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Title: Henry Harrisse's Memorial to the Trustees, September 29, 1856: Electronic Edition.
Author: Harrisse, Henry, 1829-1910
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 Caitlin R. Donnelly
Text encoded by Stephanie Adamson
First Edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: ca. 40K
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
© 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:
2007-02-20, Stephanie Adamson finished TEI/XML encoding.
Title of collection: University of North Carolina Papers (#40005), University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: Henry Harrisse's Memorial to the Trustees, September 29, 1856
Author: [Harrisse, Henry, 1829-1910]
Description: 16 pages, 17 page images
Note: Call number 40005 (University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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Henry Harrisse's Memorial to the Trustees, September 29, 1856
Harrisse, Henry, 1829-1910

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The University of North Carolina .
Does the internal condition of the Institution correspond to its external prosperity?
Submitted to the consideration of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees.
"It is our clear opinion that the usefulness of the Institution depends not so much on the number of students as on their exemplary conduct."
(Extract from the minutes of the Board)
September 29th 1856.

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A few years ago, the University of Oxford gloried in a prosperity which time has not sanctioned.
The number of students was rapidly increasing; Districts which usually sent their young men to be educated in other institutions now directed their steps towards Christ Church or Exeter. The old chairs were being filled up and new Professorships established; the endowment had been increased and most of the salaries raised; the dilapidated buildings pulled down, and fine, spacious halls erected in their place; and if we except the library, which by an unaccountable and strange policy, possessed but few books, and no name at all, all seemed to thrive and florish under the enlightened administration of then Lord Rector.
To the great regret of a few, and the utter surprise of all, the MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN, suddenly blazed out upon the wall. The Edimburg Review, in a series of remarkable articles, called the attention of the public to the state of things which was prevailing inside of that florishing University, and uttered the pithy axiom so little understood among us, "that the intrinsic excellence of a Literary Institution is not to be estimated by the multitude of those who flock to it for education."
The voice of Sir William Hamilton long remained unheeded: he was a foreigner, a Scotchman. But he continued to repeat his charges and warnings; he

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appealed to the Press, gained access to the records of Oxford, and laid before his readers proofs, tangible proofs, which neither sophistry nor idle assertions could refute. And he had at last the satisfaction so dear to a consciencious upholder of right and truth, to see a commission appointed to investigate carefully and patiently how great was that vaunted prosperity, and whether Oxford as it seemed, was really Oxford as it should be.
The Commission in its report substantiated Sir William’s disclosures. The Curators, for the most part men of nerve and independence, saw at once that great changes were needed. Deaf to all threats, fears and entreaties, they seized the pick ax and shovel with a firm hand, picking, prying, uprooting and removing every thing which threatened to hinder the internal and real prosperity of the Institution.
What has been the result of their energetic measures? Oxford is now advancing steadily in the path of progress; the students have returned to her with alacrity and confidence; the curriculum is carried out systematically and successfully: — respect for the instructors, veneration for the Alma-mater, love for the text-books, study instead of idleness, silence instead of discord, are now the watch words. Order reigns, and the old University can now challenge the attacks of Scotch Reviews and the investigations of the power that be.

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It is this result, Gentlemen, which I envy for an Institution which is very dear to us all; it is your initiative which I respectfully solicit for the introduction of reforms which I most sincerely deem necessary to the welfare and lasting prosperity of the University of the State of North Carolina.
I owe it to myself to declare at the outset that my remarks are not prompted by a spirit of spite or rancour. Although I have suffered and still suffer greatly, from the effects of a policy which did to some extent impair my career of usefulness in the Institution, yet, I am free to say that no such motives can be justly imputed to me. Grateful for the kind treatment I have always received at your hands, and good intentions which though thus far unsuccessful, I am glad to consider as claims which I ever will be ready to acknowledge, I calmly step forth, and point out to your just consideration, evils which must be cured, and reforms that have long been needed.
Your time is precious, the evenings are short, and I shall dwell only upon one point.
The main, if not the sole object of a literary institution, is the imparting to young men of that share of wholesome knowledge which they most absolutely need, and strive at great sacrifice of money,

