Copyright by the editor, Hal Morris, Secaucus, NJ 1997. Permission is granted to copy, but not for sale, nor in multiple copies, except by permission.
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Here is the remainder of the chapter on college days at Bowdoin College from Cyrus Hamlin's autobiography (see Issue #17). Hamlin's grandfather received a tract of Maine land for services in the revolution. Cyrus' first cousin, Hannibal Hamlin, was Lincoln's first Vice President.
After growing up on a farm in the rugged hinterlands of Oxford County, Maine. He then apprenticed to a silversmith in Portland, some 40 miles south, where he underwent the classic New England conversion experience, and became an avid reader of "President Edwards". Attending an evening school for apprentices, with some forty students, he entered and won a contest for an essay on "Profane Swearing". This helped persuade a certain Deacon Isaac Smith that Hamlin was cut out for the ministry. Smith doggedly set out to persuade Hamlin, eventually succeeding. Hamlin's church provided the means by voting him the extraordinary sum of $1,000 for his education, and his master was prevailed upon to release him!
The second half of the description of his life at Bowdoin begins with an account of a revival in his Junior year whose approach was, he said "silent as the fall of dew". It followed the old pattern of Calvinistic revivals, as opposed to what some would call the "manufactured revivals" of Finney and his ken (so in the phrase "building revivals" I was taking license for the sake of a tidy title).
The revival was foreshadowed when Phoebe, the "colored sister of the church" was found praying by herself, and when asked about it said "I know the Lord is coming; I feel it in my bones". Then "We found by conversing with students that many were under serious impressions. It was so in the village also." The religious community responded. Dr. Adams "appointed a protracted meeting and called to his aid the Rev. Dr. Tappan,of Augusta, and Dr. Pond, professor in Bangor Theological Seminary."
The revival led to 50 conversions, including "the most distinguished infidel in the state of Maine" (already a man of impeccable morals), and the governor of Maine, "a pronounced Unitarian, a Democrat, and aristocrat".
In the next section, Hamlin tells how a lesson on the steam engine led him to volunteer to build one. This was far more expensive and time consuming than he expected, but he resolved to "do or die", and eventually got his expenses back plus $175, and also went on a short Lyceum lecture tour as a result of building the "first steam engine built in the state of Maine".
He next tells how the defeated hazing faction decided to teach him a lesson, how he pressed charges for assault and battery, and made them write an apology and pay court charges.
The affair seems to me like a very illustrative clash between an older code of hierarchy and intimate, organic, and spontaneous force, and a more modern mentality. Hamlin takes a clear stand for the idea that it is a manly and honorable thing to use the law against one who personally and physically humiliates you. His friends appropriate the language of the old code when they sign a resolution calling the offenders "unmanly and dishonorable".
Perhaps the code of "honor and manliness" is very different from the "gentleman's code of honor" that was especially prevalent in the south. I read the former, and Hamlin's position to be that "every man has a right to inviolability of his person if he will stand up for it, using the resources of the community". When Hamlin is handled bodily by a mob of rowdies and dragged to the pump, he makes light of the physical insult. When a student asks "Are you going to swallow all that, Hamlin?" he replies, "I have swallowed it and I don't see as it hurts me at all. My digestion was never better."
He then makes a direct assault on the system that would say that to be so insulted in ones person is to be "put in ones place".
As I am writing my life and times I cannot pass over lightly the religious history of the college. The religious students had three societies which drew them together. The Society of Inquiry had perhaps ten or twelve members, of whom three went into the foreign field. The Theological Society, meeting once a month and having an annual public address, had a much larger membership, and was useful mainly in giving us some knowledge of the history of great theologies. The Praying Circle met every Sunday morning an hour before church. All the religious students belonged to this society. Its meetings were open to all, and were attended by many students who were not members. It was a most excellent and useful association. It kept church members together and in sympathy. The rivalries of college did not enter here. Every year there were seasons of special earnestness in our religious work, and there was no year without some conversions. It sometimes occurred that in vacation a student had received deep religious impressions, and he found a sympathizing brotherhood to help him forward when he returned to college. We had indeed three revivals in our college course: one in the sophomore, one in the junior, and one in the senior year. My classmate Woodford writes: "Of our senior year there was nothing marked, but I must not omit to notice the steady gain in Christian development during our last year on the part both of the new and old converts. Who can measure the good done by the fifty or more who in these three revivals devoted themselves to the Saviour?"
