with the fame generous at|tachment to science as to freedom, have, by that wisest of all political establishments, the institution of schools, dif|fused light and knowledge thro' every part of their settlements. And shall not their sons emulate their glory, in this respect, as well as in a heroic defence Page  13 of their liberty? They will, they do. The encou|ragements, universally given to genius and learning, at the present time, are worthy of the sons of such parents. They are worthy of the glorious name of an American. They are worthy of the founders of the last and brightest empire of time. Indeed this is no more than we might reasonably expect. The gene|rous mind is ever of a piece. The same extensive views, the same exalted disposition, which inspires that sublime enthusiasm, that heroic firmness, that di|vine patriotism, which, like the electric flame, runs from state to state with an instantaneous rapidity, e|ver have, and ever will reach out a parental arm, a fostering hand to every rising genius, and to every plant of valuable knowledge.

IT is a very common and just remark that the pro|gress of Liberty, of Science and of Empire has been with that of the sun, from east to west, since the be|ginning of time. It may as justly be observed that the glory of empire has been progressive, the last con|stantly outshining those which were before it. The Assyrian empire was excelled by the Persian, that by the Gretian, and all were lost in the splendor of the Roman greatness. This has been equally exceeded by the learning, the power, and the magnificence of Britain. From the first of these remarks, it is evi|dent that the Empire of North-America will be the last on earth; from the second, that it will be the most glorious. Here the progress of temporal things to|wards perfection will undoubtedly be finished. Here human greatness will find a period. Here will be accomplished, that remarkable Jewish tradition—that the last thousand years of the reign of time would in imitation of the conclusion of the first week, become Page  14 a glorious Sabbath of peace, purity and felicity. This World, not with so much propriety called New, from the date of it's discovery, as from the unpre|cedented union, it exhibits of all those articles which are the basis of commerce, power, grandeur and hap|piness; this favorite region, by the hand of heaven sequestered from the knowledge of mankind, 'till that period when European greatness began to totter, and destined to be the last retreat of science, of freedom and of glory, beholds a rapid progress toward the con|summation of excellence already commenced. Never were the rights of men so generally, so thoroughly understood, or more bravely defended. No country ever saw learning so largely diffused thro' every class of people, or could boast of so sensible, so discerning a Commonalty. What gratitude ought this unheard of assemblage of blessings to rouse in the breast of every person, whose lot is cast in this pleasant land, and who is entitled to this goodly heritage.

ALLOW me to proceed one step further, and I have done. From every deduction of reason, as well as from innumerable declarations of inspired truth, we have the best foundation to believe that this con|tinent will be the principal seat of that new, that peculiar kingdom, which shall be given to the Saints of the MOST HIGH. That also was to be the last, the greatest, the happiest of all dominions. To these characters no other country wears the least ap|pearance of agreement. This answers the descripti|on in every particular. This is emphatically that uttermost part of the earth, whose songs and happi|ness so often inspired Isaiah with raptures. This with peculiar propriety is that wilderness, which shall Page  15 rejoice, and blossom as a rose; and to which shall be given the glory of Lebanon, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon. Here shall a King reign in righ|teousness, whose kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and whose dominion shall not be destroyed.

IT will doubtless be remarked that in this descrip|tion of America, I have mentioned several things as present, whose existence is future. The reason is, that with respect to the end, which I propose in this description, the distinction is immaterial. For our actions ought all to be inspired, and directed by a comprehensive regard to this scene of glory, which is hastening to a completion, with a rapidity suited to it's importance.

THIS, young Gentlemen, is the field in which you are to act. It is here described to you, that you may not be ignorant or regardless of that great whole, of which each of you is a part, and perhaps an impor|tant one. The period, in which your lot is cast, is possibly the happiest in the roll of time. It is true, you will scarcely live to enjoy the summit of Ame|rican glory; but you now see the foundations of that glory laid. A scene like this is not unfolded in an instant. Innumerable are the events in the great system of Providence, which must advance the migh|ty design before it can be completed. Innumerable must be the Actors in so vast a plot, and infinitely various the parts they act. Every event is necessary in the great system, and every character on the ex|tended stage. Some part or other must belong to each of you, perhaps a capital one. You should by no means consider yourselves as members of a small neighbourhood, town or colony only, but as being Page  16 concerned in laying the foundations of American greatness. Your wishes, your designs, your labors are not to be confined by the narrow bounds of the present age, but are to comprehend succeeding ge|nerations, and be pointed to immortality. You are to act, not like inhabitants of a village, nor like be|ings of an hour, but like citizens of a world, and like candidates for a name that shall survive the con|flagration. These views will enlarge your minds, expand the grasp of your benevolence, ennoble all your conduct, and crown you with wreaths which cannot fade.

