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ART. II. - An Address delivered before the Society of the
Alumni of Harvard University, on their Anniversary,
The Alumni of Harvard University were peculiarly fortunate in selecting, as the orator for their recent anniversary, one whom many years of intimate connection with that institution had made conversant with its history, condition, claims, and wants, and who had gained the right to speak with authority of the duties of the graduates to their Alma Mater, by his own faithful services on her boards of instruction and supervision, and by untiring devotion to her interests. His address is full of valuable suggestions with reference to college discipline, and bears throughout the tokens of sound discretion and great practical wisdom. It is, at the same time, a scholarly production, rich in classical and literary allusions and quotations, and bearing numerous marks of the liberal tastes and pursuits to which the author's life has been consecrated. We avail ourselves of its appearance, to fulfil a long cherished purpose of presenting our views of the present condition and wants of our venerable University ; and, in doing this, we shall refer freely to the address before us, in illustration and corroboration of our statements.
The means of liberal education now presented at Cambridge are undoubtedly more ample than at any previous period, and far surpass those enjoyed at any other literary institution on this side of the Atlantic. The chairs of instruction, with hardly an exception, are filled by men of well known and eminent scholarship in their respective departments, and of exemplary diligence and zeal in the cultivation of literature and science. The library, meagre as it is when compared with those of European universities, is beyond comparison more valuable than any other in America, and has of late increased with unexampled rapidity. In point of scientific collections and apparatus, Harvard, though for a time behind Yale, must now, with her new and splendidly furnished observatory, take precedence in the department of astronomy, and in that of natural science is fast gaining ground on her only competitor. The standard of qualifications for admission at Cambridge has been greatly raised
within a few years, and the examinations are so rigorously conducted, as to make the admission of the few dunces and drones who enter there a miracle. The amount of learning, which may be acquired there by industrious and ambitious students, is much larger and more various, than it formerly was; and the instruction given to such students is as thorough and faithful as could be desired. The courses of lectures annually delivered there comprise a very extended circle of liberal studies ; they are all accurate and able expositions of the branches of knowledge, to which they respectively appertain; and some of them add the attraction of commanding eloquence to that of profound learning, while others, no less valuable and useful, serve, indeed, to remind the hearer, that the Muses do not always dwell together. In fine, our University may now be said to lack no desirable facility for the cultivation of any branch of knowledge, that can properly come within the range of a collegiate course.
But, notwithstanding the superior advantages which it offers, (and which, we are glad to see, are embraced, the present year, by an unusually large number of professional students,) Harvard College, in the most populous part of the whole country, has remained stationary as to the number of undergraduates, for twenty or thirty years, while the younger New England colleges are every year admitting larger and larger classes. Nay, more, considered as the college of Massachusetts and New England, Harvard has been constantly losing patronage. Were it not for the more than quadrupled population of Boston and its environs, the Cambridge catalogues would have exhibited an annual decrease for the last twenty years. Twenty years ago, about one fifth of the undergraduates were from Boston, and about one fourth from places within ten miles of the College. Now, about one third are from Boston, and not far from one half come from towns within ten miles of Cambridge. Meanwhile, the catalogues of other colleges have shown an annually increasing number of students, who, coming from the immediate vicinity of Cambridge, must needs have bad some peculiarly stringent reason for resorting to colleges situated one, two, or three hundred miles distant from their homes.
This state of things is not to be accounted for by the increased number of colleges; for there has been but one new college established in New England for the last twenty years; the number of students at Yale, instead of falling off, has increased of late years; and Harvard College has a much larger population in its immediate vicinity than Yale or Dartmouth, though it has fewer students than either of these institutions. Still less are we inclined to ascribe this state of things to any actual change in the relative position of our University, among the literary institutions of the country. Other colleges have, indeed, greatly improved. The numerous academic corps of Yale contains professors second to none in their respective departments. The little company of instructers at Bowdoin is composed of men of signal diligence and ability; while Bowdoin, as well as Brown University, attracts much interest and patronage, from the well known and eminent talents of its presiding officer. Dartmouth College has a body of industrious and faithful teachers, and has undoubtedly raised its literary standard for the lovers of study; but its increased advantages are, in our judgment, more than counterbalanced by the introduction of a system, which dispenses with all college honors, assigns all public performances by lot, and leaves the student destitute of any stimulus from without to persevering diligence. But whatever improvements may have been made in other colleges, we cannot but think that Harvard has advanced pari passu, and still maintains her precedence of the rest, both as to the advantages directly offered, and as to all collateral encouragements and aids to a liberal education. This, we believe, is generally conceded by the alumni and patrons of other colleges; or, where any distinction is claimed in behalf of any other institution, it is at least admitted, that, if a student may acquire less, he also has the means of acquiring more, at Harvard than elsewhere. Yet, notwithstanding this, it must be confessed, that Harvard has, of late, been constantly losing ground in the esteem and patronage of the community at large, and is fast becoming simply a high school for a portion of the youth of Boston and its vicinity.
