The Burning of Walker Hall --- The Buildings Erected During the Administration --- The "Amherst System" --- Amherst College Reaches Its Highest Prosperity --- Resignation of President Seelye.
While the character and work of the faculty was foremost and uppermost in the thought and care of President Seelye, he was not inattentive to the buildings, the grounds, the funds, the campus, the curriculum, the scholarship and deportment of the students, the general administration of the college. The first necessity for special attention to the buildings was occasioned by a great calamity which befell the college. The fact is thus recorded by Rev. Dr. Dwight, secretary of the Board of Trustees, on the first page of the second volume of their records:
"On the night of the 29th of March, 1882, fire broke out in Walker Hall, the most costly and beautiful edifice of Amherst College; and all its very valuable contents were destroyed, with the exception of such as were secured in its vault. Among other articles that were lost was the second volume of the records of the Board of Trustees, containing the minutes of their meetings from the Commencement of 1868 to the Commencement of 1881. Of these minutes all that are now extant are a few scattered portions of the original drafts, accidentally saved by the secretary, which, fragmentary as they are, it has been thought advisable to preserve."
On a subsequent page the secretary says: "Of the meetings of the board in the years 1876-77-78 no record remains." Of the meetings of the board in the other years recorded in the book that was burned, the diligence and skill of the secretary have given us a record which, like other records from his hand, is a model of accuracy and elegance, and which, fragmentary as it appeared to him, seemed to us to be very complete.
Would that some superhuman wisdom and power might have restored to us with equal completeness the other treasures that were destroyed by the fire! But alas, outside of the safe nothing was preserved. Not a person could enter the burning building. From the moment when the fire was discovered, probably almost from the moment the building took fire, the interior from roof to basement was wrapped in one universal sheet of flame. The mathematical diagrams of Professor Esty, the astronomical calculations of Professor Todd---the work of years,---the official papers and private studies of President Seelye, the apparatus of Professor Snell, much of it the invention of his own brain and the work of his own hand, all went up in flame and smoke. The minerals of Professor Shepard---a collection of gems, a cabinet of singular beauty and priceless worth---even these minerals, strange to tell, were reduced to ashes; scarcely a trace of them could be found in the débris after long and diligent search. It was vacation. The faculty were mostly out of town. The writer of this history was in Plainfield, N. J. He read the news in the morning paper, and, for a time, it seemed almost as if Amherst College itself had gone up. Walker Hall had cost as much as all the other buildings put together. President Seelye was in Bethel, Conn. He was at first almost overwhelmed by the intelligence. The calamity was the harder to bear, because the property was insured for less than half its value---the building for only $35,000, when it cost $100,000; the contents for only $15,000, though Professor Shepard valued his collection alone at $75,000, and the college had actually paid $40,000 for it. It cost $10,000 to replace Professor Snell's apparatus, though much of it could not be replaced in the estimation of the professor and the college. Still in one week the president had procured from a single friend of the college a subscription, which, together with the $50,000 insurance, enabled him to restore the building. At a special meeting of the Board of Trustees held in Boston, May 2, 1882, it was voted that Walker Hall be rebuilt at the earliest date practicable, and that the president, the treasurer; Professor Mather, and Mr. A. L. Williston be the building committee. The two lower stories were rebuilt substantially on the same plan, and devoted to the same uses as before. The mineralogical collection, which before occupied the third story, having been so largely destroyed, and there being an urgent necessity for more recitation rooms, that story was chiefly devoted to that purpose, and was reconstructed on an entirely different plan and in a different style of architecture. The whole edifice was rebuilt in accordance with the vote of the trustees, "at the earliest date practicable," but with more solid materials and more perfect finish than that which preceded it, and as nearly fire-proof as possible, seemingly regardless of cost, but with supreme regard at once to permanence and elegance. And before another year came round, Walker Hall stood again on its old site, more than ever the archives, the treasury, the capitol, the acropolis of Amherst College. Besides the lesson of trust in God in the darkest hour which the history of this calamity teaches us, it should have taught us, we trust it has taught us, two lessons of worldly wisdom: 1. To beware of, or at any rate handle with more care, those inflammable materials which are so often used to paint and varnish floors, and which are generally believed to have been the cause of this fire. 2. College buildings, buildings generally which are built with charity funds, should always be insured for their real value.