INFLUENCED by these great, these elevated motives, you will spare no labor to furnish yourselves with the requisite accomplishments for the business you choose, nor, when you have chosen it, will you fail of attempting at least to discharge it with honor. In the still, but important scenes of private life, scenes in which all of you must be concerned, your cease|less endeavours will be exerted to shew yourselves ex|amples of the best conduct, and in that way to im|prove, and refine the morals of mankind. Your ceaseless endeavours will be exerted to diffuse hap|piness all around you, to blunt the stings of pain, to sooth the languor of sickness, to charm the pangs of grief, to double the extasy of joy, and to light up a smile in the clouded face of melancholy. You can|not fail to reverence the hoary head, to bridle the ex|cursions of youth, to dry the tears of the orphan, to spare the blushes of needy merit, and to open your ears and seal your bosoms upon the secret concerns of a friend. That impious profaneness which scoffs at the institutions of Heaven; that swinish gross|ness Page  17 which delights to wound the ear of delicacy; that ingratitude which forgets the benefactor, while it is rioting on the benefit; that slander, which like the scythe of death mows down every thing in its way, and with a satanic smile exults over the cha|racters it has ruined; you will fly, sooner than the en|venomed path of the adder, or the drawn knife of the midnight ruffian.

INSPIRED by these glorious views, in the medical character you will apply yourselves with unremitted ardor to anatomical and philosophical knowledge, to extend the science of healing, to contract the domi|nion of disease, to annihilate the power of pain, to re|store and to preserve the health and happiness of man|kind. You will shudder to imbrue your hands in the blood of your countrymen, whether the work is to be done by the naked knife, or thro' the surer, as well as safer medium of Empiricism. We shall not have the pain of seeing you, after six months consumed in study or idleness with a physician, rush forth in|to the world, and under the thick covering of long unintelligible terms, a frozen hypocritical phiz, a blustering advertisement of cures you never perform|ed, and a front like the shield of Ajax with

—Seven thick folds o'er-cast,
Of tough bull-hide, of solid brass the last—
delude the ignorance, empty the purses, and end the lives of your fellow-creatures. Your minds will not be narrow enough to form nostrums of your own, nor weak enough to venture hastily upon the hidden poison of those, which have been formed by others. If accident, your ingenuity, or the course of your Page  18 practice, shall have given you the knowledge of any method, by which the ravages of sickness may be pre|vented, the return of health expedited, and the crim|son glow more speedily restor'd to the pallid face; love to mankind, duty to your MAKER, and a ge|nerous scorn of that narrowness which limits blessings to one's self, will prompt you to an immediate com|munication of it to mankind; and the same spirit in your countrymen will as readily retribute the merit|ed reward. To promote this interesting design, no valuable treatise will be unturned by you, no ratio|nal expedient neglected. The science of Botany will engage a particular share of your attention. Need I remind you that it is a peculiar mark of the millennian period, that human life shall be lengthened, and that the child shall die an hundred years old? As all events are effected by secondary causes, it is in a high degree probable, that this length of days will be the consequence of an increase of botanical know|ledge. The innumerable multitude of plants, for which we know no use, and which nevertheless were not created in vain, add great strength to this con|jecture. How happy might you justly esteem you|selves, if by your industry, you could contribute to the accomplishment of this glorious event!

