Public Exercises 563
it has been fruitless. But in 1838, the Philomathesians chose Weston
R. Gales, who in 1834 had succeeded his father as editor of the
Raleigh Register. He spoke at the last November Commencement, on
the 24th of that month, 1838, and made a speech which in every way
must be regarded as among the very best ever delivered before the
Societies. It was short, in English that was clear and correct, and the
speaker adapted his words to the young men who had invited him to
address them. His theme was the value of American college life and
education; he closed with many valuable practical suggestions. It
would be hard to find even today after a hundred years of discussion a
better statement of the value of Latin and Greek than Mr. Gale made
in his address, of which I give one paragraph:
Independent of the taste for the beauties of composition, acquired by the study of
the Latin and Greek languages, I cannot imagine a more useful exercise for the
improvement of the mind. There is an absolute necessity of understanding the sense
of the author; a continual obligation on the student to search in his own language for
the appropriate words and expressions; and an impossibility of proceeding a single
step without close observation and reasoning on the relations that one word has with
another, in reducing the transposition of these languages to the natural construction.
By these operations the mind is kept in continual activity; and in every lesson, the
student, with the greatest abundance of useful ideas, acquires ingenuity and sagacity
in reasoning, and a promptitude and facility of speech, never to be attained in the
simple reading of his own language.
It may be said that Weston R. Gales was the son of Joseph Gales,
one of the ablest editors that ever lived in North Carolina. In 1838 he
was thirty-six years old. He died ten years later. His address on this
occasion indicates that if he had been encouraged by a larger and
more sympathetic reading public he might have been among the most
noted writers of his day.
The address at the Commencement on June 18, 1840, was by Mr.
William H. Battle, first a lawyer of Franklin County, then a judge of
the Superior Court, and from 1852 to 1865 a Justice
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