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Documenting the American
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Lees' senior speech argues that literary men have the power to convey the wisdom of past ages and to make or break people's reputations; however, intelligent readers must examine these authorities carefully and compare them with those who hold opposing views.
To mankind in general, an exhibition of the power of literary men in determinig the opinons of men2 with respect to characters & events must be interesting & useful. Their curiosity must be excited, whilst they search out its boundaries, & contemplate the vast field they inclose; (as the result will be, that its extent is commensurate with civilization, & its duration coexistent3 with time.)4
Where-soever civilization opens the wilderness & clears away the
gro growth of the untutored mind,
literary works immediately migrate, &, establishing a fixed abode,
assimilate the inhabitants to their predominant features, diffuse the knowledge
of distant countries, & past events, & establish the characters of the
actors in every great scene; & at the remotest period, when there will be
more & greater marks of power & grandeur of generations which have
vanished from the earth to heighten5
the curiosity & wonder, a knowledge
of them can be obtained only through the medium of authors. The present would
by which they can be
for brought anew before the eyes of
every reader, & the actors in the temendous been devoured by fish beasts or worms.9 What
would have been the condition of the present age, without the knowledge which
has been transmitted to us, can be easily determined, by considering the state
of the first inhabitants of our world. Like man, the world is progressive in
improvement; but were only be
on he stands forth an unsullied patriot; but the
remarkable for the carefullness of his research, would have us believe that
cou party;— in which
which he represented to be
universal, but which nobody held, not only received those many innocent, unoffending men
who were cruelly proscribed. Who, that has ever read his gentle lines, would
he was one of the unfortunate sufferers. The
So if we descend to modern times, we see
A single line of a popular poet [is] sufficient with many people to
fix their opinions of men. Thus
Though the document is undated, it is probably a senior speech,
not a class composition. Marks written over the accented syllables of
buffoon, and catholic suggest
Students of this period gave two senior speeches, one each
semester. In an October 29, 1828, letter to
2. A second hand has written "public opinion" in pencil above "the opinions of men," which has been underlined.
3. A second hand has written
in pencil above coexistent.
4. Comparing drafts and final versions of
5. A second hand has written
pencil above heighten.
6. A second hand has written in pencil "with lineaments"
above "in such," which has been underlined; "as enable us to
easily distinguish" is pencilled in underneath "by which they can
be." Both corrections subsequently were crossed out. The corrector appears
to have wanted the phrase to read "at least with lineaments as enable us
to easily distinguish them," whereas
7. A second hand has written in pencil
8. A second hand has inserted in pencil "have ceased to"
above the line between
to on top of this
bodies, evidently accepting the words "mingled with
their kindred dust" written in pencil in a second hand above the crossed
as on top of
History of Greece, 5 vols. (London: J.
Murray and J. Robson, 1784-1818)
12. A second hand has crossed out
pencil. The reference is to
Lectures on the Philosophy of the Human Mind, 4 vols.
(Edinburgh: W. and C. Tait, 1820)
An Inquiry into the Human Mind (Dublin: A.
14. "and, if he [some future philosopher] have the talents of
17. A second hand has underlined
18. A second hand has inserted in pencil "and character"
Essay on Man IV, vi (1734)
u on top of
21. A second hand has written
pencil above filthy.
therefore, three dots arranged in a triangle.
23. While "the present administration in the present excited
state of public feeling" helps to date the speech, the reference can be
variously interpreted. I take it to refer to the heated campaigning for
presidential electors that took place in Fall 1828 in