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Autobiography of Andrew Dickson White

Part 8 out of 13

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First, ``the regular and frequent infusion of new life into
the governing board.'' Here a system at that time entirely
new in the United States was proposed. Instead of the
usual life tenure of trustees, their term was made five years
and they were to be chosen by ballot. Secondly, it was
required that as soon as the graduates of the university
numbered fifty they should select one trustee each year,
thus giving the alumni one third of the whole number
elected. Third, there was to be a system of self-government
administered by the students themselves. As to this
third point, I must frankly confess that my ideas were
vague, unformed, and finally changed by the logic of
events. As the fourth and final main division, I presented
``Permeating Ideas''; and of these--First, the development
of the individual man in all his nature, in all his
powers, as a being intellectual, moral, and religious.
Secondly, bringing the powers of the man thus developed
to bear usefully upon society.

In conclusion, I alluded to two groups of ``Eliminated
Ideas,'' the first of these being the ``Ideas of the Pedants,''
and the second the ``Ideas of the Philistines.'' As to the
former, I took pains to guard the institution from those
who, in the higher education, substitute dates for history,
gerund-grinding for literature, and formulas for science;
as to the latter, I sought to guard it from the men to whom
``Gain is God, and Gunnybags his Prophet.''

At the close, referring to Mr. Cornell, who had been too
weak to stand while delivering his speech, and who was at
that moment sitting near me, I alluded to his noble plans
and to the opposition, misrepresentation, and obloquy he
had met thus far, and in doing so turned toward him. The
sight of him, as he thus sat, looking so weak, so weary, so
broken, for a few moments utterly incapacitated me. I
was myself, at the time, in but little better condition than
he; and as there rushed into my mind memories of the previous
ten days at his house, when I had heard him groaning
in pain through almost every night, it flashed upon me
how utterly hopeless was the university without his
support. My voice faltered; I could for a moment say no-
thing; then came a revulsion. I asked myself, ``What will
this great audience think of us?'' How will our enemies,
some of whom I see scattered about the audience, exult
over this faltering at the outset! A feeling of shame came
over me; but just at that moment I saw two or three strong
men from different parts of the State, among them my old
friend Mr. Sedgwick of Syracuse, in the audience, and Mr.
Sage and Mr. McGraw among the trustees, evidently
affected by my allusion to the obloquy and injustice which
Mr. Cornell had met thus far. This roused me. But
I could no longer read; I laid my manuscript aside and
gave the ending in words which occurred to me as I
stood then and there. They were faltering and inadequate;
but I felt that the vast majority in that audience,
representing all parts of our commonwealth, were with
us, and I asked nothing more.

In the afternoon came exercises at the university
grounds. The chime of nine bells which Miss Jenny
McGraw had presented to us had been temporarily hung
in a wooden tower placed very near the spot where now
stands the porch of the library; and, before the bells were
rung for the first time, a presentation address was delivered
by Mr. Francis Miles Finch, since justice of the Court
of Appeals of the State and dean of the University Law
School; and this was followed by addresses from the
superintendent of public instruction, and from our non-
resident professors Agassiz and George William Curtis.

Having again been taken out of bed and wrapped up
carefully, I was carried up the hill to hear them. All the
speeches were fine; but, just at the close, Curtis burst into
a peroration which, in my weak physical condition, utterly
unmanned me. He compared the new university to a
newly launched ship--``all its sails set, its rigging full and
complete from stem to stern, its crew embarked, its
passengers on board; and,'' he added, ``even while I speak
to you, even while this autumn sun sets in the west, the
ship begins to glide over the waves, it goes forth rejoicing,
every stitch of canvas spread, all its colors flying, its
bells ringing, its heart-strings beating with hope and
joy; and I say, God bless the ship, God bless the builder,
God bless the chosen captain, God bless the crew, and,
gentlemen undergraduates, may God bless all the passengers!''

The audience applauded; the chimes burst merrily
forth; but my heart sank within me. A feeling of ``goneness''
came over me. Curtis's simile was so perfect that
I felt myself indeed on the deck of the ship, but not so much
in the character of its ``chosen captain'' as of a seasick
passenger. There was indeed reason for qualmish feelings.
Had I drawn a picture of the ship at that moment,
it would have been very different from that presented by
Curtis. My mind was pervaded by our discouragements--
by a realization of Mr. Cornell's condition and my own,
the demands of our thoughtless friends, the attacks of our
fanatical enemies, the inadequacy of our resources. The
sense of all these things burst upon me, and the view about
us was not reassuring. Not only were the university buildings
unready and the grounds unkempt, but all that part
of our domain which is now devoted to the beautiful lawns
about the university chapel, Barnes Hall, Sage College,
and other stately edifices, was then a ragged corn-field
surrounded by rail fences. No one knew better than I
the great difficulties which were sure to beset us.
Probably no ship was ever launched in a condition so unfit to
brave the storms. Even our lesser difficulties, though they
may appear comical now, were by no means comical then.
As a rule, Mr. Cornell had consulted me before making
communications to the public; but during my absence in
Europe he had written a letter to the ``New York Tribune,''
announcing that students could support themselves,
while pursuing their studies one half of each day in the
university, by laboring the other half. In this he showed
that sympathy with needy and meritorious young men
which was one of his marked qualities, but his proclamation
cost us dear. He measured the earnestness and endurance
and self-sacrifice of others by his own; he did not
realize that not one man in a thousand was, in these
respects, his equal. As a result of this ``Tribune'' letter, a
multitude of eager young men pressed forward at the
opening of the university and insisted on receiving self-
supporting work. Nearly all of those who could offer
skilled labor of any sort we were able to employ; and
many graduates of whom Cornell University is now proud
supported themselves then by working as carpenters, masons,
printers, accountants, and shorthand-writers. But
besides these were many who had never done any manual
labor, and still more who had never done any labor
requiring skill. An attempt was made to employ these in
grading roads, laying out paths, helping on the farm,
doing janitors' work, and the like. Some of them were
successful; most were not. It was found that it would be
cheaper to support many of the applicants at a hotel and to
employ day-laborers in their places. Much of their work
had to be done over again at a cost greater than the original
outlay should have been. Typical was the husking of
Indian corn upon the university farm by student labor: it
was found to cost more than the resultant corn could be
sold for in the market. The expectations of these youth
were none the less exuberant. One of them, who had never
done any sort of manual labor, asked whether, while learning
to build machinery and supporting himself and his
family, he could not lay up something against contingencies.
Another, a teamster from a Western State, came to
offer his services, and, on being asked what he wished to
study, said that he wished to learn to read; on being told
that the public school in his own district was the place for
that, he was very indignant, and quoted Mr. Cornell's
words, ``I would found an institution where any person can
find instruction in any study.'' Others, fairly good scholars,
but of delicate build, having applied for self-supporting
employment, were assigned the lightest possible tasks
upon the university grounds; but, finding even this work
too severe, wrote bitterly to leading metropolitan journals
denouncing Mr. Cornell's bad faith. One came all the way
from Russia, being able to make the last stages of his
journey only by charity, and on arriving was found to be
utterly incapable of sustained effort, physical or mental.
The most definite part of his aims, as he announced them,
was to convert the United States to the Russo-Greek

Added to these were dreamers and schemers of more
mature age. The mails were burdened with their letters
and our offices with their presence. Some had plans for
the regeneration of humanity by inventing machines which
they wished us to build, some by devising philosophies
which they wished us to teach, some by writing books
which they wished us to print; most by taking professorships
which they wished us to endow. The inevitable politician
also appeared; and at the first meeting of the trustees
two notorious party hacks came all the way from New
York to tell us ``what the people expected,''--which was
the nomination of sundry friends of theirs to positions in
the new institution. A severe strain was brought upon
Mr. Cornell and myself in showing civility to these gentlemen;
yet, as we were obliged to deny them, no suavity
on our part could stay the inevitable result--their
hostility. The attacks of the denominational and local presses
in the interests of institutions which had failed to tear the
fund in pieces and to secure scraps of it were thus largely
reinforced. Ever and anon came onslaughts upon us
personally and upon every feature of the institution, whether
actual, probable, possible, or conceivable. One eminent
editorial personage, having vainly sought to ``unload'' a
member of his staff into one of our professorships, howled
in a long article at the turpitude of Mr. Cornell in land
matters, screamed for legislative investigation, and for
years afterward never neglected an opportunity to strike
a blow at the new institution.

Some difficulties also showed themselves in the first
working of our university machinery. In my ``plan of
organization,'' as well as in various addresses and reports,
I had insisted that the university should present various
courses of instruction, general and special, and that
students should be allowed much liberty of choice between
these. This at first caused serious friction. It has
disappeared, now that the public schools of the State have
adjusted themselves to the proper preparation of students
for the various courses; but at that time these
difficulties were in full force and vigor. One of the most
troublesome signs of this was the changing and shifting
by students from course to course, which both injured
them and embarrassed their instructors. To meet this
tendency I not only addressed the students to show
that good, substantial, continuous work on any one course
which any one of them was likely to choose was far
better than indecision and shifting about between various
courses, but also reprinted for their use John Foster's
famous ``Essay on Decision of Character.'' This tractate
had done me much good in my student days and at various
times since, when I had allowed myself to linger too long
between different courses of action; and I now distributed
it freely, the result being that students generally made
their election between courses with increased care, and
when they had made it stood by it.

Yet for these difficulties in getting the student body
under way there were compensations, and best of these
was the character and bearing of the students. There
were, of course, sundry exhibitions of boyishness, but the
spirit of the whole body was better than that of any
similar collection of young men I had ever seen. One reason
was that we were happily spared any large proportion of
rich men's sons, but the main reason was clearly the
permission of choice between various courses of study in
accordance with individual aims and tastes. In this way
a far larger number were interested than had ever been
under the old system of forcing all alike through one
simple, single course, regardless of aims and tastes; and
thus it came that, even from the first, the tone at Cornell
was given, not by men who affected to despise study, but
by men who devoted themselves to study. It evidently
became disreputable for any student not to be really at
work in some one of the many courses presented. There
were few cases really calling for discipline. I prized this
fact all the more because it justified a theory of mine. I
had long felt that the greatest cause of student turbulence
and dissipation was the absence of interest in study
consequent upon the fact that only one course was provided,
and I had arrived at the conclusion that providing various
courses, suited to various aims and tastes, would diminish
this evil.

