U of M Encyclopedic Survey 39-53
Perhaps no single eleven-year period in the history of the University of Michigan is more significant than that of the administration of Henry Philip Tappan, first president of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. To him the University owes many of the progressive ideas upon which its subsequent prominence as a great educational institution rests. During his administration the Department of Civil Engineering was formed, the Law School was begun, and the Graduate School was first conceived; yet the greatest of all his contributions was his conception of what the University, as a whole should strive to become.
Until Tappan was elected president, in August 1852, the University blundered along without a chief executive officer. Previous to that time a president of the faculty had been elected annually to preside over the faculty and to supervise those duties, which fell to the professors; the Board of Regents had had as its presiding officer the governor of the state. This loose organization had numerous defects, among others the lack of a concentrated authority. Realizing the need for reform, the framers of the Constitution of 1850 provided for the popular election of the Regents for a term of six years and for the selection by the Regents of "a President of the University, who shall be ex-officio a member of their Board, with the privilege of speaking, but not of voting. He shall preside at the meetings of the Regents and be the principal executive officer of the University."
The appointive Board of Regents which went out of office on January 1, 1852, postponed action on the election of a president, and the responsibility therefore fell on the newly elected Regents: Michael A. Patterson of Tecumseh, Edward Shaw Moore of Three Rivers, James Kingsley of Ann Arbor, Elisha Ely of Allegan, Charles Henry Palmer of Romeo, Andrew Parsons of Corunna, William Upjohn of Hastings, and Elon Farnsworth of Detroit. One of the first acts of this Board was the appointment of a committee, consisting of Regents Palmer, Farnsworth, and Kingsley, to correspond with persons suitable for appointment to the presidency. The committee worked on the question until August 12, 1852, when Henry Philip Tappan was elected.
Previous to the election of Tappan the chair had been declined by Henry Barnard, a New England educator of note, and by the Reverend William Adams, a Presbyterian clergyman of New York City (R.P., 1837-64, pp. 518, 520). Tappan's appointment is said to have been due to the skillful management of the chairman of the committee, Regent Palmer. After a visit East, Palmer had returned to Michigan with the intention of recommending Tappan for the presidency. The suggestion had come from George Bancroft, the historian (Ten Brook, p. 232). Before Regent Palmer could suggest Tappan's name in a Board meeting, the rumor spread that Tappan had once employed a homeopathic physician, and the opposition became so great that it was impossible even to present his name. Although the Board had undoubtedly been sincere in offering the position to Henry Barnard, it is said that Regent Palmer had proposed Adams merely in order to delay matters, since he knew that Adams would be unable to accept the position (Farrand, pp. 92-94). Whatever the truth of these beliefs, the minutes of the Board of Regents for August 9-12, 1852, give evidence that an extended conference was necessary before Tappan was elected. Four times the Board adjourned to meet again for the purpose of discussing the presidency, but finally, on August 12, Tappan was named by five Regents, and John H. Lathrop, Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, by three. Tappan was declared unanimously elected, and met with the Regents at their December meeting.
The opposition to Tappan, which preceded his election did not die down for some time. Fired with enthusiasm for the work of building up a great educational institution in the West on the basis of the Prussian ideal, he regarded himself somewhat as a missionary to an uncultured frontier area. This attitude he did not sufficiently hide, and the opposition, which began even before his appointment, grew after his arrival. It subsided somewhat during the first years of his presidency, but never actually disappeared. Though he was to find it possible to try out his educational philosophy in this new state university, the experience was in some respects an unhappy one for him.
Henry Philip Tappan was a philosopher of no small reputation at the time when he was offered the presidency of the University of Michigan. He had already made a name for himself by his writings on the freedom of the will, including such works as Review of Edwards' Inquiry into the Freedom of the Will, The Doctrine of the Will Determined by an Appeal to Consciousness, The Doctrine of the Will Applied to Moral Agency and Responsibility, and The Elements of Logic. These works had called forth favorable comment from both European and American scholars, including Victor Cousin, whom Tappan respected and whose precepts he followed (Perry, pp. 55-165).
The great respect which Tappan had for Victor Cousin undoubtedly operated as a powerful cause for Tappan's willingness to come to this Western outpost as president of a state university. The founders of the Michigan educational system, Isaac E. Crary and John D. Pierce, had attempted to model the public system of education in Michigan somewhat on the Prussian system as it is explained in Cousin's Report on the State of Public Instruction in Prussia … (see Part I: Early History). An idea of the strong influence of the Prussian system upon the educational plan of the state previous to Tappan's administration is conveyed by the book, System of Public Instruction and Primary School Law of Michigan …, prepared as an official state publication in 1852 by Francis W. Shearman, Superintendent of Public Instruction. That Michigan already had legislative and constitutional provisions based partially on the Prussian idea must have influenced Tappan in his decision to leave the East. His ideas on a system of public instruction, as expressed in his various reports and addresses, elaborate in a constructive and farseeing manner the principles laid down by John D. Pierce in his reports as superintendent of public instruction.