On the 12th of March, 1888, six years after the burning of Walker Hall, on the night of the famous blizzard, fire broke out in the block down town in which Mr. Edward Dickinson had his office through all the years in which he was treasurer of Amherst College, and which was at this time occupied by his son and successor in the office, Mr. W. A. Dickinson, and destroyed all his books and papers, except the contents of two safes. These books, pamphlets, and papers were rich in materials for the history both of the town and the college, and Mr. Dickinson was at this very time engaged in classifying and arranging them in due order to be preserved for the use of the future historian. The college suffered no pecuniary loss by their destruction, for papers of pecuniary value were in the safe. But as materials for history this collection probably surpassed in value any other in the town, and the town and college sympathized with Mr. Dickinson deeply in the loss. The college, however, has this compensation: The destruction of the office down town necessitated the removal of the treasurer's office to Walker Hall, where it is near the office of the president and the room in which the trustees and the faculty hold their meetings, and where it is convenient of access to all the members of the college.
At the same special meeting of the Board of Trustees at which it was voted to rebuild Walker Hall it was also voted to proceed with the enlargement of the library building; the same gentlemen were appointed the building committee, the two buildings were in process of construction pari passu at the same time and were completed in the course of the same year, and it may be doubted which of the two is the more remarkable for architectural beauty and adaptation to the use for which it was intended. The enlargement of the library building, or the erection of a new one, had become a necessity. Not only were the shelves of the old building already full, but stacks of books encumbered and filled the floor which was intended for a reading-room. It was doubtless easier to plan for an entirely new building. But that would cost more money, and would leave the old building, which had many conveniences and attractive associations, useless and forsaken. And thanks to the wisdom of the building committee and the skill of the architect, Mr. Francis R. Allen, who is a graduate of the college, a plan was conceived which utilized the old building, provided amply for present and future enlargement, presented an exterior of great architectural beauty and symmetry, and furnished one of the best, most convenient, and most useful library buildings that can be found in this or any other country. The first story of the old edifice was retained for the working-rooms of the librarian and his assistants; the second story and main body of it was given up entirely to the reading and consulting room, with tables and chairs for readers and writers occupying the floor, and shelves on the walls for a working library, and books illustrative of the several departments of instruction and the daily studies of the students, while the general library and the mass of the books was provided for by the addition in the rear of a crystal palace containing seven stories of fire-proof stacks of shelves in which every book is within reach of a person standing on the floor, and tables and chairs are furnished in every story for the convenience of readers and writers. Finally, to give architectural unity and beauty to the whole structure, a vestibule or portico is prefixed which constitutes the entrance to the building, contains an ornamental stairway to the upper stories, and is itself adorned in the lower story by the Nineveh sculptures let into the walls. The students are allowed free access not only to the reading-room, but, with the permission and under the guidance of the librarian and his assistant, they are admitted to the free use of the general library for the pursuit of special studies; and they do not abuse the privilege. Perhaps there is no one thing in which the growth and progress of the college is more strikingly manifest than in the extent to which faculty and students, with the help of our accomplished librarian, use the college library, and make it useful in the work of education. And it is pleasant to be able to add that, while the library is so much more used and useful than it was in the earlier years of our college history, the friends of the college are endowing it with more ample means of usefulness. Among other gifts, too numerous to mention, the following deserve especial notice: A gift of $5,000 made by David Sears of Boston in 1864 toward the erection of a new or the enlargement of the old library building, which, by the accumulation of interest and the addition of other contributions, had grown in 1881 to $25,000; the bequest of $5,000 by Dr. Ebenezer Alden of Randolph, who from 1841 to 1874 was a wise and faithful trustee of the college and watched the library with ceaseless vigilance, and bequeathed this sum expressly toward its proper care and administration; the bequest of $50,000 by Joel Giles of Boston as a permanent fund for the increase of the library; and the munificent legacy of over $80,000 by Henry T. Morgan, which, with a wisdom as remarkable as his liberality, he gave without limitation to be expended at the discretion of the trustees, and which could in no other way be so suitably commemorated as by giving his name to the library building.
