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ON HIS INSTALLATION AS LORD RECTOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW.
[MARCH 21, 1849.]
a corporate existence and a perpetual succes sion, should review its annals, should retrace the stages of its growth, from infancy to maturity, and should try to find in the experience of generations which have passed away, lessons which may be profitable to generations yet unborn. The retrospect is full of interest and instruction.
Perhaps it may be doubted whether, since the Christian era, there has been any point of time more important to the highest interests of mankind, than that at which the existence of your university commenced. It was the moment of a great destruction and of a great creation. Your society was instituted just before the empire of the east perished-that strange empire, which, dragging on a languid life through the great age of darkness, connected together the two great ages of lightthat empire which, adding nothing to our stores of knowledge, and producing not one man great in letters, in science, or in art, yet preserved, in the midst of barbarism, those master-pieces of Attic genius which the highest minds still contemplate, and long will contemplate, with I am not using a mere phrase, of course, admiring despair; and, at that very time, when I say that the feelings with which I bear while the fanatical Moslem were plundering the a part in the ceremony of this day, are such churches and palaces of Constantinople, breakas I find it difficult to utter in words. I do not ing in pieces Grecian sculpture, and giving to think it strange, that when that great master the flames piles of Grecian eloquence, a few of eloquence, Edmund Burke, stood where I humble German artisans, who little knew that now stand, he faltered and remained mute. they were calling into existence a power far Doubtless the multitude of thoughts which mightier than that of the victorious sultan, rushed into his mind were such as even he were busied in cutting and setting the first could not easily arrange or express. In truth, types. The University came into existence just there are few spectacles more striking or affect-in time to see the last trace of the Roman ing, than that which a great historical place empire disappear, and to see the earliest printed of education presents on a solemn public day. book. There is something strangely interesting in the contrast between the venerable antiquity of the body and the fresh and ardent youth of the great majority of the members. Recollections and hopes crowd upon us together. The past and the future are at once brought close Our thoughts wander back to the time when the foundations of this ancient building were laid, and forward to the time when those whom it is our office to guide and to teach will be the guides and teachers of our posterity. On the present occasion we may, with peculiar propriety, give such thoughts their course. For it has chanced that my magistracy has fallen in a great secular epoch. This is the four hundredth year of the existence of your university. At such jubilees as these-jubilees of which no individual sees more than one-it is natural, it is good, that a society like this-Britain. a society which survives all the transitory parts of which it is composed—a society which has
My first duty, gentlemen, is to return you my thanks for the high honour you have conferred on me. That honour, as you well know, was wholly unsolicited, and I can assure you it was wholly unexpected. I may add, that if I had been invited to become a candidate for your suffrages, I should have respectfully declined the invitation. My predecessor, whom I am so happy as to be able to call my frienddeclared from this place last year, in language which well became him, that he would not have come forward to displace so eminent a statesman as Lord John Russel. I can with equal truth declare that I would not have come forward to displace so estimable a gentleman and so accomplished a man as Colonel Mure. But he felt last year that it was not for him, and I feel this year that it is not for me, to question the propriety of your decision, in a point on which, by the constitution of your body, you are the sole judges. I therefore accept with thankfulness the office to which I am called, fully purposing to use whatever powers belong to it with the single view of the promotion of the credit and the welfare of this university.
At this conjuncture-a conjuncture of unrivalled interest in the history of letters-a man never to be mentioned without reverence by every lover of letters, held the highest place in Europe. Our just attachment to that Protestant faith to which our country owes so much, must not prevent us from paying the tribute which, on this occasion and in this place, justice and gratitude demand to the founder of the University of Glasgow, the greatest of the revivers of learning, Pope Nicholas the Fifth. He had sprung from the common people; but his abilities and his erudition had early attracted the notice of the great. He had studied much and travelled far. He had visited Great Britain, which, in wealth and refinement, was to his native Tuscany what the back settlements of American now are to He had lived with the merchant princes of Florence, those men who first ennobled trade by making trade the ally of phi
by civil and spiritual freedom, to turn sterile rocks and pestilental marshes into cities and gardens. Enlightened as your founder was, he little knew that he was himself a chief agent in a great revolution-physical and moral, political and religious-in a revolution destined to make the last first, and the first last-in a revolution destined to invert the relative positions of Glasgow and Bologna. We cannot, I think, better employ a few minutes than in reviewing the stages of this great change in human affairs. The review shall be short. Indeed, I cannot do better than pass rapidly from century to century. Look at the world, then, a hundred years after the seal of Nicholas had been affixed to the instrument which called your college into existence. We find Europewe find Scotland especially, in the agonies of that great revolution which we emphatically call the Reformation.