Like Pierce, Tappan believed in a coordinated system of instruction, with a university at the apex and primary grades at the base, and by his observation of the development of education he was convinced that the way to build such a system was first to establish the higher institution and then to found and strengthen the lower schools as the influence of scholarly administrators gradually spread from the few to the many (R.P., 1837-64, p. 655). To Tappan's mind a university was not merely an institution providing four-year courses ending with the bachelor's degree and with professional schools attached. He wrote:
[A university is] a collection of finished scholars in every department of human knowledge, associated for the purposes of advancing and communicating knowledge. To accomplish these purposes they gather around them books on all subjects without any limit, specimens of art, specimens of natural history, apparatus for illustrating the laws of nature, and for prying into her secrets; in fine, whatever may aid them in thought, investigation, and discovery, and in making known the results of their labors. Living together they aid and stimulate each other. They form a centre of light, and irradiate it far and wide for the glory of their country, and for the good of mankind. They create an atmosphere filled with inspirations to thought, research, and culture. Young men who have passed through the intermediate grade, and, hence, who have learned the art, and formed the habits of study, resort to them to hear their lectures, to breathe their spirit, to copy their example, and to submit themselves to their guidance.
(R.P., 1837-64, p. 654.)
Tappan's ideal of what a university should be naturally prompted him to promote at the University of Michigan reforms which would bring nearer realization the university he conceived. In discussing his efforts to develop at Ann Arbor his ideal university, it seems wisest to divide his eleven-year administration into two distinct periods: the years 1852-57, under the first popularly elected Board of Regents, and the years 1858-63, under the second elected Board.
The first period, 1852-57. — The Regents who took office in 1852 found at Ann Arbor an institution still young and undeveloped. On the forty-acre campus were two dormitory and recitation buildings, called North College and South College, a medical building, and four professors' residences (see Part VIII: First Buildings). Both faculty and student body were small. According to the Catalogue for 1851-52, there were 6 professors and 57 students in the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts; in the Department of Medicine and Surgery, as shown by its separate announcements for 1851-52 and 1852-53, there were 5 professors and 157 students. There was, indeed, much room for growth.
From its predecessor the new Board inherited some difficult problems, which demanded immediate attention. The previous Board, in order to settle difficulties among the members of the faculty of the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts, had passed a resolution terminating the connection of three members of that faculty with the University. The new Board, soon after taking office, asked the dismissed professors whether or not they wished to resume their positions. Of the three only Professor Williams remained.
The next problem taken up by the Regents was the settlement of financial difficulties. In 1852 the University owed a debt of $12,761.98, besides $100,000.00, which had been obtained on state credit by the issue of "state stock" certificates. Since the former sum exceeded the annual income from the University interest fund, the new Board was faced with the task of adopting immediately some plan for the maintenance of the credit of the institution. It was therefore decided to consolidate the debt at 7 per cent interest, the principal payable in three years. This made possible the immediate payment of the University's creditors and left free the income from the University interest fund to meet current expenses. Also, the Regents prevailed upon the state government to turn over to the Board the income from the "Michigan University state stock" certificates; this money, applied to the consolidated debt, made possible the payment of the debt some time before it was due (see Part I: Early History).
Having settled the pressing problems arising from previous regental administrations, the Board turned to new fields, following the leadership of the newly appointed President. The members of the Board were, on the whole, well-educated and cultured gentlemen who recognized the ability of President Tappan and gave him almost a free rein, checking him tactfully when the interests of others demanded it. This wholehearted, broadminded support made it possible for Tappan to inaugurate movements, which he considered essential to the development of the University.
Shortly after Tappan took office, he was approached by Henry N. Walker of Detroit and asked what could be done to aid the University. Tappan proposed that citizens of Detroit raise funds for an astronomical observatory. This was done, and the observatory in Ann Arbor was accordingly called the Detroit Observatory in their honor. Walker donated money for the transit instrument. In order to assure the purchase of fine instruments, Tappan arranged for their construction at New York and Berlin. The transit instrument was purchased in Berlin with the advice of J. F. Encke, Director of the Royal Observatory, and of his assistant, Francis Brünnow. The acquaintance made with Brünnow at this time proved to be a valuable one both for the University and for Tappan.
When the Board of Regents was seeking to fill the position of director of the observatory and professor of astronomy, Tappan suggested the appointment of Brünnow, the office having been declined by two of America's foremost astronomers, W. A. Norton of Yale and B. A. Gould of Boston. Brünnow's appointment was a fortunate one for the University, since he contributed much to the early reputation of the Detroit Observatory and trained one of Michigan's most outstanding graduates, James Craig Watson. Tappan's own interest in Brünnow was increased when his only daughter married Brünnow, and the President became, as he says, "thus wedded to the Observatory." Probably no other division of the University held such great interest for him as the Department of Astronomy and the Observatory. He had been chiefly instrumental in bringing about the construction of the Observatory, had purchased the instruments, and had chosen the director. These matters are recounted in his interesting "Review" of his administration (R.P., 1837-64, pp. 1119-66, particularly pp. 1124-32).