But the revival in our junior year seems to me worthy of brief record here, for the manner in which it came on and for the power of God manifested in it. Its approach was silent as the fall of dew. There seemed to be a peculiar spirit of prayer in our Praying Circle. Individual students felt a deep impression that we were entering the atmosphere of a revival. Some had come from revival scenes at home. Our circle found a college room too small for the attendance, and it was arranged that the next Sunday morning we should meet in the house across the campus on the main road, as there were two rooms, and the intervening hall would easily accommodate fifty or sixty students, or more. They were crowded, to the surprise of all, and some had come in whom we had never seen there before.
As we passed out from that meeting at the toll of the bell for church, I met Professor Longfellow. He looked surprised and said: "What is up now, Hamlin?" I replied: "It is only our Sunday morning prayer meeting." "Ah!" said he with a puzzled look, and passed on. We all loved and admired Longfellow, but we could not claim his sympathy in this movement. During the week Mrs. Professor Upham sent me a note asking me to meet the ladies' prayer meeting for a few minutes and let them understand the state of feeling in college.
Dr. Adams, pastor of the Congregational church where nearly all the students attended, had appointed an early morning prayer meeting, thinking some would come together at an early hour who would not be able to come after the labors of the day had begun.
Anxious lest the conference room should not be suitably warmed and dusted, he rose early and went to see to it. He found Phebe, the colored sister of the church, of whom I shall speak further on, kneeling on the doorstone in prayer.
"Why, Phebe," he asked, "what are you praying here for on this cold stone?"
"O Mr. Adams!" was the answer, "I know the Lord is coming; I feel it in my bones."
Dr. Adams said to me: "Who should know it first of all but Phebe, who holds closest communion with Him?"
We found by conversing with students that many were under serious impressions. It was so in the village also. Dr. Adams appointed a protracted meeting and called to his aid the Rev. Dr. Tappan,of Augusta, and Dr. Pond, professor in Bangor Theological Seminary. The meetings were very full and very solemn. There were many conversions -more than fifty, I think. A few were so remarkable I will mention them.
H. B. Smith was one. He became a distinguished teacher, writer, and theologian. Do not fail to read Professor Stearns' life of him. Daniel R. Goodwin was another. He was undeniably the first scholar and ablest man in college. I have mentioned the singular conversion of John D. Smith. There were Allen, Harris, Pike, Parsons, Goodwin, Storer, and many others who have lived lives of distinguished usefulness. The writings of Harris, Goodwin, and H. B. Smith have left their impress upon thousands of choice receptant minds, and will live for generations.
In the village the conversion of Dr. Lincoln and Governor Dunlap occasioned a profound sensation through the state. Dr. Lincoln, who probably saved my life (see page 95), was the most distinguished infidel in the state of Maine. He was a man of excellent social character and irreproachable morals. But now he came to see himself a sinner, and to fear the righteous judgment of God against the transgressors of a holy law. He found peace in believing.
It was a memorable evening when Dr. Lincoln came in, and with great dignity and sweetness said in substance: "You will expect that I should tell you, my friends and neighbors, what has caused the recent change in my religious views and feelings. I can say it has not been argument. I have never heard or read arguments to which I did not think I could give a satisfactory answer-satisfactory, I mean, to myself; but there was one argument, a living argument, that moved every day and often before my window, in the humble, benevolent Christian life of my neighbor, Deacon Perry."
He went farther, but this remark made such an impression I could never forget it. He joined the church and witnessed a good confession until death in a good old age. I had a delightful interview with him in 1856.
One Sunday evening as I entered the church, rather late, Dr. Tappan was at prayer, and the burly form of Governor Dunlap was right before me. Then the whole audience stood in prayer. Governor Dunlap was known as a pronounced Unitarian, a Democrat, and aristocrat. I wondered what had drawn him in; whether it was merely to find something for sarcastic criticism. Soon Dr. Tappan fell upon him in prayer. At first he prayed for the governor of the state in very appropriate language, such as any minister might use, and then proceeded to individualize him in a most remarkable and earnest manner, praying that he might feel such a sense of his sins and his danger of eternal ruin and of his need of a Savior that he would gladly choose to die as a beggar with Christ as his Saviour, rather than attain the highest prizes of political ambition without him, etc. It was painful and astounding to many persons present, who thought the evil one had crept into that prayer so as to raise a row with the Unitarians. We changed our minds when, the next morning, at chapel prayers, President Allen prayed for the governor of the state, who had passed a sleepless night under deep conviction of sin.
