Volume I
by Andrew Dickson White
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Scanned by Charles Keller with OmniPage Professional OCR software

Autobiography of Andrew Dickson White Volume II





Copyright, 1904, 1905, by THE CENTURY CO. —— Published March, 1905





The "Military Tract'' of New York. A settlement on the headwaters of the Susquehanna. Arrival of my grandfathers and grandmothers. Growth of the new settlement. First recollections of it. General character of my environment. My father and mother. Cortland Academy. Its twofold effect upon me. First schooling. Methods in primary studies. Physical education. Removal to Syracuse. The Syracuse Academy. Joseph Allen and Professor Root; their influence; moral side of the education thus obtained. General education outside the school. Removal to a "classical school''; a catastrophe. James W. Hoyt and his influence. My early love for classical studies. Discovery of Scott's novels. "The Gallery of British Artists.'' Effect of sundry conventions, public meetings, and lectures. Am sent to Geneva College; treatment of faculty by students. A "Second Adventist'' meeting; Howell and Clark; my first meeting with Judge Folger. Philosophy of student dissipation at that place and time.


My coup d'tat. Removal to Yale. New energy in study and reading. Influence of Emerson, Carlyle, and Ruskin. Yale in 1850. My disappointment at the instruction; character of president and professors; perfunctory methods in lower-class rooms; "gerund-grinding'' vs. literature; James Hadley—his abilities and influence, other professors; influence of President Woolsey, Professors Porter, Silliman, and Dana; absence of literary instruction; character of that period from a literary point of view; influences from fellow-students. Importance of political questions at that time. Sundry successes in essay writing. Physical education at Yale; boating. Life abroad after graduation; visit to Oxford; studies at the Sorbonne and Collge de France; afternoons at the Invalides; tramps through western and central France. Studies at St. Petersburg. Studies at Berlin. Journey in Italy; meeting with James Russell Lowell at Venice. Frieze, Fishburne, and studies in Rome. Excursions through the south of France. Return to America. Influence of Buckle, Lecky, and Draper. The atmosphere of Darwin and Spencer. Educational environment at the University of Michigan.


Political division in my family; differences between my father and grandfather; election of Andrew Jackson. First recollections of American politics, Martin Van Buren. Campaign of 1840; campaign songs and follies. Efforts by the Democrats; General Crary of Michigan; Corwin's speech. The Ogle gold-spoon speech. The Sub-Treasury Question. Election of General Harrison; his death. Disappointment in President Tyler. Carelessness of nominating conventions as to the second place upon the ticket. Campaign of 1844. Clay, Birney, and Polk. Growth of anti-slavery feeling. Senator Hale's lecture. Henry Clay's proposal, The campaign of 1848; General Taylor vs. General Cass. My recollections of them both. State Conventions at this period. Governor Bouck; his civility to Bishop Hughes. Fernando Wood; his method of breaking up a State Convention. Charles O'Conor and John Van Buren; boyish adhesion to Martin Van Buren against General Taylor; Taylor's election; his death. My recollections of Millard Fillmore. The Fugitive Slave Law.


"Jerry'', his sudden fame. Speeches of Daniel Webster and Henry Clay at Syracuse on the Fugitive Slave Law ; their prophecies. The "Jerry Rescue.'' Trials of the rescuers. My attendance at one of them. Bishop Loguen's prayer and Gerrit Smith's speech. Characteristics of Gerrit Smith. Effects of the rescue trials. Main difficulty of the anti-slavery party. "Fool reformers.'' Nominations of Scott and Pierce; their qualities. Senator Douglas. Abolition of the Missouri Compromise. Growth of ill feeling between North and South. Pro-slavery tendencies at Yale. Stand against these taken by President Woolsey and Leonard Bacon. My candidacy or editorship of the "Yale Literary Magazine.'' Opposition on account of my anti-Slavery ideas. My election. Temptations to palter with my conscience; victory over them. Professor Hadley's view of duty to the Fugitive Slave Law. Lack of opportunity to present my ideas. My chance on Commencement Day. "Modern Oracles.'' Effect of my speech on Governor Seymour. Invitation to his legation at St. Petersburg after my graduation. Effect upon me of Governor Seymour's ideas regarding Jefferson. Difficulties in discussing the slavery question. My first discovery as to the value of political criticism in newspapers. Return to America. Presidential campaign of 1856. Nomination of Frmont. My acquaintance with the Democratic nominee Mr Buchanan. My first vote. Argument made for the "American Party.'' Election of Buchanan. My first visit to Washington. President Pierce at the White House. Inauguration of the new President. Effect upon me of his speech and of a first sight of the United States Senate. Impression made by the Supreme Court. General impression made by Washington. My first public lecture—"Civilization in Russia''; its political bearing; attacks upon it and vindications of it. Its later history.


My arrival at the University of Michigan. Political side of professorial life. General purpose of my lectures in the university and throughout the State. My articles in the "Atlantic Monthly.'' President Buchanan, John Brown Stephen A. Douglas, and others. The Chicago Convention. Nomination of Lincoln. Disappointment of my New York friends. Speeches by Carl Schurz. Election of Lincoln. Beginnings of Civil War. My advice to students. Reverses; Bull Run. George Sumner's view. Preparation for the conflict. Depth of feeling. Pouring out of my students into the army. Kirby Smith. Conduct of the British Government. Break in my health. Thurlow Weed's advice to me. My work in London. Discouragements there. My published answer to Dr. Russell. Experiences in Ireland and France. My horror of the French Emperor. Effort to influence opinion in Germany. William Walton Murphy; his interview with Baron Rothschild. Fourth of July celebration at Heidelberg in 1863. Turning of the contest in favor of the United States. My election to the Senate of the State of New York.


My arrival at Albany as State Senator. My unfitness. Efforts to become acquainted with State questions. New acquaintances. Governor Horatio Seymour, Charles James Folger, Ezra Cornell, and others on the Republican side; Henry C. Murphy and Thomas C. Fields on the Democratic side. Daniel Manning. Position assigned me on committees. My maiden speech. Relations with Governor Seymour. My chairmanship of the Committee on Education. The Morrill Act of 1862. Mr. Cornell and myself at loggerheads Codification of the Educational Laws. State Normal School Bill. Special Committee on the New York Health Department. Revelations made to the Committee. The Ward's Island matter. Last great effort of the State in behalf of the Union. The Bounty Bill. Opposition of Horace Greeley to it. Embarrassment caused by him at that period. Senator Allaben's speech against the Bounty Bill. His reference to French Assignats; my answer; results; later development of this speech into a political pamphlet on "Paper Money Inflation in France.'' Baltimore Convention of 1864; its curious characteristics; impression made upon me by it. Breckinridge, Curtis, and Raymond. Renomination of Lincoln; my meeting him at the White House. Sundry peculiarities then revealed by him. His election.


My second year in the State Senate. Struggle for the Charter of Cornell University. News of Lee's surrender. Assassination of Lincoln. Service over his remains at the Capitol in Albany. My address. Question of my renomination. Elements against me; the Tammany influence; sundry priests in New York, and clergymen throughout the State. Senatorial convention; David J. Mitchell; my renomination and election. My third year of service, 1866. Speech on the Health Department in New York; monstrous iniquities in that Department; success in replacing it with a better system. My Phi Beta Kappa address at Yale; its purpose. My election to a Professorship at Yale; reasons for declining it. State Senate sits as Court to try a judge; his offense; pathetic complications; his removal from office. Arrival of President Johnson, Secretary Seward, General Grant, and Admiral Farragut in Albany; their reception by the Governor and Senate; impressions made on me thereby; part taken by Governor Fenton and Secretary Seward; Judge Folger's remark to me. Ingratitude of the State thus far to its two greatest Governors, DeWitt Clinton and Seward.


Fourth year in the State Senate, 1867. Election of a United States Senator; feeling throughout the State regarding Senators Morgan and Harris; Mr. Cornell's expression of it. The candidates; characteristics of Senator Harris, of Judge Davis, of Roscoe Conkling. Services and characteristics of the latter which led me to support him; hostility of Tammany henchmen to us both. The legislative caucus. Presentation of candidates; my presentation of Mr. Conkling; reception by the audience of my main argument; Mr. Conkling elected. Difficulties between Judge Folger and myself; question as to testimony in criminal cases; Judge Folger's view of it; his vexation at my obtaining a majority against him. Calling of the Constitutional Convention, Judge Folger's candidacy for its Presidency; curious reason for Horace Greeley's opposition to him. Another cause of separation between Judge Folger and myself. Defeat of the Sodus Canal Bill. Constitutional Convention eminent men in it; Greeley's position in it; his agency in bringing the Convention into disrepute; his later regret at his success; the new Constitution voted down. Visit to Agassiz at Nahant. A day with Longfellow. His remark regarding Mr. Greeley. Meeting with Judge Rockwood Hoar at Harvard. Boylston prize competition; the successful contestant; Judge Hoar's remark regarding one of the speakers. My part in sundry political meetings. Visit to Senator Conkling. Rebuff at one of my meetings; its effect upon me.


