The first Annual Commencement of Franklin and Marshall College took place during the last week of August, 1853. Monday, August 29 saw the beginning of the exercises with an address delivered by Reverend S. N. Callender of Chambersburg, Pa. to the Goethean Literary Society entitled "The Spirit of the Age." On Tuesday afternoon, the Biennial Address was given to the combined Literary Societies by the Reverend Dr. Bowman, Rector of St. James' Episcopal Church, Lancaster. The graduation ceremonies proper began on Wednesday, August 31 in Fulton Hall (downtown Lancaster). The room was "full of [a] fashionable audience during the morning and afternoon" sessions, which lasted from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The seventeen graduates of the college delivered various orations ("Knowledge is Power," D.B. Albright; "Intellectual Culture," M. Bachtel; "True Glory," J.G. Peters) with the valedictory address delivered by Wilberforce Nevin of Mercersburg. Following the student speeches, Dr. Nevin delivered the Baccalaureate Address on "Man's True Dignity," and presented the students with their degrees. The following is an excerpt from the Lancaster Intelligencer Weekly, September 6, 1853:
The speeches were commendably brief and generally credible. Some of the orators, whose productions were specially popular with their lady friends, were honored by the presentation of bouquets. After the delivery of the speeches, Dr. Nevin announced that the Trustees had conferred the degree of A.M., upon the following graduates of Marshal College, of three or more years standing: John Blair Lynn, Esq, Lewsisburg, Pa.; Rev. Thomas E. Apple, of Easton; Mr. James S. Lee, of Reading; J.H. Shumaker, of Academia, Juniata county; S.G. Wagner of Mercersburg; C.Z. Weiser, of Mercersburg, and Wm. H. Wolff, Philadelphia. Also, the Degree of D.D., on Rev. J.H.A. Bomberger, of Easton, and Rev. J.S. Kessler, of Baltimore. It was further announced that the next session would be commenced in six weeks, and that on the first Friday in the session, a lecture would be delivered to the students by one of the Professors in the College building.
The Franklin and Marshall of 1853 was comprised of 17 Seniors, 10 Juniors, 14 Sophomores, and 12 Freshmen. The total expenses for the year of study was $134.00 (tuition $30; contingent expenses, $4; room and board, $90; and washing, $10). The campus consisted of Old Main, Goethean Literary Hall and Diagnothian Literary Hall. Old Main, which was erected in the Gothic Revival style, contained six classrooms (64 pupils each), 1 large Chapel (450 pupils), and 2 three story residences for professors, with the kitchen located in the basement. (Lancaster Intelligencer Weekly, July 5, 1853, no. 24)
The following address was heard by the audience of the first commencement ceremonies. It was delivered by Mr. S.C. Remsberg of Middletown, Maryland, as the second salutatory to begin the afternoon session. The poetic and carefully chosen words of Mr. Remsberg reflect the importance of nurturing and developing the sphere of the mind- that Franklin and Marshall was erected to prosper. The role of education was not simply to produce intellectual advancement, but to develop men in all areas of life such religion and politics. His speech embodies the essence of modern liberal education, and the importance of exploring the internal mind and the external world with equal vigor.
Again we greet you at the meridian of this parting hour. Pleasant have been the moments just experienced by you in regaling yourselves physically, a just requisition to intellectual progress. It now becomes us to rejoice at your re-assembling, with enlivening hopes and fond anticipations, and for the kind of manifestations of your supreme regard. Again the din of a bustling world is unheeded, it cares, its charming attractions, its manifold interests are cast aside for a season to engage the mind to realize the solemn transactions of this occasion.
The present moment is fraught with no ordinary occurrence, a life-like memorial of its import will be retained in the hearts of those present. We now congregate, some from the Castelian fount of literary blessings, some from the cloister illumined by the rays of the midnight lamp, some from stations of eminence and distinction, others from manual toil, hallowed by noble endeavors, all to respond to the silent issues of pure emotions from light and leaping bosoms. We hail you all to share the patronage of this festive board.
