Popular Science Monthly/Volume 3/June 1873/Correspondence
THE QUESTION OF COMPULSORY ATTENDANCE ON SCHOLASTIC EXERCISES IN COLLEGES.
To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly:
THE press has recently occupied itself to an unusual degree with matters which concern our system of higher education; and a point on which the widest diversity of views has been expressed, and on which the argument on both sides has been maintained with the greatest ability and earnestness, is the question whether mental training is a process which can only be successfully conducted by assuming that its subjects will not in general receive it voluntarily, and whether, therefore, it is or is not necessary to proceed upon the plan of coercing them to their own good. This discussion originated in an intimation thrown out by President Eliot, of Harvard University, in his last annual report, to the effect that it might possibly be thought expedient in that institution hereafter to abolish the rules which make the attendance of students upon scholastic exercises compulsory, holding them, nevertheless, to rigorous examination upon the subjects taught, and conferring degrees in arts only upon satisfactory evidence of proficiency. This suggestion encountered a prompt and vigorous response and expostulation from the Rev. President McCosh, of Princeton, in a communication addressed, in January last, to the New-York Evening Post. Other writers took up the argument at greater or less length on both sides of the controversy; but nowhere has there appeared a more able or conclusive vindication of the wisdom of the principle involved in President Eliot's suggestion than that which was put forth in the March number of The Popular Science Monthly. I cannot but thank you for your bold and free treatment of a subject in regard to which prescriptive usage, and the bias in the public mind which long prescription always carries with it, are against you; but which concerns in a very high degree the influence of our systems of education on the formation of the moral no less than the intellectual character of the youth who are subjected to it.
Immediately on the appearance of the article of Dr. McCosh, it was my design to offer a slight contribution to the literature of this subject, founded on my own personal observation of different educational methods during a thirty years' connection with the administration of colleges; but, owing to unforeseen interruptions, my labor remained unfinished on my hands until the favorable moment had passed by. My attention has been recently drawn to the subject again by the publication (also in the Evening Post) of a letter from Prof. Venable, Dean of the Faculty of the University of Virginia, describing the educational system of that institution, of which compulsory attendance is an essential feature, but referring in respectful terms to the plan proposed by President Eliot. This letter is presented by the Post as one of unusual importance and interest; yet it adds nothing to what has been universally known of the Virginia system for the past forty years, although it sets forth the leading features of this system with clearness and conciseness. In commending it, I understand the Post to be once more commending, though indirectly, the compulsory system; and this brings back to me my nearly-forgotten purpose above referred to, to have my word in this matter also.
I will commence, therefore, by remarking that all that Dr. McCosh has said, or that anybody may say, as to the importance of regular drill to the efficiency of any system of mental discipline, will be readily admitted by every experienced educator of youth. Whether, as that learned gentleman assumes, the undergraduate student is to be regarded as being too immature to be intrusted with a freedom which he may possibly abuse, or whether, with President Eliot, we suppose that he is as likely to attend to his collegiate exercises from a just appreciation of their value to himself, and a proper sense of duty, as through any species of coercion, in either case there can be no doubt that this regularity of attendance is of indispensable importance, and that, in one way or another, it must be secured. It is supposed by Dr. McCosh that Harvard University may have been influenced in her views as to this subject by the presumed usages of foreign institutions of similar grade, or by the known practice of the professional schools of our own country; and, in regard to the colleges of Great Britain and Ireland, he hastens to correct the impression, if it exists, that attendance upon scholastic exercises is not made compulsory in them. It seems to me, nevertheless, to be unnecessary to go beyond the reason assigned by President Eliot himself as indicating the expediency of the change, in order to discover his motive for proposing it. This reason is, that the average age of the undergraduate students in Harvard University (and it may be added in all our colleges at present—at least in all those of the Atlantic States) is three or four