March 16, 1892

Gambier, Ohio

LECTURE COURSE, KENYON COLLEGE

 

The place is as it was when I saw it fifty-four years ago; I thought it the prettiest place I had ever seen, it is more beautiful now.

 

Bishop McIlvaine, the great Bishop. Never since those happy years have I seen a man whose presence impressed me as did his.

 

One of the first snows that fell in ’38 was a damp heavy one, such as is suited to snow-balling. One afternoon the boys had a battle- East Wing against the West Wing and East Division against the West Division. While this was going on, Bishop McIlvaine emerged from the middle door of Old Kenyon. None of the boys felt they could hit him “by accident,” but one of the fellows thought he could do it by throwing straight. However, he hesitated; still he was not long in doubt, for he was a proud, impetuous fellow, and could not stand the dares that all of us gave him. Gathering up his hands full of snow he pressed it into a hard, round ball and approaching the Bishop he threw the snowy ball, which struck the good man fairly between the shoulders. The Bishop never turned around.

 

You probably have heard the story of the crippled soldier and the dog who bit him, the man didn’t die, but the dog did. That was exactly the effect in this case.

 

President Sparrow, was an angular, hatchet-faced man with a Roman nose, whose policy was discipline, and discipline most severe. I remember that in 1840, there was a great political excitement, and I read in a newspaper, which my roommate took, that a “sailer” was to pass through Columbus. I was very anxious to see this and I wrote to my guardian asking for money and permission to go to Columbus to see my mother. He sent me money and gave me permission to go. I wrote to my mother also obtaining her permission. I then took these letters with me and went to see President Sparrow. He said no, that I could not go. In a very subdued and sullen state of mind I turned from his house without saying a word and walked away; when I had gone some distance I heard him calling my name, and thinking that perhaps he had relented, I turned around and walked back; when I had again reached his door and looked up at him he said in the kindest tone, “Good morning, Mr. Hayes,” and closed the door.

 

How well I remember my classmate, Lorin Andrews, who afterward became President of this institution, and finally gave his life for that of his country. A man of short stature but with muscles closely knit he would have been a formidable antagonist for any of us to have encountered.

 

He was an energetic student, too, often rising before daylight to study and could throw the axe farthest of any of the boys in college, could make the best standing broad jump. He was just the same in Latin and Greek and that wretched mathematics with which we were beset,

 

The brightest intellect among the students was Stanley Matthews, who entered the Junior class here (think of it) at fourteen and graduated at sixteen, altogether the best mind in college. Precocious as he was, he grew till the day he died. After his promotion to the Supreme Bench of the United States he was recognized by all those judges as the most able man among them. When the war broke out we talked together about entering the army and I asked him if he intended to enlist. His answer was, “I would rather enter and be killed than live through and after it knowing I had not been in it.” We entered the same regiment and at the end of three months he had read so much about it that he was the best posted man on the theory of war I met in all that struggle.   

 

We all like to go to Mt. Vernon in those days, chiefly for benefitting our education, of course. The man there we most admired was Columbus Delano.

 

Mr. Delano exhibited a power in debate while in the lower house of Congress which has never been surpassed by any member of that House. Before the discussion of any bill in the House of Representatives the minds of the members are made up, and votes are seldom changed by those debates, brilliant as they sometimes are, but I have known Mr. Delano to change votes; nay, more than that I have known him to change results.

 

There is no college in Ohio connected so closely, essentially and effectively, with the great transaction of this century – The Civil war - as was Kenyon. Your applause is a little premature, gentlemen. The is no college in the United States connected so effectually with the Civil War as was Kenyon; I will say more, there is no institution of learning on the face of the globe so closely connected with that war.

 

The cost of the war was not estimated by the year, by the month, week or day, but by the hour.  Its cost per hour was greater than that of any war ever waged. The leading English newspaper of that day says that ‘the hundredth part of the financial worry that the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States now experiences would drive Mr. Gladstone to distraction. Who was the man who guided our country through that time of financial distress? Salmon P. Chase, who began his education at Kenyon College.

 

The great work of the war was its management. There was no question as to who was to fight. We had soldiers enough, maybe we didn’t all know how to ride well at first but we learned after a while. (The men who confronted us when we were with Sheridan will tell you that.) The question was, who was to run the war? Who was to be the great war minister? Another son of Kenyon, Edwin M. Stanton, the greatest war secretary the world has ever seen since the war on the plain of Shinar.    

 

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