Senior Orations at Dickinson College
The Columbian Exhibition

A senior oration delivered by Clarence Balentine, June 14, 1893

Transcribed and annotated by Drew Kaiden, October, 1999

Fate is about ready to seal the fourth century of our history and the country is
preparing for a careful review of the honorable record.  In Chicago this year, the World’s
Fair1 by bringing to the notice of men the wonderful achievements of this century, will
carry the universal mind back to times that gave little promise of our present proud
position.  The present and the past will unite in a vast effort to impress on the public mind
their one great lesson of progress, and will bring men to a realization of the fact that “they
live in a new and wonderful age; that America is only another name for opportunity; that
the whole history of this country seems like a last attempt of Providence2 on behalf of the
human race.”  While those fellows who are continually howling about the perils of our
country may take in this year a delicious and delightful rest.
What a grand advertisement it will be!  Progress in every department of human
industry.  Progress in science, in letters, and in art.  Progress in morals, in politics, and in
religion.  Progress in everything that brings honor to a nation or that gives dignity to a
Nor will the display make any false impression of the true condition of affairs here
in America.  Some men’s show-windows are the largest part of their stores.  Their
advertisements, fine fables of fiction.  But the Columbian Exposition, stripped of the
ornamentation supplied by foreign nations, will be a substantial indication of the progress
which the Anglo-American race has made on the Western Continent in 400 years.
But material property is no sure sign of a nation’s strength.  Rome was never so strong as
when her dictators came from the plough share.4  Never so weak as when in her colossal
wealth she had scarcely a freeman4a left.  Spain was just beginning to dissolve under the
melancholy influence of her own vices when the gold of the Western world was flowing
like the tide of the broad Atlantic in to her national treasury.5
A century’s wealth is a country’s wealth.  And that does not consist in gold but
rather as Carson Fanor6 has said, “oh the charity, the justice, the temperance- in the
strong- pure hearts of her sons and daughters”  Without these, wealth becomes the sign of
an inward weakness, just as the most luxuriant vegetation is the certain sign of the
completest decay.
It is true we have three million square miles of territory, 26,000 miles of river way, 12,000
miles of indented sea-coast.  Our commerse has spread to every land and to every sea.
We have land enough to provide homes for humanity, soil rich enough to feed the word,
resources enough to run the machinery of earth.  We have railroads enough to bring the
whole Chinese Empire on an excursion to Niagara Falls, but alas, we haven’t enough ships
to take them back again.  From the labors and sufferings of the past we have learned
lessons of energy and industry.  While our native genius has taught us wisely to apply
But all this pompous detail of material triumph is worse than idle unless the nation
becomes and remains greater than the mere things it produces, and unless it shall learn
how to regard them as tools with which to work out the higher purposes of its existence.
Have the four centuries taught us this?  Have we learnt charity?  Let us see.
It has been said that the relations between rich and poor are more strained today than ever
before.  That the present condition of things is forcing a wedge between the two classes
which makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.7  This is not true.  The wedge is being
driven underneath society and we are all going up together.  The feeling that the whole
human race constitutes a  universal brotherhood8 is finding, among Americans today, the
most tangible expression.  This tendency of the times is very well illustrated by an incident
that occurred in Boston a few years ago.9
There was sitting, one September afternoon, on e broad marble steps of the New
England Conservatory of Music, a little, crippled girl.  So familiar had grown the poor
little twisted form and the patient child face above it, that her presence occasioned no
surprise among the gay students as they passed.  The expression of her face when she
heard the tones of a violin sounding from the nearest window revealed the object of her
visit.  As the noise outside grew less, the music became proportionally louder and each
note seemed to touch a sympathetic chord in the little [] nature for pleasure and peace
were written on every smile and spoken by every dimple.
Presently the music ceased.  The window went down with a bang.  Out of the
room from which had come the music, issued a handsome young lady whose appearance
indicated that she belonged to the wealthiest class of people, but whose manners showed
