Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

*

discovery and the demands of the age have likewise so increased that the best of them still fall short of meeting the needs of the country and times.

Nor has the recognition of this necessity for a true university been confined to individual writers. It was affirmed more than twenty years ago by an association of some of the most eminent men of the country, brought together solely by a mutual interest in this subject, and again, so recently as 1869, it was reaffirmed by the National Teachers' Association in convention assembled.

Passing now from the question of need to the question of how that want is to be met, the committee are satisfied that it can not be by any institution at present existing, for these reasons :

(1) That none has or is likely to have the pecuniary resources essential to the highest and most complete university work.

(2) That none can be made so entirely free from objection on both denominational and local grounds as to insure the patronage of the people, regardless of section or partisan relationship.

(4) That no institution not established upon neutral ground, or other than national in the important sense of being established by the people and for the people of the whole nation, and in part for a national end, could possibly meet all the essential demands to be made upon it.

The committee acknowledge the force of these views of the founders of the Government, and hence are prepared to indorse the sentiments expressed in the preamble to the bill under consideration, namely, that “it is the duty of every government to furnish to its people facilities for the highest culture," and that “such facilities can not be otherwise so well provided for the people of this nation as by founding a university so comprehensive in plan as to include every department of learning, so high as to embrace the limits of knowledge, so national in aim as to promote concord among all sections, and so related to other institutions as to promote their efficiency and with them form a complete system of American education.”

It but remains, therefore, to determine whether the provisions of the bill are wisely adapted to the ends proposed.

The bill provides that the university shall be established at the national capital, where alone can be found convenient neutral ground in which the whole people of the United States have a common interest; where are annually gathered the representatives of every section of the country; where also are resident the representatives of all the foreign powers with whom we have intercourse; where are found to such an extent as nowhere else in this country most important auxiliaries in the form of the various government departments, literary, scientific, and industrial; and, finally, where alone the government has unquestioned authority to establish and maintain such an institution.

As to the government of the university, the plan is well calculated to command the confidence and support of the people of all portions of the country, to protect the institution from political interference, and to insure to its educational forces that freedom so essential to the life and growth of a university.

The bill provides for the organization of faculties embracing the present entire field of human knowledge, and opens the way for such modifications as will enable the institution to meet the demands of the future.

It wisely guards against the use of the people's money in aid of religious or political partisanship, and yet, under judicious safeguards, opens the door for instruction in every department of learning and in support of any principles of truth whatsoever.

It does not provide that the institution shall be absolutely free for students, but in harmony with that freedom and elasticity which characterize the whole plan, it does provide that instruction shall at all times be as nearly free for students as consistent with the income of the institution and with the best interests of learning.

Another very important feature of this bill consists in the careful and impartial recognition it makes of all classes of our schools, which the university

*

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

*

*

will tend to stimulate, elevate, and harmonize, while at the same time supplying a crowning institution capable of supplementing their work and giving to the country a well-ordered system.

Hardly less important is the recognition the bill makes of the duty of the university to contribute to the advancement of knowledge

and the encouragement it provides by means of ordinary and honorary fellowships and other preferments to be awarded to such graduates as shall acquit themselves best during their respective courses of study, and to be conferred upon learned men of whatever institution or country who have shown distinguished ability for rendering the world valuable service in some of the various fields of research and investigation. Thus the plan of the university as to scope and adaptation to the true ends of such an institution as well as to the genius of the people for whom it is to be established, is comprehensive and complete.

The plan as to endowment is simple, definite, and secure; this, namely, that the Government shall bind itself to pay to the national university in perpetuity 5 per cent interest on a registered, unassignable certificate of $20,000,000, and that for so long a time as is necessary the accruing interest may be used for the purchase of grounds, the erection of needed buildings, and the equipment of the several departments of the institution.

The immense advantage to be derived from the relations to be established between the university and the numerous departments and bureaus of the Government will be apparent to any one familiar with the cost of furnishing and maintaining great libraries, scientific establishments, and collections illustrative of the arts and sciences, as will likewise the propriety of utilizing, for the purposes of education and national progress, facilities which could not otherwise be supplied without the expenditure of many millions.

If, then, it be true, as the committee have briefly endeavored to show, that our country is at present wanting in the facilities for the highest culture in many departments of learning; and if it be true that a central university, besides meeting this demand, would quicken, strengthen, and systematize the schools of the country from the lowest to the highest; that it would increase the amount and the love of pure learning, now too little appreciated by our people, and so improve the intellectual and social status of the nation; that it would tend to homogeneity of sentiment, and thus strengthen the unity and patriotism of the people; that, by gathering at its seat distinguished savants, not only of our own but of other lands, it would eventually make of our national capital the intellectual center of the world, and so help the United States of America to rank first and highest among the enlightened nations of the earth; then is it most manifestly the duty of Congress to establish and amply endow such a university at the earliest possible day.

