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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

THE PROPOSED FRESHMAN RACE.

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

TO THE EDITORS OF THE CRIMSON:-

IT was with great regret that I saw in this morning's paper a statement that the Harvard Freshmen voted last night to invite their Cornell contemporaries to row a race with them "at New London," and I sincerely hope that some other locality may be finally chosen, in case the two classes really compete. Their presence on the Thames would tend to interfere with the perfection of the arrangements for the Harvard-Yale race, and is therefore earnestly to be deprecated by all who wish to see that race firmly established there as a regular annual "institution." Few people are aware that the management of last summer's contest, which was so generally praised as a great success, escaped disastrous failure only by a series of lucky accidents; and quite as few have any proper comprehension of the extent of the difficulties which the manager of such an affair always has to contend against. Provision must be made for all manner of untoward circumstances. which may possibly arise, and every imaginable source of trouble which can be foreseen must be removed in advance. The veriest trifle may destroy the success of a boat-race, - bring vexation to the crews and discomfort to thousands of spectators, - and it is therefore the part of wisdom to provide against every conceivable contingency, no matter how remote or improbable it may be.

If the annual University race between the two old colleges is rowed at New London on the last Friday afternoon of June, a greater number of the people who are interested in the competition can attend it - and at a far less sacrifice of money, time, and comfort - than could attend it at any other place. Last summer's crowd was much larger than any which had previously assembled on any similar occasion in America, and it is fair to presume that if next June's crews are believed to be evenly matched, the attendance will be doubled. But New London offers no facilities for lodging such a multitude over night, or even for supplying it with food for the space of a day; and great dissatisfaction and discomfort would therefore result from delays or postponements. Of course these latter may in any case be brought about by the weather or other uncontrollable cause; but the chance of their occurrence would certainly be increased by any attempt to row subsidiary races on the same day, or even on the previous day. Likewise, the experiment of the "moving grand stand," which pleased so many people last summer, might have to be abandoned if more than one race were attempted, for the difficulties of operating it on a single-track road are at best very great. Furthermore, the problem of police management might suddenly assume serious and disheartening proportions if the excursion steamers were allowed to discharge their somewhat miscellaneous crowds upon the little city.

New London is indeed no place for a long-drawn-out "regatta tournament," or series of races between several crews. Its distinctive recommendation as the scene of the annual Harvard-Yale race is its capacity for quickly sending back to their homes the people whom it as quickly attracts. Nor should the college oarsmen fail to remember that, as one of the newspaper correspondents said last summer, "a well-managed crowd and successful boat-race are inseparable," and that, though all the crowd are not graduates, all the graduates in the crowd suffer whatever it suffers. There are several hundreds of these Harvard and Yale men who would be glad each year to finish up their Commencement celebration by witnessing a race between the representative boats of the two colleges, provided they can witness it quickly and inexpensively; and those who man the boats ought to defer to their friends' comfort and convenience, even irrespective of the fact that by thus rigorously ruling out all sideshows or subsidiary contests, which may tend to make confusion or delay, they will best subserve their own individual interests as oarsmen.

To prove this last remark would require my entering into minute details, which would not interest your readers, and so I must content myself with the simple assertion that quite a number of little improvements which the New-Londoners had planned to make, for the benefit of the University crews of Harvard and Yale, will necessarily have to be abandoned in case any other crews are in practice at the same time upon the river. Having for a dozen years and more attended all the intercollegiate regattas at Worcester, Springfield, and Saratoga, and having carefully examined the causes which have invariably produced dissatisfaction on the part of the crews and the spectators, or both, I have become thoroughly convinced that the only hope of permanently establishing the annual University race at New London upon a satisfactory basis lies in keeping it absolutely disconnected from all other contests. So essential does it seem to me that the presumption raised in favor of the Thames course by the first fortunate trial of it should be strengthened by the satisfactory experience of several successive seasons until it can harden into a fixed tradition, that I account no precaution unreasonable which has a tendency to produce that result. Hence, when a former oarsman urged in one of the college journals that Yale ought to refrain from sending a crew to New London to meet that of Harvard, unless the latter would agree to discountenance the presence of all other crews upon the course during the five days which precede and the five which follow the day of the race (June 27), I earnestly seconded the recommendation. The Yale undergraduates, indeed, show no disposition to resort to such an extreme measure, both because they are not convinced of the seriousness of the possible consequences which might result from the presence of other crews at New London, and because they dislike to act in a way that would expose their motives to misconstruction; but there is no manner of doubt that they all ardently desire to have the annual race kept entirely free from side-shows, either on land or water, and that they will feel very grateful towards the Harvard Freshmen if the latter, in making arrangements with their brethren of Cornell or Columbia, will name some other rowing course.

A YALE GRADUATE OF '69.NEW YORK, January 28, 1879.

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