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Colony of Massachusetts Bay placed its government under a
Board composed of " the Governor and Deputy-Governor, ajid
all the magistrates of this jurisdiction, together with the teach-
ing elders of the six next adjoining towns." These towns were
Boston and four places which are now reckoned as its suburbs,
together with Cambridge. The " teaching elders " were tho
ministers of the Church. To them was given the entire control
of the College property and full powers " to establish all such

1 Life of George Ticknor, I. 355.


orders, statutes, and constitutions " as should promote " piety,
morality, and learning."

This Body must have been found too large and too much
scattered " to have the immediate direction of the College," for
in 1650 the General Court by a Charter " enacted that the
College shall be a Corporation consisting of a President, five
Fellows, and a Treasurer or Bursar, who shall have perpetual
succession, and shall be called by the name of President and
Fellows of Harvard College." In this they followed the model
of an English College, where, whenever a Fellowship becomes
vacant, it is filled up by the votes of the surviving members of
the Corporate Body, and where, with very few exceptions, the
President, under whatever title he is known, is elected by the
Fellows. The Harvard President and Fellows have never had
that freehold right in their posts which was enjoyed by their
brethren in England ; neither had they the absolute power of
appointment, for they had in each case " to procure the presence
of the Overseers and by their counsel and consent to elect."
They were entitled to appoint and dismiss the officers and
servants of the College, and to make orders and by-laws, pro-
vided the said orders and by-laws were allowed by the Overseers.
By an Appendix to the Charter in 1657 their powers were in-
creased. The orders and by-laws which they should henceforth
make were at once to come into effect, though they "were
alterable by the Overseers."

"The Charter of Harvard College," said President Eliot at
the Commemoration of 1886, "granted in 1650 is in force to-
day in every line, having survived in perfect integrity the pro-
digious political, social, and commercial changes of more than
two centuries." ^ It is preserved in the Library of the College

1 Harvard University, 2joth Anniversary, p. 262.


— surely one of the most venerable of documents on the face
of the earth ; for it is the Charter of the first University founded
by the money of the people voted in their popular Assembly.

The first President was Henry Dunstcr, a graduate of Mag-
dalen College, Cambridge, and a clergyman of the Church of
England, " one of the greatest masters of the Oriental languages
that hath been known in these ends of the earth." Of the five
Fellows two were Masters of Arts and three Bachelors. Their
Christian names — there were three Samuels, one Jonathan, and
one Comfort — seem to indicate that they were Puritans, not
only by conviction but by birth.

No important change was made in the government of the
University till the Rebellion of the Colonies. In 1 7S0, four
years after the Declaration of Independence, by the Constitu-
tion which was framed by the new Commonwealth of Massa-
chusetts, the Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, Council ami
Senate of the Commonwealth were made successors to the
Governor, Deputy-Governor, and Magistrates on the Board of
Overseers, the President and the ministers of the six churches
still retaining their seats. By an Act passed in 18 10 and modi-
fied in 1S14 there were added to the Doartl fifteen laymen;
while, instead of six ministers there were to be fifteen, no lunger
confined to particular parishes, but chosen from among the
Congregational churches of the district generally. Both laynicn
and ministers were elected by the Overseers. In 1S43 the
clerical seats were thrown open to ministers of all denomina-
tions. By the Act of 1 85 1 the Senators ceased to be ^-.v cffido
members of the Board, and seats were no longer rescn-ed for
the clergy. Thirty members were to be elected by the Senators
and Rejjresentativcs assembled in one room. They were divided
into three classes, one of which was to go out uf ofiicc every


