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the Almighty punishes his erring children by tortures in-
finite in cruelty and eternal in duration, earthly author-
ities may justly imitate this divine example so far as their
finite powers enable them to do so. I found this doctrine
not only especially effective in the mediaeval church, but
taking on even more hideous characteristics in the Protes-
tant Church, especially in Germany. On this subject I
collected much material, some of it very interesting and
little known even to historical scholars. Of this were
original editions of the old criminal codes of Europe and
later criminal codes in France and Germany down to the
French Revolution, nearly all of which were enriched with
engravings illustrating instruments and processes of tor-

PLANS AND PROJECTS-1838-1905 497

ture. So, too, a ghastly light was thrown into the whole
subject by the executioners' tariffs in the various German
states, especially those under ecclesiastical rule. One
of several in my possession, which was published by the
Elector Archbishop of Cologne in 1757 and stamped with
the archbishop's seal, specifies and sanctions every form
of ingenious cruelty which one human being can exercise
upon another, and, opposite each of these cruelties, the
price which the executioner was authorized to receive for
administering it. Thus, for cutting off the right hand,
so much; for tearing out the tongue, so much; for tear-
ing the flesh with hot pincers, so much; for burning a
criminal alive, so much; and so on through two folio
pages. Moreover, I had collected details of witchcraft
condemnations, which, during more than a century, went
on at the rate of more than a thousand a year in Germany
alone, and not only printed books but the original manu-
script depositions taken from the victims in the torture-
chamber. Of these were the trial papers of Dietrich
Flade, who had been, toward the end of the sixteenth cen-
tury, one of the most eminent men in eastern Germany,
chief justice of the province and rector of the University
of Treves. Having ventured to think witchcraft a de-
lusion, he was put on trial by the archbishop, tortured
until in his agony he acknowledged every impossible thing
suggested to him, and finally strangled and burned. In
his case, as in various others, I have the ipsissima verba
of the accusers and accused: the original report in the
handwriting of the scribe who was present at the torture
and wrote down the questions of the judges and the an-
swers of the prisoner.

On this material I based a short course of lectures on
"The Evolution of Humanity in Criminal Law," and
have often thought of throwing these into the form of
a small book to be called "The Warfare of Humanity
with Unreason"; but this will probably remain a mere
project. I mention it here, hoping that some other per-
son, with more leisure, will some day properly present

n. 32


these facts as bearing on the claims of theologians and
ecclesiastics to direct education and control thought.

Of this period, too, were sundry projects for special
monographs. Thus, during various visits to Florence,
I planned a history of that city. It had interested me in
my student days during my reading of Sismondi 's * * His-
tory of the Italian Republics, ' ' and on resuming my stud-
ies in that field it seemed to me that a history of Florence
might be made, most varied, interesting, and instructive.
It would embrace, of course, a most remarkable period of
political development the growth of a mediseval republic
out of early anarchy and tyranny; some of the most cu-
rious experiments in government ever made; the most
wonderful, perhaps, of all growths in art, literature, and
science; and the final supremacy of a monarchy, bring-
ing many interesting results, yet giving some terrible
warnings. But the more I read the more I saw that to
write such a history a man must relinquish everything
else, and so it was given up. So, too, during various so-
journs at Venice my old interest in Father Paul Sarpi,
which had been aroused during my early professorial life
while reading his pithy and brilliant history of the Coun-
cil of Trent, was greatly increased, and I collected a con-
siderable library with the idea of writing a short biog-
raphy of him for American readers. This, of all projects
not executed, has been perhaps the most difficult for me
to relinquish. My last three visits to Venice have espe-
cially revived my interest in him and increased my collec-
tion of books regarding him. The desire to spread his
fame has come over me very strongly as I have stood in
the council-rooms of the Venetian Republic, which he
served so long and so well; as I have looked upon his
statue on the spot where he was left for dead by the emis-
saries of Pope Paul V; and as I have mused over his
grave, so long desecrated and hidden by monks, but in
these latter days honored with an inscription. But other
work has claimed me, and others must write upon this
subject. It is well worthy of attention, not only for the

PLANS AND PROJECTS-1838-1905 499

interest of its details, but for the light it throws upon
great forces still at work in the world. Strong men have
discussed it for European readers, but it deserves to be
especially presented to Americans.