Governor Dunlap's conversion was very decided in its characteristics and bore the test of time. When the manumitted slave woman, the praying Phebe, died, he was one of her pallbearers, regarding her as one of the King's daughters. The fruits of this revival were exceedingly rich and valuable.
The steamengine episode of my college life you will not wish me to pass over, although you can find it on page 208 of "Among the Turks."
When Professor Smyth lectured to our class upon the steam engine, hardly one of them had any clear understanding of the machine. Few had ever seen one; there was no such thing then in the state of Maine.
After the lecture I said to Professor Smyth: "I believe I could make an engine that would make any one see its working."
"I think you can make anything you undertake, Hamlin, and I wish you would try it."
I at once agreed to do so upon the encouragement he gave. Thus thoughtlessly, in two minutes, I embarked in a scheme that you will see has had an influence upon all my life. It was done rashly, on no sufficient knowledge of the machine I had engaged to make. I made haste to examine it more fully. I could find no work on the steam engine in the library, but we had the monthly publication of the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia. I read a notice of "Lardner on the Steam Engine," and I obtained it immediately from Boston. I was in for it, and I resolved "to do or die."
I soon perceived that the two months' vacation would be far too short a period for such a work, for I resolved to make it a complete condensing engine, with condenser, air pump, and all. Professor Smyth entered into the scheme very warmly and obtained two weeks of our review time, as I could do that work evenings. So with fell determination to attempt and to accomplish what seemed to myself almost absurd, I left for Portland. After some search I found a place in a clock maker's shop, Edward Grueby's, where I could have the use of a good foot lathe and forge. I had told Professor Smyth I should want ten dollars' assistance, but I had to pay that for shop rent. My brass cylinder, for which I made the model, cost enormously, as did all my other castings. I knew nothing about boring the cylinder and it was done imperfectly by a contrivance of my own. I bestowed a vast amount of labor upon finishing and polishing the inside of that cylinder. Neal Dow took great interest in it from the beginning and helped me in boring out the refractory piece. As the work slowly proceeded it grew in formidable proportions. I began to work evenings as soon as I had completed my reviews. Mr. Grueby very kindly entrusted me with the shop, and I worked at first till nine o'clock and then till ten, till eleven, and as long as I could keep awake. I wonder how I endured it. Some of the work I had to do over twice, but I never dropped a piece till I was satisfied with it.
When six weeks of the two months' vacation had passed, Professor Smyth came up to see how I was succeeding. He was pleased with what he saw. He promised me the two weeks out that I would need for its completion. My bills amounted to $72! Neal Dow, president of the Portland Lyceum, secured two lectures, $10 each, before the lyceum.
After that I lectured at Saco, Hallowell, Augusta, Gardner, and Brunswick, with varying fortunes. The lyceum lectures brought $10 each and expenses, and two ticket lectures, one at Saco, the other at Gardner, managed by my friends, were to bring me $30 or $40. A terrific snowstorm ruined one and a fire the other, so they left me a little out of pocket. But a ticket lecture in Brunswick netted $32. I was prouder of that achievement than of the engine. My debt was paid and a little more, and the college gave me $175 for it as a model to be placed among the philosophical apparatus. It is now in the Cleaveland Cabinet. I would not like to have any mechanic look at it without remembering that it is the first steam engine ever made in the state of Maine and that I made it without competent tools or competent knowledge. It cost me three months of the hardest work of my life.
The steamengine enterprise must have diverted me some from my regular studies, but it opened new fields of knowledge, of history, of political economy, and the balance was restored. I shall have to refer to it often.
I have passed over the time when I chose the foreign field for my life work. I think I always had a trembling apprehension that if I should become a minister of the gospel, I should have to be a missionary to the heathen. What reason could I give to God or my own conscience why I should not be ?
