W0374 SCHOOL ESSAY BY [DR.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN
Nov 9 1826
From: Bradford Academy, Bradford, Massachusetts, [U.S.A.]"Nor study only, practice what you know,
your life, your knowledge, to mankind you owe."
The words, selected as the theme of my meditation [this communication]1 are extracted from the beautiful writings of the celebrated poet, Grainger.2 Many are the obligations mankind are under to the sages of antiquity [former times] for lessons of moral instruction by them transmitted to their posterity. This wise admonition applies to men in every condition of life. Every grade from the monarch to the humble cottager, is equally taught by this instructive maxim. There are none, who have not an opportunity [opportunities] to exercise their knowledge and abilities in promoting the interests and happiness of their fellow men [beings].
Although all degrees of men are hereby counselled, [sic] and may find frequent opportunities [occasions] for exerting their abilities [faculties] in aiding each other, through all the difficulties and trials of life, yet none are more particularly called upon than the man of literature. He who is endowed with a retentive memory, and the powers of a good understanding, whereby he is enabled to accumulate stores of useful information, is highly reprehensible if he does not employ those powers and acquisitions for the benefit of society. The person who makes great pretensions to learning, but does not by his example inculcate the principles of virtue, is greatly criminal. If he trusts that science will raise him to eminence and respect, without a practical display of its moralizing influence he is erecting a tower which will eventually overwhelm him in its ruins.
But not only they, who lay claims to extensive knowledge, and yet by their conduct do not maintain the dignity of their profession, are addressed in this quotation. It is equally applicable to him who passes his days apart from the intercourse of men. In the poem from which this extract is made a disappointed youth is represented as addressing himself to solitude, requesting her to receive him to her gloomy and silent abode. But she on the other hand reproves him for his premature resolution as being incompatible with the purposes for which he was made.
Man, created a social being, ought always to use his utmost endeavors to advance the good of those with whom he associates. This is the part of the [philosopher, the hero and the patriot] hero, the patriot, and the philosopher. This is the part that they who are genuinely such will act. This is the path which will conduct those who follow it to renown. Look through the different ages of the world. Where do we find those whose names are exalted to the height of fame? Where, but among the philosophical, the scientific and the patriotick [sic], the effusions of whose knowledge and whose practical as well as theoretical instructions are almost boundless--who have devoted themselves to maintain the cause of their country, and the rights of man. Where was it that the sages of antiquity delivered their lessons of moral instructions? Surely not in caves of the earth, but in the eyes of the world; in schools instituted for that purpose, exciting by their example the minds of their pupils, to deeds of honour [virtue] and patriotism.
[But we need not explore the annals of antiquity alone, to find characters for our praise and imitation. Without mentioning a Leonidas or a Lycurgis of Greece, a Brutus, or Cincinnatus, or a Cicero of Rome, whose most vigorous days were spend in publick [sic] service, let us turn our attention to our own country. If agree with the past that "The highest virtue is to serve mankind," in our own national records we find personages who stand high in her delightful paths. Personages, whose superior merits impress their memories indelibly on the heart of every true philanthropist. When our land was oppressed by an unfeeling tyrant, what must have been its fate had our Washingtons and our Franklins fled to the wilderness. The misfortunes and sufferings which would have befallen it, what prophetick [sic] pen can describe? If we duly appreciate the blessings of Freedom we shall be constrained to pour forth copious effusions of gratitude to that benevolent Being who rescued our nation from the haughty power of despotism and to exclaim:
"Thanks to the mercy of almighty Heaven
For Washington to fair Columbia given."]
But it is not my intention to insinuate any thing against temporary retirement. It is pleasant and commendable to seclude ourselves at seasonable times from the bustle of the world, for divine meditation. Or when the evening of life advances, and our energies diminish, it is highly proper to separate from the busy scenes of society, to pass our remaining days in the converse with [of] our God.
[or as solitude herself in the form addresses the youth,
"But when old age has silvered o'er thy head,
When memory fails and all they vigour's fled
Then may'st thou seek the stillness of retreat
Then hear aloof the human tempest beat
Then will I quit thee to my woodland cave
Allay the fangs of age and forsooth thy grave."]
C. McQuesten [Dr. Calvin]
1 This essay is very similar to W0357 which is dated July 10, 1824, at Pembroke, Massachusetts, also written by Calvin McQuesten. We have used square brackets to indicate the words or additions that Calvin wrote into the earlier essay and edited out of this one.
Pembroke, the site of the earlier essay (W0357 in 1824) is in Plymouth County, near the coast of Mass., approx. 30 miles south of Boston and approx. 60 miles south of the Bradford Academy which was Calvin's school in 1825 and 1826.
2 James Grainger (1723-67) physician and poet. The poetical genius of Dr. Grainger was first made known by his publishing an "Ode on Solitude," which met with a favourable reception. "Grainger, James." December 5, 2003. http://www.electricscotland.com/history/other/grainger_james.htm