September 20-21, 1793 — Oration for the Young Ladies’ Academy of Philadelphia, Moravian Church, Philadelphia PA
To reflect on my appearance in public, at this time must fill a mind (so unexperienced) with terrors unfelt before. But, relying on the candour of good and great minds, I shall not hesitate to obey the authority of my superiors, or decline the task assigned me. They will do me the justice to believe nothing but a sense of duty, could overcome the diffidence of my tender years. The wise and benevolent Author of all beings, has inspired parents with an instinctive fondness for their offspring. They are ready to sacrifice many of the comforts of life, to meliorate our condition. If we make an estimate of the condition of many nations, where ignorance sways her leaden sceptre, we shall recollect, with gratitude, many precious seasons allotted us for acquiring a sufficient competency of human learning. Where the mind is given up to vanity, or neglected in the early stages of its existence, it is not easily disincumbered of ignorance and prejudice. The immortal inhabitant within would soon lose sight of those objects, that constitute our chief happiness, while the passions, unsubdued by reason and law, might precipitate us into the gulph of ruin. The transition, from a state of ignorance, is neither so sudden or miraculous, as to preclude the use of books or instructors. Whatever has been the infelicity of former ages, the present possess the most ample means, and exhibit the best models for education. Many benefits are derived to mankind from improvements in grammar, geography, philosophy, and the polite arts: And as the accent is rendered smooth and easy, shall not our sex be ambitious of gaining the summit?
Honoured Sirs, I am happy in this opportunity to express (in the name of my sister students) our many obligations to you, for your patronage and seasonable admonition, which must originate from a tender and generous concern for our present and future welfare. We reflect, with sensible pleasure, on your vigilance and zeal for the felicity of the rising generation. May we be circumspect, on our part, to secure your future esteem; and may the grace of God cooperate with the maxims of prudence which you have engrafted on the infant mind; and while we behold you crowned with reputation, we feel every incentive to imitate and honour your example.
But dear Sir, our worthy Preceptor, ’tis impossible to describe the sensations that arise in our mind, while we review the season elapsed under your tuition. With the assiduity of a wise and kind instructor, have you gently led us on in the flowery paths of science. And as no other than the restraints of reason were imposed on us, we shall yield to no dispositions to impair their authority, when removed from your Seminary. May your labours be protracted for the emolument of learning in this city, and for the particular benefit of those that come after us. May our future conduct in some measure compensate for the pains you have bestowed; and when you have served the divine will and your own generation, may you go hence and receive the ample rewards of your beneficence. — And now, my dear school-mates, permit me to suggest a few hints for your consideration. Let no obstacle retard you in your glorious progress. Without your own industry, the best efforts of your Instructor will prove abortive, the feelings of your parents deeply wounded, and yourselves reap the fruit of chagrin and folly. With the spirit of enterprize and emulation push forward your conquest. The love of ease, and indolence, is opposed to every valuable acquisition. Put on, then, the helmet of discretion. Accustom yourselves to some of the duties of self-denial — in this way you may hope to arrive at the Temple of Fame. Never depart from the path of truth and sincerity, but let your graceful deportment win the affection and esteem of all around you. Remember that youth is the fittest season for a foundation upon which a glorious superstructure may be erected: and if this season is given up to pleasure and dissipation, you will sustain a loss not easily retrieved. While you conduct with modesty towards your equals, and deference to all superiors; reverence the venerable rules of piety towards God. In a word, under the united influence of duty and interest call forth every noble exertion, and contend for the prize of knowledge, for which the palm of victory will reward you abundantly both here and hereafter. — Which is the sincere wish of one who now bids you
AN AFFECTIONATE FAREWELL
Source: The Rise and Progress of the Young Ladies’ Academy of Philadelphia: Containing an Account of a Number of Public Examinations & Commencements; The Charter and Bye-Laws; Likewise, a Number of Orations Delivered by the Young Ladies; and Several by the Trustees of the Said Institution (Philadelphia: Stewart & Cochran, 1794), pp. 49-52.