From The Library Chronicle, Vol XXIX, No. 2. Spring 1963
The Charles Patterson Van Pelt Library is the University of Pennsylvania's new eight-story library building. With a capacity of 1,500,000 volumes, it houses the Undergraduate Library, the Henry C. Lea Library of Medieval History, the Horace Howard Furness Library of Shakespeareana, and other collections of rare books as well as books for general circulation. It is the first unit in the University's two-phase library development. The second unit, the Daniel W. Dietrich Library, will provide facilities for some of the departmental library collections.
Constructed by funds provided by the General State Authority of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Dr. and Mrs. David Van Pelt, and other good friends of the University, the Library is evidence that public and private support are the great strength of this nation's system of higher education. The University gratefully dedicates this new building in the memory of Charles Patterson Van Pelt, late son of Dr. and Mrs. Van Pelt and descendant of Joseph Turner, a Trustee of this institution from 1749 to 1779.
The official opening, October 22, 1962, was marked by the ringing of the old Academy Bell, which tolled across the original campus from 1752 to 1802 as the Academy of Philadelphia grew into the University of Pennsylvania. The Bell, which served also as a communiy fire alarm, was the key symbol of the dedication ceremonies held on the front steps of the new building. President Harnwell presided over the dedication ceremonies and his remarks as well as those of Kenneth M. Setton, Director of Libraries, and the dedicatory address of Governor David L. Lawrence appear in this issue of the Library Chronicle. Also included is the address of Henry Allen Moe, President of the American Philosophical Society and the Guggenheim Foundation, delivered at the dedication dinner which concluded the dedicatory exercises.
THERE are few events in the long history of this institution which have more importance or greater significance, not only to the University of Pennsylvania but to the state and nation as well, as this ceremony of dedication.
That this dedication is taking place on this campus and at this time is a tribute to the foresight, the intelligence, the educational statesmanship, and the devotion of many people. I should like first to bespeak the University's gratitude to those officers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania whose intelligent and enlightened approach to the problems of long-range capital planning has made possible this and similar improvements on the campuses of the Commonwealth's universities and colleges. The General State Authority, the instrumentality through which these programs have been carried out, was reinstated in the administration of Governor Duff as the vehicle for financing needed additions and improvements to the Commonwealth's institutions and facilities. In the administration of our distinguished alumnus, Governor Leader, the State-aided universities were brought within the scope of the Authority's operations, and the bulk of the funds which were required for the construction of this building were allocated. During the administration of Governor Lawrence the concept of capital programming has been advanced and the procedures refined, enhancing our ability to develop an orderly plan, in co-operation with the Commonwealth, for the provision of many of those facilities our increasing responsibilities will require. As President of the Trustees of the University, Governor Lawrence is an important member of the University family. We are honored by his presence here today. To him and to his predecessors we express our unbounded gratitude. I want also to express the University's thanks to the Board of the General State Authority and its staff; and to the generous individual and corporate donors to our new library, whose names are listed on a plaque on the first floor and whose gifts exemplify a dedication to the purposes of this institution which is heart warming to all of us.
For fifty years the University has needed a new library. The old library, built to serve the needs of a university of fewer than two thousand students and geared to the needs of a gracious but more leisurely Victorian age, was found within twenty years of its construction to be unequal to the demands of 20th Century university life. We learned to live with it, albeit during the past few decades, rather unhappily.