losophy, of eloquence, and of taste. It was he who, under the protection of the munificent and discerning Cosmo, arrayed the first public library that modern Europe possessed. From privacy your founder rose to a throne; but on the throne he never forgot the studies which had been his delight in privacy. He was the centre of an illustrious group, composed partly of the last great scholars of Greece, and partly of the first great scholars of Italy, Theodore Gaza and George of Trebizond, Bessarin and Tilelfo, Marsilio Ficino and Poggio Bracciolini. By him was founded the Vatican library, then and long after the most precious and the most extensive collection of books in the world. By him were carefully preserved the most valuable intellectual treasures which had been snatched from the wreck of the Byzantine empire. His agents were to be found everywhere-in the bazaars of the farthest East, in the monasteries of the farthest West-purchasing or copying worm-eaten parchments, on which were traced words worthy of immortality. Under his patronage were prepared accurate Latin versions of many precious remains of Greek poets and philosophers. But no department of literature owes so much to him as history. By him were introduced to the knowledge of Western Europe, two great and unrivalled models of historical composition, the work of Herodotus and the work of Thucydides. By him, too, our ancestors were first made acquainted with the graceful and lucid simplicity of Xenophon, and with the manly good sense of Polybius.
The liberal patronage which Nicholas, and men like Nicholas, had given to learning, and of which the establishment of this seat of learning is not the least remarkable instance, had produced an effect which they had never contemplated. Ignorance was the talisman on which their power depended, and that talisman they had themselves broken. They had called in knowledge as a handmaid to decorate superstition, and their error produced its natural effect. I need not tell you what a part the votaries of classical learning, and especially of Greek learning, the Humanists, as they were then called, bore in the great movement against spiritual tyranny. In the Scotch University, I need hardly mention the names of Knox, of Buchanan, of Melville, of Maitland, of Lethington. They formed, in fact, the vanguard of that movement. Every one of the chief reformers-I do not at this moment remember a single exception-was a Humanist. Every
It was while he was occupied with cares like these that his attention was called to the intellectual wants of this region-a region ncw swarming with population, rich with culture, and resounding with the clang of machinerya region which now sends forth fleets laden with its admirable fabrics to lands of which, in his days, no geographer had ever heard-eminent Humanist in the north of Europe was, then a wild, a poor, a half-barbarous tract, according to the measure of his uprightness lying in the utmost verge of the known world. and courage, a reformer. In truth, minds He gave his sanction to the plan of establishing daily nourished with the best literature of a University at Glasgow, and bestowed on the Greece and Rome, necessarily grew too strong new seat of learning all the privileges which to be trammelled by the cobwebs of the schobelonged to the University of Bologna. I can lastic divinity; and the influence of such minds conceive that a pitying smile passed over his was now rapidly felt by the whole community; face as he named Bologna and Glasgow together. for the invention of printing had brought At Bologna he had long studied. No spot in the books within the reach even of yeomen and world has been more favoured by nature or by of artisans. art. The surrounding country was a fruitful and sunny country, a country of corn-fields and vineyards. In the city the house of Bentivoglio bore rule-a house which vied with the Medici in taste and magnificence-which has left to posterity noble palaces and temples, and which gave a splendid patronage to arts and sciences. Glasgow he knew to be a poor, a small, a rude town, and, as he would have thought, not likely ever to be otherwise; for the soil, compared with the rich country at the foot of the Apennines, was barren, and the climate was such that an Italian shuddered at the thought of it. But it is not on the fertility of the soilit is not on the mildness of the atmosphere that the prosperity of nations chiefly depends. Slavery and superstition can make Campania a land of beggars, and can change the plain of Enna into a desert. Nor is it beyond the power of human intelligence and energy, developed
From the Mediterranean to the Frozen Sea, therefore, the public mind was everywhere in a ferment, and nowhere was the ferment greater than in Scotland. It was in the midst of martyrdoms and proscriptions, in the midst of a war between power and truth, that the first century of the existence of your University closed. Pass another hundred years, and we are in the midst of another revolution. The war between Popery and Protestantism had, in this island, been terminated by the victory of Protestantism. But from that war another war had sprung-the war between Prelacy and Puritanism. The hostile religious sects were allied, intermingled, confounded with hostile political parties. The monarchical element of the constitution was an object of almost exclusive devotion to the prelatist. The popular element of the constitution was especially dear to the Puritan. At length an appeal was made
the sword. Puritanism triumphed; but uritanism was already divided against itself. Independency and republicanism were on one side, presbyterianism and limited monarchy on the other. It was in the very darkest part of that dark time-it was in the midst of battles, sieges, and executions-it was when 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 Marquis 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, metaphysicians, poets-Simpson and Hunter, Miller 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 Spencer, 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 complish the glorious 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. Another secular period is now 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 am too much used to them 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 I have been 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 in 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. The 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 s 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 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 been even 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 honour 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 a part ac-only of the recollections and anticipations of which on this solemn occasion my mind is full. I again thank you for the honour 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.
ON RETIRING FROM POLITICAL LIFE.
[MARCH 22, 1849.]