year. Party politics soon cast a taint over the election and
through it over the University. In 1865 a great measure of
reform was carried. Henceforth the President and Treasurer
were to be the sole ex officio members, while the thirty Over-
seers were no longer to be elected by the Legislature but by the
Bachelors of Arts of five years standing, the Masters of Arts, and
the holders of honorary degrees. By a provision in the Act,
the wisdom of which seems more than doubtful, " no officer of
government or instruction in the College is entitled to vote."
The men, that is to say, who have the interests of the Univer-
sity most at heart, and who know best how to promote them,
have no voice in the election of this important Board. The
poll is taken at Cambridge on Commencement Day. Every
voter must attend in person ; there is no voting by proxy papers,
as in the election of Members of Parliament in our Universities.^
The thirty Overseers are divided into six equal classes, one of
which goes out of office every year. By a final reform carried
in 1880, "persons not inhabitants of the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts were made eligible." In the present year six
Overseers are citizens of outside States. Thus in the course of
two centuries and a half the fetters of Church and State have
been first gradually loosened and at last wholly cast away. Not
a single member of the Corporation or of the Board of Over-
seers holds a theological degree. " A few years ago five of the
Overseers were clergymen ; of these, three were Unitarians, one
Episcopalian, and one Orthodox Congregationalist." ^ At the

^ The Universities of England, Scotland, and Ireland return nine repre-
sentatives to Parliament, who, as might be expected from the nature of
Universities, all vote with the Tory party.

2 History of Higher Education, etc., by G. G. Bush, p. 92. Bishop
Lawrence, as I am informed while I am correcting the proofs, was elected
to the Board of Overseers last Commencement (1894).


present time fifteen are graduates in Arts, twelve in Law, and
three in Medicine.^ The President is a layman, and on the
Corporation not a single minister has a seat. In both lists are
conspicuous the names of the great New England families.
There is an Endicott to take us back to the very foundation of
the College, to the days of the first Governor of the Colony,
that stern Puritan who cut the red cross of St. George out of
the royal colours ; and a Saltonstall whose two ancestors, Sir
Richard Saltonstall and his son, in the beginning of the Com-
monwealth stood boldly for civil and religious liberty. In John
Quincy Adams and Charles Francis Adams we have brought
back to our memory the second and sixth Presidents of the
United States, and the accomplished Minister to England dur-
ing the War between the North and the South. In Samuel
Hoar we have the representative of " that true New England
Roman," of whom Emerson so finely said : —

" With beams December planets dart

His cold eye truth and conduct scanned;
July was in his sunny heart,
October in his liberal hand."'

In Bancroft the name of the historian and in Peabody the
name of the philanthropist live again. There is one man who
figures strangely on this list. Among the descendants of the
men who crossed the seas to escape the tyranny of the Stuarts
is found a Bonaparte ! ^

The Overseers appoint forty committees, formed partly from
their own body, partly from outsiders. Of some of these Com-

1 Eight of the twelve who have degrees in I^w and the three who have
degrees in Medicine graduated also in .'\rts.

2 R. IV. Emerson, by O. W. Holmes, p. 214.
8 He is a grand-nephew of the first Napoleon.


mittees the duties are " to visit " the different Departments of
the University ; others report on the Courses of Instruction.
I cannot learn that these "visitations " ever take place. There
is a tradition, I am told, that an Overseer could now and then
drop in at a lecture, but at the present day the professional
mind is never thus rudely agitated. The Board has five "stated
meetings" every year, besides one "annual meeting." The
Corporation meets on the second and on the last Monday of
every month.

The Fellows, even in the early days of Harvard, were not
necessarily tutors, neither were the tutors necessarily Fellows ;
in this respect also the founders had modelled their institution
on the English Colleges. It rarely happened indeed in the
American Cambridge that the majority of the Fellows were
engaged in tuition. Whether they were at first required to be
resident is not clear. At all events, before the end of the
seventeenth century the obligation had ceased. Thus there
shortly grew up side by side two rival authorities, the Corpora-
tion and the tutors. The President presided over both bodies,
siding, it would seem probable, sometimes with one and some-
times with the other. "Not until after 1725 did the President
and tutors assume the authority of an independent Board on all
subjects of discipline." Even so late as 17S5 "the Professors
were required to exhibit to the Corporation the text-books used
in the College and give an account of their method of instruc-
tion." At the beginning of the present century on the Cor-
poration for the first time there was not a single resident
Fellow. In 1824 eleven of the tutors, in a memorial, main-
tained that by the Charter, " the Fellows are necessarily resi-
dent instructors." Their claim was not allowed by either the
Corporation or the Overseers; but to meet the difficulties