Distraction from politics by Cornell University work during two or three years following my senatorial term. Visits to scientific and technical schools in Europe. The second political campaign of General Grant. My visit to Auburn; Mr. Seward's speech; its unfortunate characteristics; Mr. Cornell's remark on my proposal to call Mr. Seward as a commencement orator. Great services of Seward. State Judiciary Convention of 1870; my part in it; nomination of Judge Andrews and Judge Folger; my part in the latter; its effect on my relations with Folger. Closer acquaintance with General Grant. Visit to Dr. Henry Field at Stockbridge; Burton Harrison's account of the collapse of the Confederacy and the flight of Jefferson Davis. Story told me by William Preston Johnston throwing light on the Confederacy in its last hours. Delegacy to the State Republican Convention of 1870. Am named as Commissioner to Santo Domingo. First meeting with Senator Charles Sumner. My acquaintance with Senator McDougal. His strange characteristics. His famous plea for drunkenness. My absence in the West Indies.


First meeting with John Hay. Speech of Horace Greeley on his return from the South; his discussion of national affairs; his manner and surroundings; last hours and death of Samuel J. May. The Prudence Crandall portrait. Addresses at the Yale alumni dinner. Dinner with Longfellow at Craigie House. The State Convention of 1871; my chairmanship and presidency of it. My speech; appointment of committees; anti-administration demonstration; a stormy session; retirement of the anti-administration forces; attacks in consequence; rally of old friends to my support. Examples of the futility of such attacks; Senator Carpenter, Governor Seward, Senator Conklin. My efforts to interest Conkling in a reform of the civil service. Republican National Convention at Philadelphia in 1872; ability of sundry colored delegates; nomination of Grant and Wilson. Mr. Greeley's death. Characteristics of General Grant as President. Reflections on the campaign. Questions asked me by a leading London journalist regarding the election. My first meeting with Samuel J. Tilden; low ebb of his fortunes at that period. The culmination of Tweed. Thomas Nast. Meeting of the Electoral College at Albany; the "Winged Victory'' and General Grant's credentials. My first experience of "Reconstruction'' in the South; visit to the State Capitol of South Carolina; rulings of the colored Speaker of the House, fulfilment of Thomas Jefferson's inspired prophecy.


Sundry visits to Washington during General Grant's presidency. Impression made by President Grant; visit to him in company with Agassiz; characteristics shown by him at Long Branch; his dealing with one newspaper correspondent and story regarding another. His visit to me at Cornell; his remark regarding the annexation of Santo Domingo, far-sighted reason assigned for it; his feeling regarding a third presidential term. My journey with him upon the Rhine. Walks and talks with him in Paris. Persons met at Senator Conkling's. Story told by Senator Carpenter. The "Greenback Craze''; its spirit; its strength. Wretched character of the old banking system. Ability and force of Mr. Conkling's speech at Ithaca. Its effect. My previous relations with Garfield. Character and effect of his speech at Ithaca; his final address to the students of the University. Our midnight conversation. President Hayes; impressions regarding him; attacks upon him; favorable judgment upon him by observant foreigners, excellent impression made by him upon me at this time and at a later period. The assassination of General Garfield. Difficulties which thickened about him toward the end of his career. Characteristics of President Arthur. Ground taken in my public address at Ithaca at the service in commemoration of Garfield.


President Arthur; course before his Presidency; qualities revealed afterward; curious circumstances of his nomination. Reform of the Civil Service. My article in the "North American Review.'' Renewal of my acquaintance with Mr. Evarts; his witty stories. My efforts to interest Senator Platt in civil-service reform; his slow progress in this respect. Wayne MacVeagh; Judge Biddle's remark at his table on American feeling regarding capital punishment. Great defeat of the Republican party in 1882. Judge Folger's unfortunate campaign. Election of Mr. Cleveland. My address on "The New Germany'' at New York. Meeting with General McDowell, the injustice of popular judgment upon him. Revelation of Tammany frauds. Grover Cleveland, his early life; his visit to the University; impression made upon me by him. Senator Morrill's visit; tribute paid him by the University authorities. My address at Yale on "The Message of the Nineteenth Century to the Twentieth.'' Addresses by Carl Schurz and myself at the funeral of Edward Lasker. Election as a delegate at large to the National Republican Convention at Chicago, 1884. Difficulties regarding Mr. Blaine; vain efforts to nominate another candidate; George William Curtis and his characteristics; tyranny over the Convention by the gallery mob; nomination of Blaine and Logan. Nomination of Mr. Cleveland by the Democrats. Tyranny by the Chicago mob at that convention also. Open letter to Theodore Roosevelt in favor of Mr. Blaine. Private letter to Mr. Blaine in favor of a reform of the Civil Service. His acceptance of its suggestions. Wretched character of the campaign. Presidency of the Republican mass meeting at Syracuse; experience with a Kentucky orator. Election of Mr. Cleveland.


Renewal of my acquaintance with Mr. Cleveland at Washington. Meeting with Mr. Blaine; his fascinating qualities; his self-control. William Walter Phelps; his arguments regarding the treatment of Congressional speakers by the press. Senator Randall Gibson; meeting at his house with Vice-President Hendricks; evident disappointment of the Vice-President; his view of civil-service reform; defense of it by Senator Butler of South Carolina; reminiscences of odd senators by Senator Jones of Florida; Gibson's opinion of John Sherman. President Cleveland's mode of treating office-beggars and the like; Senator Sawyer's story; Secretary Fairchild's remark; Senators Sherman and Vance. Secretary Bayard's criticism of applicants for office. Senator Butler's remark on secession. Renewal of my acquaintance with George Bancroft. Goldwin Smith in Washington; his favorable opinion of American crowds. Chief Justice Waite. General Sheridan; his account of the battle of Gravelotte; discussion between Sheridan and Goldwin Smith regarding sundry points in military history. General Schenck; his reminiscences of Corwin Everett, and others. Resignation of my presidency at Cornell, 1885. President Cleveland's tender of an Interstate Railway commissionership, my declination. Departure for Europe. Am tendered nomination for Congress; my discussion of the matter in London with President Porter of Yale and others; declination. Visit to Washington under the administration of General Harrison, January, 1891; presentation of proposals to him regarding civil-service reform; his speech in reply.


Candidacy for the governorship of New York; Mr. Platt's relation to it; my reluctance and opposition; decision of the Rochester Convention in favor of Mr. Fassett; natural reasons for this. Lectures at Stanford University. Visit to Mexico and California with Mr. Andrew Carnegie and his party. President Harrison tenders me the position of minister to Russia; my retention in office by Mr. Cleveland. My stay in Italy 1894-1895. President Cleveland appoints me upon the Venezuelan Boundary Commission, December, 1895. Presidential campaign of 1896. My unexpected part in it; nomination of Mr. Bryan by Democrats; publication of my open letter to sundry Democrats, republication of my "Paper Money Inflation in France,'' and its circulation as a campaign document; election of Mr. McKinley. My address before the State Universities of Wisconsin and Minnesota; strongly favorable impression made upon me by them; meeting with Mr. Ignatius Donnelly, his public address to me in the State House of Minnesota. My addresses at Harvard, Yale, and elsewhere. Am appointed by President McKinley ambassador to Germany; question of my asking sanction of Mr. Platt; how settled. Renomination of McKinley with Mr. Roosevelt as Vice-President. I revisit America; day with Mr. Roosevelt, visits to Washington; my impressions of President McKinley; his conversation; his coolness; tributes from his Cabinet; Secretary Hay's testimony, Mr. McKinley's refusal to make speeches during his second campaign; his reasons; his relection; how received in Europe. His assassination; receipt of the news in Germany and Great Britain. My second visit to America; sadness, mournful reflections at White House; conversations with President Roosevelt; message given me by him for the Emperor; its playful ending. The two rulers compared.


Early ideals. Gradual changes in these. Attractions of journalism then and now. New views of life opened to me at Paris and Berlin. Dreams of aiding the beginnings of a better system of university education in the United States. Shortcomings of American instruction, especially regarding history, political science, and literature, at that period. My article on "German Instruction in General History'' in "The New Englander.'' Influence of Stanley's "Life of Arnold.'' Turning point in my life at the Yale Commencement of 1856; Dr. Wayland's speech. Election to the professorship of history and English literature at the University of Michigan; my first work in it; sundry efforts toward reforms, text-books, social relations with students; use of the Abb Bautain's book. My courses of lectures; President Tappan's advice on extemporaneous speaking; publication of my syllabus; ensuing relations with Charles Sumner. Growth and use of my private historical library. Character of my students. Necessity for hard work. Student discussions.


