This page is a part of the Tompkins Co., NYGenWeb Site. Not for commercial use. All Rights Reserved.

Landmarks of Tompkins County, New York

by John H. Selkreg, 1894; D. Mason & Co., Publisher


History of Cornell
Chapter IV.
THE CHARTER OF THE UNIVERSITY.

It is interesting to inquire what were the causes which led Mr. CORNELL to devote so large a part of his unexpected and constantly increasing wealth to the founding of a university. He had always been thoughtful upon questions affecting the interests of the people. Originally a farmer's son, and later a mechanic, and brought into the association of scientific men in the practical application of the telegraph, he saw the great need of thoroughly trained and practical scientists. He realized that individual and national wealth would be promoted even by an imperfect popular knowledge of the sciences which relate to life, and also the incalculable loss to individuals and the nation from unsystematic, unscientific and prodigal methods.

It is probable that his purpose to devote his wealth to the benefit of his fellow-men was formed slowly in his mind. The unexpected increase in his fortune, beyond his hopes, suggested to him the possibility of using some portion of it for the public good. Beyond the natural desire to provide for his family, Mr. CORNELL had no personal ambition for vast accumulation. In private life he was genuinely and unostentatiously generous. The desire that his gifts should assume a permanent form, blessing the future as well as the present, assumed shape silently and unspoken, like so many of his plans. In the summer of 1863 he was seriously ill for several months. As he recovered he said to his physician, "When I am able to go out, I want you to bring your carriage and take me upon the hill. Since I have been upon this sick bed, I have realized as never before by what a feeble tenure man hold on to life. I have accumulated money; and I am going to spend it while I live." They drove later upon the hill, to what was then Mr. CORNELL's farm. He spoke with the greatest enthusiasm of his determination to build an institution for poor young men; he wished an institution different from the ordinary college, where poor boys could acquire an education. He did not desire an entrance examination, but that they should study whatever they were inclined to Mr. CORNELL described the buildings which should crown the hillside, and pointed out where they should stand. Mr. CORNELL's immediate attention was engrossed by the Cornell Library, which was chartered a few months later, and presented to the city of his residence.

It is probable that, even with this noble intention, much was still vague in his mind as to the exact form which the institution should assume. He contemplated undoubtedly some form of industrial school. The immediate occasion which gave definiteness to his purpose was, as he himself stated, in answer to the inquiry whether he had purposed for many years to found a great university, or whether the plan had been presented to him by some fortuitous circumstance, that very much was due to his election as one of the trustees of the State Agricultural College at Ovid, and the discovery, which he had made at two meetings of the trustees of that institution, of the great need of some suitable provision in our own country for the education of young men in agriculture and the mechanic arts.

Mr. CORNELL had been for several years vice-president of the State Agricultural Society. In 1862 he was its president, and in that capacity attended the great International Exposition in London as the official representative of the New York State Agricultural Society. He traveled extensively, and studied carefully the agriculture of the different parts of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. He also studied with interest the methods of the famous school of agricultural science connected with the establishment of Lawes and Gilbert at Rothamstead. Upon his return, an opportunity presented itself to him to do for his native country what he had seen so successfully instituted abroad. The work of the State Agricultural College in Ovid had ceased with the opening of the Civil War, after less than a half-year's existence, and instruction had not been resumed. The college had enthusiastic friends, among whom were many of the most advanced agriculturists of the State. Its governing board was, however, composed of men with little experience as educators and unfitted to carry out the great schemes which they had at heart. The funds of the college had been largely consumed in the purchase of a beautiful site of six hundred and twenty-seven acres of land overlooking Seneca Lake. The funds subscribed by the farmers of the vicinity, under the lead of Principal BROWN, had been wasted by unskillful management in the erection of a costly building left incomplete and unequipped for the purposes for which it was erected; and a mortgage of $40,000 upon the property was held by the State. Under these circumstances the trustees, under the presidency of Governor KING, met in Rochester, September 20, 1864, to hear the report of the finance committee. The war still continued. The prospects for the future of the college were depressing; the outlook for the future was apparently hopeless; the college was in effect bankrupt. Mr. CORNELL listened silently to the discussion of the various plans of relief which were proposed. He then rose and read the following proposition:

I have listened patiently to this discussion, which has so fully developed the present helpless situation of the college, and shown so little encouragement in its future prosperity, until I have come to the conclusion that the trustees would be justifiable in changing the location of the college, if it can be done with the approval of the citizens of Ovid, and an adequate endowment thereby secured for the college in some other proper locality. Therefore,

I submit for your consideration, the following proposition. If you will locate the college at Ithaca, I will give you for that object a farm of three hundred acres of first quality of land, desirably located, overlooking the village of Ithaca and Cayuga Lake, and within ten minutes walk of the Cornell Library, the churches, the railroad station and steamboat landing. I will also erect on the farm suitable buildings for the use of the college, and give an additional sum of money to make up in the aggregate of three hundred thousand dollars, on condition that the Legislature will endow the college with at least thirty thousand dollars per annum from the Congressional Agricultural College Fund, and thus place the college upon a firm and substantial basis, which shall be a guarantee of its future prosperity and usefulness, and give the farmers' sons of New York an institution worthy of the Empire State.

This noble offer relieved the trustees from all embarrassment. Another session was called to meet in Albany, at which it was proposed to invite for consultation various friends of education who were no trustees. At this meeting, January 12, 1865, the sentiment among the intelligent friends of education was strongly developed in favor of retaining the national grant intact, and not to dissipate or divert it by distribution among the various small colleges.

The Hon. Victor RICE, superintendent of public instruction, in his report presented to the Legislature, January 1, 1863, announced the passage by Congress of the act donating land to private colleges for the benefit of agriculture and the mechanic arts.

He then added that he was persuaded that true economy and practical wisdom required that this fund should go to the endowment and support of one institution. "If an attempt shall be made to endow two or more colleges, the whole income may be comparatively useless. The division of it into two parts would be made the entering wedge for applications for another and another division, until the whole will be so divided among many, that not any one will be complete in its facilities for instruction. The State has at various times made grants of land and money to colleges and academies until the aggregate sum amounts to millions. In numerous instances the chief result of its bounty has been to enable many of these institutions to prolong a precarious existence, too weak to be of real public utility." After speaking of the demand for a more learned class of intellectual leaders, who, furnished with the means and leisure necessary to the prosecution of philosophical investigation, may be induced to pursue science itself, irrespective of the immediate practical benefit, he said: "We need only direct our attention to the universities of Europe to show the advantages of the plan which there furnishes such numerous patterns of ripe scholarship and so many examples of successful research in enlarging the boundaries of knowledge. What we need most emphatically, therefore, is the establishment of one institution adequately endowed, offering ample inducements to learned men to become its inmates, and supplied with every attainable facility for instruction in the highest departments of literary and philosophical learning, as well as in the various branches of knowledge pertaining to the industrial and professional pursuits. Its corps of teachers should be composed of men of vigorous mental endowments and the best culture, and in numbers sufficient to allow a complete division of labor. When thus appointed, the doors of the institution should be opened to all who are prepared to enter. It should be free, so that lads born in poverty and obscurity who may have shown themselves to be meritorious in the primary schools shall not be excluded. . . . Let study and manual labor go hand in hand and then learning will dignify labor and labor will utilize learning."

Governor John A. ANDREWS, of Massachusetts, in an eloquent address to the Legislature, in January, 1863, favored the same views.