A magnificent gift from Dr. David Van Pelt, an Associate Trustee of the University, and Mrs. Van Pelt, whose generous and intelligent philanthropy has in the past aided so many organizations devoted to educational, cultural and humanitarian purposes, made it possible for us to go forward with the construction of this library. Today we dedicate this building to the memory of their son, Charles Patterson Van Pelt, a young Philadelphian of goodly heritage and decided promise, who ten years ago died in a tragic accident. Several of his forebears had been intimately associated with this institution. Joseph Turner, a collateral ancestor of Charles Van Pelt, was an original Trustee of the College. The Reverend Peter Van Pelt, Jr., College 1818, and Charles Edward Van Pelt, College 1867, were his greatgrandfather and grandfather respectively. His father studied here as did two of his uncles. That Dr. and Mrs. Van Pelt should wish to have their son's name associated with one of this country's truly great academic libraries gives further expression of their recognition of the qualities which young Charles Van Pelt prized in others and which others prized in him. A classmate at Haverford School singled him out as one of the most helpful and unselfish members of his class. The scope of his interests may be judged by the school clubs and activities with which he was associated. He was president of the Music Club, secretary of the French Club, a member of the Physics and Current Events Club and a member of the squash team. He demonstrated a lively interest in current events and twice was a winner in the Time Magazine Test of Current Events.
He is remembered by his roommate at Harvard College for his fluency in French and German, his interest in classical music and religious and political affairs. A close friend at Harvard was impressed by his mature interest in philately, old manuscripts and books, and his deep concern for students from other lands.
The parents of Charles Patterson Van Pelt could have selected no more appropriate, no more valued or more enduring memorial to bear their son's name than this library in which his portrait now hangs.
The gift of Mr. Joseph K. T. Van Pelt, Wharton 1914 (an uncle of Charles), of these flags of the United States and the University, which fly today for the first time, constitute a perpetual memorial to the memory of his son, Captain Peter Van Pelt, who was killed in action in France during the Second World War.
Later this afternoon I shall call upon certain of our guests to assist me in officially opening the Charles Patterson Van Pelt Library by ringing the old Academy Bell which you see before you. I should like to tell you something of its history.
It is called the Old Academy Bell because it hung in the belfry of the Academy of Philadelphia; and the Academy of Philadelphia was the original foundation from which the University of Pennsylvania derives.
In 1750, the Union Fire Company felt the need for a bell to sound alarms and voted twenty-five pounds for the purchase of a bell, which they soon found was not enough. But they weren't willing to vote anymore.
Two members, Benjamin Franklin and Dr. Philip Syng, approached a rival fire company, the Hand In Hand, whose members agreed to share the expenses of the bell.
When the bell arrived from England in 1752, it was soon discovered that neither fire company had a belfry wherein to hang the bell. There was more deliberation.
Franklin suggested that, since the Academy had a belfry without a bell, and the two fire companies had a bell without a belfry, and since each needed the bell for different reasons, they work out an agreement with the trustees of the Academy whereby they could hang the bell in that belfry and use it for both school purposes and for alarms for fires.
In 1802 the College moved into the "Presidential Palace" on Ninth Street. The southern half of the Old Academy Building, the half which had the belfry, was deeded to a group of Methodists, but the bell was not included in the sale and had to remain where it was until the College could get a building with a belfry.
About this time the two fire companies remembered that the bell was theirs and sought to recover their property. The College trustees refused to relinquish it-although they did not actually have it-and the two fire companies ordered the bell seized and removed to Christ Church for safe-keeping. The representatives demanded the bell of the University; the University refused. The representatives demanded again; the University again refused. These demands and refusals continued for four years.
Once the Union and Hand In Hand Companies had their bell back; they were again in their former situation: they had a bell without a belfry.
Although the fire companies had not learned in fifty-five years the lesson of a belfry, they had not forgotten the lesson of Dr. Franklin: use somebody else's belfry. In 1807, the companies offered the bell to the City on the condition that it erect a centrally-located building to house the bell and ring it in case of fire only. The City Fathers declined this generous offer.
In October, 1809, the wardens of St. James Episcopal Church obtained the bell for their new church's steeple upon the condition that it be rung upon all occasions of fire.
In 1869, St. James was razed and a new church was erected by the congregation at the corner of 22nd and Walnut Streets. The bell was moved to the new location where it no longer sounded any alarms.
In 1945 the church was demolished and at this time, without minutes, petitions, court action, ceremony, or special deliberation, the bell was quietly turned over to the University of Pennsylvania and placed in a niche in the old library.
