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1851 Commencement Speech
by M. Edgar Richards


M. Edgar Richards' essay "Improvements of the Age" was the last of twelve student orations listed on the program for the July 3, 1851 commencement of Penn's College Class of 1851. The seven page manuscript of Richard's tongue-in-cheek commmentary on mid-nineteenth century progress is available here as both facsimile and transcription.



Facsimile pages :Title 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Transcription: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7


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out of this world of sorrow and misery is marvellous [sic]. And after they have "overturned the pail" or "stepped out" of this world their comfort and pleasure are most carefully looked after when they are planted under the sod. The statistics of an eastern town among other things tending to show the activity and improvements of the place, gravely suggests that it bids fair to have one of the most pleasant graveyards in the state. In fact the beauty of the resting place offers so many inducements that people die for the sake of coming back in their ghostly capacity to see their beautiful graves, and read the flattery inscribed on their tombstones and the puffs in the newspapers.

Our institutions are too free and liberal to throw any obstacles in the way of those who would exercise a little brief authority, and he who wishes to enjoy a high seat in the synagogue straightway announces his party and principles, puts on his electioneering working clothes and stumps it. If he has a good strong voice and a great lack of what is called modest merit, his chance of being elected is considered good.

Uncle Sam though enjoying plenty of room to shake himself, has no false delicacy in matters of territory, but when he perceives his relatives a little....... continued on next page