Peter Cooper's Letter to the Trustees, April 29, 1859 page 3   


That students may become pre-eminent
  Desiring, as I do, that the students of this institution may become pre-eminent examples in the practice of all the virtues, I have determined to give them an opportunity to distinguish themselves for their good judgment by annually recommending to the Trustees for adoption, such rules and regulations as they, on mature reflection, shall believe to be necessary and proper, to preserve good morals and good order throughout their connection with this institution.

The great garden we keep

  It is my desire, and I hereby ordain, that a strict conformity to rules deliberately formed by a vote of the majority of the students, and approved by the Trustees, shall forever be an indispensable requisite for continuing to enjoy the benefits of this institution. I now most earnestly entreat each and every one of the students of this institution, through all coming time, to whom I have entrusted this great responsibility of framing laws for the regulation of their conduct in their connection with the institution, and by which any of the members may lose its privileges, to remember how frail we are, and how liable to err when we come to sit in judgment on the faults of others, and how much the circumstances of our birth, our education, and the society and country where we have been born and brought up, have had to do in forming us and making us what we are. The power of these circumstances, when rightly understood, will be found to have formed the great lines of difference that mark the characters of the people of different countries and neighborhoods. And they constitute a good reason for the exercise of all our charity. It is these circumstances that our Creator has given us the power, in some measure, to control. This is the great garden that we are called upon to keep, and to subdue, and have dominion over, in order to find that everything in it is very good, that the right use and improvement of everything is a virtue, and the wrong or excessive use and perversion of everything, a sin. We should always remember that pride and selfishness have ever been the great enemies of mankind. Men, in all ages, have manifested a disposition to cover up their own faults, and to spread out and magnify the faults of others.
I trust that the students of this institution will do something to bear back the mighty torrent of evils now pressing on the world. I trust that here they will learn to overcome the evils of life with kindness and affection. I trust that here they will find that all true greatness consists in using all the powers they possess to do unto others as they would that others should do unto them; and in this way to become really great by becoming the servant of all.
These great blessings that have fallen to our lot as a people, are entrusted to our care for ourselves and for our posterity, and for the encouragement of suffering humanity throughout the world.
Thirst for knowledge virtue
  Feeling this great responsibility, I desire, by all that I can say and by all that I can do, to awaken in the minds of the rising generation an undying thirst for knowledge and virtue, in order that they may be able, by wise and honorable measures, to preserve the liberties we enjoy.
Fearing a possibility that my own religious opinions may be called in question, and by some be misunderstood or misrepresented, I feel it to be my duty, in all plainness and simplicity, to state the religious opinions that have taken an irresistible possession of my mind. At the same time, I require, by this instrument and expression of my will, that neither my own religious opinions, nor the religious opinions of any sect or party whatever, shall ever be made a test or requirement, in any manner or form, of or for admission to, or continuance to enjoy the benefits of this institution.
One God and Father
  With this qualification, I would then impress, as with the last breath of my life, a fact which I believe to be the most exalting that the mind of man is permitted to contemplate, know, or understand — I mean the ennobling truth that there is one God and Father of all, who is over all and above all — who is forever blessed in the plenitude and fulness of his own infinite perfections; that this God is in very deed our Father; that he has created us in his own image and in his own likeness; that we may become one in spirit, and co-workers with Him in all that is good, great and glorious, for time and for eternity.
What can be more exalting than for the child to behold an infinite parent causing all the elements and essences of the universe to become his ministers to organize, and individualize, and immortalize undying spirits, capable of knowing Him through an endless progress in knowledge and wisdom and power over the material universe forever; to fee! that our Father in heaven has given to us, as individuals, an immortality and an endless growth, under laws so wise and good as never to require to be altered, amended, or revoked?
The life he has given us in his wisdom is an intelligent life — a life of accountability through our consciences, where every act becomes a part of ourselves, to live in our recollection forever.
I would impress the fact, that our Creator has used the best means possible in our formation or creation, and has given us the world, and all that in it is, with life and breath, and all things richly to enjoy. He has given all these blessings wrapt up in our capacity for an endless improvement and progress in the knowledge of our Creator, and in the power he has bestowed to receive and communicate happiness to ail his intelligent creation. So that when we come really to know and feel that our God is love — to realize that He is indeed the Infinite of all that is good; when we come to see that he is drawing all the elements and activities of the universe into himself, and constantly elaborating them into higher forms of grandeur and beauty, and thus calling every intelligent creature to wonder, to love and adore forever.
In this God I believe

To give increasing happiness

Beings formed to rise

In this God I believe. I believe that he is a Spirit in whom we live, move and have our being; so that, if we ascend into the heavens, he is there, and if we descend into the depths of the earth, behold! he is there. I believe that he is filling immensity with his presence, comprehending all things within himself, and working all things after the good pleasure of his own will; that he is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever, and that he changeth not. I believe that God is love, and that love worketh no ill. I believe that love must continue to use all its power through all eternity to give ever increasing happiness to all the creatures that he has made. Such a God I trust I shall come to love with all the heart, soul, might, mind, and strength. I believe that God is so in all and through all; that what may be known of him is clearly seen, being understood by that which he has made, even his eternal power and Godhead: and that he is without variableness or shadow of turning. I believe that he will always work by wise and unalterable laws.
These laws, as far and as fast as they are comprehended by the faculties that he has given us, will be seen to be perfectly consistent and harmonious, and, like the stars in their orbits, "singing forever as they shine - the hand that made us is divine."
With these views, I see as through a glass darkly, all the powers of the universe moving in obedience to immutable laws, guiding them onwards and upwards through all the various developments in the scale of being to a consciousness of God, and an accountability whereby we may show our love to God by the kindness and love that we manifest to the creatures that he has made. I believe that man, to be an accountable being, must, of necessity, be intelligent and free. He must feel and know that freedom and ability are given him to do what is required, before he can ever acknowledge it just or right that he should suffer for violating laws and requirements which he had neither the power nor the intelligence to understand or obey. Believing, as I do, that all the material creation centers in, and finds its culminating point in the organization, individualization, and immortalization of free intelligent beings — beings formed to rise through instinct into knowledge, and by knowledge into an accountability to an individual, and an undying conscience, and thence up to God — I believe mankind, throughout the world, require a religion founded on the highest idea that the human mind can form of all that is powerful, wise, pure and good.
Such a religion we have in those principles that guided the life of Christ, by which he grew in knowledge and in stature and in favor with God and man, from his youth up, and did always those things that are well pleasing to his Father and our Father; and by doing to others as he would that others should do to him, was enabled to overcome all evil; and although tempted in all points, as we are, yet he lived without sin. It will always be found to be our highest wisdom to follow his lovely example by avoiding all that is wrong, and by doing what good we can in the world.

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