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THE death of DR. JAMES WALKER, occurring immediately at the beginning of the recess, calls for a respectful mention on our part of a distinguished and venerable man, long identified, in various relations, with Harvard College.
Dr. Walker graduated with great distinction in the class of 1814, at the age of twenty. Many of his classmates attained great eminence in after life, especially Benjamin A. Gould, Master for many years of the Boston Latin School, Rev. Drs. Greenwood and Lawson, Judge Pliny Merrick, and, above all, Prescott, the historian. Dr. Walker was uniformly on terms of great intimacy and affection with his classmates, and eight of them met at his house on the sixtieth anniversary of his graduation.
He studied Divinity at Cambridge after graduation with the professors of theology, who did not then constitute a faculty distinct from that of the College, and in 1818 he was called to the pulpit of the Harvard Church at Charlestown, Mass. He occupied this for twenty-one years, and under his care it became one of the most flourishing and intelligent in the State, and its pastor was recognized as without a peer, with the possible exception of Channing, among Unitarian preachers.
In 1825 he was elected a member of the Board of Overseers of Harvard College, and in 1834 was brought into the most intimate relations with Alma Mater by being chosen one of the Corporation, - a board which, although both in law and fact it is the College more truly than either the Faculty or the Overseers, rarely gets credit among the undergraduates or the community for the power and wisdom shown in its direct authority or its general influence. Dr. Walker's services as a Fellow of the College terminated only after a service of twenty-four years; and his devoted affection to the College, his wide knowledge of men, and his high, liberal, and sensible views of education, were profoundly felt by all his associates.
In 1838 he was appointed to the Professorship of Mental and Moral Philosophy, which had been vacant for six years; he continued to discharge its duties till 1853. In this position, as the course of study was then arranged, he came in contact, sooner or later, with all the undergraduates. His knowledge of his department was most thorough; his views, founded on those of Butler, Reid, Stewart, and Jouffroy, inclined, but entirely without bigotry, to the a priori theory in ethics and metaphysics. His teaching was thoroughly direct and practical; the homely richness of his illustrations, and the living morality that gave point to all his theories, were alive with the very spirit of Plato, in those best dialogues where the mighty master indulges neither in disingenuous quibbles nor unpracticable rhapsodies. Indeed, never was the great description of Socrates, "that he brought moral philosophy down from heaven to earth," more vividly realized than in Dr. Walker.
Having served as President pro tempore for some months in 1845 - 46, after Mr. Quincy's resignation, he was recalled to the office after that of Mr. Sparks in 1853, and continued to hold it for seven years. It is very difficult for one whose whole undergraduate course was passed under his presidency, to convey to his younger brethren an adequate sense of the affectionate respect for his person and the profound trust in his wisdom which were-inspired by every hour of personal intercourse. We felt that we had a real chief; a chief who was proud and happy to lead Harvard students, and who deserved to do so, whether as teacher, ruler, or friend.
The growing infirmities of Dr. Walker's health obliged him to resign the presidency in 1860, and the last fourteen years of his life were spent in most beautiful and honored retirement in our immediate neighborhood. He was re-elected to the Board of Overseers in 1864, and was a member of it at the time of his death. But Dr. Walker is remembered by his pupils and friends more for his power in the pulpit, than for all the services, invaluable as they were, which he rendered in secular life. Once in four weeks, for twenty years, he regularly preached in the College Chapel, and not infrequently in neighboring pulpits. It was an event to hear one of his sermons. The language was invariably plain and direct, yet as invariably free from any expression unworthy the gentleman and the scholar, - golden in its weight, its purity, its value; the manner was most simple, yet most impressive, breathing throughout an intense but chastened emotion arising from a deliberate and an unshaken conviction; the thoughts were distilled with the deepest care from the products of large experience of men, great natural acuteness, patient reflection, and uncompromising self-criticism. Liberal to all mankind. Dr. Walker had far too strong a conviction for God's personal presence, a reverence for the Bible, a love for the Author of Christianity and his doctrine, to give any quarter to scepticism in theory or viciousness in practice. His argument forced you to go down to the roots of things, but placed you, when arrived, on a basis of rock; his appeals stirred your conscience to its depths, only to give new life to every better thought.
The good done by this preaching to all connected with the College can never be overestimated. In his lifetime he published a selection of some of the best of his sermons; and it is understood that his executors have others in charge. No more precious legacy could a president leave to students.
The memory of Dr. Walker will be held by all his pupils, associates, and friends as a priceless possession and a matchless example.
W. E.MESSRS. EDITORS, - I observed, in the last number of the Magenta, a vague hint about the possible formation of a general Whist Club after the recess. Permit me to say that there exists already in the Sophomore Class a Whist Club, which it is proposed to enlarge into a general club at the beginning of the next academic year. Since it is now rather late, on account of the pressure of the Semiannuals, to organize and establish another society, it would seem best to wait till next year; then, if the intention of the Sophomore Club holds good, men from other classes can send in their names and be elected in, and the transformation of a class club into a general club will be much easier and shorter than starting an entirely new club.
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