WITH the same views, in the legal profession you will exert all your abilities to punish guilt, to exculpate innocence, and enlarge the dominion of justice. That meanness, that infernal knavery, which multiplies needless litigations, which retards the o|peration of justice, which from court to court, upon the most trifling pretences, postpones trial to glean the last emptyings of a client's pocket, for unjust Page  19 fees of everlasting attendance, which artfully twists the meaning of Law to the side we espouse, which seizes unwarrantable advantages from the prepos|sessions, ignorance, interests and prejudices of a jury, you will shun rather than death or infamy. Your reasonings will be ever fair and open; your con|structions of law candid, your endeavours to pro|cure equitable decisions unremitted. The practice of law in this, and the other American States, with|in the last twenty years has been greatly amended; but those eminent characters to whom we are in|debted for this amendment, have met with almost in|surmountable obstructions to the generous design. They have been obliged to combat interest and pre|judice, powerfully exerted to retard the reformation: especially that immoveable biass, a fondness for the customs of our fathers. Much therefore remains to be done, before the system can be completed. This is a copious field for the employment of your fa|culties. May your honest, and disinterested labors, for the promotion of so great and valuable a pur|pose, meet with the success, the reward, and the glo|ry, due to the benefactors of mankind.

BUT there is no scene in which these extensive views will be more necessary, or in which their in|fluence will produce nobler effects, than in the kin|dred science of Legislation and Civil Government. Should the voice of your countrymen call you to this employment, let it not be said, let it not be thought, that you receiv'd an office, for which you were unqualified. It is indispensably necessary that the person, who acts in this character, should be thoroughly master of the laws, manners, customs Page  20 and state of his own, and other countries, of the history of every civilized nation, and in a word, of every branch of human knowledge. You will not therefore forget, that it is not the multitude of it's members, which makes a wise legislature, and that innumerable cyphers stand but for nothing. Do not console yourselves with the reflection, that if you are ignorant of the interests of your coun|try, others are not; and despise the thought of having no other consequence, than barely to be a numerical addition to the legislative body. In|form yourselves with every species of useful know|ledge. Remember that you are to act for the em|pire of America, and for a long succession of ages. Let it be your unceasing care, as well as wish, to improve the arts of husbandry and manufacturing, to enlarge our inland and foreign commerce, and to secure to these States the diffusive benefits of the A|merican Fishery. With unwearied attention, endea|vour to facilitate the execution of justice, to esta|blish universal good order, to repress licentiousness, to avert the poison of luxury, to stamp infamy on political corruption, to refine our manners, to im|prove our morals, to increase our naval and mili|tary strength, and to fix on an immoveable basis, civil and religious Liberty. Upon every occasion, let it be your glory, and the end of all your de|signs, to shine as the patrons of science, the friends of merit, and the 〈◊〉 examples of religion and virtue. With 〈…〉 these, we may laugh at the impotent malice of other nations, and look forward with rapture to the superlative grandeur and happiness of our own.

Page  21 ALL these are the arts of peace. But you may, especially at the present period, be called into the active scenes of a military life. Should this be your honorable lot, I can say nothing, which ought more to influence you, than that you fight for the property, the freedom, the life, the glory, the re|ligion of the inhabitants of this mighty empire; for the cause, for the honor, of mankind and your MAKER.

IN the best of all professions, that of an Em|bassador of peace, these views will add one to those innumerable great and generous motives, which may engage you to exert your faculties for the endless happiness of the human race. When you remem|ber that your lot is cast in that land, which, in such a multitude of circumstances, is evidently the fa|vorite of heaven; when you remember, that you live amongst the most free, enlightened and virtu|ous people on earth; when you remember that your labors may contribute to the hastening of that glo|rious period when nations shall be spiritually born in a day; with what zeal, with what diligence, with what transport must you be inspired! What pains will you spare to clear yourselves from ridiculous and disagreeable defects, and to accomplish your|selves in learning and eloquence! With what fervor will you check the career of iniquity, break the dreams of sloth, pour balm into the wounded spirit, and increase the angelic raptures of piety! Be these your views, these your motives, this the scope of all your wishes. Proceed with alacrity to execute the exalted design. Spare no labor, no prayer, to furnish yourselves with every human, every divine accom|plishment. Page  22 Leave nothing undone, which ought to be done; do nothing which ought to be omitted. Let the transitory vanities, the visionary enjoyments of time fleet by you, unnoticed. Point all your views to the elevated scenes of an immortal existence, and remember that this life is but the dawn of your be|ing. Encounter troubles with magnanimity; enjoy prosperity with moderation. Exert every faculty, employ every moment, to advance the glory of your MAKER, and the sum of human happiness. With such Citizens, with such a Clergy, with such a La|ity as is above described, in prospect, we can scarce forbear to address the enraptured hymn of Isaiah to our country, and sing, Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee! Nations shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.