In looking back it becomes impossible to determine the considerations which guided the Legislature in bestowing the national grant upon the People's College. Senators and representatives who were later of national reputation, among them Chief-Justice FOLGER, afterwards secretary of the treasury, and the noble chancellor of the University of the State of New York, Mr. PRUYN, supported this measure. On the other hand, the influential class interested in promoting agriculture and applied science, upon which the wealth of all other classes so largely depends, earnestly opposed this appropriation of the land grant fund. Remonstrances and, memorials from the State Board of Agriculture and from numerous societies protested against this disposal of: the fund, but in vain.Among the prominent sympathizers with the latter view was Mr. CORNELL, who introduced a bill to divide the fund between the two institutions. Here a difficulty arose. The act of the Legislature bestowing the land grants upon the People's College allowed three years in which to fulfill the conditions imposed by the law-that is, a compliance with that law before May 14, 1866, was not required. The efforts to repeal the grant or to modify its provisions arose in the session of the Legislature of 1864, in which Mr. WHITE first took his seat as senator. His views were opposed to those of Mr. CORNELL. He insisted that the fund ought to be kept together at some one institution; that on no account should it be divided; that the endowment for higher education in the State of New York should be concentrated, which had already suffered sufficiently from scattering its resources. Mr. CORNELL desired to have his bill referred to the Committee on Agriculture, of which he was chairman, and from which a report favorable to his own views might be expected. Mr. WHITE desired its reference to the Committee on Literature, of which he was chairman, and it was finally referred to a joint session of the two committees. Here he states: "On this double headed committee I deliberately thwarted his purpose throughout the entire session, delaying action and preventing any report upon his bill, at the same time urging Mr. CORNELL to adopt a view favorable to the concentration of the fund in one institution."

Danger of the failure of the national land grant was not at this time to be feared, as the original act allowed five years within which any State could provide one college for instruction in agriculture, which New York had already done.

At an adjourned meeting of the trustees of the State Agricultural College held in Albany, January 12, 1865, Mr. CORNELL offered to increase his gift to $500,000, provided the Legislature would transfer the public lands donated by the general government to the institution that he proposed to found, which was to be organized and located in Ithaca. A committee was appointed to correspond with gentlemen connected with the management of the People's College, and with other persons prominent in the educational interests of this State, and to invite them to meet the gentlemen connected with the New York State Agricultural College to take into consideration and jointly act on the proffer $500,000 for educational purposes by the Hon. Ezra CORNELL. Mr. Andrew D. WHITE, Mr. William KELLY and Mr. B. P. JOHNSON were appointed a committee to arrange for a conference to be held at the State Agricultural Rooms in Albany, January 24, 1865.

Mr. CORNELL had been a member of the Assembly from 1862 to 1864; from 1864 to 1868 he was a member of the Senate, and it was at this time that he made his proposal to endow a new institution in Ithaca. At this time Mr. CORNELL came into intimate personal relations with Mr. Andrew D. WHITE, who entered the Legislature as senator from Onondaga county in 1864. Mr. WHITE's earnest and aggressive nature, as well as his warm enthusiasm for education, made him active in all questions affecting the educational policy of the State. He was made chairman of the Senate Committee on Literature, and naturally occupied an influential position in the questions which arose in connection with the foundation of the new university. Mr. RICE, whose views of the wisdom of preserving the land grant undivided were known, was still Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Mr. WHITE vigorously espoused his views. Mr. CORNELL adhered strenuously to his original proposal. His views were opposed, as has been stated, by Mr. WHITE and by the Department of Education. In a letter written several years later to the Chancellor of the University of the State of Missouri, Mr. CORNELL nobly admitted that the wiser view, in education, required the concentration of all funds bestowed by the national government in a single institution, and ascribed preeminently to Mr. WHITE the credit of influencing him to adopt the same position.

In pursuance of the plan of securing the national grant for the proposed college, Mr. WHITE introduced a resolution in the Senate, February 4, requesting the Board of Regents to communicate to it any information in their possession in regard to the People's College in Havana, and to state whether in their opinion said college is, within the time specified, likely to be in a condition to avail itself of the fund granted to this State by the act of Congress. A committee was appointed on February 6 to visit the People's College and to determine whether its present condition, or the measures already undertaken, were likely to prove adequate to secure compliance with the act of the Legislature. The committee, after visiting Havana and examining the authorities of the People's College, reported that the building was of substantial and excellent character and well calculated for the purposes for which it had been erected; that it contained ample room for the accommodation of 150 students with the number of professors and teachers required by the act of 1863, but that it was not sufficient for the accommodation of 250 students and that up to the present time it had not complied with the conditions of the act. It appeared from the testimony that at that time no library had been purchased by the college, that it possessed no philosophical or chemical apparatus, and that it was not yet provided with shops, tools, machinery or other arrangements for teaching the mechanic arts, or with farm buildings, implements or stock. The amount which had been expended upon the college was at that time $70,236; of this sum $56,095 had been contributed by Mr. Charles COOK and $14,140 by others. It also appeared that the Hon. Charles COOK had paid out of his own funds the sum of $31,700 (in addition to his subscription of $25,000) for the erection of the People's College, and had donated to it sixty-two acres of land. This sum of $31,700 had been expended in the erection of the college edifice, in return for which the trustees of the People's College agreed that, in consideration of the conveyance to the college of a fee simple of the college edifice and sixty-two acres of land, this grant should always be held inviolate for the purposes of the college, and that in case the trustees should fail to maintain the college, this property should revert to Mr. COOK or his heirs. In the mean time, action looking toward the establishment of Cornell University was carried on in the Legislature. On February 3, Mr. WHITE gave notice that at an early day he would ask leave to introduce a bill to establish the Cornell University and to appropriate to it the income from the sale of public lands, granted to this State by Congress on the 2d of July, 1862. This bill was formally introduced on February 7 and referred to the Committees on Literature and Agriculture. Mr. WHITE, in his "Reminiscences of Ezra CORNELL," thus describes the origin of the charter:

We held frequent conferences as to the leading features of the institution to be created; in these I was more and more impressed by his sagacity and largeness of view, and when our sketch of the bill was fully developed, it was put into shape by Charles J. FOLGER, of Geneva, then chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the Senate, afterwards Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals. The provision forbidding any sectarian or partisan predominance in the Board of Trustees or Faculty was proposed by me, heartily acquiesced in by Mr. CORNELL, and put into shape by Judge FOLGER. The State-scholarship feature and the system of alumni representation on the Board of Trustees were also accepted by Mr. CORNELL at my suggestion.

I refer to these things especially because they show one striking characteristic of the man, namely, his willingness to give the largest measure of confidence when he gave any confidence at all, and his readiness to be advised largely by others in matters which he felt to be outside his own province.

On the other hand, the whole provision for the endowment, the part relating to the land-grant, and, above all, the supplementary bill allowing him to make a contract with the State for "locating" the lands, were thought out entirely by himself; and in all these matters he showed, not only a public spirit far beyond that displayed by any other benefactor of education in his time, but a foresight which seemed to me then, and seems to me now, almost miraculous.

But, while he thus left the general educational features to me, he uttered, during one of our conversations, words which showed that he comprehended the true theory of a university: these words are now engraved upon the Cornell University seal: "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study."

Mr. WHITE, on behalf of these committees, reported favorably on February 25 an amended act to establish Cornell University. After being considered in the Committee of the Whole, the bill received a second reference to the committees on the Judiciary and Literature. This bill was favorably reported with amendments, March 15, and passed. The reopening of the question of the disposal of the public lands brought representatives of various colleges to Albany to urge the claims of their institutions. Various efforts were made to divide the fund by providing for the establishment of professors of agriculture in several institutions. In one case the effort to secure a portion of the appropriation was so strong that in order to defeat the lobby which was working in its behalf, Mr. CORNELL consented to incorporate a provision by which he bound himself to pay to the Genesee College, in Lima, $25,000 for the support of a professorship, which should have in view the instruction in agriculture required by the act of Congress. This, however, removed only one competitor from the field. The interests which had been represented by the State Agricultural College had been harmonized, but the friends of the People's College, under the powerful leadership of Mr. COOK, were alert and vigorous. Mr. WHITE gives the following graphic account of the legislative struggle for a charter in the Assembly:

The coalition of forces against the Cornell University bill soon became very formidable, and the Committee on Education in the Assembly, to which the bill had been referred, seemed more and more controlled by it. To meet this difficulty, we resorted to means intended to enlighten the great body of the Senators and Assemblymen as to the purposes of the bill. To this end Mr. CORNELL invited the members, sometimes to his rooms at Congress Hall, sometimes to mine at the Delavan House; there he laid before them his general proposal and the financial side of the plan, while I dwelt upon the need of a university in the true sense of the work,- upon the opportunity offered by this great fund, upon the necessity of keeping it together,- upon the need of large means to carry out any scheme of technical and general education, such as was contemplated by the Congressional Act of 1862,- showed the proofs that the People's College would and could do nothing to meet this want, that division of the fund among the existing colleges was simply the annihilation of it,- and, in general, did my best to enlighten the reason and arouse the patriotism of the members on the subject of a worthy university in our State. In this way we made several strong friends in both Houses .