The first action in regard to a new gymnasium was taken in the same fruitful and happy special meeting of the trustees in Boston in May, 1882, in which the rebuilding of Walker Hall and the enlargement of the library building had their origin. At this meeting it was voted that "the library building committee, together with Dr. Hitchcock and Mr. Charles M. Pratt, be a committee to select plans and recommend measures for the erection of a new gymnasium, and to report at Commencement." And at the annual meeting at Commencement, it was voted "that the committee heretofore appointed to superintend the construction of a new gymnasium be empowered to go forward with its erection, it being understood that the expense of its erection will be defrayed by Mr. Charles M. Pratt, of Brooklyn, and that the edifice, when built, be known as the Pratt Gymnasium." So many difficulties and delays, however, arose in regard to the site, the grading, the construction, and the heating of the building, that it was not finished until the autumn of 1884. But when it was finished and furnished, it was admired as one of the most perfect buildings of its kind and for its purpose that can anywhere be found, and it has been used with great satisfaction not only as the headquarters of the department of gymnastics and hygiene where Dr. Hitchcock reigns supreme, but as the trysting-place where the trustees, faculty, alumni, and guests and friends of the college gather from year to year for their Commencement dinners; and what will perhaps be still more fresh in the memory of some of the alumni, the place where, as under-graduates, they met the under-graduates of Smith and Mount Holyoke in their so-called promenades.
The history of the building enterprises of President Seelye's administration would be incomplete without some allusion to two or three others which he recommended again and again to the action or the consideration of the trustees, but was unable to carry into execution, e.g., the addition of a biological laboratory and a larger lecture room to the Appleton cabinet, which he recommended in 1886 and again in 1887, but which was not completed till 1881 under the administration of his successor; the reconstruction of the Barrett Gymnasium, and its adaptation for a mineralogical cabinet, which he urged year after year, but which remains still unaccomplished; and the erection of a new chemical laboratory commensurate with the growth of the college and the wants of the department, to which he adverts over and over again as an imperative necessity, but which waited the Fayerweather bequest for pecuniary means and the energy of President Gates for its accomplishment. This generous bequest, from which the college has received $70,000, and would have received more if the intentions of the testator had been faithfully executed, has enabled the trustees to erect a magnificent scientific building, or rather two buildings, the one for chemistry and the other for physics, which together with the enlargement of the scientific apparatus, the increase of the teaching forces, and the changes in the curriculum and in the requirements for admission in these departments, and perhaps also the renovation of North and South Colleges, have brought in a larger number of students than the college has ever had before. But these things do not come within the scope of the present history.
Gifts and bequests to the college were numerous and generous under President Seelye's administration---more numerous and generous some years than in any other year of its history. Thus in 1882 he enumerates eight or ten gifts, bequests, and promissory notes, some large and some small, amounting in all to $270,000, which the college had received during the past six months; and in 1884 nearly as many more actual payments, amounting to $150,000. The sum total of donations and bequests during the administration of President Seelye exceeded even that of President Stearns and amounted to more than $800,000.
Meanwhile the college grounds were enlarged without expense to the college, by the purchase of several acres on its eastern front, and graded and laid out in walks and drives and building sites according to a plan furnished by Mr. F. L. Olmsted, which gives the whole campus a beauty corresponding with the unsurpassed beauty of its surroundings.
