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sustained a respectable rank as a scholar. The part assigned to him on taking his degree was a poem. Its subject was History; and it was received by the audience with such extraordinary commendation, that the Rev. Drs. Belknap and Thacher unitedly solicited a copy of it for publication in the Columbian Magazine, printed at Philadelphia';
fully persuaded that it would tend to increase the reputation of our College at the Southward.” This flattering request, however, he modestly but resolutely persisted in declining. After completing his collegiate course, he became the teacher of a school in Worcester. In this service he remained for a year; and here he formed the acquaintance of Miss Mary, the only daughter of Dr. Elijah and Mrs. Dorothy Dix, who was to be the partner of his whole life. Immediately on leaving this pleasant town, he was honored by an application to become private secretary to General Washington. His heart leaped at such a proposal, which promised to bring him into connection with the greatest man of his nation and time, and with the leading events of a wonderful era in the fortunes of his country and the destinies of the earth. His patriotism and his skill with the pen, his love of history and of poetry both, conspired to recommend such a preferment, and promised to open a career for his highest aspirations. Now the course of his life seemed to be beaten out for him in high places, and the motto of his ring was translating itself into distinct prophecy. But no sooner had he signified his acceptance of the appointment than he was struck down with that terrible malady, the small-pox, which at that time had been relieved of only the smaller half of its original terrors. Public affairs cannot wait for the slow recoveries of sickness and for private convenience; and before he was able to arrive at his post the place was filled by Tobias Lear, a gentleman who left the University the same year that young Harris entered it, and who afterwards went through a long course of diplomatic service as Consul-General at St. Domingo and at Tripoli.
Thrown back from this prospect of promotion, he now betook himself to the study of divinity, under the guidance of the Rev. Samuel Kendall of Weston; but at the in
stance of Dr. Willard, President of the College, he returned to Cambridge, and took a room there as a resident graduate, to complete his theological course.
He was “approbated to preach” by the Cambridge Association, in June, 1789, a little before he was twenty-one years of age. The very next month he made his first appearance as a preacher, in the pulpit of Rev. Joseph Jackson of Brookline. After the usual term of three years from taking his first degree of A. B., he received his degree of A. M., and at the Commencement, July, 1790, he pronounced the Valedictory Oration in Latin. On the following day he delivered an oration before the 8. B. K. Society, on “ Learned As
, sociations.” His habits were academic. His chief fondness was for books and learning. This led to his becoming the Librarian of the College, on the resignation of the Rev. Isaac Smith, with whom he had already been associated in that important literary charge. This was in 1791.
. In August of the succeeding year he was elected a member of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and was as abundantly qualified to be useful to it as his diligent fidelity succeeded in making him. Meanwhile he was employed in preaching among the surrounding parishes, wherever his services were sought. On the 23d of October, 1793, he was ordained as the pastor of the church in Dorchester; successor to Rev. Moses Everett, who had resigned the charge about nine months before. His pastorate was permitted to be long-continued, and from the beginning to the end it was a most devoted one. Dr. Pierce bears the following testimony to him in the manuscript account which has been referred to:
“As a pastor, he was diligent, affectionate, conscientious, greatly beloved. For more than ten years he had the ministerial charge of the whole town, which then comprehended also the whole of what is now called South Boston. He was truly in labors more abundant'; writing more sermons than almost any of his brethren; publishing more discourses and other works than almost any contemporary divine; visiting the sick; attending funerals; and frequently repairing to the University, of which during his whole ministry he was an overseer, arranging its library, and making an elaborate report of the con
dition of the same, almost every year. As a preacher, he was earnest and full of tender feeling. He took a peculiar interest in the rising generation, often preaching discourses especially for their benefit, always meeting them with great cordiality, having a word in season cure their affections. At the communion-table and at the baptismal font he was peculiarly interesting. In visits to the sick and the bereaved he was a genuine son of consolation’; so that he could truly say: "Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?' Besides the appropriate duties of his profession, he labored much for the public, being an active member of several literary and benevolent societies, to which he rendered many invaluable services. He devoted much of his leisure to the superintendence of the public schools. Of the Academy at Milton he was a faithful trustee.” As if to connect himself posthumously with the great President whose secretary he came so near being," he sorted and arranged the 132 volumes of the Writings of Washington, furnished them with copious indexes and notes, and thus prepared them for publication,” at the request of their distinguished editor, Mr. Sparks. “ The secret of his accomplishing so much was his untiring industry, and such methodical arrangement of his day that he had few waste hours. He was an early riser, and had a time for everything, and did everything in its time. His punctuality to engagements was a rare trait in his character. No instance can be recollected in which he was at the appointed place of meeting one moment too late.”
