The Peel Web
I am happy that you are using this web site and hope that you found it useful. Unfortunately, the cost of making this material freely available is increasing, so if you have found the site useful and would like to contribute towards its continuation, I would greatly appreciate it. Click the button to go to Paypal and make a donation.
An inaugural address delivered by the Right Hon. Sir Robert Peel, Bart., M.P., president of the Tamworth Library and Reading Room, on Tuesday, 19th January, 1841. Published by request - London: James Bain, 1, Haymarket, Tamworth: Jn. Thompson, Bookseller, Market Street, 1841.
John Henry Newman wrote a series of letters to The Times under the pseudonym Catholicus, attacking Peel's speech. The documents can be found here.
It has been usual on the foundation of Institutions similar to that which it has been proposed to establish in this Town - to open the proceedings with an inaugural lecture or address, explanatory of the principles on which such institutions have been founded, and of the objects which they have in view. In conformity with that practice, and from a desire faithfully to discharge the functions of the appointment to which I have been recently elected, I have willingly undertaken a duty which is generally ascribed to the office of President.
I shall best discharge that duty by attempting to explain in simple and perspicuous language, the views of those who have formed the Institution, and the advantages which it appears to us to hold out.
On such subjects as the extension of knowledge and intellectual improvement, it would be vain to seek for any novelty in argument or expression. The parade of learning on such an occasion as this, would be an idle affectation; and if I add anything to the simple explanation of the objects of the Society, it will be to recal [sic] to your minds Truths, that are very obvious - that are familiar but that have not a practical influence on the conduct of men, proportionate to their obviousness and their importance.
The paper which has been printed and circulated, contains so full an account of the general basis of the Institution, and of the regulations proposed for the management of it, that it is hardly necessary for me to enter into any minute detail with respect to them. A general summary, may however be desirable.
It is proposed to establish a Reading Room and Library. The Reading Room to be open for a certain portion of every day, (Sundays and certain holidays excepted) with permission to the members of the society, to have for perusal at their homes, the Books of the Library, under such Rules as may hereafter be established by the Committee of Management. If the funds of the Institution will permit, plain and popular Lectures will be given upon such subjects as Astronomy as Chemistry - as Botany - upon recent improvements in Arts and Manufactures; and upon the application of Scientific Discoveries, and of the Successful Experiments of practical observers - to Agriculture, and to those Trades and occupations which chiefly engross the labour and thoughts of this District of the Country.
All persons above the age of fourteen years, without distinction of political or Religious opinions, may become entitled to the privileges of this Institution upon the payment of so trifling sum as one shilling quarterly in advance.
It is open to Female as well as the Male population of the District. For we should have considered it a gross injustice to the well-educated and virtuous Women of this town and neighbourhood, to presume that they are less capable than their husbands or their brothers of profiting by the opportunities of acquiring knowledge; or that they were less interested in promoting the cause of rational recreation, and intellectual improvement. We willingly give to them in the control and management of this Institution, equal power and equal influence with others; well assured as we are, that power and influence will be exerted if their exertion should be necessary - in favour of whatever is sound and profitable in respect to knowledge, and decorous and exemplary in respect to conduct.
It would be presumptuous in me to anticipate the Committee of Management upon any points which may come under their consideration. That decision must mainly depend upon circumstances which cannot yet be fully known - upon the degree of support which the Institution may meet with - upon the funds which it may have at command - upon the extent of accommodation for the proper purposes of the Institution which can be procures. But it is possible, I hope, that consistently with every object mentioned in the printed Regulations, additional advantages may be conferred upon the Subscribers. There may I trust be occasional access at some hour in the day-time, to the Globes and Maps, or Books of Reference, in the Reading Room. When parents may be enabled to make the stores of knowledge there accumulated, available for the instruction and improvement of children below the age of fourteen years. I trust that it is not too sanguine a hope that those stores may accumulate from other sources, than those of the funds of the Institution - that we may now be founding a treasury of knowledge richer and more various than our printed Regulations contemplate. For instance: in a district not deficient itself in mineral productions, and bordering on one which is pregnant with iron and coal, the great incentives to human skill and industry - a collection of Mineral specimens may perhaps gradually be formed, most interesting to the inquisitive mind, and facilitating the comprehension of written treatises, or of Lectures on Mineralogy and kindred subjects.
