THE University of Michigan, as we know it today, was established in 1837 as the result of the interest of the early settlers in education and of an implied provision in the first constitution of the state undertaking to safeguard the administration of the federal lands given during territorial days "for the support of a university." The idea of a state system of education had already been clearly embodied in an earlier institution founded in Detroit in 1817, the Catholepistemiad of Michigania, and the University actually organized twenty years later was its spiritual, as well as corporate, successor. But neither in 1817 nor in 1837 did the educational programs thus formulated arise spontaneously out of the social consciousness of the pioneer communities in territorial Michigan. They were rather the result of a long evolution in political philosophy and educational ideals, conceptions slowly developed in Europe, modified and adapted under the fire of the American ideal of individual freedom and in the crucible of the Revolution.
The principle of state support for education had long been recognized both in America and in Europe, although in early days the universities received their support from various sources. Greece and Rome had maintained systems of public education in some form, and in the Middle Ages Charlemagne provided free schools and accorded special privileges to the cities of Pavia, Paris, and Bologna, which subsequently became the seats of great universities. Oxford and Cambridge under royal patronage received a considerable degree of public support, while as early as 1575, the great university at Leyden was established by the Dutch Republic. Two hundred years later the ideas of Rousseau and Pestalozzi were producing the ferment which eventually gave rise to systems of public education in France and Prussia.
Nevertheless, although such institutions received some degree of state support and were therefore less subject to religious domination, most European universities exhibited a strongly clerical complexion. This precedent led almost inevitably to a sectarian bias in the first colonial institutions, especially since the governments of most of the Colonies tended to be theocracies — at least, the government and education were more or less under the control of the established church in each colony. Thus, a combination of religious and secular influences not only affected the character of America's first colleges, but also had a profound effect upon the whole development of higher education. To this dual influence we may ascribe the delayed arrival of what has come to be the characteristically American state university system.
Today we are accustomed to think of Harvard, the first college established in America outside of the Spanish colonies, as a privately endowed institution, yet it received most of its early support from public funds. The first appropriation, made in 1636, amounted altogether to £800, of which the first installment of £400 equaled a tax of half a dollar upon every one of the four thousand inhabitants of Massachusetts; subsequently, other monies, including the income from a ferry between Boston and Charleston, were devoted to the support of Harvard College. In addition to making these grants and levying an annual tax for the Page 4college, the Massachusetts legislature also exercised certain prerogatives, such as that of determining the situation of the college and the college buildings. It also appointed an officer to take charge of the institution at state expense, and when he proved unsatisfactory it put him on trial and appointed his successor. Thus early was the principle of public support and responsibility in educational matters recognized in America (C. K. Adams, p. 370).
Similarly the general assembly of Virginia provided in 1660 that "there be land taken upon purchases for a Colledge and free schoole" (Thwing, p. 51), but the institution thus inaugurated did not receive a royal charter until 1693, when it became the College of William and Mary, with final responsibility for its control resting with the Anglican Church. A distinctly American tradition first arose in Yale College, established in 1701; the founders, with one exception, were graduates of Harvard who felt the need of an institution of learning in Connecticut. They were, moreover, critical of a growing spirit of religious tolerance at Harvard, where the direct power of the church in the government was meeting with increasing opposition. After long agitation the Connecticut assembly granted a charter and provided financial support for an institution "wherein youth … may be fitted for public employment, both in the church and the civil state."
The fourth colonial college, Princeton, then and until 1896 called the College of New Jersey, was chartered in 1747 as a center for the education of Presbyterian ministers, although the Society of Friends and the Anglican Church were also represented upon its board of twenty-three trustees. Both Yale and Princeton were strongly evangelical and were destined to be leaders in the missionary movement which later resulted in a great number of church schools in the territory west of the Alleghenies.
In King's College, New York, established in 1754, later to become Columbia University, control by the Anglican Church predominated, although the colonial government and other non-Anglican church bodies were represented on the board. Yet, though more liberal than most of its contemporaries, "only in a very restricted sense" could it be considered a state institution. An advertisement of its first president stated that "there is no intention to impose on the Scholars the peculiar tenets of any particular Sect of Christians" (Tewksbury, p. 116).* Strong opposition to the royal charter, to the offer of land by Trinity Church, and to the giving of public funds to an institution dominated by the church, resulted in opposition which led to a division between the college and the city of the proceeds of lotteries held for the college.
It is evident that since church and state were so closely associated for a long period, these early institutions, despite their public support, were essentially clerical in outlook, concerned with the education of religious leaders or with providing a religious training for the future teachers, lawyers, and doctors in the Colonies. Only in the institution destined to become the University of Pennsylvania, established in 1749 under the inspiration of Benjamin Franklin, when he organized a board to take over a charitable school founded in 1740, was the emphasis more secular than religious. Its ideal was set forth a year after its chartering in 1755 as "the College and Academy of Philadelphia," as follows: "To lay such a general foundation in all Page 5the branches of literature, as may enable youth to perfect themselves in those particular parts to which their business or genius may afterward lead them" (Tewksbury, p. 140). Nothing was said about religious education, though the Bible was named as an important textbook.
Yet, despite this church influence, inescapable in that period, the educational programs established in the Colonies must be considered progressive and liberal. The men who founded them were, for the most part, well educated in the best traditions of the English universities of the time. One hundred graduates of Oxford and Cambridge were numbered among those who came to America before 1640, and these leaders established well-recognized standards of education. Nevertheless, the English universities still retained a limited and narrow medieval outlook in government and curricula, and therefore the new institutions across the ocean welcomed the opportunity to introduce more liberal educational policies. While such changes as were made were far from radical, the first colleges in the Colonies, in spite of their lack of resources, were in advance of Oxford and Cambridge in more direct and less cumbersome methods of administration and in somewhat broader curricula (Thwing, Chap. I).
Almost from the first there was a recognition of some degree of responsibility on the part of the colonial governmental bodies toward education — even though colored by the particular sectarian point of view favored — Congregational in the case of Harvard and Yale, Church of England in William and Mary and King's College, and Presbyterian in Princeton. But, as the functions of church and state tended to separate, the support of education gradually came to be left with the church — so much so that just before the Revolution education had come to be largely under control of the churches, and such public support as existed was incidental.
As a result, we have come to think of these early colleges as privately endowed and as sectarian institutions. John Harvard's gift of 260 books has overshadowed the far greater support given by the commonwealth. As a matter of fact, it was not until after the General Court had "located the College at Newtown, now Cambridge, … that the project engaged the sympathy of John Harvard." The thread of public support, however, was woven deeply into the texture of colonial administration, and it only required such a period of intellectual turmoil and innovation as the Revolution represented to bring once more to the surface the conception of state systems of education.
Throughout the whole colonial period the variation in the American colleges from the parent English institutions in methods of control and support as well as, to some extent, in curricula, became apparent. The English universities were governed under cumbersome systems; in Oxford the control was vested in four separate bodies. Harvard simplified this practice by setting up a board of overseers in 1642, and eight years later, incorporated the college, giving final authority to the corporation and the board of overseers — the system still followed. Harvard thus created the first corporate body in Massachusetts. Yale was governed by a single board, as were most of the other earlier institutions.