Such is the tribute paid to his professional character and habits by an associate, whose thread of life ran nearly even with his own for many years.
Fifteen months after taking the vows of a clergyman, he assumed those of a husband, being united to the lady who has already been named. She was truly a lady. Nature had endowed her with a commanding person, unusual intelligence, and great force of character. Her manners were so stately as to appear at times stern; and her keen dark eye may have seemed rather to penetrate the thoughts of others than to seek to win their affections. In this, she stood in striking contrast to the meek
and yielding spirit of the man she had chosen to wed. It may possibly be that she had no considerable success in attaching the feelings of the parishioners to her, and no special anxiety to secure such an influence. But she was a woman of a noble and benevolent nature; she was abundantly capable of guiding her affairs with discretion. If she was formed to rule, she wished to secure the happiness of her subjects. All this appeared in her dignified old age, when the bearing of a lofty but gracious courtesy was chastened by the touches of many a sorrowful experience, and by the dispositions of a religious and kindly heart; and she sat at the head of her house, making it as wide as it could be spread for the sheltering home of as many as it would hold. This union, that was solemnized on the 28th of January, 1795, gave birth to eight children, five of whom still survive, — Thaddeus William, the learned Librarian of Harvard University, and one of the most distinguished entomologists of our country, Mary Dorothy, Clarendon, John Alexander, and James Winthrop. In the early part of his married life, he was greatly embarrassed and his mind was much distracted by the consequences of building “a large and expensive house.” He did not enter upon this unfortunate undertaking without being advised to it from the most encouraging quarter, — that from which he had reason to expect the greatest assistance in completing the work. That expectation, however, was doomed to utter disappointment. The fortune of his father-in-law turned out to be no resource for him; and this led to mortifications that were deep and lasting: Dr. Pierce says of them: “ It would be difficult to describe the sufferings which he endured from this source. Constituted as he was, it is to the surprise of all who best knew him, that he did not sink under the accumulated weight of his misfortunes and trials.” But these disquietudes, and the various others that can hardly be separated from a laborious and anxious ministerial life, were not all with which he had soon to struggle. In the summer of 1802 a virulent disease broke out, which was pronounced to be yellow-fever. Mr. Harris was assiduous in his attendance upon the sick. In consequence of his exposure to the effluvia of an apartment where eight adult persons died within a few days of each other, he was himself taken down with the malignant distemper. His recovery from it was slow; and when the spring of the following year opened, he was found to continue so debilitated as to be induced to leave his home for a tour into Ohio, which at that time had just arrived at the dignity of a State. Special motives of a private kind led him in that direction, and so far. But no other stimulus could have been needed than the attractive condition of that part of the country to an inquisitive mind. He loved to see for instruction's sake, and to learn that he might communicate what he had acquired; and Ohio, now so flourishing a commonwealth in the American Union, had then the charm, not inferior to the curious eye, of fresh, picturesque, and most luxuriant Nature, with the promise of future social greatness. He was absent four months; and within two years after his return he published the result of his journey in an octavo volume, “ Journal of a Tour into the Territory Northwest of the Alleghany Mountains, with a Geographical and Historical Account of Ohio.” This work did him great credit as an observer and as a writer. It has been out of print for a long time. Dr. Pierce says: “ The celebrated John Foster, of London, author of Essays on Decision of Character, &c., employed a friend to procure it for him. As it could not be found in any bookstore, I reluctantly parted with my own copy, to satisfy the curiosity of this learned man.”
The introduction is so characteristic of the writer, with its quaint plaintiveness, that the first and last portions of it are here inserted. “Having long labored under wasting sickness, which obliged me for a time to relinquish the duties of my ministry; my mind, naturally feeble and timid, sunk under its depressions and yielded to despondency. . A much esteemed neighbor, Mr. Seth Adams, was about making an excursion into the territory northwest of the Ohio, and proposed my accompanying him thither. My brother-in-law, Mr. John Dix, kindly offered to be my attendant, and assisted me in summoning resolution for the undertaking.”