C. S. (Caleb Sprague) Henry.

The true idea of the university, and its relation to a complete system of public instruction. An address before the Association of the alumni of the University of the city of New-York, June 28, 1852 online

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Online LibraryC. S. (Caleb Sprague) HenryThe true idea of the university, and its relation to a complete system of public instruction. An address before the Association of the alumni of the University of the city of New-York, June 28, 1852 → online text (page 2 of 3)
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be all very well, so long as we have no true University, pro-
vided these titular distinctions were conferred only where
they are thoroughly deserved. But as it is, there is some-
thing laughable, and at the same time sadly degrading to
high letters, in the way in which these honors are scattered
broadcast over the land — and some of them without any
regard to their special significance : — the title of Doctor of
Laws, for instance, lighting on the surprised head of some
eminent political, literary, or other distinguished personage
who perhaps never in his life opened a book on the Canon or
the Civil law ; who knows not, it may be, the distinction
between them. He is made Doctor of Laws, because, being
a layman, it would hardly do to make him a Doctor of Theo-
logy, or being a Clergyman, the doctorate of Divinity is not
thought quite sufficient for his years, his popular eminence,
or the worldly importance of his parish !

But let true Universities be established : and then let the
Colleges be restricted from conferring any other degree than
the Baccalaureate. Let all the others be University degrees.
And let them all, both in the College and in the University,
be conferred only when fairly earned ; not as a matter of


course after a certain attendance on the lecture room, as is
too much the case now : but only after a thorough and rigor-
ous examination sustained in the special Faculty, be it Arts,
Theology, jyeclicine, or Law, in which the degree is taken.
Let the degrees be taken, or in the old Academic language
be " proceeded to," not given as mere titles. Let any man
take them all, if he will study for them and earn them : but
let no man have any of them u]3on any other condition. Let
this be the rule — there may be occasions for special excep-
tions — but let this be the rule : and then the title would be
something more than an empty name. It would be a gua-
ranty for the presence of the thing. It would have some
weight, some authority. It would be a real honor, to be
sought for, and won and worn with honest pride, to the great
benefit of all the interests of truth and good letters.

Before dimissing the topic of the proper idea of the Uni-
versity, I will take occasion here to say a word as to a Theo-
logical Faculty. The great number of distinct religious
denominations that exist in our country, and the importance
which each one naturally and justly attaches to the theolo-
gical system by which it is distinguished, renders the estab-
lishment of a University Faculty of Theology a matter of
great practical difficulty. To avoid this difficulty, the organ-
isation of a Theological Faculty was expressly excluded from
the plan of the New- York University. My learned and
accomplished friend and predecessor, in his recent admirable
tract on University education, proposes to avoid the difficulty
in the same way.* But I cannot agree with him. A Faculty

* University Education, by H. P. Tapfan. At the time this discourse was delivered, Pro-
fessor Tappan was elected to the Chair which my broken health compelled me to resign ; and
it was to me a matter of great joy that my place would be filled by one so eminently qualified
to do honor to the institution, and to promote all the interests of true learning and science. He
has since then accepted the office of Chancellor of the University of Michigan. May all suc-
cess attend him. I may mention here that I learn from him that he has changed the opinion
expressed in his tract, to which reference is made above, and has, on further reflection, come-
to the same view as that I have taken.


of Theology is as indispensable as any other Faculty to the
idea of a complete University. The Science of Theology — ;
to say nothing of its importance in its higher religious and
practical aspects-^-is, in the philosophical principles which
underlie it, in its history, in its literature, in its relations
with the civilization and social culture of mankind, one of
the most profound and profoundly interesting departments of
human thought and knowledge. A University, in the pro-
per sense of the term, without a Faculty of Theology, is a
thing that cannot be created. And rather than avoid the
practical difficulty by mutilating the true idea, I would
attempt to realize the idea in the most comprehensive way :
' — by organizing the Theological Faculty in sections suffi-
ciently numerous to meet all reasonable desire of the differ-
ent religious denominations, so that the Faculty of Theology
would in fact consist of several distinct Faculties, each sub-
stantially complete— allowing, if you please, each commu-
nion to have its special system represented in the University
by a body of Professors of Theology, supported by its own
endowment and appointed on its own nomination, subject. to
such limitations and common regulations as the University
organization would make requisite. Students might then
attend the lectures of either of the sections, or of several, or
of all, according to their choice-— degrees in Theology, how-
ever, depending only on passing the proper examinations in
the complete course of some one section of the Faculty,
whichever they should elect. In this way all objections on
the score of the University favoring one religious system at
the expense of the rest, would be avoided ; while the widest
and freest scope would be given to the pursuit of Theological
Science : and surely that man must have small confidence in
his own creed who imagines the cause of truth would in any
way suffer in the long run by such an organization.

