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Prof. Sumner of Yale has written a very sharp reply to the recent personal attack of the New York Tribune upon him for his free trade doctrines. "It is not to the advantage of Yale College," the Tribune cried, excitedly, "that shallow and one-sided dogmatism directs its instruction in a science of the highest practical importance." Its editor then proceeds to utter an ominous warning to any other professors or colleges who may make so bold as to uphold free trade heresies.
To these threats Prof. Sumner makes very pertinent reply as follows: "The article in the Tribune is an outrageous personality, for which there was no occasion or excuse. It does not deal with the merits of the subject matter at all. The protectionists would do well if they could secure a privileged position for their doctrines and their speakers. They need such extraneous support. 'Dogmatism' is a big word. It is easy to sling it about. It answers no facts or arguments. The protectionists fall back on authority. Henry Clay believed in protection. Lincoln signed the tariff bill. Charles Sumner voted for it, etc. I have never debated all that rubbish. The tariff question is not to be settled by any such considerations as that. The protectionists get lachrymose. They are grieved that there is not more respect for autiquity. They sigh to think that young men are growing up who assail the theories of old political saints and economic quacks. They weep over the unworthiness of a young professor who will not respect old humbugs. They run to protect Evarts with the names of Lincoln and Sumner. I am old enough to wish that I was younger. In the course of my life I have picked up one or two observations. I have noticed that whenever a big newspaper thinks it worth while to spend half a column to tell a man that he is of no account, he may be sure that he counts for his full share; and he may fairly believe that he has reached a certain altitude when it is worth half a column to try to put him down. I do not doubt that I shall get all the credit I deserve from the public, without regard to what the Tribune may try to tell them about me. As for poor old Yale, she has lots of friends. They have called her 'Black Republican,' 'Beecherite' and all sorts of things besides. They all wag their heads at her and tell her what will happen to her if she does not take their advice, support their interests and defend their notions. She seems to stand it pretty well, so long as she pays no heed to any of them. There is only one thing which could do her any harm. That would be to get some professors who believed at the same time 'both sides' of a scientific question, or who, having scientific convictions, could not or dare not express them. She is safe - too safe. That is what is the matter."
On the same subject the Boston Post says that the Tribune's criticisms "can hardly stop with Yale. While economic science has become a distinctive feature of higher education all over New England, we are not aware of a single prominent instance where protection is taught or even professed by an instructor. The reason is that economic science excludes the theory of protection, and no sooner does a man become a student of its principles than he will, if he is a man of logical parts, arrive by a straight road at freedom of trade, at least theoretically. The professor of Political Economy at Harvard was once editor-in-chief of a leading and influential protection journal, but we believe it took him less than a year, after divorcement from special influences and special interests, to take his place well up in the ranks of free trade professors. Prof. Perry of Williams, also, seems to be the cause of great uneasiness to many people, and we believe that even some of the sons of the college, at a recent meeting at Cleveland, improved the occasion to attack his doctrines. Those who were guilty of this exhibition of disloyalty and bad taste smply showed that they had lost their heads. But perhaps when they made their ill-timed comments they were not aware that Gen. Garfield once said that Prof. Perry had done more than any other man in America to bring out the truth in political economy, or that he expressed marked gratification that there had been such a demand for Prof. Perry's books at the Congressional Library."
"There can hardly be a middle ground," the Post continues very sensibly, "for those to occupy who teach with any effect the principles of political economy. These principles lead somewhere, and it is the duty of the virile mind to follow them. They are taught as principles to be adjusted by the minds that receive them to the situations in which they may subsequently find themselves. Probably neither Prof. Perry, nor Prof. Sumner, nor Prof. Dunbar, would advocate such a revolution in our tariff system as the adoption of absolute free trade. But free trade is the only legitimate rationale of the science, and in spite of natural obstructions it is the duty of all society to lean toward it, even though it may never be able to attain that economic ideal."
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