Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1835–1860
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. VI–VIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 1835–1860
 
The Scholar’s Courage
By Richard Salter Storrs (1821–1900)
 
[Born in Braintree, Mass., 1821. Died in Brooklyn, N. Y., 1900. Manliness in the Scholar. Chancellor’s Oration delivered at the Eighty-sixth Commencement of Union College. 1883.]

WHAT is implied in such essential manliness of spirit? What principal elements must combine in the temper of the scholar to constitute and complete it? And the answer is not far to find.
  1
  Certainly, Courage is essentially involved, and no true manliness can be realized where this is not present:—courage, as denoting not merely that keen instinct of battle which displays itself in stimulating excitements, in the heat of contest, in the crisis which pushes one to self-vindication, or in passionate championship of favorite opinions, but as representing what is ampler than this, and also finer: strength of heart; strength to endure as well as attack, to pursue and achieve as well as to attempt, to sacrifice self altogether, if need be, on behalf of any controlling conviction. A thorough consent of judgment, conscience, imagination, affection, all vitalized and active, with a certain invincible firmness of will, as the effect of such a consent—this is implied in a really abounding and masterful courage. It is not impatient. It is not imperious. It is not the creature of fractious and vehement will-power in man. It is never allied with a passionate selfishness. It is associated with great convictions, has its roots in profound moral experiences, is nourished by thoughts of God and the hereafter. It is as sensitive and gentle in spirit as it is persistent and highly resolved. It forms the base of sympathies, generosities, rather than of defiances. Its language is that of courtesy always, never of petulance, or of egotistic arrogance. A chivalric manner is natural to it, especially toward those who are weak or alarmed—as natural as is his carol to the song-bird, or its inter-play of colors to the flowering tulip.  2
  But though courteous, sympathetic, and ready for all genial affiliations, it is sufficient in itself, and quite independent of outward auxiliaries. Once established as an element of character, it is deepened and renewed with all experience. It is only compacted into more complete force before the shock of downright attack, and becomes supremely aspiring and confident when hostile forces rage against it.  3
  Such courage as this is everywhere at home, and is naturally master of all situations. Conspicuous on the battle-field, it may equally be shown in the journal or in the pulpit. It shines on the platform as clearly as in the senate; is as manifest in the frank and unswerving announcement of principles which men hate, in the face of their hatred, as it is when the tempestuous winds, tearing the wave-tops into spoon-drift, have caught the reeling ship in their clutch, and threaten to bury it in the deep. And wherever it is shown, it has in it something of the morally superlative. Men recognize a force which emergencies cannot startle, nor catastrophes overbear; which possesses inexhaustible calmness and strength; with which no intellectual faculties or acquired accomplishments can be compared, but from which all such take a value and splendor not their own….  4
  I think that the American people, as distinctly at least as any other, will always demand this in those who aspire to instruct and to guide them. Our ancestors were sailors, soldiers, explorers—men who worked hard, lived roughly, dared greatly, suffered without flinching, died without moan; who purchased with the sword, not with the pen, the liberties which they wrung from reluctant power, and who set a bloody sign-manual to the charters which many of them certainly were not able to read. The stern and salutary training of the nation, on a continent so long remote from the Old World, its severe education in physical hardship, in great and novel political enterprise, in moral struggle, in vast and repeated military contest, has only confirmed this victorious element in the national spirit.  5
  It has come to be a sort of inherited virtue, as if mingled with the iron and fibrin of the blood; and any scholar, however familiar with manifold knowledges, however apt and copious in speech, who has not this, who is timid in his convictions, vague and hesitant in their expression, unwilling to take risks on their behalf, who fears opposition, is fettered before difficulty, or is daunted in heart by vociferous resistance—will certainly here have lost his chance of moral leadership. He must be free of the times before he can mould them. If his spirit is one that others can master or scare into silence, he may dismiss the thought of any high function, as belonging to him, when he stands in front of difficult work, or amid the sharp conflicts of human opinion.  6
 
 
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