As regards student discipline in the university, I had
dwelt in my ``plan of organization'' upon the advisability
of a departure from the system inherited from the English
colleges, which was still widely prevailing. It had been
developed in America probably beyond anything known
in Great Britain and Germany, and was far less satisfactory
than in these latter countries, for the simple reason
that in them the university authorities have some legal
power to secure testimony and administer punishment,
while in America they have virtually none. The result had
been most unfortunate, as I have shown in other parts of
these chapters referring to various student escapades in the
older American universities, some of them having cost human
life. I had therefore taken the ground that, so far as
possible, students should be treated as responsible citizens;
that, as citizens, they should be left to be dealt with by the
constituted authorities; and that members of the faculty
should no longer be considered as policemen. I had, during
my college life, known sundry college tutors seriously
injured while thus doing police duty; I have seen a
professor driven out of a room, through the panel of a door,
with books, boots, and bootjacks hurled at his head; and
even the respected president of a college, a doctor of
divinity, while patrolling buildings with the janitors,
subjected to outrageous indignity.

Fortunately the causes already named, to which may be
added athletic sports, especially boating, so greatly
diminished student mischief at Cornell, that cases of discipline
were reduced to a minimum--so much so, in fact, that there
were hardly ever any of a serious character. I felt that
then and there was the time to reiterate the doctrine laid
down in my ``plan of organization,'' that a professor
should not be called upon to be a policeman, and that if the
grounds were to be policed, proper men should be employed
for that purpose. This doctrine was reasonable
and it prevailed. The Cornell grounds and buildings,
under the care of a patrol appointed for that purpose,
have been carefully guarded, and never has a member of
the faculty been called upon to perform police duty.

There were indeed some cases requiring discipline by
the faculty, and one of these will provoke a smile on the
part of all who took part in it as long as they shall live.
There had come to us a stalwart, sturdy New Englander,
somewhat above the usual student age, and showing
considerable aptitude for studies in engineering. Various
complaints were made against him; but finally he was
summoned before the faculty for a very singular breach
of good taste, if not of honesty. The entire instructing
body of that day being gathered about the long table in
the faculty room, and I being at the head of the table, the
culprit was summoned, entered, and stood solemnly before
us. Various questions were asked him, which he
parried with great ingenuity. At last one was asked
of a very peculiar sort, as follows: ``Mr. ----, did you,
last month, in the village of Dundee, Yates County, pass
yourself off as Professor ---- of this university,
announcing a lecture and delivering it in his name?'' He
answered blandly, ``Sir, I did go to Dundee in Yates County;
I did deliver a lecture there; I did NOT announce myself as
Professor ---- of Cornell University; what others may
have done I do not know; all I know is that at the close
of my lecture several leading men of the town came
forward and said that they had heard a good many lectures
given by college professors from all parts of the State,
and that they had never had one as good as mine.'' I
think, of all the strains upon my risible faculties during
my life, this answer provoked the greatest, and the
remainder of the faculty were clearly in the same condition.
I dismissed the youth at once, and hardly was he outside
the door when a burst of titanic laughter shook the court
and the youth was troubled no more.

Far more serious was another case. The usual good-
natured bickering between classes had gone on, and as a
consequence certain sophomores determined to pay off
some old scores against members of the junior class, at a
junior exhibition. To do this they prepared a ``mock
programme,'' which, had it been merely comic, as some
others had been, would have provoked no ill feeling.
Unfortunately, some miscreant succeeded in introducing into
it allusions of a decidedly Rabelaisian character. The
evening arrived, a large audience of ladies and gentlemen
were assembled, and this programme was freely distributed.
The proceeding was felt to be an outrage; and I
served notice on the class that the real of offender or
offenders, if they wished to prevent serious consequences to all
concerned, must submit themselves to the faculty and take
due punishment. Unfortunately, they were not manly
enough to do this. Thereupon, to my own deep regret and
in obedience to my sense of justice, I suspended indefinitely
from the university the four officers of the class,
its president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer.
They were among the very best men in the class, all
of them friends of my own; and I knew to a certainty
that they had had nothing directly to do with the articles
concerned, that the utmost which could be said against
them was that they had been careless as to what appeared
in the programme, for which they were responsible. Most
bitter feeling arose, and I summoned a meeting of the
entire student body. As I entered the room hisses were
heard; the time had evidently come for a grapple with
the whole body. I stated the case as it was: that the four
officers would be suspended and must leave the university
town until their return was allowed by the faculty; that
such an offense against decency could not be condoned;
that I had understood that the entire class proposed to
make common cause with their officers and leave the
university with them; that to this we interposed no objection;
that it simply meant less work for the faculty during the
remainder of the year; that it was far more important
for the university to maintain a character for decency and
good discipline than to have a large body of students; and
that, if necessary to maintain such a character, we would
certainly allow the whole student body in all the classes to
go home and would begin anew. I then drew a picture.
I sketched a member of the class who had left the university
on account of this discipline entering the paternal
door, encountering a question as to the cause of his
unexpected home-coming, and replying that the cause was the
outrageous tyranny of the president and faculty. I
pictured, then, the father and mother of the home-coming
student asking what the cause or pretext of this ``tyranny''
was, and I then said: ``I defy any one of you to show your
father and mother the `mock programme' which has
caused the trouble. There is not one of you here who dares
do it; there is not one of you who would not be turned out
of his father's door if he were thus to insult his mother.''
At this there came a round of applause. I then expressed
my personal regret that the penalty must fall upon four
men whom I greatly respected; but fall it must unless
the offenders were manly enough to give themselves
up. The result was that at the close I was greeted with a
round of applause; and immediately afterward the four
officers came to me, acknowledged the justice of the
discipline, and expressed the hope that their suspension might
not go beyond that term. It did not: at the close of the
term they were allowed to return; and from that day
``mock programmes'' of the sort concerned, which in many
American colleges had been a chronic evil, never
reappeared at Cornell. The result of this action encouraged
me greatly as to the reliance to be placed on the sense of
justice in the great body of our students when directly
and properly appealed to.

Still another thing which I sought to promote was a
reasonable devotion to athletics. My own experience as
a member of a boating-club at Yale had shown me what
could be done, and I think one of the best investments I
ever made was in giving a racing-boat to the Cornell crew
on Cayuga Lake. The fact that there were so many
students trained sturdily in rural homes in the bracing
air of western New York, who on every working-day of
college life tramped up the University Hill, and on other
days explored the neighboring hills and vales, gave us a
body of men sure to do well as athletes. At their first
contest with the other universities on the Connecticut
River at Springfield they were beaten, but they took their
defeat manfully. Some time after this, General Grant,
then President of the United States, on his visit to the
university, remarked to me that he saw the race at Springfield;
that our young men ought to have won it; and that,
in his opinion, they would have won it if they had not
been unfortunately placed in shallow water, where there
were eddies making against them. This remark struck
me forcibly, coming as it did from one who had so keen a
judgment in every sort of contest. I bore it in mind, and
was not surprised when, a year or two later (1875), the
Cornell crews, having met at Saratoga Lake the crews
from Harvard, Yale, and other leading universities, won
both the freshman and university races. It was humorously
charged against me that when the news of this
reached Ithaca I rang the university bells. This was not
the fact. The simple truth was that, being in the midst
of a body of students when the news came, and seeing them
rush toward the bell-tower, I went with them to prevent
injury to the bells by careless ringing; the ringing was
done by them. I will not deny that the victory pleased me,
as many others since gained by the Cornell crews have
done; but far more to me than the victory itself was a
letter written me by a prominent graduate of Princeton
who was at Saratoga during the contest. He wrote me, as
he said, not merely to congratulate me on the victory, but
on the fine way in which our students took it, and the manly
qualities which they showed in the hour of triumph and
during their whole stay at Saratoga. This gave me courage.
From that day I have never felt any fears as to the
character of the student body. One leading cause of the
success of Cornell University, in the midst of all its trials
and struggles, has been the character of its students:
working as they do under a system which gives them an
interest in the studies they are pursuing, they have used
the large liberty granted them in a way worthy of all praise.

Nor is this happy change seen at Cornell alone. The
same causes,--mainly the increase in the range of studies
and freedom of choice between them, have produced similar
results in all the leading institutions. Recalling the
student brawl at the Harvard commons which cost the
historian Prescott his sight, and the riot at the Harvard
commencement which blocked the way of President Everett
and the British minister; recalling the fatal wounding
of Tutor Dwight, the maiming of Tutor Goodrich, and
the killing of two town rioters by students at Yale; and
recalling the monstrous indignities to the president and
faculty at Hobart of which I was myself witness, as well
as the state of things at various other colleges in my own
college days, I can testify, as can so many others, to the vast
improvement in the conduct and aims of American students
during the latter half of the nineteenth century.



The first business after formally opening the university
was to put in operation the various courses of
instruction, and vitally connected with these were the
lectures of our non-resident professors. From these I had
hoped much and was not disappointed. It had long seemed
to me that a great lack in our American universities was
just that sort of impulse which non-resident professors
or lecturers of a high order could give. At Yale there had
been, in my time, very few lectures of any sort to
undergraduates; the work in the various classes was carried on,
as a rule, without the slightest enthusiasm, and was
considered by the great body of students a bore to be abridged
or avoided as far as possible. Hence such pranks as
cutting out the tongue of the college bell, of which two or
three tongues still preserved in university club-rooms are
reminders; hence, also, the effort made by members of my
own class to fill the college bell with cement, which would
set in a short time, and make any call to morning prayers
and recitations for a day or two impossible--a performance
which caused a long suspension of several of the best
young fellows that ever lived, some of them good scholars,
and all of them men who would have walked miles to attend
a really inspiring lecture.