Tappan's definition of a university listed as essential "books on all subjects without any limit, specimens of art, specimens of natural history, apparatus for illustrating the laws of nature and for prying into her secrets." He therefore set out to increase the Library and Museum collections of the University. He was ably aided in this movement by several professors and other friends of the University, who donated collections of various kinds, and by the citizens of Ann Arbor and the Board of Regents, who made available funds for the purchase of books.
The President encouraged the citizens of Ann Arbor to contribute funds for the purchase of additional volumes for the University Library, and in his report for 1854 he was able to announce an increase from 4,500 to 5,700 books, the additional 1,200 having been acquired largely from funds donated by the citizens of Ann Arbor. The appropriations made by the Regents for the purchase of books were somewhat increased. In 1855 Tappan stated that the library contained about 6,000 volumes. This was far short of his goal of 20,000 volumes, but the increase in number of books that year was greater than that in any year since the purchase of the original library by Asa Gray.
The growth of the various museum collections was due largely to the interest of the professors in charge of the several departments. The collection and arrangement of natural-history specimens had, from the earliest days, been encouraged by Douglass Houghton and Abram Sager (Winchell, Report, pp. 3-4), and under the care of Alexander Winchell, the collections were extensively developed. A museum of fine arts was brought into existence by the active efforts of Henry Simmons Frieze, Professor of Latin Language and Literature. The small art collection, which he brought together was soon supplemented by gifts from President Tappan, Professor Andrew D. White, and others.
The abolition of the dormitory system and the remodeling of the North College and South College buildings enlarged the quarters for the Library and Museum of the University considerably. These buildings had originally been constructed for both dormitory and recitation purposes, as was the custom in all-Eastern colleges. Tappan advised that students should live with private families where they would be subject to home influences. His suggestion and the need for additional room for recitations and for the Library and Museum led, in 1856, to the abolition of the dormitory system. North College (Mason Hall) was altered to house the Library and Museum collections. Additional quarters for both class and laboratory work were provided by the erection of the Chemical Laboratory in 1856.
The smallness of the faculty at the time when Tappan became President gave him the opportunity, through enlarging it, to apply another of his principles: that the chief factor to be considered in choosing a professor was his qualification for the position. Dr. Zina Pitcher points out that in the preceding phase of the University administration, when there was no president, the policy of the Board of Regents had been to keep an even balance among the various Protestant denominations in the appointment of faculty members (Public Instruction, pp. 315-16). According to Tappan's "Review," Erastus Otis Haven, a Methodist clergyman, who was elected Professor of Latin Language and Literature in December 1852, shortly after Tappan's arrival, was the last appointee to be selected on the basis of his religious affiliation. In the appointment of Brünnow as Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Observatory, merit only was the deciding factor. Through Tappan, the Board of Regents had offered the position to him in spite of opposition to the importation of a foreign scholar.
As pointed out in his "Review" (pp. 1127, 1145), Tappan devised a plan for drawing scholars of reputation to the University faculty. To fill vacancies arising in emergency, he selected young men, chiefly from among alumni of the University, and appointed them to assistant professorships, thus making it possible to delay the appointment of full professors until the right men could be obtained. This plan was the cause of much ill feeling on the part of some members of the faculty — particularly the assistant professors, who felt that their own interests were sacrificed by the election to full professorships of notable scholars from outside. Unfortunately, this antagonism increased rather than decreased as Tappan's administration continued.
It was natural that Tappan's efforts to create a university to fit his own definition should lead to numerous changes in the course of study. Previous to his appointment, the legislature provided for the establishment of "a course or courses of study in the University, for such students as may not desire to pursue the usual collegiate course, in the department of literature, science, and the arts, embracing the ancient languages.…" (Bylaws, 1861, pp. 5-6.) In the Catalogue for 1852-53 provision was made for additional courses, including a new scientific course and the partial course, which was begun for the benefit of those who wished to take some of the classical or scientific courses but who did not care to become candidates for a degree. Courses in analytical and agricultural chemistry and in civil engineering could be taken on the partial course. Although the scientific course as outlined in 1852 included instruction in civil engineering, this course was not fully elaborated until 1855, and the degree of civil engineer was not granted until 1860. These revisions allowed students who desired to graduate to choose between the course of study leading to the bachelor of arts degree and that leading toward the degree of bachelor of science, or, later, the degree of civil engineer (see Part VII: College of Engineering). The requirements within each curriculum remained fairly rigid.