years more advanced than it was in the earlier part of this century. Dr. McCosh admits the truth of this statement. He does not even seem to deprecate the fact that mature young men seek to avail themselves of the educational advantages which colleges offer. But he hardly attempts to disguise his conviction that the college was not designed for this class of students, nor that their actual predominance in it in numbers is evidence to him that it has been perverted from the original object of its institution. This is apparent from his remark that, "if there be a diminution in the number of young men attending colleges in relation to the population, it is very much owing to the circumstance that certain of the colleges have been practically raising the age of entrance, so as to prevent persons from entering upon their professional business until some of the best years of their life are spent." In his view, therefore, the existing state of things is an evil, and the blame of it is directly chargeable upon the colleges themselves. I do not, I confess, find the evidence to sustain this view of the case. The colleges have not raised the age of entrance by legislation. The minimum age in Columbia College is fifteen years. In Yale College it is fourteen, as it has been for the past half-century. In Harvard University there is no minimum at all. If there is any mode of "practically" raising the standard except by arbitrarily rejecting the younger class of applicants, notwithstanding that, by the published regulations, they are legally admissible, it does not occur to me to conjecture what it can be; yet this is not a practice which I have ever heard imputed to any American college. But it may be said that the colleges have brought the observed result to pass by increasing the severity of the entrance tests. This hypothesis can certainly not be sustained, so far, at least, as the classics are concerned (and it is here that the great labor of preparation lies), if we take as our guide the published entrance conditions. As a rule, the reverse is even the case, the amount exacted, measured by quantity if not by quality, being materially less than it was fifty years ago. Some little addition has been made to the amount of exaction in the mathematics, but not enough to make it difficult for a lad to prepare himself for college as early as fourteen, or earlier. To these statements, Harvard College may possibly present an exception, but the increased entrance exactions there have not been in operation long enough to have had any influence in producing the phenomenon in question. If it is a fact, therefore, that the average age of undergraduate students has risen—and I believe there can be no doubt about that—it is a fact which is not imputable to the colleges, nor one which they could control if they would; unless, indeed, instead of legislating about minimum ages, they should think proper to establish a maximum age, above which no applicant should be admitted, and should place this low enough to exclude every individual who has passed the years of boyhood. Such a measure would probably meet with few advocates. If it were important that we should explain the remarkable fact above mentioned, it would be quite sufficient to point to the immense improvement which has taken place within the century in the training-schools cf grade inferior to the colleges—schools admirably and precisely fitted to the wants of boys of tender age, and armed with a coercive power to hold them to their tasks tenfold as great as any college possesses, or can possess. For such striplings, it is well that they are at school, and that they are not in college; and to an intuitive perception of this truth on the part of parents it is unquestionably owing that so many remain there.
However this may be, we must take the facts as we find them, whether we would have them so or not, since it does not appear that we can very well make them other than they are. What is true in the present is likely to be permanently true in the future, viz., that the average age of undergraduate students in American colleges is, and will be, several years more advanced than it was three-quarters of a century ago, and even much more recently. And this important truth implies a very material change in the character of the student-body—a change marked by a large advance in maturity of judgment, an increased power of self-control, and a sensible diminution of the levity and volatility which distinguish the period of boyhood. To place such a community of young men under a system of restraints in nowise different from that which was originally devised for boys but a step removed from childhood, is to check the development of character in the direction of manly sentiment which should accompany this age, by tempting or compelling the student to govern his conduct not in accordance with the principles of propriety or right, but in obedience to an arbitrary, sometimes, in his judgment, an unreasonable, and often to his belief a needlessly oppressive rule.