The curricula in the American institutions, while in general following age-old precedents, were characterized by the absence of theology as a separate and distinct subject and by the inclusion of new subjects, particularly the sciences. President Thwing even suggests (p. 115) that sports and play, at least in the University of Pennsylvania, were not forgotten. Page 6He further remarks that despite the crudeness and lack of resources the contrast was, "it may as well be said at once, … to the advantage of the … institutions of the New World."
This slowly developing American spirit in education made the eighteenth century, in the late Chancellor Elmer Ellsworth Brown's words, a period of "fluctuation and experiment resulting in a mixed and complicated system of control." He said further:
Out of this confusion, we shall see the simple type of organization known as the close corporation rising into prominence. The type was dominant for some years previous to the American Revolution, and for two or three generations thereafter. It was framed in accordance with models found in the industrial world and in the world of commerce, and it provided for effective business management. But it did not provide equally well for the responsibility of educational institutions to the public which they served. The public became dissatisfied with institutions of this sort, and after a good deal of bungling experimentation, began the establishment of universities under unmixed state control.
(Brown, p. 2.)
While sectarianism in education had been developing in America, a somewhat different system of state education was gradually evolving in Germany, as well as in France under the influence of the encyclopedists, which culminated in the Napoleonic administrative reforms. This movement was influenced in its early stages by the events in the New World, just as the later developments in European state educational systems had profound effects in America. It was the liberal political philosophy of the American Revolution that gave the first definite formulation of the principle of nonsectarian education, supported and governed by public agencies, the impulse that led directly to the state university system.
The change in the pattern of thought which the Revolution brought about was profound. Political rather than religious questions occupied men's minds. Moreover, the liberalism of the contemporary French thinkers challenged church doctrines. Free thought and various degrees of agnosticism were everywhere, even in the colleges, during the immediate post-Revolutionary period. One Virginia contemporary, Bishop Meade, wrote: "Infidelity was rife in the state and the College of William and Mary was regarded as the hotbed of French politics and religion" (Tewksbury, p. 60), while Lyman Beecher, in his Autobiography (I: 43), said: "Yale College was in a most ungodly state. The college church was almost extinct."
This spirit was a reflection of contemporary political liberalism and of the acceptance of the principle of the separation of church and state. It was almost inevitable, too, that there should be not only an increasing emphasis on higher education in the states in process of organization, but also a growing recognition of the desirability of public control of education. A certain degree of popular support had existed almost from the first days, but new winds of political doctrine were blowing and the passing of the intimate association of church and state made possible the fifty-year effort toward state support of institutions of higher learning which was finally to achieve recognized success in the establishment of the University of Michigan.
It is abundantly evident that the social and economic development of the new nation was not sufficiently advanced at first to make immediately effective the liberal program in education advanced by Jefferson and other leaders, although his ideas of a liberal curriculum and the state's responsibility for an educational program, with opportunities open to all classes of society, had a profound effect and gradually modified and Page 7directed the whole trend of higher education. But in view of the nation's cultural and political development it is difficult to see how the true state university could have developed at once. It may even be maintained that the course of higher education was better served at first through the energy and financial support of the separate church bodies in the East. The passing of the first frontier era and the resulting increase in economic and political stability and public resources were later to be reflected in broader and more liberal views, and in a more receptive public attitude towards the democratic idea of public education.
Even during the Revolutionary period, as well as during the emergence of the governmental systems of the various embryo states, public policies toward education were debated far and wide. Some maintained vigorously that the responsibility rested with the church, or at least with church and state in combination. Their influence was undeniably strong, and affected materially, and even delayed, the final establishment of universities under definite public control.
A second group, with Washington its outstanding representative, insisted on the necessity of a strong centralized government, of which one aspect was a national university. It is significant that Washington saw clearly, as early as 1775, the need of unifying the mind of the nation through the education of its youth. (Note a passage from Samuel Blodgett's Economica, quoted by Slosson, p. 97.) Despite this strong executive support and the interest of Congress and many farsighted leaders, the national university never materialized, although the city of Washington was to become one of the nation's great centers of culture and scientific investigation.
The third concept, control of education by the separate states, eventually received effective consideration. Thomas Jefferson was its most powerful advocate; he saw in it support for his doctrine of the importance of the separate states in the federal union. He tried, unsuccessfully, in a suggested amendment to the constitution of the College of William and Mary in 1779, to bring about a measure of state control by appointing five "visitors" who were not to be "restrained in their legislation by the … laws of the kingdom of England; or the canons or the constitution of the English Church." Sectarian jealousies apparently defeated this measure, but Jefferson was elected a visitor soon after he became governor, and certain changes were made which led to the granting of lands and properties to the college by the assembly. These provisions aroused strong opposition, and the matter was carried to the Court of Appeals under John Marshall, who held, in a decision given in November, 1790, that William and Mary, despite public gifts (Bell, p. 179), was essentially a private school.
Jefferson's effort was thus nullified, and for a time he turned his attention to plans for a national university. Similarly, an effort in 1785 to unite Washington College and St. John's College, founded by Anglicans, into a University of Maryland was defeated, and actual establishment was delayed until 1812, when an autonomous institution arose upon the basis of a College of Medicine in Baltimore. This university came under state control in 1826, but the state Supreme Court in 1838 gave it once more, in effect, the status of a private institution in the service of the state, which status continued until 1920. In Delaware the organization of Delaware College as a state university in 1821 was prevented by the Presbyterians.
Aside from Virginia, four states took active measures during the Revolutionary Page 8period, or immediately afterward, to establish state-supported universities. These were North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and New York. As early as November, 1776, North Carolina, in a constitution adopted at Halifax, provided for a university, although not until December 11, 1789, did it finally receive its charter. Opened in 1795 with a class of eleven students, it was the first state university to inaugurate an academic program. Its public status, however, was limited, since its self-perpetuating board of trustees, "a characteristic of Calvinistic and Federalist areas in the country," gave the dominant orthodox Presbyterian and Federalist interests a large measure of control. Despite subsequent charter amendments empowering the general assembly to fill vacancies on the board of trustees, "the University of North Carolina remained throughout the greater part of the period before the Civil War largely under the dominance of church control" (Tewksbury, p. 177).
The first university of the type conforming to the "Revolutionary" ideal to be actually established was that of South Carolina. It was chartered in 1801, and opened in 1805 with a board of trustees elected by the legislature. Situated at Columbia, in the Piedmont district, where the Democratic party was strongest and Jefferson's liberal doctrines were popular, the institution flourished for some time. But in 1834 a liberal president was replaced by the first of a series of more orthodox executives.
