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It has already been my privilege to unite with our fellowcitizens in paying a tribute to this excellent man and public benefactor; and I forbear from adding any thing on this occasion to the simple announcement of his death.
Nor do I propose to dwell long on the third name which has been so sadly stricken from our roll, and from other rolls where it will be still more missed, since our last monthly meeting. There are those present to whom it fitly belongs to deal with the character and accomplishments of the late President Felton; yet I should be false to the impulses of my own heart, were I to withhold all expression of sorrow for the loss of one so honored and so loved. Few persons, I think, have known, better than he, how to combine the cheerfulness and cordiality which belong to the companion and the friend, with the seriousness and earnestness which belong to the student and the instructor; and we hardly know which will be most missed in the sphere from which he has been so prematurely removed, - his thorough scholarship or his genial fellowship. His long and faithful services to the University, of which he had so recently become the honored head, were hardly more remarkable than his untiring readiness to lend his counsel and his experience to the cause of our common schools. He shrunk, indeed, from no labor which could be demanded of him, — from no service which he could anywhere find an opportunity to render, -in the cause of education, science, or literature, and yet he never denied himself to the claims of social life or to the offices of hospitality and friendship. His modest estimate of his own acquirements was in striking contrast with his generous appreciation of the accomplishments and efforts of others; and he never seemed better satisfied with himself than when he was paying a hearty tribute to the merits of a friend.
His connection with our Society was not of many years' standing; but we shall not soon forget the eager interest with which he entered into our proceedings on more than one occasion. His voice has again and again been heard here, in eloquent eulogy upon those who have gone before him; and some of his utterances on these occasions seem almost prophetic of his own early end. It seems but yesterday, that, after paying an affectionate tribute to the memory of the late Judge White, he reminded us, in a tone of almost triumphant anticipation, that “the grave is but the gateway that leads to immortality ;” bidding us “ follow courageously in the heaven-illumined path of the good and famous men who have gone before us."
It seems hardly more than yesterday, since, in speaking of the sudden death of Prescott, he told us, that, “ with the loveliness of returning spring, the announcement would be heard, even to the shores of Greece;" and that, “under the matchless glories of the sky of Attica, a sense of bereavement would mingle with the festivities and Christian welcomes of that joyous season.”
He little imagined how soon these words would become applicable to himself. His own modesty may have repressed the imagination that they would ever be applied to him. Yet no one, who recollects how closely he had identified himself, during more than a quarter of a century past, with every thing which relates to that classic soil, - with the study of its ancient and of its modern language, with its matchless literature, with its marvellous history, with its reviving hopes, - no one, certainly, who has had an opportunity of knowing the esteem, respect, and affection which he won there during the two visits which were almost the only relaxations of his laborious life, can doubt for an instant that the tidings of his death will touch many a heart in the land which he so delighted to illustrate, and that his loss will be deplored by not a few of those who have inherited the language of Homer, Thucydides, and Xenophon.
It was my own good fortune to be able to give him his first introduction to the English ambassador at Athens (Sir Thomas Wyse), with whom he formed the most intimate and cordial friendship, and through whom I have repeatedly heard how deep and lasting an impression had been left there of his kind and generous nature, his thorough and comprehensive scholarship, and his ardent and almost romantic affection for that land of glowing skies and glorious memories.
There is one precious memorial of his interest in that land, and of a better land also, which cannot soon be forgotten, either there or here, and the recollection of which is in peculiar harmony with an hour like this. I refer to the communion-plate which he exerted himself so eagerly in procuring, on his first return home, for a little Episcopal chapel at Athens, then under the care of Dr. Hill, whose character and services he ever spoke of with the highest admiration. The twofold glories of the spot, as the scene of the grandest efforts of the two noblest orators of the world,- the classic and the Christian Demosthenes,-inspired him with even an unwonted enthusiasm ; and few things gratified him more (if I may judge by repeated expressions of his own), than to have secured for himself, and for a few of his American friends, the privilege of offering this little pledge of Christian sympathy to those who should assemble beneath the shadows of Mars-hill -- where Paul so triumphantly confronted the Epicurean and the Stoic, and that whole inquisitive and jeering crowd of Athenians and strangers -- to partake of the supper of our Lord, and to commemorate the transcendent reality of the resurrection from the dead. Not long afterwards, he took “Paul, as an Athenian Orator,” for the subject of a popular lecture.