Such, gentlemen, is my view of the needs of Higher
Instruction among us : the University created ; the Colleges


reformed. Let this be done in the way I have sketched ;
and then with the Common Schools and Academies, we shall
have, and not till then shall we have, a complete system of
Public Instruction.

!Now, gentlemen^ to create and sustain such a system, we
must, I think, look to the State. I know this suggestion
Will strike you as burdened with great difficulties — immense
obstacles in getting the State to undertake the matter ; and
immense liabilities, if she should undertake it, that the true
and noble idea, especially of the Higher Institutions, will be
violated, impaired, or imperfectly realized, not only from
incompetent legislation in the organization of the system,
but from the pernicious influence of party politics in its
administration. In view of these liabilities of mischief, I
should vastly prefer that the University should be entirely
independent of the State ; that it should be established by
the s union of private individuals enlightened enough to con-
ceive the true idea ; rich enough and liberal enough to pro-
vide the requisite material endowments ; and wise enough to
leave the whole organization and administration in the hands
of competent men versed in academic affairs, whose special
profession and vocation it is to understand such matters.

But, gentlemen, I must say that I think there is less to
hope for in looking in this direction than to the State. And
so to the State, it seems to me we must look, if any where.
Besides, in a theoretical view, the State is the proper power
to do this work — under the obligation of doing it rightly and
well. It is the obligation of the State to provide a complete
and perfect system, of Public Instruction. The obligation is
already partially recognized in the practice of this Common-
wealth, as well as of many other States in the Union. Be-
sides, the State is the only power able, in some respects to
do the work as it should be done. To create the University ;
to perfect the College ; and to organize them in connection


with the primary and secondary institutions into one great
whole, such as the needs of the Commonwealth demand, such
as the idea of a complete system of Public Instruction
implies, is a public work, and can be well done only by the
public power. These institutions, moreover, should be free.
No charge for instruction should be made in any of them —
no more in the University and in the College, than in the
Common School. This is implied in the very idea of Public
Instruction. To effect this, immense appropriations of money
are needed. This is another point that must not be omitted
in our view of the case. To create a great and true Univer-
sity in this Commonwealth ; to perfect the organization of
the Colleges and Academies ; to increase their number, if
need be ; and to give free instruction in them all, would
require millions of expenditure. To establish in this City a
great University, such as ought to be established, requires a
provision for the proper dignified support of at least fifty or
sixty Professors. There are nearly a hundred and fifty in
the University of Berlin. They must be supplied too with
all the material conditions for their work : — buildings, libra-
ries, apparatus, museums, and galleries of art, and the like.
I cannot put down the expenditure necessary to effect this-
at less than three millions. And several millions more
would be required to perfect and complete the organization
of the Colleges. In short, a complete system of Public
Instruction requires an expenditure that can only be made
by the State.

But the State can do it. Eminently of the Public Will is
it true that " where there is a Will there is a Way." Let
only the people of this State feel the importance of it to the
glory and welfare of the Commonwealth, and what is ten
millions ? what is twenty millions % A tax so trifling as to
press with scarcely a feather's weight on any one, would
enable the State to command the amount, and in ten years
repay it both principal and interest. Three millions to found


a University in this City ! It sounds large: but in less than
twice three years it might he saved from the needless and
profligate expenditure of this most misgoverned town.