While we were thus laboring with the Legislature as a whole, serious work had to be done with the Assembly committee, and Mr. CORNELL employed a very eminent lawyer to present his case, while Mr. COOK employed one no less noted to take the opposite side. The session of the committee was held in the Assembly chamber, and there was a large attendance of spectators; but, unfortunately, the lawyer employed by Mr. CORNELL having taken little pains with the case, his speech was cold, labored, perfunctory, and fell flat. The speech on the other side was much more effective; it was thin and demagogical in the extreme, but the speaker knew well the best tricks for catching the "average man" he indulged in eloquent tirades against the Cornell bill as a "monopoly," denounced Mr. CORNELL roundly as "seeking to erect a monument to himself;" hinted that he was "planning to rob the State," and, before he had finished, had pictured Mr. CORNELL as a swindler, and the rest of us as dupes or knaves.

I can never forget the quiet dignity with which Mr. CORNELL sat and took this abuse. Mrs. CORNELL sat at his right, I at his left. In one of the worst tirades against him, he turned to me and said quietly, and without the slightest anger or excitement, "If I could think of any other way in which half a million of dollars would do as much good to the State, I would give the Legislature no more trouble." Shortly afterward, when the invective was again especially bitter, he turned to me and said, "I am not sure but that it would be a good thing for me to give the half a million to old Harvard College in Massachusetts, to educate the descendants of the men who hanged my forefathers."

There was more than his usual quaint humor in this,- there was that deep reverence which he always bore toward his Quaker ancestry, and which seemed to have become part of him. I admired Mr. CORNELL on many occasions, but never more that during that hour when he sat, without the slightest anger, mildly taking the abuse of that prostituted pettifogger, the indifference of the committee, and the laughter of the audience. It was a scene for a painter, and I trust that some day it will be fitly perpetrated for the university.

This struggle over, the committee could not be induced to report the bill; it was easy, after such a speech, for its members to pose as protectors of the State against a swindler and a monopoly. The chairman made pretext after pretext without reporting, until it became evident that we must have a struggle in the Assembly, and drag the bill out of the committee in spite of him. To do this required a two-thirds vote; all our friends were set at work, and some pains taken to scare the corporations which had allied themselves with the enemy, in regard to the fate of their own bills, by making them understand that unless they stopped their interested opposition to the university bill in the House; a feeling would be created in the Senate very unfortunate for them. In this way their clutch upon sundry members of the Assembly was somewhat relaxed, and these were allowed to vote according to their consciences.

The Cornell bill was advocated, most earnestly in the House by Hon. Henry B. LORD, afterwards for many years a valued trustee of the university, who marshaled the university forces, moved that the bill be taken from the committee and referred to the Committee of the Whole. Now came a struggle. Most of the best men in the Assembly stood nobly by us; but the waverers-men who feared local pressure or sectarian hostility-attempted, if not to oppose the Cornell bill, at least to evade a vote upon it. In order to give them a little tone and strength, Mr. CORNELL went with me to various leading editors in the city of New York, and we explained the whole matter to them, securing editorial articles favorable to the university; prominent among these gentlemen were Horace GREELEY of the Tribune, Erastus BROOKS of the Express, and Manton MARBLE of the World. This undoubtedly did much for us, yet when the vote was taken, the old loss of courage was again shown; but several friends of the bill stood in the cloak-room, fairly shamed the waverers back into their places, and, as a result, to the surprise and disgust of the chairman of the Assembly committee, the bill was taken out of his control and referred to the Committee of the Whole, where another long struggle now ensued, but the bill was finally passed, and received the approval of the Senate in the form in which it came from the House, and the signature of Governor FENTON.

