Canadians at Harvard

The Part they have Played in the History of America’s Great University


Canadians at Harvard

The Part they have Played in the History of America’s Great University


Canadians at Harvard

The Part they have Played in the History of America’s Great University


THE story is told that some years ago President Eliot with his customary courtesy, was showing around Harvard a husband and wife who were abundantly furnished with this world’s goods, and who were, praiseworthily enough, thinking of establishing a new university to perpetuate their name. Believing that money could buy everything, the husband inquired as he stood in Memorial Hall about to bid good-bye, “Well, President Eliot, for how much could your plant here be duplicated?” President Eliot stated the amount of the endowments and the value of the real estate and apparatus. “Well, we could do better than that, husband,” said the lady. “Madam,” replied the president, bowing low and glancing toward the line of portraits,

“we have one possession that is above and beyond all this, which cannot be estimated in money—270 years of devotedness.”

Harvard is, undoubtedly, regarded as the greatest of the universities of the United States. For Harvard is the oldest institution

*■ learning in America; her everywhere replete with d interest, extends through almost three centuries. The real beginning was in 1636—only sixteen years after the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth—when there appeared the. following record of a meeting of the General Court of the Colony of Massachusetts held in Boston on October 28th—a meeting adjourned from September 8: “The court agreed to give £400 towards a shoale or colledge, whearof £200 to bee paid the next yeare and £200 when the worke is finished, and the next court to appoint wheare and what building.” The following year the court appointed a dozen of its most prominent citizens “to take order for a colledge at Newetowne,” a name which was soon after changed to Cambridge in honor of the English university town where many of its colonists had been educated.

Harvard Died at 31 In the following year, 1638, a Nonconformist clergyman named John Harvard, died at the early age of thirty-one, leaving to the college about to be established one-half of his property, and all his library. This bequest amounted to £779 17s 2d, and three hundred and twenty books (only one of which remains

to-day) and was therefore about double in value the original sum voted by the court. Thereupon it was decided to open the college at once and to honor the young Dissenter by naming it after him. Thus did John Harvard unconsciously make his name imperishable.

From such a humble origin, then, has sprung up what may truthfully be called the premier university of America, an institution which has had twenty-four presidents, beginning with Henry Dunster, who entered on his duties in 1640, and to whom is due the Harvard motto

Veritas written across three open books, and ending with Abbott Lawrence Lowell, appointed in 1909 to succeed Charles William Eliot, who had acted as president exactly forty years, and whose physical and intellectual vigor, despite the weight of eighty years, is attested by his recent ten months’ trip around the world.

An Intellectual Reciprocity There has ever been a sort of intellectual reciprocity existing between Harvard University and Canadians. She is the one university of the United States

that, for a variety of reasons holds Canadians with a special interest. It is true that Harvard does not now enjoy the distinction that she had a decade ago of having the greatest number of students of any American university, havingfallen into about the third or fourth place. But mere numbers, it must be admitted, are by no means a safe test of the real greatness of a university—• otherwise Cairo or Calcutta would have perhaps the greatest university in the world. In wealth, however, Harvard is probably not exceeded by any, a conservative estimate of her buildings giving her at least $12,000,000 while her invested funds closely approximate $25,000,000. Every year about $140,000 is given away in fellowships, scholarships, and in other aids to students. She has, furthermore, a high standard of entrance in both college and professional schools, a large and highly trained professoriate, second to none on the continent, and a splendid equipment of buildings, the medical group alone costing $3,000,000. Her library is the third largest in America, being exceeded only by the Congressional Library at Washington and the Boston Library. Two years ago it contained 980,000 books and 600,000 pamphlets, an increase of 40 per cent, since 1903. Some of its collections are of great richness, that of folklore and mediaeval romances being the best in the world. Finally, she has a long tradition and an antiquity of which no other American university can boast—in these two alone she has a unique distinction which cannot be bought and cannot be taken away.

Harvard’s history as a British institution of learning was, of course, broken when the independence of the United States was granted in 1783. It is interesting, however, to notice that although the Stars and Stripes have sheltered this great university for 131 years (17831914), yet she had previously flourished under the Union Jack for 145 years, so that in reality she was a British institution fourteen years longer than she has been an American !

