all evils in society may be ascribed to a lack of virtue, and the last is a consequence of the second; for the spirit of recrimination has been exhibited principally by those placed at the head of affairs, through the neglect of the preliminary duties of citizenship. And it seems to me, that, so far as the North has contributed to bring civil war to pass, she has done it by this neglect. The unexampled prosperity of our country, and the many opportunities offered to an energetic man for success in business, have fostered a spirit of money-making; and the pursuit of wealth has come to be regarded as of the highest importance. The preliminary meetings in our elective system, where every man has perfect freedom to exert an influence in proportion to his real merits, are considered unimportant, and are left in the hands of base men, who make a business of politics. . . . . I suppose this is all an old story to you, but I have just begun to think about such things. Our attention has been turned to these subjects by topics given out for themes, as well as by the state of the times; and the more I study our institutions and become familiar with the principles of our own and of other governments, the more am I convinced that the glorious fabric of Washington, Adams, and the other heroes of the Revolution, is the highest development of the idea of government, and the last step in human progress. I have spent a leisure hour this evening in writing you my ideas on the one subject, which are doubtless insipid platitudes, of interest only to me, still I will send this letter. I wrote you a letter in Latin a few weeks ago, which, as you never acknowledged, you perhaps never received.
March, 1862.I have had my last vacation, and look forward to a good many years of hard work. I shall try to get some employment, commencing the day after this term closes, so that there shall be no more trifling away my time till I have done some good in the world. It is very easy to make good resolutions and lay nice plans. I only hope I shall have strength enough given me to overcome, for I have the courage and the will.
May, 1862.Would n't it be glorious to gallop out with your life in your hand, your threescore years compressed into a few short hours, thrilling with great ideas of self-sacrifice, careless of danger and death,—a rush, a struggle, a brave fight, and victory or perhaps death (if I did not fear to seem pedantic, I would quote you some splendid lines from Horace on this topic),—instead of dribbling
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Ode recited at the Harvard commemoration, July 21 , 1865 .
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