Through the influence of Mr. COOK, a provision, which we must regard as just in its nature, in view of the previous grant of land to the People's College, was inserted. It was further provided, in case the People's College could show within three months from the date of the passage of the charter of Cornell University, that it had upon deposit a sum of money, which, in addition to the amount already expended, should in the opinion of the Regents of the University of New York enable it to comply fully with the conditions of the act of the Legislature, the provisional grant to it should take effect. Within the three months which were allowed, the trustees were required to show to the satisfaction of the Regents that they possessed adequate college grounds, farm, work-shops, fixtures, machinery, apparatus, cabinets and library, not encumbered. In case the trustees of the People's College failed to comply with these conditions, which were to be determined by the Regents, the act conferring the land upon Cornell University was to be of full effect. In accordance with this provision it was required that the trustees of the People's College should purchase within the specified time one hundred and twenty additional acres of land, and have funds sufficient for the erection of a new building to provide accommodations for two hundred and fifty students, also for the purchase of collections, apparatus and library, the erection of shops, tools, machinery, etc., a sum of money equal to $242,000, and to meet these purchases, it was provided that the trustees must deposit $185,000 in one of the State deposit banks at Albany, within the time specified. The estimates upon which this sum was based, were made by scholars able to judge of the cost of such collections and apparatus. As it appeared at the expiration of the period designated that the trustees of the People's College had failed to comply with the law, the entire grant lapsed to Cornell University, according to the conditions imposed by the Regents, which required the People's College to raise only one-half of the sum which Mr. CORNELL had so generously offered. Mr. COOK had promised to endow the People's College. He had failed to do this, and after a serious illness, his interest, so far as fulfilling the terms of his offer, ceased. The original friends of the college, who had labored so hopefully amid so many discouragements, gradually abandoned all expectations of its final success and withdrew either from connection with it or from any active support. Among those who remained faithful to the original idea of the People's College to the last were Horace GREELEY, Governor MORGAN and Erastus BROOKS. It was seen by many of its friends that the dominating influence of the largest benefactor was already controlling disadvantageously the execution of the original plan, and so modifying it that its friends no longer felt an interest in the institution. It died before its birth, and only a feeble preparatory department came into existence. Later the college building and grounds passed into the possession of Mr. COOK and formed the foundation of the present Cook Academy.

The Legislature of New York, by a simple act passed at its session of 1863, accepted the national Land Grant, thus binding itself and the State of New York to comply with all the conditions and provisions of that act. On May 5, 1863, the Legislature passed a law by which the comptroller, with the advice of the attorney-general, the treasurer and the chancellor of the university, was authorized to receive the land scrip issued under the authority of the Land Grant Act and to sell the same and invest the proceeds in any safe stocks yielding not less than five per cent. upon the par value. The money so received was to be invested by the comptroller in stocks of the United States or of this State, or in any other safe stocks yielding not less per annum than the rate above mentioned, which amount was to remain a perpetual fund, a capital to be forever undiminished, except as provided for in the act of Congress. He was authorized to pay from the State treasury all expenses for the selection, management, superintendence and taxes upon the lands, previous to their sale, and all expenses incurred in the management and disbursement of the money received therefrom, and of all incidental matters connected with or arising out of the care, management and sale of the lands, so that the entire proceeds should be applied without any diminution whatever to the purposes mentioned in the act of Congress. The act providing for the administration of the Land Grant fund was followed on May 14, 1863, by a law transferring the income of this fund under certain conditions to the trustees of the People's College. Upon the failure of the trustees of this college to fulfill the requirements of the grant, a charter was given to the trustees of Cornell University. As regards the name of the university, the Hon. Andrew D. WHITE has said: "While Mr. CORNELL urged Ithaca as the site of the proposed institution, he never showed any wish to give his own name to it; the suggestion to that effect was mine. He, at first, doubted the policy of it, but, on my insisting that it was in accordance with time honored American usage, as shown by the names of Harvard, Yale, Bowdoin, Brown, Williams, and the like, he yielded."