The hope which President Eliot thinks it not unreasonable to entertain in regard to Harvard College, viz., "that it will soon get entirely rid of a certain school-boy spirit," which used to prevail there, but of which the traces are continually growing less, is a hope in which many similar institutions, with good reason, participate. It is a hope of which every judicious educator will do all that lies in his power to promote the fulfilment. The most unnecessary of the evils with which our colleges are at present afflicted are, those that grow out of such traces as still linger of this frivolous spirit. And if the rigorous rules which subject mature young men to a severe account of the disposition made of every moment of their time, or which place them under an irritating and annoying surveillance, are necessary (as it must be presumed they are supposed to be, or they would not be maintained), to assure their proper mental training, then certainly it is much to be lamented that these same necessary rules should be as prejudicial to their moral culture as they are said to be healthful to their mental. Is it not time, then, that we should begin to consider whether there are not influences capable of being brought to bear upon the undergraduate youth of our colleges, which will prove nearly, if not absolutely, as effectual in securing their regular attendance upon their scholastic exercises as any system of pains and penalties can be? Does the abandonment of the system of positive coercion involve necessarily the disastrous consequences apprehended by Dr. McCosh, of a neglect of faithful daily effort, and an attempt to satisfy the tests of proficiency imposed by the academie authorities, by means of a pernicious periodical cramming?
These are questions in regard to which no general agreement is likely to be reached by mere discussion. They are matters of opinion; and, when opinions differ in regard to what is likely to happen in hypothetical cases, it is generally true that the advocates of opposing views are more likely to be confirmed by argument in their original convictions, than converted to those of their adversaries. The only source from which, in matters of this kind, conclusions can be drawn which shall admit of no controversy, is actual experience; and thus far the results of experience have not been adduced by any of the parties to this discussion. President Eliot puts forward his proposed measure, not in the tone of confidence in which one speaks of a thing which has been tried and found to work well; but rather apparently as a feeler, for the purpose of trying the temper of the public mind, and ascertaining whether that is likely to tolerate so bold an experiment at Harvard; and Dr. McCosh trembles at the very thought of such an experiment in such an institution, being quite certain in advance that it must end in ignominious failure, and being apprehensive that the disastrous consecpaences which must follow will be felt in all the other colleges of the land. And yet, after all, this is not entirely a question of possibilities or probabilities. The experiment has been tried already, and tried until it is no longer an experiment. It has been tried at least long enough to prove that it is not surrounded by any of the dangers which seem so formidable to the distinguished president of Princeton, and that it is truly attended by all the advantageous consequences which are anticipated from it by the enlightened and progressive president of Harvard. This identical experiment has been tried for a period of more than four years in Columbia College; and it is this fact which has induced me to intrude the expression of my opinions into this discussion.
More than four years have now elapsed since the ordinary modes of compulsion, by which the attendance of students upon scholastic exercises is commonly enforced in colleges, were abandoned in this institution. As a substitute for these, the simple rule was adopted, that any marked irregularity of attendance on the daily exercises should debar the student from the privilege of attending the stated periodical examinations, through which every candidate for graduation is obliged by statute to pass, and to pass satisfactorily, before he can receive a degree in Arts. And, in order to remove any uncertainty which might exist as to the amount of irregularity which should be considered sufficient to deprive an individual of this privilege, the limit of tolerated absences from any particular department of study was put at one-fourth of the total number of exercises in that department. This limit was fixed upon, because it had been already tried, for several years, with results entirely satisfactory, in the School of Mines which is associated with the college, and which is carried on, on the same grounds. Under this system, a student may absent himself without being called upon to assigu any reason for his absence. He may, if he pleases, assign such a reason voluntarily, or he may state in advance his desire or intention to be absent from a future exercise, and, in case he does this, a note is made of the reason so assigned, which is preserved for a purpose which will presently appear. In order that he may be always aware of the state of his absence account, a bulletin is kept constantly posted where it is accessible to him, exhibiting the number of his absences from every department separately, up to the current date. The data for this bulletin are derived from the daily reports of the college officers made to the president—each officer presenting his report for the day, immediately after the close of college hours—and from these the proper entries are made in the bulletin immediately. An abstract of this record is furnished monthly to the parent or guardian of every student; so that, if there be any unjustifiable irregularity, it is referred to the authority most suitable to investigate the causes and to apply the proper correction. If, at the close of the session, any student appears, from the record, to have exceeded his limit, in any department, he is notified that he is debarred from examination in that department; and the loss of an examination, in any single department, deprives him of his standing as a candidate for a degree. He is not on that account compelled to leave college. He may continue to attend as before; but, if, on account of growing irregularity, or inattention to study, his attendance should be deemed unprofitable to himself, or prejudicial to others, he may be required to withdraw. In this event, he retires silently, and without censure.