All this extension of grounds, enlargement of buildings, and increase of funds was only the shadow and shell of a corresponding growth in the faculty, the curriculum, the course of instruction, and the general administration. "Education," says the president in his annual report to the trustees in 1886, "is not by buildings, or apparatus, or books, but by the living teacher, and he can do only a small part of his work upon classes, but must be brought closely into contact with individual pupils. This involves small sections and therefore, with a large number of students, many teachers. To increase our number of teachers, even faster than our number of students has increased, has been of late what I have no doubt is the wise policy of the college. Ten years ago, when I entered upon the presidency, the faculty numbered seventeen members; now they are twenty-six. The professorships of German, biology, and logic, the associate professorships of mental and moral philosophy, of astronomy, of rhetoric, and of Latin, have all been established in the last decade. Ten years ago we had four teachers in Latin and Greek; now we have six. Ten years ago there were but two teachers in the English department; now there are three. There were then but three teachers in the departments of mathematics, physics, and astronomy; now there are four. Three teachers then gave all the instruction in the natural sciences, where four are now employed. A new teacher has been added in philosophy, and also one in political economy. This increase in the number of teachers has permitted a larger subdivision of the classes, and has made possible a great increase in elective studies. Ten years ago hardly any optional work could be taken, while now the major part of the studies for junior and senior years are elective. And yet we are making haste slowly with these elective studies. We insist that a student shall not be encouraged to make his college course professional. Breadth and not attenuated length is what we are endeavoring to secure."
The president's care for the health and efficiency of his faculty and his supreme reliance on them as the strength of the college are emphasized by frequent appeals for increased salaries, and repeated recommendations of a rule whereby, after seven years of able and faithful service, every professor should be allowed a year's absence on half salary for rest or improvement by travel and study. Such a rule has never been formally enacted in Amherst College. But the same result has been secured, in part at least, by the readiness of the trustees to grant such leave of absence, when it is asked; and many of the professors have gained a new lease of life and health, and new resources for teaching, by a year or part of a year of absence.
The great increase of elective studies above mentioned was only one of a series or succession of changes gradually introduced under this administration, all tending towards a larger liberty among the students, a happier relation and heartier coöperation between them and the faculty, and a larger measure of self-government and self-education in every department of the college. Thus students were admitted to college without examination on certificates from such preparatory schools as had proved themselves worthy of such confidence by sending us such students, and only such, as were well prepared. And the process of sifting out the unworthy and incompetent was carried on through the first term and the first year under the eyes of the faculty themselves, and by the hands of those who had the immediate instruction and government of the freshman class. This was felt to be due both to the preparatory schools and the college, just and fair to the candidates, and it was found to be satisfactory in its results to all concerned. A corresponding change was made in the examinations of the college course. Amherst had already led the way in dispensing with biennials and senior examinations in the whole curriculum, which all the colleges now know to have been a sham and a plague. And now she introduced the system of "examination reviews," that is, a review, say, once in every two or three weeks, on a particular subject or part of a subject as the case may be, with the understanding that the review is also to be marked as an examination, to be followed, at the discretion of the professor, by an examination of some kind on the work of the term. For example, in the study of Homer, at the completion of a book, we would have an examination review of the book, and at the close of the term, perhaps, a written examination or reading at sight of the work of the term. This practice gave rise to the rumor, which went abroad, that Amherst had given up all examinations, whereas the method in fact secured the maximum of the benefits of frequent examinations and reviews with the minimum of cramming, cribbing, and mere memorizing which are ordinarily attendant upon examinations.
A change in the marking system accompanied the change in regard to examinations. Some of the teachers had been accustomed to mark every recitation, while others had marked no recitations. It now became the rule to mark examination reviews and not recitations. And instead of attempting to fix the rank of every individual student by minute divisions on a scale of a hundred as formerly, five grades of scholarship were established and degrees were conferred upon the graduating classes according to their grades. If a student was found to be in the first or lowest grade, he was not considered as a candidate for a degree, though he might receive a certificate stating the facts in regard to his standing; if he appeared in the second grade the degree of A. B. was conferred upon him rite; if in the third, cum laude; if in the fourth, magna cum laude; while if he reached the fifth grade he received the degree summa cum laude. The advantages of this course, as stated to the trustees by the president, are that it properly discriminates between those who, though passing over the same course of study, have done it with great differences of merit and of scholarship, and that it furnishes a healthy incentive to the best work without exciting an excessive spirit of emulation.
