PRESIDENT BUCKHAM ON BOAT-RACING. - To the Editor of the Independent: You ask why the University of Vermont was not represented at the Saratoga regatta. It certainly was not for the lack of facilities for training, for we have, as you suggest, a beautiful lake on one side of us, and a beautiful river on another side. Neither was it for lack of manliness in our men. The University was "represented" in almost every great battle of the Rebellion, from Bull Run to Petersburg, having sent to the field a larger number, in proportion to its total roll, than any other New England college. But the fact is, that neither the character of our community nor the traditions of the college are such as to encourage sporting habits. A large proportion of our students - large enough to determine the prevailing tone of the institution - are sons of farmers, - frugal, industrious fellows, who are working their own way through college, and who, at the time of the regatta, are swinging the scythe in the hayfield, or handling the compass and chain on the railroad. Besides, though they are poor, they are proud, and would regard it as beneath the dignity of a free-born Vermonter to expose their muscle in public, like gladiators in the amphitheatre, for Mrs. Morrissey and other high-bred dames to bet on. If you will get up a contest in some honest and useful work, and will insure us against the intrusion of gamblers and blacklegs, we will engage to be "represented." Meanwhile, we must answer your question why we were not at Saratoga, by pleading that we are too busy, too poor, and too proud.
M. H. BUCKHAM.
BURLINGTON, VT., July 26, 1875.
That the above production was the result of careful toil, long study, and especially a thorough knowledge of facts connected with regattas at Saratoga, obtained through personal experience and patient investigation, must be evident to every one who leads it. After describing the scenery around the University, giving a pleasant little item to prove that this University was more patriotic than any other during the Rebellion, and bestowing some valuable information concerning the occupations of the students during the summer months, the writer breaks forth into the following eloquent strains:-
"Besides, though they are poor, they are proud, and would regard it as beneath the dignity of a free-born Vermonter to expose their muscle in public, like gladiators in the amphitheatre, for Mrs. Morrissey and other high-bred dames to bet on."
This is such a severe case of pride that I am at a loss what to prescribe for its cure, but I think that the dignity of the free-born Vermonter, which is offended by the expose of muscle in public, would suffer little if a very simple remedy were applied, viz. a shirt.
The expression, "Mrs. Morrissey and other high-bred* dames," besides being quite neat, is exceedingly flattering to Mrs. M., and although I have known of Mrs. Morrissey only as the wife of a former notorious rough, still I suppose if Mr. Buckham chooses to call her a "high-bred dame" it is perfectly correct. The gentleman, however, need have no fear that the high-bred dames, Mrs. Morrissey included, would ever so far forget themselves as to be induced, by the entrance of his crew, to do such an utterly rash and absurd thing as to bet on them.
The first clause of this sentence, "If you will get up a contest in some honest and useful work, and will insure us against the intrusion of gamblers and blacklegs, we will engage to be 'represented,'" reflects beautifully upon the colleges who took part in the races last summer, for it implies that an intercollegiate regatta is not a contest in some honest work; and the last clause shows his implicit belief that Saratoga society is made up of gamblers and blacklegs, who prey upon the unsuspecting and guileless youth that are drawn to that "sink of iniquity" by the regatta. Therefore, he thinks that his "free-born Vermonters" - who would never go astray of their own free-will and accord, but who might be compelled by the evil associations of the place to depart from the straight path of virtue - had better stay away from Saratoga until some one can "insure" them against the intrusion of the aforesaid gamblers and blacklegs; and as at present there is no company which takes risks in that line they are likely to remain away for some time to come.
The last word of the sentence, "represented,"* which occurs twice in the letter with quotation-marks and once without, is rather interesting as a puzzle to find out what may be the peculiar significance of the marks in one place and their omission in another.
The three reasons for the non-representation of the University of Vermont at Saratoga - the fact of their not belonging to the Association of American Colleges being of course of no account, as they undoubtedly would be received into it with open arms upon the expression of the slightest wish to belong to it - which are set forth in the conclusion of the letter must be satisfactory both to themselves and every one else: for if they are too busy, that is their own business; if they are too poor, every one will allow that Saratoga is not the place for them; and if they are too proud, surely no one wishes their attendance.
However, I was filled with sorrow to learn that the character of the community and the traditions of the college prevented them from joining the undignified crowd which at present participates in the intercollegiate regattas; for it appears to me that the races need some proud and dignified college like the University of Vermont to give them tone and put them on a respectable basis: moreover, the desire of Union and Hamilton is great, and their cry is loud for some one to enter the lists whom they can stand a chance of beating.
There was one idea contained in the letter which struck me as being particularly valuable and worthy of note, and that was to have contests in some useful and honest work between students. Looking from both a pecuniary and moral point of view, how much better it would be for Harvard to give up her boating and athletic sports, which not only involve great expenditure of money, but also foster vice by creating in students a desire for betting, and devote a part of the money hither-to spent on these to the purchase of agricultural implements and the formation of a society for the cultivation of the soil.
As the majority of the students are from cities, I have no doubt that they would jump at the chance to belong to such a society; but to tickle the fancy of those who do not jump with that enthusiasm which ought to be manifested, and to induce them to join, shingles might be made, and sold at the extremely low price of $1.00, including seals, on which could be portrayed the elegant and chaste design of a youth with Harvard hat and stand-up collar diligently occupied in driving a plough, with either "Speed the Plough" or "Labor omnia vincit" inscribed underneath as a motto.
Ploughing, mowing, raking, and other matches of kindred nature might take place on Jarvis Field, and in these contests wreaths of laurel and farming implements could be awarded to the victors, while to each of the vanquished, as a compensation for the disappointment, an elegant chromo and a copy of Vick's Floral Guide might be presented. Also the land in the rear of the Scientific School, if proper attention were paid to it, might be induced to become the abode of the sweet-smelling onion, the cabbage, and the beet, - the last-named, however, will not need to be cultivated, for deceased members of its family already abound in Cambridge, - instead of being used for foot-ball matches, and allowed to run to waste.
As in war it is necessary to have sappers and miners, it appears to me that the Harvard Rifle Corps might be instructed, and at the same time utilized, by digging ditches, etc., for these would answer the same purpose as trenches, and be infinitely more useful.
After some proficiency had been acquired in these pursuits by our students they could challenge other colleges, and then perhaps we might have the good-fortune to meet with the students of the University of Vermont, who, being accomplished in the science of agriculture, would undoubtedly accept an invitation to such contests, provided that there were no gamblers or blacklegs to mar the rural simplicity of the occasion. What a proud day it would be for old Harvard to witness her sons manfully endeavoring either to outplough and outhoe their competitors, or to dig ditches of given lengths against time! Then, and not until then, can we realize that we are engaging in some useful and honest work, and not foolishly spending our time and forces in such an exhibition of brute strength as a regatta.
W. M. C.
*If Mr. Buckham will allow that at this point he had a severe struggle with a pun, and that he meant "hybrid" to be understood for "high-bred," all remarks concerning the expression will be retracted.
*Liberal does of A. S. Hill's Rules for Punctuation taken quite frequently are warranted to effect a speedy cure in a case of this kind.