The first real state university charter, which was granted by the assembly of Georgia in January, 1785, provided for a Senatus Academicus to be composed of two bodies, a board of visitors comprising the governor and other state officers, and a self-perpetuating board of trustees. Fourteen years were to elapse, however, before the first meeting of the Senatus Academicus was held. After receiving in 1801 a gift of 630 acres in Athens, by Governor John Milledge, the University of Georgia "went into operation and during the first ten years fifty students were graduated." But again Jeffersonian principles were nullified by the growing power of religious bodies and the early advanced ideals "remained in eclipse until after the Civil War."
In New York the state control of education took a very different course. King's College, established largely under Church of England influence, was considerably more liberal in its program than were most of its predecessors, though not quite so free as the other contemporary urban institution, Franklin's University of Pennsylvania. During the Revolution King's College came upon evil days. Its Tory president, Dr. Cooper, was obliged to flee, and for a time instruction was wholly discontinued. But immediately after the Revolution the state legislature began to consider "the establishment of seminaries of learning and schools for education of youth." Friends of the former King's College also petitioned for its rehabilitation and for a revision of its charter to enable it to become head of a proposed state system of education, omitting portions "inconsistent with that liberality and that civil and legislative freedom which our present happy constitution points out" (Brown, p. 29).
The outcome of this combined movement to re-establish King's College and to set up what were to be, in effect, church colleges in different parts of the state, was the University of the State of New York, evolved as a compromise. The legislature in 1784 changed King's College to Columbia College and made it a part of a centralized "University of the State of New York," governed by a board of regents — apparently the first time that term was so used in America. Page 9This body was composed of six leading state officials, the mayors of New York and Albany ex officio, and various representatives of the counties, legislative bodies, founders of colleges and schools, and fellows, as well as professors and tutors in the several colleges. It was naturally a very unwieldy assembly, and in practice was controlled by the representatives of Columbia College. Neither the country members nor the representatives of Columbia were satisfied with the first charter, and in 1787 a compromise measure was enacted, providing for a board of twenty-one regents, of whom all except the governor and lieutenant governor were to be elected by the legislature. No college or academy officer was eligible to serve. Columbia College was to be governed by a self-perpetuating board of trustees.
This rather complicated system was not a university as the term is commonly accepted; eventually it came to be more analogous to the French system for centralized control of education with specific powers over secondary and higher education. The regents also controlled the chartering of colleges and universities, admissions, and the granting of degrees within the state. It was, however, clearly a state enterprise, not subject to private control, although Columbia and the other colleges and universities remained private institutions in matters of financial support, internal government, and curricula.
While these measures for state control of education were developing, with varying success, the national government, in the years almost immediately following the Revolution, made a significant provision for the public support of education.
Two measures proposed in 1783 suggest that some national leaders, at least, were thinking in broad terms. In a petition by Colonel Timothy Pickering for the formation of a state in the territory between Lake Erie and the Ohio River, submitted to Congress through George Washington, was probably the first mention of a reservation of lands for the support of education. Virginia also proposed the same year that one-tenth of the territorial lands be devoted to "the payment of … civil lists …, the erecting of a frontier force, and the founding of seminaries of learning."
These proposals, preceding the adoption of the Constitution, came as part of the plans for the regulation of the Northwest Territory, which had come under federal control as a result of the inability of the different states to agree upon their claims in the wilderness beyond the Alleghenies. Although the Continental Congress was weak and ineffective, the measures eventually taken proved one of the most constructive policies in American history.
The first legislation, on May 20, 1785, provided that lot No. 16 in every township should be reserved "for the maintenance of public schools." This was the first national recognition of the state's responsibility toward education and "marks the commencement of the policy, since uniformly observed …, for the support of common schools" (Blackmar, p. 43). Two years later the Ohio Company was formed for the settlement of the vast western area by soldiers of the Revolutionary War, and its supporters in Congress proposed that one section in each township be reserved for common schools, one for the support of religion, and that four townships in the state be set aside for the support of a university. Congress considered these concessions too liberal, and a compromise gave one section for religion, one for common schools, and two townships for a "literary institution to be applied to the intended object by the legislature of the state." This provision, included in an Page 10act of July 23, 1787, defining the "powers to the Board of Treasury to contract for the sale of the western territory," was, in effect, a second part of the Ordinance of 1787 for the governing of the Northwest Territory, adopted ten days before.
Perhaps the most significant, certainly the most famous, part of the ordinance itself was the clause setting forth the future policy of the Federal Government in the matter of education: "Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."
This ringing statement became the charter of all the state universities in the western areas. Generations of students at the University of Michigan read it above the stage of old University Hall; today it is emblazoned high above the great portico of Angell Hall, the main building of the University.
Despite the public approval thus significantly given to the development of public education, more than fifty years were to elapse before the principle was to become accepted and the era of the publicly supported university was to arise. Many efforts were made to give effective recognition to the ideal thus set forth by the Federal Government; but in the East the church-supported institutions were too strong and the state universities were at first too weak, whereas in the South the churches were too poor to set up their own colleges and sought to control the state institutions. Likewise, the pioneer conditions in the Northwest Territory were too confused to carry the conception of public education beyond theoretical formulation. Thus, almost everywhere, active sectarian opposition proved for many years a most effective factor in preventing any great degree of college and university support by the states.
The advocates of state education — men of vision such as Jefferson — were thinking in terms of broad political philosophies, but their numbers were comparatively few. While lip service was paid to their views, particularly in the West, their influence was far less effective than the organized and immediate opposition of the various church bodies, and the support they gave their own institutions as soon as they were established.
This opposition was intensified, particularly during the first decades of the nineteenth century, by a great religious revival representing not only a reaction from the liberalism and the skepticism of the Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary period and the influence of contemporary France, but also a gradual return to more settled conditions and more conservative views. An upsurge of religious zeal in the colleges and universities was one result. It was not merely a passive attitude. Scores of "hopefully pious" young college men went West to build churches and colleges in the Mississippi Valley supported by numerous "home missionary societies" in the East. This movement was primarily responsible for the church-related colleges of the Middle West today, although much of the work of these emissaries was nonsectarian and was supported effectively by the Society for the Promotion of Collegiate and Theological Education at the West, which refused to give funds to any institution under sectarian domination (Dunbar, MS, pp. 40, 101).
Nevertheless, although the ideal of state-supported education gradually grew stronger, church influence in education persisted and early legislatures in the Western states granted charters freely to sectarian schools. The proper use of the federal lands also came into question, and efforts arose to divert the funds thus provided to church-supported colleges. But the early legislatures, for Page 11the most part, stood firm and held these designated sections for the public institutions. Mismanagement, and in some cases actual fraud, however, often made the sums realized pitifully small. In this respect Michigan was more fortunate, and, as the result of the public spirit of her leaders during territorial and early statehood days, realized more than twice the amount "received for any other educational grant in the North West Territory" (Blackmar, p. 243).