I THANK you, my Lord Provost-gentlemen, I | demagogue, and never feared to confront what thank you from my heart for this great honour.* seemed to me to be an unreasonable clamour. I may, I hope, extend my thanks further-ex- I never in time of distress incited my countrytend them to that constituent body, of which men to demand of any government, to which I I believe you are, upon this occasion, the ex- was opposed, miracles-that which I well knew positors and which has received me here in a no government could perform; nor did I seek manner which has made an impression never to even the redress of grievances, which it was be effaced from my mind. [Alluding to the box the duty of a government to redress, by any containing the document, verifying his admis- other than strictly peaceful and legal means. sion as a freeman, he continued:] That box, my lord, I shall prize as long as I live, and when I am gone, it will be appreciated by those who are dearest to me, as a proof that, in the course of an active and chequered life, both political and literary, I succeeded in gaining the esteem and good will of the people of one of the greatest and most enlightened cities in the British empire. My political life, my lord, has closed. The feelings which contention and rivalry naturally called forth, and from which I do not pretend to have been exempted, have had time to cool down. I can look now upon the events in which I bore a part, as calmly, I think, as on the events of the past century. I can do that justice now to honourable opponents which perhaps in moments of conflict I might have refused to them.
Such were the principles upon which I acted, and such would have been my principles still. The events which have lately changed the face of Europe, have only confirmed my views of what public duty requires. These events are full of important lessons, both to the governors and the governed; and he learns only half the lesson they ought to teach, who sees in them only a warning against tyranny on the one hand, and anarchy on the other. The great lesson which these events teach us is that tyranny and anarchy are inseparably connected; that each is the parent, and each is the offspring of the other. The lesson which they teach is this-that old institutions have no more deadly enemy than the bigot who refuses to adjust them to a new state of society; nor do they teach us less clearly this lesson, that the sovereignty of the mob leads by no long or circuitous path to the sovereignty of the sword. I bless God that my country has escaped both these errors.
I believe I can judge as impartially of my own career, as I can judge of the career of another man. I acknowledge great errors and deficiencies, but I have nothing to acknowledge inconsistent with rectitude of intention and independence of spirit. My conscience bears me this testimony, that I have honestly desired the happiness, the prosperity, and the greatness of my country; that my course, right or wrong, was never determined by any selfish or sordid motive, and that, in troubled times and through many vicissitudes of fortune, in power and out of power, through popularity and unpopularity, I have been faithful to one set of opinions, and to one set of friends. I see no reason to doubt that these friends were well chosen, or that these opinions were in the main correct.
The path of duty appeared to me to be between two dangerous extremes-extremes which I shall call equally dangerous, seeing that each of them inevitably conducts society to the other. I cannot accuse myself of having ever deviated far towards either. I cannot accuse myself of having ever been untrue, either to the cause of civil or religious liberty, or to the cause of property and law. I reflect with pleasure that I bore a part in some of those reforms which corrected great abuses, and removed just discontents. I reflect with equal pleasure, that I never stooped to the part of a
• The tender of the freedom of the city of Glasgow.
Those statemen who, eighteen years before, proposed to transfer to this great city and to cities like this, a political power which but belonged to hamlets which contained only a few scores of inhabitants, or to old walls with no inhabitants at all-these statesmen, and I may include myself among them, were then called anarchists and revolutionists, but let those who so called us, now say whether we are not the true and the far-sighted friends of order? Let those who so called us, now say how would they have wished to encounter the tempest of the last spring with the abuses of Old Sarum and Gatton to defend—with Glasgow only represented in name, and Manchester and Leeds not even in name. We then were not only the true friends of liberty, but the true friends of order; and in the same manner aided by all the vigorous exertions by which the government (aided by patriotic magistrates and honest men) put down, a year ago, those marauders who wished to subvert all societythese exertions, I say, were of inestimable service, not only to the cause of order, but also to the cause of true liberty.
But I am now speaking the sentiments of a private man. I have quitted politics-I quitted them without one feeling of resentment, with
out one feeling of regret, and betook myself to pursuits for which my temper and my tastes, I believe, fitted me better. I would not willingly believe that in ceasing to be a politician I relinquish altogether the power of rendering any service to my country. I hope it may still be in my power to teach lessons which may be profitable to those who still remain on the busy stage which I have left. I hope that it may still be in my power so faithfully, without fear or malignity, to represent the merits and faults of hostile sects and factions, as to teach a common lesson of charity to all. I hope it will be in my power to inspire, at least, some of my countrymen with love and reverence for those free and noble institutions to which Britain |
owes her greatness, and from which, I trust, she is not destined soon to descend.
I shall now, encouraged by your approbation, resume, with alacrity, a task, under the magnitude and importance of which I have sometimes felt my mind ready to sink. I thank you again, most cordially, for your kindness. I value, as it deserves, the honour of being enrolled in your number. I have seen with delight and with pride, the extent, the grandeur, the beauty, and the opulence of this noble city-a city which I may now call mine. With every wish for the prosperity, the peace, and the honour of our fair and majestic Glasgow, I now bid you, my kind friends and fellow-citizens, a most respectful farewell.