The committee, therefore, affirm their approval of the bill and recommend its passage by tho House. 1

LXV. Impromptu discussions of the national university proposition at the meeting of the National Educational Association, in 1873, at Elmira, N. Y.

(1) Remarks of United States Senator G. W. Wright, of Iowa: During the session of the last Congress a bill was introduced by Senator Howe which was broad in its scope and liberal in its endowment. No report was made upon Senator Howe's bill, but another bill, a few weeks later in the session, was introduced in the House and referred to the Committee on Education and Labor

This bill, after careful consideration, was unanimously reported to the House and its passage recommended.

*

1

H. of R., 42d Cong., 3d sess., Report No. 90.
2 Proceedings Nat. Ed. Ass'n, 1873, pp. 120–129.

In the manner I have described the attention of Congress and of the people at arge is turned to the accomplishment of this great object, which will prove to be the crowning glory of the first century of our national existence.

The city of Washington in a few years, under the skillful management of the board of public works, will become one of the most beautiful and attractive cities on this continent, and it is in the power of Congress, by the permanent establishment and liberal endowment of the national university, to make our national capital the intellectual center of the nations.

(2) President James McCosh, of Princeton:

Although not approving of the bills referred to, I like the idea of a national university of a character so high that it would not be a competitor of any existing institution.

*

*

(3) Superintendent Z. Richards, Washington, D. C.: If the Government can do anything for education it surely can give the best kind of education. Our schools must be supported either by the State or by sects, or not at all. Schools we must bave, but who wants purely sectarian schools only? A candid and careful examination will hardly fail to convince any unbiased mind that these bills provide for that higher culture so much demanded, without interfering with our present colleges and so-called universities except to improve and elevate them, and without affecting the religious welfare of any denomination or sect.

(4) President George P. Hays, Washington and Jefferson College, Pennsylvania:

I am much gratified at this discussion, for, whatever else it may do, it promotes the coming of an American university from some quarter. For that university, in some form and from some source, I am an earnest advocate. You will notice that while we have but one and the same thing in view, we are only at variance as to the method by which it is to be secured. One method is by the National Government and the other is by the transformation of some of our present colleges into the true university.

Is it doubted that there is a demand for such a university? That question has its answer indicated by the large numbers of our best graduates, looking to professorships and other scholarly positions, who go to Europe, by Professor Agassiz's school on the island in New England, and by the efforts of Harvard and Yale to establish a university course of lectures.

But it is said, when there is a demand for such an institution it will come of itself. This reminds me of the man who replied, when asked for a contribution to a mission to the Jews, “The Jews give money to convert the Jews! Why the Jews are the richest people in the world. If they want to be converted, let them give the money themselves.

Moreover, as Dr. Reed, our president, says, “Logically it would seem as if education should begin and develop upward, while, as a fact, it begins at higher education and works downward.” So, in all our history, we do not wait for State action until the whole people urge it, but act in view of the wants of the whole people. I am not so much afraid of the impurity of the Government. We are not near destruction; and there is virtue enough in the Republic to right its wrongs and carry on its work. I believe this university could be so managed, when established by Government, as to have a most beneficial effect on our educational system.

(5) Remarks of W. B. Wedgewood, dean of the National University Law School, at Washington:

*

*

*

*

The act of Congress providing for the creation of corporations in the District of Columbia by the general law was approved May 5, 1870. The act provides the mode of establishing institutions of learuing of the rank of a college or university. In accordance with these provisions, the National University, on the 19th day of September, 1870, became a body politic and corporate.

This university, in the words of Madison, is “local in its legal character but universal in its beneficial effects.” Following the advice of Washington, “that the primary object of such a national institution should be to educate our men in the science of government,” its founders first established the law college for the education of those young men who, as statesmen and jurists, are to be the future guardians of the liberties of our country, as in the past they have been its heroic defenders.

The charter of the National University makes the President of the United States (ex oficio) chancellor of the university. It first annual commencement was held at Lincoln Hall, on Tuesday evening, May 21, 1872. President Grant, in the presence of one of the most intelligent audiences ever assembled in Washington, conferred the degree of bachelor of laws upon a class of thirty-one young men, who had pursued their course of study for two years in the university.