Some difficulties; youthfulness; struggle against various combinations, my victory; an enemy made a friend. Lectures throughout Michigan; main purpose in these; a storm aroused; vigorous attack upon my politico-economical views; happy results; revenge upon my assailant; discussion in a County Court House. Breadth and strength then given to my ideas regarding university education. President Tappan. Henry Simmons Frieze. Brunnow. Chief Justice Cooley. Judge Campbell. Distinguishing feature of the University of Michigan in those days. Dr. Tappan's good sense in administration; one typical example. Unworthy treatment of him by the Legislature; some causes of this. Opposition to the State University by the small sectarian colleges. Dr. Tappan's prophecy to sundry demagogues; its fulfilment. Sundry defects of his qualities; the "Winchell War,'' "Armed Neutrality.'' Retirement of President Tappan; its painful circumstances; amends made later by the citizens of Michigan. The little city of Ann Arbor; origin of its name. Recreations, tree planting on the campus; results of this. Exodus of students into the Civil War. Lectures continued after my resignation. My affectionate relations with the institution.


Development of my ideas on university organization at Hobart College, at Yale, and abroad. Their further evolution at the University of Michigan. President Tappan's influence. My plan of a university at Syracuse. Discussions with George William Curtis. Proposal to Gerrit Smith; its failure. A new opportunity opens.


Ezra Cornell. My first impressions regarding him. His public library. Temporary estrangement between us; regarding the Land Grant Fund. Our conversation regarding his intended gift. The State Agricultural College and the "People's College''; his final proposal. Drafting of the Cornell University Charter. His foresight. His views of university education. Struggle for the charter in the Legislature; our efforts to overcome the coalition against us; bitter attacks on him; final struggle in the Assembly, Senate, and before the Board of Regents. Mr. Cornell's location of the endowment lands. He nominates me to the University Presidency. His constant liberality and labors. His previous life; growth of his fortune; his noble use of it; sundry original ways of his; his enjoyment of the university in its early days; his mixture of idealism and common sense. First celebration of Founder's Day. His resistance to unreason. Bitter attacks upon him in sundry newspapers and in the Legislature; the investigation; his triumph. His minor characteristics; the motto "True and Firm'' on his house. His last days and hours. His political ideas. His quaint sayings; intellectual and moral characteristics; equanimity; religious convictions.


Virtual Presidency of Cornell during two years before my actual election. Division of labor between Mr. Cornell and myself. My success in thwarting efforts to scatter the Land Grant Fund, and in impressing three points on the Legislature. Support given by Horace Greeley to the third of these. Judge Folger's opposition. Sudden death of Dr. Willard and its effects. Our compromise with Judge Folger. The founding of Willard Asylum. Continued opposition to us. Election to the Presidency of the University. Pressure of my own business. Presentation of my "Plan of Organization.'' Selection of Professors; difficulty of such selection in those days as compared with these; system suggested; system adopted. Resident and non- resident professorships. Erection of university buildings; difficulty arising from a requirement of our charter; general building plan adopted. My visit to European technical institutions; choice of foreign professors; purchases of books, apparatus, etc.


Formal opening of the University October 7, 1868. Difficulties, mishaps, calamities, obstacles. Effect of these on Mr. Cornell and myself. Opening ceremonies of the morning; Mr. Cornell's speech and my own; effect of Mr. Cornell's broken health upon me. The first ringing of the chime; effect of George W. Curtis's oration; my realization of our difficulties; Mr. Cornell's physical condition; inadequacy of our resources; impossibility of selling lands; our necessary unreadiness; haste compelled by our charter. Mr. Cornell's letter to the "New York Tribune'' regarding student labor. Dreamers and schemers. Efforts by "hack'' politicians. Attacks by the press, denominational and secular. Friction in the University machinery. Difficulty of the students in choosing courses; improvement in these days consequent upon improvement of schools. My reprint of John Foster's "Essay on Decision of Character''; its good effects. Compensations; character of the students; few infractions of discipline; causes of this; effects of liberty of choice between courses of study. My success in preventing the use of the faculty as policemen; the Campus Bridge case. Sundry trials of students by the faculty; the Dundee Lecture case; the "Mock Programme'' case; a suspension of class officers; revelation in all this of a spirit of justice among students. Athletics and their effects. Boating; General Grant's remark to me on the Springfield regatta; Cornell's double success at Saratoga; letter from a Princeton graduate. General improvement in American university students during the second half of the nineteenth century.


Questions regarding courses of instruction. Evils of the old system of assigning them entirely to resident professors. Literary instruction at Yale; George William Curtis and John Lord. Our general scheme. The Arts Course; clinching it into our system; purchase of the Anthon Library; charges against us on this score; our vindication. The courses in literature, science and philosophy; influence of one of Herbert Spencer's ideas upon the formation of all these; influence of my own experience. Professor Wilder; his services against fustian and "tall talk.'' The course in literature; use made of it in promoting the general culture of students. Technical departments; Civil Engineering; incidental question of creed in electing a professor to it. Department of Agriculture; its difficulties; three professors who tided it through. Department of Mechanic Arts; its peculiar difficulties and dangers; Mr. Cornell's view regarding college shop work for bread winning; necessity for practical work in connection with theoretical; mode of bringing about this connection. Mr. Sibley's gift. Delay in recognition of our success. Department of Architecture; origin of my ideas on this subject; the Trustees accept my architectural library and establish the Department.


Establishment of Laboratories. Governor Cleveland's visit. Department of Electrical Engineering; its origin. Department of Political Science and History. Influence of my legislative experience upon it; my report on the Paris Exposition, and address at Johns Hopkins; a beginning made; excellent work done by Frank Sanborn. Provision for Political Economy; presentation of both sides of controverted questions. Instruction in History; my own part in it; its growth; George Lincoln Burr called into it; lectures by Goldwin Smith, Freeman, Froude, and others. Instruction in American History; calling of George W. Greene and Theodore Dwight as Non-Resident, and finally of Moses Coit Tyler as Resident Professor. Difficulties in some of these Departments. Reaction, "The Oscillatory Law of Human Progress.'' "Joe'' Sheldon's "Professorship of Horse Sense'' needed. First gift of a building—McGraw Hall. Curious passage in a speech at the laying of its corner-stone. Military Instruction; peculiar clause regarding it in our Charter; our broad construction of it; my reasons for this. The Conferring of Degrees; abuse at sundry American institutions in conferring honorary degrees why Cornell University confers none. Regular Degrees; theory originally proposed; theory adopted; recent change in practice.


Admission of women. The Cortland Free Scholarship; the Sage gift; difficulties and success. Establishment of Sage Chapel; condition named by me for its acceptance; character of the building. Establishment of a preachership; my suggestions regarding it accepted; Phillips Brooks preaches the first sermon, 1875; results of this system. Establishment of Barnes Hall; its origin and development; services it has rendered. Development of sundry minor ideas in building up the University; efforts to develop a recognition of historical and commemorative features; portraits, tablets, memorial windows, etc. The beautiful work of Robert Richardson. The Memorial Chapel. Efforts to preserve the beauty of the grounds and original plan of buildings; constant necessity for such efforts; dangers threatening the original plan.


Difficulties and discouragements. Very serious character of some of these. Financial difficulties; our approach, at times, to ruin. Splendid gifts; their continuance, the "Ostrander Elms''; encouragement thus given. Difficulties arising from our Charter; short time allowed us for opening the University, general plans laid down for us. Advice, comments, etc., from friends and enemies; remark of the Johns Hopkins trustees as to their freedom from oppressive supervision and control; my envy of them. Large expenditure demanded. Mr. Cornell's burdens. Installation of a "Business Manager.'' My suspicion as to our finances. Mr. Cornell's optimism. Discovery of a large debt; Mr. Cornell's noble proposal; the debt cleared in fifteen minutes by four men. Ultimate result of this subscription; worst calamities to Cornell its greatest blessings; example of this in the founding of fellowships and scholarships. Successful financial management ever since. Financial difficulties arising from the burden of the University lands on Mr. Cornell, and from his promotion of local railways; his good reasons for undertaking these. Entanglement of the University affairs with those of the State and of Mr. Cornell. Narrow escape of the institution from a fatal result. Judge Finch as an adviser; his extrication of the University and of Mr. Cornell's family; interwoven interests disentangled. Death of Mr. Cornell, December, 1875. My depression at this period; refuge in historical work. Another calamity. Munificence of John McGraw; interest shown in the institution by his daughter; her relations to the University; her death; her bequest; my misgivings as to our Charter; personal complications between the McGraw heirs and some of our trustees; efforts to bring about a settlement thwarted; ill success of the University in the ensuing litigation. Disappointment at this prodigious loss. Compensations for it. Splendid gifts from Mr. Henry W. Sage, Messrs. Dean and Wm. H. Sage, and others. Continuance of sectarian attacks; virulent outbursts; we stand on the defensive. I finally take the offensive in a lecture on "The Battle-fields of Science''; its purpose, its reception when repeated and when published; kindness of President Woolsey in the matter. Gradual expansion of the lecture into a history of "The Warfare of Science with Theology''; filtration of the ideas it represents into public opinion; effect of this in smoothing the way for the University.


