David Starr Jordan.

Jane Lathrop Stanford, a eulogy online

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Jane Lathrop Stanford
David Starr Jordan




Keprinted from the Poptjlak Science Monthly, August, 1909.

[Reprinted from The Popular Science Monthly, August, 1909.]

A Eulogy 1



I AM to tell you to-day the story of a noble life, of one of the bravest,
wisest, most patient, most courageous and most devout of all the
women who have ever lived. I want to give to those of the university
to whom its founders are but a memory some lasting picture of the
woman who saved the university, which she and her honored husband
founded in faith and hope, and who thus made possible the education
you are receiving. I want to make my story as impersonal as I can,
as though I spoke not for myself but for all of you, men and women of
Stanford, with all gratitude towards the many who have helped in the
great work, and with all charity towards those whose interests or whose
conscientious convictions ranged them on the other side. If I am suc-
cessful, you will see more clearly than ever before the lone, sad figure of
the mother of the university, strong in her trust in God and in her
loyalty to her husband's purposes, happy only in the belief that in
carrying out her husband's plans for training the youth of California
in virtue and usefulness she was acting the part to which she was as-

We have often said that Stanford University belongs to the Stan-
ford students. It was the free gift of the founders, man and woman
that were, to the students, the men and women that were to be. It is
your university, yours and yours only, as once it was theirs.

But we must not interpret this gift too narrowly. It is not yours,
you students of to-day, to have or to hold in any exclusive way. The
university belongs to all the students, those who have been here, some
ten thousand in all, those who are here to-day, seventeen hundred more
or less, and those who are to come. Before these we count as nothing, for
the students to come will number for each century about a hundred
thousand. And there are many of these centuries, for the world is still
very young, and a university once firmly rooted is as nearly eternal as
human civilization itself can be. The university stands for the highest
thought and wisest action possible for man, and the need of a univer-
sity must endure so long as man exists ; and that will be for a very long
time. Man is bounded by the limits of space, but the race once estab-
lished on this planet of ours, we see no limit of time, no prospect of a

1 Founder's Day address at Stanford University, March 9, 1909.


twilight f gods in which the darkness Bhall Call on the world because
universities are no longer Deeded. The center of gravity of Stanford
University, of its student body, and of its influence on civilization, is
hundreds of years, thousands of years ahead.

To the students of to-day, the professors of to-day, and the trustees
of to-day, the university to-day belongs, hut not as a personal posses-
sion : only as a sacred trust. It is our first duty to see that its good
name and its good work arc kept untarnished and unimpaired. It is for
the students to see that no custom of idleness or of dissipation, no fashion
of cynicism or of disloyalty ever becomes hardened into a tradition at
Stanford University. It is for the professors to strengthen them in
this decision, and to point out the best that men have ever thought or
done, to lead the way to gentle breeding and the enthusiasm of noble
thought. Now, as ever, "the university must welcome every ray of
varied genius to its hospitable halls," that their combined influences
may " set the heart of the youth in flame." It is for the Board of
Trustees and for the university executive to act as the balance wheel,
guarding jealously the funds of the institution, that the generous pres-
ent may not starve the future, and to see that no neglect or perversity of
student or teacher shall work any permanent harm to the university
whole. For the university must ever be infinitely greater than the sum
of all its parts. For its largest part is never present for our measure-
ment, and this part we can not measure is the sum of all its future in-

This university was founded on love in a sense which is true of no
other. Its corner-stone was love — love of a boy extended to the love
of the children of humanity. It was continued through love — the love
of a noble woman for her husband ; the faith of both in love's ideals —
and as an embodiment of the power of love Stanford University stands

It is fitting that these statements should not stand as mere words.
I wish that in your hearts they may become realities. Xot many of you
as students have seen Mrs. Stanford. The last of the freshmen classes
which she knew shall graduate as seniors a few weeks hence. None of
you have known Leland Stanford, broad-minded, stout-hearted, shrewd,
kindly, and full of hope, a man of action ripened into a philosopher.
Our university has now reached its eighteenth year. During the first
two years of its history, it was the hopeful experiment of Leland Stan-
ford. The next six years its story was that of the heart throbs of Jane
Lathrop Stanford, and the ten years following, with all their vicissi-
tudes, have been years of calmness and certainty, for the final outcome
is no longer open to question.

