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The Two Seals


Secretary of Howard University

[Note 43: An address delivered at a banquet given in his honor, May
21, 1912.]

Mr. Toastmaster and Friends:

Let me first thank the Committee and you all for your generosity in
tendering me this evidence of good wishes and good will. It is stated in
your invitation, "In honor of George William Cook, Secretary of Howard
University"--a double compliment, at once personal and official. Surely
it is an honor to find so many men of varied occupations and duties
turning aside to spend time and money to express appreciation of one's
character. Dull indeed must the creature be who cannot find gratitude
enough to return thanks; for grateful minds always return thanks. To be
direct I deeply feel the personal and non-official side of the
compliment you pay me, but will you pardon me, gentlemen, if I confess
that to compliment me as Secretary of Howard University touches me in a
tender and vulnerable spot. "I love old Howard," and always have been
and am now anxious to be in the team to tug at the administrative phase
of Howard's movements. Accept then, my sincere thanks.

Now let us then turn aside in sweet communion as brothers to talk about
our alma mater. Let us trace her from foundation to present eminence;
re-affirm our family pledges and form resolutions new. Howard men will
spring up with both money and spirit, not far in the future, when the
mother's cry in want will be met with a generous hand from her sons and
daughters. A little more time for preparation and accumulation; then
will be the time when endowment will precede request for preferment.
When black philanthropists can turn desert spots into oases of learning
and build halls of culture, then will Howard be reaping the reward in
her own harvest and justify her being in the great family of

Though I wax warm in sentiment, I crave your indulgence but for a short
while, for I pledge you my honor, and I say it seriously, that there is
an affection underlying my words that makes Howard but second in love to
my wife and child. She has been a gracious mother to me, supplying my
necessities and defending me in my adversities, for which I have ever
sought with might and main to return loyalty and service. When I am
referred to as a Howard man, I have an uplift in the consciousness of
relationship and fealty to an institution which to honor is but to be

Visible manifestations of thought and idea have ever marked the purposes
of man. Monuments and cities but express precurrent mental objects. God,
in His message to Moses, directed that a tabernacle be built and that it
should be the sign of his pleasure and approbation, a veritable
indwelling of the spirit of God. Living thought can be said to have
habitation. Greek and Roman art, Egyptian architecture, Catholic
grandeur, or Quaker simplicity, all speak some great and noble
soul-moving and world-moving power. Within the temple area was centered
the devotion of the Jew, both political and religious. The Hebrew
theocratic system of government made it so. St. Peter's at Rome, no more
nor less than St. Paul's at London, speaks of God and the mission of His
son. The Mosque of Omar, Saint Sophia at Constantinople, point that
Allah is God and Mohammed is His Prophet; the Taj-Mahal is at once the
emblem and creation of love; the Sistine Chapel teaches the glories and
joys of maternity and God incarnate in man. The Pan-American Building at
Washington, the Carnegie Peace Building at The Hague, teach unity of
mankind, and but heighten the angelic chorus of "Peace and good will to

From yon Virginia hill, a galaxy of institutions may be discerned,
bringing lessons to a listening world. As one may stand on Arlington's
sacred heights, looking about him, he will find the indices in the
graves and monuments there of sacrifice for a national union
"indissoluble and forever"; and as his eyes sweep the horizon, scanning
through mist and sunshine, the emblem and insignia of thought and policy
will block the view. He will see the gold-tipped dome of the Library of
Congress glinting in the light, and know its scintillations but herald
the purpose to keep the light of learning and knowledge bright. Yon
stately Capitol dome interrupts his line of vision but to remind him
that it covers the chancel of legislation, and that representative
government is a fixed and permanent fact. That single towering shaft on
yon Potomac bed speaks of individual and unselfish devotion to a
nation--Washingtonian patriotism, unique in history--and at the same
time reflects the appreciation of a grateful and worshipful people. Hast
thou seen it in its lonely grandeur on a moonlight night? It is well
worth a trip across the ocean to read its message. Sweeping westward,
the eye sees planted on a hill-top Georgetown College, the outward
symbol of tenet and propaganda. Raising the visual angle and dropping
back to the northwest, the white marble walls of the American University
come to view, planted that Methodism with justification by faith might
preach the Gospel for the redemption of man. Turning to the northeast,
the great Catholic University presents itself as a repository and, at
the same time, a vehicle of Catholic love of learning; and in
juxtaposition towers high in alabastine whiteness the Spanish
architecture of the Soldiers Home; though standing mute in immaculate
marble, expressing to the defenders of a country an appreciation of
their patriotism and sacrifice; the ensemble preaching to an active
world. Then, the line of vision is obtruded upon by the stately main
building of Howard University, of her structures the noblest. Observed
from the high palisades or the low bed of the Potomac, that ever-present
object of view from any point of the District is veritably "a city on a
hill that cannot be hid,"--symbolic and typical of her mission. And then
the inquiry comes as to her significance. Why standeth thou there
absorbing space?