Tappan also attempted to establish an agricultural course in the University, but, although some teaching was done, his efforts in this direction were not successful. In 1853 the Reverend Charles Fox, editor of the Farmer's Companion, gave a course of lectures on theoretical and practical agriculture. In 1854 he was appointed Professor of Agriculture, but his death in July 1854, temporarily ended plans for the teaching of agriculture. Although efforts were made in 1858 and 1859 to establish an agricultural farm, these too ended in failure (Winchell, MS, "Diary," July 25, 1854).
Perhaps no part of his plan for making the University of Michigan a true university was of greater significance to President Tappan than the idea of establishing a so-called "university course" for graduate work. This course, as announced in the Catalogue of 1853-54, was to consist of lectures on philosophy; history and political economy; logic; ethics and evidences of Christianity; the law of nature, the law of nations, constitutional law; higher mathematics; astronomy; physics; chemistry; natural history; philology; Greek language and literature; Latin language and literature; Oriental languages; English language and literature; modern literature; rhetoric and criticism; history of fine arts; and the arts of design. When his first annual report was printed, President Tappan added a proposed plan for the establishment of a course of "university lectures." Soon thereafter the university course was partially in operation, and by 1859 advanced degrees upon examination were granted.
In reading over a list of the accomplishments of the first years of Tappan's administration one might consider the time to have been one of prosperity and peace. It was not. During those years conflicts were begun which were to continue for a long time and which more than once threatened to injure the University permanently.
No small factor in the development of the conflicts within the University was Tappan's personality. His attitude when he came west was that of many Easterners of his day; he considered Michigan a frontier area, uncultured, uncouth. The legend spread that Mrs. Tappan had once remarked to a group of Michigan women that she and Dr. Tappan considered themselves "missionaries to the West," and whether the story was true or not, it caused much annoyance on the part of the citizens of the Tappan’s adopted state (White, I: 279). Tappan's appearance likewise seemed to count against him. His fine physique and stately, haughty bearing caused awe and admiration on the part of the students but resentment on the part of those whose friendship it was essential that he should keep. Legislators, Regents, and faculty members often felt themselves snubbed. Many of the professors began to take sides either for or against Tappan, and friction inevitably resulted.
No faculty member was bitterer in his feeling toward Tappan than Alexander Winchell, Professor of Physics and Civil Engineering from 1853 to 1855 and Professor of Geology, Zoology, and Botany for the remainder of Tappan's administration and for some time thereafter. About eighteen months after his arrival in Ann Arbor, Winchell had remarked in the presence of Joseph H. Vance, then Acting Librarian, that the faculty was dissatisfied with the President's management of the library funds. Vance, who was close to Tappan in the early days of his administration, repeated the information to the President, as is attested by Tappan's "Review" (p. 1125) as well as by a manuscript in the Alexander Winchell Papers entitled, "Statements of Professor A. Winchell Touching His Relations with the President of the University. Designed for the Individual Information of Members of the Board of Regents" (Dec. 30, 1856). From then on both Tappan and Winchell took advantage of every opportunity to antagonize each other. In one instance at least, the interests of the University were sacrificed because of the personal antagonism between Winchell and Tappan.
In September 1857, at the meeting of the Detroit Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Port Huron, resolutions were introduced condemning the moral condition at the University. That the condemnatory resolutions were without question partly instigated by Winchell is clear from the following extract from his diary:
… The Report of the Committee on Education, in speaking of the University severely denounce[d] Tappan for his lack of interest in the moral and religious condition of the institution, for his discouraging prayer meetings among the students & dispensing with public evening prayers. This was a responsible step & I think a right one. It will be a severe blow to Tappan. This part of the report was framed under my instigation. I am bound Tappan shall feel keenly the effects of his persecution of me.
(Winchell, MS, "Diary," Sept. 10, 1857.)
The resolutions which openly condemned Tappan were not published in the Minutes of the Detroit Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which included the eastern half of the state; however, there appeared in these Minutes a more general statement (quoted in R.P., 1837-64, p. 701) which made no mention of Tappan but stated: "We are sorry to say that many of its [the University's] friends have their fears that its moral and religious condition is such as greatly to impair its usefulness." Winchell tells of the change of plans in his diary under date of October 12:
Was called on by Rev. T. C. Gardner who gave me a copy of the minutes of the Methodist Conference at Port Huron and vexed me by the information that the publishing committee had taken the responsibility through timidity of omitting those passages in the education report, which reflected so severely upon Dr. Tappan. I had build [sic] many expectations upon the formal expression of condemnation by the conference & I feel much chagrinned that the weakness of 3 men should defeat the solemn intentions of three score.