It is my purpose this evening to tell a little of the story of the six
dark years, the years from eighteen ninety-three to eighteen ninety-
nine, those days in which the future of a university hung by a single


. thread, but that thread the greatest thing in the world, the love of a
good woman. If for an instant in all these years this good woman
had wavered in her purposes, if for a moment she had yielded to fear or
even to the pressure of worldly wisdom, you and I would not have been
here to-day. The strain, the agony, was all hers, and hers the final vic-
tory. And so any account of these years must take the form of eulogy.
Eulogy, in its old Greek meaning is speaking well, and my every word
to-day must be a word of praise. It is proper, too, that I should speak
these words, and even that I should give this history from my own
standpoint, because there were few besides myself who knew the facts
in those days. Most of these facts even it is well for all of us to for-
get. For the rest, the facts in issue will appear only as needed for the
background, before which we may see the figure of Mrs. Stanford.

I first saw the Governor and Mrs. Stanford at Bloomington, Indi-
ana, in March, 1891. At that time, Governor Stanford, under the
advice of Andrew D. "White, the President of Cornell, asked me to come
to California to take charge of the new institution which he was soon
to open. He told me the story of their son, of their buried hopes, of
their days and nights of sorrow, and of how he had once awakened
from a troubled night with these words on his lips : " The children of
California shall be my children." He told me the extent of his prop-
erty and of his purposes in its use. He hoped to build a university of
the highest order, one which should give the best of teaching in all its
departments, one which should be the center of invention and research,

\ giving to each student the secret of success in life. No cost was to

I be spared, no pains to be avoided, in bringing this university to the

£ highest possible effectiveness.

3 In all this Mrs. Stanford was most deeply interested, supporting his

I purposes, guarding his strength, alert at every point, and always in the

E fullest sympathy.

Mr. Stanford explained that thus far only buildings and land had
been given, but that practically the whole of the common estate would
go in time to the university, when the founders had passed away. If
he should himself survive, the gift would be his and hers jointly, though
the final giving would be left to him. If the wife should survive, the
property would be hers, and in her hands would lie the final joy of
giving. Mr. Stanford gave his reason for not turning over the prop-
erty at once, for this might leave his wife no controlling part in the
future. It was not his wish that she should sit idly by while others
should create the university. So long as she lived, it was his wish that
the building of the university should be her work.

This attitude of chivalry in all this needs this word of explanation,
for it shaped the whole future history of the university endowment. It
was the source of some of the embarrassments which followed, and per-
haps as well of the final success.



The university was opened on the first day of October, 1891, a clear,
bright, golden, California day, typical of Califonii;i October, ami full
of good omen, as all days in California are likely to be. There were
(tn the opening day 165 Btudents, with only 15 Instructors, and the first

duly of the president was to telegraph for more teachers, laying tribute
on many institutions in the easi and in the west.

Two years followed, with their varied adventures, which I need not
relate to-day. It was on the twenty-second of June, 1893, that the
university community was startled by the sudden death of Leland

It is not my purpose now to praise the founder of the university.
One single incident at his funeral is firmly fixed in my memory. The
clergyman, Horatio Stebbins, in his stately fashion told a story of the
Greeks doing honor to a dead hero; then, turning to the pall-bearers,
stalwart railway men, he said: "Gentle up your strength a little, for
'tis a man ye bear." A man, in all high senses, in that noblest of words,
a man ! was Leland Stanford.

After the founder's death, the estate fell into the hands of the
courts. The will was in probate, the debts of the estate had to be paid,
the various ramifications of business had to be disentangled, and mean-
while came on the fierce panic of 1893. All university matters stopped
for the summer. Salaries could not be paid until it was found out by
the courts by whom and to whom salaries were due. All incomes
from business ceased. There was no such thing as income visible to
any one, least of all to the great corporations.

After Governor Stanford's death, Mrs. Stanford kept to her rooms
for a week or two. She had much to plan and much to consider.
From every point of view of worldly wisdom, it was best to close the
university until the estate was settled and in her hands, its debts paid
and the panic over. Her own fortune was in the estate itself. Outside
of her jewels, she had practically nothing of her own save the com-
munity estate, and this could not be hers until the payment of all
debts and legacies had been completed. These debts and legacies
amounted as a whole to eight millions of dollars. In normal times,
there was hardly money enough in California to pay this amount: but
these were not normal times, and there was no money in California to
pay anything.