In the winter of 183132, Monson and Lyman, the martyrs of Sumatra, were at the medical college in preparation for their work. They were truly devoted men. Secretary Wisner, a very admirable man, came and urged the claims of the heathen millions upon all who professed discipleship and obedience to the first Great Missionary. I acknowledged the reasonableness of the claim and I said to my conscience and my Lord, "Here am I, send me."
When I went home I told my dear mother. She broke down and wept as I had never seen her before. Her emotion was transient. She recovered herself and said with a tremulous voice: "Cyrus, I have always expected it and I have not a word to say, although I would have been so happy if I could have had my youngest son with me." The others shed many tears, but not a word of opposition came from brother or sisters.
I early chose Africa for my prospective field. I read Mungo Park and Denham and Clapperton, and some other African explorers , and the idea of penetrating the interior took strong possession of my mind. It led me to recast my views of life pretty earnestly and solemnly. I resolved I would never lay up any money. I would try to square my accounts every year and there should be nothing over. I also resolved that I would sacrifice all my ambitious ideas of great learning and would give myself to just those things that my work and my environment seemed to call for. I have kept this vow also. If I could choose life's sphere of labor over again, I would not change. I bless God who has guided all my path.
Our little Society of Inquiry did not do very much toward making missionaries. Parris, Dole, and Bond went to the Sandwich Islands and they have done a noble work there and their names shall never perish.
I should leave out a long slice of college life if I should not notice more fully our society life. It was something far more literary and scientific than college societies are at the present day. The two rival societies, as I have before mentioned, were the Peucinian and the Athenaean. The division of each freshman class between these two was a matter of immense importance. In point of numbers they were about equal. Each had its library, and the loyalty of each student was measured by his gifts to the library. They were both beautiful libraries of about three hundred volumes each. The librarianship was a post of honor. The fortnightly meetings were for debate and the reading of essays. Our debates were sometimes very earnest and called forth talent and research. They constituted an important part of the literary incitement of the college course.
Each class at the close of its junior year furnished the candidates for the offices of president, secretary, and chairman of the standing committee. There was no little political excitement in distributing the honors. The principle in all the societies was to give the presidency to the highest in college rank, and the secretaryship to the next. But as it often was difficult to discriminate, the secretary usually had the annual oration, and that leveled up his honor quite to the presidency. Parties were sometimes formed, of course, but the vote of the society decided the contest, and I do not remember any asperity that remained a single day after the decision I had far more than my share of the presidencies, and more than I could accept. I accepted three- the Peucinian, the Praying Circle, and the Theological. I positively refused three others, and I ought to have refused the Theological, because that required an annual public oration, and I had too many irons in the fire in my senior year.
You may wish to ask me if I was so popular among the students that they should heap upon me all the honors they had to bestow. I wondered at their choice myself. I was not so popular. There was, perhaps, a particle of truth in what a graduate said of me, that I was the best loved and the best hated of any student of my class. The hatred has as much to do with it, perhaps, as the love. I had the reputation, not at all deserved, of being perfectly fearless and of not mingling with anybody's affairs that did not belong to me. I had very warm friends out of my class-Means, Harris, Pike, Tappan, Parsons, Goddard, Farrar, Allen, Prentiss, Dole, Blake, Drummond, etc. Between the hatred and the love I confess to have had more than my share of college honors at the hands of the students. It was their fault, not mine. I never sought one of them.
The public oration before the Peucinian Society did not belong to me. I was chosen, as I thought, in disregard of the rights of a classmate whom I loved and honored. I positively refused it; but at the next meeting I was again unanimously chosen, and I accepted it. In looking round for a subject I selected The Philosophic Errors of the Middle Ages. Accidentally reading the Summa Theologiae of Saint Thomas Aquinas, I noticed some absurd topics gravely discussed. I asked Professor Longfellow what he thought of that as a subject. He said: "Capital! fresh, and never made a subject by any of our students." Professor Newman liked the oration, and sent it to The Quarterly Register. Professor Longfellow, meeting me on the campus the next day, said: "Hamlin, that was the best oration I ever heard from lips studential." It was extravagant praise, but Longfellow loved to give full measure of commendation where there was any chance. After it was published I regretted that I had not drawn special attention to the fact that I had searched for the errors only. I had given no credit for philosophical acuteness and subtle analysis.