very plainly that she was provoked about something.  And so she had been.  Her violin
lesson had not gone well and the professor had enthused her more than she considered
necessary.  So on down the steps she angrily hurried, and the crutch of the little cripple,
which happened to be in the way she spent spinning into the middle of the street.  Then
she went to recover it and restored it to the startled owner.  Twas but the work of a
moment, but in that moment, her anger had taken flight.  An apology was offered and in
the conversation that followed, the rich young lady discovered that the little cripple had
been in the habit of coming to listened daily as she played her lesson on the violin.  A
corner was thereafter provided for the poor little cripple in the room from which she could
hear the music with more pleasure.  But as weeks went on, the little girls failing strength
would no longer permit her to go so far as the conservatory, and each morning found her
as tired from the pain of the  preceding nights that she no longer hobbled about her humble
home, but lay, quietly watching the slowly moving clouds above the opposite chimney
tops, or the sickly sunbeams as they flickered over the gay quilt.
Her bright hours were those in which the young lady, now her friend, perched on
the bedside, played softly the music hat she loved so well.
Winter came and passed.  Spring followed.  Easter morning dawned as bright as
even an Easter morning could be.  The churches would be well filled on such a day, and it
was a day of some importance to the young lady, for she was to play the violin obligato, in
one of the largest and most aristocratic churches in Boston.
Parents, teachers, and friends were alike anxious that she should do herself honor on the
occasion.  But as she was about leaving her home to go to the church, a note was handed
her which contained a request form the little cripple who was fast failing to see her once
more.  Ambition and inclination drew her strongly towards the church.  On the other hand,
a pale, wasted childish face, with its patient blue eyes appealed to her.
She went to the cripple.  She played that obligato at the bedside as she had never
played it before, for she had learned to love the little one.  Tears filled the brown eyes, but
the fingers did not falter, nor the hand tremble that drew the bow across the answering
The sunlight fell upon the pale, little face, the shining hair, the closed eyes.  The little
cripple had gone to the father, taking with her that noble young lady’s Easter offering.
Nor is this exercise of  charity so rare and exceptional as some would have us
believe.  The multiple forms of human benefaction which we meet on every hand are but
the expression of a desire to live in the bond of a universal brotherhood.  The hospitals,
the asylums, the homes, the reformatories do not show that there is something wrong; that
poverty is a crime for which the state is responsible, but they do sow that there is
something eminently right, while they prove the existence and growth to that virtue that
suffereth long and is kind.
Indeed, charity has become a national virtue.  The law of love as a mile of human
action was stretched at Appomattox10 till it cracked, but the sentiment of humanity there
awakened has been the ruling motive of the nation ever since.  “The nuptic chords of
memory, stretching from a hundred battlefields have thank God been touched by the
better angels of our nature;” and tomorrow, as we assemble to commemorate the deeds of
the nations honored dead the benediction of heaven will be invoked alike on the
Confederate and on the Union soldiers as they rest neath the palmetto and the pine in their
windowless palaces of peace.10a  No country has a night to advertise progress if the
intelligence of its citizens is not steadily promoted.  How is it in this respect with us?
 Popular intelligence is reckoned here as an element of national power and national
wealth.  “The stability of the government is recognized as resting,” one has said11 “on the
knowledge and virtue of the people.”
Our numerous public libraries with their excellent catalogues, their liberal facilities,
their ample endowments,12 are making a nation of investigators.  Our system of education
is the freeest and most ungrudging in the world.13  The worth of woman is recognized as
never before.14  No longer excluded from the advantages of a liberal education, the best
opportunity is afforded her for the widest culture, and with cultivated mind she takes her
place by the side of man as his friend, his counselor, and his equal.  A fine and original
American literature is being slowly developed, and we are pardonally proud of it.  Proud
of Bryant15 “who entered the heart through the gate Beautiful.”  Proud of Longfellow,16
whose bust in Westminster Abbey is the delight of two nations.  Proud of the wide culture
of Lowell,17 of the sunny geniality of Holmes.18  Among the novelists we have Fenimore
