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By Charles Francis Adams
Charles Francis Adams
“’Tis Sixty Years Since”
Address of Charles Francis Adams; Founders’ Day, January 16, 1913
“’TIS SIXTY YEARS SINCE”
In the single hour self—allotted for my part in this occasion there is much ground to cover,–the time is short, and I have far to go. Did I now, therefore, submit all I had proposed to say when I accepted your invitation, there would remain no space for preliminaries. Yet something of that character is in place. I will try to make it brief.
As the legend or text of what I have in mind to submit, I have given the words “’Tis Sixty Years Since.” As some here doubtless recall, this is the second or subordinate title of Walter Scott’s first novel, “Waverley,” which brought him fame. Given to the world in 1814,–hard on a century ago,–“Waverley” told of the last Stuart effort to recover the crown of Great Britain,–that of “The ’45.” It so chances that Scott’s period of retrospect is also just now most appropriate in my case, inasmuch as I entered Harvard as a student in the year 1853–“sixty years since!” It may fairly be asserted that school life ends, and what may in contradistinction thereto be termed thinking and acting life begins, the day the young man passes the threshold of the institution of more advanced education. For him, life’s responsibilities then begin. Prior to that confused, thenceforth things with him become consecutive,–a sequence. Insensibly he puts away childish things.
 Owing to its length, this “Address” was compressed in delivery, occupying one hour only. It is here printed in the form in which it was prepared,–the parts omitted in delivery being included.
In those days, as I presume now, the college youth harkened to inspired voices. Sir Walter Scott belonged to a previous generation. Having held the close attention of a delighted world as the most successful story—teller of his own or any preceding period, he had passed off the stage; but only a short twenty years before. Other voices no less inspired had followed; and, living, spoke to us. Perhaps my scheme to—day is best expressed by one of these.
When just beginning to attract the attention of the English—speaking world, Alfred Tennyson gave forth his poem of “Locksley Hall,”–very familiar to those of my younger days. Written years before, at the time of publication he was thirty—three. In 1886, a man of seventy—five, he composed a sequel to his earlier effort,–the utterance entitled “Locksley Hall Sixty Years After.” He then, you will remember, reviewed his young man’s dreams,–dreams of the period when he
“ ... dip’t into the future, far as human eye could see, Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be,”
–threescore years later contrasting in sombre verse an old man’s stern realities with the bright anticipations of youth. Such is my purpose to—day. “Wandering back to living boyhood,” to the time when I first simultaneously passed the Harvard threshold and the threshold of responsible life, I propose to compare the ideals and actualities of the present with the ideals, anticipations and dreams of a past now somewhat remote.
To say that in life and in the order of life’s events it is the unexpected which is apt to occur, is a commonplace. That it has been so in my own case, I shall presently show. Meanwhile, not least among the unexpected things is my presence here to—day. If, when I entered Harvard in 1853, it had been suggested that in 1913, I,–born of the New England Sanhedrim, a Brahmin Yankee by blood, tradition and environment–had it been suggested that I, being such, would sixty years later stand by invitation here in Columbia before the faculty and students of the University of South Carolina, I should under circumstances then existing have pronounced the suggestion as beyond reasonable credence. Here, however, I am; and here, from this as my rostrum, I propose to—day to deliver a message,–such as it is.
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