Evolution of the University administration. The Trustees; new method of selecting them; Alumni trustees. The Executive Committee. The Faculty method of its selection; its harmony. The Students; system of taking them into our confidence. Alumni associations. Engrossing nature of the administration. Collateral duties. Addresses to the Legislature, to associations, to other institutions of learning. Duties as Professor. Delegation of sundry administrative details. Inaccessibility of the University in those days; difficulties in winter. Am appointed Commissioner to Santo Domingo in 1870; to a commissionership at the Paris Exposition in 1877, and as Minister to Germany in 1879-1881. Test of the University organization during these absences; opportunity thus given the University Faculty to take responsibility in University government. Ill results, in sundry other institutions, of holding the President alone responsible. General good results of our system. Difficulties finally arising. My return. The four years of my presidency afterward. Resignation in 1885. Kindness of trustees and students. Am requested to name my successor, and I nominate Charles Kendall Adams. Transfer of my historical library to the University. Two visits to Europe; reasons for them. Lectures at various universities after my return. Resumption of diplomatic duties. Continued relations to the University. My feelings toward it on nearing the end of life.


My first studies in History and International Law. Am appointed attach at St. Petersburg. Stay in London. Mr. Buchanan's reminiscences. Arrival in St. Petersburg. Duty of an attach. Effects of the Crimean War on the position of the American Minister and his suite. Good feeling established between Russia and the United States. The Emperor Nicholas; his death; his funeral. Reception of the Diplomatic Corps at the Winter Palace by Alexander II; his speech; feeling shown by him toward Austria. Count Nesselrode; his kindness to me. Visits of sundry Americans to St. Petersburg. Curious discovery at the Winter Palace among the machines left by Peter the Great. American sympathizers with Russia in the Crimean War. Difficulties thus caused for the Minister. Examples of very original Americans; the Kentucky Colonel; the New York Election Manager; performance of the latter at a dinner party and display at the Post House. Feeling of the Government toward the United States; example of this at the Kazan Cathedral. Household troubles of the Minister. Baird the Ironmaster; his yacht race with the Grand Duke Alexander; interesting scenes at his table. The traveler Atkinson and Siberia.


Blockade of the Neva by the allied fleet. A great opportunity lost. Russian caricatures during the Crimean War. Visit to Moscow. Curious features in the Kremlin, the statue of Napoleon; the Crown, Sceptre, and Constitution of Poland. Evidences of official stupidity. Journey from St. Petersburg to Warsaw. Contest with the officials at the frontier; my victory. Journey across the continent; scene in a railway carriage between Strasburg and Paris. Delivery of my despatches in Paris. Baron Seebach. The French Exposition of 1855. Arrival of Horace Greeley; comical features in his Parisian life; his arrest and imprisonment; his efforts to learn French in prison and after his release, especially at the Crmerie of Madame Busque. Scenes at the Exposition. Journey through Switzerland. Experience at the Hospice of the Great St. Bernard, Fanny Kemble Butler; kind treatment by the monks. My arrival in Berlin as student.


Propositions for the annexation of Santo Domingo to the United States. I am appointed one of three Commissioners to visit the island. Position taken by Senator Sumner; my relations with him; my efforts to reconcile him with the Grant Administration; effort of Gerrit Smith. Speeches of Senator Schurz. Conversations with Admiral Porter, Benjamin F. Butler, and others. Discussions with President Grant; his charge to me. Enlistment of scientific experts. Direction of them. Our residence at Santo Domingo city. President Baez; his conversations. Condition of the Republic; its denudation. Anxiety of the clergy for connection with the United States. My negotiation with the Papal Nuncio and Vicar Apostolic; his earnest desire for annexation. Reasons for this. My expedition across the island. Mishaps. Interview with guerrilla general in the mountains. His gift. Vain efforts at diplomacy. Our official inquiries regarding earthquakes; pious view taken by the Vicar of Cotuy. Visit to Vega. Aid given me by the French Vicar. Arrival at Puerto Plata. My stay at the Vice-President's house; a tropical catastrophe; public dinner and speech under difficulties. Journey in the Nantasket to Port-au-Prince. Scenes in the Haitian capital; evidences of revolution; unlimited paper money; effect of these experiences on Frederick Douglass. Visit to Jamaica; interview with President Geffrard. Experience of the Commission with a newspaper reporter. Landing at Charleston. Journey to Washington. Refusal of dinner to Douglass on the Potomac steamer. Discovery regarding an assertion in Mr. Sumner's speech on Santo Domingo; his injustice. Difference of opinion in drawing up our report; we present no recommendation but simply a statement of facts. Reasons why the annexation was not accomplished.


Previous experience on the Educational Jury at the Philadelphia Exposition. Emperor Dom Pedro of Brazil; curious revelation of his character at Booth's Theater; my after acquaintance with him. Don Juan Marin, his fine characteristics; his lesson to an American crowd. Levasseur of the French Institute. Millet. Gardner Hubbard. My honorary commissionership to the Paris Exposition. Previous troubles of our Commissioner-General at the Vienna Exposition. Necessity of avoiding these at Paris. Membership of the upper jury. Meissonier. Tresca. Jules Simon. Wischniegradsky. Difficulty regarding the Edison exhibit. My social life in Paris. The sculptor Story and Judge Daly. A Swiss-American juryman's efforts to secure the Legion of Honor. A Fourth of July jubilation; light thrown by it on the "Temperance Question.'' Henri Martin. Jules Simon pilots me in Paris. Sainte-Clair Deville. Pasteur. Desjardins. Drouyn de Lhuys. The reform school at Mettray. My visit to Thiers; his relations to France as historian and statesman. Duruy; his remark on rapid changes in French Ministries. Convention on copyright. Victor Hugo. Louis Blanc, his opinion of Thiers. Troubles of the American Minister; a socially ambitious American lady; vexatious plague thus revealed.


Am appointed by President Hayes. Receiving instructions in Washington. Mr. Secretary Evarts. Interesting stay in London. The Lord Mayor at Guildhall. Speeches by Beaconsfield and others. An animated automaton. An evening drive with Browning. Arrival in Berlin. Golden wedding festivities of the Emperor William I. Audiences with various members of the imperial family. Wedding ceremonies of Prince William, now Emperor William II. Usual topic of the American representative on presenting his Letter of Credence from the President to the Prussian monarch. Prince Bismarck; his greeting; questions regarding German-Americans. Other difficulties. Baron von Blow; his conciliatory character. Vexatious cases. Two complicated marriages. Imperial relations. Superintendence of consuls. Transmission of important facts to the State Department. Care for personal interests of Americans. Fugitives from justice. The selling of sham American diplomas; effective means taken to stop this. Presentations at court; troublesome applications; pleasure of aiding legitimate American efforts and ambitions; discriminations. Curious letters demanding aid or information. Claims to inheritances. Sundry odd applications. The "autograph bed-quilt.'' Associations with the diplomatic corps. Count Delaunay. Lord Odo Russell. The Methuen episode. Count de St. Vallier, embarrassing mishap at Nice due to him. The Turkish and Russian ambassadors. Distressing Russian-American marriage case. Baron Nothomb, his reminiscences of Talleyrand. The Saxon representative and the troubles of American lady students at Leipsic. Quaint discussions of general politics by sundry diplomatists. The Japanese and Chinese representatives. Curious experience with a member of the Chinese Legation at a court reception. Sundry German public men.


My relations with professors at the Berlin University. Lepsius, Curtius, Gneist, Von Sybel, Droysen. Hermann Grimm and his wife. Treitschke. Statements of Du Bois-Reymond regarding the expulsion of the Huguenots from France. Helmholtz and Hoffmann; a Scotch experience of the latter. Acquaintance with professors at other universities. Literary men of Berlin. Auerbach. His story of unveiling the Spinoza statue. Rodenberg. Berlin artists. Knaus; curious beginning of my acquaintance with him. Carl Becker. Anton von Werner; his statement regarding his painting the "Proclamation of the Empire at Versailles.'' Adolf Menzel; visit to his studio; his quaint discussions of his own pictures. Pilgrimage to Oberammergau, impressions, my acquaintance with the "Christus'' and the "Judas''; popular prejudice against the latter. Excursion to France. Talks with President Grvy and with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Barthlemy-Saint-Hilaire. The better side of France. Talk with M. de Lesseps. The salon of Madame Edmond Adam. mile de Girardin. My recollections of Alexander Dumas. Sainte-Beuve. Visit to Nice. Young Leland Stanford. Visit to Florence. Ubaldino Peruzzi. Professor Villari. A reproof from a Harvard professor. Minghetti. Emperor Frederick III; his visit to the American Fisheries Exposition; the Americans win the prize. Interest of the Prince in everything American. Kindness and heartiness of the Emperor William I; his interest in Bancroft; my final interview with him. Farewell dinner to me by my Berlin friends.