Cooper,19 whose books were the delight of boyhood’s days; Nathaniel Hawthorne,20
whose works are immortal.  We have the humor of Bret Harte,21 Mark Twain,22 and Bill
Nye.23  What shall we say of the orations of this country?  Of Webster,24 of Beecher,25
and of Blaine?26
Surely we may advertise progress along the lines of education and culture.  In
regard to the great moral questions of the day are we making progress?
A gloomily disposed young man in addressing the U.P. Society27 last winter said
that certain national evils are affecting the body politic as cancer and dyspepsia affect men.
Now, a man with cancer is in a pretty bad way.  No life insurance company will have
anything to do with him.  But when a man afflicted with cancer is attacked by the
dyspepsia,28 he becomes an object with which the devil himself would have nothing to do.
I cannot believe we are as far gone as that yet.
Probably the most important moral question of the day is the temperance question.
Slow are we on that?
Every great issue passes in its development through four stages.  The first stage is
the period where it remains unnoticed by everybody.  The most difficult task sometimes is
to lift it from this into the second stage, in which it is ridiculed by its opponents.  The third
is the period when it excites violeus and determined opposition.  In the fourth, its benefits
become apparent and it is firmly established in the hearts and laws of a people.
Prohibition, in America, is just passing from the third into the fourth stage, and the dawn
of the 20th century will reveal the giant Intemperance in the throes of a painful and certain
Are our politics pure?
A great many people find much to deplore in the condition of our politics.  Vice
and corruption are said to hold such a prominent place in our political system as to render
honest elections almost impossible.  Our eminent leaders are called dishonest demagogues,
our governmental officers denounced as selfish gougers.  Of course this wailing comes in a
great part from the large army of disappointed office seekers.  The truth is that there are
more honest politicians in the country today than there ever was before.29
It is no small honor to the country that she has succeeded in preserving unsullied
through all the multiplied exigencies of national existence, the purity of her political
system.  The fabric of government, stained though is he in blood, contains every thread
which gave it strength or which added to its beauty.
It is true there are many dishonest politicians.  But you have heard it said that a
ship is not considered safe when the rats have left it.  So, you may rest assured that the
ship of state is entirely sea worthy so long as she carries in her hold such a numerous
species of fine, big, black rats.
Nor has the eager spirit of American inquiry allowed religious doctrine to go unexamined.
The lights of investigation has been turned on the creeds.  Realism30 is being
superseded by Arnsinianism.  The stern bigotry and the denominational exclusiveness of
other years are giving way before a universal desire to spread the truth.  The Bible is
becoming the handbook of the worthy citizen.  From it we are learning lessons of love and
humanity; learning that every man-from the highest to the humblest- is equal before the
law.  Equal before the stroke of her sword, equal in the shadow of her shield.
I will not describe the majestic triumphs of science in this country.  I will not refer
to the trophies of industry suggested by such names as Astor, Peabody, and Johns
Hopkins.31  They will all have their place in the grand Exhibition in Chicago.  They will
help to spell out the honest progress of which the Columbian Exposition will be only the
indication.  From deep down in the hearts of the people exists a condition which makes
progress the only word proper to be written over the portals of this republic.
And sad were the condition of affairs which would tell any other story.
Our heritage was large, and it behooved us to make good use of it.  And unless the
Anglo-American race is to be the prodigal child of the ages, unless we forget our
traditions, we may achieve still greater triumphs.  Mindful ever of the limitless value of the
jewels which have been confided to our keeping, may we transmit unimpaired to posterity
the Christian religion and civil liberty.  For as long as the race continues to honor the trust
of its Creator, so long shall it not be said “that the ocean was dug for America’s grave,
that the winds were woven for her untiding sheet that the mountains were reared for her
tombstone.”  But rather, as Bishop Newman32 has said, “she shall live on; and gifted with
immortal youth.  America shall ascend the mountain-tops of the oncoming centuries with
the old flag in her hand, symbol of universal liberty, the light of whose stars shall blend
their radiance with the dawn of the millenium.”
Clarence Balentine
June 1893