I think an eminent European publicist entirely right in
saying that Father Paul is one of the three men, since the
middle ages, who have exercised the most profound influ-
ence on Italy; the other two being Galileo and Machia-
velli. The reason assigned by this historian for this
judgment is not merely the fact that Father Paul was one
of the most eminent men in science whom Italy has pro-
duced, nor the equally incontestable fact that he taught
the Venetian Republic and finally the world how to
withstand papal usurpation of civil power, but that by
his history of the Council of Trent he showed "how
the Holy Spirit conducts the councils of the church"
("comme quoi le Saint Esprit dirige les conciles"). 1

Yet another subject which I would have been glad to
present was the life of St. Francis Xavier partly on ac-
count of my veneration for the great Apostle to the Indies,
and partly because a collation of his successive biog-
raphies so strikingly reveals the origin and growth of
myth and legend in the warm atmosphere of devotion.
The project of writing such a book was formed in my
Cornell lecture-room at the close of a short course of lec-
tures on the ' ' Jesuit Reaction which followed the Refor-
mation. ' ' In the last of these I had pointed out the beauty
of Xavier 's work, and had shown how natural had been
the immense growth of myth and legend in connection
with it. Among my hearers was Goldwin Smith, and as
we came out he said: "I have often thought that if any
one were to take a series of the published lives of one of
the great Jesuit saints, beginning at the beginning and
comparing the successive biographies as they have ap-
peared, century after century, down to our own time,
much light would be thrown upon the evolution of the

1 Since writing the above, I have published in the "Atlantic Monthly"
two historical essays upon Sarpi.


miraculous in religion." I was struck by this idea, and
it occurred to me that, of all such examples, that of Fran-
cis Xavier would be the most fruitful and interesting. For
we have, to begin with, his own letters written from the
scene of his great missionary labors in the East, in which
no miracles appear. We have the letters of his associates
at that period, in which there is also no knowledge shown
of any miracles performed by him. We also have the
great speeches of Laynez, one of Xavier 's associates,
who, at the Council of Trent, did his best to promote
Jesuit interests, and who yet showed no knowledge of any
miracles performed by Xavier. We have the very im-
portant work by Joseph Acosta, the eminent provincial
of the Jesuits, written at a later period, largely on the
conversion of the Indies, and especially on Xavier 's part
in it, which, while accepting, in a perfunctory way, the
attribution of miracles to Xavier, gives us reasoning
which seems entirely to discredit them. Then we have
biographies of Xavier, published soon after his death, in
which very slight traces of miracles begin to be found;
then other biographies later and later, century after cen-
tury, in which more and more miracles appear, and earlier
miracles of very simple character grow more and more
complex and astounding, until finally we see him credited
with a vast number of the most striking miracles ever
conceived of. In order to develop the subject I have col-
lected books and documents of every sort bearing upon
it from his time to ours, and have given a brief summary
of the results in my ' ' History of the Warfare of Science. ' '
But the full development of this subject, which throws
intense light upon the growth of miracles in the biog-
raphies of so many benefactors of our race, must prob-
ably be left to others.

It should be treated with judicial fairness. There
should not be a trace of prejudice against the church
Xavier served. The infallibility of the Pope who canon-
ized him was indeed committed to the reality of miracles
which Xavier certainly never performed ; but the church

PLANS AND PROJECTS- 1838 -1905 501

at large cannot justly be blamed for this : it was indeed
made the more illustrious by Xavier's great example.
The evil, if evil there was, lay in human nature, and a
proper history of this evolution of myth and legend, by
throwing light into one of the strongest propensities of
devout minds, would give a most valuable warning against
basing religious systems on miraculous claims which are
constantly becoming more and more discredited and
therefore more and more dangerous to any system which
persists in using them.