The new system of administration, of which the above is a part, is so original and peculiar that it is known as the Amherst System, and, in justice to President Seelye, who is its author, we state the system and the reasons for its introduction in his own words. In his annual report to the trustees in 1881 he says:
"The year has been marked by some significant changes. At its beginning I proposed to the faculty a new scheme of college administration to obviate some difficulties long apparent in the relations of faculty and students. These difficulties have been largely due, I judge, to the fact that the system of college administration in our country remains essentially the same as it was a hundred and fifty years ago, while during this time the age of our students has been slowly but steadily advancing until it averages now some three or perhaps four years more than it did a century and a half since. The college, as originally established and as subsequently continued, stood, in theory, as in loco parentis to the student, but the student was considered not as a youthful son to be brought into confidential and affectionate communion with his parent, but as a child, probably wayward and certainly incapable of self-direction, and to be guided and restrained by the constant control of parental authority. This was probably very well suited to a condition and time when, as was true in some of our prominent colleges, a student could graduate having completed the whole course at thirteen, and when a salutary discipline was found in corporal punishment; but it is a very untoward system to maintain over a body of young men old enough to possess the rights and incur the obligations of self-government. Scores of our students are legal voters in our civil elections. Having had for some time a growing conviction that this system of college management needed now some radical modifications, it seemed best to make a trial of these. The first aim was the point of view from which the relations of the faculty and the students could be correctly apprehended. It was quite clear that these relations had ceased to be those of parent and child. They were more nearly those of older and younger brothers, in which the older is a helper and guide to the younger, and controls him through his own acceptance of rules which he sees to be right rather than his submission to authority in matters whose rightness he does not see. Rules are, of course, indispensable, but it makes a wide difference whether these rules come as an enactment which the authority of the faculty is to maintain, or whether they shall be accepted by the student in an agreement which his own free choice is interested to fulfil. The attempt was therefore made to formulate a system of administrative rules which should simply express what every student would recognize as true and obligatory, and whose force in constraining reluctant wills should lie not in any punishment inflicted by the faculty, but in what a student should see from the nature of the case if those rules should be disregarded. . . . It would certainly be better for the student at the age he has now reached, and in the immediate preparation he is making for the responsibilities of manhood, if he could be led to feel the necessity of self-government. It would be better also for the faculty to feel that their influence over the student was not to be supported by any machinery or outward appliances, but could only be maintained by their own power of individual inspiration.
"The system after having been thoroughly considered received the hearty approval of the faculty, and was unanimously adopted. . . . The result has been better than any one ventured to anticipate. It is, I believe, the unanimous conviction of the faculty that they have never known a year when so much honest work has been done in the college, and with so healthy results, as in the year now closed. The attendance upon college exercises has surprised us all. It was a part of the system that excuses for absence from recitations or lectures should no longer be rendered. The students were informed that absences from these exercises, whatever their cause, are absences all the same, indicative of a certain lack in the work regularly and properly required, which excuses, however justifiable, could not change in the least, and for which, therefore, they were wholly irrelevant. The college prescribing a certain course of study and giving a certain diploma at its close, it was said to the students that this diploma should obviously express nothing more and nothing less than the exact facts in the case, and therefore, if the course prescribed had not been fairly and fully followed, it would be wrong to give a diploma testifying to the contrary.
"Lest the system should seem too rigorous or too little flexible, it was deemed best to allow a certain latitude of absences which a student might take without interfering with his standing, and this was fixed at one-tenth of the whole number of exercises in a given department for a given term. The result of this was in one point somewhat unexpected and not altogether satisfactory. It was found that the students were very economical in the use of these absences, carefully avoiding in some cases the least expenditure of them till the close of the term, when in many instances they took them all together, thus reducing the length of their term by so much as the permission would allow. The faculty felt that, undesirable as this was, it was the less of two evils, and that, if a student were to take his absences at all, it would be better for him to do this in a lump than to string them along at irregular times during the term. The students have been told upon this point that the faculty, though giving this limited latitude of absences, deem it unwise for the student to take it in any case when it can be avoided, and that they will take pains that their instruction shall be as valuable at the end as during any part of the term. During the term just ended the attendance continued much better to the close than during either of the two preceding terms."