Notes on the Author:

Clarence Balentine was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on March 20, 1868. He attended
prep school at Millersville State normal school.  He matriculated to Dickinson in 1889.
Clarence had four energetic and productive years at Dickinson. Mr. Balentine was a
member of the Theta Chi fraternity. As a sophomore he won the Union Philosophical
Society sophomore prize. He had a gift in the musical arena which earned him a spot in the
both the Glee Club and the Banjo and Guitar Club. Clarence voiced his opinion on many
matters while a member of the Union Philosophical Debating Society and as a  Delegate to
the Inter-Collegiate Republican Convention. He also earned the prestigious Second
Pierson Prize for his work on campus. After College, Clarence got his Master of Arts
degree and went on to become a lawyer in Baltimore. He was inducted into the B.L. and
Phi kappa Psi societies and happily lived out his days at 10 East Lexington Street in
Baltimore MD. (Dickinson Alumni Directory 1905)

End Notes:

1. The Worlds’ Colombian Exposition was a fair held in Chicago in 1893 to celebrate the
four hundred year anniversary of Columbus’s Discovery of America.  Chicago was chosen
in-part because it was a huge railroad center but mostly because of the 10,000,00 bid.
("World's Columbian Exposition" Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

2. Providence is used in this context as a “manifestation of divine care or direction.” The
source of the quote of is unknown but it is intended as a rallying cry for American
(“Providence” Websters Dictionary Online)

3. The progressive era which lasted from roughly the end of the 19th century to the mid
1920’s was an aggressive approach to the problems created by the rapid industrialization
and urbanization that followed the Civil War.
(“Progressive Era” Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

4. This was a long standing tradition in the Roman Empire. The idea of the civil servant
was born from men like Cincinnatus. He saw political service a duty and not a career. He
was appointed while ploughing his fields; after he was done his military career he went
back to ploughing the fields.
(Shelton, Jo-Ann. As the Romans did : a sourcebook in Roman social history. New York:
 Oxford University Press, 1998)

4a. A freedman was a slave who had been emancipated, or freed. This was a common
practice until the economy no longer allowed the slaves to be freed.
(Shelton, Jo-Ann. As the Romans did : a sourcebook in Roman social history. New York:
 Oxford University Press, 1998)

5.  This a clear reference to the vast depletion of wealth caused by Philip II's costly wars. The
most famous and costly endeavors was, of course, the Armada.
(Parker, Geoffrey. The grand strategy of Philip II. New Haven: Yale University Press,

6.  I was not able to obtain the identity of Carson Fanor. I looked in several; places
including B.G.M.I. The quote, however, illustrates the values that Clarence feels are imperative to
the an ideal American.

7. There actually was great distinction between the elite landowning class and the poor
laborers. In addition, the great panic of 1893 set unemployment to the highest rate in over
8 years, about 18 %.
(Higgs, Robert. The transformation of the American Economy, 1865-1914; an essay
 interpretation. New York: Wiley, 1971.

8. This is drastically inaccurate, certainly by today's standards. For example,
apply this “universal brotherhood” theory to the government. Women and Blacks were not allowed to
vote or run for office. The gap between white males and everyone else was still quite evident.
(Rogers, Donald W and Christine Scriabine. Voting and the spirit of American democracy:
 essays on the history of voting and voting rights in America. Urbana : University
 of Illinois Press, 1992 )

9. After using a search engine designed for newspaper archives, I have concluded that this
was merely a setting for the ensuing anecdote.

10. Appomatox was the town Virginia where General Lee surrendered his army to
General Grant ending the American Civil War.
( Bradford, Ned ed. Battles and leaders of the Civil War. New York:
 Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1956)

10a. After carefully studying the dates of the Civil War battles I can accurately say that
there is no battle whose date coincides with June, 15th. Clarence gave the speech on June
14th, 1893.
( Bradford, Ned ed. Battles and leaders of the Civil War. New York:
 Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1956)

11. The identity of the quote’s author remains anonymous. Using contextual clues it is
probable that this statement was uttered in a time of crisis such as the Civil or
Revolutionary Wars.

12. “Tax support became the obvious key to library development and civic leaders quickly
pushed for the adoption as the principal means of library support. In the beginning
stimulus was frequently provided by public-spirited benefactors who provided substantial
sums of money for the construction of buildings and the acquisition of library materials.
Also common was the process whereby an existing social or endowed library would be
donated or purchased by the city as the nucleus for a new public library” (Harris 244).
(Harris, Micheal H. History of libraries in the western world. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow
 Press, 1995)

13. In this excerpt taken from an essay by Horace Mann, he clearly articulates that the
schools are not free.  “...there is not at the present time, with the exception of New
England and a few small localities elsewhere, a State or a community in Christendom,
which maintains a system of Free Schools for the education of its children. Even in the
State of New York, with all its noble endowments, the Schools are not Free.” (Mann 33)
(Horace Mann, “Education as a Human Right.” Enlightenment and Social Progress.
 Chambliss, J.J. ed. Minneapolis: Burgess Publishing Company, 1971).

