Government, UNC

My Invocation at UNC Board of Governors February Meeting

Rev. Dr. McCorkle – at the laying of the University’s cornerstone in 1793 (slightly paraphrased)
He talks about the absolute importance of God in all our endeavors, the need  for and benefits of public education.

Psalm 127:1
Unless the Lord Builds the House
A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.
Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it, labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to His beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb, a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Rev Dr. McCorkle continues

For my own part, I feel myself penetrated with a sense of these truths; and this I feel not only as a citizen of the State, as a member of civil as well as religious society.

To diffuse the greatest possible degree of happiness in North Carolina is the aim of our government and God’s will.
The happiness of a nation depends on national wealth, success, just laws, and liberty.
Those objectives require an educated populace.
Help us educate the people of this State.
Help us create public places of education that give our citizens the means to live a happy and productive life.
This in turn we hope will lead to a more successful and productive nation.
Help us use our universities to encourage industry to provide careers for our citizens.
All these successes depend on dissemination of knowledge.

Knowledge is wealth, it is glory —whether among philosophers, ministers of state or of religion, or among the great mass of the people.
We celebrate our thought leaders as kings.
Uncivilized people cannot have, or rather cannot educate such leaders, though many capable children with unlimited potential are born and buried among them.
Knowledge is liberty and law.
When the clouds of ignorance are dispelled by the radiance of knowledge, power trembles, but the authority of the laws remains inviolable;
and how this knowledge, productive of so many advantages to mankind, can be acquired without public places of instruction, I know not.

May this hill be for religion as the ancient hill of Zion; and for literature and the Muses, may it surpass the ancient Parnassus! We this day enjoy the pleasure of seeing the corner-stone of the University, its foundations, its materials, and the architects of the buildings, and we hope ever long to see its stately walls and spire ascending to their summit.

Guide us Lord and help us serve the People of this State.

I pulled most of the quotes from Sketches of North Carolina by William Henry Foote (http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/foote/foote.html).  Rev Dr. McCorkle’s quotes start on page 532.
I included the entire Psalm 127:1 – the book doesn’t quote the whole psalm, but it appears to have only a portion of his speech.  I also paraphrased some parts of the speech for brevity and modern reference.
The relevant text from Sketches of North Carolina is:
Page 532
On the 12th of October, 1793, the first lots in the village were sold, and the corner-stone of the first building was laid, with masonic procession and ceremonies, by William Richardson Davie. The Rev. Dr. McCorkle, of the Presbyterian church, the only clergyman then in the corporation, addressed the assembly at length. From his speech the following are extracts:–“It is our duty to acknowledge that sacred scriptural truth, Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it; except the Lord keepeth the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. For my own part, I feel myself penetrated with a sense of these truths; and this I feel not only as a minister of religion, but also as a citizen of the State, as a member of civil as well as religious society. These unaffected feelings of my heart give me leave to express, with that plainness and honesty which becomes a preacher of the Gospel and a minister of Jesus Christ.””To diffuse the greatest possible degree of happiness in a given territory is the aim of good government and religion. Now the happiness of a nation depends upon national wealth and national glory, and cannot be gained without them. They in like manner depend upon liberty and laws. Liberty and laws call for general knowledge in the people, and extensive knowledge in matters ofPage 533
State; and these, in fine, demand public places of education. * * * * How can any nation be happy without national wealth? How can that nation, or man, be happy that is not procuring the necessary conveniences and accommodations of life? How can glory or wealth be procured or preserved without liberty and laws, as they must check luxury, encourage industry and protect wealth. They must secure me the glory of my actions, and save from a bowstring or a bastile; and how are these objects to be gained without general knowledge? Knowledge is wealth,–it is glory–whether among philosophers, ministers of state or of religion, or among the great mass of the people. Britons glory in the name of a Newton, and honor him with a place among the sepulchres of her kings. Americans glory in the name of a Franklin; and every nation which has them boasts her great men. Savages cannot have, rathercannot educate them, though many a Newton has been born and buried among them. Knowledge is liberty and law. When the clouds of ignorance are dispelled by the radiance of knowledge, power trembles, but the authority of the laws remains inviolable; and how this knowledge, productive of so many advantages to mankind, can be acquired without public places of instruction, I know not. * * * * “May this hill be for religion as the ancient hill of Zion; and for literature and the Muses, may it surpass the ancient Parnassus! We this day enjoy the pleasure of seeing the corner-stone of the University, its foundations, its materials, and the architects of the buildings, and we hope ere long to see its stately walls and spire ascending to their summit.” The discourse was followed by a short but animated prayer, closed with the united Amen of an immense concourse of people.

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