The rules of administration under this system are few and simple, in striking contrast with the innumerable specifications of transgressions and penalties in the "College Laws" of former days, and are substantially contained in this single paragraph: "A student whose recommendations have been approved and whose examinations have shown him capable of admission to Amherst College, is received as a gentleman, and, as such, is trusted to conduct himself in truthfulness and uprightness, in kindness and respect, in diligence and sobriety, in obedience to law and maintenance of order and regard for Christian institutions as becomes a member of a Christian college. The privileges of the college are granted only to those who are believed to be worthy of this trust, and are forfeited whenever this trust is falsified.
"On his admission the student signs a promise so to conduct himself, and, failing to do so, thereby breaks his contract and severs himself from his connection with the college. In deciding the question whether students have thus broken their contract and severed themselves from the college, the faculty judged it wise to associate with themselves, in the immediate government of the college, a body chosen by the students themselves, to which questions of college order and decorum are referred, and whose decisions, if approved by the president, are binding on the college. This body is called the College Senate, and consists of four seniors, three juniors, two sophomores, and one freshman, chosen by their respective classes. At the meetings of the senate, which are held regularly once a month, the president of the college presides. This movement towards self-government has been thus far justified by its results."
So said the faculty in the annual catalogue issued at the close of the first year after its introduction. And the same verdict is repeated in every annual catalogue from that year to the present time. In his annual report for 1882, President Seelye says: "The results of the new system of administration, of which I made a detailed report to the trustees one year ago, have been, during the year now closing, most satisfactory. The faculty recently made a careful examination of these results and were unanimous in their judgment that the workings of the system have been favorable both as respects the regularity of attendance and the standard of scholarship. The system has attracted a wide attention, and we find that some colleges, by which it was at first sharply criticised, are beginning to adopt some of its more important features."
The next year he speaks still more positively and particularly of the results of the system in Amherst, and its adoption in some of its features by other colleges: "The demeanor of the students has been well-nigh unexceptionable. We have had no hazing, none of the old-time college pranks or disturbances, none of the unseemly disorders in the village which have sometimes prevailed with us and are not infrequent in college towns. Our students have done their work during the year with remarkable diligence and decorum. The new system of administration meets, after the third year of its trial, the same favor among the faculty and the students which has been accorded it from the first. We all feel that it has greatly promoted kindliness of feeling and of intercourse between the faculty and the students and among the students themselves, that it has raised the standard of manliness and manly conduct through the college, that the grade of scholarship and the regularity of attendance have both been increased, and that there has been a manifest uplifting of the whole tone of the college. We do not regard the system as any longer an experiment."
It is quite unnecessary that the writer should add his testimony to that of the president. His report is not merely the partial attestation of the author of the system to the work of his own hands; it is the unanimous verdict of all the faculty and all the students. I have never yet seen the teacher or the student who would wish to return to the old system. The new system is imperfect, of course, like all the works of men. It admits of, and doubtless will receive, modification and improvement as the result of longer experience. It needs careful watching and wisdom in its execution. But the old system of permits and penalties, of excuses and evasions, of government without representation, of stepmotherly prohibitions and stepfatherly punishments, of mutual distrust and suspicion, of separate interests and hostile plans and purposes, has gone in Amherst, and has gone or is going in other colleges, never to return. The day of common interests and mutual confidence and hearty coöperation, the day of representation of the alumni in the Board of Trustees, and of