The Michigan Alumnus 320-324
Dr. Tappan as a Builder of the University
By Charles M. Perry, Ph. D., Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oklahoma
(This articles by Dr. Perry are also appearing in the MICHIGAN HISTORY MAGAZINE, a quarterly published by the Michigan Historical Association.)
After having attained his philosophical viewpoint in The Essays On the Will and the Elements of Logic, Tappan had turned his attention to the problems of University edu cation.
The thing that started him to write his book on University Education was Wayland's Report to the Corporation of Brown University in 1850. In that report a brief history of the development of colleges in England and America was given. The Universities of Cambridge and Oxford were estab lished mainly to educate the clergy. They were retreats for studious men to retire to devote them selves to meditation and the study of the arts and sciences. A college within one of the universities consisted of a master, tutors, fellows, and students, the whole society forming but one family. They lived in a college building in the form of a quadrange open in the center and admitting of but one entrance. The gate was closed at a certain hour, after which no one was allowed to come in or go out. In the course of time these colleges usurped the place of the university, the latter having only the nominal power of conferring degrees.
It was at this stage of their development that they were copied by the founders and admin istrators of colleges in this country. One of the differences in the American institutions was that even the nominal university was omitted and degrees were conferred by the colleges directly. This variation left us without universities. Another difference was that while American colleges as sumed responsibility for superintending the stu dents they were incapable of discharging it as most of their professors and instructors lived outside of the college buildings. American students had, therefore, been deprived of the humanizing effect of daily association with older and well bred men.
The effect on the mind of the teacher was equal ly bad. He had generally to teach from textbooks, and textbooks written by others. Under such con ditions he could not have the best influence upon the mind of the pupil, the time of the recitation being commonly used to ascertain whether the pupil had learned his lesson. The teacher had, also, little incentive to increase his knowledge as he already knew more than he had opportunity to impart. He often carried on enterprises other than his teach ing, or became reconciled to and finally in love with his monotonous routine. This was fatal to profes sional success.
To meet the situation Wayland proposed dras tic measures. The system of adjusting collegiate study to a fixed term of four years should be aban doned. The time allotted to each particular course of instruction should be determined by the nature of the course. Every student should be allowed, so far as practicable, to study "what he chose, all that he chose, and nothing but what he chose." Courses should be continued without interruption until completed. In addition to the existing courses of instruction courses should be added that would meet the wants of the various classes in the com- munity. No student should be under any obligation to proceed to a degree, and every student should be entitled to a certificate of such proficiency as he might have made in every course pursued.
Tappan was greatly influenced by Wayland, if we may judge by the number of references in the former's essay on University Education to Way land's report of 1850. But Tappan was different from Wayland in important respects. The latter as steady going, capable of collecting vast masses of facts and marshalling them. He was compact in style and democratic in spirit. Tappan on the other hand was idealistic, almost sentimental, often rhap sodical in expression, and inclined to be aristo cratic.
Schools for the people do not come first in his tory according to Tappan. "The highest schools of learning were chronologically first. Schools for the people were not the elements out of which univer sities took their growth; on the contrary, Schools for the people grew out of the Universities." And the State is not the origin of universities. "Univer sities were not created originally by the State, but were the work of individuals. Solitary scholars commenced courses of public lectures which at tracted pupils. Here was the beginning of the Universities. Afterward Colleges were endowed by benevolent patrons. The State gave its influence and authority only after eminence had been at tained." Thus Tappan, like the true Platonist that he was, would start to reform at the top instead of the bottom.
As the solution of the problem of higher education Tappan would restore the ancient university ideal, which had been abandoned at Oxford and Cambridge and had never been transplanted to America. Universities are "Cyclopaedias of educa tion: where, in libraries, cabinets, apparatus, and professors, provision is made for carrying forward all scientific investigation; where study may be ex tended without limit, where the mind may be cult ivated according to its wants, and where, in the lofty enthusiasm of growing knowledge and ripen ing scholarship, the bauble of an academic diploma is forgotten. When we have such institutions, those who would be scholars will have some place to re sort to; and those who have already the gifts of scholarship will have some place where to exercise them. With such institutions in full operation, the public will begin to comprehend what scholarship means, and discern the difference between sociolists and men of learning."
What Tappan wanted was a university. And there was no use of postponing it. "While these commendable, although limited experiments are making in different quarters, all scholars and all true friends of learning will do well to inquire, ' whether there really be any good reason why we should not now create in our country at least one great institution of learning that may vie with the best of the old world. Have we not the means in abundance? Shall the little principalities of Ger many surpass these wealthy and powerful States?"
