ON President Eliot's return from England it is expected that many minor changes will be introduced in the College, and, perhaps, several of greater moment. These novelties will be modelled, it is to be presumed, on the present systems in vogue at Oxford and at Cambridge, as the chief object of the President's visit to England was to study these systems. To those of us who are of conservative proclivities, the expectation of any changes whatever is, to say the least, disquieting; but when the new regulations are to be copied from the English systems, the prospect is decidedly darkened.
The English system, as is well known, has for its corner-stone the principle of heavily endowed fellowships and competitive examinations, which latter are carried to an extreme. These institutions have, to be sure, the prestige of old age, and their supporters claim that they produce the most excellent results; but their opponents maintain that, so far from effecting this, all that Englishmen have attained in the way of scholarship has been acquired in spite of the training they receive. Besides, they say, English scholarship, even if allowed to be due to these systems, furnishes a very weak argument in favor of their maintenance; as all that England does to increase the world's knowledge is but a drop in the bucket when compared with the achievements of the scholars of Germany, where, at the universities at least, competitive examinations and rich fellowships are entirely unknown. It is asserted that, by the English system, all inclination for original research is not only not fostered, but is even repressed. If these objections to the Cambridge and Oxford methods are really well founded (and an American can hardly profess to be a judge of the matter except with regard to the comparison between English and German scholarship), any changes founded upon them should be regarded with anything but a friendly eye; and especially should they be thus regarded, since the Englishmen, who as a rule are never prone to decry their own institutions, have attacked the present arrangements so vigorously that a royal commission was appointed, a short time ago, to examine the condition of the Universities, and recommend whatever changes they might deem advisable. Surely, if those customs which have existed almost from time immemorial, fail when they are on their native heath, they cannot but do likewise if transplanted to a new soil. It must seem strange to a disinterested person that a dying system should be the subject of study; such a person would certainly say that the object of the President's visit might better have been termed the study, not of the system of instruction and general management at the English Universities, but rather of their methods of reform.