undergraduates in the faculty, the day of larger liberty and more self-government, the day of elective studies and manly development and practical preparation for the duties of citizenship under free institutions, has come in Amherst and is coming---coming to stay---in all our colleges, and we may thank President Seelye for hastening its dawn. The faculty of Amherst never did a wiser thing than when, early in his administration, they committed the immediate government of the college largely, we might almost say entirely, into his hands. He took council with his faculty, considered their wishes, and profited by their wisdom and experience. He associated a representative body of the students with himself in deciding questions of college order, deportment, and decorum. But he held the reins in his own hands, and his administration proved or illustrated two maxims in the science of government: that executive government is best administered by one head, and that that government is best which governs the least. Radical as the changes were which he introduced, he ruled with great moderation, and great peace and prosperity were the results to the college. Gentleness tempered by firmness characterized his administration and shaped it to suit the character of individual students. His patience saved many a wayward student, his gentleness made many an unpromising student good and great. His firmness never feared or hesitated, when it became necessary to say to the individual student or the whole college, Thus far shalt thou go and no farther. He knew every student personally, recognized him wherever he met him, and called him by name, in most cases by his Christian name, as if he were a younger brother. Socratic in his method of teaching, he was Socratic also in his personal influence and his strong personal hold on young men. This took a good deal of time, but it was time well spent. His time belonged to the college, and was given without sparing and without grudging to the service of the faculty and the students. He made it a rule never to be out of town in term time unless he was constrained to be absent by manifest duty or imperative necessity. He taught less and less in the classroom. When he entered upon the presidential office, he insisted on retaining the professorship of philosophy as a proper adjunct of the presidency and a channel of the greatest and best educational influence. But experience taught him that the work of this most important professorship and the burdens of the presidency of a modern college, and the duties of the office as he understood them, were more than any one man could carry, and when he found a man after his own heart to teach philosophy he first transferred to him one-half of the senior class, alternating the divisions with him every other day, and then handed over to him the instruction of the whole class and the responsibility of the department. This left him only the "question box" one hour every week, an exercise which he continued as long as he continued to be president, teaching the class how to ask questions as well as how to answer them, and discussing with them subjects of the greatest moment in literature, science, and art, in politics, ethics, and religion, with so much learning and power that, through the week, they looked forward to that hour with an interest which attended no other college exercise. His knowledge of books was as wide and profound as his knowledge of men and things. It was said of the old Greek philosopher Carneades, that he could repeat from memory the contents of any book in the libraries as accurately and freely as if he were reading from the book itself. Very similar to this was the confidence which faculty and students reposed in President Seelye's knowledge of books. But he made very little direct use of books, in teaching. He first absorbed the books, text-books, and books of illustration, into himself, and then impressed himself upon his pupils. In Raphael's School of Athens, a knot of youthful philosophers had sent one of their number for a book; but meanwhile Socrates had solved the question, and now we see them waving away the returning messenger, and pointing to Socrates, as much as to say, Behold, he is the book! At the time of his election to the presidency, Dr. Seelye had a strong desire to write books on some parts of church history and philosophy which had not been treated to his satisfaction, and this was one reason why be hesitated about accepting the presidency. But he sacrificed this very natural and worthy ambition. He accepted the presidency and devoted his life to the work of an educator. Like the great Athenian philosopher and educator, he wrote his books in the minds and hearts, the characters and lives, of his students, where they will live forever.