Still another project interested me; effort connected
with it was a kind of recreation; this project was formed
during my attache days at St. Petersburg with Governor
Seymour. It was a brief biography of Thomas Jef-
ferson. I made some headway in it, but was at last
painfully convinced that I should never have time to finish
it worthily. Besides this, after the Civil War, Jefferson,
though still interesting to me, was by no means so great
a man in my eyes as he had been. Perhaps no doctrine
ever cost any other country so dear as Jefferson's pet
theory of State rights cost the United States: nearly a
million of lives lost on battle-fields, in prisons, and in
hospitals ; nearly ten thousand millions of dollars poured
into gulfs of hatred.

With another project I was more fortunate. In 1875 I
was asked to prepare a bibliographical introduction to Mr.
O'Connor Morris's short history of the French Revolu-
tion. This I did with much care, for it seemed to me that
this period in history, giving most interesting material for
study and thought, had been much obscured by ideas
drawn from trashy books instead of from the really good

Having finished this short bibliography, it occurred to
me that a much more extensive work, giving a selection of
the best authorities on all the main periods of modern his-
tory, might be useful. This I began, and was deeply inter-
ested in it ; but here, as in various other projects, the fates
were against me. Being appointed a commissioner to the


French Exposition, and seeing in this an opportunity to
do other work which I had at heart, I asked my successor
in the professorship of history at the University of Michi-
gan, who at a later period became my successor as presi-
dent of Cornell, Dr. Charles Kendall Adams, to take the
work off my hands. This he did, and produced a book far
better than any which I could have written. The kind
remarks in his preface regarding my suggestions I greatly
prize, and feel that this project, at least, though I could
not accomplish it, had a most happy issue.

Another project which I have long cherished is of a
very different sort ; and though it may not be possible for
me to carry it out, my hope is that some other person will
do so. For many years I have noted with pride the mu-
nificent gifts made for educational and charitable pur-
poses in the United States. It is a noble history, one
which does honor not only to our own country, but to
human nature. No other country has seen any munifi-
cence which approaches that so familiar to Americans.
The records show that during the year 1903 nearly, if
not quite, eighty millions of dollars were given by
private parties for these public purposes. It has long
seemed to me that a little book based on the history of such
gifts, pointing out the lines in which they have been most
successful, might be of much use, and more than once I
have talked over with my dear friend Oilman, at present
president of the Carnegie Institution at Washington, the
idea of our working together in the production of a
pamphlet or volume with some such title as, "What Rich
Americans have Done and can Do with their Money."
But my friend has been busy in his great work of founding
and developing the university at Baltimore, I have been
of late years occupied in other parts of the world, and so
this project remains unfulfilled. There are many reasons
for the publication of such a book. Most of the gifts
above referred to have been wisely made ; but some have
not, and a considerable number have caused confusion in
American education rather than aided its healthful de-

PLANS AND PRO JECTS-1838 -1905 503

velopment. Many good things have resulted from these
gifts, but some vastly important matters have been ut-
terly neglected. We have seen excellent small colleges
transformed by gifts into pretentious and inadequate
shams called "universities"; we have seen great tele-
scopes given without any accompanying instruments, and
with no provision for an observatory ; magnificent collec-
tions in geology given to institutions which had no pro-
fessor in that science; beautiful herbariums added to
institutions where there is no instruction in botany ; pro-
fessorships of no use established where others of the
utmost importance should have been founded ; institutions
founded where they were not needed, and nothing done
where they were needed. He who will write a thoughtful
book on this subject, based upon a careful study of late
educational history, may render a great service. As I
revise this chapter I may say that in an address at Yale in
1903, entitled, "A Patriotic Investment," I sought to
point out one of the many ways in which rich men may
meet a pressing need of our universities with great good
to the country at large. 1