Our immediate concern, however, is with the existing Rules of the Society, and with the nature and extent of that information which we hope to make at once accessible.
In constituting a Society of this nature, and framing Rules for its management, it is vain to expect universal concurrence. It is impossible to collect before hand the opinions of all, whose opinions are deserving of great weight and consideration. Some preliminary meeting must be had of limited numbers, to consider first; the policy of forming such an institution; and next, the basis on which it shall be formed.
The course I took was this:- To call a meeting of those persons who hold any public appointment in the town, Ecclesiastical or Civil, and to add to their number, without distinction of party opinions or religious creed those who are engaged in occupations which find the most employment for the artisans and labouring classes.
A meeting sufficiently limited for the purposes of free discussion, and of any progress in the business of detail, imposes the necessity of some rule of selection. A rule of selection implies exclusion. Many, who so far as station and intelligence are concerned, had as good a right to be present at the preliminary meeting, as those who were present, were not summoned. But I trust they will feel, after the explanation I have given, that their exclusion was not a capricious or inviduous one.
Of those who were present at the preliminary meeting, a very great majority approved of the Regulations which I hold in my hand.
In compliance with these regulations, the subscribers have met and have made the following appointments to the Officers of the Society, and of the Committee of Management; that is to say the Committee which is to have the general regulation of the affairs of the Society.
Right Hon. Sir Robert Peel, Bart.
Treasurer Thomas Bramall, Esq.
Honorary Secretary Joseph Gray, Esq.
Committee of Management. The officers above named together with the following:
Sir Francis Lawley, Bart., John Hall, Esq., Mr E.B. Hamel, Mr. W. Bindley, Mr. F. Hunter, Mr. S. Watton, John Bailey, James Simmons, Thomas Woodcock.
The Book Committee is thus constituted:- The President, The Vicar,
One of the Curates of Tamworth, H.J. Pye, Esq., S.P. Wolferstan, Esq., Henry
Trustees: The Vicar, The Mayor, The Town Clerk.
I beg to call your attention to the constitution of the Book Committee, because I understand that the rule of the Institution, which has been principally objected to, is that which places on the Book Committee the Vicar and one of the Curates of Tamworth named by the Vicar, as members, ex-officio, of this Book Committee. I do not feel the force of that objection. In founding a Literary and Scientific Institution, it seems to me a just and reasonable proposal, that Ministers of the Established Church, whose office is a permanent and responsible one who cannot hold that office without a previous course of study, and without literary acquirements - who have duties assigned to them by the State, immediately connected with the moral condition and moral improvement of the people - who receive a public endowment for the purpose of performing those duties - it seems to me a just and reasonable proposal that they should be invited, nay, required, to give their assistance towards affecting that which we avow to be a main object of the Society, namely the exclusion of works of a frivolous, or immoral, or evil tendency, from the Library of the Society.
It is right, no doubt, to be jealous of all power and authority held by a permanent tenure. But let us consider what are the restrictions upon the power conferred by these regulations upon two Ministers of the Church, personally respected and esteemed by all who know them.
The first fundamental rule of the Society is "that works of Controversial Divinity shall not be admitted into the Library" and that in the formation of the Library, and in the selection of the subjects for public Lectures "everything calculated to excite religious animosities shall be excluded". And the other rule is "that no discussion on matters connected with religious differences, be permitted to take place in the Reading Room".
The Ministers of the Church accept their appointment on the Committee with the full knowledge that these Regulations must be faithfully and scrupulously adhered to. They act in a Committee, of which all the members are elected by the Subscribers, and who (at present at least) are all laymen. The whole of the present Committee of Management consists of Laymen. And there is a power reserved to the Subscribers to alter if they see fit the Regulations which form the basis of the Institution - a power which I am confident would be freely exercised in case of manifest abuse.
