IT has been objected to a general system of eleemosynary scholarships, that, under conditions which are found in America, it is impossible to make a fair selection of those who should be encouraged to compete for them. The reasons which prevent business men from confessing their want of success, in order that their boys may try for scholarships, have already been noted. But, putting parents out of the question, it is clear that any practicable tests between minor applicants must be of the roughest and most uncertain kind. A. B., for example, who is able to show that be has no property, and that nobody is legally bound to provide for him, may compete for a scholarship; C. D., on the contrary, who has in the savings-bank just money enough to pay his college bills, cannot ask for this privilege. And yet A. B., it may be, has a rich uncle, who, as is tacitly understood, will see that he wants nothing, and will give him a salaried place in his counting-room the moment he graduates; while C. D. must incur the cost of studying a profession, and will have a mother and sisters dependent upon him for support. It is needless to multiply illustrations to show that restricted scholarships may give no encouragement to students who have most to contend with, and who most need their stimulus.
It is well known that open scholarships do an important work in the English universities, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that they would prove still more beneficial here. It has indeed been objected to a limited class of them, - those open to competition by examination before entering college, - that they stimulate the schools in a way that is not always healthy. But so far as relates to scholarships awarded for general proficiency displayed during the college course, the foreign verdict seems to be wholly favorable. And this judgment would certainly be confirmed in this country, where the rich and poor are marked by no fixed lines, and are constantly changing places.
Let it not be forgotten that open scholarships would be fully available for all who are now able to avow necessitous circumstances, provided their work was good enough to gain them. The change would consist simply in completing the halting analogy between a scholarship and "a silver cup won in a boat race," - the winner of this latter "prize" not being forced to remember that a majority of the class (including, perhaps, some of the best oarsmen) were restrained from competing. Scholarships open to all would undoubtedly attract to Harvard men who ought to be here, but who are so situated that they cannot confess the pinch of poverty which sends them to inferior colleges. They would encourage earnest work by offering to students, through their own exertions, the means of procuring special instruction during the long vacation, or upon graduating.
But we must meet the obvious objection that wealthy young men might be induced to break away from the temptations to idleness which beset them, and succeed in winning money which they do not need. Not to mention the probable supposition that in such cases the emolument would in some way be restored to the college, it is confidently replied that, any stimulus to self-control and industry which may chance to reach the inheritors of wealth it is for the interest of the community to bestow. Moreover, to those who are troubled by difficulties of this description, it may be pointed out that they could be well-nigh avoided by prudent conditions. It might be provided that money accruing from scholarships must be spent for educational purposes approved by some designated officer of the college. Recipients might be required to sign some such paper as the following, devised by the late Mr. Hodges: "Although this beneficence is unconditional, I hereby signify my intention, if I should be pecuniarily prosperous in life, to refund, in part or fully, to the above named scholarship, the benefaction awarded me." Such conditions, if it were thought best to insist upon them, would reduce to a minimum the disadvantages of a course of procedure of which the general results would be gratifying. Men of competent means would not be likely to incur the disgrace of failing to carry out an intention they deliberately recorded.
In his admirable work on Examinations, Professor Latham tells us that open scholarships may be regarded as "the prizes which give life to the whole system of instruction in a college." Some consideration of the effects which would be likely to follow their introduction at Harvard is reserved for a concluding communication.