« PreviousContinue »
The Port Folio.
BY OLIVER OLDSCHOOL, ESQ
VARIOUS; that the mind
FOR THE PORT FOLIO.
Charles Nisbet, DD. First President of Dickinson College.
The monument, of which I have made the enclosed drawing for publication in your journal, has recently been erected over the grave of the late Doctor Charles Nisbet, in the English burial ground at Carlisle, by his only surviving son, the Honourable Charles Nisbet,* one of the Judges of the Criminal Court of Baltimore. The discharge of this tribute to the memory of the first President of Dickinson College, would not have been left to filial piety, if the pecuniary embarrassments with which that institution long struggled for existence, had not prevented the trustees from performing what was not less a matter of inclination than
We regret that our arrangements, respecting the embellishments for this work, prevent us from introducing this subject at present. We have several engravings ready for publication, which have often been promised; and as the public patronage does not justify the expense, which we have long incurred, of a single plate, every month, we cannot venture to iacrease the number.
JANUARY, 1824.--NO. 261.
of duty. The design of the monument is simple, but chaste; and I fiatter myself an accurate engraving of it would be an agreeable embellishment of one of your Numbers. Besides the general interest of the subject, as connected with literature, there is a peculiar propriety in selecting the Port Folio as the medium of giving publicity to a mark of respect for the memory of a scholar who was so advantageously known to its original Editor, whose pages he enriched by his productions, and to the character of whose journal for genius and taste, he so largely contributed.
The Latin inscription, of which also I send you a copy, as a fine specimen of classical composition, is a modest but faithful delineation of the qualities of Dr. Nisbet's mind and the virtues of his heart. The life of a mere man of letters, is seldom rich in incident; yet a well written life of this gentleman would not be destitute of interest even in this respect: it would at least abound in literary anecdotes growing out of an intimate intercourse with the most distinguished scholars of Europe.
He was settled as a minister of the Church of Scotland, at Montrose, where he early became known to the literati of Great Britain, with many of whom, who were eminent for piety, learning and rank, he continued to the end of his life on terms of the closest friendship. He also received honorary degrees from most of the universities and learned societies on the continent. In the General Assembly of the Church, he was an active and efficient antagonist of Dr. Robertson, the historian, who, on the question of patronage which then agitated that body, and in the discussion of the annual address to the throne on the subject of the American war, was always found on the side of prerogative and the ministry; and who was in fact the leader of that party in the Church. As a debater, an instantaneous perception of the indefensible points of the opposite argument, a ludicrous combination of incongruities, apparently liabitual, and a keenness of sarcasm almost without parallel, rendered Dr. Nisbet an adversary against whose attack no vigilance could guard. Imperfect sketches of the debates just alluded to, are to be found in the London Magazine for 1782. His attachment to the American cause, was expressed with so little caution, as, in the opinion of his friends, to hazard his personal safety. Preaching on the occasion of a fast ordained by the government, he dropped the King's Proclamation, which he had just read, in a manner so significant of disapprobation of its contents, as to be construed by the magistrates present into an affront of the royal authority. As they rose and retired, he pronounced the text; which every one present thought, and perhaps truly, was suddenly adopted to suit the occasion: “The wicked flee while no man pursueth; but the righteous man is bold as a lion."
In 1784 the Board of Trustees of Dickinson College just then founded, among whom were the late Governor Dickinson, Doctor Rush, and many others eminent for patriotism and learning, unanimously invited Dr. Nesbit to accept of the Presidency of the College; and he at once resolved to sacrifice ease, competency and early connexions to his love, of the principles of our revolution; and to unite the fortunes of his family
with the destinies of the young Republic. He arrived at Carlisle on the 4th of July 1785; and on the following day became a citizen of the United States by taking the oath of allegiance according to the laws then in force. From this time till his death he was exclusively occupied with the pursuits of literature and the duties of his office without taking any active part in the political divisions of this country which shortly began to appear. He however expressed his opinions with frankness, and freely censured the excesses of thie actors in the French revolution, whose undulations were sensibly felt in this country; and the philosophy which they laboured to propagate. This gave rise to rumours, as unfounded in fact as they were disastrous in their results to the interests of the College, that he inculcated political doctrines which were hostile to republican government. On this subject the writer of this notice can pronounce with candour and accuracy, as he belongs to the party to which Dr. Nisbet is supposed to have been inimical, and was not only educated at Dickinson College during the period in question, but was also intimate in that gentleman's family; and he can assert with perfect truth that no man was a more sincere friend to rational liberty.