Tappan cared for popular education only in directly. He saw with discerning eye that talent could not be elicited where it did not exist in the first place. He would keep the different grades of instruction separate; common schools as common schools, trade schools as trade schools, colleges as colleges, and the university should have recognition in its specific character. But the philosophical branch of education should pervade the whole and prescribe correct method in the other branches. As against the other educators of his time in America Tappan stands out as the exponent of the univer sity system in the European sense.
There has been much confusion about Tappan's responsibility for the introduction of the Scientific course at the University of Michigan. The intro duction of the Scientific course is proudly exhibited by Mr. Utley, and even Andrew D. White regarded it as one of Tappan's achievements and stated that he might have had some little influence on the policy at Brown and Rochester. As a matter of fact the Scientific course was introduced at Union College twenty years before it was at Michigan; Wayland was considering it as early as 1842 and recom mended the introduction of practical courses to the Corporation of Brown University in 1850; and the Rochester experiment was well under way when Tappan began to write on university education. And the law of 1851 providing for the government of the University of Michigan prescribed a non- classical course before negotiations were taken up with Tappan. But, most important of all, his book on University Education proves conclusively that his interest was not with a popularization of the university but with the creation of an institution that should cultivate originality and genius. And the book was so interpreted by his opponents in the newspaper attack of 1853 and 1854. Men like Nott, Wayland and Mann were exponents of popular edu cation, but Tappan was distinctly the exponent of the philosophical ideal of a university.
His work at the University of Michigan was an effort to realize this ideal. He had a large job. Here he was to make great progress in securing the necessary equipment for research and the personnel to carry it forward. Here he was to have the magician's part in throwing a "resistless charm about scholarship and the scholar." During the time that the newspapers of the State were engaged in worrying him the constructive work was going quietly forward.
One of Tappan's early recommendations was the abolition of dormitories. He agreed with Wayland that furnishing board and lodgings was no legitimate function of an American College. The new university was not to be a preparatory school for boys; the chief diversion of college life should no longer consist of bothering the unfortunate in structors who had charge of the halls. Students were to be allowed to live among the residents of the town and to be encouraged to be responsible citizens, capable of deporting themselves properly, and, if they should fail to do so, the laws could take care of them as it does of any other citizens. Dr. Tappan advanced this additional argument: "The dormitory system is objectionable in itself. By withdrawing young men from the influences of domestic circles, and separating them from the community, they are often led to contract evil habits, and are prone to fall into disorderly con- duct. It is a mere remnant of the monkish cloisters of the Middle Ages, still retained in England, but banished from the universities of Germany." An incidental advantage of the change was that it re- leased much needed room for the work of instruction.
We have seen how Dr. Tappan within the first few months of his administration created an observatory which was soon to take its place among the great observatories of the world, and how he gave a decided impetus to the library of the Univer sity. He continued as fast as possible to round out the institution in other ways. In conjunction with Dr. Douglass he was instrumental in estab lishing a laboratory for analytical chemistry. His report for 1859 and 1860 states, with reference to this department, that "Sixty-seven students received instruction in the laboratory during the last year. It was thus filled to its utmost capacity. This pop ular and important branch of the University demands larger accommodations. Applications for admission have to be made in advance. Many, of course, who are desirous of availing themselves of its privileges are necessarily debarred." At his ur gent solicitation departments of physics and civil engineering were established and provided with equipment. Very early in his administration earnest effort was put forth to induce the Legisla ture to turn over to the University the twenty-two sections of salt spring land which the federal government had granted for the maintenance of an Ag ricultural school and an agricultural course was tentatively organized. Even after the land grant was lost and the Agricultural College started at Lansing, Tappan tried to retain a department of "Theoretical and Applied Agriculture" in the University.
One of the new President's most cherished plans was to have a museum of zoology, geology, and botany. Considerable material had already been contributed by Dr. Houghton, Dr. Sager and others, but it was stored in a garret. Tappan provided a gallery above the library for it and had the specimens classified, arranged, labeled, and made available to the students. At the same time correspondence was opened with the Smithsonian Institution, which resulted in liberal and valuable donations and exchanges. It was also part of Tap pan's original plan to have a collection of art. Pro fessor Frieze and Professor White ably supported him in this undertaking. The former laid the foun dation of the gallery by purchasing with his own money, during a visit to Europe, copies in terra cotta of some of the antiques in the gallery at Naples, and copies in plaster of Paris of the Apollo and other pieces in Rome, together with a large collection of engravings and photographs of the principal views in Rome. To this collection Professor White added a collection of medallions in plaster, named in honor of his father. Mrs. Tappan added a set of framed engravings of the cartoons of Raphael, and Dr. Tappan donated a copy of Raphael's Madonna and a large and valuable col lection of engravings and lithographs of works of the great masters in the galleries of Munich and Dresden. Further additions consisted of a copy of the Laocoon presented by one of the graduating classes, an engraving of Holbein's Madonna donated by a citizen of Dresden, and copies in marble of Rogers' Nydia and his Ruth given by citizens of Ann Arbor. This is a meager showing for a gallery, but in pioneer Michigan it was at least a beginning.