My classmate, Henry B. Smith, was president of the rival society, the Athenaean, but we always remained the best of friends, and used sometimes to laugh at our belligerent forces. His oration before the Athenaeans was far superior to mine; but being less peculiar, did not excite the attention and admiration which it deserved.
After the celebration, the society had one great supper, in which there was every luxury our souls lusted after. These four feasts and the farewell class supper constituted all the feasting that I remember in college. One evening in the sophomore year, coming up from the Peucinian supper at eleven o'clock, or later, feeling that after such a supper I should not easily sleep, and there being moreover a wind storm with masses of flying clouds sometimes obscuring every star, I was tempted to try my nerves as to superstition connected with graveyards and darkness. There was an old abandoned church a mile and a half from the college on the sandy plain; and alongside of it, separated from it by the road, was an old graveyard where "the forefathers of the hamlet slept"; but population had moved off to the banks of the river and there was nothing left but death and desolation. The windows had been broken out by naughty boys, and the floor was so broken up that even sheep could not find a refuge inside, for the great holes in the floor would let them down two or three feet. The pews were for the most part standing. It was regarded by the superstitious as a haunted place; it was the saddest place I had ever seen.
The freak took me of going out there in that most ghostly night and climbing up into that old pulpit, in absolute darkness, and offering a challenge to all the ghosts of the buried dead and the hobgoblins of the air to meet me and do me wrong and I would send them howling into the abyss. I accomplished it with great care, lest in the absolute darkness I should tumble into a hole and the joke would be upon me. I began my address, competing with the roaring sounds, when unmistakably I heard a groan or a grunt. "Halloo, there! who are you? what do you want?" Then two or three heavy raps on the side of the house to my right and a peculiar scraping sound and another grunt or groan! I was in for the contest I had challenged, and I would see it through. I got out of the old house as quickly as I safely could, and stepping upon some sticks lying round I picked up by feeling a good club and went round to call the intruder to account. The first thing I stumbled on was a good old cow! and I found that a whole herd of cattle had quietly sheltered themselves from the wind under the lee of the old church, and, licking themselves as cattle will, had knocked their horns against the church! I did not disturb them. I went away satisfied that ghosts could not frighten me, and that I had no fear of a graveyard in night and darkness. Why should any one have? This affair is quite out of chronological order, and belongs to the sophomoric year.
In my senior year I was repeatedly warned that there was a party of students who had bound them selves by an oath that they would have revenge upon me before I should graduate and I had better be on my guard. I laughed at such warnings. I said, "They are all cowards, for they have been challenged to meet us in open conflict, and for three years they have never done it."
My conscious security gave me perfect peace, but no safety. I misjudged the bitterness of the opposition. One night I felt myself to be in a terrible incomprehensible nightmare; but something which was smothering me slipped off. I drew a full breath and instantly comprehended my situation. I was in the hands of my friends the enemy, and I resolved "to play the Indian" of perfect passivity. Struggling to escape would have been useless, for I was in the hands of seven persons. One had my head, two had my arms, two grasped me powerfully in the flank, and two had my legs. They rushed down two flights of stairs roughly, but I set my teeth firmly, resolved not to utter a sound. When they came on to the level I relaxed every muscle and hung like a dead man in their hands. There was one at the pump making the water fly. But some one said, "He's dead!" and they dropped me rudely on the corner of the platform; not a drop of water reached me and they fled for their lives-I up and after them. I singled out two of them and gave chase. They fled to the pines which then bordered the campus. As I was barefooted, I gave up the chase and went back to bed. I did not even change my nightshirt; but I resolved what I would do. I would make nothing of the affair, would look upon it with contempt, and keep absolutely still until they should all be thrown off their guard and let the whole affair out boastfully. I would then arrest them for assault and battery and housebreaking This satisfied me so completely that I fell asleep and slept an hour after my intended time.
I had taken out leave to go to Portland that day, and I had a pitcher of milk and some bread for my early breakfast. I resolved I would take that walk of twentyfour miles, unless I should fall by the way. I made my breakfast, and had a piece of bread to spare for lunch. I started out just as all the students were coming out of prayers. They surrounded me, and I stepped upon the stone block, gave the briefest statement possible concerning the attack, and expressed my contempt of the whole affair, and my only regret that, having overslept, I was starting for Portland an hour late. They gave me a very hearty cheer as I departed. It was, I confess, a hard walk. I had been wrenched; large patches were black and blue; and when they dropped me my left hip struck the sharp corner of the great plank platform of the pump.