In case a student, whose absences for the session exceed the limit of tolerance, should be able to make it appear that all these absences were occasioned by causes beyond his control, or were otherwise justifiable, the faculty are at liberty, in their discretion, to raise the ban, and to admit him to examination. But, if a single one of these absences appears to have been wanton or unwarranted, it is of no avail to him that all the others were unavoidable—he loses his standing as a candidate for a degree.
Under this system an appeal is made to a higher motive than the fear of censure. It is inculcated on the student continually that to attend the college exercises is a privilege and a duty; to be absent a loss and a wrong to himself. And, when this idea becomes familiar, he will not only become become habituated to attend from choice, but he will profit more by his attendance, and will less frequently be found endeavoring to beguile the weary hours of his imprisonment in the class-room, by petty frivolities out of harmony with the character for manliness which he should at this period of his life be forming.
As to the results of this system in practice, the following remarks, taken from the annual report of the president of the college to the trustees, in 1869, which represent the facts as they apeared then, may be applied without any important modification to the experience of the more recent years: "The effects of the change have proved a very interesting subject of observation. After the lapse of four entire months, it may be said, of a large majority of the students, that no perceptible difference can be discovered at all in the degree of the regularity of their attendance upon scholastic exercises, as it was rendered before and after the adoption of the new regulations. A certain limited number have never been absent at all. A much larger number have been absent only at rare intervals. A number larger still, while absent more frequently, have not at all increased the frequency of their absences in consequence of the change of regulations. Some of these reside at inconvenient distances, or are liable to interruptions of their regularity from other causes beyond their control. . . . From an inspection of the record, it is safe to say that there are more than three-fourths of the entire college body, whose regularity of attendance has been totally unaffected by the introduction of the new regulations. In regard to the remaining fourth, or probably a proportion less than a fourth, it must be admitted that their irregularity of attendance has sensibly increased. This fact shows a degree of parental indifference or of parental indulgence which was hardly looked for; but the evil, so far a it exists, admits of a simple remedy, since the cause is obvious. The inspection of the record makes it quite evident that there is no necessity to make so large an allowance for occasional absences as one-fourth of the entire number. The majority of the students are probably not absent one-tenth of the number. It is practicable, and may be advisable, to reduce this latitude to one-sixth or one-eighth, or even to a less proportion, and the evil will inevitably disappear."
As yet, however, it has not been thought necessary to resort to the expedient here indicated; and, though, in the statutes of the college as they stand, the power is vested in the faculty to apply coercive measures to enforce attendance, this power has never been resorted to, nor has the evil increased. In occasional and very rare instances, a student has been obliged to withdraw from college on account of persistent irregularity or neglect of study; but this by no means more frequently than had been the case under the system of coercion. One quite effectual corrective, applied with us in cases of this kind, is, to require a student deficient in scholarship to study out of college hours under a private tutor, while still continuing his attendance with his classes; and to make his restoration to regular standing as a candidate for a degree dependent on the presentation of a certificate from his tutor, attesting his faithful attention to the studies prescribed, and his satisfactory proficiency in them.
