« ПредишнаНапред »
chapel prayer, began his remarks with the quotation, “Of law there can no less be acknowledged than that her seat is the bosom of God, and her voice the harmony of the world.” Then followed a clear statement of the difficulty and of the faculty's action. The two classes were given until Monday morning to surrender or go home, and were bidden to retire with the sententious remark, “Young gentlemen, empty benches can be refilled, but life is too short for the recovery of lost dignity.” The next morning Dr. Dashiell preached an Easter sermon in Emory Chapel, and not one of the college rebels was missing from the service, under which few were unmoved. The rebellion vanished between Saturday and Monday.
The genial president was not averse to the students' favorite maxim, Dulce est desipere in loco, and on occasion joined in college mirth. At one time there was irregularity in the ringing of the college bell, and Dr. Dashiell remarked to one of the Seniors that the old colored janitor evidently needed a new watch. Upon this hint a watch was provided by the Seniors, and the president's permission secured for a public presentation after elocutionary exercises in the hall. The “ Major,” as he was called, from having been a servant, in the Southern army, to General Joseph E. Johnston, was meanwhile privately drilled in a speech, but without being informed of the nature of the occasion. At the close of the elocutionary hour the faculty dropped in, the Major was summoned, and, having been solemnly arraigned by a chosen Senior for failing to observe schedule time, was presented with a watch warranted to regulate his bell-ringing. Thereupon Dr. Dashiell, supposing the ceremonies ended, was about to bow the sable recipient out, when the Major broke forth in a vociferous speech to the professors : "Learned literatuses, de perihelion am in de ascendin' node, and wen you see de great Jubiter comin' ober de mountin ridge, riding on a jack wid ears on him like a terbacer plant, den you may say, Sic semper tyraliter. Literatuses vale, iterim vale! Io triomphe!” In the laughter which followed this deliverance nobody joined more heartily than the president.
Dashiell's intercourse with the Board of Trustees was manly and frank, and his reports and recoinmendations clear-sighted and business-like. Teaching was not his delight, and probably there was not an hour of his presidency when he would not
rather preach a sernion than hear a recitation. But if not an eminently learned and accurate scholar, he had resources more needful to the post he was called to fill. Upon this point one of his students quotes words which are accredited to Lord Ashburton: “As in choosing the builder of my house I do not select the man who has the most materials in his yard, but by reference to his skill, ingenuity, and taste; so also, in testing an orator or teacher, I satisfy myself that they fulfill the comparatively easy condition of possessing sufficient materials of knowledge with which to work, and then I look to those high and noble qualities which are the characteristics of their peculiar calling. There were hundreds in Athens who knew more than Demosthenes, many at Rome who knew more than Cicero; yet there was but one Demosthenes and one Cicero."
Notwithstanding the new president's determined assault all along the line of obstacles and embarrassments, difficulties apparently insuperable remained in the way of success. It was necessary to attract attention and attendance upon Dickinson, to restore alienated sympathies, and to bridge chasms of indifference which threatened to isolate the college and leave it to its fate. But there was great difficulty in drawing students. Carlisle was off main lines of travel, up a valley road, remote from cities and centers. This was an obstacle, also, to bringing visitors, at Commencement or any other time, to see the college and its needs. The institution was poor, the faculty inharmonious.*
Against the adverse situation Dashiell labored earnestly for two years, and then became convinced that success, if possible at all, could only come by long, disheartening toil. He felt that life was too short for him to wait a dozen weary years
for a slow and dubious result. In the latter part of his presidency his desires went out longingly for some more congenial and satisfactory work. Although this was his conclusion, it is the opinion of qualified judges that he might have won full
* It is pleasant to remark that this is no longer so, and that Dickinson College comes to its centennial with favorably altered prospects, a harmonious administration, and an awakening interest in the college among friends of education; while the completion of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad, connecting with the Cumberland Valley Road at Hagerstown, makes it the uniting link between the system of roads west and south of the Susquehanna, and the eastern and northern system which centers at Harrisburg: Carlisle being thus put on a trunk line and made accessible from all the territory on which Dickinson may properly hope to draw.
A trustee says, “ Notwithstanding his chief gifts were for the pulpit and platform, he would have made a first-class success as president if he had consecrated his life to it.” A member of his faculty writes: “Could he have changed some of his aims, put on more of the scholastic habit, and devoted himself solely to building up the college, he would have done a splendid work for education, for the Church, and for fame.” It had been hoped that he might make the restoration of Dickinson his life-work. In Methodist history such hopes, often cherished, have been seldom realized. He followed the course which has been the rule in our educational institutions, and which is fostered by the customary action of our Church. He held the presidency of Dickinson less than four years, and, resigning early in 1872, was made Presiding Elder of Jersey City District.