After these two weeks, Mrs. Stanford called me to her house to sav
that the die was east. She was going ahead with the university. She
would let us have whatever money she could get. We must come down
to bed rock on expenses, but with the help of the Lord and the memory
of her husband, the university would go ahead and fulfil its mission.

It was no easy task to do this, as one incident will show. There
could be no regularity in the payment of salaries. In the eyes of the
law the university professors were Mrs. Stanford's personal servants.


'As such, it was finally arranged that they receive a special allowance
from the estate. This allowance as household servants paid their sal-
aries, and a registration tax of twenty dollars per year on each student
had to cover all other expenses. But these two sources of income did
not come at once, and the great farms run as experiment stations were
centers of loss and not of income.

A single incident will make this condition vivid.

At one time in August, 1893, Mrs. Stanford received from Judge
Coffey's court the sum of $500 to be paid to her household servants.
It was paid in a bag of twenty-five twenty dollar gold pieces. Mrs.
Stanford called me -in and said her household servants could wait ;
there might be some professors in need, and I might divide the money
among them. I put the money under my pillow, and did not sleep
that night. Money was no common thing with us then. Next morn-
ing, on Sunday, I set out to give ten professors fifty dollars apiece. I
found not one who could give change for a twenty dollar gold piece, and
so I made it forty dollars and sixty dollars.

The same afternoon after I had gone the rounds $13,000 was brought
down from the city for us other household servants. This sum was dis-
tributed, and then Mrs. Stanford sent word that as we had some money
now perhaps we could spare her the $500. I drew a check for the sum
against a long-vanished bank account, and covered the amount in the
morning with the aid of some of my associates.

This incident again will explain why for six years the professors-
were paid by personal checks of the president, and why these were not
always issued regularly, nor for the full amounts. "We were all strug-
gling together to be able to issue them at all. There was no certainty
ahead of us. Most of the property was of such a character that it
could not be divided, but must go in blocks of millions, if it went at all,
and no one with millions at his disposal seemed inclined to invest it
anywhere. The estate held a one fourth interest in the Southern Pa-
cific System, and of all its many ramifications. Kept together, it could
maintain itself, but if any division were made the smaller part might be
subject to the process known as " freezing out."

I pass by many minor incidents of struggle and economy. The
farms had to be abruptly closed, and then to be made to yield an in-
come. This required wise management and rigid economy at the same
time, but for all this Mrs. Stanford proved adequate. She learned her
lessons as she went along, and came to take a wholesome pleasure in
the Spartan simplicity of her life. If all else failed, there were the
jewels to fall back upon; and she steadily refused to consider the
advice (almost unanimous) of her counsel to close the university or
most of its departments until some more favorable time. In 1895 she
invited the pioneer class, then graduating, to a reception in her city
home, one reason being that it was the last class that could ever gradu-


ate. We had nothing to run on, save the precarious servant allow-
ance, then fixed at $12,500 peT month, and liable to be cui to nothing
ni any day. Our expenses for isii:; bad been nearly $18,000 per
month. Sometimes we could sell a few horses from the stock farm, but
it was never clear that the stock farm belonged to the university and
not to the Stanford estate, and every dollar we gained this way piled
up the possibilities of litigation. All these days were brightened by
the steady support of her friends and advisers, Samuel F. Leib, Timothy
ITopkins and Russell Wilson. Mr. Hopkins furnished the Library of
Biology and paid unasked many minor expenses, his left hand not
taking receipts for what his right hand was doing. No one can tell
how much the university owes to these men, who in the darkest days
planned to make the future possible. Very much too the university
owed to the fraternal devotion of Mrs. Stanford's brother, Mr. Charles
G. Lathrop, who cared for with sympathetic hand the scanty receipts
and scanty fragments of these harassed days. The warm sympathy
of Thomas Welton Stanford came from across the seas. His gift of
the Library Building came as a shadow of a great rock in a weary land.