Vying in sunshine and moonshine with the Capitol in conspicuous aspect,
the two stand as twin sentinels on opposite ramparts of the Potomac
Valley, overlooking in midnight vigil the slumbering city, each
challenging the attention of the wayfarer. What art thou to justify
thyself to man? What mission hast thou to excuse thy being? What road of
profit? What principle of uplift hast thou to send forth? Thy halls
resound to the murmur of what message from the Divine? What, we ask, is
thy mission? The answer is echoed from the archives: "Consult her
founders; learn of them if thou wouldst know." Therefore, friends, we
turn to the records of Howard University and the declaration of her
founders--her founders, men fresh from the fortunes of war,
battle-scarred and blood-stained, desiring further to perpetuate the
object of their militant victories by the forces of peace and
brotherhood; men who failed to die at Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, and
Lookout Mountain, and continued the fight on this hill; men who, not
satisfied with loosening the shackles of bondage, turned their powers to
driving darkness from human souls, though encased in ebony; men who
wrought under God's hand, and dying dissatisfied that the full fruition
of their labors were not yet come to pass, leaving to survivors and
posterity an unmistaken task and warfare.

Howard has had two seals. The first reading "Equal rights and knowledge
for all"; the second, "For God and the Republic"; the former breathing
the spirit of the Civil War period and the Pauline doctrine declared
before the Areopagus, announced in the preaching and work of Christ and
emphasized by the Declaration of Independence; the latter pregnant with
reverence, piety, and patriotism; the twain compassing man's duty higher
than which human conception is lost. Privileged indeed is one to live
under the aegis of such twin declarations. Fortunate indeed to have the
authorization of official acts blessed by the benediction of such

The preamble to the charter explains comprehensively, though not in
detail, the great purpose of Howard University:

"Section 1. That there be established, and is hereby established in the
District of Columbia, a university for the education of youth in the
liberal arts and sciences, under the name, seal, and title of Howard
University," stated as simple and plain as the decalogue itself.

I glean from the Fourth Annual Report on Schools for Freedmen for July
1, 1867, by J. W. Alvord, then General Superintendent of Schools, Bureau
for Refugees and Abandoned Lands, what I conceive to be the first
catalogue of Howard University, and, if you will bear with me, I will
read the entire catalogue.

"Howard University. A charter has been granted by Congress for the
Howard University, which is to be open to all of both sexes without
discrimination of color. This institution bids fair to do great good.
Its beautiful site, so opportunely and wisely secured, is an earnest of
success. Large and commodious buildings are soon to be erected thereon.
The normal and preparatory departments of the university were opened on
the first of May, under the instruction of Rev. E. F. Williams, an
accomplished scholar and a thorough teacher. At the close of the month
the school numbered thirty-one scholars; it has now increased to about
sixty. Miss Lord, so long a popular teacher of this city, has been
appointed assistant. The grade of this school is low for its name, but
the students are making good advancement."

It may be thought by casual consideration, as was said by eminent men,
that the name was the largest thing about it, but I prefer to disagree
and to say that the purpose as set forth in the charter is the greatest
thing about it. These are the words:

"We urge all friends of the freedmen to increasing confidence and to
look forward with assured expectation to greater things than these. This
people are to be prepared for what is being prepared for them. They are
to become a 'people which in time past were not a people'; and there is
increasing evidence that 'God hath made of one blood all the nations of
men.' Equal endowments substantially, with equal culture, will produce
that equality common to all mankind."