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efforts, and time, to acquire, retain and evolve in after life. It is self-evident then that any thing whatever which hinders the acquisition of that knowledge, is a paramount evil which defeats the very object of the College.
The doors of the University of North Carolina are flung open to all comers, and whether deserving of it or not, when once matriculated it is with the greatest difficulty that they can be removed. At all events, I am free to assert, and will prove to your satisfaction, that idleness and intolerable scholarship, are never a cause of suspension or dismissal. I have carefully perused the records of the Institution during the last four years, — for I wish to limit my remarks to my own experience here; — taken notes of the very many complaints uttered against the bad scholarship of very many students; frequently heard those complaints echoed and reechoed by almost all the members of the Faculty and in regard to the same individuals; ascertained that those complaints had been made known to the delinquents, that notwithstanding repeated warnings and threats they had not improved either in deportment or scholarship, and yet, I have invariably seen those very students follow the class in its progress towards graduation, as steadily, as securely, as if they really did attend to their duties in an exemplary manner: thus clinging to the class, and like restless parasites, sponging on the time and attention of their fellow

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students. This disorderly crowd is recruited from all ranks, from all classes, from all districts. Disappointed ambition in one, a fancied injustice on the part of the Faculty in another; natural or acquired idleness in a third, innate restleness in a fourth, impunity in all, soon bring out of their shells these outcries of mischief and disorder. They could be easily checked on first exhibiting their proclivities; but they are suffered to go on unmolested, unpunished. Impunity renders them bolder and bolder. It is no longer to tease their teacher that they set the whole recitation in an uproar, but to gain the plaudits of their class mates; it is to merit the reputation of a bold, fearless hero, that they insult the professor himself in his very chair. Impunity, repeated impunity, removes all checks, opens all sluices and hardens the most timid of students.
The people, the trustees, are not aware and could scarcely realise to what extent disorder is suffered to exist within the walls of the University of North Carolina. It is a matter of surprise to the stranger, of daily regrets to the instructor; and if there be in the whole catalogue of College evils, one, a single one, which loudly claims censure and reform, it is the tumult and turmoil which at times disgrace the recitation rooms during recitation hours.
I do not hesitate to assert that as a rule our Students behave in a very disorderly manner; and so far as I can judge from the opinion expressed by

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the young men who come here from abroad, and the members of the Faculty who have visited or been educated in other Colleges, there is not a single institution in the land, except ours, where students are suffered to be inattentive, talkative and clamourous to such a degree. Not a day, not a study hour passes, but an outcry, a burst of ironic laughter echoes and reechoes to our most distant groves. The war-hoop of the Indian is not shriller than the vociferations which often burst forth from the very recitation rooms. When no such tumult prevails, they talk, and scuffle, and laugh and yawn, without any more respect for the place they are in than if they were alone or in a Fish Market. If the teacher makes a remark, his voice is reechoed by loud sneers and laughings; does he censure his class for the impropriety of their conduct, they laugh again; does he order them to appear before the Faculty, are they in the very presence of the Faculty, they laugh still!
I must not be understood to say that such a state of things exists at all times and in all recitation rooms; for this would be tantamount to saying that the No. Ca. University is a chaos, a Babel. There are some in which such outbreaks rarely take place; there is one where no noise is ever heard, but I know of no other. When the classes recited in small divisions and in a room furnished with black boards, in the Mathematical Department for instance, where the instructor can "take up" ten and twelve scholars at one time, no very great

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disturbance need be apprehended; and yet even there, we hear of hubbubs. Where the blackboard fails to subdue the petulance of a young man, it may be safely said of him that no admonition on the part of the Faculty, however solemn, can ever be of any effect. But let the same crowd assemble in the other departments, let one or two sections be thrown together, and then the ordeal commences. If you call a whole class, it is no longer a recitation room but a circus. Let the President himself venture to adress all the classes in the Chapel, it matters little whether his remarks are useful and well worded, it matters little whether he be the first officer of the Institution, a man of note, a man of age; it matters little whether they are in a consecrated place, a place of divine worship, in three cases out of four, they laugh, stamp and almost drown his voice.
I have stated, and beg leave to repeat, that the aim of a University is not to assemble a great many young men and keep them together quibus cum que viis; its object does not consist in being able to print yearly a voluminous catalogue with long strings of names; its glory does not lie in having it heralded through the columns of newspapers that it is in a florishing condition, because it contains within its walls three hundred students or more, a Faculty of fifteen instructors, a library without books and $200000 in bank and rail roadstocks! No, it consists in making of those

