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Welch Address to the First Graduating Class of Iowa State, 1872 (edited transcript)

Welch Address to the First Graduating Class of Iowa State, 1872 (edited transcript)

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Transcript of a speech given during the first commencement ceremony for Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) by Adonijah Strong Welch (President of the College, 1868-1883). The ceremony took place in November 1872 at West House in Ames. It began in early afternoon and did not end until late evening. In addition to Welch's address, each graduate delivered an oration; there were 26 students to graduate in the first class: 24 men and 2 women.

Original speech available online: http://www.scribd.com/doc/29813809/Welch-Address-to-the-First-Graduating-Class-of-Iowa-State-1872

Inventory to the Adonijah Strong Welch Papers available online: http://www.lib.iastate.edu/arch/rgrp/2-1.html

Transcribed and edited by Marc Malone for the University Archives, Iowa State University
Transcript of a speech given during the first commencement ceremony for Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) by Adonijah Strong Welch (President of the College, 1868-1883). The ceremony took place in November 1872 at West House in Ames. It began in early afternoon and did not end until late evening. In addition to Welch's address, each graduate delivered an oration; there were 26 students to graduate in the first class: 24 men and 2 women.

Original speech available online: http://www.scribd.com/doc/29813809/Welch-Address-to-the-First-Graduating-Class-of-Iowa-State-1872

Inventory to the Adonijah Strong Welch Papers available online: http://www.lib.iastate.edu/arch/rgrp/2-1.html

Transcribed and edited by Marc Malone for the University Archives, Iowa State University

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09/30/2010

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Graduating Address to the First Class of 1872SermonAdonijah Welch
 Iowa State University, originally Iowa State Agricultural College, welcomed its first students on March 17, 1869. At the helm of the university was Adonijah Welch, born 1821. Agraduate from the University of Michigan, Welch’s career was varied. In
Profiles of Iowa StateUniversity History
 , Robert T. Hilton notes that Welch “studied law, prospected for gold inCalifornia, served as first principal of the ‘normal school’ that later became Eastern MichiganUniversity, went to Florida [where he] became a lumberman and fruit grower, and was servingas Reconstruction senator when he accepted appointment as Iowa State’s first president” (56). He would serve as President of the university from 1863-1883 and would continue on staff untilhis death in 1889. At the time, the university was well-removed from Ames whose population was a mere650 people (Schwieder 12). In 1872, four years after opening its doors, the university celebrated its first graduates in a series of lectures and ceremonies spanning four days from Sunday, November 10
th
to Wednesday, November 13
th
. Though Welch refers to his words as the “last official utterances” (see page 17 below) the students would hear, the official commencement exercises would not take place until Wednesday, November 13
th
with students undergoingexaminations on the 11
th
 , 12
th
 , and 13
th
. These “last official utterances”—billed as the“Baccalaureate Sermon”—were delivered to a graduating class of twenty-four men and twowomen on Sunday, November 10
th
at 3 in the afternoonThe text below is transcribed from the original, hand-written manuscript on file inSpecial Collections at Iowa State University’s Parks Library. I have made silent corrections to punctuation in keeping with modern conventions. Explanatory footnotes have been added to aid the modern reader in fully exploring the speaking situation and historical context of the text.
____________________________________________________________________My discourse today will run in a line parallel with the first clause of the 35
th
verse in the11
th
chapter of Matthew: “A good Man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good
 
 
2
things.”
1
This passage is an extract from one of those inimitable discourses of the Saviorrecorded in the Gospels. You observe that this sentence, like the one that follows
2
, is cast in themold of an absolute affirmation. There is no interplay of circumstances to hinder the cause frompassing into the effect. There is no softening or potentiating the declaration by may, can, might,could, would, or should. There is no entrance left open by which accident, chance, luck, orfortune can step in between the invariable antecedent good treasures of the heart and theinvariable consequent good things. The sentence is set squarely on its own basis as a positiveassertion. Nevertheless, the world has not always credited the truth of this simple and explicitaffirmation. Men have, in some sort of way, cherished some sort of belief that somehow goodthings in human life have some other parentage than good treasures of the heart and that goodtreasures of the heart do not always bring forth good things. Hence the words accident, chance,fortune, & etc. Among the deities of older time, Fortune was depicted as a fickle Goddess whopresided over human affairs and bestowed her capricious favors with a total disregard to themerits of the recipients. Thus there gleams through the mist of mythology the universal belief that honors, riches, wealth, comforts, luxuries & etc. received a sort-of haphazard distributionwhich neither virtue nor vice could disturb. So assured was the susceptible Greek that prosperitywas solely the gift of Chance that he gave her a personality which was divine—a supremacywhich was unquestioned. What the Greek worshiped as a divinity, the less imaginative worldhave generally accepted as a fact. Men commonly regard every valuable acquisition made byanother as a mere casual hit that anybody else might as well have made. Every language that the
1
Here, as throughout the speech, Welch quotes from the King James Version of the Bible,though he wrongly attributes this passage which is from Matthew 12:35.
2
Matthew 12:36, the verse that Welch refers to, reads as follows: “But I say unto you, Thatevery idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”
 
 
3
human tongue has ever spoken reveals in its etymology the opinion of its framers that the goodthings of life were dispensed by a blind allotment—that blessings were not rewards won by astruggle but prizes drawn at random. Did not our Saxon fathers declare in the subtle kinship of their earliest words that thrift drifted to the thrifty, that happiness happened to the happy, and thatevery good we gain is the creature of luck rather than the crown of labor?But modern advancement has vanquished these vagaries of a superstitious antiquity andput them to flight. No longer may we encourage sloth and sluggishness and merit of forecast[sic] by ascribing their natural results to the fickleness of fortune. A new philosophy reveals aninvariable sequence in the order of events throughout the realms of matter and mind. Everychange, from the motion of our eyelid to the making of a planet, is under the dominion of law.Accident, luck, chance, and fortune are convenient terms which express our ignorance of thelinks in the chain of unexpected occurrences rather than the absence of such links. There are, infact, but two causes for the inconceivable variety of events on this earth of ours. The one God’swill—the great first cause and the last as well, infinite, incessant in action, uniform in method,the cause “in which there is no variableness nor shadow of turning.”
3
The other, Man’s will—finite, limited, inconstant, often capricious, yet all potent if put forth in harmony with the will of the Infinite. Now God’s will, when directed to secure man’s well being and well doing, is theDivine Providence, and what I affirm is that the Bible and Nature and Science and any largerexperience all unite in declaring that God’s Providence is no auxiliary to Man’s improvidence,that on the contrary, it employs man as its agent or instrument, that it is none the less realbecause its essential ingredients are human forecast, integrity, industry, and skill, that it is nonethe less divine because it withholds its gifts where these ingredients are wanting. Remember
3
James 1:17

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