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Preface
to A History of Amherst College by William S. Tyler 1830

[William S. Tyler.]The first edition of this history appeared shortly after the celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the college, and was entitled "History of Amherst College during its First Half Century, 1821-1871."  The present new edition has been written and revised with particular reference to two objects, viz.:  first, the continuation of the history so as to include the close of Dr. Stearns' presidency and the entire administration of President Seelye, thus making it a history of Amherst under its first five presidents; and second, at the same time to abridge the work and make it a smaller and less costly volume, which should be within the means of every graduate.  In thus abridging it, I have been under the necessity of omitting the biographical sketches of the founders and benefactors, the trustees and faculty, and the personal contributions of alumni of the college, which were a characteristic feature of the first edition and gave it variety, lifelike reality, and dramatic interest.  But whatever it may have thus lost in variety and individuality, we trust it has gained in fulness and completeness as a history of the college.

My first thought was to write a separate book on the religious history of the college.  I might thus have made both the literary and the religious history, especially the latter, somewhat fuller and more satisfactory in some particulars.  But this separation would have put asunder what God joined together.  A history of Amherst College without its religious history would hardly have deserved the name.  Moreover, at the age of fourscore years and four it were unsafe to presume so much on the future.  So I have devoted my last two chapters to the religious history of the college, and especially to that characteristic feature, its revivals, leaving unsaid, for brevity's sake, not a few things which I would gladly have written of the measures, methods, and every-day religious life of the college.

Our readers will be pleased to find several pages of the book occupied by a contribution from a favorite alumnus and almost lifelong trustee of the college, who knows its history and men and measures, and who, as the golden-mouthed orator of the Brooklyn pulpit, has such a marvellous and magic power of telling his story.  If any of them question the taste of the author in permitting a complimentary biographical sketch of himself to be prefixed to his own book, there are two things to be said about it.  In the first place, "laudari a viro laudato" is an honor which any man may justly prize.  And in the second place, the responsibility rests, not on the author, but on the publisher, who insisted on the insertion of such a sketch, partly, I flatter myself, out of sincere friendship and affection for his old teacher, and partly, I ween, in order to give wings to the publication, wherein I admire his wisdom and wish him all the success he has so well earned by his unwearied efforts to bring out the book in a form and style worthy of the college of which he is an enterprising, loyal alumnus.

It has been my singularly happy lot to be personally acquainted with all of the five presidents, except the first, the history of whose administrations I have here written, to be associated with them in the faculty, and to be honored with their confidence and personal friendship.  And I beg leave to present them to my readers in this preface, as the Grecian Helen introduced the heroes of Greece and the conquerors of Troy in that inimitable preface, the Third Book of the Iliad:

President Moore, portly and courtly, winning and wise, laying wisely and well the corner-stone of the great edifice that was to be reared, but nothing more, contending manfully and heroically against the combined forces of local prejudice, rival institutions, and sectarian zeal, but falling in the struggle before his beloved college had even been recognized as a college by a charter from the legislature, dying like Moses on Pisgah, in sight only of the promised land.

President Humphrey, stalwart, strenuous, and strong, the honored and beloved pastor, the revival preacher, the champion of temperance and home and foreign missions, the very impersonation of common sense, practical wisdom, and Christian principle; laying broad and deep the foundations, giving the college its distinctive and paramount religious character, rejoicing in a growth and prosperity so rapid that it seemed miraculous, second only to Yale in the number of its students, but overtaken almost as suddenly by a reaction that was as inevitable as it was disastrous, and in his retirement evincing a magnaminity more grand than any success.

President Hitchcock, the man of genius and imagination, the Christian scientist who saw "the cross in nature and nature in the cross," the great commoner, whose face was as familiar to all the farmers of Massachusetts as his horse, his geological wagon, and his chest of tools, who imparted to the college his own scientific spirit and reputation; who enlisted Woods, Lawrence, and Williston in its behalf, paid off its debts and gave it its first scientific buildings and its first permanent endowments, and, when he had thus put the enemy to rout and secured the victory, fell back into the ranks and served as a common soldier to the end of his life.

President Stearns, the Christian gentleman, of general culture, refined tastes, polished manners, and perfect balance in all his powers and faculties, a graduate of the ancient and venerable university of Cambridge, for many years pastor of a church in the near vicinity of Boston, and bringing with him a happy union of the principles of his Puritan ancestry with the dignified and courteous manners of those cities, capturing by his patience and tact Dr. Walker, Samuel A. Hitchcock, and David Sears, and introducing the era of new buildings and large endowments, while at the same time he put a finishing and polishing touch upon everything, and left, as his motto for the college, "the highest attainments in every branch of literature, science, and art, and all for Christ;" and President Seelye, the Christian philosopher, statesman, and educator, himself the largest pattern of a man, physical, intellectual, moral, and religious, and by precept and example, in the classroom and the pulpit, by personal influence and public administration, impressing that pattern upon his students, teaching them as his greatest and best lesson perhaps the art of governing, controlling, and educating themselves, and every one making the most of the best there is in him for the highest and noblest ends.

Such is the royal line of succession, such the more than princely inheritance, into which our sixth president, Dr. Gates, has recently entered.  We welcome him to great expectations, great opportunities, great advantages, and still greater labors and responsibilities.  Our hope, our expectation, our prayer is that, conserving all that is best in the present and future, Amherst, under his wise administration and with the blessing of Heaven, may rise to an unexampled height of prosperity and glory.  And when the time shall come for his administration to pass into history, may he and his colleagues find a worthier, wiser, better historian to record the facts and perpetuate the memory of the actors.

 

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