Yet another project has occupied much time and
thought, and may, I hope, be yet fully carried out. For
many years I have thought much on our wretched legisla-
tion against crime and on the imperfect administration of
such criminal law as we have. Years ago, after compar-
ing the criminal statistics of our own country with those
of other nations, I came to the conclusion that, with the
possible exception of the lower parts of the Italian king-
dom, there is more unpunished murder in our own country
than in any other in the civilized world. This condition
of things I found to be not unknown to others ; but there
seemed to prevail a sort of listless hopelessness regarding
any remedy for it. Dining in Philadelphia with my class-
mate and dear friend Wayne MacVeagh, I found beside
me one of the most eminent judges in Pennsylvania, and
this question of high crime having been broached and the

1 See "A Patriotic Investment," New Haven, 1903.


causes of it discussed, the judge quietly remarked, "The
taking of life, after a full and fair trial, as a penalty for
murder, seems to be the only form of taking life to which
the average American has any objection." Many of our
dealings with murder and other high crimes would seem
to show that the judge was, on the whole, right. My main
study on the subject was made in 1892, during a journey
of more than twelve thousand miles with Mr. Andrew
Carnegie and his party through the Middle, Southern,
Southwestern, Pacific, and Northwestern States. We
stopped at all the important places on our route, and at
vast numbers of unimportant places ; at every one of these
I bought all the newspapers obtainable, examined them
with reference to this subject, and found that the long
daily record of murders in our metropolitan journals is
far from giving us the full reality. I constantly found in
the local papers, at these out-of-the-way places, numerous
accounts of murders which never reached the metropoli-
tan journals. Most striking testimony was also given me
by individuals, in one case by a United States senator,
who gave me the history of a country merchant, in one of
the Southwestern States, who had at different times killed
eight persons, and who at his last venture, endeavoring to
kill a man who had vexed him in a mere verbal quarrel,
had fired into a lumber-wagon containing a party coming
from church, and killed three persons, one of them a little
girl. And my informant added that this murderer had
never been punished. In California I saw walking jaunt-
ily along the streets, and afterward discoursing in a draw-
ing-room, a man who, on being cautioned by a policeman
while disturbing the public peace a year or two before, had
simply shot the policeman dead, and had been tried twice,
but each time with a disagreement of the jury. Multitudes
of other cases I found equally bad. I collected a mass of
material illustrating the subject, and on this based an
address given for the first time in San Francisco, and
afterward at Boston, New York, New Haven, Cornell Uni-
versity, and the State universities of Wisconsin and Min-

PLANS AND PROJECTS-1838-1905 505

nesota. My aim was to arouse thinking men to the im-
portance of the subject, and I now hope to prepare a dis-
cussion of ' ' The Problem of High Crime, " to be divided
into three parts, the first on the present condition of the
problem, the second on its origin, and the third on pos-
sible and probable remedies.

Of all my projects for historical treatises, there are two
which I have dreamed of for many years, hoping against
hope for their realization. I have tried to induce some of
our younger historical professors to undertake them or to
train up students to undertake them ; and, as the time has
gone by when I can devote myself to them, I now mention
them in the hope that some one will arise to do honor to
himself and to our country by developing them.

The first of these is a history of the middle ages in the
general style of Robertson's "Introduction to the Life of
Charles V." Years ago, when beginning my work as a
professor of modern history at the University of Michi-
gan, I felt greatly the need for my students of some work
which should show briefly but clearly the transition from
ancient history to modern. Life is not long enough for
the study of the minute details of the mediaeval period in
addition to ancient and modern history. What is needed
for the mass of thinking young men is something which
shall show what the work was which was accomplished
between the fall of Rome and the new beginnings of
civilization at the Renascence and the Reformation. For
this purpose Robertson's work was once a master-
piece. It has rendered great services not only in English-
speaking lands, but in others, by enabling thinking men to
see how this modern world has been developed out of the
past and to gain some ideas as to the way in which a yet
nobler civilization may be developed out of the present.
Robertson 's work still remains a classic, but modern his-
torical research has superseded large parts of it, and
what is now needed is a short history of, say, three hun-
dred pages carried out on the main lines of Robertson,
taking in succession the most important subjects in the


evolution of mediaeval history, discarding all excepting
the leading points in chronology, and bringing out clearly
the sequence of great historical causes and results from
the downfall of Rome to the formation of the great
modern states. And there might well be brought into con-
nection with this what Robertson did not give namely,
sketches showing the character and work of some of the
men who wrought most powerfully in this transition.