My first sight of him. First interview with him. His feeling toward German-Americans. His conversation on American questions. A family dinner at his house. His discussion of various subjects; his opinions of Thiers and others, conversation on travel; his opinions of England and Englishmen; curious reminiscences of his own life; kindly recollections of Bancroft, Bayard Taylor, and Motley. Visit to him with William D. Kelly; our walk and talk in the garden. Bismarck's view of financial questions. Mr. Kelly's letter to the American papers; its effect in Germany. Bismarck's diplomatic dinners; part taken in them by the Reichshunde. The Rudhardt episode. Scene in the Prussian House of Lords. Bismarck's treatment of Lasker; his rejection of our Congressional Resolutions. Usual absence of Bismarck from Court. Reasons for it. Festivities at the marriage of the present Emperor William. A Fackeltanz. Bismarck's fits of despondency; remark by Gneist. Gneist's story illustrating Bismarck's drinking habits. Difficulties in German-American "military cases'' after Baron von Blow's death. A serious crisis. Bismarck's mingled severity and kindness. His unyielding attitude toward Russia. Question between us regarding German interference in South America. My citations from Washington's Farewell Address and John Quincy Adams's despatches. Bismarck's appearance in Parliament. His mode of speaking. Contrast of his speeches with those of Moltke and Windthorst. Beauty of his family life. My last view of him.



ITHACA, 1905 Photograph by Robinson, Ithaca

SARATOGA, 1842 From a daguerreotype

CORNELL UNIVERSITY, 1878 Photograph by Sarony, New York


THE HAGUE, 1899 Photograph by Zimmermans, The Hague

OXFORD, 1902 Photograph by Robinson, Ithaca






At the close of the Revolution which separated the colonies from the mother country, the legislature of New York set apart nearly two million acres of land, in the heart of the State, as bounty to be divided among her soldiers who had taken part in the war; and this "Military Tract,'' having been duly divided into townships, an ill- inspired official, in lack of names for so many divisions, sprinkled over the whole region the contents of his classical dictionary. Thus it was that there fell to a beautiful valley upon the headwaters of the Susquehanna the name of "Homer.'' Fortunately the surveyor-general left to the mountains, lakes, and rivers the names the Indians had given them, and so there was still some poetical element remaining in the midst of that unfortunate nomenclature. The counties, too, as a rule, took Indian names, so that the town of Homer, with its neighbors, Tully, Pompey, Fabius, Lysander, and the rest, were embedded in the county of Onondaga, in the neighborhood of lakes Otisco and Skaneateles, and of the rivers Tioughnioga and Susquehanna.

Hither came, toward the close of the eighteenth century, a body of sturdy New Englanders, and, among them, my grandfathers and grandmothers. Those on my father's side: Asa White and Clara Keep, from Munson, Massa- chusetts; those on my mother's side, Andrew Dickson, from Middlefield, Massachusetts, and Ruth Hall from Guilford, Connecticut. They were all of "good stock.'' When I was ten years old I saw my great-grandfather at Middlefield, eighty-two years of age, sturdy and vigorous; he had mowed a broad field the day before, and he walked four miles to church the day after. He had done his duty manfully during the war, had been a member of the "Great and General Court'' of Massachusetts, and had held various other offices, which showed that he enjoyed the confidence of his fellow-citizens. As to the other side of the house, there was a tradition that we came from Peregrine White of the Mayflower; but I have never had time to find whether my doubts on the subject were well founded or not. Enough for me to know that my yeomen ancestors did their duty in war and peace, were honest, straightforward, God-fearing men and women, who owned their own lands, and never knew what it was to cringe before any human being.

These New Englanders literally made the New York wilderness to blossom as the rose; and Homer, at my birth in 1832, about forty years after the first settlers came, was, in its way, one of the prettiest villages imaginable. In the heart of it was the "Green,'' and along the middle of this a line of church edifices, and the academy. In front of the green, parallel to the river, ran, north and south, the broad main street, beautifully shaded with maples, and on either side of this, in the middle of the village, were stores, shops, and the main taverns; while north and south of these were large and pleasant dwellings, each in its own garden or grove or orchard, and separated from the street by light palings,—all, without exception, neat, trim, and tidy.

My first recollections are of a big, comfortable house of brick, in what is now called "colonial style,'' with a "stoop,'' long and broad, on its southern side, which in summer was shaded with honeysuckles. Spreading out southward from this was a spacious garden filled with old-fashioned flowers, and in this I learned to walk. To this hour the perfume of a pink brings the whole scene before me, and proves the justice of Oliver Wendell Holmes's saying that we remember past scenes more vividly by the sense of smell than by the sense of sight.

I can claim no merit for clambering out of poverty. My childhood was happy; my surroundings wholesome; I was brought up neither in poverty nor riches; my parents were what were called "well-to-do-people''; everything about me was good and substantial; but our mode of life was frugal; waste or extravagance or pretense was not permitted for a moment. My paternal grandfather had been, in the early years of the century, the richest man in the township; but some time before my birth he had become one of the poorest; for a fire had consumed his mills, there was no insurance, and his health gave way. On my father, Horace White, had fallen, therefore, the main care of his father's family. It was to the young man, apparently, a great calamity:—that which grieved him most being that it took him—a boy not far in his teens—out of school. But he met the emergency manfully, was soon known far and wide for his energy, ability, and integrity, and long before he had reached middle age was considered one of the leading men of business in the county.

My mother had a more serene career. In another part of these Reminiscences, saying something of my religious and political development, I shall speak again of her and of her parents. Suffice it here that her father prospered as a man of business, was known as "Colonel,'' and also as "Squire'' Dickson, and represented his county in the State legislature. He died when I was about three years old, and I vaguely remember being brought to him as he lay upon his death-bed. On one account, above all others, I have long looked back to him with pride. For the first public care of the early settlers had been a church, and the second a school. This school had been speedily developed into Cortland Academy, which soon became fa- mous throughout all that region, and, as a boy of five or six years of age, I was very proud to read on the corner- stone of the Academy building my grandfather's name among those of the original founders.

Not unlikely there thus came into my blood the strain which has led me ever since to feel that the building up of goodly institutions is more honorable than any other work,—an idea which was at the bottom of my efforts in developing the University of Michigan, and in founding Cornell University.

To Cortland Academy students came from far and near; and it soon began sending young men into the foremost places of State and Church. At an early day, too, it began receiving young women and sending them forth to become the best of matrons. As my family left the place when I was seven years old I was never within its walls as a student, but it acted powerfully on my education in two ways,—it gave my mother the best of her education, and it gave to me a respect for scholarship. The library and collections, though small, suggested pursuits better than the scramble for place or pelf; the public exercises, two or three times a year, led my thoughts, no matter how vaguely, into higher regions, and I shall never forget the awe which came over me when as a child, I saw Principal Woolworth, with his best students around him on the green, making astronomical observations through a small telescope.

Thus began my education into that great truth, so imperfectly understood, as yet, in our country, that stores, shops, hotels, facilities for travel and traffic are not the highest things in civilization.

This idea was strengthened in the family. Devoted as my father was to business, he always showed the greatest respect for men of thought. I have known him, even when most absorbed in his pursuits, to watch occasions for walking homeward with a clergyman or teacher, whose conversation he especially prized. There was scant respect in the family for the petty politicians of the region; but there was great respect for the instructors of the academy, and for any college professor who happened to be traveling through the town. I am now in my sixty-eighth year, and I write these lines from the American Embassy in Berlin. It is my duty here, as it has been at other European capitals, to meet various high officials; but that old feeling, engendered in my childhood, continues, and I bow to the representatives of the universities,—to the leaders in science, literature, and art, with a feeling of awe and respect far greater than to their so-called superiors,—princelings and high military or civil officials.