It would have been absurd to hope for universal assent to any series of Regulations that could be devised. In advancing this Institution to its present state of maturity, I have had objections to contend with from opposite quarters, and of an opposite character. I have attempted to discuss them with temper, and to modify the Regulations as far as I could do so consistently with my own convictions, in order that I might conciliate the greatest degree of support, not merely of money but of active goodwill, in favour of a valuable and useful Institution. All that I ask for return is, that the principles and rules of the Society may be judged of, not in a captious spirit, from a single regulation taken separately - but from the general scope and tenor of the whole.
So much for the principles upon which the Society has been founded. Let me say a word with respect to the information which it will dispense. Every day the Press is sending forth Treatises written in a familiar language accessible from their cheapness to limited means - recording the most recent experiments and discoveries in Art and Science. They are not confined to abstract theories fit only for the speculations of literary leisure; for the greater part of the works to which I am particularly referring are conversant with matters which enter into the daily thoughts and daily business of life.
I will take two subjects as examples. This town is the centre of a district chiefly agricultural. It is the principle place of resort of that respectable and valuable class which live by the cultivation of the soil; whose welfare, and let me add, whose skill and intelligence have a close and intimate relation to the interests and welfare of the whole community.
I have not a doubt, that in a very short space of time, we shall possess a valuable collection of works on Agriculture. Some have been already offered. Now I quite enter into the feelings of the Farmer, who receives with somewhat of doubt and distrust, the advice of his neighbour who knows nothing about farming, as a business by which a livelihood is to be made. I know how much easier it is to talk about farming than to farm to any advantage - how prosperous it is, to recommend experiments in farming, which require a capital that a tenant cannot command, and which incur the hazard of losses, that might involve him in ruin. That is a natural and a just feeling. But if on the other hand the farmer of the present day thinks that his experience is all-sufficient - if he thinks that in his parish or on his farm there is no room for improvement, he is under a delusion as great as that of the gentlemen who bewilder him with useless advice. The farmers of fifty years ago thought the same - they thought their system was perfect, and would probably have laughed at those who predicted the improvements in farming that have since taken place.
You will ask (I am addressing my self to the Farmers who are present) what books there are that can be of use to the Farmer? Now I have brought one or two, as specimens. Here is a little pamphlet, of which I see that nine thousand copies have been sold, but which probably you have not seen, which costs sixpence and which has for its title "Remarks on thorough draining and deep ploughing" by James Smith, Esq., of Deanston in Scotland.
It explains in sufficient detail a system, which is said by the intelligent author of the work "To have been very extensively adopted in Scotland, and to produce effects “so wonderful that all assent to its excellence." you may think the author regards his own plan with undue favour. But I have very lately received a confirmation of his testimony from a very disinterested and very competent witness, Dr. Buckland, the Professor of Geology; who has been on the spot at Deanston, and has witnessed the extraordinary effects produced by the system of “thorough draining and deep ploughing". As to the quality of the soil, Dr. Buckland writes to me thus, on the eighteenth of December last:-
“When you are next in Scotland, pray go and see what Mr. Smith has done at Deanston with land that was very similar to the worst of yours at Drayton, before he applied the thorough draining to it”.
Here is another treatise of a few pages only. It is entitled “Report on the diseases of wheat”, by the Rev. J.H. Henslow, Professor of Botany in the University of Cambridge. You will ask, “What can he say about wheat, which the farmer who grows wheat does not know?" Now he says this:- That not one of the essays on the subject of diseases in corn that were sent in to the meeting at Cambridge, for the prize offered by the Royal Agricultural Society, was deemed worthy of the prize. He says that he has seen those essays and that the authors were ignorant of the many facts respecting the nature of the diseases in corn, long known to scientific enquirers - that the subject has attracted for a long time the attention of Continental observers - that it is still imperfectly understood. But he gives in a few pages the result of extensive observation at home and abroad, as to the causes and remedies of the various diseases to which Corn is subject.
