They had all risen to be distinguished soldiers; they had all done deeds of great heroism; they had all combined with their valour and self-devotion a serene cheerfulness, a quiet modesty, and a truly Christian spirit; and they had all been educated in one school--Harvard University.
Gentlemen, nothing was more remarkable in these fine descendants of our forefathers than the invincible determination with which they fought against odds, and the undauntable spirit with which they resisted defeat. I ask you, who will say after last Friday that Harvard University is less true to herself in peace than she was in war? I ask you, who will not recognise in her boat's crew the leaven of her soldiers, and who does not feel that she has now a greater right than ever to be proud of her sons, and take these sons to her breast when they return with resounding acclamations? It is related of the Duke of Wellington that he once told a lady who foolishly protested that she would like to see a great victory that there was only one thing worse than a great victory, and that was a great defeat.
But, gentlemen, there is another sense in which to use the term a great defeat. Such is the defeat of a handful of daring fellows who make a preliminary dash of three or four thousand stormy miles to meet great conquerors on their own domain--who do not want the stimulus of friends and home, but who sufficiently hear and feel their own dear land in the shouts and cheers of another--and who strive to the last with a desperate tenacity that makes the beating of them a new feather in the proudest cap. Gentlemen, you agree with me that such a defeat is a great, noble part of a manly, wholesome action; and I say that it is in the essence and life- blood of such a defeat to become at last sure victory.
Now, gentlemen, you know perfectly well the toast I am going to propose, and you know equally well that in thus glancing first towards our friends of the white stripes, I merely anticipate and respond to the instinctive courtesy of Oxford towards our brothers from a distance--a courtesy extending, I hope, and I do not doubt, to any imaginable limits except allowing them to take the first place in last Friday's match, if they could by any human and honourable means be kept in the second. I will not avail myself of the opportunity provided for me by the absence of the greater part of the Oxford crew--indeed, of all but one, and that, its most modest and devoted member--I will not avail myself of the golden opportunity considerately provided for me to say a great deal in honour of the Oxford crew. I know that the gentleman who attends here attends under unusual anxieties and difficulties, and that if he were less in earnest his filial affection could not possibly allow him to be here.
It is therefore enough for me, gentlemen, and enough for you, that I should say here, and now, that we all unite with one accord in regarding the Oxford crew as the pride and flower of England--and that we should consider it very weak indeed to set anything short of England's very best in opposition to or competition with America; though it certainly must be confessed--I am bound in common justice and honour to admit it--it must be confessed in disparagement of the Oxford men, as I heard a discontented gentleman remark--last Friday night, about ten o'clock, when he was baiting a very small horse in the Strand--he was one of eleven with pipes in a chaise cart--I say it must be admitted in disparagement of the Oxford men on the authority of this gentleman, that they have won so often that they could afford to lose a little now, and that "they ought to do it, but they won't."
Gentlemen, in drinking to both crews, and in offering the poor testimony of our thanks in acknowledgment of the gallant spectacle which they presented to countless thousands last Friday, I am sure I express not only your feeling, and my feeling, and the feeling of the Blue, but also the feeling of the whole people of England, when I cordially give them welcome to our English waters and English ground, and also bid them "God speed" in their voyage home.