And yet, one or two experiences showed me what might
be done by arousing an interest in regular class work.
Professor Thacher, the head of the department of Latin,
who conducted my class through the ``Germania'' and
``Agricola'' of Tacitus, was an excellent professor; but
he yielded to the system then dominant at Yale, and the
whole thing was but weary plodding. Hardly ever was
there anything in the shape of explanation or comment;
but at the end of his work with us he laid down the book,
and gave us admirably the reasons why the study of
Tacitus was of value, and why we might well recur to it
in after years. Then came painfully into my mind the
thought, ``What a pity that he had not said this at the
beginning of his instruction rather than at the end!''

Still worse was it with some of the tutors, who took us
through various classical works, but never with a particle
of appreciation for them as literature or philosophy. I
have told elsewhere how my classmate Smalley fought it
out with one of these. No instruction from outside
lectures was provided; but in my senior year there came to
New Haven John Lord and George William Curtis, the
former giving a course on modern history, the latter
one upon recent literature, and both arousing my earnest
interest in their subjects. It was in view of these
experiences that in my ``plan of organization'' I dwelt
especially upon the value of non-resident professors in
bringing to us fresh life from the outside, and in thus
preventing a certain provincialism and woodenness which
come when there are only resident professors, and these
selected mainly from graduates of the institution itself.

The result of the work done by our non-resident
professors more than answered my expectations. The twenty
lectures of Agassiz drew large numbers of our brightest
young men, gave them higher insight into various problems
of natural science, and stimulated among many
a zeal for special investigation. Thus resulted an
enthusiasm which developed out of our student body several
scholars in natural science who have since taken rank
among the foremost teachers and investigators in the
United States. So, too, the lectures of Lowell on early
literature and of Curtis on later literature aroused great
interest among students of a more literary turn; while
those of Theodore Dwight on the Constitution of the
United States and of Bayard Taylor upon German literature
awakened a large number of active minds to the
beauties of these fields. The coming of Goldwin Smith
was an especial help to us. He remained longer than the
others; in fact, he became for two or three years a resident
professor, exercising, both in his lecture-room and out of
it, a great influence upon the whole life of the university.
At a later period, the coming of George W. Greene as
lecturer on American history, of Edward A. Freeman,
regius professor at Oxford, as a lecturer on European
history, and of James Anthony Froude in the same field,
aroused new interest. Some of our experiences with the
two gentlemen last named were curious. Freeman was a
rough diamond--in his fits of gout very rough indeed. At
some of his lectures he appeared clad in a shooting-jacket
and spoke sitting, his foot swathed to mitigate his
sufferings. From New Haven came a characteristic story of
him. He had been invited to attend an evening gathering,
after one of his lectures, at the house of one of the
professors, perhaps the finest residence in the town. With
the exception of himself, the gentlemen all arrived in
evening dress; he appeared in a shooting-jacket. Presently
two professors arrived; and one of them, glancing
through the rooms, and seeing Freeman thus attired, asked
the other, ``What sort of a costume do you call that?'' The
answer came instantly, ``I don't know, unless it is the
costume of a Saxon swineherd before the Conquest.'' In
view of Freeman's studies on the Saxon and Norman
periods and the famous toast of the dean of Wells, ``In
honor of Professor Freeman, who has done so much to
reveal to us the rude manners of our ancestors,'' the Yale
professor's answer seemed much to the point.

The lectures of Froude were exceedingly interesting;
but every day he began them with the words ``Ladies and
gentlemen,'' in the most comical falsetto imaginable,--
a sort of Lord Dundreary manner,--so that, sitting
beside him, I always noticed a ripple of laughter run-
ning over the whole audience, which instantly disappeared
as he settled into his work. He had a way of
giving color to his lectures by citing bits of humorous
history. Thus it was that he threw a vivid light on the
horrors of civil war in Ireland during the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries, when he gave the plea of an Irish
chieftain on trial for high treason, one of the charges
against him being that he had burned the Cathedral of
Cashel. His plea was: ``Me lords, I niver would have
burned the cathaydral but that I supposed that his grace
the lord archbishop was inside.''

Speaking of the strength of the clan spirit, he told me a
story of the late Duke of Argyll, as follows: At a banquet
of the great clan of which the duke was chief, a splendid
snuff-box belonging to one of the clansmen, having
attracted attention, was passed round the long table for
inspection. By and by it was missing. All attempts to trace it
were in vain, and the party broke up in disgust and distress
at the thought that one of their number must be a thief.
Some days afterward, the duke, putting on his dress-coat,
found the box in his pocket, and immediately sent for the
owner and explained the matter. ``I knew ye had it,'' said
the owner. ``How did ye know it?'' said the duke. ``Saw
ye tak' it.'' ``Then why did n't ye tell me?'' asked the
duke. ``I thocht ye wanted it,'' was the answer.

Speaking of university life, Froude told the story of an
Oxford undergraduate who, on being examined in Paley,
was asked to name any instance which he had himself
noticed of the goodness and forethought of the Almighty as
evidenced in his works: to which the young man answered,
``The formation of the head of a bulldog. Its nose is so
drawn back that it can hang on the bull and yet breathe
freely; but for this, the bulldog would soon have to let
go for want of breath.''

Walking one day with Froude, I spoke to him regarding
his ``Nemesis of Faith,'' which I had read during my
attachship at St. Petersburg, and which had been greatly
objected to by various Oxford dons, one of whom is said to
have burned a copy of it publicly in one of the college
quadrangles. He seemed somewhat dismayed at my question,
and said, in a nervous sort of way, ``That was a
young man's book--a young man's folly,'' and passed
rapidly to other subjects.

From the stimulus given by the non-resident professors
the resident faculty reaped much advantage. It might
well be said that the former shook the bush and the latter
caught the birds. What is most truthfully stated on the
tablet to Professor Agassiz in the Cornell Memorial Chapel
of the university might, in great part, be said of all the
others. It runs as follows:

``To the memory of Louis Agassiz, LL.D. In the midst
of great labors for science, throughout the world, he
aided in laying the foundations of instruction at Cornell
University, and, by his teachings here, gave an impulse to
scientific studies, which remains a precious heritage. The
trustees, in gratitude for his counsels and teachings, erect
this memorial. 1884.''

An incidental benefit of the system was its happy
influence upon the resident professors. Coming from
abroad, and of recognized high position, the non-residents
brought a very happy element to our social life. No
veteran of our faculty is likely to forget the charm they
diffused among us. To meet Agassiz socially was a delight;
nor was it less a pleasure to sit at table with Lowell
or Curtis. Of the many good stories told us by Lowell, I
remember one especially. During a stay in Paris he dined
with Sainte-Beuve, and took occasion to ask that most
eminent of French critics which he thought the greater
poet, Lamartine or Victor Hugo. Sainte-Beuve, shrugging
his shoulders, replied: ``Eh bien, charlatan pour
charlatan, je prefre Lamartine.'' This provoked another
story, which was that, being asked by an American
professor whether in his opinion the Empire of Napoleon
III was likely to endure, Sainte-Beuve, who was a
salaried senator of the Empire, answered with a shrug,
``Monsieur, je suis pay pour le croire.'' Agassiz also
interested me by showing me the friendly, confidential, and
familiar letters which he was then constantly receiving
from the Emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro--letters in which
not only matters of science but of contemporary history
were discussed. Bayard Taylor also delighted us all.
Nothing could exceed, as a provocative to mirth, his
recitations of sundry poems whose inspiration was inferior to
their ambition. One especially brought down the house--
``The Eonx of Ruby,'' by a poet who had read Poe and
Browning until he never hesitated to coin any word, no
matter how nonsensical, which seemed likely to help his
jingle. In many respects the most charming of all the
newcomers was Goldwin Smith, whose stories, observations,
reflections, deeply suggestive, humorous, and witty, were
especially grateful at the close of days full of work and
care. His fund of anecdotes was large. One of them
illustrated the fact that even those who are best acquainted
with a language not their own are in constant danger of
making themselves ridiculous in using it. The Duc
d'Aumale, who had lived long in England, and was supposed
to speak English like an Englishman, presiding at a dinner
of the British Association for the Advancement of Science,
gave a toast as follows: ``De tree of science, may it
shed down pease upon de nations.''

Another story related to Sir Allan MacNab, who, while
commander of the forces in Canada, having received a
card inscribed, ``The MacNab,'' immediately returned the
call, and left a card on which was inscribed, ``The other

As I revise these lines, thirty-six years after his first
coming, he is visiting me again to lay the corner-stone of
the noble building which is to commemorate his services
to Cornell. Though past his eightieth year, his memory
constantly brings up new reminiscences. One of these I
cannot forbear giving. He was at a party given by Lady
Ashburton when Thomas Carlyle was present. During
the evening, which was beautiful, the guests went out upon
the lawn, and gazed at the starry heavens. All seemed
especially impressed by the beauty of the moon, which
was at the full, when Carlyle, fastening his eyes upon it,
was heard to croak out, solemnly and bitterly, ``Puir auld

The instruction of the university was at that time divided
between sundry general courses and various technical
departments, the whole being somewhat tentative. These
general courses were mainly three: the arts course,
which embraced both Latin and Greek; the course in
literature, which embraced Latin and modern languages;
and the course in science, which embraced more especially
modern languages in connection with a somewhat extended
range of scientific studies. Of these general divisions the
one most in danger of shipwreck seemed to be the first.
It had been provided for in the congressional act of
1862, evidently by an afterthought, and it was generally
felt that if, in the storms besetting us, anything must be
thrown overboard, it would be this; but an opportunity
now arose for clenching it into our system. There was
offered for sale the library of Professor Charles Anthon
of Columbia, probably the largest and best collection
in classical philology which had then been brought
together in the United States. Discussing the situation
with Mr. Cornell, I showed him the danger of restricting
the institution to purely scientific and technical
studies, and of thus departing from the university ideal.
He saw the point, and purchased the Anthon library for
us. Thenceforth it was felt that, with such a means of
instruction, from such a source, the classical department
must stand firm; that it must on no account be sacrificed;
that, by accepting this gift, we had pledged ourselves to
maintain it.

