John Finley Crowe,

"Address to the Literary Societies of Hanover College,"

1857


The manuscript version of this speech is available at the Duggan Library Archives, Hanover College (Hanover, Ind.).


Young Gentlemen,

It is with no ordinary feeling that I rise to address you on the present occasion. For nearly one third of a century one great object has, by night & by day, occupied my mind, and to the promotion of that object was consecrated whatever God has been pleased to give me, of talents & influence, I need hardly say to you that that object was the founding of a literary institution, devoted to the interests of Christ's kingdom & to the interests of our country.

Thirty years ago last Jan., in obedience to a resolution of Salem Presbytery, then the only one in the State of Ind., & with a firm reliance on God's blessing, I opened, in a little log cabin in my own yard, a Grammar School with six boys.  God smiled on the humble effort & the number of students increased & two years afterwards a charter was obtained on the little grammar school, [under] the style of "Han. Academy."  It had long before been "dubbed," by some precocious boy of our number Hanover College.  But the College Charter was not obtained until the commencement of the year, 1832.

As the institution was founded on the manual labor system, then very popular throughout the country, its growth was perhaps [unprecedented?].  And soon my most sanguine hopes seemed likely to be more than realized; for in the year 1836 we had placed under the wing of the college charter a theological Seminary, & under the [tuition?] of eight professors more than two hundred & thirty students.

But to humble our pride, and to convince us practically that "Unless God build the house they labor in vain who build it," a wise Providence permitted a sudden prostration of our hopes.  In the year 1837 a tornado of frightful character swept over our village, leaving our new College edifice in ruins.  And in the same year one of those financial revulsions which occasionally visit the commercial world, swept over the whole West, making sad havoc on the plans & speculations of business men.  To these mishaps was added the failure of the manual labor system, by which many of the young men who had entered college, expecting to defray their expenses by their labor, were compelled to leave.  And [moreover?] the numerous experiments that had been made, in order to find some business that might be adopted by the college, giving it a self sustaining power, had left a debt upon it of some $12000.

The consequence of all these untoward events was a great falling off in the number of students & great pecuniary embarrassment.  From this embarrassment, it had just been relieved, when in an evil hour the plan was adopted by a number of its trustees to surrender the College charter in order to make room for a University at Madison.  The plan was carried out.  Hanover College swept from existence & a Charter for Madison University obtained.

But the arrangement was not in accordance with the plans of Infinite Wisdom, as was evidenced from the fact that the Synod of Ind. & the friends of literature refused to sustain the University, & asked importunately to have the College resuscitated.  Consequently in 1844, but twelve months after the surrender of the charter, Hanover College was reorganized, with a charter much more liberal in its provisions, than the one surrendered, and under auspicies [sic] much more favorable than had ever before been enjoyed.

The thirteen years of the existence of the new College have been marked with trials & vicissitudes.  Trials & vicissitudes intended doubtless for the exercise of the faith & patience of its friends, for in these troubless times God has built for us this beautiful house, and is now favoring us with the partial consumation [sic] of our hopes in permitting us to dedicate to the interests of science and literature & religion the new, convenient & Splendid halls of the Union Literary and Philalathean Societies.

And here I beg the indulgence of my audience, while I make a few remarks on the subject of Literary Societies, connected with the College.  My first remark is that two such societies are necessary appendages to a College.  The design of the College is to prepare young men for the duties & responsibilities of social life, by the cultivation & discipline of their physical, intellectual & moral powers.  But this cultivation & discipline requires both theory & practice; for the most perfect theoretical knowledge of the most extended College Curriculum would fail to qualify young men for entering on the active duties of life.  They must have an opportunity for reducing theory to practice.  And this opportunity is furnished in literary societies.  By constant exercise in composition, in speaking & in criticism, they prepare young men for the stump, the Forum or the pulpit, giving them at the same time such a knowledge of parliamentary rules, & such tact in debate as to qualify them for appearing either in deliberative assemblies, or in the halls of legislation.