A more pointed resolution was passed by the Michigan Conference, the Methodist conference for the western half of the state, at its meeting at Lansing, September 16, 1857. These resolutions were prompted in part by the strong sectarian opposition to the University throughout the state — an opposition, which naturally resulted from the efforts of the various religious groups to maintain denominational colleges in the state more or less in competition with the University. Since the earliest days of the University in Ann Arbor sectarian opposition had threatened to prove seriously detrimental (White, I: 279). Tappan's desire to eliminate the religious element as a factor in the appointment of professors, together with his own lack of sectarian bias, provided ample opportunity for criticism during a period when religious prejudices were strong. Although he was a Presbyterian clergyman, he frequently attended other churches in Ann Arbor. His "lack of loyalty" to his own church won him no friends in the other denominations and lost him many in his own.
Excerpts from Winchell's diary show how strong the feeling was between himself and the President. A conflict also arose between Winchell and Silas H. Douglass, Professor of Chemistry and Tappan's closest friend on the faculty. This conflict likewise played an important part in the story of Tappan's administration. Douglass was naturally allied to Tappan, if for no other reason, because of a dislike for Winchell arising from a well-grounded fear that he would try to obtain a professorship of chemistry (Winchell, MS, "Diary," Oct. 29, 1854). Andrew D. White, in his Autobiography, stated: "[Tappan] was drawn into a quarrel not his own, between two scientific professors. This quarrel became exceedingly virulent; at times it almost paralyzed the university, and finally it convulsed the State" (I: 279). In all points at issue Tappan backed Douglass against Winchell, and cliques were formed within the faculty. In a letter to Erastus Otis Haven written in June 1859, Winchell stated that "Profs Boise, Fasquelle & White are, with me, the objects of his [Tappan's] special suspicion. Prof Frieze votes with them in Faculty meetings." White's testimony, however, was: "A small number of us, including Judge Cooley and Professors Frieze, Fasquelle, Boise, and myself, simply maintained an 'armed neutrality.'"
Much of the feeling against Tappan on the part of the faculty resulted from his desire to determine policies largely without faculty aid. This attitude was bound to meet with opposition from a group, which had, previous to his appointment, controlled matters since delegated to the president. Regardless of the fact that the faculty had not always made the best use of the power, which had been previously assigned to it, the assumption of its major functions naturally caused resentment.
The strongest feeling seems to have arisen over the question of the purchase of books for the Library. It had been customary for members of the faculty to submit lists of the books, which they would like to have purchased. Tappan was accused — for example, in a manuscript "Statement Drawn Up by A. Winchell at the Request of Regent McIntyre," January 29, 1861 — of disregarding the lists submitted by the faculty and of purchasing instead books of his own and of the librarian's choice. The fact that Tappan’s son, John, held the office of librarian did not ease the minds of those who were aroused over the issue. Although Tappan probably chose wisely, the faculty resented having its lists of recommended works disregarded.
Opposition to Tappan on the part of some members of the faculty was shared by many of the citizens of the state as well as by some of the legislators, although the out ward hostility died down after 1855. Unfortunately, Tappan had been inaugurated by Regent Palmer as President and Chancellor (R.S.P.I., 1854, pp. 87-88), and the adoption of the title "Chancellor," together with Tappan's admiration for the Prussian system, led to hostile attacks on all sides. The censure of the University by the two annual conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Michigan likewise led to criticism of Tappan's administration. Results of the popular antagonism were inevitably felt in the legislature, and Tappan was unable to obtain the financial aid, which he sought (White, I: 278-79).
The struggle within the faculty and the petty criticisms throughout the state indicate some of the forces, which were undermining the apparent prosperity of the University even during the period 1852-58. It is difficult to reconstruct the picture in its true proportions and determine the varied forms, which the dissensions took, but certain it is that the opposition to Tappan was not a sudden, uncalled-for show of power on the part of some members of the Board, which took office in 1858.
The second period, 1858-63. — The Board of Regents elected to take office in 1858 was composed of Benjamin L. Baxter, J. Eastman Johnson, Levi Bishop, Donald McIntyre, Ebenezer Lakin Brown, George W. Pack, Luke H. Parsons, William M. Ferry, George Bradley, and John Van Vleck. Pack failed to qualify, and Henry Whiting took his place; Van Vleck resigned almost immediately, and was succeeded by Oliver L. Spaulding; Regent Parsons died in 1862. Of this group at least three determined from the very beginning to alter the government of the University as established under the preceding Board. It is interesting to speculate just how much influence the anti-Tappan group in the faculty exerted, when one reads a passage like the following, entered by Winchell in his diary under date of January 2, 1858:
Yesterday the new Board of Regents came into office. Six of the eight were here. They seem to be wide awake to the importance of avoiding the domination of one man. Parsons & McIntyre in conversation agreed that it was wrong that a member of the Faculty should be president of their Board and thus overawe their deliberations. They thought they should have frequent occasion to withdraw to "committee room." Bishop told me the same thing & stated that it was their intention to derive matters of fact from professors when they were the parties principally interested. McIntyre said they should consult the professors privately & not in the presence of Tappan …
Such an attitude on the part of some of the new Regents was bound to create considerable friction. Their determination that the government of University affairs should be in the hands of the Board led them to investigate a great many questions of University procedure. A study of the minutes of the first meeting indicates the thoroughness with which at least certain members of the Board intended to go into problems before them — an attitude which the public naturally construed as uncomplimentary to the last Board and to the President. Not one of the preceding Board had been re-elected, and this may have been interpreted by the new Regents as popular dissatisfaction with the policies followed by that Board. One is inclined to believe, however, that the chief difficulty lay in the reforming zeal of some of the new members of the Board, and particularly of the member from Detroit, Levi Bishop.