The expedients here described, by which we aim to hold students in college to the proper discharge of their duties, may be said perhaps to partake, after all, of the nature of coercion; but they are not coercive in the sense in which that word is usually employed, when it implies a system of pains and penalties which offend a young man's self-respect, and carry with them, more or less, a sense of disgrace. If they are coercive, they are so precisely as the rules of morality or of gentlemanly propriety are coercive, by operating on the conscience; or as the suggestions of prudence in the ordinary affairs of life are coercive, by constraining men so to govern their conduct as not to prejudice their substantial interests. This is a kind of coercion under which we should desire all young men, and all men of every age, to be placed. It is in itself an educational influence, and one of the most salutary to which men can be subjected. When all our colleges shall have seen their way to the adoption of a regimen like this, as sooner or later they inevitably will, we may hope to see the complete disappearance of that spirit of frivolity which too generally prevails at present among their inmates, and which President Eliot mentions to deprecate—a spirit already declining even in the absence of the healthful influence which the system I have attempted to describe brings with it, and which, though not yet wholly extinct, survives rather as a pernicious inheritance from other times, than because, in the conditions of modern educational institutions, it finds any thing properly congenial to its maintenance.
With one further remark I conclude. It is experimentally proved that no system of compulsory attendance in college is necessary to secure faithful attention to their duties and a conscientious improvement of their opportunities, on the part of that large proportion of undergraduate students whom collegiate education is likely to benefit. That smaller proportion, who will always neglect their duties if they can, will not greatly profit under any system, whether of absolute freedom, or of coercion, however rigorous. I am unable to perceive the wisdom of adapting systems of control with special, or, I may say, exclusive, reference to the case of those who least deserve to be considered, and out of whom the least is likely to be made; especially when this can only be done by depriving the rest of what seems to me to be one of the most felicitous moral influences which can surround and accompany them during the period of their education.
|Very respectfully yours,|
|F. A. P. Barnard.|
|Columbia College, April 2, 1873.|
THE DANGERS AND SECURITIES OF SCIENCE.
To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly.
Mr. Editor: I listened, among others, to the speech of Mr. Parke Godwin at the Tyndall Dinner, and have been much interested both in the speech and in the discussions which have grown out of it. Of course, we cannot all expect to view the most important subjects in the same light, but I feel sure it is a mistake to attribute to Mr. Godwin any thing like a spirit of opposition or depreciation toward scientific progress or preëminence. On the contrary, what he said was, we believe, wholly in the interest of science. He simply gave expression, in unusually elegant and forcible language, to ideas which are entertained of late by many professionally scientific men. He did not propose to cramp scientific inquiry, nor to limit, in any way, its powers or its results, but only to prevent its contamination by what would degrade and cripple it. His speech, as we understand it, was a protest, not against science, but in its behalf, and against the damaging influence of pretended followers or mistaken friends.
There is no danger now that science can ever suffer from the attacks of its enemies, unless it be first debauched by the folly of its own partisans. Its progress for the last hundred years has been a series of triumphs, so numerous and brilliant that nothing else is now in a position to stand against it. And it owes this success entirely to the fidelity with which it has pursued its legitimate course, and the steady determination with which it has adhered to the method of strict scientific observation. For a long time we have given up the notion of the old philosophers, that men could discover things by thinking about them; and have only considered it worth while to spend our time in the investigation of actual phenomena. What has been, for the last half-century, the invariable demand of the world of science upon its votaries? Whenever any one made his appearance with a new claim to attention, the scientific public said to him, in effect: "What is that you have to tell us of this new body or substance? We do not wish to hear what you think about it, but only what you know. How much does it weigh? What are its form and structure? What are the actual results of its chemical analysis? What phenomena does it exhibit under special conditions? If it be a peculiar force or mode of activity, instead of a material substance, what are the exact conditions of its manifestation, and what are the results of its action, in quantity as well as in kind?"
This is the healthy and nutritious food upon which science has grown to her present proportions. In following such a track with such unswerving patience, she can never make a mistake. But, the moment she leaves this path, she is in danger, or rather she is sure to go wrong, because whatever works by other than scientific methods is not science, and at best can only put on a kind of scientific garb, and masquerade in scientific phraseology.