When the University of Michigan was first established, in 1817, the seven existing state universities were far from fulfilling the present-day conception of a state institution. Most of them were governed by self-perpetuating boards, or, despite liberal charter provisions, were actually controlled through the influence of various religious bodies in state political organizations. Even in Virginia state control was not to continue unchallenged, although eventually, in 1819, Thomas Jefferson was able to fulfill his dream and establish the University of Virginia through rechartering Central College, a small institution evolved from an academy three years before. A board of visitors appointed by the governor was to have oversight of the institution subject at all times to legislative control, but almost at once it became the target of denominational forces. After Jefferson's death their influence became stronger. In the words of a contemporary British observer of obviously clerical sympathies, the institution "languished and became almost extinct till a Christian influence was infused into its management." Nevertheless, this "influence" did not represent the type of sectarian control exercised in other Southern universities. Something of Jefferson's ideas and liberal educational philosophy remained and was destined to exercise a profound influence on the state-university movement.
At just this period the principle of public support for higher education was vitally affected by John Marshall's Supreme Court decision in the famous Dartmouth College case. It came as the result of New Hampshire's effort to gain control of Dartmouth College, chartered in 1769 by the King of England as a private institution under Congregationalist influences. Marshall's decision, given in February, 1819, made it clear that the corporate organization of the older colleges was unassailable by state governments, and that private and sectarian colleges could maintain themselves without legislative interference, despite the very general feeling that the colonial charters were anachronisms in a new era of liberal principles and public control.
This decision was a serious blow to the advocates of public control of higher education and undoubtedly retarded the rise of state universities, though it gave corresponding encouragement to the endowed institutions. Its immediate effect was to strengthen the cause of higher education (Thwing, pp. 275-78), support the sectarian movement, and stimulate the growth of literally hundreds of seminaries, academies, and colleges throughout the Western territories in the decades before the Civil War — emphatically the era of the small church college. Also, it formulated in simple terms the question as to whether the educational institutions of the country were to be maintained by religious bodies or by the state. For many years the answer, to all practical purposes, was the first alternative. As late as 1860 President G. F. Magoun of the University of Iowa observed that "the whole number of colleges in the United States not founded by religion can be counted upon one hand" (Tewksbury, p. 56).
Nevertheless, a few earlier experiments kept more or less alive the principle Page 12of state education — in their designation as state universities, however, and in certain features of their relation to the state, rather than in their actual administration. Marshall's responsibility for this development throughout the years preceding the Civil War cannot be overlooked, although the strongly religious American spirit, commented upon by many European observers, was perhaps equally important. De Tocqueville noted: "There is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America. By regulating domestic life, it regulates the State."
While the Dartmouth College case is perhaps best known for its effect on American business practices through its emphasis on the right of contract and corporate organization, it is equally significant through its effect upon educational institutions. By defining the status of denominational colleges it affected the whole future course of higher education. Many states which organized universities subsequent to Marshall's decision provided specifically for some degree of legislative control, for elective, or appointive, rather than self-perpetuating, governing boards, for boards of visitors responsible to the state, and for the reservation of powers to cancel charters. Some legislatures, it is true, remained under the influence of religious bodies and blocked, temporarily, the establishment of "godless" institutions of higher education. But the ultimate effect of the Dartmouth College case was to clarify and define precisely the position of the state university. The reaction from the liberal and anticlerical philosophy of the Revolutionary period was thus by no means universal.
Efforts to acquire some elements of public control are to be observed in many of the colleges and universities established immediately after the Revolution. This was the case in Vermont, the first new state to be admitted, which chartered its university in 1791. Its founders apparently favored a liberal form of administration, but the controlling Puritan and Federalist interests provided a self-perpetuating, and not a state-appointed, board of trustees. This was all changed in 1810, however, when the legislature was empowered to elect the trustees. Nevertheless, the institution did not flourish. In 1828 the original charter was reaffirmed and religious influences became once more dominant, and they remained so until after the Civil War, when the institution became in actuality a state university, in a reorganization which took place at about the time when James Burrill Angell became its president.
Kentucky, which followed Vermont into the Union, had already established Transylvania University, under a self-perpetuating board, largely Presbyterian. This early institution did not survive, and in 1837 Bacon College, founded by the Disciples Church, was chartered. It was later discontinued, but was re-established in 1865 as Kentucky University, and in 1907 became the University of Kentucky. Its denominational character was retained until well into the present century (Tewksbury, p. 190). In Tennessee, Blount College, established in 1794 as a Presbyterian institution, became in time the University of Tennessee, although it did not emerge as a state university of the modern type until 1870.
Of the other Southern states admitted to the Union, Louisiana, admitted in 1812, tried, unsuccessfully, to maintain several institutions of semipublic character, representing varying political, racial, and religious interests. The first step toward a real university came when the state utilized the two federal townships of land for the Louisiana State Page 13Seminary of Learning, with trustees appointed by the governor. It was opened for students in 1860 and in 1870 became Louisiana State University and moved to Baton Rouge.
Mississippi, admitted to the Union in 1817, at first supported a series of institutions under denominational control, and no movement toward a university developed until an increase in the state's resources permitted the establishment in 1844 of a university at Oxford, under direct state control. It was endowed with the proceeds of one free section of land, and was given a self-perpetuating board of trustees. In 1857 the governor was made an ex officio trustee, and in 1861 public control was assured when the state was empowered to fill all vacancies on the board.
In Alabama the development of a true state university came somewhat earlier. The University, chartered in 1821, two years after statehood was achieved, opened in 1831 under the direct control of the legislature, supported by the proceeds of the federal land grants. It was located at Tuscaloosa and, through a conciliatory attitude toward the dominant religious interests, acquired an unusual measure of stability.
Missouri entered the Union in 1821, but its situation as a border state and the resulting partisan quarrels led to delay in the establishment of a university. Congress authorized the sale of the usual two townships in 1831, but the returns proved entirely inadequate, and effective action was delayed for some years. Plans for a comprehensive state university were finally approved in 1839, and the institution, located at Columbia, opened in 1841. Partisan feeling over slavery and opposition of sectarian bodies greatly hampered its development until after the Civil War.
Ohio and Indiana were the first divisions of the Northwest Territory to receive settlers in any numbers, and the institutions which later developed into state universities received charters at an early day. But their programs were limited, and Michigan, somewhat later, became the first state within this great area to take definite measures looking toward a comprehensive state system of education.
The national policy of giving public lands for educational purposes was, however, inaugurated in Ohio. Congress in 1787 granted two townships to the Ohio Company of Associates and one township to John Cleves Symmes — a precedent ultimately followed in all the states subsequently established. The first institution in Ohio, the American Western University at Athens, chartered under the Ohio Company grant in 1802, later became Ohio University. The founders intended it to be a private institution, but the state administration had other views and provided that the legislature not only should appoint the trustees but also should "alter, limit or restrain any of the powers granted to the institution" (Knight and Commons, pp. 14-18). Ohio University thus became in theory the first state university, of the type projected during the Revolutionary era, in the newer states; in actuality it was dominated and weakened by religious interests, which had a stronger control over several other colleges in the state and gave them more active support.