At last, adjustment of one kind after another being made, there
•was a glimpse of daylight, when we were thrust without warning into
still darker night.

The government suit for fifteen millions w r as brought for the pur-
pose of tying up everything in the Stanford estate until the debts of
the Central Pacific Railway were paid. It was not claimed that the
university owed anything, or that the Stanford estate owed anything,
or that the railway owed anything, on which payment was due, and as a
matter of fact the Southern Pacific Company paid in full every dollar
it owed to the government as soon as it became due, and with full in-
terest. There was never any reason to suppose that it would not do so,
and never any reason to suppose that it could not afford to pay this
debt, for the power to control the line from Ogden to San Francisco,
called the Central Pacific, was in itself an enormous asset, worth the
value of this debt. Failure to pay this debt would have meant loss of
control of the most valuable single factor in the great railroad system.

The claim of the United States was secured by a second mortgage
on the Central Pacific. It was supposed that it would be sold to satisfy
the first mortgage, and that it would realize no more than this sum,
leaving, as a railway manager cynically expressed it, nothing but " two
streaks of rust and the right of way." The government proposed, by
a sort of injunction, to hold up the Stanford property, which would
then be seized, in case the Southern Pacific Railway system should at
some future time be found in debt. There was no warrant in law or
in good policy foT this suit. One United States judge spoke of it as
" the crime of the century.*'' It is not easy to work out the motives,


political or personal or what not, which inspired it. Fortunately, just
now it makes no difference.

The hardest feature of the matter lay in the attitude of those
jointly interested in the ownership of the Southern Pacific System.
These men declined to give any assistance in the struggle for justice
and for the endowment of the university. All were financially con-
cerned in the final outcome, but they left her to make the fight alone
and at her own cost.

It should be said that none of the present owners or managers of
the Southern Pacific were in any way concerned in this matter. It is
also fair to say that this attitude was only the business man's point of
view. It seemed impossible to save the estate and the university to-
gether. All receipts of the railroads (there were no profits) were
needed to continue its operations, and the outlays of the university
seemed to the other owners of the railway system to involve a danger-
ous policy. On the other hand, to Mrs. Stanford the estate existed
solely for the benefit of the university. To save the estate on these
terms was to her like throwing over the passengers to lighten the ship.
And as matters turned out, the university, the estate and the railway
were all saved alike.

Perhaps we can get at the nature of this suit from a couple of let-
ters written at the time. I find on our files a letter sent in November,
1894, to President Eliot of Harvard. In this letter I said :

I recognize of course that public sentiment can not be formed without a
basis of knowledge. The peculiar conditions in which this university finds itself
are not easily stated to the public. There are internal reasons why we can not
well take the country into confidence. Some of these reasons are connected with
the relations of the Stanford heirs. Others arise from our relations to our
future partner, in whose power we are, until the government suit is disposed of,
that is, until the settlement of the estate.

The grounds of the government suit, in brief, are these. The Central Pacific
Railroad was regarded as an impossibility by most of the people of California.
Its builders exhausted their funds and their credit and tried in vain to get help
from every quarter, even after receiving large donations of land then worthless 1 .
The U. S. government came to their aid, whether wisely or not, ... it does not
matter at present. The road when finished bore a first mortgage, covering all
that it is now worth. The government took a second mortgage upon it as
security for the payment of the debt due for the bonds it had advanced in aid
of the corporation. . . .

There is a law in California, by which the original stockholders in a cor-
poration are personally liable for its debts, if suit be begun within three years
after the organization of the corporation. This law was intended to check
" wild-cat " speculations.

It is claimed that under this law the estates of Stanford and Huntington
are still liable for the amount of the second mortgage, to come due in a few
years. It is claimed that the three-years' limitation does not hold against the
government. This question of liability had not been raised when the estates of
the two remaining partners were distributed, and its enforcement would be
possible as against the Stanford estate alone, as Mr. Huntington, being alive,


can withdraw his Interest! to Mexico, should the rail againsl .Mr. Stanford be
successful. Meanwhile, by the way, the question Is tested for him al 1 1 » . - expense
of the Stanford estate, the railroad Interests >

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Online LibraryDavid Starr JordanJane Lathrop Stanford, a eulogy → online text (page 1 of 3)