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in terms of collective depreciation. But it should be borne in mind that they could not have been called into being except by the magic name of colleges, which suggests to the educated and enlightened American an idea, inherited from the colonial days, for which he will contribute labor, time, thought, and money.
When we review the list of several hundred degree-giving institutions reported by General Eaton, we may indeed regret that so many of them are feeble, and that so many are exponents of denominational zeal rather than of intellectual life; we may desire to see some remedy for their distracting influences; but we can hardly fail to admit that with all their deficiences they have cherished the love of higher education in regions remote from the older seats of learning. Without the remembrance of the traditions on which they are based, it would be difficult to comprehend the extraordinary phenomena of sectarian colleges, so creditable in one point of view, so discreditable in another.
When the sectarian or denominational colleges plead the example of the nine pre-revolutionary institutions as favorable to this plan of organization, the advocates of State universities point to the origin of Harvard and Yale Colleges, which were aided and controlled in all their early years by the colonial legislatures.
We entertain no doubt that the growth of State universities in the West has been a healthy reaction against the multiplicity of sectarian colleges. This subject has been recently discussed in these pages, and so requires but a brief reference here. Congress, in creating new States in the Western territory, set apart in each of them a portion of the public domain for the maintenance of a seminary of advanced learning, which in due time became the State University. The University of Michigan has been the most successful of these undertakings, and has survived so long that it now numbers hosts of defenders and supporters among its graduates scattered through the State. The universities of Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and California are also in vigorous condition, though more exposed to the danger of popular interference and of temporary dissatisfactions.
The desire for sectarian colleges has not yet vanished, for within a few years past, in the oldest and in the newest States, large gifts have been made for the foundation of new denominational seminaries. Yet there are strong tendencies away from this idea. Harvard College has by successive steps become freed from its denominational character, except in its theological school, and it is in affiliation with an Episcopal divinity school. It is classed as “non-sectarian" in the Report of the United States Commissioner. Yale College has opened the seats of the corporation to representatives of the alumni, and they are chosen without any regard to their denominational character. Cornell University is avowedly non-sectarian. So are the State universities of the West. So is the new foundation of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. No scholar can doubt that this tendency is favorable to the advancement of learning.
President White of Cornell University, who has had an unusual familiarity both with sectarian and non-sectarian colleges, urges as a remedy for the present distracted state of higher education that, “in the older States public and private aid should be concentrated upon a small number of the broadest and strongest foundations already laid. In the newer States, State aid should be regularly and liberally given to State institutions for the highest literary, scientific, and industrial instruction, to fully equip them, and to keep them free from sectarian control.” Dr. McCosh, in his inaugural address at Princeton, proposed that the colleges of each State should be associated as one university, somewhat after the form of the Queen's University in Ireland, and this proposal is favored by others; but no measures have been taken looking in this direction.
The typical American college has been a place where a prescribed course of study, largely devoted to Greek, Latin, and mathematics, with a brief introduction to historical, political, and ethical sciences, has continued during four years, and led to a bachelor's degree. Daily recitations, residence within college walls, and religious worship Sundays and week-days, have also been maintained. One of the first innovations was made when the University of Virginia allowed its scholars to elect their own courses, gave prominence to examinations, and laid no stress upon the system of four-year classes. Nearly half a century later Cornell University sprung at once into great prominence, by the freedom with which it threw off traditional fetters, allowing great freedom of choice of study, introducing abundant means of illustration and practical laboratories, engaging non-resident professors of distinction to supplement the ordinary teachers, and favoring technical instruction in the useful arts as well as general instruction in the liberal arts. Yale College has maintained the old curriculum, but side by side has successfully promoted, for a quarter of a century, new courses of study in the modern sciences. Brown, Rutgers, Dartmouth, Princeton, and others of the older colleges maintain schools of science akin to the Sheffield School at Yale. But by far the boldest innovations which have been made in any American college, are those inaugurated at Harvard under the administration of President Eliot. The interior working of the institution has been remodelled, and great freedom of choice (extending to the modern departments of science, as well as to the various branches of literature, history, and philosopby) is now permitted to every student, with results which appear to have dissipated nearly all doubts as to the wisdom of the plan, and to have attracted increasing numbers of students.
