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Major Henry Lee Higginson '55 gave an informal talk in the Union last evening on some of the experiences of his career, dwelling chiefly upon his army life during the Civil War In an almost impersonal manner, Major Higginson talked to Harvard men as a Harvard man. He said: "I am going to give you some of my experiences in life, and if there is any moral to be drawn from them, I hope you will draw it."
Major Higginson briefly outlined his early life to the outbreak of the Civil War. He was born in New York City in 1834, moved to Boston when he was four years of age, and attended school there until 1851, when he came to college. Among his intimate friends at college were the late Horace Furness '54, the great Shakespearean scholar, and the late Charles Lowell '54.
After a four years' stay abroad with four companions, Major Higginson returned in time to answer the first call for three year men to put down the Rebellion. Until he was sent home ill, he was an officer in the Second Massachusetts Infantry, whose wonderful record has been summed up by eulogists, as that of a regiment which "never left its position without orders." Upon returning to the army, Major Higginson joined a regiment of cavalry which did service throughout the rest of the war.
After the war was over, he went South, bought up a plantation, and tried to improve the condition of the negroes, but failed because the time was not yet ripe. Upon returning North he went to work with the firm of which he is now a partner. He described his remarkable business success by briefly saying that he went to work and made good as best he could.
A Life of Service.
The Major then touched upon what has been one of the key notes of his life, namely: wherever there is real need, we should work to satisfy that need. He said he thought that Boston needed good music. Accordingly, in 1881, he established the Symphony Orchestra. He applied the same principle in the case of his University. In 1890, he thought Harvard needed a playground: the result was Soldiers Field. In 1900, he believed he saw the need of a centre for university life: the result was the Union. With the same spirit the Corporation acquired and built up the present great Medical School.
Major Higginson concluded by pleading with Harvard men to devote their lives to individual unselfish service. "There is nothing better in the world," he declared, "than to help our fellows." But it is best that we work for such ends as individuals: we should not ask the government to do things which we can as well do ourselves.
"Lastly," he said, "do not hesitate, after due deliberation, to stand up and say what you think. Say it pleasantly and not dogmatically; but do not fail to say honestly and sincerely what you believe to be true."
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