Are there not some indications that we are not yet altogether beyond this danger? Are we not even more or less exposed to it at this particular time? Some scientific writers are certainly disposed to talk quite as much about their conclusions and theoretical explanations as about the phenomena they describe. There is no harm in this (except that it occupies a good deal of time that might be otherwise employed), provided they keep the boundary-line well marked between what they know and what they think on the subject in question. But they do not always do this. The hypothetical explanations are sometimes erected into a law, or principle, or theory, which, in the author's mind, evidently overshadows in importance every thing else. So we are sometimes supposed to have acquired a valuable piece of information when we are only, as the French say, "getting our pay in words." How much has been said and written for the past few years about protoplasm! Now, a student of physiology would be very excusable for thinking, from the manner in which this term is used, that protoplasm was some newly-discovered and important substance, with definite physical and chemical properties, and of the highest consequence in regard to vital organization. He would be considerably disappointed on finding it to be only a word representing a certain set of ideas, or at best a group of many various substances, each one of them specifically different from the rest.
There is even a certain kind of authority claimed, at least by implication, for some of these theoretical notions; and there is no doubt that they are occasionally assigned an established position as accepted truths, to which they are very far from being entitled. If it were not so improbable that Science could ever be induced to imitate in the least degree her old theological enemy, we might suspect even now a disposition in some minds to frame for us a sort of scientific Nicene Creed, the merit of believing in which would not depend exclusively upon the possession of sufficient reliable evidence. If such a creed were drawn up just at present, it would probably read something like this:
In the Evolution Hypothesis;
In the Undulation of Light and the Luminiferous Ether; and
Now, we all know that theories are useful in their way, if confined within a very small compass, and employed only to stimulate rather than satisfy inquiry, and to suggest the direction in which new facts may be discovered. But, when they are raised to a higher dignity, and demand our belief in them as representing the actual constitution of Nature, then they are a misfortune to everybody concerned. If we treat them with any more respect than they deserve, we shall suffer for it inevitably by the loss of something which is infinitely more valuable than any of them. The records of the immediate past show the achievements which have been accomplished by means of strict adherence to exact methods of investigation. Should the scientific mind of to-day become ever so little intoxicated with its success, and undertake to decide questions which are beyond its horizon, it will certainly stultify itself, and lose the universal support and confidence which it has now so fairly acquired. For that reason I think that Mr. Godwin, in his Tyndall Dinner speech, was doing good service for science and scientific men, and that we are indebted to him for placing in a very distinct light the only source of danger for scientific interests in the future.J. C. D.
A CORRECTION.—LETTER FROM PROF. TYNDALL.
It is well known that many religious newspapers construed several of the speeches at the Tyndall banquet as righteous rebukes of the guest of the evening, on account of his irreligious science. His statement below was called out by a leading article in the Christian Intelligencer of February 13th, entitled "The Tyndall Banquet," from which the following is an extract: "A more significant farewell a visitor has never received at our hands. Prof. Tyndall was welcomed among us as a man of science. It was known, indeed, that he claimed, in that character, a warrant to question some popular religious faiths; but we may safely say that the professors of those faiths never supposed that he would carry his assumed warrant upon the platform and into his lectures on 'Light.' Yet he did that very thing, attacking, in those lectures, both our religious faith and one large class of its professors. Moreover, when the assaults thus made were formally complained of, he expressed no regret for them. Indeed, lest even so significant silence might fail to be appreciated, he now took pains to emboss upon his farewell speech the following remarkable sentences: 'Were there any lingering doubt as to my visit at the bottom of my mind; did I feel that I had blundered—and, with the best and purest intentions, I might, through an error of judgment, have blundered—so as to cause you discontent, I should now be wishing to abolish the doubt, or to repair the blunder; but there is no drawback of this kind.' After this unusual assertion of his perfect satisfaction with his course, it would have been unjust, both to him and to a very large part of his American audiences, to suffer him to depart without some weighty reminder of his mistake."