It is of no small account at this juncture to pass silently by the moments, that being the fruits of other days under our immediate consideration. There must of necessity, according to the constituent elements of our organization, be an efflux of intellectual worth, appertaining to the advancement of our being, conditioned by the activity exerted. Man is not so constituted as to be indifferent to every thing around him, in the sphere of nature as of mind, but is endowed with those qualities, which render him affable to his fellow men, and link him to the eternal Jehovah. When the sympathetic chords of his nature are touched by the bonds of mutual affection, and the inward consciousness of this recognition of the soul's response to soul is felt, we assemble in one common fraternity. 'Tis the province of man to master nature, upon whose motherly bosom he dotes and receives the lavishment of her beauties. So also, to regard the legitimate results of the operations of the world within us, of truth the essence of the Divine Will. Truth, as it exists in the sphere of mind, is subject continually to the life of the individual, and the mind has the power and capacity of producing the object of investigation. Subjectively, it becomes a part of our general life, and thus it has its existence in the idea, whose power is known in every age, whose stately stepping's, in every change radically wrought in the physical and moral world, are felt. The whole aspect of affairs is necessarily subject to the power thus wielded from the right exercise of the mind, whether in defense of right and justice as in the misapprehension of truth.
The lingering recollections of the past are not far forgotten in the absorbing present, but mutual fondness breathes "purity of spirit and nobleness of affection." 'Tis here we love to dwell on memories fairest jewels, which cause a halo of splendor to surround us, as the festoonings of some fairy-nymph. He that has expended time in the disclosure of that motive, concealed under the "lava of action," has enriched his mind and experience the happy results of his labor. Much thus is hidden, which, by generous emulation, would spread its influence in the life of the world; which by the workings of the every-active mind add to its progress. It is to the past we are indebted to our present attainments, whose impulses and impressions accompany us through the scenes of life. We are too proud to forget the past, in the bosom of whose hollowed sepulcher, pregnant with the loss of manly intellect, slumbers the secrets of our fondest exploits. Here the component parts of the sum of human experience attach themselves as the proper fountain. The human intellect moves in a restless world, seeking to bask in the fairy realms of Genius, but the past, to which all honor is due and history as a divine Revelation, is the basis upon which its productions rest; a separation from this mooring would endanger its vitality. Every change in the world's life proffers testimony to this assertion. The creative mind longs for those celestial star-lights, with which, in combination with its own products, to "bathe the earth in beauty and shed a hallowing luster around the realities of our daily path."
In tracing the influence of the innate sentiments of true man, we are made conscious of the power exercised in shaping the position he may attain in the civilized world. The frankness and philanthropic cast of character are no small requisites in his favor, which sit as radiant gems in the history of the Poet, the Statesman, the Hero of the battle field, in one word the man of Genius and Letters. The consciousness of such inborn qualities, as attributes of our progress in the Arts, adorns the social, political and religious circle, and gives an impetus to redefine culture. Manly independence and pure enthusiasm are the characteristics of the man who assays to dispel anxieties, to put on the full panoply of truth, and battle with an unfeeling world for its pre-requisites. Deeply sensible of the path to be trodden in life's mazy course, he asks where is that confidence in good, that buoyant hope, that ardent recognition of the true delights of being, which throw such charm around the effusions of youth? The attributes exert an influence in vindication of our nature with irresistible eloquence and prepare us the more for the thorough-fare of routine, and the road of destiny. When combined with Genius, they attain an appeal to the world, and their possessor becomes a benefactor of humanity.
The soul-stirring effusions of the true Bard smooth the rugged paths of the weary pilgrim of silence and lighten the sorrows of his lot. A reconciliation of man to life is thus affected materially, and his thoughts receive excitement from the blessings. The ideality of the [Bard] is amply suitable for "meliorating the aspects of existence to the consciousness of men; whence arises that unclouded brilliancy of many a reminiscence, and the pleasurable excitement of many a hope. To gather the [?] emanations of happiness, to continue them as soft tendrils into wreaths to deck brow of care: to make its votary more alive to the good, the beautiful, the true, is the beautiful vocation of poetry. The [aspirates] of life are softened down. The memories of those whom we loved are sweetened by its rich flowers profusely scattered, and the sorrow of humanity, under an all-wise providence, are sung in sweet [diapasons], with living melody and in nobler [?]. Yet there is much to deplore in this sphere of literature, to enhance the happiness of the fallen man. It is not free from that discrepancy in losing sight of the justness and rightness of the production. The kind disposition enriched by the solitary effects of poesy may be thus marred and not [?] of that pristine loveliness coexisted with our being.