With this increased equipment and with the granting of larger discretion and respons ibility to the students an increase in the number of elective courses was inevitable. In the fourth year the curriculum in the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts a number of electives were permitted. Among these were astronomy, analyt ical chemistry, zoology, German, civil engineering, spherical astronomy and the use of instruments, a gricultural science, and lectures in history. In 1858 a University course was established which carried out Tappan's cherished ideal of giving in struction in the spirit of a true university. It was conducted by lectures and was open to any students who had received the Bachelor of Arts or the Bach elor of Science degree. Such students pursuing two courses during each semester of one year, sustaining an examination upon three of the courses, and pre senting a satisfactory thesis, was awarded the de gree of Master of Arts or that of Master of Science.
But in carrying out the university idea the selection of men for the staff was the most impor tant consideration. The coast was comparatively clear when Tappan came. Professor Ten Brook had resigned the chair of Mental and Moral Philosophy the year before, due to opposition of other members of the Faculty. A resolution had been offered in the last meeting of the preceding Board of Regents re moving Professor Whedon for advocating the "higher law," but this resolution had not been passed. A later resolution offered at the same meet ing had fixed the terms of office of Professors Whedon, Agnew, and Williams to expire with the current academic year, Professor Louis Fasquelle not being included. Before Tappan came the new Board had asked the retiring members of the Fac ulty if they wished to return to their positions, and Professor Williams had accepted. James R. Boise had been elected Professor of Ancient Languages on the same day when Tappan was elected. It thus turned out that the new President had only Profes sors Williams, Fasquelle, and Boise in the Literary Faculty when he arrived.
Tappan set immediately about increasing the staff. E. O. Haven, subsequently President of the University and later a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was called first to the chair of Latin and later transferred to that of History and English Literature. When Haven withdrew from the Universty his place was taken by Andrew D. White, whose subsequent career as a University president and as a diplomat is well known. Henry S. Frieze, who followed Haven in the chair of Latin, was later acting President of the University at a critical time and is known for his text of Vergil and for his extensive culture. Francis Brunnow, with whom we are already acquainted, was already a man of note and later won greater distinction in his field. And Alexander Winchell, who is known to us for his works on geology, for his generous enthusiasms in the field of education, and as Chan cellor of Syracuse University, became, after some shifting, Professor of Geology, Zoology, and Botany. Other names might be mentioned but these will serve to show what a brilliant group of men Tappan succeeded in gathering about him.
OF Dr. Tappan's own influence White spoke in an address given at a farewell banquet tendered him by the German American Society at Berlin in 1902. He said, among other things: "He was a statesman, a theologian, a patriot in the highest sense. ... To him, more than to any other, is due the fact that, about the year 1850, out of the old system of sectarian instruction, mainly in petty colleges obedient to deteriorated traditions of Eng lish methods, there began to be developed univer sities—drawing their ideals and methods largely from Germany." And again, in his Autobiography, he said: "Dr. Tappan's work was great, indeed. He stood not only at the beginning of the institution at Ann Arbor, but really at the beginning of the other universities of the Western States, from which the country is gaining so much at present, and is sure to gain vastly more in the future. The day will come when his statue will commemorate his services."
To Tappan a university was not the accidental creation of a majority vote. It might well be the result of a private munificence or royal bounty, as most institutions of the kind had been in the course of history. If by chance the externals of a univer sity had been provided by the people of a State he would take hold of them and, acknowledging re sponsibility only to God, he would make the most of them. The fountain of authority was the Platon ic reason, transmitted to this mundane world through genius. The university was one of the organs through which genius could express itself and by which it could receive its necessary training. If popular education was to be supported it was not that the people were the source of wisdom but that they had need of wisdom. From this it follows that education should not be at the mercy of popular whims. Whether a subject should be offered or not should not depend on whether it was desired but on whether it conformed to the architectonic plan of education.
The viewpoint required that great emphasis be placed on outstanding personalities, men who had insight and originality, men who had resources of their own which should enable them to teach with- out a textbook. In getting this kind of men Tap- pan was remarkably successful. To make the most, of them he had to provide facilities for them, the means of general culture and the means of research, libraries, museums, and laboratories. To the same end he had to enfranchise the students, remove them from tutelage and treat them as adults pursuing their own purposes. To insure that the University should not be swamped with preparatory work and should be left free to perform its proper function, he advocated changes in the State system of education that should correlate the various factors, high schools, denominational colleges and the like, in such a way as to get the preparatory work done before the students should come to Ann Arbor.