The first meeting of the trustees of Cornell University was held in the office of the secretary of the State Agricultural Society, in the State Geological Hall, in the city of Albany, on the 28th day of April, 1865. Of the charter members there were present Ezra CORNELL, William Kelly, Horace GREELEY, Josiah B. WILLIAMS, George W. SCHUYLER, William ANDRUS, J. Meredith READ; and of the trustees, ex officio, Governor Reuben E. FENTON, Victor M. RICE, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Francis M. FINCH, librarian of the Cornell Library. In accordance with the charter, seven additional trustees were elected, viz.: Andrew D. WHITE, Abram B. WEAVER, Charles T. FOLGER, George H. ANDREWS, Edwin B. MORGAN and Edwin D. MORGAN. Of the original charter members, Messrs. William KELLY and J. B. WILLIAMS had been trustees of the Agricultural College, and Messrs. Horace GREELEY and Erastus BROOKS, of the People's College. Mr. WHITE had by his influence prevented the division of the Land Grant fund and been one of Mr. CORNELL's most trusted advisers and supporters in procuring the charter of Cornell University. Mr. Erastus BROOKS had been active in securing the charter of the Agricultural College, and had promoted the interests of the university by public advocacy in the New York Express, of which he was editor. Mr. George H. ANDREWS was selected from the Senate on account of his friendliness to the charter. Mr. READ had actively supported the charter outside of the Legislature. Mr. Charles J. FOLGER, afterwards secretary of the treasury, had likewise used his able influence in behalf of securing the land grant to the university. Mr. Edwin D. MORGAN, United States Senator from New York, had been active in Congress in promoting the passage of the Land Grant Act. Colonel Edwin B. MORGAN, of Aurora, had been a member of Congress. Mr. Abram B. WEAVER was for many years Superintendent of Public Instruction, and had exerted an honorable influence in behalf of popular education. At this meeting the conditions, privileges and powers of the act establishing the Cornell University, also the terms of the act bestowing the land scrip, were accepted.

The second meeting of the Board of Trustees was held on the 5th of September, 1865, and Mr. CORNELL was elected president of the board, the Hon. Francis M. FINCH secretary, the Hon. George W. SCHUYLER treasurer. A building committee was appointed, consisting of Messrs. WHITE, CORNELL, KELLY, WEAVER and FINCH; and an executive committee consisting of Messrs. ANDRUS, WILLIAMS, SCHUYLER, A. B. COTNELL, E. B. MORGAN, PARKER, E. CORNELL, ALVORD and GREELEY; and a finance committee consisting of Messrs. E. D. MORGAN, WILLIAMS, KELLY, McGRAW and. A. B. CORNELL.

The third meeting of the Board of Trustees was held in the Agricultural Rooms in Albany, March 14, 1866. A report was presented describing the satisfactory condition of the affairs of the university, and making suggestions as to its future monetary policy. A report of the building committee was presented. Five hundred thousand dollars, were put at the disposal of the building committee, and it was voted to commence at the earliest day consistent with the interests of the university the necessary building or buildings. The building committee and the executive committee were authorized jointly to procure by purchase or otherwise any building or buildings and land near the proposed location of Cornell University suitable for the purposes and uses of said university. It is evident that the site of the university had been selected at this time, but no vote appears in any records of proceedings, by which the present location was formally adopted. The late Judge BOARDMAN stated that, in company with Mr. CORNELL and eleven other gentlemen, he went over the land upon East Hill which might be regarded as adapted to the proposed university. The opinion of these gentlemen was, with a single exception, unanimous in favor of locating the university buildings upon the plateau west of the present site. This location would have afforded ampler space for the erection of buildings, and avoided a large expense in grading. It would have afforded beautiful views and brought the university in those early days into more immediate connection with the village, and thus the great need of suitable accommodations for the students in the vicinity of the university would have been more satisfactorily met. At the entrance of the present university grounds stood the vast and impracticable structure known as the "Cascadilla" the source of whose mysterious architecture history has kindly veiled in obscurity. This building had been erected by subscriptions of the citizens of Ithaca, aided by a State grant, for the purpose of a water cure establishment. At this time the interior was incomplete. Mr. CORNELL was the largest stockholder in the Cascadilla Company. By finishing this edifice, it would be available for a large number of the faculty who would arrive unprovided with residences, and for a considerable number of students. There were also several farm buildings at the north end of the present university campus, which might be used in connection with the proposed model farm. These considerations seem to have been decisive in determining the choice of the present site of the university.