Influences of a more direct sort came from a primary school. To this I was taken, when about three years old, for a reason which may strike the present generation as curious. The colored servant who had charge of me wished to learn to read—so she slipped into the school and took me with her. As a result, though my memory runs back distinctly to events near the beginning of my fourth year, it holds not the faintest recollection of a time when I could not read easily. The only studies which I recall with distinctness, as carried on before my seventh year, are arithmetic and geography. As to the former, the multiplication-table was chanted in chorus by the whole body of children, a rhythmical and varied movement of the arms being carried on at the same time. These exercises gave us pleasure and fastened the tables in our minds. As to geography, that gave pleasure in another way. The books contained pictures which stimulated my imagination and prompted me to read the adjacent text. There was no over-pressure. Mental recreation and information were obtained in a loose way from "Rollo Books,'' "Peter Parley Books,'' "Sanford and Merton,'' the "Children's Magazine,'' and the like. I now think it a pity that I was not allowed to read, instead of these, the novels of Scott and Cooper, which I discovered later. I devoutly thank Heaven that no such thing as a sensation newspaper was ever brought into the house,— even if there were one at that time,—which I doubt. As to physical recreation, there was plenty during the summer in the fields and woods, and during the winter in coasting, building huts in the deep snow, and in storming or defending the snow forts on the village green. One of these childish sports had a historical connection with a period which now seems very far away. If any old settler happened to pass during our snow-balling or our shooting with bows and arrows, he was sure to look on with interest, and, at some good shot, to cry out,— "SHOOT BURGOYNE!''—thus recalling his remembrances of the sharpshooters who brought about the great surrender at Saratoga.

In my seventh year my father was called to take charge of the new bank established at Syracuse, thirty miles distant, and there the family soon joined him. I remember that coming through the Indian Reservation, on the road between the two villages, I was greatly impressed by the bowers and other decorations which had been used shortly before at the installation of a new Indian chief. It was the headquarters of the Onondagas,—formerly the great central tribe of the Iroquois,—the warlike confederacy of the Six Nations; and as, in a general way, the story was told me on that beautiful day in September a new world of romance was opened to me, so that Indian stories, and especially Cooper's novels, when I was allowed to read them, took on a new reality.

Syracuse, which is now a city of one hundred and twenty thousand inhabitants, was then a straggling village of about five thousand. After much time lost in sundry poor "select schools'' I was sent to one of the public schools which was very good, and thence, when about twelve years old, to the preparatory department of the Syracuse Academy.

There, by good luck, was Joseph A. Allen, the best teacher of English branches I have ever known. He had no rules and no system; or, rather, his rule was to have no rules, and his system was to have no system. To genius. He seemed to divine the character and enter into the purpose of every boy. Work under him was a pleasure. His methods were very simple. Great attention was given to reading aloud from a book made up of selections from the best authors, and to recitals from these. Thus I stored up not only some of the best things in the older English writers, but inspiring poems of Bryant, Whittier, Longfellow, and other moderns. My only regret is that more of this was not given us. I recall, among treasures thus gained, which have been precious to me ever since, in many a weary or sleepless hour on land and sea, extracts from Shakspere, parts of Milton's "Samson Agonistes,'' and of his sonnets; Gray's "Elegy,'' Byron's "Ode to the Ocean,'' Campbell's "What's Hallowed Ground?'' Goldsmith's "Deserted Village,'' Longfellow's "Psalm of Life,'' Irving's "Voyage to Europe,'' and parts of Webster's "Reply to Hayne.''

At this school the wretched bugbear of English spelling was dealt with by a method which, so long as our present monstrous orthography continues, seems to me the best possible. During the last half-hour of every day, each scholar was required to have before him a copy- book, of which each page was divided into two columns. At the head of the first column was the word "Spelling''; at the head of the second column was the word "Corrected.'' The teacher then gave out to the school about twenty of the more important words in the reading- lesson of the day, and, as he thus dictated each word, each scholar wrote it in the column headed "Spelling.'' When all the words were thus written, the first scholar was asked to spell from his book the first word; if misspelled, it was passed to the next, and so on until it was spelled correctly; whereupon all who had made a mistake in writing it made the proper correction on the opposite column. The result of this was that the greater part of us learned orthography PRACTICALLY. For the practical use of spelling comes in writing.

The only mistake in Mr. Allen's teaching was too much attention to English grammar. The order ought to be, literature first, and grammar afterward. Perhaps there is no more tiresome trifling in the world for boys and girls than rote recitations and parsing from one of the usual grammatical text-books.

As to mathematics, arithmetic was, perhaps, pushed too far into puzzles; but geometry was made fascinating by showing its real applications and the beauty of its reasoning. It is the only mathematical study I ever loved. In natural science, though most of the apparatus of schools nowadays was wanting, Mr. Allen's instruction was far beyond his time. Never shall I forget my excited interest when, occasionally, the village surgeon came in, and the whole school was assembled to see him dissect the eye or ear or heart of an ox. Physics, as then understood, was studied in a text-book, but there was illustration by simple apparatus, which fastened firmly in my mind the main facts and principles.

The best impulse by this means came from the principal of the academy, Mr. Oren Root,—one of the pioneers of American science, whose modesty alone stood in the way of his fame. I was too young to take direct instruction from him, but the experiments which I saw him perform led me, with one or two of my mates, to construct an excellent electrical machine and subsidiary apparatus; and with these, a small galvanic battery and an extemporized orrery, I diluted Professor Root's lectures with the teachings of my little books on natural philosophy and astronomy to meet the capacities of the younger boys in our neighborhood.

Salient among my recollections of this period are the cries and wailing of a newly-born babe in the rooms at the academy occupied by the principal, and adjacent to our big school-room. Several decades of years later I had the honor of speaking on the platform of Cooper Institute in company with this babe, who, as I write, is, I believe, the very energetic Secretary of War in the Cabinet of President McKinley.

Unfortunately for me, Mr. Root was soon afterward called away to a professorship at Hamilton College, and so, though living in the best of all regions for geological study, I was never properly grounded in that science, and as to botany, I am to this hour utterly ignorant of its simplest facts and principles. I count this as one of the mistakes in my education,—resulting in the loss of much valuable knowledge and high pleasure.

As to physical development, every reasonable encouragement was given to play. Mr. Allen himself came frequently to the play-grounds. He was an excellent musician and a most helpful influence was exerted by singing, which was a daily exercise of the school. I then began taking lessons regularly in music and became proficient enough to play the organ occasionally in church; the best result of this training being that it gave my life one of its deepest, purest, and most lasting pleasures.

On the moral side, Mr. Allen influenced many of us by liberalizing and broadening our horizon. He was a disciple of Channing and an abolitionist, and, though he never made the slightest attempt to proselyte any of his scholars, the very atmosphere of the school made sectarian bigotry impossible.

As to my general education outside the school I browsed about as best I could. My passion in those days was for machinery, and, above all, for steam machinery. The stationary and locomotive engines upon the newly- established railways toward Albany on the east and Buffalo on the west especially aroused my attention, and I came to know every locomotive, its history, character, and capabilities, as well as every stationary engine in the whole region. My holiday excursions, when not employed in boating or skating on the Onondaga Creek, or upon the lake, were usually devoted to visiting workshops, where the engine drivers and stokers seemed glad to talk with a youngster who took an interest in their business. Especially interested was I in a rotary engine on "Barker's centrifugal principle,'' with which the inventor had prom- ised to propel locomotives at the rate of a hundred miles an hour, but which had been degraded to grinding bark in a tannery. I felt its disgrace keenly, as a piece of gross injustice; but having obtained a small brass model, fitted to it a tin boiler and placed it on a little stern-wheel boat, I speedily discovered the secret of the indignity which had overtaken the machine, for no boat could carry a boiler large enough to supply steam for it.

So, too, I knew every water-wheel in that part of the county, whether overshot, undershot, breast, or turbine. Everything in the nature of a motor had an especial fascination for me, and for the men in control of such power I entertained a respect which approached awe.

Among all these, my especial reverence was given to the locomotive engineers; in my youthful mind they took on a heroic character. Often during the night watches I thought of them as braving storm and peril, responsible for priceless freights of human lives. Their firm, keen faces come back to me vividly through the mists of sixty years, and to this day I look up to their successors at the throttle with respectful admiration.

