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Title: "The Sentiment of Honor," Commencement Address of William J. Headen, June 7, 1860: Electronic Edition.
Author: Headen, William Joseph, 1837-1865
Editor: Erika Lindemann
Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the electronic publication of this title.
Text transcribed by Erika Lindemann
Images scanned by Mara E. Dabrishus
Text encoded by Amanda Page
First Edition, 2005
Size of electronic edition: ca. 14K
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
The electronic edition is a part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2005-05-19, Amanda Page finished TEI/XML encoding.
Part of a series:
This transcribed document is part of a digital collection, titled True and Candid Compositions: The Lives and Writings of Antebellum Students in North Carolina
written by Lindemann, Erika
Title of collection: Senior and Junior Orations, North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: "The Sentiment of Honor," Commencement Address of William J. Headen, June 7, 1860
Author: Headen, William Joseph, 1837-1865
Description: 4 pages, 4 page images
Note: Call number VC378 UO1 (North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Topics covered:
Politics and Government/Political Issues
Education/UNC Curriculum
Social and Moral Issues/Other Social and Moral Issues
Examples of Student Writing/Commencement Addresses
Editorial practices
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Originals are in the North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Original grammar, punctuation, and spelling have been preserved.
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For more information about transcription and other editorial decisions, see Dr. Erika Lindemann's explanation under the section Editorial Practices.

Document Summary

Headen's commencement address argues that honor prompts a man to preserve his good name and that of his friends; it is a principle motivated, not by perceived insults or selfish interests, but by a divine impulse to protect a nation's pride, strength, and security.
"The Sentiment of Honor," Commencement Address of William J. Headen , June 7, 18601

Headen, William Joseph, 1837-1865

Page 1
The Sentiment of honor
Chatham Co.
N. C.
Commencement Oration. June 7th 1860.
That feeling which prompts a man to maintain and preserve his own good name and that of his friends; which makes him jealous of the best interests of his country and nerves the soul to encounter danger and trouble with tranquility and firmness is a ruling principle of action in the life and character of every good and great man. It raises him above revenge, injustice and meanness and impels him to the sacrifice of personal ease and safety for the accomplishment of laudable objects. The most brilliant achievements and the most perfect models of all that can awaken the admiration or gain the affections and the gratitude of man which we find recorded in history, are the manifestations of that delicate sense of honor which constitutes the essential element of greatness, which first suggests in man something more than animate nature, a Promethean spark enkindled from Heaven in his soul. While it is not the growth of experience or of time and cannot be adopted for the sake

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of expediency, it is not confined in its operation to separate portions of the human family; but wherever the darkness of perpetual night has been removed from the mind and a single ray of civilization has entered, in every condition of society where man is one remove from the beasts that surround him—in a rude and unpolished state of nature, with the forests for his home through which he roams by day and with only the starry canopy of heaven above him by night, no less than amid the glorious blessings of civilized life, do we find that sense of honor which binds him to the Spirit of the universe and lifts him above all other created beings. In the deep forests of America—in the wilds of the far-distant Australia—amid the mountain of glaciers of the north and in the balmy isles of the south—on the plains of Asia—wherever society of any sort exists the sentiment of honor he guards with a holy care. While it often urges men to violence and desperation in return for insults offered and injuries received, it is supreme for the age and for the time and is ever the same when tried by the existing standard of virtue. Poverty and danger, sickness and death—aye more, ten thousand deaths would they endure rather than a violation of honor. True there are those destitute of this principle; beings who are scarcely worthy of contempt; who cannot resist the temptation of a bribe; whose opinions are those of the last person they have conversed with, and whose

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highest aspiration it is to reflect the smile of some notable; who speak loudly of the public good that they may have an opportunity of advancing selfish interests and pronounce the sacred name of patriotism with treason and cowardice concealed in their hearts, but these we would not remember nor would we grant that they have any claim to the high distinction of being called men. And if it should happen that their names go down to later generations they are mentioned only as a warning against the crime and the utter ruin attending a sacrifice of honor. Where this sentiment is an active principle man is raised to an infinitely higher position, and though he be devoid of wealth and ancestral honors, devoid of fluent speech and courtly art, stand[ing]2 alone and obscure with nothing but his true heart beating in his noble bosom a divine impulse inspires him to place so high a value upon it that the gold of California and the riches of Golconda could not induce him to make a surrender. And if in any period of the history of the world the stars of resplendent lustre have risen in greater number than in another it was the development of a high sense of honor and because it was regarded as a fixed principle of action 'Tis this that gives the steady burning of the eye of intellect and the fierce flashing of the eye of passion, the love of youth and manhood's ambition and it forms a bright spot in the character of man around which the best affections linger and the sweetest memories gather.

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The good sword of the fearless and gallant soldier as he mingles in the scenes of the battle-field with death and carnage around him strikes for the honor of its bearer, and this sentiment inspires the mariner when defending the flag that floats above him, amid the fierce assaults of enemies to maintain those rights that are confided to his keeping and refrain from whatever is base or cowardly. Actuated by this principle the statesman would see his country endure anything rather than impeachment of that national honor which constitutes not only her pride, her strength and security, but the vital spark of her prosperity.
'Twas thus with the men whose names and deeds are dearest to the American citizen—with the man of the "calm gray eye" the chosen instrument of a people's redemption—with the gallant Warren —with the partisan3 soldier from the swamps of Santee—with the youthful stranger from the luxuries of his native France and a host of others at the mention of whom we feel proud of our national character—proud of the splendid examples of heroism presented to the world, and we must not forget the crowning glory of their dear-won laurels.4 The sentiment of honor was a ruling principle in the lives of these illustrious men and thus have they recorded their deeds on the hearts of their countrymen and left to distant posterity names around which gratitude will encircle the most precious garlands,
"Until the sun shall linger in the cloud
Forgetful of the voice of morning"


1.Senior and Junior Orations (1860), NCC. Headen's speech, which is unusually short and may be incomplete, is bound together with Edward J. Hale's valedictory address. A second hand has written in the upper right corner of page one the call number of the volume: VC 378/UO1/1860.

2. Headen wrote standand.

3. Headen wrote an on top of en.

4. The references in this sentence are to Revolutionary War heroes George Washington (1732-99), Joseph Warren (1741-75), Francis Marion (1732?-95), and Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834).