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.