Nott, Eliphalet, Dd, Lld
Nott, Eliphalet, D.D., LL.D., an eminent Presbyterian divine, and one of the most noted of American educators, deservedly spoken of as "one of the historical monuments of this country" — a man, in short, of very extraordinary characteristics-was born at Ashford, Windham Co., Conn., June 25, 1773. His early training was received under the watchful and intelligent supervision of a most excellent mother. At the age of four years he had read the Bible through, and so insatiable was his thirst for knowledge that, under the direction of his mother, he was constantly adding to his acquisitions from every source within his reach. At one time he was thoroughly bent on becoming a physician, but being present on a certain occasion when a cancer' was to be cut from a woman's breast, his services were put in requisition in some part of the process; he went through it manfully, but when it was all over he fainted; and this was an effectual damper upon his zeal for the medical profession. At sixteen he taught school-at Pautapany, Lord's Bridge; and at eighteen he took charge of the Plainfield Academy, and at the same time pursued his classical and mathematical studies under the Rev. Dr. Benedict. On leaving Plainfield he became a member of Brown University, Providence, R. I., where he remained about a year. He did not, however, graduate in course, but received the degree of master of arts in 1795. He then studied theology under his brother; was licensed by the New London Congregational Association in 1796; labored for some time as a missionary in that part of New York bordering upon Otsego Lake; was school-teacher and missionary at Cherry Valley, in 1795-1797; and pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Albany, 1798-1801. In Albany his was the principal church, and most of the leading men in the state, such as Hamilton, Burr, Livingston, and others, resorted to it, and many of them were his intimate friends. When the news of the duel between Hamilton and Burr reached Albany, Dr. Nott was at Schenectady, attending a meeting of the Board of Trustees of Union College. He was requested to make the melancholy event the subject of discourse the next Sabbath, and this sermon on Hamilton gave him a wide and enduring fame as a pulpit orator, making at the time a profound impression on the public mind, and assisting greatly to bring lasting odium on the bloody practice of duelling. In 1804 he was chosen president of Union College. When he took charge, the affairs of the institution were in a very discouraging condition. It was without funds, buildings, or library, and was in debt, and all its friends were disheartened. The task was great, but he was adequate to the work; for he succeeded beyond all expectation in raising funds and providing for the pressing needs. He soon exhibited high qualities as an executive officer and disciplinarian, and gathered around him an able faculty. Students began to pour in from every state in the Union, and during his long incumbency upwards of four thousand young men graduated. Union College is emphatically of his own formation.' From 1854 till the time of his death he was senior college president in the world. In 1811 he was moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. He died Jan. 29 1866. Dr. Nott published a number of baccalaureate and other sermons, addresses, etc.; also, Counsels to Young Men on the Formation of Character, and the Principles which lead to Success and Happiness in Life:— Lectures on Temperance (1847), of which a new edition, edited by Amasa McCoy, appeared in 1857. These lectures constitute a most efficient argument for the disuse of all intoxicating liquors. He ialso extended his researches to some branches of natural philosophy; and in the "Digest of Patents" will be found thirty in his name granted for applications of heat to steam-engines, the economical use of fuel, etc. George R. Crooks, D.D., in the New York Methodist (Feb. 3, 1866), says of him: "Perhaps no American educator, no American preacher, who has seen the dawning of 1865, has had so unique a history — few, probably, so effective a career. Intellectually he was a remarkable man-many-sided, and superior on most sides. His mechanical genius is well known, and one of the most famous iron manufactories (the 'Novelty Works'), whose novel name has excited many a curious inquiry, originated in one of his inventions, which, by its economical peculiarities, was first known as a 'novelty.' He was a great financier, and enriched himself and Union College by his masterly skill and enterprise. But these talents were but secondary with him-pastimes of his varied mind. In the higher activities of intellect he commanded not only the respect, but the admiration of all who knew him. He was notably perspicacious, and his luminous mind never failed to throw at least a new light on whatsoever subject he treated. If it were one of those problems which the highest intellects have hitherto failed to solve, and which are deemed insoluble — one upon which no