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young men entrusted to our care, learned, studious, well-disciplined and good citizens; in uprooting those evil passions which young men so easily acquire on the threshold of life; and in preparing them, through a severe mental discipline, for those avocations which after leaving college become a means of support to them and usefulness to the commonwealth. It is self-evident then that every thing should be made to yield to the claims of knowledge; and that this claim remains unheeded whenever such a state of things as I have just described, and which I most sincerely believe to be true, is suffered to prevail in a literary institution, whatever be its wealth, name or popularity.
Teaching is arduous at all times, so arduous indeed, as to require all the energies, talents and attention which the instructor can possibly bring into the discharge of his duties. Now, I ask, how can a teacher do justice to the studious portion of the class, how can he impart to them rules, and expound principles, which require a full command of memory and an association of ideas, the thread of which is sometimes connected at both ends to the most incongruous sciences, when he must be constantly on the alert, and watch the tongue, hands and feet of the class; when he is interrupted in his remarks by sneers and laughter; when at times the noise is so great that he cannot even make himself heard? But how painful to think that in this motley crowd, there are young men,

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often a large majority of the class, who are very anxious to learn, watch all your motions and endeavor to discover in your eyes what your tongue fails to express! These young men, the objects of our solicitude, are sometimes in reduced circumstances; their fond parents have stretched all their energies to send them here to be educated; each recitation perhaps, is purchased by a dire privation!
In a short time, the instructor himself becomes discouraged. The recitation no longer bears the appearance of a meeting for the inter change of thoughts, but of a contest of a war. He arms himself with reproofs and censures; he threatens, all in vain! He then requests, sometimes he flatters, at times he ceases to see and hear. This, however, is the result of long practice, and before sinking into an apparent supiness or indifference, he usually has exhausted all other weapons. He has used and blounted one that never was very sharp, but the most dreaded of all, the ratio ultima, — a summons before the Faculty.
Now I ask permission to appeal to figures. Despite the reluctance with which the instructor resorts to coercive measures, I find on the Faculty journal, just for our last collegiate year (from July 1855 to July 1856) and independently of all omissions and private admonitions, between fifty five and sixty summons for irregularity of conduct in the recitation room alone: some of the delinquents actually appearing for the eleventh and fifteenth time!!!

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Out of that vast number, how many were suspended, dismissed or otherwise punished? To be sure, they all were told less or more severely, "Now, Sir, you ought to be ashamed of yourself" or "Don’t you do such a thing again" &c; but out of these 55, only four were sent home, some to return, however, and become to this day, the dread of their instructors and a plague to the class, — a wart on the body public!
The circumstances under which this punishment was inflicted need be told.
They were Freshman, and had been in the institution about one session and a half; and during that whole time, I do not think that two Faculty meetings passed off, without complaints being reported by their teachers. All the mischief done was imputed to them; and although there must have been some exaggerations in these reports, there is no doubt of their having been part and parcel of an association called the "Pente," which by the common voice of college was charged with tarring the benches, ringing the bell, and incessantly disturbing the recitation. They had been brought before the Faculty several times, admonished in private, all in vain. At last their conduct became so intolerable that they were summoned once more. The President was absent from the Hill. They were all four dismissed; and, as usual, reinstated a short time afterwards.
Now, mark the effect.
One of these had scarcely returned, when the Faculty

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had to suspend him again for repeated disobedience and disorder, another after appearing under the charge of being publicly intoxicated and disturbing the recitation saw himself again "most solemnly warned," the third has been admonished several times for the same offence; the fourth for a gross exposure of his person, and, I am sorry to say, for having among other delinquencies, missed upwards of thirty college duties the very first month he had been reinstated
Despite all that, these young men, with the exception of one, who, was dismissed as late as last week, for the third time, are still in our midst, clinging to the class to the last, and ranking as low in scholarship as they do in behaviour.
When the stranger, the uniniated one, enquires and wonders at such a strange and unaccountable leniency, he is politely told by the older members of the Faculty, "You do not understand it; that is the way we always did manage to get along; it is a good policy, it keeps the young men here, and after all, they are gradually improving."
So is mankind in general, and I can scarcely believe that either the public or the Trustees, are reposed to wait until the millennium to see the college graced with orderly students and quiet recitations. At all events, that improvement is not due to the policy of the Faculty; it is the result of the wholesome influence of civilization which now begins to make itself felt to the most remote borders of our land. All the American colleges testify to the fact that less disorder and dissoluteness exist in their midst than