For one hundred-ninety-three years, the name used had been the "Academy Bell"--not the Union Fire Company Bell or the Hand In Hand Bell. Therefore, the bell came back to the Academy.
The Academy at Fourth and Arch is gone; the "Presidential Palace" is gone; the fire companies are gone. Two St. Jameses are gone-but the bell and the University remain. Now for the fourth time in its history the bell has no belfry. But the Charles Patterson Van Pelt Library has a specially designed space for the Old Academy Bell and here it will remain as long as the building shall stand.
Our Director of Libraries and the members of his loyal, efficient and imaginative staff have played a major role in preparing us for this day. Without their careful planning, attention to detail, and professional skill the library would not be the smoothly functioning unit which it has been.
It now gives me great pleasure to introduce Dr. Kenneth Setton, Director of Libraries.
THE dedication today of the Charles Patterson Van Pelt Library will long remain a memorable event in the history of this University. This day also appears to present one of those rare occasions on which history repeats itself, and the historian is bound to be interested in the repetition.
On 7 February, 1891, a distinguished gathering witnessed the dedication of the University's first library building, the terracotta fortress which you would see behind you if there were fewer leaves on the trees. After four months' trial, that building was said to possess neither the slightest flaw nor to admit of the most trivial improvement. It was in fact declared to be perfect.
These claims were made in a spirited address, given on that February afternoon in 1891, by the Shakespearian scholar Horace Howard Furness, who was then chairman of the University's Library Committee. He meant what he said, and the fact that his brother Frank Furness was the architect was quite irrelevant to the assertion. The building had cost $200,000, and was to supply the needs of the Library for a hundred years to come. It was also to serve as a museum and to house the University's fast-growing archaeological collections. After a few years, however, the perfect building was fulfilling neither of its intended functions properly. If today Dr. Furness's claims for the library building of yesteryear may lead to ironical reflections, it is merely that time often renders our best efforts nugatory.
Now we have built a new building, at almost thirty times the cost of its predecessor. We are delighted with it, but we do not regard it as perfect. We know it will not meet our needs for a hundred years, and we are already planning an addition which should itself be finished in the summer of 1966. The sincerest tribute is due to our architects, the firm of Harbeson, Hough, Livingston, Larson, and especial recognition to the endless months which Roy Larson and Charles Ward devoted to planning and replanning. We are glad to pay that tribute and to give that recognition, and not to the architects alone, but also to the builders, McCloskey and Company. The constant helpfulness of William and James McCloskey have put us under deep obligation to them.
In 1891 Dr. Furness expressed his thanks for the aid and guidance furnished the architect by two eminent librarians, Justin Winsor of Harvard and Melvil Dewey of Columbia. Our local history again shows signs of repetition as we thank in our turn the two eminent librarians who have advised our architect, Keyes Metcalf of Harvard and my predecessor Charles W. David. The present staff of the library, /Specially Rudolf Hirsch and Jesse Mills, has worked long and hard to see embodied this day the dream of a full half century.
President Harnwell has spoken of our debt and our gratitude to Dr. and Mrs. David Van Pelt.
University administrators are found everywhere to entertain anxiety as to the mounting costs and ever expanding size of the modern academic library. The Charles Patterson Van Pelt Library will be expensive to maintain, but it is quite within our capacity to do so. In a single day almost 5,000 people enter this building; in the years that lie ahead that number will grow.
At the dedicatory exercises of 1891 Mr. Talcott Williams, one of America's best known journalists, made the lugubrious reflection that "the mere mass of our libraries already overtaxes our utmost ability to classify, to catalogue, and to administer." That was seventy years ago. We are still in business. It is a basic fact of institutional history that the status quo cannot be maintained in a dynamic society. An institution must either progress or retrogress. On all sides the University of Pennsylvania shows progress; the last ten years have witnessed a true renascence. If you come in search of a new monument, look anywhere around you. I do not refer only to advance in building or in scholarship. The morale of students and faculty has been rebuilt as well as the campus. To an extraordinary degree this renascence has been the work of one man, Gaylord Harnwell. He has given more than strength.