The thing can be done if only the people will it. To lead
them to will it is the great point. They have willed great
public works of material utility for the public health and
convenience, and for the increase of the public wealth. They
need be made s«e that there are spiritual utilities more
important still to the best life and welfare of the Common-
wealth. They need be made see that a great and perfect
system of Public Instruction, though it do not reimburse its
cost in the visible and tangible revenue of dollars, is a higher
public interest than Croton Water Works and Erie Canals,
which do : that if it be a wise and politic thing in the public
to create the one, it is even more so to create the other ; and
far more noble and honorable and fitting to the glory of a
magnanimous Commonwealth.

To stir up the public mind in this matter, belongs emi-
nently to the educated young men of the State. And you,
gentlemen, if you enter at all into the greatness and noble-
ness of the idea ; if you appreciate its paramount importance
to the interests of Science and Good Letters, to all the moral
and all the material interests of the Commonwealth ; you will
not be deterred by the difficulties that lie in the way, from
exerting the great influence which your liberal culture puts
it in your power to wield, m forming the mind and guiding
the will of the people of this great and rich State in a right
direction on this point. This is the practical purpose I have
in view in this discourse. This is the great mission which I
conclude my Academic life by invoking you to undertake,
and as far as in you lies, to accomplish.

You will have great obstacles to overcome. I admit it.
"With a vast multitude of the mass of the people, there are
probably not so much false views and positive hostilities to


contend with, as the absence of all views, and all sense of
the importance of any system of higher Public Instruction.

But the greatest and worst obstacles lie in the prevalence
of false views and strong prejudices of various sorts among
other classes. Of these let me sketch a few types.

There is McCheese, the great provision dealer. He started
in life scarcely more than able to write his name. He has
made money. He is rapidly rolling up his plum. He turns
up his nose in greasy contempt at the idea of taking his
money to make learned men. What is the use of learning ?
He has got on without it. He is opposed — not from any
hatred of it as something of superior value which he does not
possess. For he knows of nothing of superior value to
money. It has never entered his head that any body else
should be so foolish as to dream there was. It is simply a
useless whim : and he is opposed to having his money taken
for what is useless. All his brethren will equally oppose you
for the same reason.

Then there is Gubbins, ex-Auctioneer, long enough retired
upon his fortune to have, in the intervals of turtle and cham-
paign, looked around him and found out that there are in
society some men, particularly men of learning and science,
who aifect to think there are other things in the world
entitled to deference besides the mere possessor of money.
He has perhaps, a dark conception they may be right. But,
at all events, with the instinct of a proud but ignoble nature,
he hates what he tries to despise. He w T ill oppose anything
that puts his title to supreme deference in question. So will
his brethren.

There is again, Fitzroy Cunningham, Esq., shrewd, clear
headed, clever; with immense activity and versatility of
mind, he has all his life been engaged in extensive and com-


plicated transactions of trade and commerce — lias amassed a
more than princely wealth, which is still growing to greater
and greater expansion. With but a slender education, though
perhaps at the ripe age of eighteen, he took a college de-
gree, before he went into his father's counting house, yet he
has, since then, made himself variously intelligent, acquired
a vast amount of information of facts, events, men and things,
that have fallen under his observation in life — the kind of
knowledge therefore, he naturally holds in most respect. He
lives in a splendid palace up town ; his wife drives out in a
gorgeous equipage, and gives brilliant entertainments. But
Fitzroy still keeps in his busy sphere, because he loves it and
is proud of it, not merely for its wealth and the social conse-
quence it brings, but for the various energies and keen activ-
ities it demands. He has little respect for learning and sci-
ence in themselves. He has a certain respect for great law-
yers, great politicians, and eminent public functionaries.
But both he and they were made at the colleges, such as they
are, in the slight degree in which they owe anything to the
college. Such institutions he is willing i® patronise — perhaps
be a trustee, if it gratifies his egotism : in which position he
will regard the Faculty as in some sort his employes, much on
the footing of his upper clerks (hardly that), whom it is his of
fice to tell how to do their work, (landsmen teaching pilots
how to steer,) and to get the maximum of work at the mini-
mum of salary. But as to creating a great University, a
great Society of Learned Men, with an ample public provi-
sion for their independent and dignified support — a society to
which he is to look up with deference, as the great ornament
and glory of the city, a great light and benefaction to the na-
tion — he has no idea of it. It is a project for making a great
nest of dreamers and drones, entirely out of place amidst the
splendid material and practical activities of the age. Be
sure you cannot count on his help. He will not oppose you
with the vulgar hatred of G-ubbins ; but he will dismiss you