Now, I do not ask you to take for granted, all that is said by Professor Henslow and Mr. Smith, but I ask you to pay One Shilling, as a quarter's subscription to our Reading Room - that you may read the few clear and simple pages, that they have written - and judge for yourself of the reasonableness of what they state, and of its conformity with your own experience. What is true of their Works - as to the policy I mean of reading them - is true of Treatises on other subjects connected with Agriculture. Do you feel confident that you know everything that can be known with respect to the profitable application of Manure? It is not possible that the Botanist may have had experiments with regard to that period of vegetation at which the plant will most profit by Manure; and that the Chemist may have considered under what circumstances of season and atmosphere Manure may be spread upon the land with least loss of the volatile essence of it? [sic] If they have done so, can it be otherwise than useful that you should read and compare the opinions of scientific men, and of practical Farmers too - of men with as much actual experience as yourselves - upon such and similar subjects?
Let me ask you again (and I can have no motive for my questions but a regard for your welfare) is the system of Accounts - particularly on the smaller farms - that is the daily entry of Payments and Receipts of Loss and Profit - is this well understood and carefully attended to? I am positively assured that it is not; and that it might greatly contribute to the comfort and assurance of many of you, if a competent man where personally to attend here, and to point out the mode in which, with very little trouble a person of ordinary intelligence, might keep an account and make up a yearly balance of profit and loss; without which he must be a very imperfect judge of his own position and prospects as a Farmer. I may be wrong. These things may be of no use to you. But surely it is worth while to pay one shilling, in order that you may read and hear and judge for yourselves.
I will take again another subject upon which information readily available may be of great service to men, and to families looking with great anxiety to their own prospects in life, and the settlement of children. There is a new spirit abroad with respect to Emigration - or rather to Colonization on principles widely different from those on which Emigration has hitherto been conducted. Professions are over crowded - the profits of capital are reduced by competition; and hundreds are keenly considering what are the comparative advantages of remaining at home or of seeking their fortunes in British possessions; and are availing themselves of the opportunities of founding by industry and enterprise the means of independence in lands (distant it is true) but where British Laws and the British Language, daily renew the recollections of Home. Why should you be debarred from these advantages? and how can you better secure them than by having ready access to authentic information, which the Press is constantly supplying on many essential points connected with the subject? Such as the charge of conveyance out - the comparative fertility of the soil - the price of labour - the profits of capital - and a hundred other of a similar nature. Even if the information be not complete, it will suggest the further enquiries which a prudent man would naturally make.
The examples I have been referring to are of knowledge immediately profitable, with reference to the daily occupation and the present condition of man. There will be other knowledge connected with History, with the various improvements in Art, and discoveries in Science. And let me make an earnest and affectionate appeal to you - to you, for whose especia1 benefit this institution is intended - not to neglect the opportunity of occasionally combining relaxation from the active pursuits in which you are engaging, with mental improvement. Heed not the sneers, the foolish sarcasms against learning, of those who would keep you depressed, and are unwilling that you should rise above the level of their own contented ignorance. Do not believe that you have not time for acquiring knowledge. It is the idle man who wants time for everything. The industrious man is the man who knows the value of the economy of time, and can find leisure for rational recreation and mental improvement, Do not believe that the acquisition of knowledge - of such knowledge as we shall offer - will obstruct your worldly prosperity, or that it is inconsistent with your worldly pursuits. You cannot sharpen your intellectual faculties, you cannot widen your range of knowledge, with becoming more skilful in the business or employment that occupies you. And be assured of this, that there is a spirit of enquiry aboard - a spirit of enterprise - an extent an activity of competition which will make success impossible, if you remain in the rear of intelligent rivals. All the increased facilities of intercourse - every steam Boat that cuts the waters, every Railway Carriage that shoots along the levelled line, are operating as bounties upon Mechanical skill and knowledge. They are shortening - nay, they are effacing - the interval between the producer and the consumer; and destroying the preferences, which old habits and neighbourhood, and local connections, might heretofor have secured, for comparative inferiority.
I beseech you therefore to reflect upon these things; and to enter upon the path which leads to knowledge. There may be difficulties at first, there may be habits of listlessness and inattention to be overcome; but as you advance new prospects will expand - new beauties will beguile the way, and you will be cheered onward by a voice from within, of self confidence and of self respect.