At the fourth meeting of the trustees, held in the Cornell Library in Ithaca, October 21, 1866, Mr. CORNELL was authorized to sell, at his discretion, 100,000 acres of land lately located by him in the interest of the university, at a price not less than five dollars per acre, and an able and elaborate report of the committee on organization was then read by its chairman, the Hon. Andrew D. WHITE. In order to secure the expression of an impartial judgment in the choice of professors, and to avoid the risk of the introduction of a personal or prejudiced feeling in their election, it was voted that all officers of the university should be elected by ballot. A committee to select and report upon the names of suitable professors for the university, subject to the approval of the board,was appointed, consisting of Messrs. BROOKS, WHITE, and John Stanton GOULD, whose name appears for the first time in connection with the proceedings of the board during this year as president of the State Agricultural Society and ex-officio trustee Mr. Andrew D. WHITE was unanimously elected president of the university. Mr. WHITE gives the following account of his election to the presidency

Mr. CORNELL had asked me, from time to time, whether I could suggest any person for the presidency of the university. I mentioned various persons, and presented the arguments in their favor. One day he said to me quietly that he also had a candidate; I asked him who it was, and he said that he preferred to keep the matter to himself until the next meeting of the trustees. Nothing more passed between us on that subject; I had no inkling of his purpose, but thought it most likely that his candidate was a Western gentleman whose claims had been strongly pressed upon him. When the trustees came together, and the subject was brought up, I presented the merits of various gentlemen, especially of one already at the head of an important college in the State, who, I thought, would give us success. Upon this, Mr. CORNELL rose, and, in a very simple but earnest speech, presented my name. It was entirely unexpected by me, and I endeavored to show the trustees that it was impossible for me to take the place in view of other duties, that it needed a man of more robust health, of greater age, and of wider reputation in the State. But Mr. CORNELL quietly persisted, our colleagues declared themselves unanimously of his opinion, and, with many misgivings, I gave a provisional acceptance.

The newspaper reports of this meeting state that provisions were made for the equipment of the university, so as to enable it to begin operations in the following summer of 1867, and for the erection of professors' residences.

The fifth meeting of the board was held in the Agricultural Rooms in Albany, February 13, 1867. At this meeting the first professors were nominated. The committee on the selection of the faculty reported, nominating Professor E. W. EVANS, A.M., to the chair of mathematics; Professor William C. RUSSELL, A.M., to the chair of modern languages and as adjunct-professor of history. The professorship of mathematics was to include civil engineering, and the professorship of modern languages associate instruction in history.

At the following meeting of the board, held in Albany, September 26, 1867, four additional professors were elected, viz. : Burt G. WILDER, M. D., as professor of natural history; Eli W. BLAKE, professor of physics; G. C. CALDWELL, Ph.D., as professor of agricultural chemistry; and James M. CRAFTS, B. S., as professor of general chemistry. The salary of professors was fixed at twenty-five hundred dollars.

At the seventh meeting of the board, held also in Albany, February 13, 1868, the following additional professors were elected: Joseph HARRIS, professor of agriculture; Major J. W. WHITTLESEY, professor of military science; L. H. MITCHELL, professor of mining and metallurgy; D. W. FISKE, professor of North European languages; and the following non-resident professors: Louis AGASSIZ, professor of natural history; Governor Fred HOLBROOKE, of agriculture; James HALL, of general geology; James Russell LOWELL, of English literature; George William CURTISS, of recent literature; and Theodore W. DWIGHT, of constitutional law. The term of office of non-resident professors, when not otherwise specified, was fixed at two years. A committee on a university printing house was appointed.

At the eighth meeting of the trustees, held at the opening of the university, October 6, 1868, the remaining vacancies in the faculty were filled by the election of Charles Fred. HARTT as professor of geology; Albert S. WHEELER as professor of ancient languages; Albert N. PRENTISS as professor of botany; Homer B. SPRAGUE as professor of rhetoric; and John L. MORRIS as professor of mechanical engineering and director of the shops.

History of Cornell - Chapter V

Carl Hommel donated this material and transcribed into digital format.
Thank you Carl Hommel.

You are our visitor since July 05, 2002.
Thanks for stopping by!

© Copyright by Janet M. Nash and Johnna Armstrong
for the contributors of the material on these pages.
All Rights Reserved.

Return to Landmarks of Tompkins County page
Return to Our Towns page
Return to Tompkins County home page