During my stay at the University of Michigan, I made
a beginning of such a history by giving a course of lec-
tures on the growth of civilization in the middle ages,
taking up such subjects as the downfall of Rome, the bar-
barian invasion, the rise of the papacy, feudalism, Mo-
hammedanism, the anti-feudal effects of the crusades, the
rise of free cities, the growth of law, the growth of litera-
ture, and ending with the centralization of monarchical
power in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. But the
lectures then prepared were based merely upon copious
notes and given, as regarded phrasing, extempora-
neously. It is too late for me now to write them out or to
present the subject in the light of modern historical re-
search ; but I know of no subject which is better calculated
to broaden the mind and extend the horizon of historical
studies in our universities. Provost Stille of the Univer-
sity of Pennsylvania did indeed carry out, in part, some-
thing of this kind, but time failed him for making more
than a beginning. The man who, of all in our time, seems
to me best fitted to undertake this much needed work is
Frederic Harrison. If the general method of Robertson
were combined with the spirit shown in the early chapters
of Harrison's book on ''The Meaning of History," the
resultant work would be not only of great service, but at-
tractive to all thinking men.

And, last of all, a project which has long been one
of my dreams a "History of Civilization in Spain."
Were I twenty years younger, I would gladly cut myself
loose from all entanglements and throw myself into this
wholly. It seems to me the most suggestive history now

PLANS AND PROJECTS-1838-1905 507

to be written. The material at hand is ample and easily
accessible. A multitude of historians have made remark-
able contributions to it, and among these, in our own
country, Irving, Prescott, Motley, Ticknor, and Lea; in
England, Froude, Ford, Buckle, and others have given
many pregnant suggestions and some increase of know-
ledge; Germany and France have contributed much in
the form of printed books; Spain, much in the publica-
tion of archives and sundry interesting histories apologiz-
ing for the worst things in Spanish history; the Nether-
lands have also contributed documents of great value.
There is little need of delving among manuscripts; that
has already been done, and the results are easily within
reach of any scholar. The "History of Civilization in
Spain" is a history of perhaps the finest amalgamation
of races which was made at the downfall of the Roman
Empire; of splendid beginnings of liberty and its noble
exercise in the middle ages; of high endeavor;
of a wonderful growth in art and literature. But it is
also a history of the undermining and destruction of all
this great growth, so noble, so beautiful, by tyranny in
church and state tyranny over body and mind, heart
and soul. A simple, thoughtful account of this evolution
of the former glory of Spain, and then of the causes of
her decline to her present condition, would be full of sug-
gestions for fruitful thought regarding politics, religion,
science, literature, and art. To write such a history was
the best of my dreams. Perhaps, had I been sent in 1879
as minister to Madrid instead of to Berlin, I might at
least have made an effort to begin it, and, whether suc-
cessful or not, might have led other men to continue it.
It is now too late for me, but I still hope that our country
will supply some man to undertake it. Whoever shall
write such a book in an honest, broad, and impartial
spirit will gain not only honor for his country and him-
self, but will render a great service to mankind.

In closing this chapter on "Plans and Projects, Exe-
cuted and Unexecuted, ' ' I know well that my confessions


will do me no good in the eyes of many who shall read
them. It will be said that I attempted too many things.
In mitigation of such a judgment I may say that the con-
ditions of American life in the second half of the century
just closed have been very different from those in most

Online LibraryAndrew Dickson WhiteAutobiography of Andrew Dickson White (Volume 2) → online text (page 43 of 54)