That path must lead to improvement - it may lead to eminence and honourable fame. The aspirings of a pure ambition may be indulged by those of a lowly estate. And you will not now be able to say, that 'chill penury' has 'frozen the genial current' of your aspirations for knowledge and distinction. Review the names of many men conspicuous in our own time in the annals of Art and of Science. Enquire into their origin. Mark the first steps in life of the late Mr. Rennie - Sir Humphrey Davy - Sir Francis Chantry - Mr. Dalton - Professor Farraday - Mr. Wheatstone, who by means of Electricity, is speeding the intercourse of thought and expression, with the velocity of light. Look around you. If you go to Lichfield, you see the monument of Dr. Johnson. If you go to Handsworth, the monument of Mr. Watt. Nay, without leaving the precincts of your own town, you have the confirmation of these truths. Who is constructing here, the Wharfs from which new supplies of lime and coal are to be poured into the Midland Districts? Mr. Stephenson, the civil engineer. Had he any advantages over you in early life? What has raised him from the bottom of the Colliery in which he worked as a boy, but the elastic force of natural acuteness and industry, combined with that of economy of time, which enabled him to save one hundred pounds, by mending the watches of his fellow workmen, after the hours of daily labour - with those pious feelings, that prompted him to sanctify this first accumulation of capital, by applying it to the support of his indigent parents? In him we have a daily example, where, from the lowest origin, merit t has been enabled to raise itself to high eminence and great respect. ,
I was making enquiry the other day of a valued friend of mine, himself among the very first in scientific knowledge, as to the early history of men who have worked their way to distinction, and I received a letter from him which I will read to you.
"I forgot to mention yesterday, that Mr. Grainger, the great architect, who has, within the last five years, rebuilt the town of Newcastle - in a style infinitely superior to Regent street, and whom I met at the Duke of Northumberland's two years ago - began his career as a poor mason's boy, carrying a hod. In the interval between 1834 and 1838, he converted Newcastle from a black and filthy cluster of narrow streets of brick, to a condition exceeding anything I have ever seen - excepting in the best parts of the New Town of Edinburgh. The late Mr. Harvey, who died at an early age, three years ago a Professor at Woolwich, who published an excellent treatise on Meteorology in the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, had worked for many years as a carpenter at the Dockyard at Plymouth, where he afterwards became a Teacher of Mathematics, and whence removed to the Professorship above mentioned. I will send you his treatise as I am sure it will interest you; and as there is in the first page a private letter from the author; which if to your purpose you are welcome to quote".
The letter of Mr. Harvey, thus referred to, is so much to my purpose, that I cannot hesitate to quote it. The writer is no more; but the letter will not make any the less impression, because it speaks to you with the solemn authority of a voice from the grave.
"In forwarding these papers for acceptance to men bred and educated at Oxford, I confess, I feel much diffidence and fear; - and nothing but the great and unexampled personal kindness I experienced during the visit of the British Association, and the kind indulgence thence to be anticipated for them, could have got the better of those feelings. You will be pleased, therefore, to regard the work as the production of one - blessed at this time with nothing like unbroken leisure, and all whose early days were lost among vulgar associates in a carpenter’s workshop, and whose education never reached beyond reading and writing. I write this in all the fulness of those feelings, which beat high and which look back with the most poignant regret, on the years that were spent on heartless labour - and without a friend to open to me a path which might have led to Academical distinction, and by consequence to some brighter and higher prospects in the world. I know the warmth of your open and generous heart will forgive this outpouring of mine to you, and be at once my apology - for any defects which you or your learned associates cannot but discover in my imperfect paper”.
This affecting letter shall be the foundation on which I make my appeal to you, who are blessed with comparative affluence, who have had the advantages of a good education, and can command for yourselves the easy access to knowledge. There may be here, even in this small Society, some spirits with feelings and aspirations akin to those of Mr. Harvey, that by your aid may be rescued from the taint of 'vulgar associates', and by having unrolled to it the page that is rich with the spoils of time may be spared the painful retrospect of “years that were spent in heartless labour, and without a friend to open a path that might lead to distinction”.