The number of students attending Harvard, though varying slightly from year to year, usually approximates 4,300. This, however, does not include the 1,100 registered in the Summer School, the 500 in Radcliffe College for ladies, nearly one-half of whose staff consists of Har-

vard instructors and whose degrees are granted under the Harvard seal, or the 900 in the University Extension courses which Harvard, i n company with several other educational institutions, provides.

All these students together with the 650 officers of instruction and administration, it will be seen, constitute a college community of between 6,000 and 7,000.

A Canadian Takes

Highest Record

Canadian students at Harvard—and they come all the way from Halifax to Vancouver —for the most part enter the graduate and professional schools. The uniform excellence of their work is perhaps best shown by the number of scholarships and fellowships which are annually granted to them. In the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences alone, for example, we find that out of the 124 scholarships and fellowships awarded in 1910-11, fifteen went to Canadians. These fifteen totaled $4,500. A $1,150 E. W. Hooper traveling fellowship, the most valuable in the gift of the university, was held in 1911-12 by Mr. T. Thorwaldsen, a graduate of the University of Manitoba. In 1912-13 this coveted honor fell to Arthur E. Boak, of Vancouver (formerly of Halifax), while two years before Lloyd Dixon, a graduate of Mount Allison University and later a Rhodes Scholar, won a John Harvard fellowship, which, though without stipend, is nevertheless regarded by all Harvard men as a mark of the highest scholarship, for it is given only on account of sheer merit.

Not a dozen people in Canada are aware that the distinction of making the highest record ever made in the nearly three centuries of Harvard College’s history belongs to a Canadian, Robert Alder McLeod, of the Class of 1869, a native of Bedeque, Prince Edward Island, his average during his four years of undergraduate work being over 98 per cent. This is the more remarkable in view of the equipment with which he entered college.

“Until I was nearly nine years old,” he wrote, “I went to no school, except for a few weeks to a country school in Point de Bute (N.B.), while there on a visit. In August, 1852, I was sent to the Mount Allison Academy, Sackville, N.B., about a month after the term had commenced, and studied there during the rest of the scholastic year.” He then tells how in 1856 he got three months more schooling in Baltimore and another three months in 1858 in the same city, and how when a store clerk in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1860-61 he spent his evenings and leisure moments “studying chiefly the common English branches.” “I had been present,” he says, “in the Charles-

ton Convention, December, 1860, when the ordinance of secession was passed . . . and was very enthusiastic for the Southern cause.” He enlisted as a soldier, began fighting immediately, was wounded in the leg, afterwards lost his right arm, was taken prisoner in 1864 and later exchanged, going finally to Spartanburg, S.C., where he began the study of Greek.

“During my service as a soldier,” he continues, “I had never lost sight of my chief aim—study. My plan was to make abstracts of whatever I studied in the quiet of camp, and commit these to memory, so as to have something to repeat to myself on the march or in the face of the enemy, when books were hard to procure. In this way I got some knowledge of Universal History and Latin grammar. As a private, I made my hours of guard-duty pass pleasantly by reciting to myself the whole of the “School of the Company” and the “School of the Battalion” of “Hardee’s Tactics,” Le., one volume and a half which I had

learned by heart . . . Having found a copy of Caesar in a sacked house, near Richmond,

1 was making good progress in it, in the trenches around Petersburg, before I was taken prisoner. In 1863 I invented a new style of signals which was approved— for the navy. To keep up practice in composition I kept a diary throughout the war.” In 1865, after a month’s hard study, he borrowed twenty dollars to pay his railway fare, passed the Harvard entrance examination successfully, and entered on the most brilliant undergraduate course that Harvard has ever known, paying his own expenses by winning scholarships and prize money, and by fees received for giving private tuition. Think of that for a record! Nine years later he died in Algiers where he now lies buried in a little English church there.

So remarkable a figure was McLeod as an undergraduate that Andrew D. White, former American ambassador to Germany, writing in his autobiography, records an interesting incident in connection with young McLeod’s competition for the Boylston prize at which he and James Rockwood Hoar, afterwards Attorney-General of the United States, were judges. So inspiring a personality was he that the mind of the young man whom he tutored for two or three years when traveling in Europe in the middle seventies was turned to literary and historical pursuits, a young man who has since become a magazine editor, the author of several books, and perhaps the leading American authority on Italian history.