with a severe, contemptuous disregard of your plan. So will
his brethren.

There is, besides, Quinfeus Squeely, able editor of the Daily
Trumpet — politician, philanthropist, social reformer, believer
in social progress, in divinity of the people, (except those who
differ from him), believer in everything more than in the
wisdom of the Past. Clever man. Really able. Of mani-
fold abilities. Can write. Can think too. Says many wise
and good things. Honest withal. So I deem Squeely. Great
believer in himself, no doubt ; but also honest believer in
truth — that which he thinks such. But not a learned man.
A self-made man : with the one-sidedness that often belongs
to such men. He has already in advance opposed you. He
bloweth with his Trumpet to the people, to warn them against
you. He telleth them that Common Schools are for the peo-
ple : Colleges and Universities are only to"pamper the pride
of the rich, the grinders of the faces of the people. He
bloweth with his Trumpet against the legislators — warning
them of the wrath of the people, if they take the people's
money to build up or sustain aristocratic institutions, contra-
ry to the Gospel of Progress which the Trumpet proclaim-
eth : " Peace on earth ; and averj man's coat cut the same
length with his neighbor's." " Useless institutions too," saith
Squeely. " Look at me. Am not I able editor, politician,
social reformer, writer, thinker % E o college made me. I
made myself. That is the way to make men."

Foolish Squeely ! Foolish able editor ! Ivnowest thou not
that there was a stuff in thee, and a spirit that has made
thee an exception to the general rule. Few men perhaps,
with thy lack of advantages, would make themselves as able
as thou. But with the advantages thou lackedst, many might.
Besides, clever as thou art, able editor, writer, thinker, thou
art not a learned man. No disgrace. How shouldst thou be ?
The thing for thee to be ashamed of is, that thou shouldst



decry what thou hast not. For, those who are both as able
as thou art, and as learned as thou art not, have said and tes-
tified in many ways from age to age, that learning, high
learning and science, and the discipline that comes with them,
are good things, and minister to the greater ability of the
ablest of able men. Hadst thou started in thy career of life
possessed of the manifold culture and accomplishment of a
thoroughly educated man, thou mightest have beaten thy
actual self, as much as thou now beatest many a printer's ap-
prentice with whom thou beganest thy career.

There is too, Ptolemy Tongue-end— -patriot, democrat, dem-
agogue orator. He blows with his noisy breath a blast very
much in unison with the Daily Trumpet. He " stumpeth "
at Ward meetings. Unlike honest Squeely, he has no faith
in the people, except in their gullibleness— no faith in any
thing except the wisdom of buttering his bread with the peo-
ple's money. And so he blows any blast that he thinks may
help him to the favor of the sovereign people. He getteth
into the legislature, and there ojmoses with great wrath and
noise, all grants to Colleges— calling them anti-democratic ;
though he knows in his heart all the while, that it is, of all
things in the world, the most democratic that the people
should be taxed for the endowment of the highest institutions
of learning, free to all, as are the Common Schools— that so,
the children of the people, out of the pockets of the rich,
may receive an education that shall enable them to take
their share in the great prizes of life. For nothing is more
true than that the great prizes of life (other things being
equal) are grasped by those who have the highest, most
thorough and liberal education. And without a great and
perfect system of free Public Instruction, including the
University and the Colleges, as well as the Common Schools,
the children of the poor are, as a general rule, condemned to
a hopeless disadvantage, in competition with the sons of the