which had arisen, " the immediate government " was authorized
to assume the name of the F'aculty of the University.' The
powers which they had gradually acquired they not only
retained but extended. By the increase in their number and
in their dignity through the rapid foundation of Professorships
in the early part of this century, they had become too strong a
body to be slighted. At the present time there are six Facul-
ties over the eight Schools which constitute the University ;
the College proper, the Scientific School, and the Graduate
School being all placed under the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
" Each Faculty is composed of all the Professors, Assistant-
Professors, and Tutors, and of all the Instructors appointed for
a term longer than one year, who teach in the department or
departments under the charge of that Faculty." It has full
power of discipline, and by a vote of two-thirds of its mem-
bers can punish a student not only with rustication but with
expulsion. The President is a member of each Faculty, but
its chief executive officer is its Dean, " who is appointed by
the Corporation, with the consent of the Overseers. He is
responsible for the proper preparation and conduct of its
business, and makes an annual Report to the President."
These Reports are published every year, together with one
by the President, in which he deals with the information and
recommendations contained in them and with the general con-
dition of the University. " Each Faculty may delegate any of
its powers relating to ordinary matters of administration and
discipline to Administrative Boards, nominated from among
its members by the President, and appointed by the Corpo-
ration with the consent of the Overseers." Three such Boards
have been established, all untler the Faculty of .Arts and

^ Higher Education, etc., pp. 42, y^, 89.


Sciences, one for the College, the second for the Scientific
School, and the third for the Graduate School. This Faculty is
also divided into twelve Divisions ; and of these Divisions some
are sub-divided into Departments. For each Division and for
each Department there is a separate Committee. Thus the
Division of Ancient Languages, of which the Professor of Greek
Literature is Chairman, is composed of the Departments of
Indo-Iranian Languages, presided over by the Professor of
Sanskrit ; and of the Department of The Classics (Greek and
Latin) , presided over by the Professor of Latin. " Each of
these Committees practically decides all questions of instruc-
tion and honours in its province." ^ There are, moreover, in
the same Faculty fourteen Standing Committees, which deal
with such subjects as Admission Examinations, Admission from
other Colleges, and Fellowships and other Aids for Graduates.
The discipline of the College outside the Lecture Rooms is
maintained by the Parietal Board, composed of " the Proctors
and the Officers of Instruction who reside in University build-
ings, or in buildings to which the superintendence of the Uni-
versity extends." On it there are forty-six members. They
are under the direction of a Regent, "a University officer who
exercises a general supervision over the conduct and welfare of
the students." "It is a tradition of the College that no teacher
is commanded to do anything ; his work is only suggested to
him by his superior officers. The controlling Boards, the
Faculties, the Corporation, and the Board of Overseers never
assume a mandatory relation to each other, or to the individu-
als who compose them." ^

The Governing Bodies of all the Schools are united in a

1 Catalogue, pp. 31, 60; Educational Review, April, 1 894, p. 315.

2 Catalogue, pp. 32, 62; Higher Education, etc., by G. G. Bush, p. 92.


University Council, whose function is " to consider questions
which concern more than one Faculty and questions of Univer-
sity policy."

" In all Departments of the University, Professorships are
held without express limitation of time. All officers of instruc-
tion and government are subject to removal for inadequate
performance of duty, or for misconduct." It seems neverthe-
less to have been ''generally assumed " till the beginning of the
present year, that " the tenure of office of Professors was a
life-tenure." ^ Happily, the course recently taken by the Cor-
poration in requesting the resignation of two Professors has
scattered this assumption to the winds. Our great Universities
have surely suffered enough from these life-tenure men to be
a warning to the younger countries. At Harvard, so long as
there is zealous discharge of duty, the Professor's tenure is as
sure as any tenure can be in this world. Should there be a
failure through old age, an ample pension will before long, it is
hoped, be provided. "An alumnus," said the President at the
Commencement Day Dinner in June, 1889, "has recently
offered a gift of peculiar acceptability of two hundred thousand
dollars (;i^40,899) towards the retiring allowance fund, than
which no other purpose could be happier." - "Assistant-Pro-
fessorships are held for five years, and tutorships for not more
than three years. At the end of the term of an Assistant-
Professor or Tutor his connection with the University ceases,
unless he be reappointed. Lecturers are appointed for not

