Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 July 2017
Gijón (Asturias), 7 January 1794
Quid verum, quid utile.
It has been 12 years since that day when, speaking to our Patriotic Society concerning the means to encourage the prosperity of Asturias, I had the honor of suggesting to its zealous members that no measure would be as effective and beneficial, nor as worthy of their consideration, as establishing an institute for the study of the useful sciences in this land. Some of those who are here now were witnesses to the ardor with which I sought to persuade my audience of this valuable truth, even when we believed we were far from the happy circumstances in which we find ourselves today, when this study is even more necessary than ever. Who would have told us then that scarcely any time would pass before we would see that dream realized in the midst of the bright future promised by a good king's protection under the influence of a committed minister? And who would have told me that I would return from afar to inaugurate this valuable establishment in my fatherland (patria), so close to the walls that witnessed my birth, among my childhood companions and surrounded by so many distinguished personages? For this, my beloved compatriots, is the mission with which I have been entrusted; this is the object of the present solemn occasion. Ready yourselves to receive the good that I bring you; prepare to celebrate it, not with vain demonstrations of joy, but with pure sentiments of love and gratitude toward the monarch who provides it. After employing all of my zeal in its procurement, what is left for me to do but to sketch for you the benefits that it shall bring and the obligations that it entails? This is what I will endeavor to do now, if you will give me your attention.
Yes, gentlemen, today we acquire a great debt, because the value of that with which our good king has made us wealthy is immense. Is there anything nobler or more precious than knowledge on this earth? And this is what Charles IV intends to establish here, among you. You will not have to abandon your homeland; you will not have to wander in pilgrimage, searching for it, like Pythagoras, in faraway lands.