IT is rather surprising that from so large a number of students as one finds at Harvard there are so few who are at all familiar with the historic landmarks of Boston and vicinity. We are placed in that portion of the country which has been termed "the classic ground of America," embracing some places, descriptions of which many have perused since their first juvenile acquisition in the art of reading, but containing others which are not of such world-wide celebrity, yet none the less instructive. Within a radius of a few miles from the College there is abundant material to engage for a long time the earnest attention of the antiquarian, and subjects, too, in which every one interested in the history of his own country should take a just pride. Yet the number who acquaint themselves with these things by observation as well as reading is small. Every year many students, to spend their long vacation, hurry off to Europe, are dazzled and delighted by the brilliancy of its splendid capitals, and come back with bad French and worse German, but have never visited either Lexington or Concord, and can scarcely tell the causes which gave them a prominence in our history.
A person can hardly walk through the older part of Boston without passing some spot or building which is closely associated with Revolutionary times. Commerce has destroyed many other places of equal note, and even these are passing away before the demands of trade. The utilitarian spirit of the times, not content with destroying the houses in which some of our forefathers lived, reaches out with an eager hand even toward their last resting-place.
These ancient landmarks which are scattered around us on every side have a history, to learn which is to learn much of the history of the United States. In what better way can we acquire this knowledge than by uniting what we gather from books with actual observation? When the memory is tasked to give a description of a place, imagination pictures it much more correctly if it has been seen. So when we endeavor to recollect what the causes of any particular event are, we are much more successful if the spot where the event occurred has been visited; and there are no person who has better opportunities for this or who would derive more benefit from it than the student. A few hours spent in such a way is certainly more profitable than a continual "dropping in" at some popular resort. Foreigners are wont to remark that America has no places of historic interest, and many men have grown up accepting the apparent truth of this assertion without seeking to disprove it. So long as we continue to agree with this prevalent opinion so long shall we hear these unpleasant things said about us. Let us then as students endeavor to destroy this belief, and our efforts will bring to us our ample reward.
R. A. S.