Under the grant of a third township to John Cleves Symmes another institution, Miami University, in western Ohio, was also established under state auspices in 1809. Here a self-perpetuating board of trustees, combined with the same provisions for state supervision as in the University, and an eventual requirement that the trustees report to the legislature, gave it, in effect, a dual status, which hindered its development. It was placed more directly under the control Page 14of the state in 1842, but Presbyterian interests were dominant in determining policies. Ohio State University, eventually the largest state institution in Ohio, was originally established with a state charter in 1870 as the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College, after the passage of the Morrill Land Grant Act. The University was opened in 1873 and assumed its present designation in 1878.
In Indiana, admitted as a state in 1816, the history of educational effort begins with Vincennes University, founded in 1806 as a semipublic institution. This university did not survive, however, and the state eventually turned to Indiana Seminary at Bloomington, chartered in 1820 and raised to the collegiate level in 1828. It was given control of the two townships of federal land, but was governed by a self-perpetuating board of trustees, and, although a board of visitors was created by the legislature, policies were controlled by Presbyterian interests. In the meantime a number of sectarian colleges attracted the support of the various religious bodies, and Indiana College, as it was then called, came more and more under the direction of the legislature, which, in 1838, granted it a new charter and named it Indiana University. Vestiges of sectarian control remained, nevertheless, and it was not completely transformed into a modern state university until after the Civil War.
This survey of the state institutions established before the University of Michigan was actually under way indicates how precarious and inadequate was the first support given educational programs by the different states. A very few institutions recognized in a measure the principle of a publicly maintained program in higher education, but most of them were under the political influence of religious bodies, which regarded such a policy as missionary propaganda. They actively maintained control of the little state-supported colleges through political manipulation of legislatures and representation on boards of visitors and trustees as well as in college faculties. Some political and educational leaders with vision and ideals clung to the Jeffersonian principles of education, so effectively stated in the Ordinance of 1787, but for many years their efforts were nullified by the sustained and vociferous zeal of the religious bodies.
Moreover, the state institutions were in danger of being literally lost among the enormous number of sectarian colleges founded in the period previous to the Civil War. One writer (Tewksbury, p. 28) reports 516 such establishments in 16 states, of which 412 failed to survive. In Georgia alone, out of 51 colleges, 44 fell by the wayside, and in Ohio 26 out of 43 colleges were casualties. Nevertheless, 182 institutions established before 1861 have survived, beginning with Harvard in 1636 and ending with Vassar and Seton Hall, founded in 1861. Of this number 21 are given as state institutions, although, as we have seen, few at first were subject to any degree of real state control.
It was the re-establishment of the University of Michigan under the state constitution in 1837 that signalized the end of the dormant period in state support of education, although results were not to become conspicuously apparent until after the Civil War.
Michigan's early attitude towards education had differed in many respects from that of the other states of the Northwest, since from the first its educational program was free from church control. This was true even in the first incarnation of the institution in Detroit, the Catholepistemiad of Michigania, founded in 1817 as the result of the educational ideals and political theories of two strangely assorted but brilliant leaders — Father Page 15Gabriel Richard, a missionary priest of the Catholic Church, and Augustus A. B. Woodward, a freethinking scholar and friend of President Jefferson, who appointed him in 1805 chief justice of the Territory. Their efforts were supported by other vigorous personalities in the little French-Canadian settlement, which was the Detroit of that period: Lewis Cass, Governor of the Territory, William Woodbridge, Secretary of State, and John Monteith, a young Presbyterian missionary just graduated from Princeton.
This group produced a decidedly original plan for a system of education to be created and maintained by the territorial government, a system which, despite its name, was sound and comprehensive. It was to be an administrative system as well as an educational institution, for the teachers or didactors (didactoriim) to be appointed by the governor and paid from the public treasury, were to be not only instructors in the institution but also a corporate body empowered to appoint teachers, "establish colleges, academies, schools, libraries, museums, athenaeums, botanical gardens, laboratories, and other useful literary and scientific institutions." It was also charged with providing directors, visitors, curators, librarians, instructors "and instructrixes, among and throughout the various counties, cities, towns, townships and other geographical divisions of Michigan." As Hinsdale observes (p. 9), the didactors were to be "quite as much a territorial board of education, clothed with ample political powers, as a university faculty" (see Part I: Early History and Regents).
No steps were taken to secure the lands granted by Congress in 1805 until 1823, when new legislation was requested. Delays ensued, but finally, on May 26, 1826, nine years after the Catholepistemiad was created, Congress set aside two townships for the use and support of a university within the Territory of Michigan. Michigan thus set up her first plan for a university with no aid from any source save the people of the Territory.
It was an ambitious enterprise for a community on the edge of a wilderness, which included, all told, not many more than five thousand inhabitants (Hinsdale, p. 5). The governor and judges, who exercised legislative and executive powers in the Territory, were authorized to increase public taxes by 15 per cent, and four successive lotteries were authorized, of which the institution was to retain 15 per cent of the prizes. Student fees were to provide the only other income.
The main inspiration for this plan lay in the liberal political philosophy of the Revolutionary period, but other elements contributed to its unique character. Father Richard for many years had been advocating a system of public education and had even presented a memorial to the territorial governor and judges in 1808, suggesting "an academy in which the higher branches … should be taught to the young gentlemen of our country" (McLaughlin, p. 16). He was undoubtedly familiar with the French system of public instruction and this may well have influenced his thinking, though he had been necessarily practical in his educational experiments, and was possibly more interested in elementary education.
Judge Woodward, however, was a man of entirely different outlook, essentially a classical scholar in whom the dreams of a visionary were curiously mingled with the activities of the lawyer and politician. He was probably a native of New York City; at any rate he was a student at Columbia during the period when the establishment of the University of the State of New York was under Page 16debate, and doubtless was familiar with that plan for public administration of education. Later, as a lawyer in Washington, he became a friend, possibly a protégé, of Jefferson (Jenks, p. 565). Both were interested in general philosophical and political principles extending to the systems for the universal classification of knowledge which engaged contemporary European philosophers. Woodward's efforts resulted in his System of Universal Science, setting forth his own ideas, later to become the basis of his plan for the Catholepistemiad (Isbell, p. 168). He played an important role in Michigan during the territorial period, and his grandiose conceptions led to the present plan of radiating streets in Detroit, the organization of a million-dollar bank corporation, and an elaborate system of laws for the Territory, as well as to the first organization of the University (Dunbar, "State Control," pp. 256 ff.).
In 1814, at the time of the occupation of Detroit by the British, Woodward paid a visit to Jefferson at Monticello. Jefferson was then developing his plans for the University of Virginia, and it must be taken as more than a coincidence that his plans were set forth in a letter to Governor W. C. Nicholas of Virginia on April 2, 1816 (H. B. Adams, p. 67), and in another to Joseph C. Cabell, September 9, 1817 (Jefferson, XVII: 417), only a fortnight after Woodward had secured the adoption of his similar plan in Michigan. Both proposed complete systems of education from the common school to the university, assigned its management to a central board, and gave the state final control. Jefferson, however, avoided the pseudoclassical jargon found in the Michigan act, though he had employed such terms in his younger days in the Ordinance of 1784. Jefferson's debt to French thinkers is well recognized, and French contemporary ideas were probably incorporated in the Michigan proposal, not only through Father Richard's and Woodward's acquaintance with the Napoleonic system of education, but also through the influence of Jefferson on Woodward. Likewise, there is reason to believe that the New York plan for a state system of education was in the minds of the two men.
