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Reminiscence

Henry Philip Tappan
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.