One of the founders of modern library science was the famous Anthony Panizzi, who became principal librarian of the British Museum in 1856. Twenty years before his elevation to this post, however, Panizzi had made his mark by the brilliance of his testimony (in June 1836) before a select committee of the House of Commons inquiring into the affairs of the Museum Library.
In this testimony Panizzi enunciated the magna carta of enlightened librarianship:
"I want a poor student," he informed the committee, "to have the same means of indulging his learned curiosity, of following his rational pursuits, of consulting the same authorities, of fathoming the most intricate inquiry, as the richest man in the kingdom, as far as books go, and I contend that government is bound to give him the most liberal and unlimited assistance in this respect."
Certainly the government of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has given all students who come to this campus "the most liberal and unlimited assistance in this respect." Although the inspiration of this moment may be foreshortening my historical perspective a little, I am moved to affirm, Governor Lawrence, that the legislation, which has enabled the General State Authority to build this library and to undertake an immediate addition to it, is one of the wisest and most beneficent provisions made by any government on behalf of education since at least the fall of the Roman empire.
JUST fifty-four years ago, Sir William Osler--who had returned to England after serving as professor of clinical medicine here at the University of Pennsylvania -took pen in hand to write these words to a correspondent: "Money invested in a library gives much better returns than mining stock." I am indebted to him for those words this afternoon, for they sum up far better than I can the real meaning of this ceremony. For, although we have gathered here to dedicate a building we are, in truth, dedicating ourselves, our society, our education system and our goals to the grandeur and invincibility of ideas. No single place on this great University campus offers greater testimony to that devotion than the library, for the books upon its shelves are mankind's eternal window to truth and understanding.
It seems imperative to me that we take some notice, however briefly, of the hours and years of painstaking work and planning that have gone into making this library a reality. You are well aware, I know, that this marks the first time in the proud history of the University that the General State Authority has participated in the construction of a campus facility. Speaking for the Authority, therefore, I want to say that I cannot conceive of a more admirable beginning for a partnership that will prove profitable to the University and to all of Pennsylvania. We must not forget the enormous contributions -both financial and inspirational -that have been made to this project by Dr. and Mrs. Van Pelt. It is altogether fitting that the library should stand as a memorial to their son-and to a family that has been so deeply involved in the progress of the University since its earliest years.
There have been many other contributors who have shared in financing this building through the Friends of the University Library organization. And there have been the dozens of men and women who poured their professional talents into the creation of the Van Pelt Library just as the workmen have shared their skills in its actual construction. They are far too numerous to mention, but I feel it is my duty to say that without the initiative of Dr. Charles David, who set down the first plan, and the dynamic determination of Dr. Kenneth Setton, the present director of the University library, this project could not have been completed . With the leadership and counsel of Dr. Harnwell and the University trustees, the individual contributions of many people have been brought together in successful unity. We have every reason to take pride in this achievement, for it is of lasting value to the quality of education the University may offer in the future and brilliant evidence of the high standards it has maintained in the past.
Still more important, it is an indication of the faith of private citizens and public officials alike in the provident future of this University, the Commonwealth it serves and the great City that is its home. To those of you who have observed the efforts of State Government in the field of higher education, the State's role in this accomplishment comes as no surprise. For you know that, by tradition, Pennsylvania State Government occupies a unique position in its effort to strengthen advanced education without governmental interference. We are alone among the States in the payment of government funds to private colleges and universities-and this unique partnership with some of our major higher education institutions has paid enormous dividends in recent years. Throughout the State we have made significant progress in education at all levels in recent years. I assure you I do not intend to review them in detail, but there are some highlights that are too important to be dismissed in this discussion. In general we have raised the quality of education in every community in our State. We are providing more education and better education for more children in better schools than ever before in our history. We have increased the average salary of our teachers and the minimum starting salary for which they are hired. We are giving them far better, far broader training in our fourteen State Colleges-and the enrollment in those colleges has more than doubled in the past eight years. We have more than doubled the State Government budget for public education-and we have earmarked every penny of the selective sales tax, by law, for the education of Pennsylvania's children. Today-for the first time in history-our education system includes exceptional children of all kinds, those who are mentally brilliant as well as those who are mentally or physically handicapped. Today-for the first time in thirty years -Pennsylvania has a public library code providing funds for the improvement of service to every community through its local library. That means the smallest crossroad in the least populated region as well as the largest and most effective, such as the Free Library of Philadelphia. The people of Pennsylvania have, in short, brought about the greatest and most progressive era in public education and higher education since the days of Thaddeus Stevens.