Yet, curiously, one of the most bitter charges constantly
reiterated against us was that we were depreciating
the study of ancient classical literature. Again and
again it was repeated, especially in a leading daily journal
of the metropolis under the influence of a sectarian
college, that I was ``degrading classical studies.'' No-
thing could be more unjust; I had greatly enjoyed such
studies myself, had found pleasure in them since my
graduation, and had steadily urged them upon those who
had taste or capacity for them. But, as a student and as a
university instructor, I had noticed two things in point,
as many other observers had done: the first of these was
that very many youths who go through their Latin and
Greek Readers, and possibly one or two minor authors
besides, exhaust the disciplinary value of such studies, and
thenceforward pursue them listlessly and perfunctorily,
merely droning over them. On their account it seemed
certainly far better to present some other courses of study in
which they could take an interest. As a matter of fact, I
constantly found that many young men who had been doing
half-way mental labor, which is perhaps worse than
none, were at once brightened and strengthened by devoting
themselves to other studies more in accordance with
their tastes and aims.

But a second and very important point was that, in
the two colleges of which I had been an undergraduate,
classical studies were really hampered and discredited
by the fact that the minority of students who loved
them were constantly held back by a majority who disliked
them; and I came to the conclusion that the true
way to promote such studies in the United States was
to take off this drag as much as possible, by presenting
other courses of studies which would attract those who
had no taste for Latin and Greek, thus leaving those who
had a taste for them free to carry them much farther than
had been customary in American universities up to that
time. My expectations in this respect were fully met. A
few years after the opening of the university, contests
were arranged between several of the leading colleges and
universities, the main subjects in the competition being
Latin, Greek, and mathematics; and to the confusion of
the gainsayers, Cornell took more first prizes in these
subjects than did all the older competing institutions
together. Thenceforward the talk of our ``degrading clas-
sical studies'' was less serious. The history of such studies
at Cornell since that time has fully justified the policy
then pursued. Every competent observer will, I feel sure,
say that at no other American institution have these
studies been pursued with more earnestness or with better
results. The Museum of Classical Archaeology, which has
since been founded by the generous gift of Mr. Sage, has
stimulated an increased interest in them; and graduates
of Cornell are now exercising a wide influence in classical
teaching: any one adequately acquainted with the history
of American education knows what the influence of Cornell
has been in bettering classical instruction throughout
the State of New York. There has been another incidental
gain. Among the melancholy things of college life in the
old days was the relation of students to classical
professors. The majority of the average class looked on such
a professor as generally a bore and, as examinations
approached, an enemy; they usually sneered at him as a
pedant, and frequently made his peculiarities a subject for
derision. Since that day far better relations have grown up
between teachers and taught, especially in those institutions
where much is left to the option of the students. The students
in each subject, being those who are really interested
in it, as a rule admire and love their professor, and whatever
little peculiarities he may have are to them but pleasing
accompaniments of his deeper qualities. This is a perfectly
simple and natural result, which will be understood
fully by any one who has observed human nature to much

Besides this course in arts, in which classical studies
were especially prominent, there were established courses
in science, in literature, and in philosophy, differing from
each other mainly in the proportion observed between
ancient languages, modern languages, and studies in various
sciences and other departments of thought. Each of
these courses was laid down with much exactness for the
first two years, with large opportunity for choice between
subjects in the last two years. The system worked well,
and has, from time to time, been modified, as the improvement
in the schools of the State, and other circumstances
have required.

In proposing these courses I was much influenced by
an idea broached in Herbert Spencer's ``Treatise on
Education.'' This idea was given in his discussion of the
comparative values of different studies, when he arrived
at the conclusion that a subject which ought to be among
those taught at the beginning of every course is human
physiology,--that is to say, an account of the structure,
functions, and proper management of the human body, on
which so much depends for every human being. It seemed
to me that not only was there great force in Spencer's
argument, but that there was an additional reason for
placing physiology among the early studies of most of
the courses; and this was that it formed a very good
beginning for scientific study in general. An observation
of my own strengthened me in this view. I remembered
that, during my school life, while my tastes were in the
direction of classical and historical studies, the weekly
visits to the school by the surgeon who lectured upon the
human eye, ear, and sundry other organs, using models
and preparations, interested me intensely, and were a real
relief from other studies. There was still another reason.
For the professorship in this department Professor Agassiz
had recommended to me Dr. Burt Wilder; and I soon
found him, as Agassiz had foretold, not only a thorough
investigator, but an admirable teacher. His lectures were
not read, but were, as regards phrasing, extemporaneous;
and it seemed to me that, mingled with other studies, a
course of lectures given in so good a style, by so gifted a
man, could not fail to be of great use in teaching our
students, incidentally, the best way of using the English
language in communicating their ideas to their fellowmen.
I had long deplored the rhetorical fustian and oratorical
tall-talk which so greatly afflict our country, and
which had been, to a considerable extent, cultivated in our
colleges and universities; I determined to try, at least,
to substitute for it clean, clear, straightforward statement
and illustration; and it seemed to me that a course of
lectures on a subject which admitted neither fustian nor
tall-talk, by a clear-headed, clear-voiced, earnest, and
honest man, was the best thing in the world for this purpose.
So was adopted the plan of beginning most courses with
an extended course of lectures upon human physiology, in
which to real practice in investigation by the class is added
the hearing of a first-rate lecturer.

As regards the course in literature, I determined that
use should be made of this to promote the general culture
of students, as had been done up to that time by very
few of our American universities. At Yale in my day,
there was never even a single lecture on any subject
in literature, either ancient or modern: everything was
done by means of ``recitations'' from text-books; and
while young men read portions of masterpieces in Greek
and Latin, their attention was hardly ever directed to
these as literature. As regards the great fields of modern
literature, nothing whatever was done. In the English
literature and language, every man was left entirely to his
own devices. One of the first professors I called to Cornell
was Hiram Corson, who took charge of the department
of English literature; and from that day to this he has
been a center from which good culture has radiated among
our students. Professor H. B. Sprague was also called;
and he also did excellent work, though in a different way.
I also added non-resident professors. My original scheme
I still think a good one. It was to call James Russell Lowell
for early English literature, Bishop Arthur Cleveland
Coxe for the literature of the Elizabethan and Jacobean
periods, Edwin Whipple for the literature of Queen
Anne's time, and George William Curtis for recent and
contemporary literature. Each of these men was admirable
as a scholar and lecturer in the particular field named;
but the restricted means of the university obliged me to
cut the scheme down, so that it included simply Lowell
for early and Curtis for recent literature. Other lectures
in connection with the instruction of the resident professors
marked an epoch, and did much to remove anything
like Philistinism from the student body. Bayard Taylor's
lectures in German literature thus supplemented admirably
the excellent work of the resident professors Hewett
and Horatio White. To remove still further any danger of
Philistinism, I called an eminent graduate of Harvard,--
Charles Chauncey Shackford,--whose general lectures in
various fields of literature were attractive and useful. In
all this I was mainly influenced by the desire to prevent
the atmosphere of the university becoming simply and
purely that of a scientific and technical school. Highly as
I prized the scientific spirit and technical training, I
felt that the frame of mind engendered by them should be
modified by an acquaintance with the best literature as
literature. There were many evidences that my theory
was correct. Some of our best students in the technical
departments developed great love for literary studies.
One of them attracted much attention by the literary
excellence of his writings; and on my speaking to him about
it, and saying that it seemed strange to me that a man
devoted to engineering should show such a taste for
literature, he said that there was no greater delight to him
than passing from one of the studies to the other--that
each was a recreation after the other.

The effort to promote that element in the general culture
of the student body which comes from literature, ancient
and modern, gained especial strength from a source
usually unpromising--the mathematical department.
Two professors highly gifted in this field exercised a wide
and ennobling influence outside it. First of these was
Evan William Evans, who had been known to me at Yale
as not only one of the best scholars in the class of 1851,
but also one of its two foremost writers. Later, he
developed a passion for modern literature, and his influence
was strongly felt in behalf of the humanities. His
successor was James Edward Oliver, a graduate of Harvard,
a genius in his chosen field, but always exercising a large
influence by virtue of his broad, liberal, tolerant views of
life which were promoted by study of the best thoughts of
the best thinkers of all times.

The work of organizing and developing the general
courses was comparatively easy, and the stimulus given at
the outset by the non-resident professors rendered it
all the more so. But with the technical departments and
special courses there were grave difficulties. The department
of civil engineering, of course, went easily enough;
there were plenty of precedents for it, and the admirable
professor first elected was, at his death, succeeded by
another who most vigorously and wisely developed it: Estevan
Fuertes, drawn from the most attractive surroundings
in the island of Porto Rico to the United States by a deep
love of science, and retained here during the rest of his
life by a love, no less sincere, for American liberty--a rare
combination of the virtues and capabilities of the Latin
races with the best results of an American environment. I
may mention, in passing, that this combination came out
curiously in his views of American citizenship. He was
wont to marvel at the indifference of the average American
to his privileges and duties, and especially at the lack
of a proper estimate of his function at elections. I have
heard him say: ``When I vote, I put on my best clothes
and my top hat, go to the polls, salute the officers, take off
my hat, and cast my ballot.''

It may be worth mentioning here that, at the election of
the first professor in this department, a curious question
arose. Among the candidates was one from Harvard,
whose testimonials showed him to be an admirable
acquisition; and among these testimonials was one from an
eminent bishop, who spoke in high terms of the scientific
qualifications of the candidate, but added that he felt it
his duty to warn me that the young man was a Unitarian.
At this I wrote the bishop, thanking him, and saying that
the only question with me was as to the moral and intellectual
qualifications of the candidate; and that if these
were superior to those of other candidates, I would nominate
him to the trustees even if he were a Buddhist. The
good bishop at first took some offense at this; and, in one
of the communications which ensued, expressed doubts
whether laymen had any right to teach at all, since the
command to teach was given to the apostles and their
successors, and seemed therefore confined to those who had
received holy orders; but he became most friendly later,
and I look back to my meetings with him afterward as
among the delightful episodes of my life.

