Meeting me one day, he said, ‘You have in this a mathematical idea.’
This was in my opinion the most important lecture of my course.
It really treated of a third element in all twofold relations, —between married people, the bond to which both alike owed allegiance; between States, the compact which originally bound them together.
The civil war was then in its first stage.
The air was full of secession.
Many said, ‘If North and South agree to set aside their bonds of union, and to become two republics, why should they not do it?’
Then the sacredness of the bond possessed my mind.
‘Was an agreement, so solemnly entered into, so vital in its obligations, to be so lightly canceled?’
I labored with all my might to prove that this could not be done.
I remember too that in one of my lectures I gave my own estimate of Auguste Comte
, which differed from the general impression concerning him. I am not sure that I should take the same ground in these days.
Whether my hearers were the wiser for my efforts I cannot say, but of this I am sure, that they brought me much instruction.
I learned somewhat to avoid anti-climax, and to seek directness and simplicity of statement.
On the morning of the day on which I was to give my lecture, I would read it over, and a curious sense of the audience seemed to possess me, a feeling of what it would and of what it would not follow.