rich, in all the higher careers of life. There may be excep»
tional cases : but such must be the rule. This is so patent
and palpable, it seems to me, to every man of common sense
and common candor, that I have little patience with the false
and stupid twaddle which hollow-hearted demagogues, like
Tongue-end, or hopelessly wrong-headed able editors, like
Squeely, are perpetually pouring into the ears of the unen-
lightened masses — putting the Common Schools and Colleges
in opposition to each other : as if there was any contradiction
between them ; as if one was not as necessary as the other,
as if every principle of that democracy they prate so about,
did not require that the State should provide, not only free
primary instruction for all the children of the people, but
also the highest instruction for all such of the children of the
people as desire to go onward and upward into the higher
spheres of useful and honorable exertion. Gentlemen, you
may boldly join issue with these praters. Expose the fool-
ishness of their hackneyed cant. Keep on doing so : and in
due time, if you persevere, you will certainly disabuse the
public mind. Tongue-end will oppose you—till the people
begin to think, as he in his heart now thinks. Then you will
have his noisy voice equally in favor of the Colleges, and of
a great University endowed by the state. Then he will find
out that such institutions are exceedingly democratic. As
to Squeely : he will hold on honestly blowing his Trumpet to
the same tune he now does, until he comes of himself to a
wiser mind. Of which, small hope.

Such, gentlemen, are some types of the opposition you will
encounter. Others might be sketched did time allow. Be-
sides these, there is another class of hostile influences, not
directly opposed to the creation of the University, but in
several respects, standing in the way of the full realization of
its true idea. Of this sort is the party spirit of religious
sectarianism — the odium theologicum — -that bitterest of all


hatreds; and the meddling spirit of solemn incompetent
mediocrity in high political and social places, thinking it
has a special gift and vocation to busy itself in fostering the
interests of learning and science, yet destitute of any true
academic ideas ; and so meddling but to mar, and sure to
oppose if not allowed to mar. All these things are against
you. A formidable array. I admit it.

But, gentlemen, there is no reason to bate heart or hope.
The work to which I invoke you, is a great and noble work.
Not without encouragement to resolute and patient labor.
Tongue-end and Squeely, Cunningham and Gubbins, and
McCheese are not all the people of the land. There are
others — numerous in every class, especially among the more
enlightened, whom your influence may hopefully reach.
Truth and sound opinion need only zealous and resolute,
and, above all, patient propagandists, and in time it will
spread outward and downward — as all sound opinion the world
over must and always does spread — through the great, honest
and well disposed masses, who are ever ready in heart and
will, to give their support to whatsoever the glory and welfare
of the commonwealth demands.

Supposing the University to be established on the footing
I have suggested, there are certain ideas and principles
relating to its administration — to the organization of the
courses of instruction ; the constitution of the Faculties ; the
filling of the Academic Chairs ; the source of Academic
Honors ; the conferring of Degrees, and the principles, con-
ditions and modes of their bestowal- — which are indispensable
to the highest success and usefulness of such institutions.
These I intended somewhat to have considered. There are
certain notions and practices, certain ways of thinking and
and feeling prevalent amongst us on these points, which are
utterly at variance with the true theory of a University, with
all pure academic principles. These I intended to have sig-


nalized. But the just treatment of these topics would require
a discussion too protracted for this time. I had therefore,
better not now enter upon them. At some other time, and
in some other form, I may perhaps call your attention to

I must now bring my remarks to a close. And the circum-
stances in which I stand before you will, I trust, through
your kindness, be allowed to justify a word of personal
reference. For more than twelve years I have discharged
the duties devolving upon my Professorship in this institu-
tion ; and you who have attended at my lecture room — as
most of you have — know with what earnestness and zeal I
have discharged them. These labors have been their own
exceeding great reward. I have loved the work. I have
tried to do your minds good. I believe you think so too. I
have enjoyed the good will of my colleagues, and such a


Online LibraryC. S. (Caleb Sprague) HenryThe true idea of the university, and its relation to a complete system of public instruction. An address before the Association of the alumni of the University of the city of New-York, June 28, 1852 → online text (page 2 of 3)