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extremely low ebb; or rather little or nothing had been done to cultivate and improve it. President Clap was a great proficient in mathematics, natural philosophy, metaphysics and ethics; and the standard of excellence which his example and influence had contributed to fix, continued to about this time, in a great measure, unshaken. The first, however it is believed, who ventured to make a direct attack on the old collegiate system, was the Rev. Joseph Howe; who entered upon the duties of a tutor in college, in the year 1769. He was seconded in his exertion by Mr. Joseph Trumbull another of the tutors, who is now one of the judges of the superior court of Connecticut, -the gentleman so well known as the author of 'Mc Fingal. Mr Howe and Mr. Trumbull found a most powerful coadjutor in Mr. Dwight; and by the united exertions of these gentlemen, assisted as they were by others associated with them in the government and instruction of college,-elocution, and every branch of polite literature, soon gained that place in the estimation of the students, which they ought ever to hold in a public seminary:
Mr. Dwight, however, distinguished himself in every branch; and it may be said, without hazard of mistake or contradiction, that no tutor in Yale College, ever received more unqualified applause as an instructor. His instructions seem to have had, at this time, substantially the same character as they are known to so many to have had after he came to the presidency. Every thing he said was peculiarly adapted to the circumstances of those he taught. He endeavoured to render his instructions practical; to convince his pupils that they were preparing themselves for active life, and that whatever they learnt would, directly or indirectly, contribute to their success. To comprehend the full importance of this feature in his character as an instructor, as well as the nature of the instruction, which, at this period, he was in the habit of communicating, it should be recollected that the present United States were then British colonies, struggling to emancipate themselves from foreign domination. He seems to have been very early aware of the rapid growth of this country, and of the importance which the American states would soon possess in the affairs of the world. His instructions were in some measure accommodated to these anticipations; and, on proper occasions, he took especial pains to impress on his pupils the importance of preparing themselves for this new state of things, and of being able to act successfully in the new scenes which were then opening before them. He rightly thought that the character of his country was in many respects, peculiar, and that of course peculiar qualifications were requisite in the management and direction of its various concerns. What were the sentiments and language he held on this subject, in the early part of the revolutionary war, appears from an address which he made to the senior class in July 1776, on the occasion of their examination for the first honours of college. This address was published; and it affords a striking proof not only of the justness of the views which he then entertained of the future destinies of hiscountry,--but of the great progress also which he had then made in correct and manly composition.
It contains a bold outline of the nature and circumstances of the country, in which his pupils were about to act,--together with an animated appeal to their sense of duty and to their patriotism, to discharge their various duties with scrupulous integrity: and it is worthy of remark that an unusual proportion: of the students who were educated at this period have been distinguished for their public services.--After describing the sitnation and prospects of the country, he proceeds,
“This, young gentlemen, is the field in which you are to act. It is here described to you, that you may not be ignorant or regardless of that great whole, of which each of you is a part, and perhaps an important one. The period in which your lot is cast, is possibly the happiest in the roll of time. It is true, you will scarcely live to enjoy the summit of American glory; but you now see the foundations of that glory laid. A scene like this is not unfolded in an instant. Innumerable are the events in the great system of Providence, which must advance the mighty design before it can be completed. Innumerable must be the actors in so vast a plot, and infinitely various the parts they act. Every event is necessary in the great system, and every character on the extended stage. Some part or other might belong to each of you, perhaps a capital one. You should by no means consider yourselves as members of a small neighbourhood, town or colony only, but as being concerned in laying the foundations of American greatness. Your wishes, your designs, your labours are not to be confined by the narrow bounds of the present age, but are to comprehend succeeding generations, and to be pointed to immortality. You are to act not like inhabitants of a village, nor, like beings of an hour, but like citizens of a world, and like candidates for a name that shall survive the conflagration. These views will enlarge your minds, expand the grasp of your benevolence, ennoble all your conduct, and crown you with wreaths which cannot fade, &c."
During Mr. Dwight's continuance at college as a tutor, the students were, more than once, dispersed in the country by alarms of the approach of the enemy. Different classes were stationed in different towns in the interior; by which measure, the order and discipline of college were greatly relaxed, and the labour and responsibility of the government proportionally increased. Mr. Dwight, by his activity and vigour, did much towards checking the evils, which necessarily followed from such a state of continued alarm and virtual disorganization. He married, in the year 1776, Miss Mary Woolsey, daughter of Benjamin Woolsey, Esq. of Long Island; and, the next year, quitted his office of tutor in college. Soon after leaving college, he accepted an offer made him to enter the American army as chaplain; and served in this capacity, in the division commanded by General Putnam. This was a scene, in most respects, new to him, and required a very different exercise of talents from what is demanded in academical instruction and discipline. It is understood, however, that he very easily accommodated himself to his novel circumstances; and recommended himself highly both to the officers and soldiers, as well by his ordinary conversation and deportment, as by the discharge of his appropriate duties. His long habits of instruction and his love of the employment did not desert him here; and, it is said, that he occupied himself, whenever circumstances would permit, in communicating to the younger officers and others, the elements of science and literature. The ease with which he conformed to the habits of a camp, and the facility with which he seized upon the manner best calculated to attract attention, and to secure the object of his official performances, is strongly exhibited in a discourse which he delivered in the American camp, on a day of public thanksgiving for the surrender of General Burgoyne. This discourse was published, --but without his name; and he is known to have spoken of it, in the latter years of his life, as a trifling performance. Considered, however, as a discourse on such an occasion as the capture of Burgoyne, and addressed to such an audience as would be collected in a camp,--it affords no mean evidence of the variety and versatility of his powers. General Burgoyne, in his famous proclamation, had treated the Americans with the most pointed contempt:--His subsequent defeat and surrender had occasioned through the country an universal triumph; and in no place was the exultation higher, than in the American army. The passage of scripture, upon which this discourse was founded, is the following:-- But I will remove far off from you the western army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face towards the east sea, and his hinder part towards the utmost sea, &c. Joel, ii. 20.