When I reached Portland my sister Rebecca exclaimed, "Why, Cyrus, you are sick!" I said, "No; not sick, but awfully tired. Give me supper and ten hours' sleep, and you'll find me lively as a cricket." But what helped me sleep was the following letter. The students, immediately after breakfast, had a public meeting and passed the resolutions below:-
BRUNSWICK, June 28, 1834. Friend Hamlin transcript of certain resolutions annexed, passed this day by the students assembled in the chapel, will inform you of the purpose of this communication:-
Whereas, An indignity was last night offered to Brother Hamlin, in whom we as fellow students feel interested, and whereas the expression of our sympathy should be as public as was the outrage, therefore, by this meeting of the students of Bowdoin College be it
Resolved, That pumping is subversive of law and honor, and derogatory to the character of students; that the unprovoked attack upon and personal abuse of Hamlin can be justified by none of the feelings of men, and by none of the principles of common morality or even of common decency; and that the perpetrators of this deed are regarded by us as unmanly and dishonorable, deserving neither respect nor kindness.
Resolved, That the character of Hamlin as a superior scholar, as a highminded and publicspirited young man, and as a Christian, while it cannot be wounded by any such base means as have been employed, now, more than ever, demands our public and unqualified approbation.
Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions, signed by the chairman and secretary of this meeting, be forwarded to Hamlin.
(Signed) G. HORACE UPTON, Secretary. DANIEL WESTON, Chairman.
With the above I had the two following brief notes of the same date:-
My dear Friend,-We had some struggle, but the victory is ours-is yours. I congratulate you upon the full sympathy, no less full than deserved, which you have met with. As a classmate, and I hope as a fellow Christian, I rejoice. The wanton aggression has been. as far as human means avail, avenged, and while you can trust in your consciousness of right and in your Saviour for grace to help, I am sure that you may go on your way rejoicing. In haste, yours truly and ever,
HENRY B. SMITH.
My dear Brother,-I fully accord with the sentiments expressed by our good friend. Henry B. Smith has acted a noble part in this affair. After some fear and trembling we determined on a general meeting; the discussion was somewhat stormy! and continued for one and a half hours, but your friends and the friends to religion proved true and valiant. After the few in the opposition had exhausted all their art and fiendish malice, the original motion for the passage of the resolution was called for, and the result glorious-seventyfive for, six against.
Full well I know that your character needed no such testimonies and vindication, but receive them as a renewed expression of brotherly love and affection. Yours most sincerely,
With this generous endorsement of myself and withering condemnation of the other party, I could go right on as though nothing had happened. The president told me that the faculty were ready to take the most efficient action. I begged them to do nothing until I should enter a complaint, to which he acceded. I would not talk with any one about it, not even with Cole and Smith and Woodford. Sometimes a student would ask me, "Are you going to swallow all that, Hamlin?" And I would reply, "I have swallowed it and I don't see as it hurts me at all. My digestion was never better." So everybody thought the affair had passed by forever.
It worked just as I had confidently expected. The fellows began to boast of their achievement. In a symposium of some twenty or more the whole thing was discussed and each one's part in it was talked over. One of those present, a student belonging to all parties and having about equal sympathies with all, described the whole to me. I manifested no interest in it. I told him I had always supposed it was just about so. Still I said nothing and did nothing, until another student volunteered information equally minute. I then wrote down the names of the seven who had offered the personal violence, whom I intended to arrest, and the names of seventeen who had some personal knowledge of the affair before it came off or during the transaction, to be summoned as witnesses.
I went into Chandler and Proctor's room and told them what I was going to do and that I wanted their advice about two individuals.
Their excitement astonished me. Chandler danced about his room and clapped his hands and said: "Now, Hamlin, you are Hamlin! It would have been disgraceful to let such an outrage go unwhipt of justice."
When I told them that I was going right to the lawyer's office to have all the papers made out and the fellows arrested and the witnesses summoned as the students came out from prayers the next morning, they could hardly control themselves.
"Oh, won't those fellows laugh out of the other side of their mouths! They have become boastful, and they might have caught you again to finish their work and do it better next time!"
