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Bio

Henry Philip Tappan
Hinsdale and Demmon, History of the University of Michigan 217

Henry Philip Tappan was born at Rhinebeck on the Hudson, New York April 18, 1805.

His father's family was of Huguenot extraction; on his mother's side he was Dutch. He entered Union College at the age of sixteen and was graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1825. Two years later he was graduated from the Auburn Theological Seminary and became associate pastor of the Dutch Reformed church in Schenectady, New York, for one year. He was next settled as pastor of the Congregational church at Pittsfield, Massachusetts. To this charge he took with him his newly married wife, a daughter of Colonel John Livingston, of New York.

At the end of three years he was obliged to seek health and made a trip to the West Indies. On his return in 1832 he was elected professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy in the University of the City of New York. He had been a critic of the American college. He felt that it was not equal to the demands of American society, and now that he had become a teacher he began to study the problem more closely. He saw the need of better libraries and apparatus, better-equipped faculties, and more freedom in the choice of studies; but his superiors were not yet prepared for his advanced ideas, and he resigned his chair. This was in 1838.

He now turned his attention to authorship, at the same time conducting a private school. In 1839 appeared his "Review of Edwards's Inquiry into the Freedom of the Will"; in 1840, "The Doctrine of the Will Determined by an Appeal to Consciousness"; in I841, "The Doctrine of the Will Applied to Moral Agency and Responsibility"; in 1844, "Elements of Logic"; in 1851, A treatise on "University Education"; and in 1852, "A Step from the New World to the Old and Back Again."

In 1852 he was invited to resume his former chair of Philosophy in the University of the City of New York, and the same year he was elected to the presidency of the University of Michigan. He accepted the call from Michigan and became the first President of the University, and Professor of Philosophy.

He believed that a university worthy of the name must arise from the successive stages of primary and secondary schools. But these could be secured in completeness and perfection only by state authority, and by state and municipal appropriations derived from public funds and public taxation. These conditions he found partially established in the State of Michigan.

Hope took possession of his heart, and he proceeded to create the American university according to his idea; but he moved faster than the circumstances would warrant, and after eleven years of labor he left the work to other hands. The seed he sowed took root, and in due time his controlling idea was embodied in practice, which was the university lecture and freedom in the choice of studies.

A more detailed account of his work at Ann Arbor will be found in the chapter devoted to his administration. He received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Union College in 1845 and the degree of Doctor of Laws from Columbia in 1854. In 1856 he was elected a corresponding member of the Imperial Institute of France.

On leaving Michigan in 1863 he went immediately to Europe. In Berlin, Paris, Bonn, Frankfort, Basel, and Geneva he found literary friends and cultivated circles glad to welcome him. He resided at Basel for some years, and finally purchased a beautiful villa at Vevey, on the shores of Lake Geneva, where he passed his declining years, and where he died November 15, 1881. He lies buried, with his entire family, high up on the vine-clad slopes above Vevey, facing the lake, with its heavenly blue, and the glorious mountains of Savoy beyond.

Thither more than one of his old Michigan boys found their way in the after years to do homage at his tomb.