The technical department which caused me the most
anxiety was that of agriculture. It had been given the
most prominent place in the Congressional act of 1862,
and in our charter from the State in 1865. But how
should agriculture be taught; what proportion should we
observe between theory and practice; and what should the
practice be? These questions elicited all sorts of answers.
Some eminent agriculturists insisted that the farm should
be conducted purely as a business operation; others that
it should be a ``model farm''--regardless of balance
sheets; others still that it should be wholly experimental.
Our decision was to combine what was best in all these
views; and several men attempted this as resident professors,
but with small success. One day, after a series of
such failures, when we were almost desperate, there
appeared a candidate from an agricultural college in Ireland.
He bore a letter from an eminent clergyman in New York,
was of pleasing appearance and manners, gave glowing
accounts of the courses he had followed, expatiated on the
means by which farming had been carried to a high point
in Scotland, and ventured suggestions as to what might
be done in America. I had many misgivings. His
experience was very remote from ours, and he seemed to
me altogether too elegant for the work in hand; but Mr.
Cornell had visited English farms, was greatly impressed
by their excellence, and urged a trial of the new-comer.
He was duly called; and, that he might begin his courses
of instruction, an order was given for a considerable
collection of English agricultural implements and for the
erection of new farm-buildings after English patterns,
Mr. Cornell generously advancing the required money.

All this took time--much time. At first great things
were expected by the farmers of the State, but gradually
their confidence waned. As they saw the new professor
walking over the farm in a dilettantish way, superintending
operations with gloved hands, and never touching
any implement, doubts arose which soon ripened into
skepticism. Typical were the utterances of our farm
manager. He was a plain, practical farmer, who had taken the
first prize of the State Agricultural Society for the
excellence of his own farm; and, though he at first indulged
in high hopes regarding the new professor, he soon had
misgivings, and felt it his duty to warn me. He said:
``Yew kin depend on 't, he ain't a-goin' to do nothin'; he
don't know nothin' about corn, and he don't want to
know nothin' about corn; AND HE DON'T BELIEVE IN PUNKINS!
Depend on 't, as soon as his new barn is finished
and all his new British tackle is brought together, he'll
quit the job.'' I reasoned that, to a farmer brought up
among the glorious fields of Indian corn in western New
York, and accustomed to rejoice in the sight of golden
pumpkins, diffusion of other cultures must seem like treason;
but, alas! he was right. As soon as the new buildings
and arrangements were ready for our trial of British
scientific agriculture, the young foreign professor notified
me that he had accepted the headship of an agricultural
college in Canada. Still, he met with no greater success
there than with us; nor was his reputation increased when,
after the foul attacks made upon Mr. Cornell in the
legislature, he volunteered to come to the investigation and
testify that Mr. Cornell was ``not a practical man.'' In
this the career of the young agriculturist culminated.
Having lost his professorship in Canada, he undertook
the management of a grocery in the oil-regions of western
Pennsylvania; and scientific British agriculture still
awaits among us a special representative. Happily, since
that day, men trained practically in the agriculture of the
United States have studied the best British methods, and
brought us much that has been of real use.

Fortunately I had found three men who enabled us to
tide our agricultural department over those dark days, in
which we seemed to be playing ``Hamlet'' with Hamlet
left out. The first of these was the Hon. John Stanton
Gould, whom I called as a lecturer upon agriculture. He
had been president of the State Agricultural Society, and
was eminent, not only for his knowledge of his subject,
but for his power of making it interesting. Men came
away from Mr. Gould's lectures filled with intense desire
to get hold of a spade or hoe and to begin turning the soil.

So, also, the steady work of Professor George C. Caldwell,
whom I had called from the State College of Pennsylvania
to take charge of the department of agricultural
chemistry, won the respect of all leaders in agriculture
throughout the State, and, indeed, throughout the country.
And with especial gratitude should be named Dr.
James Law of the British Royal Veterinary College, whom
I had found in London, and called to our veterinary
professorship. Never was there a more happy selection.
From that day to this, thirty-six years, he has been a
tower of strength to the university, and has rendered
incalculable services to the State and Nation. His quiet,
thorough work impressed every one most favorably. The
rudest of the surrounding farmers learned more and more
to regard him with respect and admiration, and the State
has recently recognized his services by establishing in
connection with the university a State veterinary college
under his control.

The work of these three men saved us. Apart from it,
the agricultural department long remained a sort of slough
of despond; but at last a brighter day dawned. From the
far-off State Agricultural College of Iowa came tidings
of a professor--Mr. J. I. P. Roberts--who united the practical
and theoretical qualities desired. I secured him, and
thenceforward there was no more difficulty. For more
than twenty years, as professor and lecturer, he has
largely aided in developing agriculture throughout the
State and country; and when others were added to
him, like Comstock and Bailey, the success of the
department became even more brilliant. Still, its old
reputation lasted for a time, even after a better era had
been fully ushered in. About a year after the tide had
thus turned a meeting of the State ``Grange'' was held
at the neighboring city of Elmira; and the leading speakers
made the university and its agricultural college an
object of scoffing which culminated in a resolution
denouncing both, and urging the legislature to revoke our
charter. At this a bright young graduate of Cornell, an
instructor in the agricultural department, who happened
to be present, stood up manfully, put a few pertinent
questions, found that none of the declaimers had visited the
university, declared that they were false to their duty in
not doing so, protested against their condemning the
institution unheard and unseen, and then and there invited
them all to visit the institution and its agricultural
department without delay. Next day this whole body of farmers,
with their wives, sons, and daughters, were upon us.
Everything was shown them. Knowing next to nothing
about modern appliances for instruction in science and
they were amazed at all they saw; the libraries,
the laboratories, and, above all, the natural-science
collections and models greatly impressed them. They were taken
everywhere, and shown not only our successes but our
failures; nothing was concealed from them, and, as a result,
though they ``came to scoff,'' they ``remained to
pray.'' They called a new session of their body, pledged
to us their support, and passed resolutions commending
our work and condemning the State legislature for not
doing more in our behalf. That was the turning-point for
the agricultural department; and from that day to this
the legislature has dealt generously with us, and the
influence of the department for good throughout the State
has been more and more widely acknowledged.

Of the two technical departments referred to in the origi-
nal act of Congress, the second--specified under the vague
name of ``Mechanic Arts''--went better, though there was
at first much groping to find just what ought to be done.
First of all, there was a danger which demanded delicate
handling. This danger lay in Mr. Cornell's wish to establish,
in vital connection with the university, great factories
for the production of articles for sale, especially chairs
and shoes, thus giving large bodies of students opportunities
for self-support. In discussing this matter with him,
I pointed to the fact that, in becoming a manufacturing
corporation we were making a business venture never
contemplated by our charter; that it was exceedingly doubtful
whether such a corporation could be combined with an
educational institution without ruining both; that the men
best fitted to manage a great factory were hardly likely
to be the best managers of a great institution of learning;
that under our charter we had duties, not merely to those
who wished to support themselves by labor, but to others;
and I finally pointed out to him many reasons for holding
that such a scheme contravened the act of Congress and
the legislation of the State. I insisted that the object of
our charters from the State and Nation was not to enable
a great number of young men to secure an elementary
education while making shoes and chairs; that for these
the public schools were provided; that our main purpose
must be to send out into all parts of the State and Nation
thoroughly trained graduates, who should develop and
improve the main industries of the country, and, by their
knowledge and example, train up skilful artisans of
various sorts and in every locality. Mr. Cornell's conduct
in this matter was admirable. Tenacious as he
usually was when his opinion was formed, and much as it
must have cost him to give up what had become a darling
project, he yielded to this view.

New questions now opened as to this ``Department of
Mechanic Arts.'' It was clear to me, from what I had
seen abroad, that not all the models I had sent from
Europe would be sufficient to give the practical character
which such a department needed; that its graduates must
have a direct, practical acquaintance with the construction
and use of machinery before they could become leaders in
great mechanical enterprises; that they must be made, not
only mathematicians and draftsmen, but skilled workmen,
practically trained in the best methods and processes.
A very shrewd artisan said to me: ``When a young
mechanical engineer comes among us fresh from college, only
able to make figures and pictures, we rarely have much
respect for him: the trouble with the great majority
of those who come from technical institutions is that
they don't know as much about practical methods and
processes as we know.''

I felt that there was truth in this, but, as things were,
hardly dared tell this to the trustees. It would have scared
them, for it seemed to open the door to great expenditures
demanded by a mere theory; but I laid my views before
Mr. Cornell, and he agreed with me so far as to send to
us from his agricultural works at Albany sundry large
pieces of old machinery, which he thought might be
rebuilt for our purposes. But this turned out to be hardly
practicable. I dared not, at that stage of the proceedings,
bring into the board of trustees a proposal to buy machinery
and establish a machine-shop; the whole would have a
chimerical look, and was sure to repel them. Therefore it
was that, at my own expense, I bought a power-lathe and
other pieces of machinery; and, through the active efforts
of Professor John L. Morris, my steadfast supporter in
the whole matter, these were set up in our temporary
wooden laboratory. A few students began using them, and
to good purpose. Mr. Cornell was greatly pleased. Other
trustees of a practical turn visited the place, and the result
was that opinion in the governing board soon favored a
large practical equipment for the department.

On this I prepared a report, taking up the whole subject
with great care, and brought it before them, my main
suggestion being that a practical beginning of the department
should be made by the erection and equipment of a
small building on the north side of the university grounds,
near our main water-power. Then came a piece of great
good fortune. Among the charter trustees of the university
was Mr. Cornell's old friend and associate in telegraphic
enterprise, Hiram Sibley of Rochester; and at the
close of the meeting Mr. Sibley asked me if I could give
him a little time on the university grounds after the
adjournment of the meeting. I, of course, assented; and
next morning, on our visiting the grounds together, he
asked me to point out the spot where the proposed college
of mechanic arts might best be placed. On my doing so, he
looked over the ground carefully, and then said that he
would himself erect and equip the building. So began
Sibley College, which is to-day, probably, all things
considered, the most successful department of this kind in
our own country, and perhaps in any country. In the
hands, first of Professors Morris and Sweet, and later
under the direction of Dr. Thurston, it has become of
the greatest value to every part of the United States, and
indeed to other parts of the American continent.