As a scholar he had no superior in America. Besides being master of the Hebrew language, he was perfectly familiar with the Greek and Latin Classics, particularly the Poets, most of whose works he could repeat by rote, and could speak or at least read, nearly all the modern languages of Europe: and being blessed with a remarkably retentive memory, his store of ancient and modern learning was almost without limit. His writings consist chiefly of the course of lectures which he delivered in the College; but these, having never been intended for the public eye, were left in a state so unfinished as almost to forbid a hope of their being published. His lectures on criticism and taste, are particularly admired by those who are competent to judge of their merit. As a preacher, there was nothing to strike the senses in the character of his eloquence: yet he never failed to fix the attention of those who could dispense with the graces of personal exterior, and be satisfied with a manly and fervent piety; with sound doctrine; with strong and original conceptions; and with a masterly arrangement of argument and matter delivered in a downright natural manner, and in a plain but polished style. But it was in the social circle of his friends that he shone with unrivalled lustre. Carlisle could at this tine boast of one of those assemblages of men of wit, some of whom were second only to himself, which are sometimes, though rarely, found in a village. Among these he was the very soul of hilarity and good humour. Although he seemed to take the lead in conversation by common consent, yet he never engrossed it; for no man better knew the proper time to indulge his own humour or had a keener relish for that of others: but when he did speak the lightning of his quick black eye gave warning of the stroke that was to follow. He was peculiarly happy in repartee without being personal or even making an enemy. His anecdotes, of which he had always a store at command, depended for their effect, not on the manner of relating them, but on their originality and point, and on their direct application to the matter in hand. The same
remark may justly be made in regard to his wit; in which there was nothing of mannerism, but all was sterling ore, drawn at the instant, from an inexhaustible imagination. In fact, wit with him, had grown into a habit, which gave a peculiar turn to his thoughts and a pointedness of expression, of which, even on a serious occasion, he could not entirely divest himself; and the writer of this notice could not affirm with truth, that he had not observed in his discourses from the pulpit, occasional corruscations half-repressed. The deference that was paid to his opinions, the veneration that was shown for his person and character, the sensibility that was evinced at his death by all who knew him, without distinction of rank or party, are the best testimonials of his worth as a citizen and a man. To those who were strangers to Dr. Nisbet this may seem a mere fancy sketch; but they who knew him and can appreciate him truly, will recognise the sober delineation of truth.
Qui unanimi bortatu
Patria sua, Scotia, relicta,
Summa cum laude
Muneri suo incubuit.
Omni doctrina ornatissimi,
Plane miri, et undique clari.
Familiæ autem suæ amicisque
Anno ætatis 68vo.
Abüt noster: proh dolor!
Ovantem rediturum. We avail ourselves of this opportunity to introduce a few words re. specting an institution which is now highly deserving of the public confi
dence, whether we consider the zeal and prudence of the Trustees, or the ability and diligence of those to whom they have confided the business of instruction. After the death of Dr. Nisbet the college fell into decay. A load of debt, intestine discord, and every sort of risrule, brought its affairs to a crisis; and the Trustees were compelled to resort to the only measure which held out a chance of escape from absolute ruin : viz. a suspension of its operations. It has lately been revived under the auspices of one of our most distinguished scholars, assisted by professors who would not suffer by comparison with those of any other school in America ; and it has already given earnest of its future usefulness. Nothing is now wanting to its complete success but a reasonable share of the public patronage. It has at present eighty students, sixty of whom are in commons; the rest, being the elite of the respective classes, as regards prudence and self.controul, are at lodgings in the town, but their chambers receive the same domiciliary visits that are paid to the rooms in the College. Forty additional students might be conveniently taught, on the present establishment. There is a grammar school of about thirty scholars attached to the College and under the government of the faculty ; but without forming a part of it. The price of boarding and tuition is put at its minimum; so that the annual expenses of a student, every thing included, is but one hundred and eighty dollars. The location of this school as regards health, morals, and cleanliness, is admirable. The discipline is rigid without being severe; so that the faculty govern a great deal without seeming to govern at all. A moderate, but firm application of authority has hitherto been found suffi. cient to destroy the germ of discord wherever it has appeared. The Trustees have published a plan of the course of education adopted by the faculty: the principal feature of which is, that teaching by means of lectures, is nearly if not quite abolished; and the student is obliged to get along by his own efforts, directed and assisted by the professors who watch over every step of his progress and see that he does not loiter behind. By this means whatever is learnt is thoroughly learut. The popular science of political economy, so interesting in this country, is included in the course; particular attention is paid to the study of the English language, and to training the students to read with propriety as well as increasing them in the principles of English composition : matters not duly appreciated or sufficiently attended to elsewhere.
Editor of the Pori Folio.
For the Oracles of God, Four Orations. For Judgment to come, an
Argument in Nine Parle. By the Rev. Edward Irving, M. A., Minister of the Caledonian Church, Hatton Garden. London. T. Hamil. ton. 1823. Pp. xii. and 548. Philadelphia, reprinted. J. Laval.
It is not our intention to give any thing like a distinct analysis of Mr. Irving's work. It may be expedient, however, to furnish our readers with an outline of his plan, and mode of treating his subject. The following paragraph developes his mode of discussing “ The Oracles of God;" describing at once the manner in which he has divided the subject, and his reasons for adopting such a division.
“Before the Almighty made his appearance upon Sinai, there were awful precursors sent to prepare his way: while he abode in sight there were solemn ceremonies, and a strict ritual of attendance; when he departed, the whole camp set itself to conform unto his revealed will. Like.