My second remark is, that they are most important auxiliaries in College government.  All who have had anything to do in the government of colleges, know that to bring a large number of young men & boys, collected promiscuously from all the varied walks of life, under strict moral discipline, is indeed a Herculean Task.  College laws must of necessity be, to some extent arbitrary.  And the young man, who has unfortunately never been subjected to family government at home, very naturally feels restive under college laws.  He regards them as unreasonable if not tyranical, & consequently feels at liberty to evade or resist them whenever he can do so with impunity.  But as the reputation & prosperity of the literary society depends very essentially on the college standing of its members, it will feel very solicitous to have that standing not only fair but honorable.  Hence it will be prompt in exercising discipline for idleness, for dissipation or for any immorality which would be likely to compromise College Standing.

My third remark is, that literary societies are appendages & no more than appendages to the College.  I know that young men in the ardor of their feelings, sometimes think differently.  After having obtained their Charter from the Legislature, collected their library & furnished their hall -- after having adopted institutional laws & By Laws for their government; they think they are then prepared to "go on their own hook"; and that any interference, from any other quarters would be a sheer usurpation of their chartered rights.  But it should be remembered that they are chartered as subordinate bodies, as parts & parcels of the college to which they belong.  College laws & College authority must therefore be regarded as paramount.  Such being the character, & bearing of literary societies all well regulated colleges encourage & patronize them.

The literary societies of this College [date?] their origin before its obtained its character.  And I am happy to be able to bear testimony to the salutory & conservative influence which they have uniformly exerted.  They were originally organized under the names of "The Union Literary" & "Philosophronian" Societies.  But when the number of students in college had increased to two hundred & upwards, the Societies' Halls were found to be too small to afford comfortable accomodations; and a third, which assumed the name of The Whig Society was organized.  As however no provision had been made in the College building for a third society; when the number of members was so reduced that they could all be accomodated in the two halls, it was thought best to reduce the number.  And by an amalgamation of the Philosophronian & the Whig societies, the Philalathean Society was organized; inheriting of course all the honors of both its illustrious predecessors, and climbing in its onward & upward course, that while Genius like the Eagle is free, Excelsior shall be its appropriate motto.

But I should do violence to my own feelings & injustice to the character of the noble Societies of Han.  College were I to passover in silence their agency its recussitation when the charter of the college was surrendered, & Madison University was about to be opened, a strenuous offer was of course made by the faculty, to take all the students and especially the literary societies with their libraries & chartered privileges along with them.  The poor little village was contrasted with the flourishing city, & the social privileges of the one with the privations of the other.  But notwithstanding all the advantages of the exchange now painted in glowing colours, the societies hesitated.  They had become familiar with the romantic & charming scenery of the Suburban village, and felt unwilling to exchange the silence of its Academic groves for the noise & bustle of the commercial city.  Moreover they felt strong attachments to hte families of the village from whom they had experienced so much friendship & sympathy.   But what could they do?  There was no longer a college at Hanover, & they reluctantly [went?] & had their names enrolled students of Madison University.

But finding that Hanover Academy had been rechartered & was in successful operation, before the close of the first short session of three months, they began to debate the question of returning to Hanover for their spring exhibition in their [?  Hall?]; the question of return was triumphantly [confirmed?], and before the authorities of the University were aware of the defection, the Society with their library & furniture in waggons were on the road to Hanover.  I need hardly say -- they were received with open arms by those who were laboring for the restoration of the college, & who, encouraged by this unexpected [illegible] like Paul at Apii Forum, blessed God & took courage.

The Philalathean Society was not so fortunate.  Their number had been largely increased by new students, & the motion to return was lost.  Most of those [known?] who had gone from Hanover returned & were immediately reorganized at Hanover.  And from that time to the present both societies have pursued a course which entitles them to the warm approval and entire confidence of the College.

Young gentlemen of the U.L. and Ph.  Societies; I thank you for the honor confered in calling upon me to make this address, & for the patient attention given to the scattered remarks of an old man.  The fraternal Spirit manifested by the members of the two Societies for each other is peculiarly grateful to the feelings of one who regards you all as sons.  Cherish this feeling.  

Let no emulation find place in your breasts, but the noble aim to excell in the laudable pursuit of knowledge.  And may your future career be as successful as it has heretofore been honorable.


Hanover Historical Texts Collection
Hanover College Department of History
Hanover College Visitor's Page

Please send comments to: historians@hanover.edu