Of Dr. Hitchcock's address the writer remarks: "The few opening sentences which have thus far been printed indicate the dignified and manly tone in which American Christians resented, through him, the effort of one sort of science to disparage religion;" and he then says: "But Dr. Hitchcock did not stand alone. He had sympathizers enough among his hearers to indorse his expressions with repeated applause; and, what was even more significant, he found the heartiest support in the speech of Parke Godwin, who followed him, speaking for the press. The fact that a clergyman should vindicate the claims of religion, even at a dinner given in compliment to one of his assailants, might not seem in any way remarkable or important. But the editor of the Post had no professional zeal to rally him to the same battle; and when, after a detail of some of the most arrogant assumptions of irreligious scientists, he proceeded, with indignant eloquence, to remand their science to its own exact sphere, and to claim for revelation the settlement of the questions of 'primal origin and ultimate destinies,' Mr. Tyndall must have had a complacency quite impervious by ordinary weapons, if he persisted in thinking he had 'made no blunder,' and had 'caused no discontent.' Did Mr. Godwin suppose that the sentiments he was uttering were those of his guest? Did not he and all the company know they were not? Then, did he in uttering them, and they in applauding them, offer a gratuitous insult to the man they pretended to honor? No; but they did a loyal duty to the religion which he had wantonly assailed. They set a stint to their courtesy to the man, lest the excess of it should make a betrayal of their faith."
Upon which, Prof. Tyndall remarks as follows, in a letter to a friend:
"I confess to reading with some amazement the article on the 'Tyndall Banquet,' in the Intelligencer. I am there charged with attacking, in my lectures, both the Christian faith and one large class of its professors. If the telling of the truth be a necessary entry on the passport to 'the better land,' then, assuming the maker of this charge to be not in a state of invincible ignorance, I would not exchange my chances on the frontier of immortality for his. The fact is that, though solicited to do so, I steadily refused to quit the neutral ground of the intellect during my visit to the United States. My audiences in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Brooklyn, and New Haven, can testify whether a single word relating to religion was heard in any lecture of mine delivered in those cities. New York can answer whether, in five out of the six lectures there delivered, a syllable was uttered, pro or con, regarding religion. And I confidently appeal to that heroic audience which paid me the memorable compliment of coming to hear me on the inclement night when the words were spoken on which this charge is hung, whether, as regards its substance or its tone, what I then said could, with fairness, be construed into an attack 'upon religious faith, and one large class of its professors.' Put my words and manner before them, and I would fearlessly trust to the manhood of any Young Men's Christian Association in the Union for a verdict in this matter. The writer in the Intelligencer, moreover, fails to see one conclusion to which his assertions inevitably lead; for, were they true, the perfectly unmistakable manner in which the 'attack' was received by the audience would prove the state of 'religious faith' in New York to be the reverse of creditable to him and others who have the care of it.
"The head and front of my offending hath this extent: At the conclusion of one of my lectures, I referred, for two minutes, in mild language, to the reported words—reported, I would add, by a Presbyterian—of the intemperate occupant of a single Presbyterian pulpit, and this is wilfully twisted by that occupant into an attack upon the Presbyterian body. The charge, as originally made, and as now echoed by the Intelligencer, is so silly that I did not think it worth public refutation. Why should I care about refuting it, when the sympathetic kindness of the very men I was reported to have assailed assured me that they did not believe a word of the indictment? I carried no more pleasant memory with me from the United States than that of my reception at the Presbyterian College of Yale. The high-minded youths and cultured gentlemen whom I met there, as indeed the Presbyterian body generally, a few hot-headed fanatics excepted, knew how to rate at its proper worth the statement of Dr. Hall, and they will, I am persuaded, assign to its echo in the Intelligencer the self-same arithmetical value.
"Should you deem this letter, or any part of it, necessary to public enlightenment, you are at liberty to make public use of it.
|"Ever yours faithfully,|