At the outset a question arose, seemingly trivial, but
really serious. Mr. Sibley had gone far beyond his original
proposals; and when the lecture-rooms, drafting-
rooms, modeling-rooms, foundries, shops for ironwork,
woodwork, and the like, had been finished, the question
came up: Shall our aim be to produce things having a
pecuniary value, or shall we produce simply samples of
the most highly finished workmanship, having, generally,
no value? Fortunately, Professors Morris and Sweet were
able to combine both these purposes, and to employ a
considerable number of students in the very best of work
which had a market value. The whole thing was thereby
made a success, but it waited long for recognition. A
result followed not unlike some which have occurred in
other fields in our country. At the Centennial Exhibition
of 1876, an exhibit was made of the work done by students
in Sibley College, including a steam-engine, power-lathes,
face-plates, and various tools of precision, admirably fin-
ished, each a model in its kind. But while many mechanics
praised them, they attracted no special attention from
New England authorities. On the other hand, an exhibit
of samples of work from the School of Technology of
Moscow, which had no merchantable value,--many of the
pieces being of antiquated pattern, but of exquisite finish
and showily arranged,--aroused great admiration among
sundry New England theorists; even the head of the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in enthusiastic
magazine articles, called the attention of the whole country to
them, and urged the necessity of establishing machine-
shops in connection with schools of science. The fact that
this had already been done, and better done, at Cornell,
was loftily ignored. Western New York seemed a Nazareth
out of which no good could come. That same straining
of the mind's eye toward the East, that same tendency
to provincialism which had so often afflicted Massachusetts,
evidently prevented her wise men in technology
from recognizing any new departure west of them.

At a later period I had occasion to make a final
comment on all this. Both as commissioner at the Paris
Exhibition and as minister to Russia, I came to know
intimately Wischniegradsky, who had been the head of the
Moscow School of Technology and afterward Russian
minister of finance. He spoke to me in the highest terms
of what original American methods had done for railways;
and the climax was reached when the Moscow
methods, so highly praised by Boston critics, proved to be
utterly inadequate in training mechanical engineers to
furnish the machinery needed in Russia, and men from
the American schools, trained in the methods of Cornell,
sent over locomotives and machinery of all sorts for the
new Trans-Siberian Railway, of which the eastern terminus
was that very city of Moscow which enjoyed the
privileges so lauded and magnified by the Boston critics!
Time has reversed their judgment: the combination of the
two systems, so ably and patiently developed by Director
Thurston, is the one which has happily prevailed.

Few days in the history of Cornell University have
been so fraught with good as that on which Thurston
accepted my call to the headship of Sibley College. At the
very outset he gained the confidence and gratitude of trustees,
professors, students, and, indeed, of his profession
throughout the country, by his amazing success as
professor, as author, and as organizer and administrator
of that department, which he made not only one of the
largest, but one of the best of its kind in the world. The
rapidity and wisdom of his decisions, the extent and excellence
of his work, his skill in attracting the best men, his
ability in quieting rivalries and--animosities, and the kindly
firmness of his whole policy were a source of wonder to all
who knew him. And, at his lamented death in 1903, it was
found that he had rendered another service of a sort which
such strong men as he are often incapable of rendering--
he had trained a body of assistants and students worthy
to take up his work.

Another department which I had long wished to see
established in our country now began to take shape.
From my boyhood I had a love for architecture. In my
young manhood this had been developed by readings in
Ruskin, and later by architectural excursions in Europe;
and the time had now arrived when it seemed possible
to do something for it. I had collected what, at that
period, was certainly one of the largest, if not the largest,
of the architectural libraries in the United States, besides
several thousand large architectural photographs, drawings,
casts, models, and other material from every country
in Europe. This had been, in fact, my pet extravagance;
and a propitious time seeming now to arrive, I proposed
to the trustees that if they would establish a department
of architecture and call a professor to it, I would transfer
to it my special library and collections. This offer was
accepted; and thus was founded this additional department,
which began its good career under Professor Charles
Babcock, who, at this present writing, is enjoying, as
professor emeritus, the respect and gratitude of a long
series of classes which have profited by his teachings, and
the cordial companionship of his colleagues, who rejoice
to profit by his humorous, but none the less profound,
observations upon problems arising in the university and in
the world in general.

As regards this illustrative material, I recall one
curious experience. While on one of my architectural
excursions through the great towns of eastern France, I
arrived at Troyes. On visiting the government agent for
photographing public monuments, I noticed in his rooms
some admirably executed pieces of stone carving,--capitals,
corbels, and the like,--and on my asking him whence
these came, he told me that they had been recently taken
out of the cathedral by the architect who was ``restoring''
it. After my purchases were made, he went with me to
this great edifice, one of the finest in Europe; and there
I found that, on each side of the high altar, the architect
had taken out several brackets, or corbels, of the best
mediaeval work, and substituted new ones designed by
himself. One of these corbels thus taken out the government
photographer had in his possession. It was very striking,
representing the grotesque face of a monk in the midst of
a mass of foliage supporting the base of a statue, all being
carved with great spirit. Apart from its architectural
value, it had a historical interest, since it must have
witnessed the famous betrothal of the son and daughter of
the English and French kings mentioned in Shakspere,
to say nothing of many other mediaeval pageants.

On my making known to the photographer the fact that
I was engaged in founding a school of architecture in the
United States, and was especially anxious to secure a good
specimen of French work, he sold me this example, which
is now in the museum of the Architectural Department at
Cornell. I allude to this, in passing, as showing what
monstrous iniquities (and I could name many others) are
committed in the great mediaeval buildings of Europe
under pretense of ``restoration.''



In close connection with the technical departments were
various laboratories. For these, place was at first
made here and there in cellars and sheds; but at last we
were able to erect for them buildings large and complete,
and to the opening of the first of these came Mr. Cleveland,
then Governor of New York, and later President of
the United States. Having laid the corner-stone of the
Memorial Chapel and made an excellent speech, which
encouraged us all, he accompanied me to the new building
devoted to chemistry and physics, which was then opened
for the first time. On entering it, he expressed his surprise
at its equipment, and showed that he had seen nothing
of the kind before. I learned afterward that he had
received a thorough preparation in classics and mathematics
for college, but that, on account of the insufficient means
of his father, he was obliged to give up his university
course; and it was evident, from his utterances at this
time, as well as when visiting other colleges and universities,
that he lamented this.

Out of this laboratory thus opened was developed,
later, a new technical department. Among my happiest
hours were those spent in visiting the various buildings,
collections, and lecture-rooms, after my morning's work,
to see how all were going on; and, during various visits
to the new laboratory I noticed that the majority of the
students were, in one way or another, giving attention to
matters connected with electricity. There had already
been built in the machine-shops, under the direction of
Professor Anthony, a dynamo which was used in lighting
our grounds, this being one of the first examples
of electric lighting in the United States; and on one
of my visits I said to him, ``It looks much as if, with
the rapid extension throughout the country of the telegraph,
telephone, electric lighting, and electric railways,
we shall be called on, before long, to train men for
a new profession in connection with them.'' As he
assented to this, I asked him to sketch out a plan for
a ``Department of Electrical Engineering,'' and in due
time he appeared with it before the executive committee
of the trustees. But it met much opposition from one of
our oldest members, who was constitutionally averse to
what he thought new-fangled education, partly from
conservatism, partly from considerations of expense; and this
opposition was so threatening that, in order to save the
proposed department, I was obliged to pledge myself to
become responsible for any extra expense caused by it
during the first year. Upon this pledge it was established.
Thus was created, as I believe, the first department of
electrical engineering ever known in the United States,
and, so far as I can learn, the first ever known in any

But while we thus strove to be loyal to those parts of
our charter which established technical instruction, there
were other parts in which I personally felt even a deeper
interest. In my political reminiscences I have acknowledged
the want of preparation in regard to practical
matters of public concern which had hampered me as a
member of the State Senate. Having revolved this subject
in my mind for a considerable time, I made, while
commissioner to the Paris Exposition of 1878, a careful
examination of the courses of study in political and
economic science established in European universities, and
on my return devoted to this subject my official report.
Like such reports generally, it was delayed a long time
in the Government Printing-office, was then damned with
faint praise, and nothing more came of it until the following
year, when, being called to deliver the annual address
at the Johns Hopkins University, I wrought its main
points into a plea for education in relation to politics.
This was widely circulated with some effect, and I now
brought a modest proposal in the premises before our
trustees. Its main feature was that Mr. Frank B. Sanborn,
a graduate of Harvard, Secretary of the Board of
Charities of the State of Massachusetts and of the Social
Science Association of the United States, should be called
to give a course of practical lectures before the senior
class during at least one term,--his subjects to be such as
pauperism, crime (incipient and chronic), inebriety, lunacy,
and the best dealing of modern states with these;
also that his instructions should be given, not only by
lectures, but by actual visits with his classes to the great
charitable and penal institutions of the State, of which
there were many within easy distance of the university.
For several years, and until the department took a different
form, this plan was carried out with excellent results.
Professor Sanborn and his students, beginning with the
county almshouse and jail, visited the reformatories, the
prisons, the penitentiaries, and the asylums of various sorts
in the State; made careful examinations of them; drew up
reports upon them, these reports forming the subject of
discussions in which professor and students took earnest
part; and a number of young men who have since taken
influential places in the State legislature were thus
instructed as to the best actual and possible dealings with all
these subjects. I still think that more should be done in
all our universities to train men by this method for the
public service in this most important and interesting field,
and also in matters pertaining generally to State, county,
and city administration.