Bishop was exactly the type of man who would be most antagonized by a person of President Tappan's disposition. Bishop was a self-made man who wished to dominate. He liked a good fight, and he liked publicity. Although an Easterner by birth, he resented evidences of the Eastern culture which Tappan represented. Even from the first his attitude was unfriendly to Tappan, and there is evidence that by the end of two years he was already deciding who Tappan's successor should be (Winchell, letter to Haven, June 1, 1859, MS, "Letter Press Book," I: 312-13).
Bishop was able to draw support on some issues from other members of the Board, chiefly Luke H. Parsons and Donald McIntyre, the resident Regent. According to Tappan, McIntyre became the real executive of the University so far as the Regents were concerned. His business office in Ann Arbor was the business office of the University, and members of the faculty went to him with their problems (Tappan, "Review," pp. 1162-63).
The Board of Regents, which served from 1858 to 1863, contributed much to the material prosperity of the University. The Law School was put into operation in October 1859, with three of Michigan's jurists as the professors — James V. Campbell, Charles I. Walker, and Thomas M. Cooley. In 1862 there was constructed a law building in which the Department of Law, Law Library, and General Library were housed. This Board established both a law library and a medical library, and an addition of more than seven thousand volumes was made to the General Library collection. A chair of military engineering and tactics was established, but no able man was found to fill the place, because of the need for military officers in active duty during the Civil War. Additions to the museums continued, the most notable gift being that made by former Professor William P. Trowbridge and the Smithsonian Institution. This collection, according to Winchell's formal report of 1863, consisted of 1,581 specimens, chiefly of mammals, birds, and reptiles (Report, pp. 9, 17).
Several questions, which were destined to become important to the University in after years were considered by this Board, and lengthy reports were made. The questions included the admission of women, the establishment of a chair of homeopathy, and the removal of the Department of Medicine and Surgery to Detroit. The Board determined against these measures despite strong pressure for their adoption (R.P., 1837-64, pp. 1114-15).
The second period of the Tappan administration was, like the first, a time of growth and material accomplishment in the University, but the lack of peace and harmony was much more obvious than it had been in the first five years. There was not even the outward appearance of calm. Under the encouragement of certain Regents who were determined to curb Tappan, opposition to him, which in the earlier years might have remained unexpressed became articulate, and the conflict became an open one.
The issue, which brought the struggle to a head was the revision of the bylaws by the Board of Regents. Not long after the new Board took office there was a conflict between the President and the Regent from Detroit. In presenting his annual report for 1858, the President stated that he had, temporarily and in the absence of the Board, appointed an assistant to Professor Williams. Regent Bishop, at the Board's meeting on December 21, stated:
It was an act wholly unauthorized by any vote or precedent of the Board, and placed the Board in an embarrassing position. They have either got to be saddled with this extra expense, in which they have had no voice, or they have got to do an act of injustice, in refusing the payment for services performed.
(Winchell, MS, "Scrapbook," I: 31.)
At the meeting the next day a lengthy discussion between Bishop and the President took place, ill feeling being shown on both sides. The President requested that the Board settle the question of his authority. At this meeting Regent McIntyre stood behind the President, and other Regents urged harmony (Winchell, MS, "Scrapbook," I: 32). At the afternoon session on the same day, Regent Bishop, perhaps as a result of Tappan's suggestion that the Board determine his authority in the matter, introduced a resolution "that a Committee of three of which the Secretary shall be one, be appointed to collect and present in a convenient form all the general rules and regulations of this Board now in force." Regents Bishop and Spaulding and D. L. Wood of Ann Arbor, Secretary of the Board, were the members of the committee, which, although appointed for the purpose of collecting and arranging in a convenient form the rules already in force, presented in its report a new code of rules and regulations.
This report, which was made in March 1859, was laid on the table, to be referred to a committee of the whole. After having been revised by the committee of the whole, the rules were ordered printed, despite the opposition of the President. In June 1859, at the suggestion of the President, the code was referred to the faculties for consideration and suggestions, but before faculty suggestions could be received and considered the Board declared the code "in full force and effect." The faculties reported at the December meeting, 1859, and a new committee was appointed to present important amendments. It was not until December 1860, that the revised code was finally adopted, but even in this form it was very unsatisfactory to the President ("Review," pp. 1154-57; R.P., 1837-64, p. 802 et passim).