After Professor Root's departure the Syracuse Academy greatly declined, Mr. Allen being the only strong man left among its teachers, and, as I was to go to college, I was removed to a "classical school.'' This school was not at first very successful. Its teacher was a good scholar but careless. Under him I repeated the grammatical forms and rules in Latin and Greek, glibly, term after term, without really understanding their value. His great mistake, which seems to me a not infrequent one, was taking it for granted that repeating rules and forms means understanding them and their application. But a catastrophe came. I had been promoted beyond my deserts from a lower into an upper Latin class, and at a public examination the Rev. Samuel Joseph May, who was present, asked me a question, to which I made an answer revealing utter ignorance of one of the simplest principles of Latin grammar. He was discon- certed at the result, I still more so, and our preceptor most of all. That evening my father very solemnly asked me about it. I was mortified beyond expression, did not sleep at all that night, and of my own accord, began reviewing my Andrews and Stoddard thoroughly and vigorously. But this did not save the preceptor. A successor was called, a man who afterward became an eminent Presbyterian divine and professor in a Southern university, James W. Hoyt, one of the best and truest of men, and his manly, moral influence over his scholars was remarkable. Many of them have reached positions of usefulness, and I think they will agree that his influence upon their lives was most happy. The only drawback was that he was still very young, not yet through his senior year in Union College, and his methods in classical teaching were imperfect. He loved his classics and taught his better students to love them, but he was neither thorough in grammar, nor sure in translation, and this I afterward found to my sorrow. My friend and schoolmate of that time, W. O. S., published a few years since, in the "St. Nicholas Magazine,'' an account of this school. It was somewhat idealized, but we doubtless agree in thinking that the lack of grammatical drill was more than made up by the love of manliness, and the dislike of meanness, which was in those days our very atmosphere. Probably the best thing for my mental training was that Mr. Hoyt interested me in my Virgil, Horace, and Xenophon, and required me to write out my translations in the best English at my command.

But to all his pupils he did not prove so helpful. One of them, though he has since become an energetic man of business on the Pacific Coast, was certainly not helped into his present position by his Latin; for of all the translations I have ever heard or read of, one of his was the worst. Being called to construe the first line of the Aeneid, he proceeded as follows:

"Arma,—arms; virumque,—and a man; cano,—and a dog.'' There was a roar, and Mr. Hoyt, though evidently saddened, kept his temper. He did not, like the great and good Arnold of Rugby, under similar provocation, knock the offender down with the text-book.

Still another agency in my development was the debating club, so inevitable in an American village. Its discussions were sometimes pretentious and always crude, but something was gained thereby. I remember that one of the subjects was stated as follows: "Which has done most harm, intemperance or fanaticism.'' The debate was without any striking feature until my schoolmate, W. O. S., brought up heavy artillery on the side of the anti-fanatics: namely, a statement of the ruin wrought by Mohammedanism in the East, and, above all, the destruction of the great Alexandrian library by Caliph Omar; and with such eloquence that all the argumentation which any of us had learned in the temperance meetings was paralyzed.

On another occasion we debated the question: "Was the British Government justified in its treatment of Napoleon Bonaparte?'' Much historical lore had been brought to bear on the question, when an impassioned young orator wound up a bitter diatribe against the great emperor as follows: "The British Government WAS justified, and if for no other reason, by the Emperor Napoleon's murder of the 'Duck de Engine' '' (Duc d'Enghien).

As to education outside of the school very important to me had been the discovery, when I was about ten years old, of " 'The Monastery,' by the author of 'Waverley.' '' Who the "author of 'Waverley' '' was I neither knew nor cared, but read the book three times, end over end, in a sort of fascination. Unfortunately, novels and romances were kept under lock and key, as unfit reading for children, and it was some years before I reveled in Scott's other novels. That they would have been thoroughly good and wholesome reading for me I know, and about my sixteenth year they opened a new world to me and gave healthful play to my imagination. I also read and re-read Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress,'' and, with plea- sure even more intense, the earlier works of Dickens, which were then appearing.

My only regret, as regards that time, is that, between the rather trashy "boys' books'' on one side and the rather severe books in the family library on the other, I read far less of really good literature than I ought to have done. My reading was absolutely without a guide, hence fitful and scrappy; parts of Rollin's "Ancient History'' and Lander's "Travels in Africa'' being mixed up with "Robinson Crusoe'' and "The Scottish Chiefs.'' Reflection on my experience has convinced me that some kindly guidance in the reading of a fairly scholarly boy is of the utmost importance, and never more so than now, when books are so many and attractive. I should lay much stress, also, on the hearing of good literature well read, and the interspersing of such reading with some remarks by the reader, pointing out the main beauties of the pieces thus presented.

About my tenth year occurred an event, apparently trivial, but really very important in my mental development during many years afterward. My father brought home one day, as a gift to my mother, a handsome quarto called "The Gallery of British Artists.'' It contained engravings from pictures by Turner, Stanfield, Cattermole, and others, mainly representing scenes from Shakspere, Scott, Burns, picturesque architecture, and beautiful views in various parts of Europe. Of this book I never tired. It aroused in me an intense desire to know more of the subjects represented, and this desire has led me since to visit and to study every cathedral, church, and town hall of any historical or architectural significance in Europe, outside the Spanish peninsula. But, far more important, it gave an especial zest to nearly all Scott's novels, and especially to the one which I have always thought the most fascinating, "Quentin Durward.'' This novel led me later, not merely to visit Liege, and Orlans, and Clry, and Tours, but to devour the chronicles and histories of that period, to become deeply interested in historical studies, and to learn how great principles lie hidden beneath the surface of events. The first of these principles I ever clearly discerned was during my reading of "Quentin Durward'' and "Anne of Geierstein,'' when there was revealed to me the secret of the centralization of power in Europe, and of the triumph of monarchy over feudalism.

In my sixteenth and seventeenth years another element entered into my education. Syracuse, as the central city of the State, was the scene of many conventions and public meetings. That was a time of very deep earnestness in political matters. The last great efforts were making, by the more radical, peaceably to prevent the extension of slavery, and, by the more conservative, peaceably to preserve the Union. The former of these efforts interested me most. There were at Syracuse frequent public debates between the various groups of the anti-slavery party represented by such men as Gerrit Smith, Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, John Parker Hale, Samuel Joseph May, and Frederick Douglass. They took strong hold upon me and gave me a higher idea of a man's best work in life. That was the bloom period of the old popular lecture. It was the time when lectures were expected to build character and increase knowledge; the sensation and buffoon business which destroyed the system had not yet come in. I feel to this hour the good influence of lectures then heard, in the old City Hall at Syracuse, from such men as President Mark Hopkins, Bishop Alonzo Potter, Senator Hale of New Hampshire, Emerson, Ware, Whipple, and many others.

As to recreative reading at this period, the author who exercised the strongest influence over me was Charles Kingsley. His novels "Alton Locke'' and "Yeast'' interested me greatly in efforts for doing away with old abuses in Europe, and his "Two Years After'' increased my hatred for negro slavery in America. His "Westward Ho!'' extended my knowledge of the Elizabethan period and increased my manliness. Of this period, too, was my reading of Lowell's Poems, many of which I greatly enjoyed. His "Biglow Papers'' were a perpetual delight; the dialect was familiar to me since, in the little New England town transplanted into the heart of central New York, in which I was born, the less educated people used it, and the dry and droll Yankee expressions of our "help'' and "hired man'' were a source of constant amusement in the family.

In my seventeenth year came a trial. My father had taken a leading part in establishing a parish school for St. Paul's church in Syracuse, in accordance with the High Church views of our rector, Dr. Gregory, and there was finally called to the mastership a young candidate for orders, a brilliant scholar and charming man, who has since become an eminent bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church. To him was intrusted my final preparation for college. I had always intended to enter one of the larger New England universities, but my teacher was naturally in favor of his Alma Mater, and the influence of our bishop, Dr. de Lancey, being also thrown powerfully into the scale, my father insisted on placing me at a small Protestant Episcopal college in western New York. I went most reluctantly. There were in the faculty several excellent men, one of whom afterward became a colleague of my own in Cornell University, and proved of the greatest value to it. Unfortunately, we of the lower college classes could have very little instruction from him; still there was good instruction from others; the tutor in Greek, James Morrison Clarke, was one of the best scholars I have ever known.

It was in the autumn of 1849 that I went into residence at the little college and was assigned a very unprepossessing room in a very ugly barrack. Entering my new quarters I soon discovered about me various cabalistic signs, some of them evidently made by heating large iron keys, and pressing them against the woodwork. On inquiring I found that the room had been occupied some years before by no less a personage than Philip Spencer, a member of the famous Spencer family of Albany, who, having passed some years at this little college, and never having been able to get out of the freshman class, had gone to another institution of about the same grade, had there founded a Greek letter fraternity which is now widely spread among American universities, and then, through the influence of his father, who was Secretary of War, had been placed as a midshipman under Commodore McKenzie on the brig-of-war Somers. On the coast of Africa a mutiny was discovered, and as, on examination, young Spencer was found at the head of it, and papers discovered in his cabin revealed the plan of seizing the ship and using it in a career of piracy, the young man, in spite of his connection with a member of the Cabinet, was hanged at the yard-arm with two of his associates.

The most curious relic of him at the college was preserved in the library of the Hermean Society. It was a copy of "The Pirates' Own Book'': a glorification of the exploits of "Blackbeard'' and other great freebooters, profusely adorned with illustrations of their joys and triumphs. This volume bore on the fly-leaf the words, "Presented to the Hermean Society by Philip Spencer,'' and was in those days shown as a great curiosity.