I cannot believe that by assuming the office of such a friend, by facilitating the access to such knowledge as we hope to dispense, that we shall be defeating any legitimate [sic] object of human policy, or counteracting the purposes of that Almighty Being, who gave us faculties to distinguish us from the Beasts that perish and will demand from us a severe account of the manner in which we have employed them.
I cannot believe we shall make men dissatisfied with their lot, by proving to them that a humble condition is no obstruction to the gaining of those distinctions which Learning and Science confer - that there is a field of competition in which nothing but merit can secure the prize.
It seems to me, that by bringing into immediate contact, the intelligent minds of various classes and various conditions of life - by uniting (as we have united) in the Committee of Management of this Institution, the Gentleman of ancient family and great landed possessions, with the most skilful and intelligent of our Mechanics that we are Harmonizing the gradations of society, and establishing a bond of connection which will derive no common strength from the motives that influence us, and the cause in which we are engaged.
I would fain believe that an appointment to the Committee for Managing this Institution, will be regarded as an honourable distinction, and an appropriate reward of merit. I was present on Friday last, at the election of the Committee, and I was forcibly struck by the remarkable compliment that was paid, to the only man who united in his favour, every vote that he could by possibility receive. Every voting paper included the name of James Simmons of a man who has raised himself by virtuous conduct and great intelligence, from the station of a domestic servant, and has acquired the respect and esteem of his fellow townsmen. That heart must be dead to every impulse of honourable fame, which does not envy the feelings of him, to whom such a pure and disinterested tribute of respect has been paid.
I cannot share in the apprehensions of those who anticipate injurious consequences, either to the moral or religious characters of the people from imparting to them such knowledge, or inviting them to such investigations as are the proper objects of our concern.
I agree with the Bishop of London, in the sentiments which he has thus expressed from the Pulpit. "There is nothing in the revealed will of God which limits and restrains the enquires and conclusions of men in any branch of knowledge, properly so called; or which interferes with the freest exercise of his faculties. But the very constitution of man which leads him to indefinite enquiry, and is adapted to it, affords a sufficient reason for believing, that its author intended it for that purpose".
"It is therefore, reasonable to conclude, that God intended man to put forth those powers of intellect with which he is gifted, to grasp the objects adapted to their comprehension, and to dilate the powers of his understanding to the utmost dimensions of that universe, which is the natural subject, as it is the obvious province of its inquiries".
"Under proper limitations and protections" (which the Bishop specifies) we may join he says "in the praises which are lavished upon Philosophy and Science, and fearlessly go forth with their votaries into all the various paths of research, by which the mind of man pierces into the hidden recesses of nature; harmonizes its more conspicuous features; and removes the veil which, to the ignorant or careless observer, obscures the traces of God's glory in the works of his hands. Of Natural Philosophy, in the modern and just acceptance of the term, it is sufficient praise to say, that the laws and movements of the Universe, in exact proportion as they are discovered and understood by man, confirm and establish the presumption, which our notice of a perfectly wise and beneficent Creator would lead us to form, that the material and the moral world are connected with, and adapted to, each other; that they are so constituted as to bear upon one another with a perfectness and minuteness of mutual application, bespeaking the uniformity and completeness of a system of divine contrivance, the centre of which is man”.
I can hardly conceive a mind so constituted, that being familiarized, with the wonderful discoveries which have been made in every department of experimental Science - that seeing the proofs of Divine intelligence in every object of contemplation, from the organization of the meanest weed we trample upon, or of the insect invisible to our eyes, up to the magnificent structure of the Heavens, or the still more wonderful Phenomena of the soul and reason of man - can retire from such contemplations, without more enlarged conceptions of God's Providence and a higher reverence for His name. It seems to me that we must feel the dignity of our own nature exalted, when we hold communion with such thoughts and speculations as these; and that struck with awe at the contemplation of infinite power, and infinite wisdom, we must yield the silent assent of our heart and reason, to the pious exclamation - "Oh Lord how glorious are thy works - thy thoughts are very deep." An unwise man doth not well consider this, and a fool doth not understand it!