Pecuniary considerations, no doubt, deter many students from entering at Harvard. The course there is, indeed, an expensive one, for reasons entirely beyond the control of the College boards. Most of the expenses are determined by local causes, which they cannot obviate. The price of board depends on the cost of rent, fuel, and provisions, which is necessarily high in the environs of an overflowing city. Then, too, the general style of dress and furniture is made more sumptuous than is needful, by the vicinity of the city, and by the large proportion of the students who are from rich and fashionable families. Yet in all these things there is room for economy without reproach; and an indigent young man, who sees fit to practise rigid self-denial to secure to himself the highest literary privileges, only elevates himself thereby in his social position among his fellow-students. The charges made directly by the College are low. A student, who shares with another a college room, pays but fifteen dollars a year for rent and care of room. The tuition fee, including the use of the library and the expenses of lecture rooms, is but seventy-five dollars per annum, - a large amount, indeed, compared with that charged at many other colleges, and with the ability of many students, yet less than the tuition fee at any respectable high school in this vicinity, and pitifully small, when considered with reference to the extent and variety of the privileges to which it introduces the student. Nor is it possible for the College, in the present state of its funds, to reduce this fee. It is said, indeed, that the College is rich; but its wealth in one aspect makes it poor in another. About three fourths of its invested funds were bestowed for specific ends, and are not available for the general expenses of the institution. Very few of these specific endowments are sufficient for the purposes for which they were given;- most of them require, every year, additional appropriations from other sources. Under these circumstances, the full tuition fee is absolutely needed. Nor, in truth, should we desire to see it less ; but would be glad to have it raised. We like to see things appraised with some reference to their true value. A liberal education is too good a gift to be offered at a paltry price. Raise its cost, and it will be more highly esteemed, and more ambitiously sought. We have heard complaints of college bills from men who would spend more than a year's tuition see on a single dinner-party, and whose servants’ wages a professor's entire salary would hardly pay. Now we can see no reason why the parent, who denies himself and his family no indulgence or luxury which can be bought with money, should sue in formâ pauperis before the College faculty, and expect to pay less for his son's education, than the boy will pay to his boot-black. The College ought, however, to be enabled to remit all charge for tuition to students both indigent and meritorious, so that those who cannot pay may be taught without price. We would earnestly recommend a provision of this kind, as one of the most useful forms which private munificence could take. The donor might, it is true, gain more éclat by founding a professorship, which should bear his name down to posterity in connection with its honored incumbents ; but in no way could he act so surely upon coming generations for the advancement of literature and science, as by removing the obstacles which poverty puts in the way of so many youth of genius and promise.
Harvard College has, we doubt not, lost much patronage from its supposed connection with a particular religious sect. It is often spoken of as a sectarian institution. No imputation could be more unfounded. The whole administration of the College has, in this regard, been eminently catholic. The services at the College chapel are, indeed, conducted exclusively by Unitarian divines; but the students are at liberty to attend the churches of the other denominations in the vicinity. Most of the professors and instructers, also, are Unitarians ; but Episcopalians and Calvinists have not been wanting on the board, whose religious sentiments have been well known at the time of their election; nor do we believe that a Unitarian, as such, would be elected to office in preference to another candidate of equal qualifications. We have been conversant with the administration of the College, both as a student and an instructer, and can bear our cheerful testimony, without fear of the production of a single fact to the contrary, that favoritism towards students on sectarian grounds is a thing unheard of, — that students of all denominations have been treated with equal fairness, justice, and kindness, — and that, for the petty offices, scholarships, and exhibitions, at the disposal of the faculty, the combined ratio of need and merit has constituted the only claim. Were we to make any exception to these remarks, we should refer to the presidency of Dr. Kirkland, and to his marked partiality for the beneficiaries of the American Education Society. He had, of course, no sympathy with their peculiar system of theology ; but he respected them on the score of their reputed piety, their exemplary morals, their healthful social influence, and the sacred profession for which they were destined ; and,