AS the country grows older, the young men rise into prominence less quickly. Time was when a boy graduated from college at fifteen or sixteen, and had his professional education or a good start in business before he had attained his majority. As college after college springs up, and higher education becomes more general, the number of graduates of the older colleges who become prominent men is proportionally decreased.
Notwithstanding all this, the failure of Harvard to supply our country with prominent men is not as complete as many would have us believe. The graduates of the last twenty-five years are men who have as yet no more than entered upon that period of life when the mind is strongest, the period from forty-five to sixty; so that we are warned not to expect too much. Again, through want of perspective it is difficult to tell who are in reality prominent.
If we commence with the class of '51, we are met by the name of Professor Goodwin, "one of the few men who can reason scientifically on the subject of Greek tenses," as an English authority once said. In the next class was the late Chauncy Wright, one of the foremost American biologists; and in the next, President Eliot. The class of '55 contained Alexander Agassiz, recognized in this and other countries as an authority on natural history, and also Phillips Brooks, than whom there is scarcely a more prominent preacher in this country. In the next class we find C. F. Adams, Jr., eminent as an authority on the subject of railroads. Professor Henry Adams, formerly editor of the North American Review, was in the class of '58. Mr. John Fiske, whose exposition of the Spencerian philosophy the Atlantic regards as more charming than Mr. Spencer's own, graduated in '63. Joseph Cook, after Professor Park, the foremost man of that school of theology, graduated as late as '65. Mr. Millett, now rising into eminence as an artist, was in the class of '69; and Henry James, whom the best critics have given a place among our first novelists graduated in '71.
From 1851 to 1874 Harvard graduated fifty-nine men who have become professors in this and other colleges. Probably still further investigation would bring to light other facts proving more strongly that Harvard degeneracy is only the croak of a pessimist.