*

*

*

*

(6) President Daniel Read, University of Missouri: That the national capital, in the territory under the immediate legislative control of Congress, was the only proper place for a national university, and that in this way only could the constitutional objection, which would be strong,

be obviated. But there were still other reasons for the location at the national capital—that there was the great Congressional Library, still to be increased from year to year; there was the astronomical observatory; there were vast collections in all departments from every part of the world; there were models in the arts, and besides scientific experiments were continually in progress for the purposes of the Government, to say nothing of the diplomatic and public discussions incident to the capital. All these means and advantages could be made available for a great institution of the kind proposed.

Besides these considerations, the effect of such an institution would be beneficial upon the capital in elevating the general tone, in stimulating and concentrating scientific investigations, and awakening inquiry on social and economic questions. Many able young men connected with the Government as employés or attachés might be expected to avail themselves of the opportunity of attending the lectures, instructions, or experiments of such a university. It was a statement of a very able head of one of the Departments at Washington, that he could from any one of the Departments select a more learned faculty than any college in the land could boast of.

Surely no one would consider such an institution as any other than one for the highest scientific and literary culture of men who have already made attainments fitting them to enter upon a course of philosophic inquiry and scientific investigation.

Then as to donations of land by the General Government for the encouragement and promotion of education; such gifts have been made almost from the beginning, even prior to the formation of the Federal Constitution. If I mistake not, the idea originated in good old Massachusetts, springing out of Massachusetts notions,

with Dr. Manasseh Cutler, the pastor of a church at Hamilton, not far from Cambridge, I believe. This was as early as 1785.

Here is at least a historic argument in favor of aid from the General Government to instiutions of education.

Now as to the idea itself of a national university, while as I have said, it is not specially my idea,

I can not treat as visionary that which Washington recommended, and James Madison and John Quincy Adams advocated, and many other great and patriotic men have zealously advocated as a means of elevating all our higher institutions of learning, and giving unity and concentration of effort

*

*

*

* *

* * *

*

*

*

*

*

to literary and scientific men, and constituting indeed a bond of unity to the nation itself.

But this is not a question-I mean the education of the people as an interest of Government-to be argued in our day; we can not reverse American sentiment, which is growing stronger and stronger, and which now on this subject pervades the whole American people.

We must not fall into the error that the people are one thing and the Government something quite distinct and different, and having antagonistic interests. With us, government is nothing but an organized agency from the people, by the people, for the people.

LXVI. President Grant's recommendation, in his message of December 1, 1873, in these words:

I would suggest to Congress the propriety of promoting the establishment in this District of an institution of learning or university of the highest class, by donation of lands. There is no place better suited for such an institution than the national capital. There is no other place in which every citizen is so directly interested.

LXVII. Further efforts of United States Senator Timothy 0. Howe, of Wisconsin, especially

(1) By sundry speeches wherein was urged the duty of the Govern. ment to make the fullest possible provision for the education of the people. As a matter of fact, every proposition to do anything in this interest had his sympathy and commanded his support, as may be inferred from the following passage from his speeches in the Senate:

I want to see a better style of men brought upon the stage of action just as soon as it is convenient. I do not expect, whether I leave these seats here early or late, ever to vote against the appropriation of a dollar which is asked for to aid in the work of human culture.

(2) By open and earnest advocacy of the proposed university in some of the public journals, for example, in the Wisconsin Journal of Education, in whose pages, upon more than one occasion, and especially in 1874, he presented its claims with all his accustomed clearness and logical force. From some of these papers are taken the extracts below :2

In the convention which framed the Constitution of the United States the subject of a national university was somewhat considered. The proposition had some warm friends. It found no enemies there.

It was in 1787 that James Madison, not of Massachusetts but of Virginia, not a professional teacher but a practical statesman, moved in convention, at Philadelphia, to clothe Congress with express powers to establish such a university.

To the Senator's mind the needs, duties, and powers of the nation were so very clear that the question of either, on the part of any intelligent citizen, awakened a suspicion of insincerity. If one showed himself critical as to details in any of the several bills, he would say:

Doubtless they are imperfect. It is the business of legislation and the work of time to perfect them. It is not to be expected that the first charter will be beyond the reach of criticism. The organic act of even Harvard was not. That ancient constitution was agreed to in the following words:

*

1 House Ex. Docs., Forty-third Cong., 1st sess., Vol. 1, pt. 1, p. 22.
? Wis. Jour. of Ed., Vol. iv, pp. 128-133, 161-164.

« ForrigeFortsett »