1 Catalogue, p. 30; Harvard Graduates^ Magazine, March, 1894,


2 Higher Education, etc., p. 104. Dr. George M. I^ne, Pope Professor
of Latin, who resigned his ofTicc last spring, has received " a retiring allow-
ance of three thousand dollars (Z'613) a year." Han>ard Graduates'
Magazine, March, 1894, p. 530.


more than one year. Instructors are appointed for such terms
as convenience may require." There is great merit in this
system. In any case where incompetency is shown, far less
moral courage is required in the Governing Body to let an
appointment lapse by course of time than to bring it to an
end by dismissal.

" A visitor from Europe," writes Mr. Bryce, " is struck by
the prominence of the President in an American University
or College, and the almost monarchical position which he
sometimes occupies towards the Professors as well as towards
the students. Far more authority seems to be vested in him,
far more to turn upon his individual talents and character,
than in the Universities of Europe. Neither the German Pro-
Rector, nor the Vice-Chancellor in Oxford and Cambridge,
nor the Principal in a Scottish University, nor the Provost of
Trinity College in Dublin, nor the head in one of the Colleges
in Oxford or Cambridge is anything like so important a per-
sonage in respect of his office, whatever influence his individ-
ual gifts may give him, as an American College President. In
this, as in not a few other respects, America is less republican
than England. . . . No University dignitaries in Great Britain
are so well known to the public, or have their opinions quoted
with so much respect, as the heads of the seven or eight lead-
ing Universities of the United States." ^ Among the seven or
eight heads President Eliot undoubtedly holds the first place.
He holds it, not only as the President of the first University
on the American continent, but also by reason of his own
great qualities. He is a born ruler of men. A distinguished
American historian, speaking to me of the powers which he
has shown during his five and twenty years of office, both in

1 The American Commonwealth, 2d ed., II. 54S-49.


governing and in organizing, said : " He would have made an
admirable President of a great Railway Company or of the
United States." Six months after he was appointed Lowell
wrote of him : " Our new President of the College is winning
praise of everybody, 1 take the inmost satisfaction in him, and
think him just the best man that could have been chosen.
We have a real Captain at last." ^ His father for eleven years
had been Treasurer of the College. His grandfather had
founded the Chair of Greek Literature. His uncle, on his
mother's side, the father of Professor Charles Eliot Norton,
that graceful and accomplished scholar, the eilitor of LowelFs
Letters, had held the Chair of Sacred Literature. He him-
self graduated at Harvard, and was for some time Assist-
ant-Professor of Mathematics and Chemistry. Later on he
was placed at the head of the Department of Chemistry in
the Scientific School, Resigning this post, ten years after
graduation he went to Europe, where " he spent two years in
the study of Chemistry, and in acquainting himself with the
organization of public institutions in France, Germany, and
England." - He returned to America to fill the Chair of
Chemistry in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Not
having yet had his fill of learning, he once more returned as a
student to Europe. In September, 186.S, the President of Har-
vard retired, and Mr. Eliot, who was in his thirty-fifth year,
was appointed his successor by the Corporation. Among the
Fellows there was, I was told, one man of great insight and
great influence, who had discovered the young Professor's
extraordinary powers, and who convinced his colleagues of his
pre-eminent fitness for the post. The Overseers apparently
wished to follow in the old course, and to have the choice fall

1 Letters of J. R. Lowell, II. 58. * Higher Education, etc., p. 220.


on some elderly man, distinguished rather by his learning
than by his strength of character and all the high and rare
qualities of a ruler. At all events they refused their " consent."
The Corporation elected him a second time, and a second time
the Overseers vetoed the election. After an interregnum last-
ing more than seven months they at last yielded. On May 19,
1869, Mr. Eliot became President of Harvard College, and
the College was at once launched on its great and rapid course
of the most glorious prosperity.