In them we get the quintescence, we get the crystallization, we get the
high purpose, we get the spiritual foundation, of Howard University.

Conceived in prayer, born of the faith and convictions as embodied in
its original seal which reads, "Equal rights and knowledge for all," an
offspring of Plymouth Rock, Howard University is set before you--a cross
between religious fervor and prophetic educational enthusiasm. She is,
then, the essence filtrating from the declaration of Paul at Athens,
that "of one blood hath God created all men to dwell upon earth."

For forty-five years, Howard has been living her life. She has been more
or less doing her work as circumstances allowed and dictated, but now we
ask of you "Watchman, what of the night?" How far has this work been
progressing along the line of basal principles that we find embodied in
all these authoritative extracts? Unfortunate I think it is that the
discussions in the early meetings of the Board of Trustees were not
preserved in stenographic report, for the time will come when the
spiritual history of Howard University must be written as well as its
material history, and then the historian will be at a loss to find the
true afflatus that gave birth to our alma mater, unless we keep it in

The imagination has oft painted Howard University as a temple--a temple
of knowledge,--a temple for the teaching of justice; a temple for the
upbuild of mankind. Let us then hold its form to our imagination, pearly
white as the palaces of the South, straight in its construction as
rectitude, and let us present it to an admiring world, not only for
aesthetic culture but ethical grandeur, religious progress, and political
righteousness; and let us say to all, be he high or low, "who touches a
stone in yon God-given edifice" is guilty of vandalism, is an iconoclast
not at any time to be tolerated. He is tampering with the rights and
privileges of a worthy people and deserves to have visited upon him the
excoriation of a fiery indignation. Howard was created to meet the dire
needs of a meritorious class, and insensible indeed must the man be who
for sentimental or personal reasons or for profit, swerves one degree
from the line of the highest form of education in administration or
instruction. There should be launched upon him the anathema of an
outraged people.

Sound the alarm that no man must hinder the true mission of Howard
University. It were better for him that a millstone were hung about his
neck and that he be cast into the deep. For him there is punishment even
after death in the sure infamy that will attach to his name.

The old motto, "Equal rights and knowledge for all," is a necessary
constituent of the Howard University life and purpose. There can be no
Howard University without equal rights and highest culture for all,
based upon merit and capacity. To be plain, we know of no Negro
education. Political rights and civic privileges are accompaniments of
citizenship and are therefore part of the warp and woof of Howard
University's curricula; the salt and savor without which wherewith will
it be salted? Mathematics has no color; ethics and philosophy are of no
creed or class; culture was not fashioned for race monopoly; knowledge
is in no plan or department an exclusive goal; justice is universal.
Freedom in striving for the acquisition of God's bounty as revealed by
nature is the birthright of all and an inalienable right of all. These
are God-given privileges, and any contravention of them is born of evil
and belongs to the evil powers.

Our privileges have imposed a trust and we are the trustees. Let no man
deceive himself. Whatever the opportunity of approval now for betrayal
of trust bequeathed to us, the time will come for the court of public
opinion to find whom to blame and whom to thank. What the founders
demanded for Howard, we must still demand. What William Clark and Martha
Spaulding by their gifts meant, must still be meant by Howard's
activities. Being justified in the past, it must be maintained in the
future. Then to-night let us re-baptize in Howard spirit and issue the
mandate of loyalty and endeavor.

* * * * *

Let no Howard man ever expatriate himself. Necessity driving him from
Howard, let him consider himself domiciled elsewhere, but his scholastic
citizenship intact in Howard.

We will sing the old song of Howard, though there be other songs
greater. Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, and Leipsic may sing their songs, but,
for me and my house, we will sing "Howard, I love old Howard."

Let us imitate the psalmist: "We will meditate also of all thy work, and
talk of thy doings." We will exalt Howard and delight in her good work.
Where she is weak we will endeavor to strengthen, and where she is
strong we will direct to the uplift of the race. She may be lacking in
equipment; that can be tolerated; but as to principle, she must not be
weak at any point. From stem to stern she must carry the marks of her
purpose, and at mast-head must float the pennant of her seals.

Neither time nor purpose can ever erase the fitness of "Equal rights and
knowledge for all," "For God and the Republic,"--the two seals.

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