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Alexander von Humboldt: „Colonel Fremont“, in: ders., Sämtliche Schriften digital, herausgegeben von Oliver Lubrich und Thomas Nehrlich, Universität Bern 2021. URL: <> [abgerufen am 05.02.2023].

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Titel Colonel Fremont
Jahr 1851
Ort Washington, District of Columbia
in: Weekly National Intelligencer 516 (17. Mai 1851), [o. S.].
Sprache Englisch
Schriftart Antiqua
Textnummer Druckausgabe: VII.14
Dateiname: 1851-Colonel_Fremont-01-neu
Seitenanzahl: 1
Zeichenanzahl: 12949

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Col. Fremont, Man and Boy.—The Early Pro-mise, and the Ripe Performance.

There has come to our hands at the same time two noticesof Col. Fremont, one in relation to his early age and school-boy days, the other in relation to his great explorations, andboth honorable to him, and from persons whose testimony ismost honorable—his teacher, and the Baron Humboldt. Inthe preface to a school edition of Xenophon’s Anabasis for aGreek class, by Dr. Roberton, now of Philadelphia, thereis an account of the young Fremont as he first appeared atthe grammar school of the Dr. at Charleston, (S. C.) and ofhis diligence, and progress, and moral deportment, and earlypromise of distinguished life; which is given, as the prefacestates, as an example and encouragement to all his scholars.The other is a letter from the great Baron Humboldt, and,besides expressing his own admiration of the labors of Fre-mont, communicates to him the grand golden medal of theKing of Prussia for progress in the sciences, and makes knownto him his election as an honorary member of the Geographi-cal Society at Berlin. The following is the notice of the old teacher:
“For your further encouragement, I will here relate avery remarkable instance of patient diligence and indomita-ble perseverance. “In the year 1827, after I had returned to Charlestonfrom Scotland, and my classes were going on, a very respec-table lawyer came to my school, I think some time in themonth of October, with a youth apparently about sixteen, orperhaps not so much, (14,) of middle size, graceful in man-ners, rather slender, but well formed, and, upon the whole,what I would call handsome; of a keen, piercing eye, and anoble forehead, seemingly the very seat of genius. The gen-tleman stated that he found him given to study; that he hadbeen about three weeks learning the Latin rudimen’s, and(hoping, I suppose, to turn the youth’s attention from thelaw to the ministry) had resolved to place him under my carefor the purpose of learning Greek, Latin, and Mathematics,sufficient to enter Charleston College. I very gladly receiv-ed him, for I immediately perceived he was no commonyouth, as intelligence beamed in his dark eye, and shonebrightly on his countenance, indicating great ability, and anassurance of his future progress. I at once put him in thehighest class, just beginning to read Cæsar’s Commentaries,and, although at first inferior, his prodigious memory and en-thusiastic application soon enabled him to surpass the best.He began Greek at the same time, and read with some whohad been long at it, in which he also soon excelled. In short,in the space of one year, he had with the class, and at oddhours with myself, read four books of Cæsar, Cornelius Ne-pos, Sallust, six books of Virgil, nearly all Horace, and twobooks of Livy; and in Greek, all Graeca Minora, about thehalf of the first volume of Graeca Majora, and four books ofHomer’s Iliad. And whatever he read, he retained. Itseemed to me, in fact, as if he learned by mere intuition. Iwas myself utterly astonished, and at the same time delighted,with his progress. I have hinted above that he was designedfor the Church, but when I contemplated his bold, fearlessdisposition, his powerful inventive genius, his admiration ofwarlike exploits, and his love of heroic and adventurousdeeds, I did not think it likely he would be a minister of theGospel. He had not, however, the least appearance of anyvice whatever. On the contrary, he was always the verypattern of virtue and modesty. I could not help loving him,so much did he captivate me by his gentlemanly conduct andextraordinary progress. It was easy to see that he would oneday raise himself to eminence. Whilst under my instruction,I discovered his early genius for poetic composition in the fol-lowing manner. When the Greek class read the accountthat Herodotus gives of the battle of Marathon, the bravery ofMiltiades and his ten thousand Greeks raised his patrioticfeelings to enthusiasm, and drew from him expressions whichI thought were embodied in a few days afterwards in somewell-written verses in a Charleston paper, on that far-famedunequal but successful conflict against tyranny and oppression;and, suspecting my talented scholar to be the author, I wentto his desk, and asked him if he did not write them; and,hesitating at first, rather blushingly he confessed he did. Ithen said, ‘I knew you could do such things, and I supposeyou have some such pieces by you which I should like to see.Do bring them to me.’ He consented, and in a day or twobrought me a number, which I read with pleasure and admi-ration at the strong marks of genius stamped on all, buthere and there requiring, as I thought, a very slight amend-ment. “I had hired a mathematician to teach both him and my-self, (for I could not then teach that science,) and in this healso made such wonderful progress that, at the end of oneyear, he entered the junior class in Charleston College trium-phantly, whilst others who had been studying four years andmore were obliged to take the Sophomore class. About the endof the year 1828 I left Charleston, but I heard that he highlydistinguished himself, and graduated in 1830. After that hetaught mathematics for some time. His career afterwards hasbeen one of heroic adventure, of hair-breadth escapes by floodand field, and of scientific explorations, which have madehim world-wide renowned. In a letter I received from himvery lately, he expresses his gratitude to me in the followingwords: ‘I am very far from either forgetting you, or ne-glecting you, or in any way losing the old regard I had foryou. There is no time to which I go back with more plea-sure than that spent with you, for there was no time sothoroughly well spent; and of any thing I may have learnedI remember nothing so well and so distinctly as what I ac-quired with you.’ Here I cannot help saying that the meritwas almost all his own. It is true that I encouraged andcheered him on, but if the soil into which I put the seeds oflearning had not been of the richest quality, they never wouldhave sprung up to a hundred fold in the full ear. Such,my young friends, is but an imperfect sketch of my once be-loved and favorite pupil, now a Senator, and who may yetrise to be at the head of this great and growing Republic.My prayer is that he may ever be opposed to war, injustice,and oppression of every kind, a blessing to his country, andan example of every noble virtue to the whole world.”
As many of our readers understand French, and might liketo see the letters of the great Humboldt, the patriarch ofscience, and for fifty years at the head of the scientific world,and now in the eighty-second year of his age, we here giveit in French, as copied from the original.
Monsieur le Senateur: Il m’est bien doux, Monsieur, devous adresser ces lignes par mon excellent ami, notre ministreaux Etats-Unis, M. de Gerolt. Après vous avoir donné dansla nouvelle édition de mes Tableaux de la Nature le témoignagepublique de l’admiration qui est due à vos gigantesquestravaux entre St. Louis du Missouri et les côtes de la mer duSud, je me sens heureux de vous offrir, dans ce petit signede vie, l’hommage de ma vive reconnaisance. Vous avezdéployé un noble courage dans des expéditions lointaines,bravé tous les dangers des frimas et du manque de nourriture,enrichi toutes les parties de sciences naturelles, illustré unvaste pays qui nous était presque entièrement inconnu. Unmérite si rare a eté reconnu par un souverain, vivementinteressé aux progrès de la géographie physique: le Roim’ordonne de vous offrir la grande médaille d’or, destinée àceux qui ont travaillé à des progrès scientifiques. J’éspèreque cette marque de la bienveillance royale vous sera agréabledans un moment, où sur la proposition de l’illustre géographeCharles Ritter, la société de géographie résidant à Berlinvous a nommé pour membre honnoraire. Quant à moi jedois vous remercier particulièrement aussi de l’honneur quevous m’avez fait d’attacher mon nom et celui de mon collabo-rateur et ami intime M. Bonpland à des contrées voisines decelles qui ont été l’objet de nos travaux. La Californie quia noblement résisté à l’introduction de l’esclavage seradignement représentée par un ami de la liberté et des progrèsde l’intelligence. Agreez, je vous prie, Monsieur le Sénateur, l’expressionde ma haute et affectueuse consideration.