But I will detain you no longer, gentlemen, from the worthier tributes which others are prepared to pay to the memory of our departed friends, and for which I have been instructed to open the way by introducing the following resolution :
Resolved, That this Society has heard, with the deepest regret, of the deaths of their esteemed and respected associates, the Hon. WILLIAM APPLETON, and CORNELIUS CONWAY FELTON, LL.D.: and that Dr. Chandler Robbins be requested to prepare the customary Memoir of Mr. Appleton: and Mr. Hillard, that of President Felton.
TRACTS FOR THE SOLDIERS.
A SPEECH MADE AT THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE AMERICAN TRACT SOCIETY,
BOSTON, MAY 27, 1862.
I hold it a high honor, ladies and gentlemen, to be called on to take the chair on this occasion, as one of the Vice-Presidents of the old American Tract Society, whose history for four and thirty years is an illuminated calendar of Christian labors; and I return very grateful acknowledgments to those to whom I am indebted for so valued a compliment.
I cannot forget, in entering on the discharge of my duties, that the year which has elapsed since your last Anniversary Meeting, has witnessed not a few changes in your official roll. The late venerable President of the Association has been called from these earthly scenes, within a few months past, to enter, as we trust, upon the rich rewards of a long and useful life. His place has already been filled, at the late meeting of the Society at New York, where tributes of the most enviable character have been paid to his memory. But it becomes us here also, to give at least some passing expression to our sense of the loss which we have sustained by the death of so distinguished a son of New England.
Few men, certainly, of our age and generation, have left a more precious memory in the hearts of good men throughout the country, than the late Chief-Justice Williams of Connecticut. The eminent places which he has held, in so many different spheres of public duty, form but the slightest part of his claim to the remembrance of posterity. I will not attempt to recount them; for official position, alas, has ceased to furnish any safe criterion of private virtue or personal merit. But his pure and spotless character; his noble illustration of Christian principle; his untiring activity in every good work of philanthropy and benevolence; and the signal liberality of his contributions, both living and dying, to so many of our great and best institutions for the promotion of moral and religious improvement, will secure an honored place for his name among the benefactors of our land.
Nor can we forget that more than one of our most distinguished Vice-Presidents have preceded or followed him to the grave, during the same short period. Among them I may be permitted to recall a venerable and venerated Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia ; of whom one may well say, in view of all the deplorable events of which he was a witness, and something more, I fear, than a witness, during the latter months of his life, that “ had he but died an hour before this chance, he had lived a blessed time."
Among them, too, I cannot fail to remember the excellent Theodore Frelinghuysen, of New Jersey, whose whole character and career, through a life of more than threescore years and ten, presented so noble a combination of the scholar, the statesman, and the Christian gentleman.
The genial and brilliant Bethune, too, has suddenly fallen in a foreign land, and has hardly left his peer as an orator, whether for the pulpit or the platform.
But we may not dwell too long upon the dead. Our duties are to the living, and we cannot but feel those duties pressing upon us all the more heavily, when so many of our associates are stricken down upon our right hand and upon our left.
I am not here to-day for the first time, my friends, to bear my humble testimony to the importance of this Association ; and I do not propose to detain you with any general advocacy of its objects or its operations. I turn at once to a very brief consideration of the peculiar work which it has been called on to discharge, in common with other Associations of a kindred character, in the existing emergency of our national condition ; and of the urgent demands which that work makes upon us all for our active cooperation and support.
I need hardly remind any one of the widely extended field which has been opened, by the existing civil war, for every variety