But the two cooled off and sat down and carefully considered the whole list. They knew everything. They belonged to the Athenaean Society and would not naturally be my champions. They revealed their knowledge, not directly, but by giving me advice. At one item I positively objected. But they both insisted, "He will be your strongest witness if the lawyer knows how to turn him inside out." They were good and faithful friends.
I had some difficulty at the lawyer's office. Charles Packard, Esq., was a good, generous, noble hearted man; but he feared for me and knew that for himself he should have to bear endless insults from those fellows.
"But that is nothing," he said; "your life will not be safe."
I finally said with some impatience, "Mr. Packard, I have not come to ask advice, but the making out of the legal forms that are needful to summon those fellows before Justice D."
He yielded and made out the papers and agreed to act as my counsel. We had a splendid constable, powerful, cool, and fearless. I was quite unexcited myself, for I was doing it from a conviction of duty, to prove that law can be made to reign in college, and I believed that one example would inaugurate a change. I went into it calmly, prayerfully, firmly, with a good conscience toward man and toward God.
In the morning there was some delay in getting a place for the trial. As soon as I engaged the Freewill Baptist meetinghouse I sent the constable up the hill. He broke up every morning recitation.
Professor Cleaveland was the most affable of men socially, but he was "monarch of all he surveyed" in his lecture room, and any student, however slow of apprehension, understood, at least, that much. A rude knock at the door clothed his brow with thunder.
"Nason, please to see what is wanted."
Nason returned, his countenance showing consternation and fear, and said, "Please, sir, the constable wants So and So and So, and I think Hamlin is arresting the hazers."
Every seat was instantly empty and the class rushed out wildly, caring no more for the great professor than for one of his trilobites.
I came up to the college level just as the whole cavalcade was issuing from the campus. My lawyer was sure I should be brickbatted and protested that I placed no value upon my life. I was received with a grand hurrah, and the arrested fellows had not recovered from their surprise enough to even hiss.
The defendants engaged Squire Alden, but he was so abusive toward Packard and myself that the audience scraped him down, and would not let him open his mouth.
Justice D- very properly delayed the procedure till they could engage O'Brian, who was a gentleman. Two weeks were allowed them to consult their papas and prepare their defense.
The move was everywhere popular and just the thing that should have been done. Dr. Lincoln sent for me to say that he had consulted with a few friends,-the Dunlaps and others,-that they had agreed that the legal trial should be no expense to me, and that they wanted me to employ the best counsel in the state. I felt that the Lord himself was supporting me in that way.
On the eve of the momentous day the counsel on both sides met together. The three lawyers for the defendants-William Pitt Fessenden, Deblois, of Portland, and Young, of Freeport-pleaded for a compromise. They (the defendants) belonged to rich families and their parents had better pay an indemnity than to let the case go on, as it might put a blot on these young fellows for life. The counsel on both sides sent a messenger asking that I propose an indemnity that would satisfy me to let the matter drop. I replied at once that any indemnity, great or small, would ruin the case. I would agree to anything my counsel advised, only the settlement should involve two things-a written confession and apology and payment of all expenses.
The counsel pronounced the decision magnanimous and wise. The fellows were confounded. They first sent one of their number to ask the president if they settled the matter thus, if it would prevent their getting a diploma. He replied: "Of course not." One declared he would never sign. But toward midnight, softened by large potations, he signed, and the case ended. I received the thanks of the faculty and of the most distinguished friends of the college, while some were disappointed that no suitable penalty was inflicted.
One of the defendants suffered a lifelong penalty -the young lady to whom he was engaged, but of whom he was not worthy, promptly dismissed him, declaring she would never be the wife of a man who could do so mean a thing. I have never seen reason to regret the course I took, but I do regret that there is so little manliness in colleges that hazing has so long been endured. Faculty and students are both guilty that law does not reign over the violators of law.
A few days after this case terminated one student in a violent quarrel kicked another, who immediately started for Lawyer Packard, and told him he would have to settle that case with him. The offender immediately relented, begged his pardon, and stuffed a fivedollar bill into his vest pocket. It came to be understood that law could be instantly appealed to.