It is significant also of the powers contemplated in Woodward's scheme, and its relationship to the New York plan, that on October 3, 1817, an act was passed by the "University of Michigania" providing that "there be established in the City of Detroit, a College, to be denominated the First College of Michigania," that "edifices" for its accommodation be erected, and that "the President and Professors of the University of Michigania shall be the President and Professors of the said College" (Early Records, p. 28). Although this college was never in actual operation, the measures for its creation, with similar provisions for the primary schools and academies actually set up, indicate a supervisory status on the part of the university analogous to that of the University of New York.
Woodward's plan has been called by one historian (Blackmar, p. 238) "the first model of a complete state university in America," while the late E. E. Slosson maintained (p. 168) that, as a result of this measure, "the honor of being called 'the mother of the state universities' was reserved for Michigan." It remained, however, for eighteen years only an ideal, even though in such administrative measures as were taken by the trustees there was no retreat from the original strong provisions for state control. Among the early records of the University, from 1817 to 1837 (Early Records, pp. 182-98), are drafts of several proposed enactments to strengthen the Page 17state administration. One of these suggested the election of a board of thirteen regents — the first time this term, borrowed from the New York plan, was used in connection with any university.
In 1821 a second legislative measure created what was, in effect, a new institution at Detroit on the basis of the first plan, to be known simply as the University of Michigan, and to be controlled by twenty-one trustees under legislative appointment, empowered to establish other colleges, academies, and schools and to grant degrees. The most significant passage was a provision that no person should be excluded as president, professor, instructor, or pupil "for his conscientious persuasion in matters of religion." Nevertheless, the new act "did not impart vigor to the institution … In fact, the trustees did not maintain the standard that the Didactors had set up" (Hinsdale, p. 14).
These actions by the territorial government were, as a matter of fact, little more than stage settings for future educational developments in Michigan. The university as the capstone of this first educational edifice never came into being. The building erected in Detroit was used only for primary and secondary education, although the trustees continued throughout the period to function as a corporate body, maintaining the institution's slender property. But the ideals set forth were destined to have a profound effect.
It will be noted that at the time Michigan became a state in 1837, only a few institutions bore the name of state universities, and practically all of them, including Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Vermont, were in effect under sectarian control, while the University of the State of New York was an administrative body, exercising in behalf of the state a certain degree of control over a number of strongly sectarian institutions. The University of Alabama, with its effective state control from its establishment in 1831, was an exception.
Rapid growth did not come in Michigan until after the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, whereas settlers had streamed into southern Ohio and Indiana almost immediately after the Revolutionary War. But in the decade between 1830 and 1840, Michigan changed from a community of hunters and trappers to a state in which the ideals and Yankee traditions of the Atlantic seaboard, particularly New York and New England, became predominant. This rapid development also made the University's financial problems somewhat less difficult and probably spelled the difference between success and failure. Many young men of culture and education were attracted by the opportunities the West offered, among them clergymen with the missionary spirit then prevalent in the East. Through their influence two institutions in particular, Yale and Princeton, became models for many of the colleges to be established. It was not a mere chance, therefore, that the striking personalities that participated in the establishment of the University of Michigan were mostly college men.
General Isaac Edmund Crary, who guided the University's first destinies in the constitutional convention of 1835, a graduate of Trinity (then Washington) College, Connecticut, had just come to live in the home of John D. Pierce in the tiny settlement of Marshall. The measures which he proposed as chairman of the committee on education in the convention formed the subject of many discussions with Pierce. Although the constitution, as adopted, did not actually authorize the establishment of a university, it did provide that:
The legisláture shall take measures for the Page 18protection, improvement or other disposition of such lands as have been or may hereafter be, reserved or granted by the United States to this State, for the support of a University; and the funds accruing … shall be and remain a permanent fund for the support of said University, with such branches as the public convenience may hereafter demand …
(Const., 1835, Art. 10, sec. 5.)
The intent of this clause was clear and was taken as a mandate, for within less than two months after Michigan was admitted to the Union the legislature passed, on March 18, 1837, what has been known as the organic act of the University. This measure in practically all respects followed a scheme for the University prepared by Pierce, who had already been appointed under the temporary state organization superintendent of public instruction, an office hitherto unknown. As a result the University of Michigan was given the most advanced and effective plan for a state university so far evolved, a model for all the state institutions of higher learning which were established subsequently. President Angell said fifty years later: "Our means have not yet enabled us to execute in all particulars the comprehensive plan which was framed by Mr. Pierce" (Semi-centennial, p. 162).
This act authorized the creation of a Board of Regents, with a chancellor, to be ex officio president. There were to be three departments, the professorships specified included one on natural theology, to include "the history of all religions" — an interesting contrast to the abandonment of a special department of theology in the earlier colonial colleges, which were so definitely sectarian. A board of five visitors appointed by the superintendent of public instruction was to inspect the University and report on its work. The Regents were also required to report to the state.
A further important and unique measure was the authorization of branches of the University. Pierce had originally recommended that these schools should be maintained jointly by the counties and the University, but his suggestion was not accepted, with the result that state control remained centralized. These branches, in effect, gave practical form to the provision for "schools, academies and athenaeums" in the earlier University of Michigania. No members of the clergy were included in the first Board of Regents, a policy which aroused immediate antagonism from church bodies and was later remedied by the appointment of a number of clergymen to the Board. These supposedly sectarian representatives, however, were never in a majority on the Board, and often, as in the case of the Reverend George Duffield, who served from 1839 to 1848, were among the most active and unprejudiced Regents.
The Regents first met in Ann Arbor on June 5, 1837, for a three-day session, at which the site of the University was fixed, eight branches were authorized, four professorships provided, and their salaries fixed at not "less than $1,200 or more than $2,000." It is significant that the character of the proposed institution as a university in the modern sense had been clearly recognized in the organic act of March 18, through the authorization of departments of law and medicine, although the Regents at this meeting provided only for a professorship in law.
Most of these measures were premature; no executive of the University was appointed until 1852, faculty salaries did not reach the established figure for thirty years, and the Law Department did not come until 1859, but in all their actions it is clear that the Regents conceived the institution as the center of a state system of learning.