Closely connected with this instruction was that in
political economy and history. As to the first of these, I
had, some years before, seen reason to believe that my
strong, and perhaps bigoted free-trade ideas were at least
not so universal in their application as I had supposed.
Down to the time of our Civil War I had been very intolerant
on this subject, practically holding a protectionist
to be either a Pharisee or an idiot. I had convinced
myself not only that the principles of free trade are
axiomatic, but that they afford the only means of binding
nations together in permanent peace; that Great Britain
was our best friend; that, in desiring us to adopt her own
system, she was moved by broad, philosophic, and
philanthropic considerations. But as the war drew on and I
saw the haughtiness and selfishness toward us shown by
her ruling classes, there came in my mind a revulsion
which led me to examine more closely the foundations
of my economical belief. I began to attribute more
importance to John Stuart Mill's famous ``exception,''
to the effect that the building up of certain industries
may be necessary to the very existence of a nation, and
that perhaps the best way of building them up is to
adopt an adequate system of protective duties. Down
to this time I had been a disciple of Adam Smith and
Bastiat; but now appeared the published lectures of
Roscher of Leipsic, upon what he called ``The Historical
System'' of political economy. Its fundamental idea was
that political economy is indeed a science, to be wrought
out by scientific methods; but that the question how far
its conclusions are adapted to the circumstances of any
nation at any time is for statesmen to determine. This
impressed me much. Moreover, I was forced to acknowledge
that the Morrill protective tariff, adopted at the
Civil War period, was a necessity for revenue; so that
my old theory of a tariff for revenue easily developed
into a belief in a tariff for revenue with incidental
protection. This idea has been developed in my mind as time
has gone on, until at present I am a believer in protection
as the only road to ultimate free trade. My process of
reasoning on the subject I have given in another chapter.

At the opening of the university there was but little
instruction in political economy, that little being mainly
given by our professor of moral philosophy, Dr. Wilson,
a man broad in his views and strong in reasoning power,
who had been greatly impressed by the ideas of Friedrich
List, the German protectionist. But lectures were also
given by free-traders, and I adopted the plan of having
both sides as well represented as possible. This was, at
first, complained of; sundry good people said it was like
calling a professor of atheism into a theological seminary;
but my answer was that our university was not, like a
theological seminary, established to arrive at certain
conclusions fixed beforehand, or to propagate an established
creed; that, political economy not being an exact science,
our best course was to call eminent lecturers to present
both sides of the main questions in dispute. The result was
good. It stimulated much thought, and doubtless did
something to promote that charity to opposing economical
opinions which in my own case had been, through my
early manhood, so conspicuously lacking.

The second of these departments--history--was the
one for which I cared most. I believed then, and later
experience has strengthened my conviction, that the best
of all methods in presenting every subject bearing on
political and social life is the historical. My own studies
had been mainly in this field, and I did what I could
to establish historical courses in the university. The
lectures which I had given at the University of Michigan
were now developed more fully and again presented; but
to these I constantly added new lectures and, indeed, new
courses, though at a great disadvantage, since my administrative
duties stood constantly in the way of my professorial
work. At the same time I went on collecting my
historical library until it became, in its way, probably the
largest and most complete of its kind in the possession of
any individual in the United States. Gradually strong
men were drawn into the department, and finally there
came one on whom I could lay a large portion of the work.

The story is somewhat curious. During the year 1877-
1878, in Germany and France, I had prepared a short
course of lectures upon the historical development of criminal
law; and while giving it to my senior class after my
return, I noticed a student, two or three years below the
average age of the class, carefully taking notes and
apparently much interested. One day, going toward my
house after the lecture, I found him going in the same
direction, and, beginning conversation with him, learned
that he was a member of the sophomore class; that he had
corresponded with me, two or three years before, as to the
best means of working his way through the university;
had followed out a suggestion of mine, then made, in that
he had learned the printer's trade; had supported himself
through the preparatory school by means of it, and was
then carrying himself through college by setting type for
the university press. Making inquiries of professors and
students, I found that the young man, both at school and
at the university, was, as a rule, at the head of every class
he had entered; and therefore it was that, when the
examination papers came in at the close of the term, I
first took up his papers to see how he had stood the test.
They proved to be masterly. There were excellent scholars
in the senior class, but not one had done so well as this
young sophomore; in fact, I doubt whether I could have
passed a better examination on my own lectures. There
was in his answers a combination of accuracy with breadth
which surprised me. Up to that time, passing judgment
on the examination papers had been one of the most
tedious of my burdens; for it involved wading through
several hundred pages of crabbed manuscript, every term,
and weighing carefully the statements therein embodied.
A sudden light now flashed upon me. I sent for the young
sophomore, cautioned him to secrecy, and then and there
made him my examiner in history. He, a member of the
sophomore class, took the papers of the seniors and resident
graduates, and passed upon them carefully and admirably--
better than I should have ever had the time and
patience to do. Of course this was kept entirely secret;
for had the seniors known that I had intrusted their papers
to the tender mercies of a sophomore, they would probably
have mobbed me. This mode of examination continued
until the young man's graduation, when he was
openly appointed examiner in history, afterward
becoming instructor in history, then assistant professor;
and, finally, another university having called him to a
full professorship, he was appointed full professor of
history at Cornell, and has greatly distinguished himself
both by his ability in research and his power in teaching.
To him have been added others as professors, assistant
professors, and instructors, so that the department is now
on an excellent footing. In one respect its development has
been unexpectedly satisfactory. At the opening of the
university one of my strongest hopes had been to establish a
professorship of American history. It seemed to me monstrous
that there was not, in any American university, a
course of lectures on the history of the United States; and
that an American student, in order to secure such
instruction in the history of his own country, must go to
the lectures of Laboulaye at the Collge de France. Thither
I had gone some years before, and had been greatly
impressed by Laboulaye's admirable presentation of his
subject, and awakened to the fact that American history
is not only more instructive, but more interesting, than
I had ever supposed it. My first venture was to call
Professor George W. Greene of Brown University for a
course of lectures on the history of our Revolutionary
period, and Professor Dwight of Columbia College for
a course upon the constitutional history of the United
States. But finally my hope was more fully realized: I
was enabled to call as resident professor my old friend
Moses Coit Tyler, whose book on the ``History of American
Literature'' is a classic, and who, in his new field,
exerted a powerful influence for good upon several
generations of students. More than once since, as I have
heard him, it has been borne in upon me that I was born
too soon. Remembering the utter want of any such
instruction in my own college days, I have especially envied
those who have had the good fortune to be conducted by
him, and men like him, through the history of our own

[6] To my great sorrow, he died in 1900.--A. D. W.

In some of these departments to which I have referred
there were occasionally difficulties requiring much tact
in handling. During my professorial days at the University
of Michigan I once heard an eminent divine deliver
an admirable address on what he called ``The Oscillatory
Law of Human Progress''--that is, upon the tendency
of human society, when reacting from one evil, to swing
to another almost as serious in the opposite direction. In
swinging away from the old cast-iron course of instruction,
and from the text-book recitation of the mere dry
bones of literature, there may be seen at this hour some
tendency to excessive reaction. When I note in sundry
university registers courses of instruction offered in some
of the most evanescent and worthless developments of
contemporary literature,--some of them, indeed, worse
than worthless,--I think of a remark made to me by a
college friend of mine who will be remembered by the
Yale men of the fifties for his keen and pithy judgments
of men and things. Being one day in New Haven looking
for assistant professors and instructors, I met him; and,
on my answering his question as to what had brought me,
he said, ``If at any time you want a professor of HORSE
SENSE, call ME.'' I have often thought of this proposal
since, and have at times regretted that some of our institutions
of learning had not availed themselves of his services.
The fact is that, under the new system, ``horse sense'' is
especially called for to prevent a too extreme reaction from
the evils which afflicted university instruction during my
student days.

While it rejoices my heart to see the splendid courses
in modern literature now offered at our larger universities,
some of them arouse misgivings. Reflecting upon
the shortness of human life and the vast mass of really
GREAT literature, I see with regret courses offered dealing
with the bubbles floating on the surface of sundry literatures--
bubbles soon to break, some of them with ill odor.

I would as soon think of endowing restaurants to enable
young men to appreciate caviar, or old Gorgonzola, or
game of a peculiarly ``high'' character, as of establishing
courses dealing with Villon, Baudelaire, Swinburne, and
the like; and when I hear of second-rate critics summoned
across the ocean to present to universities which
have heard Emerson, Longfellow, Henry Reed, Lowell,
Whipple, and Curtis the coagulated nastiness of Verlaine,
Mallarm, and their compeers, I expect next to
hear of courses introducing young men to the beauties of
absinthe, Turkish cigarettes, and stimulants unspeakable.
Doubtless these things are all due to the ``oscillatory
law of human progress,'' which professors of ``horse
sense'' like my friend Joe Sheldon will gradually do
away with.

As time went on, buildings of various sorts rose around
the university grounds, and, almost without exception, as
gifts from men attracted by the plan of the institution. At
the annual commencement in 1869 was laid the cornerstone
of an edifice devoted especially to lecture-rooms and
museums of natural science. It was a noble gift by Mr.
John McGraw; and amid the cares and discouragements
of that period it gave us new heart, and strengthened
the institution especially on the scientific side. In order
to do honor to this occasion, it was decided to invite leading
men from all parts of the State, and, above all, to
request the governor, Mr. Fenton, to lay the corner-stone.
But it was soon evident that his excellency's old fear of
offending the sectarian schools still controlled him. He
made excuse, and we then called on the Freemasons to
take charge of the ceremony. They came in full
regalia, bringing their own orators; and, on the appointed
day, a great body of spectators was grouped about
the foundations of the new building on the beautiful
knoll in front of the upper quadrangle. It was an ideal
afternoon in June, and the panorama before and around
us was superb. Immediately below us, in front, lay the
beautiful valley in which nestles the little city of Ithaca;
beyond, on the left, was the vast amphitheater, nearly
surrounded by hills and distant mountains; and on the
right, Cayuga Lake, stretching northward for forty miles.
Few points in our country afford a nobler view of lake,
mountain, hill, and valley. The speakers naturally
expatiated in all the moods and tenses on the munificence
of Mr. Cornell and Mr. McGraw; and when all was ended
the great new bell, which had just been added to the
university chime in the name of one most dear to me,--the
largest bell then swinging in western New York, inscribed
with the verse written for it by Lowell,--boomed grandly
forth. As we came away I walked with Goldwin Smith,
and noticed that he was convulsed with suppressed laughter.
On my asking him the cause, he answered: ``There
is nothing more to be said; no one need ever praise the
work of Mr. Cornell again.'' On my asking the professor
what he meant, he asked me if I had not heard the last
speech. I answered in the negative--that my mind was
occupied with other things. He then quoted it substantially
as follows: ``Fellow-citizens, when Mr. Cornell
found himself rich beyond the dreams of avarice, did he
give himself up to a life of inglorious ease? No, fellow-
citizens; he founded the beautiful public library in
yonder valley. But did he then retire to a life of luxury?
No, fellow-citizens; he came up to this height (and
here came a great wave of the hand over the vast
amphitheater below and around us) and he established this

In reference to this occasion I may put on record
Lowell's quatrain above referred to, which is cast upon the
great clock-bell of the university. It runs as follows:

I call as fly the irrevocable hours
Futile as air, or strong as fate to make
Your lives of sand or granite. Awful powers,
Even as men choose, they either give or take.