His continuance with the army, however, was but short. Early in the succeeding year, he was called to Northampton, by the afflicting intelligence of the death of his father. Some
time before the revolutionary war, a project had been started by a number of individuals in Massachusetts and Connecticut, to form a settlement, under the patronage of the British government, in some part of the Missisippi Territory. The person most active and influential in this scheme, was General Phineas Lyman, of Suffield, Connecticut. The undertaking was attended, from the first, with great difficulties, and terminated most disasterously to all concerned. Among others, who went to the Missisippi country, in connexion with this expedition, was the father of Mr. Dwight;--and here he died some time in the year 1777. Mr. Dwight, as his father left a numerous family, which needed his assistance, resided now, for several years, with his mother at Northampton; and discharged, in this situation, every filial and fraternal duty. During this time he established an academy in Northampton, which gained very great reputation. He likewise preached occasionally in the neighbouring towns.
At the close of the revolutionary war, there were many questions deeply interesting to individuals and to the community, which came before the state legislatures; and especially in Massachusetts, where the revolution began. At this difficult time, Mr. Dwight was chosen to represent the town of Northampton, in the General Court at Boston. In the legislature, on several questions of great public expectation, he acquitted himself in a manner highly honourable to himself, and so as to give the strongest impression of his integrity, and sacred regard to justice. Several flattering offers were, about this time, made him, in different towns in Massachusetts, for settlement as a clergyman; all of which he saw fit to decline. He had now, likewise, some prospect of going permanently into political employment;--but he had little relish for the turbulence perhaps inseparable from this mode of life. Besides, he had formed very exalted views of the importance of the office of a minister of the gospel, and chose to employ his talents in the service of Christianity, in preference to entering on the uncertain pursuit of political distinction;—a pursuit in which the good to be done is usually less immediate, and which he undoubtedly thought, is less favourable to personal independence and general integrity of conduct. Accordingly, in 1783, he accepted of an invitation to settle as a clergyman, in the parish of Greenfield, in the town of Fairfield in Connecticut; and entered on the laborious and responsible duties of a parish minis
In Greenfield he continued ten years, In the year 1785, he published an epic poem in eleven books entitled • The Conquest of Canaan.' The writer of this article does not know at what age this poem was begun, nor how much time was employed in its completion. It is certain, however, that it was commenced very early in life. As it was a principle, to which the author very generally adhered, in his literary pursuits, to exercise his own talents in that department of literature which he happened to investigate; it is not improbable that, in his youthful enthusiasm in the cultivation of polite literature, some parts of the Conquest of Canaan were among the first productions of his muse. It was brought into the form in which it was finally published in the twenty-fourth year of his age. A subscription of more than three thousand names was at this time obtained to aid in its publication; but the state of public affairs, in connexion with various other causes, induced the author to keep it from the public till the period just mentioned. It has been a general opinion among the friends of Dr. Dwight, that he would have more directly consulted his immediate popularity as a poet by selecting a subject for an epic, connected with the history of his own country, or one better fitted to fall in with some prevailing popular fancy or opinion. It is not our intention to enter here into a criticism of the works;--and we have only to request those who join in its condemnation and talk largely about sublimity and pathos, to acquire a right of censure by reading at least one of its books,
In the year 1794, he published Greenfield Hill---a poem in seven parts. The subject of this poem seems to have been suggested by the situation of the writer. The village of Greenfield is situated on a pleasant and beautiful eminence af. fording an extensive prospect of the surrounding country and Long Island Sound. The landscape, therefore, is the principal subject of the first part of the poem. The happy condition of the inhabitants is the subject of the second, and was intended as a general description of the towns and villages of New England. Dr. Goldsmith had displayed in the Deserted Village, the wretched condition of the many, where great wealth, splendour and luxury constitute the state of the few. It was the intention of the author to exhibit, as a contrast, the blessings which flow from an equal division of property, and a general competence. He has here portrayed a state of society and manners, to which, it is well known, he was ardently attached. The other subjects of the poem are:The burning of Fairfield by the British in the revolutionary war: The destruction of the Pequods, a warlike race
of Indians:-The clergyman's advice to the villagers:--The Farmer's advice to the villagers:--and The Vision, or Prospect of the future happiness of America.—This poem has had an extensive circulation; and, for this reason, it is the less necessary to give a more particular account of it here.