As the last term passes on the appointments for Commencement are discussed in a lively manner. I resolved to be content with any appointment I should have. I had been engaged in so many things that I could not hope for, and did not wish, the distinction of first or second part. I might have the third; I would be content with the fourth, for of the four students who were reported to stand side by side, I had done so much extra work that I was ready to take the consequences. The four were put on a perfect level. Four orations were to come on to the stage in alphabetical order. Previous years had brought great dissatisfaction with the distinctions made, but here there could be none.
"The defendants" were not satisfied with the upshot of their revenge. Two or three days before Commencement President Allen sent for me and said he was sorry to say that he had received notice from a most reliable source of a plot to drive me off the stage and prevent me from delivering my oration. A certain number of students would cooperate, but chiefly fellows from without would be distributed through the house, who would take up and continue the hissing, caterwauls, scraping, and whatever other ways they might have of expressing their malice. They would hardly dare to throw missiles. He would like to know what course I would suggest.
I replied: "I have managed those fellows thus far and I would like to have them all the way through."
He smiled and said: "You have done so well thus far the faculty thought you would choose to do so."
I went to Colonel Estabrook, our magnificent marshal on Commencement days, and told him of the plot. I begged him to take it all as a regular part of the exercise when I should come on to the platform. I would wait as long as they would make a row, and then I would explain the matter to the audience for their decision, and I knew it would be in my favor. I came to the stage with nerves somewhat firmly strung. I wore Longfellow's Oxford gown, for we all spoke in gowns. I had my oration in a roll in my hand, so that if great confusion should occur, I should not be driven off the track by fault of memory. I saluted the president, the two boards of government, and the audience, expecting every moment the other part of the performance would begin; but it did not. I paused a little and then concluded to begin my second oration, as the first seemed to be uncalled for. When I concluded, I received, as was confessed, the most rapturous applause of the day.
It was an unspeakable gratification to my mother, as also to myself, that no disturbance was made. I think my brother Hannibal was a little disappointed that he could not see me put those fellows down.
As the audience slowly dispersed two young ladies put a package in mother's hand. The ladies were the Misses Perkins, of my Bible class in Topsham. It was a pair of shirts of the nicest linen that could be found, and of the nicest needlework, when ladies' fingers were the only sewing machines. They seemed to never wear out. I of course used them carefully. They lasted far into missionary life on the Bosphorus.
I remember that Bible class with deep interest; they were a fine set of girls. They expressed to students their burning indignation of my treatment. They were amazed to see me unchanged, laughing, and telling them it was a mere college trick, not worth a moment's thought; they couldn't make me a martyr anyhow.
Cole and I first, and afterwards others, had a Sundayschool two seasons in the Pennell and Curtis district, out on the Freeport Road. My acquaintance with those interesting families continued until recent years. Death and change have carried, them far away. I cannot but think that in the world to come even the casual friendships of this life will be of some value.
The Commencement audience disperses and then the spreads begin. There may have been twenty in our class of thirtyfive. Generally two students united. My chum in the senior year was John H. C. Coffin, brother of Mrs. Professor Smyth. He was the mathematical genius of our class and of the college, and afterwards a distinguished professor of mathematics in United States service.
We fitted up our room with ornaments from the woods and the gardens. My sister Rebecca, Mrs. Farley, offered to make the graduating cake, and Coffin supplied the lemonade and fruit. The cake was fine. Miss Susan Farley had the freedom of Blant Sawyer's garden in order to make the wreath.
It attracted general attention, and though others expended three or four or five times the money, there was nothing attracted more admiration.
Some of the most distinguished men in the state came in to express their approbation of what I had done, and to congratulate my mother. She, of course, was gratified that her little boy had passed through so many experiences with honor and good health.
Farewell, Bowdoin College! Farewell, beloved classmates of 1834! No period of life is like college life-its high hopes and resolves, its undying friendships, its earnest and joyous contests, its solemn views of life's career, its deep religious impressions, its efforts to be led and to lead others in the path of life. The inspiration, too, derived from the character, attainments, and teachings of a noble, devoted, learned, unselfish faculty, and the friendship of those men through life, make the college years of priceless value. President Allen, Professors Cleaveland, Upham, Newman, Smyth, Packard, Longfellow, every name excites emotions of gratitude, admiration, and love.You can support this site at no cost if you make an Amazon purchase using this link to get to Amazon: Thanks