These modifications of the American college are likely to be attended with the best results, for they accord with the best experience of other countries. Moreover, there was great danger, a few years ago, that the colleges were losing their hold upon the community. The laborious and thorough researches of President F. A. P. Barnard of New York, a few years ago, showed that the proportionate number of students attending college has been gradually lessening, instead of increasing as it should with the increasing wealth of the country. It would be an excellent service for the Department of Education to continue the inquiries which have been so well begun. The modern congressional and legislative assemblies include but a very small number of college bred men. The prizes of life — honor, fame, wealth, and opportunities of public usefulness — have largely been distributed among those who are not
alumni of any but the common school. Even in science and literature many of the most successful-workers have been taught in no college. Those educated men who have been trained in college have often exhibited a reluctance to engage in the rough conflicts of life; modern politics have disgusted them, — the caucus has been abhorrent to them. In all this, there was grave reason for apprehension ; but still the belief in the value of a liberal education is deep-seated among intelligent Americans; generous men like Lawrence, Sheffield, Buckingham, Packer, Green, Cornell, Hopkins, - including several who were never enrolled as college students, — have largely increased the funds for higher education, and with increasing means the colleges are providing, at the present day, better instruction than ever before; the number of graduates is increasing; and unless we are mistaken, they were never so well fitted as in these days to take an active part in the improvement of mankind, in the promotion of science, and the conduct of political and civil institutions.
It thus appears, as we review the situation of American colleges at the close of the first century of the Republic, that there are a few institutions in the United States, governed by private corporations, and endowed with capital varying from half a million to five millions of dollars; a few vigorous State universities in the West, governed by popular or legislative control, and supported partly from the income of public lands, partly by public bounty; and about three hundred small and ill-endowed colleges, some of which are doing excellent work, while many of them seem to have no reason for their existence. In the better colleges, the tendency is usually away from sectarian influences; in the poorer colleges, sectarian fervor alone feeds the flame. Within the walls there is a manifest tendency toward freedom from restricted courses of study, or at least toward the provision of manifold optional courses, so that the different requirements of modern society may efficiently be met. The tendency of educated men is away from public life; it is difficult to fill the most important chairs in our universities, not from the lack of candidates, but from the absence of the highest qualifications; and yet, in private life, the country has never had so large a proportion of men of culture and learning.
The earliest professional education in this country was given by clergymen, lawyers, and physicians, each in his own way and his own study, without any reference to an academic examination or degree. To be “licensed” as a preacher, or to be admitted to the bar, or to be recognized as a lawful practitioner in medicine, required some approval from the professions, but not graduation in any professional school. The imperfection of such means of education gradually led to the establishment of schools and seminaries, which were not university faculties, in the proper sense, but technical trainingplaces for lawyers, ministers, and physicians. One of the earliest and best of law schools was begun in Litchfield, Connecticut, by Judges Reeve and Gould in 1784, and maintained for many years, — drawing to its instructions young men from the most distant parts of the land. In 1794, Chancellor Kent delivered his introductory lecture on law in Columbia College, New York. It was not till 1816 that Harvard appointed a professor of law. The Law School at New Haven was organized in 1824, and remained a private institution until 1846, though a professorship of law had been maintained in Yale College after 1801. The University of Virginia began a law department in 1825. There are now thirty-eight schools of law.
It was during the Revolution that the first steps were taken at Cambridge for the introduction of the study of medicine, and a plan for the establishment of three chairs relating to medicine was presented to the Corporation by Dr. Warren in 1782. The Medical School at New Haven was begun in 1813; the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York dates from 1807. There are now seventy-four schools of medicine, besides eleven dental and fourteen pharmaceutical colleges.
The Catholics maintained a theological school at Baltimore as early as 1791, and another at Emmitsburg in 1808; the theological school at Andover was founded in 1807, at Princeton in 1812, at Cambridge in 1817, at Bangor in 1818, at New Haven in 1822,- though in the colleges last named, theological instruction had for a long time previous been given to graduates. Now there are one hundred and thirteen theological schools reported by the United States Commissioner of Education.