14. “In both wars, women for the first time were permitted to serve as nurses in military
medical facilities to care for wounded soldiers” (Lewenson 16). Great strides were also
made in women’s education. The nineteenth century saw the inception of several prominet
women’s colleges including Radcliffe.
(Lewenson, Sandra Beth. Taking Charge: Nursing, Suffrage, and Feminism in America,
 1873-1920. New York: Garland, 1993)

15. Poet, his most famous work is Thanatopsis.  In 1825 he took a coeditor position with
the New York Review.
(“Bryant” Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

16.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was a man who wore many hats. He was at
one time or another, a professor, poet, translator, and a literary critic. His most publicized
work is his first poem, Paul Revere’s Ride. Henry loved Europe’s culture and historical
atmosphere. In 1884, he was rewarded for his devotion to the English people with a bust in
the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abby.  He was the first American to be recognized in
this manner.
(“Henry Wadsworth Longfellow” Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

17. James Russell Lowell (1819-1891). American poet and diplomat. His views on slavery
are reflected in both The Vision of Sir Launfal and The biglow Papers. After his early
success in writing,  Lowell was plagued by apathy.
(“James Russell Lowell” Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

18. Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894) American Physician and poet. He was a popular
man, mostly due to a humorous series of essays entitled the Breakfast Table. Today, his
name is usually attached to the poem Old Ironsides, which argues against the destruction
of a national relic.
(“Oliver Wendell Holmes” Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

19. James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851). James made a name for himself by using new
and innovative techniques in his writing. The most prevalent evidence of this is James
second published work, The Spy. Cooper’s unique motifs expressed the relation between
internal psychology and the personal events.
(“James Fenimore Cooper” Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

20. Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864). American author whose most famous work, The
Scarlet Letter, has been subject of countless literary essays.
(“Nathaniel Hawthorne” Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

21. Bret Harte (1836-1902). Bret’s success is mainly attributed to his early parodies of
novels by Cooper, Dickens, Hugo, and others.
(“Bret Harte” Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

22. Mark Twain (1835-1910). Twain’s use of scrams and cynicism won him wide acclaim
in both The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain
had the ability to depict racism and prejudice without making people uncomfortable.
(“Mark Twain” Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

23. Bill Nye (1850-1896). American journalist and major humorist of the nineteenth
century. His rollicking tales, originally written for the Laramie Boomerang, were reprinted
throughout the country.
(“Bill Nye” Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

24. Daniel Webster. Famous for his orraciones as lawyer in several pivotal Supreme Court
cases including McCulloh v. Maryland (1819) and Gibbons v Odgen (1824). In his later
years, as a senator, he desperately tried to prevent a civil war. His last effort, the
compromise of 1850, was only a Band-Aid for a gaping wound.
(“Daniel Webster” Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

25. Beecher, Henry Ward (1813-1887).  American minister whose gift for language
enthralled audiences nationwide. He was often able to sway people’s opinions on such
controversial matters as the abolition of slavery and the reconstruction of the south.
(“Henry Ward Beecher” Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

26. James G. Blaine (1830-1893).  In 1868, Blaine was elected Speaker of the House.
Blaine’s eloquent command of the language and polite demeanor soon won favor among
the Republican Party. After several failed attempts at a nomination he finally ran for
President in 1884. He was defeated by the narrowest margin in American history.
(“James G. Blaine” Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

27. The Union Philospophical  Society was a debating society at Dickinson College. The U.P. seal is still visible
in Denny 317. (Microcosm 1893)

28. dyspepsia: n, deranged or impaired digestion; indigestion (opposed to eupepsia)
syn: apathy.
(“dyspepsia” Websters Dictionary Online)

29. This statement is wholly inaccurate. The Populist Principles of 1892 cite many
examples of dishonest politicians: “The conditions which surround us best justify our
cooperation : we meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political and
material ruin. Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the legislatures, the Congress, and
touches even the ermine of the bench. The people are demoralized; most of the states have
been compelled to isolate the voters at the polling-places to prevent universal intimidation
or bribery.” (Fink 182)
(Fink, Leon ed. Major Problems in the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era. Lexington:
 D.C. Heath and Company).

30. Realism was a literary movement in the nineteenth  that describes life without the
influences of emotional subjectivity. It was a response to romanticism where the literature
was colored with emotional drivel.
(“Realism” Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

31. John Jacob Astor, George Peabody, and Johns Hopkins were all captains of industry in
the nineteenth century.
(“Astor” & “Peabody” & “Johns Hopkins” Encyclopedia Britannica Online)

32. This is somewhat of a curiosity. The most famous Newman of the nineteenth century
ecclesiastical world is Cardinal Newman of England. Clarence gave this oration on June,
14, 1893 and referred to the author of the quote as a Bishop, however Newman had
attained the rank of Cardinal 14 years prior. In addition, it seems farfetched that Cardinal
Newman would have had such high regard for America when he felt its morality was
(“Cardinal Newman” Encyclopedia Britannica Online)