The chief differences between Tappan's point of view and that of the Regents concerned the question of the composition and powers of committees set up under the new code. Tappan's opinion of the difficulties follows:
[In discussing the code] we came to the article distributing the Board into ten standing committees, and assigning their powers. To this I objected, as virtually absorbing all the executive powers of the President. The article in question provided for the selection of these committees, exclusively from members of the Board, and the committees had been so formed from the time of the adoption of the first code reported. Much discussion ensued. The President proposed, as a compromise, that he should be made Chairman of the Executive and Library Committees; and that the latter committee be composed, jointly, of members of the Board, and of members of the Faculties, together with the Librarian. This compromise was rejected. … Finding his efforts to obtain amendments unavailing, the President retired. The Regents then proceeded, and adopted the code as printed in the second edition.
("Review," p. 1155.)
Although Tappan failed to bring about amendments at this time, a resolution was adopted in June, 1860, placing the president on the executive committee of the Board.
In his annual report for 1860, Tappan presented to the Board his views on the respective powers of Regents and president. Regent Bishop, in a vituperative speech (Winchell, MS, "Scrapbook," I: 89), objected to the acceptance of the report, but it was accepted and placed on the table. That part, which dealt with the code was not sent by the Regents to the superintendent of public instruction, although the custom previously observed was to transmit the entire report of the president.
The conflict over the code became so bitter that friends of President Tappan attempted to obtain legislation limiting the authority of the Regents. (A copy of the act is in the "Scrapbook," I: 95.) Tappan favored the act, since he was fully persuaded that the Board of Regents could be curbed in no other way. Many friends of the University, however, including the University Senate, feared that restrictive legislation would permanently injure the University, and the University Senate, at a meeting on February 9, 1861, unanimously voted against the policy of promoting any legislation (see Part II: Senate and Senate Council). On February 12 the Senate again met and attempted to formulate principles for compromise, which would satisfy both the President and the Board of Regents.* The Senate proposed that the President be placed on the executive committee and on the library committee, and that the library committee also have among its members representatives from each of the faculties as well as the University librarian. These recommendations were adopted by the Regents at their meeting of March, 1861, but the victory for Tappan, even on these two points, was a shallow one, for, as he stated in his "Review" (p. 1157), the executive committee of which he was made the chairman never held a meeting so far as he knew.
The attitude expressed by three of the Regents to Professor Winchell when they first took office was then not shared by the rest of the Board, but by the time that the revision of the rules was under discussion at least some of the other Board members had been won over by Regents Bishop, Parsons, and McIntyre. Though Regent Bishop was shrewd in his tactics, one wonders why his crude methods did not antagonize rather than appeal. Immediately upon taking office he had revived the newspaper discussions, which had for some time been quiescent. In a series of articles, which bear varying signatures, not only official actions of the Board of Regents but also the discussions in Board meetings were revealed in detail and commented on, and advantage was taken of many other likely occasions upon which to air the difficulties between the Regents and Tappan. These newspaper articles, many of which are in the first volume of Winchell's "University of Michigan Scrapbook," have been attributed to Regent Bishop, since whenever he was accused of writing them he did not deny authorship. Articles from other persons criticizing the University also found their way into the contributors' column.
It is also evident that some members of the Board took advantage of the division in the faculty and encouraged the antagonism to Tappan on the part of certain members of the faculty. Winchell's attitude was known and utilized. Professor Boise was a relative of Bishop and apparently was won over by the Detroit Regent. Professor James Craig Watson, assistant to Brünnow, was encouraged to feel that his appointment as Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Observatory was merely a matter of time (Tappan, "Review," p. 1148).
The question of the appointment of a director of the Observatory was one of the early trials of strength by the Bishop forces. In June 1859, Brünnow resigned the professorship of astronomy to accept an appointment as Director of the Dudley Observatory at Albany, but he suggested that he keep, without salary, the directorship of the Observatory at the University of Michigan. James Craig Watson was appointed Professor of Astronomy during his absence. It was Bishop's desire to defeat the resolution permitting Tappan's son-in-law to keep the directorship of the Observatory (Winchell, MS, "Scrapbook," I: 69-70, 72-73). The resolution was passed, however, by a vote of seven to two, the two negative votes being cast by Regents Bishop and Parsons. Brünnow's acceptance of the position at Albany was considered by Tappan's opponents as the first step toward a change in the presidency. Apparently it was felt that if Brünnow could be forced out of the University the resignation of Tappan would follow, and in June 1859, Bishop and Winchell were considering a successor to Tappan. Winchell wrote Haven on June 1, 1859:
Brünnow's departure is considered the signal for another. I heartily wish you might step in. You shall have all my influence if the vacancy occurs. One of the Regents (Bishop) thinks it would be well for you to visit the state.