Knowing this, we know, too, that we have only just begun. For, if we are genuinely concerned about the economic future of this State, we must be concerned, first, with the quality, the quantity and the broad range of education we offer. This is no time for narrow minds or half-hearted goals. It is no time for complacency or cow-like contentment. The roots of industrial security and economic stability lie in the intellectual climate we have to offer. Those roots will be tended best by research scientists, properly trained; by great teachers properly inspired; by writers and mathematicians, artists and laboratory technicians, skilled workers and dedicated philosophers. And these will come only from the ranks of the young. This beautiful new libraryand the one million, seven hundred and fifty thousand volumes it contains-are the perfect symbol for the kind of commitment we must make in the years that lie ahead. It must be a total commitment to good education-not a half-hearted one. Once we have made this the central cause of our public effort-once we have made it the core of our conscience and the star of our destiny, there will be no limit to Pennsylvania's potential and no stopping its progress. Firmly-and finally-there is no wiser, no more provident or prudent investment than this.
FORTRESS AND GREENHOUSE
THE President of the American Philosophical Society held at Philadelphia for promoting useful Knowledge is happy to help the University of Pennsylvania celebrate this occasion; for the Society and the University are, as you all know, offspring of the fertile mind of Benjamin Franklin. Besides that, we both are co-beneficiaries of Dr. Franklin's teaching of his countrymen the virtues of private giving for public purposes.
And the President of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation is happy to be here, to thank the University of Pennsylvania for the assistance the Foundation has received from the members of the University's faculty who also are members of the Foundation's Advisory Board. For years, the University of Pennsylvania faculty provided more of the Foundation's scholarly advisers than any other university and only recently have Harvard and the vast state-wide complex that is the University of California caught up with you.
It was a Philadelphian--I wish to note--a graduate of the great Philadelphia Central High School, who, with his wife, established the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Simon Guggenheim was his name, sometime United States Senator from the State of Colorado. Senator Guggenheim gave his great fortune for use "under the freest possible conditions to men and women devoted to science and liberal studies, great teachers, creators of beauty, and generally to those devoted to pursuits that dignify, ennoble and delight mankind." So wrote Senator Guggenheim, grandly and understandingly of the true spirit of the university. Dr. Franklin, one knows, would be pleased with his 20th century fellow-townsman, Senator Guggenheim. Both were great founding-philanthropists: both understood their roles--each in his time and place-as trustees for freedom.
The neatest philosophical wisecrack I ever read was written by the eminent American philosopher, C. I. Lewis, a member of the American Philosophical Society: "If this be a truism," he said, "it at least has the merit of being true."
A few truisms seem to be inevitable on an occasion of this kind ,and my first one is the whopper that this is an after-dinner speech. And after-dinner speeches should have the merit of being unsolemn and not too long-above all, not too long. For as Poor Richard said, "Many words won't fill a bushel."
And, in respect to myself, I always try not to forget Poor Dick's admonition: "Tis hard for an empty bag to stand upright." Content is required!
No city of North America had the benefits of city planning earlier than had Philadelphia -beginning with William Penn's plan of 1682 and continuing in Benjamin Franklin's 18th century plans for civic betterment. Now after decades-nay, centuries!of civic lethargy and apathy, Philadelphia has remembered the lessons of its early past. They have been remembered, re-learned indeed, the hard way-as the saying is nowadays. For, as Poor Richard said, "When the well's dry, they know the worth of water."
