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Tribute by Andrew White

Henry Philip Tappan
The Michigan Alumnus 241-242


Andrew D. White on President Tappan
and the University as Tappan 
Made It


(From the address by Dr. "White at the farewell 
banquet tendered him November 11, 1902 by the 
German-American Society, at Berlin. Reprinted 
from Columbia, of Berlin, for December 1902.)


On my return home, after three 
years of study in various parts 
of Europe, my wish to act upon the younger generation of Ameri
cans led me to seek and find a profes
sorship in one of the state universities 
of the West, the University of the state 
of Michigan. It was one of the first
— perhaps the first—to break away 
from the old English, semiecclesias
tical system which we had inherited
 from Great Britain, and to adopt various features peculiar to the German 
universities. This fact especially at
tracted me, and I made haste to join 
those who were there attempting to
 give a better advanced education to the
 United States. It was in that univer
sity, which then numbered four hun
dred students, but which now numbers nearly four thousand, that I be
gan lecturing upon German history, 
and especially upon the men and 
events efficient in producing the great 
fabric which, in these latter years, 
has been so magnificently developed 
into the German Empire.


But here let me make haste to say 
that in so doing I but caught an in
spiration, which was already pervading the atmosphere of American thought. Hedge, Everett, and 
Longfellow at Harvard, Woolsey at
 Yale, George Bancroft and Bayard
 Taylor at New York and Washington, 
 to say nothing of other lights, had
 already done much. And here let me 
name to you one who should always 
be mentioned with respect, both in
 Germany and in my own country, as 
having, in one great field of this en
deavor, surpassed all his contempo
raries. He was a statesman, a theolo
gian, and a patriot in the highest sense. 
 In his latter years he lived here in
 Berlin for a time, and later at Basel, do
ing his best to make the two countries
 known to each other. This man was 
Henry Philip Tappan. He it was
 who gave this new impulse to that
 rising university of what was then the
 American West. He was met, indeed
 with obloquy, with ridicule, with op
position—political, sectarian, personal
—but he persevered. His speeches
 made before the legislature of his state 
and his addresses spread throughout 
the country were, at times, treated 
with contempt. But he conquered at 
last. To him, more than to any other, 
 is due the fact that, about the year
 1850, out of the old system of secta
rian instruction, mainly in petty col
leges obedient to deteriorated tradi
tions of English methods, there began 
to be developed universities—drawing 
their ideals and methods largely from
 Germany. It was my good fortune to 
be summoned by him into the faculty
 over which he presided, and then came 
the opportunity to give scope to my 
cherished ideas. 


Naturally such careers as those of 
the great Germans of the sixteenth
 century furnished abundant examples
 of the way in which reforms are made 
by faith and daring. The careers of
 sundry great men of the seventeenth 
century, and among them Thomasius, 
showed how evolution may take the 
place of revolution. The period of 
Frederick the Great and the transfor
mation of Prussia in the eighteenth
 
century showed what might be done by an administration at the same time bold and cautious. The work of Stein 
in the first half of the nineteenth cen
tury showed what could be done to
 remodel old institutions to meet the
 needs of new times; and the freedom 
war of Germany gave admirable lessons and cogent examples in view of 
the armed struggle which, as we could 
plainly see, was then drawing upon us
 in America — the last great appeal 
against slavery and for the preservation of the American Union.


In the University of Michigan and
 in Cornell University of the state of
 New York, as well as officially in
 various public bodies and as a private
 citizen in various assemblages, I con
tinued, after the war, my endeavor 
to acquaint the American people with
 German modes of thought and action; 
and to show how these might help in 
the further development of my own
 country.