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Title: Letter from Charles Phillips to David L. Swain, January 15, 1853: Electronic Edition.
Author: Phillips, Charles, 1822-1889
Funding from the University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill supported the electronic publication of this title.
Text transcribed by Bari Helms
Images scanned by Bari Helms
Text encoded by Amanda Page
First Edition, 2005
Size of electronic edition: ca. 30K
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2005
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text
The electronic edition is a part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2005-07-01, Amanda Page finished TEI/XML encoding.
Source(s):
Title of collection: University of North Carolina Papers (#40005), University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: Letter from Charles Phillips to David L. Swain, January 15, 1853
Author: Charles Phillips
Description: 4 pages, 4 page images
Note: Call number 40005 (University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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Letter from Charles Phillips to David L. Swain , January 15, 1853
Phillips, Charles, 1822-1889



Page 1
University of N.C.
January 15th 1853

My Dear Sir,

Your almost proverbial urbanity, and your invariable courtesy towards me, make me hope that I may not now be intrusive. The welfare of our beloved Alma Mater, to which you have devoted so many years of anxious solicitude, lies also very near my own heart, and impels me to seek from you information on several points that I must shortly decide. And first of all, I would most sincerely return thanks to the Honorable Board of Trustees for several unsought favours, unexpectedly conferred on me, especially for this latest and highest proof of their regard and confidence. My appointment to fill a chair in their new school of Science as applied to the Arts was entirely unlooked for. The limited amount of means at my disposal, and the unsuitableness, and inadequacy of my present attainments forbade me to seek for the Professorship of Civil Engineering. The liberal offer of the Trustees partly removes the first difficulty and the time allowed me for specific acquisitions almost entirely removes the other. Still, if you please, I would like to know what are the intentions and expectations of the Trustees, as to the results of their plans? —some of the lex non scripta on the point. In their Resolution they established here "A School for the application of Science to the Arts." Is it to be supplementary to (or independent of) the College course, where professional instruction is to be given, and having its own separate course of instruction, like Judge Battle's Law school and the kindred schools at Dartmouth, Harvard, Yale &c, one to which a pupil may resort of rapid and specific instruction in Engineering &c, & at the same time affording to the students of the

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Academic corps an opportunity of electing certain studies which may be considered as equivalents for what is ordinarily required for a diploma? Or is the course of Studies in the School to be so interwoven in the general College system as to afford facilities of its own to every candidate for A.B.? You will perceive that these are vital questions on which the comprehensiveness and success of the whole plan depend. Again what grade of Engineers are expected as the reward of the outlay and labour to be bestowed. Do the Trustees intend to afford opportunities of making those acquisitions which will stimulate and enable an Engineer to aspire to the highest ranks of his profession, and secure the attainment of them? Or will they be content with less brilliant results? The simpler applications of Mathematics to Civil Engineering have always been taught here, and for several years I have been steadily engaged in increasing their numbers. But I must say that the experience of ten years makes me despair of doing anything worth mentioning with a class of young men whose efforts are stimulated mainly by the hopes of a diploma. The demonstration of a theorem is often short, and easily understood while its application is as prolix and tedious. I have often been out with surveying and levelling and triangulating parties. At first while I was explaining the parts of the instrument, and they could make the needle "wabble" with a key, or be tickled with seeing how bright distant things were in the telescope, all were attentive. But the tedium of an hour's practice certainly diminished my attendants to half a dozen, sometimes to two or three. I have never dared to demand of a class the reduction of their observations, or the subsequent calculations. (I have been sometimes pleased that a curious soul would ask for some further instruction, and his request was most cheerfully granted.) But these repulsive employments form the staple of effective instruction in Engineering. Do the Trustees wish that they shall enter into the

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usual course of instruction for educating the young gentlemen here? If so, do they wish some of our present studies thrown out to give it place? It is idle to think of condensing or curtailing the present course of Mathematics. On the contrary it must be both expanded and enlarged, that is, what is now taught must be taught with greater particularity, and other things must be added. Teaching for education and teaching for information and practice are two quite different things. Fent's Commentaries as studied for use before the Supreme Court of the U.S. is a very different book from that which is studied for mental gymnastics and a Diploma. Light on all the minutiae of the plan of the Trustees, I cannot hope for. I ask only for some general indications of their wishes and expectations. So that if I conclude that I can effectively second your efforts, I may know at once to what my energies will be directed and the prospect of their being beneficial to the University or to myself. If I cannot secure the expectations of the Trustees I will at once give way to one who can. I understand that it is the wish of the Trustees to change my present position into the Professorship of Civil Engineering. I am not afraid, nor am I ashamed of hard work, but 1800 years ago it was decided that "beating the air" was a useless employment, and experience has shown that different men will have different success in the same engagements. I may be useful to the Institution as an Algebraist & Geometer, but be entirely incapable of being such an Engineer as it needs & may procure elsewhere. My conscience will not permit me to enter into obligations which it is not possible or probable that I can fulfill. Gratitude for favours already conferred will prevent me from standing for one moment in the way of the guardians of my much loved Alma Mater. My capital is almost entirely vested in my brains and arms, and so is easily removed. So little

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have I besides, that some more definite information, as to the probable amount and kind of acquisitions which I must make abroad, than I can get here, is absolutely necessary, that I may determine whether the liberal offer of the Trustees will enable me to attain them. $500.00 for instruction, traveling, & books — $300.00 for a substitute, besides R.R. instalments, and butter & eggs for my wife and the baby can hardly all come out of $1000.00.
I hope that you will excuse my prolixity, and accept my thanks for patiently reading thus far. With prayer for your continued life, health, and zealous interest in the welfare of our young men, I am with very high esteem,

Your obedient servant,

Charles Phillips