There was also cast upon it the following, from the
Psalter version of Psalm xcii:

To tell of thy loving-kindness early in the morning: and of thy
truth in the night season.

While various departments were thus developed, there
was going on a steady evolution in the general conception
of the university. In the Congressional act of 1862 was a
vague provision for military instruction in the institutions
which might be created under it. The cause of this was
evident. The bill was passed during one of the most critical
periods in the history of the Civil War, and in my
inaugural address I had alluded to this as most honorable
to Senator Morrill and to the Congress which had adopted
his proposals. It was at perhaps the darkest moment in
the history of the United States that this provision was
made, in this Morrill Act, for a great system of classical,
scientific, and technical instruction in every State and
Territory of the Union; and I compared this enactment, at
so trying a period, to the conduct of the Romans in buying
and selling the lands on which the Carthaginians were
encamped after their victory at Cannae. The provision
for military instruction had been inserted in this act of
1862 because Senator Morrill and others saw clearly the
advantage which had accrued to the States then in rebellion
from their military schools; but the act had left
military instruction optional with the institutions securing
the national endowment, and, so far as I could learn, none
of those already created had taken the clause very
seriously. I proposed that we should accept it fully and
fairly, not according to the letter of the act, but to the
spirit of those who had passed it; indeed, that we should
go further than any other institution had dreamed of
going, so that every undergraduate not excused on the
ground of conscientious scruples, or for some other
adequate cause, should be required to take a thorough
course of military drill; and to this end I supported a plan,
which was afterward carried out by law, that officers from
the United States army should be detailed by the Secretary
of War to each of the principal institutions as military
professors. My reasons for this were based on my
recollections of what took place at the University of Michigan
during the Civil War. I had then seen large numbers of
my best students go forth insufficiently trained, and in
some cases led to destruction by incompetent officers. At
a later period, I had heard the West Point officer whom I
had secured from Detroit to train those Michigan students
express his wonder at the rapidity with which they learned
what was necessary to make them soldiers and even officers.
Being young men of disciplined minds, they learned
the drill far more quickly and intelligently than the
average recruits could do. There was still another reason for
taking the military clause in the Morrill Act seriously.
I felt then, and feel now, that our Republic is not to
escape serious internal troubles; that in these her reliance
must be largely upon her citizen soldiery; that it will be a
source of calamity, possibly of catastrophe, if the power
of the sword in civil commotions shall fall into the hands
of ignorant and brutal leaders, while the educated men of
the country, not being versed in military matters, shall
slink away from the scene of duty, cower in corners, and
leave the conduct of military affairs to men intellectually
and morally their inferiors. These views I embodied in
a report to the trustees; and the result was the formation
of a university battalion, which has been one of the best
things at Cornell. A series of well-qualified officers, sent
by the War Department, have developed the system admirably.
Its good results to the university have been acknowledged
by all who have watched its progress. Farmers'
boys,--slouchy, careless, not accustomed to obey any word
of command; city boys, sometimes pampered, often wayward,
have thus been in a short time transformed: they
stand erect; they look the world squarely in the face; the
intensity of their American individualism is happily
modified; they can take the word of command and they can
give it. I doubt whether any feature of instruction at
Cornell University has produced more excellent results
upon CHARACTER than the training thus given. And this is
not all. The effect on the State has been valuable. It has
already been felt in the organization and maintenance of
the State militia; and during the war with Spain,
Cornellians, trained in the university battalion, rendered
noble service.

Among the matters which our board of trustees and
faculty had to decide upon at an early day was the
conferring of degrees. It had become, and indeed has
remained in many of our colleges down to the present
day, an abuse, and a comical abuse. Almost more than
any other thing, it tends to lower respect for many American
colleges and universities among thinking men. The
older and stronger universities are free from it; but many
of the newer ones, especially various little sectarian
colleges, some of them calling themselves ``universities,''
have abused and are abusing beyond measure their privilege
of conferring degrees. Every one knows individuals
in the community whose degrees, so far from adorning
them, really render them ridiculous; and every one knows
colleges and ``universities'' made ridiculous by the
conferring of such pretended honors.

At the outset I proposed to our trustees that Cornell
University should confer no honorary degrees of any
sort, and a law was passed to that effect. This was
observed faithfully during my entire presidency; then the
policy was temporarily changed, and two honorary doctorates
were conferred; but this was immediately followed
by a renewal of the old law, and Cornell has conferred no
honorary degrees since.

But it is a question whether the time has not arrived
for some relaxation of this policy. The argument I used
in proposing the law that no honorary degree should be
conferred was that we had not yet built up an institution
whose degrees could be justly considered as of any value.
That argument is no longer valid, and possibly some departure
from it would now be wise. Still, the policy of
conferring no honorary degrees is infinitely better than
the policy of lavishing them.

As to regular and ordinary degrees, I had, in my plan
of organization, recommended that there should be but one
degree for all courses, whether in arts, science, or
literature. I argued that, as all our courses required an equal
amount of intellectual exertion, one simple degree should
be granted alike to all who had passed the required
examination at the close of their chosen course. This view
the faculty did not accept. They adopted the policy
of establishing several degrees: as, for example, for the
course in arts, the degree of A.B.; for the course in science,
the degree of B.S.; for the course in literature, the degree
of B.L.; and so on. The reason given for this was that
it was important in each case to know what the training
of the individual graduate had been; and that the
true way to obviate invidious distinctions is so to perfect
the newer courses that all the degrees shall finally be
considered as of equal value and honor. This argument
converted me: it seemed to me just, and my experience
in calling men to professorships led me more and more
to see that I had been wrong and that the faculty was
right; for it was a matter of the greatest importance to
me, in deciding on the qualifications of candidates for
professorships, to know, not only their special fitness, but
what their general education had been.

But, curiously enough, within the last few years the
Cornell faculty, under the lead of its present admirable
president, has reverted to my old argument, accepted it,
and established a single degree for all courses. I bow
respectfully to their judgment, but my conversion by the
same faculty from my own original ideas was so complete
that I cannot now agree to the wisdom of the change. It
is a curious case of cross-conversion, I having been and
remaining converted to the ideas of the faculty, and they
having been converted to my original idea. As to the
whole matter, I have the faith of an optimist that eventu-
ally, with the experience derived from both systems, a
good result will be reached.

Another question which at that time occupied me much
was that of scholarships and fellowships awarded by
competitive examinations versus general gratuitous instruction.
During the formation of my plans for the university,
a number of excellent men urged upon me that all
our instruction should be thrown open to all mankind free
of charge; that there should be no payment of instruction
fees of any kind; that the policy which prevails in the
public schools of the State should be carried out in the
new institution at the summit of the system. This demand
was plausible, but the more I thought upon it the more
illogical, fallacious, and injurious it seemed; and, in spite
of some hard knocks in consequence, I have continued to
dissent from it, and feel that events have justified me.

Since this view of mine largely influenced the plan of
the university, this is perhaps as good a place as any to
sketch its development. In the first place, I soon saw that
the analogy between free education in the public schools
and in the university is delusive, the conditions of the two
being entirely dissimilar. In a republic like ours primary
education of the voters is a practical necessity. No republic
of real weight in the world, except Switzerland and
the United States, has proved permanent; and the only
difference between the many republics which have failed
and these two, which, we hope, have succeeded, is that in
the former the great body of the citizens were illiterate,
while in the latter the great body of voters have had some
general education. Without this education, sufficient for
an understanding of the main questions involved, no real
republic or democracy can endure. With general primary
education up to a point necessary for the intelligent
exercise of the suffrage, one may have hopes for the continuance
and development of a democratic republic. On this
account primary education should be made free: it is
part of our political system; it is the essential condition
of its existence.

The purpose of university education is totally different.
The interest of the Republic is, indeed, that it should
maintain the very highest and best provision for advanced
instruction, general, scientific, and technical; and it is also
in the highest interest of the Republic that its fittest young
men and women should secure such instruction. No republic,
no nation in fact, possesses any other treasure
comparable to its young citizens of active mind and earnest
purpose. This is felt at the present time by all the
great nations of the world, and consequently provision
is made in almost all of them for the highest education of
such men and women. Next to the general primary education
of all voters, the most important duty of our Republic
is to develop the best minds it possesses for the best
service in all its fields of high intellectual activity. To do
this it must supply the best university education, and
must smooth the way for those to acquire it who are best
fitted for it, no matter how oppressive their poverty.

Now, my first objection to gratuitous university instruction
to all students alike is that it stands in the way of
this most important consummation; that it not only does
not accomplish the end which is desirable, but that it does
accomplish another which is exceedingly undesirable.
For the real problem to be solved is this: How shall the
higher education in different fields be brought within
reach of the young men and women best fitted to acquire
it, to profit by it, and to use it to best advantage? Any
one acquainted with American schools and universities
knows that the vast majority of these young people
best fitted to profit by higher education come from the
families of small means. What does gratuitous instruction
in the university offer them? Merely a remission of
instruction fees, which, after all, are but a small part of
the necessary expenses of a university course. With many
of these young persons--probably with most--a mere
remission of instruction fees is utterly insufficient to enable
them to secure advanced education. I have alluded to the
case of President Cleveland, who, having been well fitted
for the university, could not enter. His father being a
country clergyman with a large family and small means,
the future Chief Executive of the United States was obliged
to turn aside to a teacher's place and a clerkship which
afforded him a bare support. At the Hamilton College
commencement a few years since, Mr. Cleveland, pointing

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