Dr. Seelye had translated and published Schwegler's "History of Philosophy" while he was pastor of the church in Schenectady. He revised and edited Hickok's "Mental Science" and "Moral Science" while he was professor, and rewrote the "Moral Science" during his presidency. That remarkable little volume, "The Way, the Truth, and the Life---Lectures to Educated Hindus," which, within the compass of a hundred pages, contains so much of the sum and substance of the Gospel, and not the evidence only but the very essence of Christianity, was written at Bombay after the lectures were delivered, at the request of those who heard them, and issued from the press in Bombay at the expense of one who was himself an eminent Brahmin scholar. This was in 1873, two or three years prior to his entrance upon the presidential office. This was followed, soon after his return from India, by another "small book on a great subject," "Christian Missions," which was first delivered as lectures in several of our principal theological seminaries, and then printed in a volume. His speeches in Congress were always listened to with marked attention and profound respect, although they were too independent of party always to command the majority of votes. He usually acted with the Republicans, but in the famous contested election he stood almost alone in the Republican ranks in voting against seating Mr. Hayes in the presidential chair. As a member of the Committee on Indian Affairs he was a stalwart champion of Indian rights, and his speeches on this subject adorn the congressional records. His occasional addresses, such as his election sermon before the governor, council, and legislature of Massachusetts, his sermon before the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions at Minneapolis, his annual address as president for several years of the American Home Missionary Society, and his baccalaureate sermons were printed and published in various forms, and deserve to be reprinted for their permanent value as profound discussions of the great principles which underlie government, society, education, and religion. The same may be said of the numerous articles which he was in the habit of writing during his whole life for the reviews, magazines, and newspapers on the great questions of the times, such, for example, as these:
"The Electoral Commission," "Counting the Electoral Votes," "The Moral Character in Politics," "The Need of a Better Political Education," "Dynamite as a Factor in Civilization," "The Gospel to be Preached First in Our Great Cities," "The Currency Question," "Christian Union," "Should the State Teach Religion?" "The Sabbath Question," "The Bible in Schools," "Prohibitory Laws and Personal Liberty," "Punishment, its Meaning and Ground," "The Recognition of God in the Constitution," "Growth through Obedience," "Our Place in History." These and the like vital questions always interested him profoundly, and he always discussed them, whether with the tongue or the pen, in the threefold light of universal history, a profound spiritual philosophy, and an earnest, enlightened, evangelical Christianity. And he was usually inclined in theory and in practice to adopt the most advanced, the broadest and deepest, the most profoundly spiritual and intensely evangelical views of these great questions, so much so that he sometimes seemed to be unpractical, and by some persons was thought an extremist, although he retained the confidence of his fellow Christians in practical matters so fully that they placed him at the head of their great missionary agencies, and when they wished to formulate a new creed for the denomination in which they could all unite, he was made chairman of the "Creed Commission," and is understood to have drafted the form. Plato has the reputation of being an extremist and is doubtless open to the charge of carrying his political and ethical philosophy to extravagant lengths. President Seelye was a philosopher of the Platonic school, and his doctrines, his sentiments, his style even is shaped, colored, tinged at least by that of Plato. But he called no man master. He could say with Aristotle, and even more justly than he: Amicus Socrates, amicus Plato, magis tamen amica veritas; and to President Seelye, Jesus Christ was emphatically and alone the Truth, the Way, and the Life.
We were accustomed to speak and to think of Dr. Seelye through all his earlier life as the healthiest, heartiest, strongest, most robust man in the faculty, the very ideal of a large, strong, healthy man in every particular, physically, intellectually, morally, and spiritually. On the 5th of March, 1881, Mrs. Seelye was taken from him, and he never seemed to recover fully from the shock. A part of himself was taken up to the better world, and so tender was the tie, so indissoluble the union, so perfect the oneness of the present with the future life, that he could never think of marrying again.
In the winter of 1885 he was himself sick with a severe attack of erysipelas which brought him to the very borders of the grave. Subsequently to this, a disease of the nervous system, largely hereditary, and partly the result of overwork, care, and responsibility, gradually developed itself, increasing slowly from year to year till at length it interfered not only with his comfort but his ability to discharge the duties of his office. He consulted the ablest physicians in his own country; he went abroad twice for medical advice and rest and change, but to no purpose, till at length his friends and the friends of the college yielded reluctantly to his conviction of the necessities of the case, and he tendered his resignation. The college ought to have had the service of at least four more of the best years of his life before reaching the limit of threescore years and ten. But he bowed serenely, cheerfully to the will of God, coöperated heartily with the trustees in the selection and inauguration of his successor, and placed the keys of the college in his hands with those noble words: "Truth and freedom---truth coming from whatever direction and freedom knowing no bounds but those the truth has set---have ever been the light and the life of this college, and we do not doubt, from your work and worth, from your open eye and open heart, that they will continue to be the glory and the strength of your entire administration." The present administration inherits the good will and the benediction of that which preceded it, and may the blessing go down through many generations of wise and good presidents, the worthy heirs to such an inheritance, till time shall be no more.
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