A Canadian Alumini

For many years Canadian students have been going to Harvard lured by her vast resources and by the wide range of instruction which she places at their disposal, students, many of whom have later become distinguished in political and professional circles in Canada. Let me quote a few lines from Dr. Benjamin Rand, of the philosophical department, an enthusiastic Harvard Canadian. “In the early New England migration to Acadia were Harvard clergymen. Among the United Empire Loyalists also were more than two hundred sons of Harvard College, and many of these left the Eastern States during the Revolution to become pioneers in the Canadian Provinces. Thèy sent their children back to their Alma Mater and so the connection of many of these Loyalist families with the university has been maintained for well over a full century. In the past century the University has drawn many hundreds of students from all parts of the Dominion, but more particularly from the Maritime Provinces, and it may be

doubted whether any Canadian university can boast of a more distinguished body of Canadian alumni.” Among the Canadians on the Harvard University staff may be mentioned, Professors S. M. Macvane, now an emeritus, W. H. Schofield, whose appointment four years ago as an exchange professor to Germany caused so much discussion, W. A. Neilson, E. C. Jeffrey, W. B. Munro, W. S. Ferguson, Drs. Benj. Rand and K. G. T. Webster.

Five years ago Dr. Rand with great care compiled a list of all the Canadian and British subjects who attended Harvard University during 1805-1909, which shows that by far the greatest proportion came from the Maritime Provinces. Wc tabulate here his results. The total number is 1,137, comprised as - follows. Nova Scotia, 442;

New Brunswick, 295; Ontario,

209; Quebec, 114; Prince Edward Island, 64; Manitoba, 8; British Columbia, 5. In addition there were 25 British-Americans from Newfoundland, the British West Indies, and British Guiana; 95 from England, 13 from Scotland,

13 from Ireland, 4 from Wales,

8 from Australia, 5 from New Zealand, 5 from South Africa, 10 from India and China, making a grand total of 1,315 British and Colonial subjects. Statistics for the last five years would, of course, materially increase these numbers. It is noteworthy that until about 1875 nearly all the Canadians who studied at Harvard were students of medicine. Thereafter they came rather morp for law; now they come chiefly for training in professional teaching (modern languages economics, science, history, and government), and for the study of law. No doubt the development during the past third of a century of Toronto and McGill as medical schools has contributed largely to this change.

First Canadian Club

The growth of Canadian Clubs in all of our larger Canadian cities during the last ten years has been one of the outstanding features of young Canada—both praisworthy and interesting as showing the development of our national spirit. Yet the Harvard Canadian Club, founded in 1890, had anticipated this movement by at least a decade, and furthermore claims the distinction of being the first Canadian Club ever founded at any foreign university. Its membership is open to all who are or have been members of any department of Harvard University, and its object as expressed in its constitution is “the promotion of social intercourse among its members and the furtherance of Harvard University in the different parts of the British Empire and more especially in Canada.” At 12

•A good deal of information regarding John Harvard has been brought together in Mr. Henry C. Shelley’s book, “John Harvard and His Times," published in 1907.

Oxford street, in the heart of the chief university buildings, it has a commodious club house, which is used as a dormitory, and also provides a convenient meeting place for all Canadian or British students at the University. Many large photographs with autograph signatures adorn its walls, notably those of the late King Edward and Queen Alexandra, Lord and Lady Aberdeen, Lord and Lady Grey. Premier R. L. Borden, Sir Charles Tupper, and Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Among men prominent in public life, who have addressed the club members or been entertained by them are Sir Charles Tupper, Bart., Viscount James Bryce, Hon. Edward Blake, Sir Frederick Borden, Hon. J. W. Longley, Hon. H. R. Emmer-

son, Hon. Rodolphe Lemieux, and Principal Peterson.

Thus it will be seen that Harvard’s connection with Canada has been a long, an interesting and a vital one, by reason of her history, her British tradition, and her close association during so many years with what is now our great Dominion. Hundreds of Canadians have received their education at Harvard and have returned to enter the varied walks of life, public, private, professional, and to aid in building up and strengthening the mental and moral fibre of our young nation. Who can estimate the influence that she has exerted in moulding the thought and stimulating the ideas of the men who have received their training there—an influence which has directly or

indirectly permeated every part of our national life?