Yes, it is ignorance and folly that form unworthy conceptions of God’s providence. Far different are the conceptions of those who have most considered this - and have made the greatest, however imperfect advance towards understanding it. Let me read to you the thoughts with which Sir Isaac Newton concludes his profound investigations into the mechanical causes which produce, and the laws which govern, the motions of the Universe.
“This beautiful system of Sun, Planets, and Comets, could have its origin in no other way, than by the purpose and command of an intelligent and powerful Being. He governs all things - not as the soul of the world, but as Lord of the Universe. He is not only God, but Lord or Governor. We know him only by his properties or attributes - by the wise and admirable structure of things around us, and by their final causes; we admire him on account of His perfections, we venerate and worship Him on account of His government.
These again are the reflections from which Sir Humphrey Davy, in his last illness derived according to his own expression, "some pleasure and some consolation, when most other sources of consolation and pleasure were closed to him." Speaking of the intellectual and moral qualities which are required in his opinion to form the character of a true Philosophical inquirer, he observes ''His mind should always be awake to devotional feeling; and in contemplating the variety and the beauty of the external world, and developing its scientific wonders, he will always refer to that infinite wisdom through whose beneficence he is permitted to enjoy knowledge; in becoming wiser he will become better; he will rise at once in the scale of intellectual and moral existence - his increased sagacity will be subservient to a more exalted faith, and in proportion as the veil becomes thinner, through which he sees the causes of things, he will admire more the brightness of the Divine light, by which they are rendered visible."
I fervently hope that this will be the result. I hope and believe that “increased sagacity will be subservient to a more exalted faith" - That science and knowledge will not merely impress upon the mind a cold conviction of the truths of Natural Religion - but that they will temper and prepare it for the better conception and comprehension of the great scheme of human redemption that new sources of conviction will be opened, independent of the overwhelming force of historical testimony - independent of that assent of the heart and conscience which instinctively discovers in the pure system of Christian morality, the internal evidence of a Divine origin.
I hope and believe that the "increased sagacity" which takes the most comprehensive view of the order of the Universe - which is most conversant with the concurring proofs of infinite wisdom - with the varied stages of existence in organic life - with the recurring vicissitudes of life and decay, and resurrection - which best knows the assigned limits of human enquiry - the difficulties which cannot be solved - the mysteries that cannot be interpreted, in respect to objects of sense and daily observation - that, "that sagacity" will lend the most unwilling ear to presumptions and objections against the Christian dispensation; and will be the most forward to recognise its perfect harmony, with all that we could conclude from reason, unaided by revelation, in regard to the constitution and course of nature, and the moral government of a Creator and Ruler of the world.
These are serious and solemn subjects; but they are not unsuited to the occasion on which we are met; and I was anxious to state the views I entertain, and the hopes by which I am animated in promoting, under proper checks and precautions, the extension of scientific enquiry and knowledge.
I am about to quit you for the performance of public duties - about to take my share in the exciting conflict of opinion, on the arena of political discussion. And great indeed will be my satisfaction, amid the anxieties of public life, if I may be allowed to hope, that I have this day laid the corner-stone of an edifice, in which, each firmly retaining his own political opinions and preferences, and determined to manifest them on all fitting occasions - you can meet in the peaceful pursuit of study, and innocent and improving recreation; - and suspending for a time the disturbing influence of religious or party difference, can taste in common the uncloying pleasure that springs from mental improvement and increasing knowledge. Then indeed shall I be repaid a hundredfold for any exertions I have made, in bringing this institution to maturity.
|Meet the web creator||
These materials may be freely used for
non-commercial purposes in accordance with applicable statutory allowances
and distribution to students.
Last modified 26 October, 2013
|American Affairs 1760-83||The Age of the French Wars 1792-1815||Irish Affairs 1760-89|
|Economic Affairs in the Age of Peel||Irish
|Primary sources index||British Political Personalities||British Foreign policy 1815-65||European history||