additional explanatory light could be expected — still he could give it, at least, original illustration, poetic relief, practical corollaries, that compelled all hearers to say in the words which Addison puts in the mouth of Cato over Plato's argument on the soul, 'Thou reasonest well.' He had no small amount of intellectual courage, and was not afraid of the 'bugbear' imputation of charlatanism against new opinions and startling theories. Some of our best evening converse with him has been upon themes transcending the usually allowed limits of speculation, and when his winged but ever serene mind seemed to soar with the sweep and steadiness of the eagle. But such was the strength of his religious faith. such the real humility of his piety, that we never knew him to trench with any recklessness on the mysteries of revealed truth. As a preacher he was pre-eminent. The present generation has not been able to appreciate him fully in this respect, for he was past his prime, and was immersed in other duties and cares, when it began to turn a critical eye upon him. Still in some of his latest appearances in the desk, before the Church or before his college, his transcendent power has commanded wondering admiration. He was oratorical without being declamatory, and a more finished or perfect oratory was never heard in the American pulpit. We have been disposed to pronounce it faultless. One of his many extraordinary talents was his memory, which, through most of his life, seemed infallible; and it had much to do with his eloquence, for it enabled him to go almost immediately from the composition of his discourse to the desk without his manuscript, and deliver it without the least apparent effort of recollection. His most striking characteristic as a preacher was his perfect grace of manner, toned by a perfect graciousness (if we may so speak) of religious feeling. Strong, serene, dignified, beautiful in language (sometimes to ornateness), clear in thought and argument to transparency itself, appropriate in every modulation and gesture, he impressed one as a consummate master of the art of speaking. And what one could not fail to remark was the fact (indisputable) that this perfection of manner was not at all mechanical. not at all a perfunctory accomplishment, but entirely natural-an expression of the natural symmetry of his intellectual and moral nature. No man was happier in short impromptu or extemporaneous addresses, but he' took beaten gold into the pulpit; he prepared his sermons studiously and prayerfully, yet delivered them with a facility that may be characterized as altogether felicitous. And the moral impression of his sermons was always profound." "This remarkable man," said another, "was pre-eminently distinguished for his indomitable force of character. Whatever he decided upon he achieved, compelling all opposing causes to give way before him. Happily this greatness of soul was controlled by Christian principles and an all-authoritative conscientiousness, else would he have been a scourge rather than a blessing to his race. But as greatness has its own peculiar faults, so these fell to him, at least in a mitigated degree. Yet those who were his pupils in the noonday of his power still remember him with something of an idolatrous sentiment. He has, scarcely less than any contemporary, impressed his own character upon 'that of his age and country, and his influence will run on indefinitely. His physical frame partook somewhat of the energy of his character; and, long beyond the term of ordinary old age, death approached him only by slow and measured stages. Peace to his spirit! honor to his memory!" Of his last days and hours, the Rev. Dr. Backus, who preached the funeral sermon, said: "He was ever to the end a little child before God, most pleased to sit at Jesus' feet, and confiding firmly, gratefully, in the sovereignty and lovingkindness of his gracious Lord. In his dying hours, when he felt that the end could not be afar, his parting counsel and legacy to his nearest friends was: 'Fear God, and keep his commandments' — the counsel and legacy of his mother to himself, which had begun and controlled his entire religious life. When utterance was difficult, the spirit only not gone, he said: 'One word, one word — Jesus Christ;' and the last, the very last exclamation from his lips was, ' My covenant God."' See Memoirs of Eliphalet Nott, D.D., LL.D., by C. Van iantvoord, D.D., with contributions and revision by Prof. Taylor Lewis (N. Y. 1876, 12mo); Wilson, Presbyterian Hist. Almanac (1867), p. 185; Allibone, Dict. of Birit. and Amer. Authors, s.v.; Bishop Alonzo Potter's Hand-book for Readers and Students (1845), p. 260; Methodist Quar. Rev. 7:534; N. Amer. Rev. lxxxv. 572; Fish, Pulpit Eloquence of the 19th Century (1857), p. 379-393; Sketches of the Lit. of the United States; London Athen. (1835), p. 716; Address at the Funeral of the Rev. Dr. Nott, by the Rev. J. T. Backus, D.D. (N. Y. 1866, 8vo); Drake, Dict. of Amer. Biog. s.v.; Presb. Reunion Memorial Volume, p. 124 sq.