Dr. Creighton spoke as follows: It is most proper that so close upon the celebration of the past few days that the students at Harvard should call to mind some of the more important of Harvard's predecessors in England and on the Continent. The old abbeys and monasteries were the foundations of the present universities, but these centres of learning had but little permanence. The best scholars did not long remain in one place, but became travelling teachers. We must trace then, how these men began to co-operate in the prosecution of their studies, and how thereby they formed educational centres. In the middle ages there was, in truth, much of that democratic spirit which we are prone to attribute to our own day. The guilds, the monasteries, and the orders of the templars were voluntary associations, and have their counterpart in many of our organizations of to-day. The word University is often missed or misunderstood. The latin Universitas means nothing more than corporation. Universities are but corporations. There was not any necessary assemblage of brain or wit in one place in order to form an University.
The first University in Europe was that of Bolognia. The students who had been at work in the neighborhood formed themselves into clubs in order to protect themselves from one another. The foundation of Bolognia as were as of all other universities lies in the street brawls, which still are prevalent in Germany. Thus the first University was established. These clubs terrorized the civil authorities as well as the professors. The students decided the remuneration of the professors, whom they appointed, and discharged at will. The undergraduates, however, were men much older than many whom I see before me. The University of Paris is the father of Universities. Attila gave Paris a reputation for learning which she never lost during the middle ages. His influence attracted many to scholastic ways. When Paris attempted to make herself a power as a University, the civil authority decided to put the Bishop's secretary in supervision. This Chancellor was the accredited official who was to grant the licenses for teaching. This was the extent of his power. The right to teach extended throughout the civilized world, except in a few isolated instances. There was an association of the graduates at Paris, and as time went on the power of the Chancellor was taken from him and put in the hands of this association. This revolution was effected with the aid of the civil authorities, who saw the value of the Universities more clearly than the Church did. The masters refused to accept any one given a license if he did not suit them. The initiation of the new master into the body of the masters consisted of a lecture and a dinner.
From this ceremony comes the collegiate use of our word Commencement, derived from the French word which was used to designate this initiation of a new master.
The war between the masters and the Chancellor resulted in the system of examinations which is now so unfortunately in vogue; for the masters compelled the Chancellor to admit anyone who had passed the examination prescribed by them. In Paris the clubs of Bolognia were introduced, and the contest against the Chancellor was chiefly conducted by them. These clubs consisted of the Picards, the Normans, the English and the Germans.
Oxford was founded on the structure of the Paris university. The university was considered as an upstart for the men of the middle ages believed that Germany had the empire, Italy the prince and France the schools. What right had England to set up a university? The struggle in 1265 when Simon de Mont Fort established the House of Commons, created a great excitement at Oxford, and the influence wielded by the students was great. The right of clergy which it is well known existed in the middle ages has not yet died out, but only last year an undergraduate was dismissed from judicial jurisdiction because he pleaded that only the Vice Chancellor of Oxford could pass upon him. Those Vice Chancellors, by the way, have a great deal of power and are very dictatorial in their ways. The system of Colleges in England is very different from the American. The university is like the Federal government of the United States while the colleges hold a similar position to the states in the American political system. The colleges have grown up under the control of the university.
The first German university was that of Prague. When the revolution which was inaugurated by John Huss reached Prague a great contest took place. The opponents of the reformer were beaten, and leaving the university they were scattered through the German states and founded the seats of learning at Heildelberg, Berlin, Vienna etc. Thus Germany has a host of universities, typical of the government of that country, France had Paris and everything was centralized there. England had Oxford and Cambridge believing that a generous rivalry was much to be desired.
Cambridge was modeled on the form of Oxford as that was on Paris. Cambridge was always more of a Protestant university than Oxford. During the days of the Reformation the students were strenuous in their defense of Queen Elizabeth. At the three hundredth anniversary of the founding of Emmanuel College, which occurred a few years ago a certain professor showed a ring given by Elizabeth to one of his ancestors who had been a professor at Emmanuel, in appreciation of the old Englishman's devotion to the cause of Protestantism. [Applause.] Although Cambridge always keeps its doors open to all who may wish to come, I can say for Emmanuel that none are more welcome there than those who have gained an education at University of John Harvard. [Prolonged applause.
The audience remained seated and Professor Norton knowing the evident wish of all present again ascended the stage and made a short speech of thanks to Dr. Creighton. "It is a great pleasure," he said, for the oldest of American Universities to be connected as Dr. Creighton has shown us with the oldest of the universities of England and the world. It gives an added dignity to our short years to feel that they are thus connected with the universities to which civilization owes so much. It is a pleasure to know that English blood flows in the veins of those who live at this University." [Applause.] "I feel it is your wish for me to communicate to the Masters and Fellows of Emmanuel College the most cordial greetings from Harvard to express the hope that the associations of the past may be deepened, strengthened and made more dear in coming time." With hearty applause showing a full accord with Professor Norton's words the audience broke up.