Who Was John Harvard?

A word about John Harvard may not be out of place here. Until 1884 practically nothing was known about him; he remained a dim figure of the misty past. Now, however, thanks to the indefatigable efforts of Henry F. Waters of the mass of 1855, who published in June, 1907, the remarkable account of his discovery of the Harvard clues, the chief facts of his life have been brought to light.* His kinsmen were all trades-people and had lived for generations in Southwark, a humble quarter of London. Fortunately the financial resources of the family enabled John to spend seven years at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where in 1635 he received his Master of Arts degree. John Milton, a year his junior, was a fellow-student, though at Christ’s College. In 1636 John Harvard married Ann, a sister of his Cambridge friend, John Sadler. The inheritance a little later of a considerable estate enabled him to break away from the Church in which he had been educated and to come to the shores of New England. His constitution, however was delicate, ill-fitted long to withstand the rigorous climate and the hardships incident to pioneer life. It was the day of thatched roofs, wooden chimneys, and daubed walls, the day when probably both glass and oiled paper were used in windows, when milk was abundant and beer scarce, when corn was legal tender, and debts were paid in fruits, bullets, skins, and other commodities. Thirteen and a half months after his arrival in New England the young minister died —of consumption, Cotton Mather says—and was buried no one knows where. No likeness of him remains, the statue of him on the delta being but an idealized figure, seated and looking with expectant gaze towards the history of the greater West.

Why is John Harvard’s fame so deathless? asked President Eliot in 1907 when addressing a large out-door meeting o f students gathered to celebrate the three hundredth anniversary of the birth of the founder. This is his answer:

“Because he made one fine resolve and executed it. . . . He came over here to the wilderness in search of liberty, liberty of thought and speech. He tied his name forever to that great love in the human heart— of liberty. And then when he came to die, he set the first example on this continent of giving his estate to the public for education. Again he originated a great enduring movement among the American people. The stream of benefactions to education started with that young, sick, dying minister—and how the stream

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at Harvard

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has flowed for generations all over the country, and is flowing larger and richer every year! John Harvard started that stream, and here again is the foundation of his deathless fame.”

John Harvard was a torch-bearer whose light will never go out.

Marie Corelli’s Dream To rescue what is now known as the “Harvard House,” built on High Street, Stratford-on-Avon, in 1596 by Thomas Rogers, an alderman of the town, and to present it to Harvard University, had been the dream of Miss Marie Corelli ever since she took up her residence in Stratford. This house was for nine years the home of Thomas Rogers’ daughter j Katharine, who when twenty-one years j of age went to Holy Trinity Church and there became the bride of Robert Harvard on April 8th, 1605. A knowledge of the early history of the old house and of its association with the name of Harvard had made it an object of intensest interest to Miss Corelli. Charmingly told is her story of the dismay with which she j always looked upon the repeated malj treatment of the old home, of the auction I sale at which the house was not “knocked j down” to the highest bidder, of her casually meeting on board Sir Thomas Lipton’s yacht Erin Mr. and Mrs. Edward Morris, of Chicago, whose interest she succeeded in arousing, and who finally and gladly agreed to give the £1,300 necessary for the purchase of the house by private sale and to present it to Harvard University as a “sort of sacred link with the past, and a fraternal tie betwixt the Old World and the New, on the historic ground of the town where Shakespeare first saw the light.”


Referring to a recent snowstorm a writer in a contemporary says :

An odd sense of being set back a generation or two beset the average commuter last week; one who ate his dinner by candle-light, found his telephone “dead,” could not send a telegraph message, had to stay at home because there was no train, knew that in case of fire the engines could not reach him, heard of milk famines and threatened stopping of food and coal supplies, was told of train-loads of people stalled all night (one train was “lost” for nearly a day), and later learned of friends in the “real country” who literally had to dig themselves out—such a one, and there were ¡ many thousands of whom this deseripI tion would apply, might well realize vivid| ly what modern science and invention I havé done for his comfort and conI venience.