While our own land has had little but the superabounding name of university, having developed in the place gymnasia, under the title of colleges, yet these, with the higher professional schools, have not been a wholly inadequate substitute, and throughout our brief history they have furnished a large proportion of the men who have shaped and administered our national affairs. By the necessity of the case, a university, with its several co-ordinate faculties under a common organization, implies variety of knowledge with unity of object, or wide and increasing learning devoted to the advancement of country and mankind. It could exist only as it fell heir to the treasures of the buried past; it could have a right to continue to be, only as it sought to transmit these, with all possible enrichment, to the fast-coming future, and to use them in uplifting the race from the limitations and degradations of ignorance. Slow of growth is such an institution, and it must draw its resources from many quarters, making friends of all lovers of humanity, rejoicing in the smile of the State, and privileged with the blessing of the Church.

       In the Old World such institutions received their earliest inspiration from the Church, springing from the scholastic discussions of the middle ages; but they have also owed their prosperity largely to the State, which gave them incorporation and revenues, and retained a quite positive control. It was the glory of a king or emperor, to found a university and to build a cathedral. In this New World, the higher  institutions of learning have principally sprung from and been supported by private generosity, receiving from the State simply legal recognition in the form of a charter, with an occasional gift of money or land. It is thus that the colleges of New England and of the Middle States were established. The plan of a State University, under direct legislative control, and supported by the public treasury, which has been attempted at the South and West, has been a noticeable success in but a single instance, and then at the expense of much personal and political contention. The preference for private control has arisen from a general jealousy of the State, and from the American principle of separating it from everything which concerns religion.

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August 1999