How different is his position from that held seventy years
ago by his predecessor, Dr. Kirkland, whose office, according
to Lowell, " combined, with its purely scholastic functions,
those of accountant and chief of poUce ! For keeping books
he was incompetent (unless it were those he borrowed), and
the only discipline he exercised was by the unobtrusive pres-
sure of a gentlemanUness which rendered insubordination to
him impossible."^ The President of our days is a great
power ; he surveys the whole machine of the rapidly growing
University, and adjusts it to the needs and changes of the
times and to the advances of scholarship and science. " He
has to preside at the meetings of the Corporation and to act
as the ordinary medium of communication between the Cor-
poration and the Overseers, and between the Corporation and
the Faculties. He has to make an annual report to the Over-
seers on the general condition of the University. He has to
preside on public academic days ; to preside over the several
Faculties ; to direct the official correspondence of the Uni-
versity ; to acquaint himself with the state, interests, and wants
of the whole institution ; and to exercise a general superin-
tendence over all its concerns." ^ How admirably President

1 Literary Essays, 1890, I. 84. ^ Catalogue, p. 29.


Eliot has done his work is shown by the extraordinary growth
of Harvard in the last twenty-five years. Part of this growth
is due to that great reform which, three years before he entered
on office, established a government of the University, by the
University, for the University. Part is due to the sound
scholars and ardent workers among the senior Professors, who,
even longer than he, have been steadily advancing the highest
interests of Harvard. Much is due to the younger men whom
he helped to choose, and who have so well supported him in
all his great measures. But when all is deducted there still
remains a noble balance. Much will be forgotten ; but in far
distant years Harvard men will still talk of the Age of the
Great President. In the quarter of a century in which he has
held office, the number of students under the Faculty of Arts
and Science has increased from six hundred and thirty-four
to two thousand one hundred and eighty-eight, and of students
in the whole University from eleven hundred and twelve to
three thousand one hundred and fifty-six.^

The revenue, which at the beginning of the period was two
hundred and seventy thousand dollars (^55,213) is now one
million and forty-seven thousand (^214,108) ; while the aiil
given every year in money to poor students has grown from
twenty-five thousand dollars (^5111) to eighty-nine thousand
(^18,199). Twenty-four new buildings have been erected
at a cost of two million two hundred and fourteen thousaml
dollars (^452,757), and as I am writing fresh piles are rapidly
rising.'' Romam lakritiam invcnit, marmoream rclujuit.

1 I do not include the three hundred and forty-six students who attend
the Summer School — a school which has been called into existence in this

"^Harvard University, by F. Bollcs, pp. 12, 98-101; Catalogut,

P- 536.


Such a constitution as this where, according to the strict
letter, the Overseers in so many matters have an absohite veto
over the votes of the Corporation, where the Corporation has
an unlimited control over the Faculty, and where the power of
the President is so small would seem unworkable in a great
University. Like the English constitution, it moves easily by
the combined forces of wise custom and common sense. The
Overseers, who are the stronghold of academic conservatism,
never push their rights to the point of obstinacy, and the Cor-
poration has long worked in harmony with the Faculty. It is
only in matters of general policy that the Overseers make their
power felt ; and even in these they never long oppose the Cor-
poration and a united Faculty. When the Faculty is divided,
then they have been known to side with the minority. A few
years ago, for instance, a proposal to institute a " Three Years'
Course," which was supported by a considerable majority of
the Faculty, was vetoed by the Overseers, mainly, I believe,
under the influence of a few of the ablest Professors. They
have been described at Harvard as " our House of Lords,
whose main business it is to act as a drag on progress." They
are perhaps chiefly useful as a means of getting money. They
are generally chosen from among the most influential and
wealthy New England families. Their official position increases
the interest in the University which they would naturally feel as
graduates, and they not only themselves often make splendid

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Online LibraryGeorge Birkbeck Norman HillHarvard college, by an Oxonian; → online text (page 23 of 26)