Today, such progress has been made that every other American city has its eyes fixed on Philadelphia's record of urban betterment. Your city has become the cynosure; you have-if I may say it so-regained your pride of heritage and have regained it at a speed that would have seemed impossible at the turn of the century.
Prominent in the remaking of Philadelphia toward Penn's "greene towne," while remaining a modern metropolis, have been the bold conception of a vast University complex here on the west shore of the Schuylkill, and its execution, undeterred by all the many obstacles that had to be, and still have to be, surmounted.
This afternoon, we had before us added testimony to the courage and devotion of those leaders and workers who were inspired by this vision, in the dedication of still another of the monuments erected by their common efforts.
The new Library structure is peculiarly fitted to demonstrate the majestic sweep of the great plan in which it is an important component. Its elegant fabric replaces what was once a collection of superannuated structures, and it has been made an integral part of the University's campus, facing old College Hall with an
open invitation to cross an uninterrupted greensward to enter it. To achieve this, a broad city street, formerly a main artery, congested by bustling traffic, has been erased and has been replaced by the quiet luxury of verdant lawns, in the very heart of a crowded urban district.
It is eloquent of the scope with which such things can be done, again in this day, when there is a remarriage of public and private munificence, that the Library building alone represents an investment of over five millions of dollars. And, as Governor Lawrence told us this afternoon, the public authorities concerned have already authorized an additional project at the same cost to provide an extension of the same size immediately to the west of the new Library.
When I admire the modern American functional architectural style written into the new Library building by that gifted team of University of Pennsylvania architects that signs itself with what looks like a chemical formula H2L2, [* Harbeson, Hough, Livingston and Larson.] I cannot resist a reference to the old Library building which it will now replace.
It is one of the less publicized, but none the less authentic, "traditions" of this University, that, for over half a century, scoffing young collegians have described the old Library building as looking like "a fort at one end and a greenhouse at the other." Let me dwell for a bit on this merry characterization.
The old Library was designed in the office of Frank Furness, whose career is an important chapter in the history of American architecture. A gifted artist in his calling, he was also the brother of another historic Philadelphian, the great Shakespearean scholar Horace Howard Furness-he of Variorum fame. Frank Furness was the teacher of Louis Henry Sullivan, the courageous designer of the first American skyscraper and the founder of our American style of functional architecture. Sullivan, in turn, was the teacher of Frank Lloyd Wright: hence, the name of Frank Furness leads straight to the boldest of present-day architectural design.
However, the old Library was built in 1889-90, when Furness was nearing the end of his career, and much of his work was being done by disciples in his studios. Today, competent critics tell me that the Old Library is regarded as "bad Furness," by comparison with other designs from his own hand, such as the old Broad Street Station and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, which were built about 1875.
In addition, Furness probably ought not be charged with the "greenhouse" section at the south end of the structure. This was actually an addition put up some years later, when it became evident that more shelf space was needed for the fast growing University book collection. The Duhring family provided funds for this extension, which was more formally known as the Duhring Stack.
Leaving behind these historical reflections, I must come back to the irreverent young oppidans, who probably seldom used the inside of the Library building for the purpose for which it was provided, and their saying that it looks "like a fort at one end and a greenhouse at the other."
To me, such a description of any library building-the new one as well as your old one-is more perspicacious than its author may have realized. A library is, indeed, both a fortress and a greenhouse, certainly in a most appropriate figurative sense, if not in an obviously literal one.
Surely, it is a fortress for the defense of that truth, which, as you know, "shall make you free," and a greenhouse for the cultivation and nourishment of that very truth, which often requires loving and tender care until it is recognized and, as the French say, "bien rec~ue." The Republic of Letters, for its entire Constitution, has only one Article, which consists entirely of that hallowed oath upon which also our Anglo-American system of trial jurisprudence is erected: The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
The library is, above all else, the home of that study and research by which the truth is disentangled from the weeds of superstition, prejudice and error, and is helped to grow straight and strong in the face of its enemies. So also is the laboratory. Both are both forts and greenhouses!