Votre t. h. et t. o. serviteur.A. V. HUMBOLDT.

On the envelope thus addressed: “A Monsieur,“Monsieur le Colonel Frémont, Senateur.“Avec la grade médaille d’or“Pour les progrès dans les sciences.“Baron Humboldt.

The following is the English translation of Baron Hum-boldt’s letter: To Col. Fremont, Senator.
It is very agreeable to me, sir, to address you these linesby my excellent friend, our Minister to the United States,Mr. de Gerolt. After having given you in the new editionof my “Aspects of Nature” the public testimony of the ad-miration which is due to your gigantic labors between St.Louis, of Missouri, and the coasts of the South Sea, I feelhappy to offer you, in this living token (dans ce petit signede vie) the homage of my warm acknowledgment. Youhave displayed a noble courage in distant expeditions, bravedall the dangers of cold and famine, enriched all the branchesof the natural sciences, illustrated a vast country which wasalmost entirely unknown to us. A merit so rare has beenacknowledged by a sovereign warmly interested in the pro-gress of physical geography; the King orders me to offer youthe grand golden medal destined to those who have labored atscientific progress. I hope that this mark of the royal goodwill, will be agreeable to you at a time when, upon theproposition of the illustrious geographer, Char. Ritter, theGeographical Society at Berlin has named you an honorarymember. For myself, I must thank you particularly also forthe honor which you have done in attaching my name andthat of my fellow-laborer and intimate friend, Mr. Bompland, to countries neighboring to those which have been the objectof our labors. California, which has so nobly resisted theintroduction of slavery, will be worthily represented by afriend of liberty and of the progress of intelligence. Accept, I pray you, sir, the expression of my high and affectionate consideration.

Your most humble and most obedient servant,A. V. HUMBOLDT.

On the envelope thus addressed: “To Colonel Fremont, Senator.“With the great Golden Medal*) “For progress in the sciences. “Baron Humboldt.

The following is the public testimony of the Baron’s admi-ration of the gigantic labors of Fremont, referred to in theletter, as contained in the new, or third edition of his Aspectsof Nature, and which, as a reference, becomes a natural ap-pendant to the letter: “Fremont’s map and geographical investigations compre-hend the extensive region from the junction of the Kanzasriver with the Missouri to the falls of the Columbia, and tothe missions of Santa Barbara and Puebla de los Angeles, inNew California; or a space of 28 degrees of longitude, andfrom the 34th to the 45th parallel of latitude. Four hundredpoints have been determined hyposometrically by barometricobservations, and, for the most part, geographically by astro-nomical observations; so that a district which, with the wind-ings of the route, amounts to 3,600 geographical miles, fromthe mouth of the Kanzas to Fort Vancouver and the shoresof the Pacific, (almost 720 miles more than the distance fromMadrid to Tobolsk,) has been represented in profile, showingthe relative heights above the level of the sea. As I was, Ibelieve, the first person who undertook to represent, in geog-nostic profile, the form of entire countries―such as the Iberianpeninsula, the high lands of Mexico, and the Cordilleras ofSouth America, (the semi-perspective projections of a Sibe-rian traveller, the Abbe Chappe, were founded on mere andgenerally ill-judged estimations of the fall of rivers) ―it hasgiven me peculiar pleasure to see the geographical method ofrepresenting the form of the earth in a vertical direction, orthe elevation of the solid portion of our planet above its wa-tery covering, applied on so grand a scale as has been done inFremont’s map.”

*) The following is the description of the medal:Of fine gold, massive, more than double the size of theAmerican double eagle, and of exquisite workmanship. Onthe face is the medallion head of the King, Frederic Williamthe Fourth, surrounded by figures emblematical of Religion,Jurisprudence, Medicine, and the Arts. On the reverse,Apollo, in the chariot of the sun, drawn by four high-mettledplunging horses, traversing the zodiac, and darting rays oflight from his head.