In the human breast we have implanted the principle that induces us to honor right and to crown the mind, by culling from her brightened gems. We are fully conscious of the propensity to lay too much stress on the application of our powers to untoward ambition. We are sensible of the multiplied examples and the various fruits of desires, which are supposed to be founded on right. We deprecate the menacing terror of perverted justice and seek to promote her enthronement upon her lawful seat. It always becomes unnatural to see human caprice superseding the laws of nature. Thus the whole being of man, so richly endowed with intelligence and will, becomes sickly and unable to discharge its functions properly. In the sphere of nature we can discern the greatest harmony, the regularity of her system, the silent but powerful operations of her Laws. In the sphere of the individual being we would naturally look for that harmony of soul, when the power of the principle of duty is dependent on the will of God. A proper rendition of self to such authority is requisite to have a just conception of the idea of duty, and at the same time important to a healthy state of the mind.
What is the significance of the excellence of right upon our lives, since in the very nature of our being, it is essential to our growth? What is its injunctions founded upon as laying claim to our special regard? The tendency of such questions as relate to the evolution of our powers in a proper manner, and in a proper frame of mind, is entitled to our earnest study. The injunction of the trinity of principles presupposes the right lodged in our nature of conforming to their requisitions. If duty then is founded on right and conditioned by it continually, drawing its sustenance from it, its path is plainly pointed out to us. The votary of right surrendering all his whimsical notions to the will of God, can truly appreciate its excellence. It thus being the impregnable basis of all duties, we are not at liberty to falsify its precepts for any sensual desire or self-aggrandizement.
The individual who embarks upon the world to gain a livelihood, concentrates all his powers to the one all-abashing interest. He enters not rashly upon any profession, but subjects himself to patient thought, to bring himself into proper relations of morality. Being confirmed in the rightness of his action, in the prosecution of his vocation, the proper measure of its excellence imparts new zeal. The principle inherent in our creation in any case, if in unison with the divine will, must be allowed to evolve itself and have its proper attention guiding to action. The silent monitor within warns us of a direct violation. In all such cases it becomes unnatural to assume a war-like attitude against the inviolable rights, to cast ourselves upon our own resources entirely, and upon the fancies of private will without acknowledging a higher form and a higher authority. If regard is not had to the principle of right, man cannot soar aloft in those dreams and fanciful imagination, whose genius loves to transport her votary.
In order that man may appreciate and observe the moral attributes of the infinite mind, a knowledge of them is necessary. The world presents itself to him in different aspects, in view of which the discretional powers must be called into vigorous exercise in the attainment of a right attitude. Man is bound to preserve freedom, in all the vicissitudes of life, and not barter it for mere temporal or sensual desire. The actualization of truth only attains its normal existence in the form of freedom. Authority in the excellency of right which freedom enjoins and countenances in the subserviency of the will of God becomes the substance of liberty. The domain of the will with intelligence and reason in the continuous living History with a felt acknowledgment of its organic life never can stand in opposition to capital Law, where proper respect is cultivated for freedom.
Such was the spirit that pervaded the mind and shaped the thoughts of the ardent devotees of Marshall College , our cherished alma mater. Under her protecting wings the knowledge essential to the apprehension of the true idea and meaning of life was kindly imparted by those under trust. The influence of the trained sons of "Old Marshall" is widening and becoming more powerful in directing the thought of the present day. Where are those who have left her portholes to enter upon the realities of an untried world? Their influence responds from the theatre of action, where they are, in the capacity of helmsmen, steering the course of the march of the mind, both in the political and religious world. But the history of Marshall College has ended, she lives in the past, as a sweet momento. Her union with a twin interest is effected. In token of this consolidation, we celebrate today the first commencement of F & M College in your midst. The title itself, at whose mention American hearts throb with pleasurable emotion is a guarantee of her prosperity. Her history has commenced, and as a testimony of which, this day's ceremony and pageantry is taking place in the city capital of Lancaster.
Transcribed from the original text by Josh Corless, September 30, 1996. Original text may be located in the Franlkin & Marshall College Archives, Shadek-Fackenthal Library, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.