The Michigan Alumnus 128-130
CHANCELLOR TAPPAN - A REMINISCENCE
By Byron M. Cutcheon, ‘61
I well remember with what interest— almost veneration—we looked up in our college days, to the men who had gradu ated from the University, in " the Forties." When I entered, in 1857, fifteen years carried us back to the very first graduate.
Thirty-four years have flown by, and a century of history has been made and written, since that June day in 1861 when we heard the voice of dear, old Chancellor Tappan—he will always be " Chancellor " to us—pronounce his last command; "Ascendat!" We "as cended," one by one, to receive from his hand the hard-earned and long- coveted diploma; and to hear his brief address pronounced in the stately and world-conquering Latin tongue.
I suppose that we who graduated before the war must seem quite patri archal to the youngsters who have not yet seen their commencement day; and it may be that our reminiscences may bear a stamp of antiquity that almost assigns them to the mythological era of University life.
My first visit to the University was in the autumn of 1853, when the North College—(now north wing of University Hall)—was used as dormitories, and " larks" were common. The only buildings on the Campus were the North and South Colleges, the old, or Greek, part of the Medical College, and the four professor's dwellings—two on the north and two on the south side.
The Campus itself was a wide and beautiful park-like meadow, where cows roamed at will, and where, in its season, the hay was harvested, and stood in cocks waiting to be hauled away. There was, in the older catalogues, a picture of the University at this time. It was a handsome steel engraving, and was taken, I think, from the high land to the eastward, and presented a lovely scene of rural peace and quiet. That picture ought to be reproduced and enlarged, and hung in the President's room, or some other appropriate place. It marks the beginning of the University.
The library occupied a single room in the North College, —not a large room either. There was no art gallery or art collection. By the way, some one ought to write the history of that library, its beginning, its development and its various migrations. It has had a checkered career. I believe that Professor Asa Gray's herbarium was stowed away somewhere in closets, or cases, but was rarely ever seen.
In the central por tion of the North College, in my student days, was the chapel. A large furnace, or heater, stood in the central portion of it, which warmed the library, then directly over it. The chapel was not a large room, and yet it was sufficient in those days to hold the entire Literary Department. The seats were all num bered conspicuously; a number was assigned to each student, and he was expected to "cover his number" at morning prayers, or he was marked for absence. Five such marks, unexcused, brought him before the faculty, and a certain number additional made him liable to supension. Jollie, the janitor, stood in front during chapel exercises, and, with eagle eye, sought out the vacant numbers, and acted as recording angel. When the "last bell" began to toll the stately form of the Chancellor could be seen emerging from his garden, and, passing near the "Tappan oak," advance with measured and dignified pace toward the chapel, accompanied by his two big dogs, Buff and Leo.
He was a magnificent specimen of man- hood. As I remember him, he was fully six feet tall, with a grand head set upon massive shoulders. A full suite of dark brown hair, worn rather long and con siderably disordered, crowned and adorned the head. His face, which is familiar to the present generation through his picture, was pleasant and attractive, though never exhibiting levity, and rarely humor. The nose was large and somewhat Roman. The rather long side beard had not yet turned gray.
His carriage was upright and digni fied. I never saw him in a hurry. He was always approachable, but never familiar nor invited familiarity. He sometimes indulged in a jest, and once or twice in a pun. We had two Posts in the class—both still with us to honor old '61—ordinarily called Post 1st, and Post 2nd. Sometimes the Doctor would vary the monotony by calling Post, and then " The other side of the gate!" We had two Lords, brothers, one of them long since gone to his rest—the other, John Smith Lord, still among the salt of the earth. The Doctor was taking down the names. "And your name?" he queried. "John S. Lord," was the reply. "Ah," said the Doctor, what's the S. for? " Smith," explained Lord. "Oh yes" said the Doctor, " they first called you John Smith, and then remembering that was as good as no name, they added the Lord."
Doctor Tappan was intensely patriotic. Before the war he had been extremely conservative on the slavery question. I thought too much so. But when the South fired on the flag, and sought to destroy the Union, it roused him to an intense heat. When the news came of the firing on Sumpter a great mass- meeting was held in the Court House square. Chancellor Tappan addressed it. It was Sunday. The feeling was tense. The Doctor was eloquent and fiery and disclosed depths of feeling which we never supposed him to possess.
It may be that this spirit of patriotism on the part of Dr. Tappan had some- thing to do with the fact that more than half of the class of '61 entered the service of their country, and a goodly num ber of them wrote their names on the roll of the noble army of martyrs. Arn died heroically at Shiloh; Beaver, the quiet but reliable student and soldier, passed away from the hospital at Washington; the scholarly and accom plished but brave and chivalric McCol lum—one of our youngest and brightest —went down in the leaden hail at Spottsylvania; and Morse fell in the cavalry charge under the knightly Broadhead, at the second Bull Run.
About a week before commencement 1863, I came home from the army on a few days sick leave, while my regiment was en route to Vicksburg, Miss. By invitation I dined with Dr. Tappan. It was the last time I ever saw him. His heart was evenly divided between the University and the army in the field. We had many of the University boys in my regiment. He inquired after them all. He talked of the generals from whom I came, and of Grant to whom I was going. He sent messages of affec tion to his boys. He talked of the future of the University. He was planning for larger and broader things. He seemed to think of nothing but a long continued connection with the institution which he had served for twelve years, and of which he had done so much to lay the broad foundations.
Scarcely three weeks later, while in camp in front of Vicksburg, the news came of his removal. There was indignation hot and curses both loud and deep. An indignation meeting was held at headquarters. No record of the proceedings was kept, except in memory. Of those present at that meet ing, McCollum, Carpenter, Wiltsie, Ainsworth and Blood, all captains and all belonging to the 20th Michigan, within a year slept in soldiers' graves. All died in battle. Doctor Tappan soon went abroad, and I believe never again returned to America.
It was almost sixteen years later, in June 1879, that, as a member of the Board of Regents, I offered the follow ing resolution:
"Resolved, That a new Professorship, to be known as the Tappan Professor ship, be and is hereby established in the Department of Law; and that the Honorable Alpheus Felch be and is hereby appointed to said Professorship." The resolution was unanimouslv adopted.
The acknowledgment of Dr. Tappan, dated at Basel, Switzerland, Aug. 30, 1879, in his own well-known heavily- traced handwriting now lies before me. He says:
"My Dear Sir:
I have received your favour informing me that the Regents have established a new Law Professorship, to which they have appointed Ex-Governor Felch, and have done me the honor to attach my name to the same, as its distinctive title. Please express to the Honorable Regents in my behalf my warm acknowledgments for this mark of attention and regard, and also my unfeigned satisfaction that the Professorship has been filled by one of Michigan's most worthy and honored citizens, and one whose name is so conspicuously identified with her history.
Henry P. Tappan.
Not very long afterward he rested from his labors, " and his works do follow him." I venture to affirm that in the minds of the Alumni who gradu ated from 1851 to 1863, no form stands out so boldly, as the embodiment of our idea of the University, as that of President Henry P. Tappan.