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in former times. We boast here of having none of those outbreaks which have so often shaken the very foundations of our sister-universities; but for one I can answer, that I have several times seen occasions for such revolutions; and if we do not experience them, it is simply because of the pithy truism, "that it takes two to make a fight." However, not very long since, the students burnt one of their Professors in effigy, amidst the reels and stamping of three hundred and fifty young men, dancing by the glare of the funeral pile, to the music of their own yells and vociferations!
Our students, taken one by one, are not in themselves worse than those of other institutions; they are, as a rule, well-brought up and of good mind, and if soon after being matriculated, many of them forsake their text-books, and acquire bad habits, this is simply to be ascribed to the natural bent of the student, who, if permitted to follow his impulse as a student, which is quite different from his impulse as a man, without being effectually checked and curbed in due time, rarely stops until age mutters to him that the time has come to desist. But then it is generally too late; the mind has lost its suppleness and those brilliant qualities which are the appanage of youth. Let the discipline be as lax at Yale, at Princeton, at Columbia, as it is at Chapel Hill, and they will have there just such a state of things as we have here.
How was it in the days of Dr. Caldwell ? That venerable man, to whom is due the credit of having laid the foundation of the reputation which we enjoy, was

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fully aware of the real wants and object of a literary institution. Scholarship, good scholarship, was his sole aim, a moderate, but certain and invariable discipline his only method. A scholar himself, a man capable of appreciating learning in others and to devise the means to impart it, everything here, bears the mark of his impress! The few books we possess, and which are rendered still more conspicuous by the sad appearance of the empty shelves around them, themselves attest his taste, his erudition and that far sighted policy which exacts as much from dead as from living teachers. Prudent, paternal, but independent and inflexible in his principles, he scorned to cater for a puerile popularity. He knew the importance of his trust, watched the studies as well as the behaviour of his pupils, and when he had ascertained that one was wasting his time and the pecuniary resources of his parents, he did not wait until he had admonished him fifteen times to remove him: a short but very distinct intimation to the father or guardian, soon gave to understand that the interest of the institution as well as the welfare of his son or ward, required his immediate withdrawal from the University: and molens volens, withdrawn he invariably was! "A few good scholars," Dr. Caldwell was wont to say, "are better than many bad ones," and time has sanctioned the wise policy of that good man. Let the Hoopers, the Hawks, the Masons, the Polks, the Moreheads, the Grahams, and many others whom I cannot well cite, attest the truth of my words! Living monuments of a strict but enlightened policy, their very names are more eloquent

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than the fulsome praises in which some seem to delight, and the bulky catalogues we are so eager to expose to the public gaze!
The truth is that in our University there prevails an apprehension that if cogent measures were adopted on just grounds and enforced for good reasons, the parents, the public, the press, would not sustain us. This, if true, is a melancholy state of things, indeed; if unfounded, a gratuitous disbelief in the impartiality and good sense of the community. But, supposing it is really desirable and profitable, to keep a student here, whose conduct is disorderly and idleness intolerable, for fear of hurting the feelings of his friends or incurring the displeasure of the public, what right have we to make the good students suffer for the sake of the bad ones? Is not the disorder which they create, and the example they set forth, a source of annoyance and mischief to the studious and attentive portion of the class? And in permitting them for months, for years, to carry on their propensity to such harm and damage, does it not amount to robbing Peter to pay Paul?
Now, where is the father, the citizen, who can ever be so blind to the claims of justice, his own interest and that of his son, to countenance, to desire a tolerance which costs so dear both to others and himself? I say, and am proud to say, that there is not one in a hundred!
The evils which I have pointed out to you, Gentlemen of the Executive Committee, can be easily checked. We possess ordinances which if fully enforced would soon

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remove all obstacles and add to our external prosperity, which is very great, an internal State of welfare and intrinsic worth, which could not fail to become a source of happiness to our citizens, to our State, and enhance the reputation of an institution which is so dear to us all. Let a Committee be appointed to visit the Institution; and although I am fully aware that their task will be arduous, and their means of eliciting the truth, much more limited than is generally supposed, I confidently believe, that they will agree in the opinion that in the University of the State of North Carolina there are crying evils which need to be cured at once and forever!

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