The libraries' and the laboratories' truth must be protected even from its own friends, who may seek to use it for a purpose. Research, pure research, is always useful in the long view, but, if conducted with too sharp an eye on immediate advantage, it may produce ingredients that pollute the stream of truth. I have always enjoyed-even revered-the toast proposed by the famous 19th century Irish mathematician and astronomer, Sir Robert Ball, at a dinner of scientists at Cambridge. When called upon, he raised his glass and said succinctly and completely: "Here's to Pure Mathematics. May she never be of any use to any one!"
No doubt, in this age of what I may perhaps call pragmatic sanctions, when great learned institutions require large sums for their survival and maintenance, administrators of their destinies have anxious moments of decision when offered attractive commissions from private and public sources for the subsidizing of research. There is anxiety though the sources profess to be completely disinterested and impartial; for they may in fact, be affected with an interest-as we lawyers say-in the conclusion. Actually, even when there is no question of undue influence involved, we all know that the huge sums conferred in the rapid growth of special grants by Government for special assignments in scientific research, have posed serious problems for our universities, both because of the undue emphasis they place on some departments over others, and because of the risk of sudden termination entailed.
Outside the field of the exact sciences, doubts may also extend to engagements for research in areas such as economics or business practices, as was pointed up by criticism recently directed at one of the great divisions of this very University for a study made by it of investment practices for the guidance of one of- the Government departments.
On the other hand, when impartiality and adherence to truth are unquestioned, association with a great university does impress the seal of authority on opinions rendered other than ex cathedra. Another anecdote in the annals of the University of Pennsylvania bears witness to this. Early in the nineteen hundreds, a famous toxicologist who was then Dean of the Medical School in this University was called to testify in certain historic litigation in the court of a Southern State. The New York Times report of his testimony opened with this description: "Dr. John Marshall then took the stand, a small, dry man, with the mark of accuracy written across his brow." The defendant, for whom he testified, won.
It is the pride and glory of the many great State universities in this country that, though they must make some concessions to local demand by offering useful "know-how" instruction in down-to-earth subjects-even at some institutions, so help me!, in cosmetics and plumbing-yet they, in complete fact, do retain and defend their independence of thought and study in all the basic elements of our civilization and science. And this observation is certainly equally true of the universities that receive State aid, though privately endowed and otherwise maintained.
The tragedy of scholarship comes when a university is harnessed to the wagon of a powerful Governmental regime or of any master, except Truth. We know vividly what happened to the universities under Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini; but, even before them, the same kind of hypocritical servitude was entered into voluntarily by many European professors: Prussian historians wrote versions of European or world history that were nothing but house-organs for the ruling family or political party to which they owed appointments or preferments.
Here again, as a lawyer trained in the tradition of the English Common Law, I shall point out that the Anglo-American inheritance of stubborn assertion of individual rights and liberties against the over-weening presumption of prerogative by the Crown, is the inspiration for the same stubborn defense in this country of independence in scholarship and academic freedom that has preserved the liberty of the subject, and of the citizenincluding the scholar-teacher.
A great Library, like this, for which today we dedicate a "more stately mansion," is, therefore, in the fullest sense, the fortress and the greenhouse of scholarship and truth among us. It is that because it is dedicated to freedom of thought and integrity of purpose.
Indeed, even without the many other buildings and classrooms that comprise the University, the Library earns the praise of Thomas Carlyle, who reminds us, in his essay on "The Hero as Man of Letters," that "the true University of these days is a collection of books."
Even when he was Duke of Milan, Prospero of Shakespeare's Tempest found his library "dukedom large enough;" and, during his exile, his consolation, after his daughter Miranda, was the volumes "from mine own library . . . that I prize above my dukedom," which his friend Gonzalo had arranged should accompany him to his island.
But while we all agree on the dedication of our Library to the cause of truth, it is a baffling quality of truth that often it is like a coin with two sides, only one of which is visible at one time and place, so that one's view of what is true may be affected by one's place in time and space.