The college was at its lowest ebb; of discipline there was none; there were about forty students, the majority of them, sons of wealthy churchmen, showing no inclination to work and much tendency to dissipation. The authorities of the college could not afford to expel or even offend a student. for its endowment was so small that it must have all the instruction fees possible, and must keep on good terms with the wealthy fathers of its scapegrace students. The scapegraces soon found this out, and the result was a little pandemonium. Only about a dozen of our number studied at all; the rest, by translations, promptings, and evasions escaped without labor. I have had to do since, as student, professor, or lecturer, with some half-dozen large universities at home and abroad, and in all of these together have not seen so much carousing and wild dissipation as I then saw in this little "Church college'' of which the especial boast was that, owing to the small number of its students, it was "able to exercise a direct Christian influence upon every young man committed to its care.''

The evidences of this Christian influence were not clear. The president of the college, Dr. Benjamin Hale, was a clergyman of the highest character; a good scholar, an excellent preacher, and a wise administrator; but his stature was very small, his girth very large, and his hair very yellow. When, then, on the thirteenth day of the month, there was read at chapel from the Psalter the words, "And there was little Benjamin, their ruler,'' very irreverent demonstrations were often made by the students, presumably engaged in worship; demonstrations so mortifying, indeed, that at last the president frequently substituted for the regular Psalms of the day one of the beautiful "Selections'' of Psalms which the American Episcopal Church has so wisely incorporated into its prayer-book.

But this was by no means the worst indignity which these youth "under direct Christian influence'' perpetrated upon their reverend instructors. It was my privilege to behold a professor, an excellent clergyman, seeking to quell hideous riot in a student's room, buried under a heap of carpets, mattresses, counterpanes, and blankets; to see another clerical professor forced to retire through the panel of a door under a shower of lexicons, boots, and brushes, and to see even the president himself, on one occasion, obliged to leave his lecture-room by a ladder from a window, and, on another, kept at bay by a shower of beer-bottles.

One favorite occupation was rolling cannon-balls along the corridors at midnight, with frightful din and much damage: a tutor, having one night been successful in catching and confiscating two of these, pounced from his door the next night upon a third; but this having been heated nearly to redness and launched from a shovel, the result was that he wore bandages upon his hands for many days.

Most ingenious were the methods for "training freshmen,''— one of the mildest being the administration of soot and water by a hose-pipe thrust through the broken panel of a door. Among general freaks I remember seeing a horse turned into the chapel, and a stuffed wolf, dressed in a surplice, placed upon the roof of that sacred edifice.

But the most elaborate thing of the kind I ever saw was the breaking up of a "Second Adventist'' meeting by a score of student roysterers. An itinerant fanatic had taken an old wooden meeting-house in the lower part of the town, had set up on either side of the pulpit large canvas representations of the man of brass with feet of clay, and other portentous characters of the prophecies, and then challenged the clergy to meet him in public debate. At the appointed time a body of college youth appeared, most sober in habit and demure in manner, having at their head "Bill'' Howell of Black Rock and "Tom'' Clark of Manlius, the two wildest miscreants in the sophomore class, each over six feet tall, the latter dressed as a respectable farmer, and the former as a country clergyman, wearing a dress-coat, a white cravat, a tall black hat wrapped in crape, leaning on a heavy, ivory-knobbed cane, and carrying ostentatiously a Greek Testament. These disguised malefactors, having taken their seats in the gallery directly facing the pulpit, the lecturer expressed his "satisfaction at seeing clergymen present,'' and began his demonstrations. For about five minutes all went well; then "Bill'' Howell solemnly arose and, in a snuffling voice, asked permission to submit a few texts from scripture. Permission being granted, he put on a huge pair of goggles, solemnly opened his Greek Testament, read emphatically the first passage which attracted his attention and impressively asked the lecturer what he had to say to it. At this, the lecturer, greatly puzzled, asked what the reverend gentleman was reading. Upon this Howell read in New Testament Greek another utterly irrelevant passage. In reply the lecturer said, rather roughly, "If you will speak English I will answer you.'' At this Howell said with the most humble suavity, "Do I understand that the distinguished gentleman does not recognize what I have been reading?'' The preacher answered, "I don't understand any such gibberish; speak English.'' Thereupon Howell threw back his long black hair and launched forth into eloquent denunciation as follows: "Sir, is it possible that you come here to interpret to us the Holy Bible and do not recognize the language in which that blessed book was written? Sir, do you dare to call the very words of the Almighty 'gibberish?' '' At this all was let loose; some students put asafetida on the stove; others threw pigeon-shot against the ceiling and windows, making a most appalling din, and one wretch put in deadly work with a syringe thrust through the canvas representation of the man of brass with feet of clay. But, alas, Constable John Dey had recognized Howell and Clark, even amid their disguises. He had dealt with them too often before. The next tableau showed them, with their tall hats crushed over their heads, belaboring John Dey and his myrmidons, and presently, with half a dozen other ingenuous youth, they were haled to the office of justice. The young judge who officiated on this occasion was none other than a personage who will be mentioned with great respect more than once in these reminiscences,—Charles James Folger,— afterward my colleague in the State Senate, Chief Justice of the State and Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. He had met Howell often, for they were members of the same Greek letter fraternity,—the thrice illustrious Sigma Phi,—and, only a few days before, Howell had presented me to him; but there was no fraternal bond visible now; justice was sternly implacable, and good round fines were imposed upon all the culprits caught.

The philosophy of all this waywardness and dissipation was very simple. There was no other outlet for the animal spirits of these youth. Athletics were unknown; there was no gymnasium, no ball-playing, and, though the college was situated on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, no boating. As regards my own personal relation to this condition of things I have pictured, it was more that of a good-natured spectator than of an active accomplice. My nearest friends were in the thick of it, but my tastes kept me out of most of it. I was fond of books, and, in the little student's library in my college building I reveled. Moreover, I then began to accumulate for myself the library which has since grown to such large proportions. Still the whole life of the place became more and more unsatisfactory to me, and I determined, at any cost, to escape from it and find some seat of learning where there was less frolic and more study.



At the close of my year at the little Western New York College I felt that it was enough time wasted, and, anxious to try for something better, urged upon my father my desire to go to one of the larger New England universities. But to this he would not listen. He was assured by the authorities of the little college that I had been doing well, and his churchmanship, as well as his respect for the bishop, led him to do what was very unusual with him—to refuse my request. Up to this period he had allowed me to take my own course; but now he was determined that I should take his. He was one of the kindest of men, but he had stern ideas as to proper subordination, and these he felt it his duty to maintain. I was obliged to make a coup d'tat, and for a time it cost me dear. Braving the censure of family and friends, in the early autumn of 1850 I deliberately left the college, and took refuge with my old instructor P——, who had prepared me for college at Syracuse, and who was now principal of the academy at Moravia, near the head of Owasco Lake, some fifty miles distant. To thus defy the wishes of those dearest to me was a serious matter. My father at first took it deeply to heart. His letters were very severe. He thought my career wrecked, avowed that he had lost all interest in it, and declared that he would rather have received news of my death than of such a disgrace. But I knew that my dear mother was on my side. Her letters remained as affectionate as ever; and I determined to atone for my disobe- dience by severe and systematic work. I began to study more earnestly than ever before, reviewed my mathematics and classics vigorously, and began a course of reading which has had great influence on all my life since. Among my books was D'Aubigne's "History of the Reformation.'' Its deficiencies were not of a sort to harm me, its vigor and enthusiasm gave me a great impulse. I not only read but studied it, and followed it with every other book on the subject that I could find. No reading ever did a man more good. It not only strengthened and deepened my better purposes, but it continued powerfully the impulse given me by the historical novels of Scott, and led directly to my devoting myself to the study and teaching of modern history. Of other books which influenced me about this period, Emerson's "Representative Men'' was one; another was Carlyle's "Past and Present,'' in which the old Abbot of Bury became one of my ideals; still another was Buskin's "Seven Lamps of Architecture''; and to such a degree that this art has given to my life some of its greatest pleasures. Ruskin was then at his best. He had not yet been swept from his bearings by popular applause, or intoxicated by his own verbosity. In later years he lost all influence over me, for, in spite of his wonderful style, he became trivial, whimsical, peevish, goody-goody;—talking to grown men and women as a dyspeptic Sunday-school teacher might lay down the law to classes of little girls. As regards this later period, Max Nordau is undoubtedly right in speaking of Ruskin's mind as "turbid and fallacious''; but the time of which I speak was his best, and his influence upon me was good. I remember especially that his "Lamp of Power'' made a very deep impression upon me. Carlyle, too, was at his best. He was the simple, strong preacher;—with nothing of the spoiled cynic he afterward became.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14     Next Part
Home - Random Browse