This start in many respects was auspicious, Page 19but actual progress was slow. No funds were immediately available for buildings, and properly prepared students were lacking. A loan of $100,000 from the state proved necessary to support the branches and inaugurate a building program, but even with this aid four years passed before the University was able to open its doors in September, 1841. The first faculty consisted of two men: the Reverend George P. Williams, a prominent Episcopalian who had been principal of the Pontiac branch, and the Reverend Joseph Whiting, a Presbyterian minister and principal of the Niles branch. These two men were not long alone, however, for gradually, in recognition of the desirability of a religious atmosphere, men of other religious persuasions were added, although the Regents were careful to give no one denomination control. But for many years the various religious bodies felt that they had a prescriptive right to the appointments in the different professorships, an unwritten law that remained in force until President Tappan's time. One of his strongest opponents, Professor Alexander Winchell, was particularly disappointed because he was not given the house on the campus assigned customarily to the "Methodist Professor."
Members of the faculty at first served one year each as president, a practice that afforded no opportunity for any one religious body to become predominant, but it led to difficulties and disputes within the faculty that weakened the University for some years. Student resentment over an attempt to abolish fraternities also increased the troubles of the little institution. The resulting acrimonious jealousies and disputes brought about the enforced resignation of most of the members, pending the adoption of a new state constitution which, it was thought, would give the University a fresh start. It is worthy of note that, in the final outcome, the fraternities were recognized and the faculty troubles brought about a stronger, more centralized administration.
The Constitution of 1850 provided that the Regents were to be elected rather than appointed by the governor and were to have general supervision of the University, in effect, a co-ordinate and not subordinate part of the state government, thus ensuring direct control by the people of the state. Again, no clergyman was numbered among the eight new Regents. The new Board reinstated Professor Williams, one of the three who had been deprived of their positions by the retiring Regents, and in other appointments it followed the precedent of recognizing the principal church bodies of the state. The new constitution also called for a stronger administrative policy through a mandatory provision that a president be appointed, and, in accordance with this action, Henry Philip Tappan became President in 1852. Although he was a Presbyterian clergyman, his vigorous, nonsectarian policy inaugurated a practical demonstration of the essential practicability and soundness of principles in higher education which in most of the states up to that time had been only a dream in the minds of a few political and educational leaders.
Throughout this early period both the legislature and the Regents took a strong position against dominating church influences in educational policies. Though instruction in religion and morals was recognized in the University, both the legislature and the Board actively opposed control by any one denomination. Moreover, the sentiment in favor of a centralized educational system was so strong that the first charters granted other church-related schools in Michigan did not confer the right to grant degrees (Hinsdale, p. 29), and the state constitution Page 20of 1850 prohibited entirely the granting of special charters to educational institutions, except under a general law. Such a law was not enacted until the Republican party came into power in 1855, when a number of sectarian institutions were established in accordance with its provisions.
A certain amount of criticism of the University became strong enough eventually to bring about the dismissal of President Tappan in 1863. In part this action was the result of sectarian opposition, although his insistence that church control had no place in a state university, evidenced by his refusal to affiliate with his own church body in Ann Arbor, became a firmly established principle after his time. The appointment of Dr. Erastus O. Haven, a Methodist clergyman, in 1852, as Professor of Latin (later to become Tappan's successor in the presidency), was the last appointment made upon a denominational basis (Dunbar, "State Control," p. 212). What was in some of its essentials a revival of the effort for denominational control of the University, which culminated in the Douglas-Rose controversy of the late seventies, also proved unsuccessful, and Michigan's position as the first institution founded and continuously maintained from its first days free of sectarian domination was definitely confirmed (see Part I: Douglas-Rose Controversy).
As Professor Ten Brook, himself a member of the early faculty and the first historian of the University, pointed out in his American State Universities (1875), the people of the state were at first uncertain as regards their relationship to the University. "There was no consciousness of ownership … and responsibility for its management. This consciousness existed everywhere, nowhere" (p. 184). Since, in his view, state institutions "had never prospered in this country," the general attitude was that the trust for the University set up by the federal land grant must be administered in accordance with the established specifications, but there was no great enthusiasm, or "even hopeful feeling," during the decade before 1852. Since "all the successful institutions of this country were under the control of bodies of religious men … or closed corporations" whose leaders had been carefully chosen for their special qualifications:
From the very nature of the case no class of men could thus fully identify themselves with this University … Various religious denominations, and their members, as individuals, looked upon it as quite foreign to themselves; it would, of course, they thought, be managed by politicians.
The result was a general feeling that the University should be "managed by the lawyers." This was very largely the case in the first Boards of Regents, but it was also recognized that, while a religious atmosphere was desirable in the University, no particular denomination was to control the institution. Ten Brook observes, perhaps a little optimistically (p. 282):
There can probably be no instances found in which regents determined beforehand, if indeed they ever suggested, that a particular place should be filled with a man of a particular denomination of Christians. Nor do they make any effort to keep the confessions evenly represented; although if they should ever find any one decidedly predominating over others they might perhaps, in a quiet way, check the tendency.
Among the other universities whose establishment followed Michigan's prior to the era of expanson and liberal policies after the Civil War, none was to follow Michigan's example in all respects. Iowa,* like Michigan, had incorporated Page 21a weak institution during its territorial days in 1840, but it was far from a state system of organization. It was not until 1847, one year after Iowa became a state, that a university was established by the legislature under the grant of the two townships for the support of higher education made in conformity with the practice almost universally followed by Congress in the case of new states. The new Iowa institution, opened in 1855, met immediate opposition from the sectarian interests, which were dominant until after the Civil War. For a period the University was placed under a state board of education, but in 1864 it came again under control of the legislature and entered upon a period of increasing expansion and effectiveness.
With the admission of Wisconsin to the Union in 1848, the old Northwest Territory came to an end. During territorial days three efforts had been made to establish a university in Wisconsin, but only after the new legislature came into existence was a state university definitely established at Madison. In the meantime the colleges at Beloit and Racine, founded by religious interests, became centers of active opposition, and placed the University in a precarious position. To meet this situation the distinguished educator, Henry Barnard, was called from the East in 1859. The emphasis he developed on practical sciences and teacher training met with popular approval and ensured immediately a degree of success which, with the subsequent support of the Morrill Act, enabled the University to broaden its curriculum as the period of acute religious controversy came to an end.
The pattern followed in Iowa and Wisconsin is also to be discerned in Minnesota, admitted as a state in 1858. An early university, incorporated in 1851, was not organized, and the regents found their only function in administering the lands appropriated by the government, involving a series of long and complicated controversies. Not until the Morrill Act gave a new impetus to the movement was the University of Minnesota finally reorganized in 1868 under a comprehensive charter with a board of regents appointed by the governor.
One result of the Civil War was a strengthening of national and state administrative agencies. This led inevitably to an increasing interest in public affairs and broader concepts of public policy, which gradually lessened the opposition to state-supported education. All the states in the Middle West and West, so rapidly formed during the era of western expansion, created state universities as one of their first legislative measures. In some cases, as in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, they built upon experiments inaugurated during territorial days or during the pre-Civil-War period; in others, the university was established by the legislature as an entirely new enterprise and a part of a properly constituted state organization.
Moreover, effective opposition from religious interests to tax support for universities, strong at first, gradually grew weaker after the Civil War, and the institutions were permitted finally to develop as fast as they could under the relatively slender resources of these new commonwealths.