Mahomet Ali, the learned authority on Mohammedan law, who sat in the judicial Committee of the Privy Council on the occasions when it heard appeals from those lands under the British Crown which recognize rights defined by Muslim custom, said on the occasion of an address at the Middle Temple:
"It is interesting for a student of history to reflect on the differences which may arise between men of the same good will who approach the same set of facts from different points of view, just as, for instance, eyewitnesses on opposite sides of a street may honestly testify quite differently to describe the same collision they both saw. This explains why it is that an event in history can be regarded with complete contradiction by conflicting schools of thought. Let us consider the Crusades of what you in the West call the Middle Ages. I know you are taught that these expeditions were the outpouring of the noble knighthood of medieval chivalry enlisted in a holy enterprise in the defense of the true religion. To us, on the contrary, they represent nothing but invasions by roving bands of semi-literate brigands, egged on by shrewd commercial promoters to protect their trade routes and to destroy the fine flower of Saracen civilization with its high accomplishments in the sciences and the arts."
In the same vein, our American poet-diplomat James Russell Lowell was drawing a picture of truth when he wrote:
"Truth, after all, wears a different face to everybody, and it would be tedious to wait till all were agreed. She is said to lie at the bottom of a well, for the very reason, perhaps, that whoever looks down in search of her sees his own image at the bottom, and is persuaded not only that he has seen the Goddess, but that she is far better looking than he imagined."
With these side-lights on our discourse, we can better understand, even if we do not sympathize with, a certain Roman Procurator of Judaea, who, when sitting as a committing magistrate--which is exactly what he was on a tragic and historic occasion -baffled by conflicts in the testimony, as many a lesser magistrate has been ever since, cried out, in his impatience: "What is truth?"
Granting all that, nowhere in the West have we gone so far as to rewrite our history with each change of political regime, as seems to be a requirement of scholarship in much too large a part of the world, nor do we consider it necessary, in defense of official dogma, to imprison or execute those who differ from what the Government approves. Yet our inherited reactions of tolerance, fair play, good sportsmanship and gradualism in political change, cannot be shortly nor sharply defined in written formulae. They are bred in us and we live by them-not by the words that seek to define them. This is what makes what we call our democracy so difficult to describe, to propagate and to export-by contrast with the pat, smooth promises of those who preach the official Communist line. Their Chinese Subsidiary may proclaim "Let a hundred flowers bloom," but the Moscow Headquarters send out the orders to shoot down helpless boys clambering to freedom over a Berlin wall.
So, my friends, we are gathered here not so much to dedicate a building or a book-shelf, as to pledge ourselves to defend the right of selfless scholarship to search for truth as best it can, humbly and patiently. The search must proceed in the light thrown by our past, peering eagerly and earnestly into our future, untrammelled by the hand of the dead, and unafraid of the perils of a present that is confused by the rising fog of doctrine false to what at least five millennia of our history have shown to be the best of human instincts and aspirations.
Benjamin Franklin, in the Pennsylvania Gazette of October 15, 1730, warned against "talking overmuch, and robbing others of their Share of the Discourse." There is no one-I being the only speaker this evening-whom I might rob of his "natural right to speak in turn." But the warning against "talking overmuch" stands good. Nevertheless, I shall risk one final paragraph.
It was in the autumn of the year 1616, that Francis Ashley was Reader-or as we would say, lecturer-at the Inns of Court, in the beautiful Middle Temple Hall. His subject was Magna Carta. In his introductory lecture, he told how he had come to select that then dangerous theme, "whereby," he said, "it is impossible I should gaine any opinion unless it be an opinion of foolhardiness." Nevertheless, he persisted in his intentions, for having studied in the libraries of the Inns of Court, he said that "by that occasion [I] have therein found both liberty and safety, Liberty to the persons and safety to the Lyves and Estates. And in brief I found that it was bought to [o] dear to be sold to [o] cheap." You have it all there, ladies and gentlemen: what your new fortress and greenhouse contains and stands for, was bought too dear to be sold too cheap.