Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Selections from the Letters and Speeches of the Hon. James H. Hammond, of South Carolina >> An Oration Delivered Before the Two Societies of the South Carolina College, on the 4th of Dec., 1849 >> Page 206

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Page 206

Speech | The Reprint Company; John F. Trow & Co. | 1866, 1978
Transcription 206
varied, if more or fewer obstacles had impeded the
march of those who have gone before us, we could not
now occupy the precise position that we do. The
most successful culture of a single art or science would
be utterly insufficient to account for any but the low-
est grade of civilization. Nor could any combination
of kindred arts and sciences, carried to the highest
perfection, approximate to the production of the grand
and infinitely varied results by which we find ourselves
surrounded.
To know then where we are—to have any thing
like a proper conception of the position that we really
occupy, it. is necessary for us to learn whence and how
we came here, and to trace the mighty wanderings of
our forefathers from the period when an offended
Deity thrust our first parents from the gates of Eden
a task, beset with difficulties, from which utilitarian-
ism shrinks. The voyager upon the shoreless ocean,
and the traveller in the trackless desert, ascertain their
situation by observation of the fixed and everlasting
stars. But no such bright and steady lights shine out
upon the boisterous sea of human affairs, or guide the
adventurer through the wide waste of time. Truth,
the only safe and certain guide, does not glitter from
the heights, but casts up a feeble, though unerring
ray, from the very depths of nature ; and we must pass
the prime of life in toilsome search for that, before
we can read aright the dim traditions, and mutilated
and discolored records which portray the wonderful
career of man.
But it is only when we have conquered, sacked, and
seized possession of the past, and all the past, that we
have real knowledge, and may then, so far as we are