The records of the Corporation published in the last University Bulletin contains the story of how the attempt to suppress the third Dudleian lecture failed. The subject of this lecture, it will be remembered, is "the detecting and conviction and exposing the idolatry of the Romish Church, their tyranny, usurpation, damnable baseness, fatal errors, abominable superstitions and other crying wickedness in their high places."
Last May a good deal of revulsion was felt among the Faculty against the sectarian character of such a lecture, and fifty-eight members sent a petition to the President and Fellows asking to have this lecture omitted. This was not by any means the first time that such a petition had been sent to the Corporation.
On May 25, 1891, the Corporation referred the matter to one of its members, Judge William C. Endicott. On October 26 be made a report to the Corporation, who voted the following answer to Professor Francis J. Child and the other petitioners:
"The Corporation has considered with much care the remonstrance signed by fifty-eight members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, in which they urge the suppression of the third Dudleian lecture, the subject of which is the Romish Church, and in substance declare that the continuance of this lecture at the present time would be both impolitic and unbecoming, and even more than unbecoming, it would be indecent and unjust'; and doubtless referring to the strong and violent language used by Chief Justice Dudley in the third clause of his will in pointing out what he considers errors, and idolatry, tyranny, usurpations, superstitions, heresies, and crying wickedness in high places of the Church of Rome, they recommend not only the suppression of this lecture, as one of the four directed to be given in his will, but they also in substance declare that the surrender of the whole trust and the abandonment of the lectures would be a slight evil compared with the maintenance of this trust, if this third lecture against Catholicism is continued.
"The Corporation cannot concur in this conclusion and is of opinion that the suppression of one of the four lectures provided for under this bequest would be a breach of trust which might amount to a renunciation of the whole trust; for refusal to perform a part of the duty imposed upon and accepted by the college might well be considered a breach of the entire trust - a material change having been made therein.
"The Corporation must decline therefore to take the steps proposed in the remonstrance either in whole or in part.
"The language used by the Chief Justice, who was a just and sincere man, is language characteristic of the time when animosities among religious sects were bitter and intense; and if he were to draw this clause today, it would be couched in different terms and would breathe a very different spirit. No lecturer could now with propriety use such language, adopt such views, or be inspired by such a spirit, as is disclosed by the expressions of the Chief Justice in drawing the third clause of his will At the present time this subject should be and doubtless will be treated historically. Great changes have taken place in the opinion of theologians, scholars, and historians, not only in regard to the attitude of the Catholic Church, but also in regard to natural and revealed religion and the ordination of ministers; and the opportunity may well be taken in delivering this third lecture to soothe and allay the animosities and bitterness of the past, and deal with these questions in a broad, scholarly, and magnanimous spirit.
On receipt of this answer from the Corporation the petitioning members of the faculty met and drew up the following letter in reply:
CAMBRIDGE, November 17, 1891.To the President and Fellows of Harvard College: -
GENTLEMEN: - At a meeting held in Cambridge on the 12th of the current month by the members of the Faculties of Arts and Sciences, Law and Divinity who presented a memorial to the President and Fellows of Harvard College on the 25th of May, 1891, urging the suppression of the Dudleian Lecture against Catholicism, it was voted to communicate to the President and Fellows the following statement: -
The members of the Faculties of Arts and Sciences, Law and Divinity who presented a memorial to the President and Fellows of Harvard College on the 25th of May last, urging the suppression of the Dudleian Lecture against Catholicism, have received the reply made October 26, in which the President and Fellows decline 'to take the steps proposed in the remonstrance either in whole or in part.'
While the memorialists remain in the conviction that the revival and continuance of a lecture inconsistent with the unsectarian character and policy of the University must be prejudical, and while they cannot think that the method proposed by the Corporation is one which really carries out the purpose of the founder of the lectures, they see no utility in pressing views which have no likelihood of obtaining the interest and concurrence of the Corporation.
(signed) J. C. GRAY,Chairman.
(signed) GEORGE LYMAN KITTREDGE,
Secretary.The result of the whole discussion now is that the lectures will continue to be delivered until the Corporation prompted either by its own instincts or by another petition will see fit to have them discontinued.