The encouragement of instruction in agriculture and the sciences which resulted from the granting of lands by the Morrill Act of 1862 was directly responsible for the establishment of a number of state universities. In Maine and New Hampshire, state colleges of agriculture and mechanic arts eventually became state universities, and the same evolution was followed in the case of the Ohio State University, as already noted, and Page 22in Illinois, where the Illinois Industrial University, established in 1867, became the University of Illinois in 1885. Kansas made provision for a university in 1855 in the first territorial constitution, but nothing came of it until the government land grants were received in 1864. The University was opened in 1865.
Michigan's practice, after 1850, of making her governing Board of Regents an elective body was followed in only a few of the new universities — Illinois, Nebraska, Colorado, and Nevada. In other universities the members of governing bodies are subject to appointment by the governor, sometimes with, and sometimes without, approval by the legislature, or to election by the legislature, while in a few institutions the old method of a self-perpetuating board has been continued. The governor and superintendent of public instruction are usually ex officio members of the board; in some instances, other officers are also included.
In the matter of financial support, also, Michigan utilized a novel device, the mill tax, first authorized by the legislature in 1867, which gave the University the income from a tax of one-twentieth of a mill upon all the taxable property in the state, ensuring a progressively increasing income. It was apparently adapted from a provision in the state educational law of 1843 for the support of primary education and libraries in the townships, assessing two mills on each dollar of property valuation, up to $25, for libraries, and the remainder for the support of schools (Public Instruction, p. 401). The adaptation of this plan for University support apparently was first recommended by Franklin Sawyer, Jr., the second superintendent of public instruction of Michigan (R.S.P.I., 1842, p. 65). Prior to that time the University had received no support from the state, aside from the original loan of $100,000 made in 1838. Michigan's example in this method of support was followed by a number of other states, though many continued to grant only annual or biennial appropriations.
The strong centralization of Michigan's whole educational system, first proposed in 1817 and again tried in 1837, was eventually and necessarily modified, since the projects proved in many respects impracticable. Moreover, it was found upon the establishment of the branches in 1838 that the University's finances, arising largely through the income from federal lands, were totally inadequate for such a program, and they were discontinued soon after the University was actually under way. Nevertheless, in the emphasis on the centralized university which came through the early policy toward the establishment of sectarian institutions and the cordial relations later maintained with the secondary schools, as well as in the establishment of the medical and law schools, the influence of the early plans for a complete integration of education in Michigan is obvious.
The organic relationship with secondary schools implied in the creation of the branches ceased, it is true, with their discontinuance, but a constructive and co-operative relationship with the public schools developed, which led to an action by the Regents in March, 1871, authorizing a plan for inspection of schools by the University and the admission of students from approved high schools without examination. This measure represented in some degree the state school system contemplated fifty years before, and resulted in a strong and organic educational program soon imitated by many other universities. So well-recognized was Michigan's leadership in this field that this plan for co-operation with the schools of the state became known as the "Michigan system."
Page 23Michigan also was distinguished by the fact that from its inception it was organized as a university, and with the opening of the Department of Medicine and Surgery in 1850 and the Law Department ten years later, it functioned as a true university in fact as well as in name. Certain other state institutions, established before the University of Michigan, incorporated professional schools in their organization, but in most cases these departments had originated as private schools and did not become parts of the university until after Michigan's professional schools were well under way.
Pennsylvania's medical school, founded in 1765, was the oldest in the United States, and her law school came in 1850. But the University of Pennsylvania, despite its name, has always remained essentially a private institution, and the same is true of Harvard, whose medical school came in 1782 and law school in 1817. The University of Maryland was founded in 1812 upon the basis of a medical school in Baltimore, but for most of the period before 1870 was really a private institution. Virginia's law school was established in 1826 and her medical school in 1827, while Vermont's medical school was established in 1822, and courses in civil engineering were inaugurated in 1829. But, as we have seen, Vermont was not an independent institution under effective state control at the time the University of Michigan was organized, while Virginia has always remained only in part a state institution with less than one-fourth of her present annual income derived from the state.
With the possible exception of Virginia, Michigan was thus in effect the first true university to be operated under public auspices, and the high educational standards this implied undoubtedly contributed to the relatively early success of Michigan's educational experiment. It is also noteworthy that the University of Michigan, in contrast with many state universities, has been characterized by the grouping of all the professional schools upon the one campus in Ann Arbor.
In this review of the evolution of state support for higher education it is impossible to suggest all the social, economic, and political forces which contributed to the final result. The parallel in political ideals, educational philosophy, and curriculum between the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan is significant, even though the actual connecting link lies hidden in the uncertainties of the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Judge Woodward. Jefferson's creation of the University of Virginia in 1819 may be taken as the culmination of a first wave of state universities in the older states, which rose with the political doctrines of the Revolution. Michigan's Catholepistemiad of 1817, on the other hand, was the beginning of a second period of state university development beyond the Alleghenies, which eventually led to the acceptance of the principle of state responsibility for higher education and the creation of what has come to be recognized as the accepted type of state university.
The favorable auspices under which some of the state universities were established during the first era were for many years nullified by powerful political and economic forces in the older culture of the Eastern seaboard. The conservatism of the Federalists and their successors, and the strength of the church bodies, particularly after the era of religious revivals in the early nineteenth century, weakened the power and prestige of the first state institutions, brought the privately endowed and sectarian institutions before the public, and enabled them to assume the leadership of higher education.
It was in the new West, where the Page 24slate was clean, that the state university received its eventual form. There, the very poverty and lack of resources played a part in its development. The extraordinary multiplicity and consequent feebleness of the sectarian institutions, and the mortality among those established, gave an especial reasonableness to the plea for the strength of state support of education. Moreover, the Western area was settled by the more enterprising elements from the population of the older states. They were on the whole liberal and democratic in their views, and, despite the efforts of the different religious bodies, the ingrained philosophy of the Revolutionary era had its effect, although for well over fifty years the struggle continued between the privately supported sectarian institutions and the state universities.
Michigan did not overlook the desirability of religious and moral education, but both the legislature and the Regents insisted from the first upon the University's complete freedom from private and sectarian control. The division of the professorships among the larger denominations, a system devised to meet church critics, proved an adequate means of coping with the trying situation. It served the University well in its early days, and enabled the institution, despite strong attacks such as the student and faculty troubles of 1850, to meet successfully every effort of the various religious bodies to exercise control over it.
Unquestionably, however, the factor most important of all in the success of the University of Michigan as a state institution of higher learning was the vision and progressive spirit of the men who guided the institution in its first days. Whether they held liberal religious views or were clergymen of different persuasions, they were all convinced of the soundness of the principles upon which the University was established, and there is little evidence of any effort on the part of the legislature or the Regents to bring about the type of domination which in many states delayed the final emergence of true state institutions of learning.
It was this early, and effective, declaration of the principle of state responsibility for higher education that made Michigan an example to other states and the outstanding leader in the second and successful era of state university establishment.