The General Conference of 1872 was remarkable for two things: the first participation of lay delegates, and the number of men elected to offices new to them. Eight new bishops, three new missionary secretaries, two new book agents, and several new editors were chosen. Robert L. Dashiell, John M. Reed, and Thomas M. Eddy were elected Corresponding Secretaries of the Missionary Society. This office suited Dr. Dashiell's tastes and gifts, and fitted his previous training as capital fits column, although all its duties were not equally congenial to him. His qualities were at their best in its public work. He did the office-work faithfully, but it was sometimes irksome. He would let it accumulate, and then fly at it and clear it off with marvelous rapidity. He was too mettlesome to be a natural plodder. His associate, Dr. Reid, says: “He had almost irresistible power to enlist others in a cause, and could command the time, influence, and means of men as very few can." He managed with admirable tact the interests intrusted to him, had large influence in all missionary councils, and knew how to state a case so as to win the utmost in its behalf. An accomplished pleader, he brought to the office a wide reputation for money-raising ability. Shrewd business men admired his consummate skill, amounting to genius, in such matters. He gave especial attention to legacies. Going from the office-desk to the Conferences, he was a glowing messenger, thrilling the Church with latest news of toil, trial, and triumph in missionary fields, and interceding mightily for heathendom. The Conferences of the land hold vivid recollections of his magnetic and magnificent appeals. Judge Fancher says: “ His efficiency in the secretaryship was unsurpassed. Largely through his device and foresight such measures were adopted that all our missions were active, bold advances were made, and the missionary achievements under his supervision mark an era in the progress of Christianity.” In 1878 he made, with Bishop Merrill, a tour of examination among our missions in Mexico. If this summary account seems a meager treatment of the best eight years of his life, it is from no dearth of facts in that laborious and fruitful period; but because an attempt to collect details would be like taking a census of the Church.
After this review of the history and work of his life, some presentation of personal characteristics may properly follow.
Dr. Dashiell was eminently formed and furnished for the pulpit and platform. Six feet high, erect and symmetrical, with blue eyes, straight brown hair, ruddy complexion, and frank, earnest face; with a handsome, impressive, winning presence, the impersonation of ease and manly grace; with a deep, rich, singularly pervasive voice, quivering in tender pathos or swelling in indignant outburst or passionate appeal, he charmed audiences, and held them with a magnetic spell. Often the copious tide of his incandescent eloquence flowed like a stream of oil on fire. He read an audience instinctively, and made the impassive responsive. He took liberties with customary proprieties, even before cultivated congregations, in a way that would have imperiled the influence of almost any other man. His blithe wit played with assemblies “ wind provokes the sea to laughter,” yet left his dignity secure upon their respect, "as well placed as a castle set upon a mountain.” In the midst of the play he tnrned on them suddenly an overwhelming tide of pathos and solemn power, and when he“ preached the joys of heaven and pains of hell” he “bore his great commission in his look.” It has been said of Dr. Pusey's sermons, “ They are the voice of one crying in the cloister.” Few sermons had less of the cloister than Dashiell's. The cloisters he paced were the homes where men dwell, and the places where they toil and strive, the highways of busy life. His preaching cried up and down the noisy and beaten shore of man's work and woe and sin. Along that thronged surfshaken beach, alive with commerce, strewn with wrecks, where ventures are putting forth and cargoes coming in, his voice sounded, and he kept watch like a life-patrol.
as a fresh
The Scotch preacher, Dr. James Hamilton, digested the results of his manifold reading into a set of volumes, entitled “ Bibline; or, Book-Essence," much of which he used as sermon material, greatly to the weariness of the plainer part of his congregation. In Dashiell's sermons there was little “Bibline," much Vitaline, rather, if one may coin the correspondent word. Dr. Erastus Wentworth once criticised a sermon as spoiled by “too much Minerva.” Even when Dashiell was college president there was no Minerva in his preaching.
" His luxury supreme
Whipple, contrasting Webster and Choate, calls the former an “out-of-doors man,” and the latter an “indoors man.” One did his thinking largely in the open air, the other in his library. Webster was at home with “the plain, good sense of average mankind,” and spoke with every-day ease; Choate fed his fires in secret and burst forth in a blaze of eloquence which had been wrought up intensely in solitude.
In the sense of this comparison, Dashiell was an "out-of-doors man.” To a parishioner who once queried when he prepared his sermons, he answered, “I get up sermons on the street.” In his preaching there was no violence or strain, yet no lack of force. He told a young minister, who seemed to lack fire, that he needed a diet of blood and gunpowder. He was proverbially the friend of young men, having a winsome talent for enlisting them. In every pastorate he delivered frequent sermons especially to them, by which many were turned to righteousness. “Is the young man, Absalom, safe?” was one of his favorite texts. Young men whom he had befriended, rescued, and inspired, sat broken-hearted by his bedside in his last illness, holding his wasted hands and kissing them reverently with tears.
A loyal son of the Church, to which he devoted his all, he championed ardently the doctrines and usages of Methodism.