(Winchell, MS, "Letter Press Book," I: 312-13.)
With a group of faculty members working against him within the University and a group of Regents reviving the opposition of the public, Tappan had little chance to remain president of the University unless his enemies failed to win over a majority of the Board. Tappan himself decided the issue. At meetings of the Board he defended himself against the anonymous newspaper attacks and charged Bishop with their authorship. According to extant accounts of discussions at the Regents' meetings (Winchell, MS, "Scrapbook," I), he called upon the Board of Regents to stand behind him and pointed out that he had had no difficulty with the previous Board. The Regents, apparently, felt that Tappan's tendency to augment the seriousness of the attacks made upon him and his willingness to argue with Bishop in Board meetings would lead to permanent harm to the University. Tappan's espousal of legislative efforts to interfere with the government of the University was probably a strong factor in driving a majority of the Regents to Bishop's side in the controversy. Whatever the causes, toward the end of its term of office the Board was almost unanimously of the opinion that a change in the executive office was needed. Shortly after Commencement in 1863 the Regents passed by a vote of six to none the resolution that "Dr. Henry P. Tappan be and he is hereby removed from the offices and duties of President of the University of Michigan and Professor of Philosophy therein." Regents Spaulding and Ferry were not present, and Regent Baxter was excused from voting.
At the same meeting Erastus Otis Haven was unanimously elected president.
The removal of Tappan from the presidency was immediately greeted by citizens, students, and alumni with a storm of protest (Winchell, MS, "Scrapbook," I: 115-37). Meetings were held and resolutions passed urging his restoration as president by the Board which was to take office the following January. Five months had yet to pass — sufficient time for the newly elected president to quiet the opposition and prove himself master of the situation. Even many of Tappan's friends believed that in the interests of the University the removal must be accepted as an accomplished fact. The University Senate unanimously passed the following resolution:
Resolved, That we recognize the appointment of Dr. Haven as an accomplished fact, as the present legally established order of things in the University, which its peace and best interests will not allow to be treated as unsettled or open to agitation and doubt, and that we cordially extend to our new President our pledge of an earnest disposition to unite with him in laboring for the purposes to which we have agreed to devote ourselves by assuming our respective offices, and that we receive him in full confidence that his character and ability will enable him to secure the respect and reliance of the public, and the continuance of the esteem with which we welcome him.
(R.P., 1837-64, p. 1061.)
Only alumni and students continued to agitate for the restoration of President Tappan, although his friends sincerely regretted that the Board of Regents had taken the step. Professor Frieze said in his memorial address:
The unhappy circumstance, which brought an end to an administration begun so auspiciously, conducted with such ability, and attended with such grand results, will never cease to be a source of painful regret. It is in the very nature of great qualities — of moral force and brave purposes, to call forth resistance. Thus the work of strong men is sometimes shortened; though, thank God, their ideas are not limited, "and their works do follow them."
(Frieze, p. 40.)
In September 1863, President Tappan left Ann Arbor for Europe, where he remained for the rest of his life. He was invited to be present at the Commencement of 1875, but was unable to accept the invitation. Advanced age and the difficulties of ocean travel dissuaded him, and also, as is revealed by a letter from Mrs. Tappan to Mary H. Clark (May 11, 1875), the old wound still remained. His declination was received by the Regents in February, 1875, and ordered printed in the minutes, and in June the following paper was introduced and adopted:
The University of Michigan, through its Board of Regents, places upon record:
First. A sincere regret that circumstances prevented the acceptance by the Rev. Henry P. Tappan of the invitation of the Board, to be our guest at this Commencement, and the hope that the health of himself and family will permit him to be present and with us in 1876.
Second. A full recognition of the great work done by him in organizing and constructing this institution of learning upon the basis from which its present prosperity has grown.
Third. The regret that any such action should ever have been taken as would indicate a want of gratitude for his eminent services, on the part of the University and the People of the State of Michigan.
Fourth. A repeal and withdrawal of any censure express or implied, contained in the resolution, which severed his connection with the University.
(R.P., 1870-76, p. 451.)
On November 15, 1881, Tappan died at Vevey, Switzerland; he was buried on the shores of Lake Geneva, where he had spent many of the last years of his life.
Thus ended the career of the University of Michigan's first great president. Although driven from the scene of his educational experiments, he had the satisfaction of knowing that even within the span of his own lifetime, the University of Michigan had become, as a result of his farsighted policies, one of the greatest universities in America. We cannot yet judge the full import of the reforms, which he introduced as he strove toward his ideal of a true university, but the passage of time has eliminated the bitter memories, connected with his administration and has made possible a truer evaluation of his contribution to the development of the University of Michigan.
Elizabeth S. Adams
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