New York Times


Quotes Dr. Seligman as Calling Trustees "Fools and Idiots" and Gets Prompt Denial




Law Professor Draws the Line Between Seditious Propaganda and Free Speech.

A charge by Professor J. McKeen Cattell, expelled last week from the Chair of Psychology at Columbia University for disseminating disloyal doctrines in the war, that Professor Edwin R. A. Seligman, head of the Department of Economics at the university, had praised his views on the war and called the Trustees "fool" and "idiots," added an unexpected complication last night to the incidents developed by the resignation of Charles a Beard as Professor of Political Science at the university. Professor Cattell intimated that, following a suggestion from Professor Seligman, he would take his dismissal to the courts, adding that a "lawsuit will bring out facts concerning the President, (Nicholas Murray Butler,) the Trustees, and the university which will not be of service to them."

Professor Seligman, replying to the charge, asserted last night that not only had he never made the statements attributed to him, but that Professor Cattell’s "memory is as treacherous as his conduct is ungenerous."

What the effect of this new controversy will be on a report that was to have been formulated today by the Committee of Nine of the University Council, of which Professor Seligman is Chairman, was a subject of serious consideration last night among members of the Faculty. The committee met yesterday to discuss conditions at the University, as well as the resignation of Professor Beard, and had intended to submit a report to the University Council recommending changes that would result in "closer co-operation" between the various Faculties and the Trustees, and that the objection would thereby be removed that the Trustees were repressing free discussion at the university.

The passage between Professor Seligman and Professor Cattell, and the meeting of the Committee of Nine, which is composed of prominent teachers and deans, were, however, not all the developments of yesterday, following Professor’s Beard’s resignation.

Rumor of Student Strike

While the Committee of Nine was meeting in Professor Seligman’s office, Talcott Williams, head of the School of Journalism, was busy investigating a rumor that the students of the school would quit their classrooms in a body while President Butler was making an address on conditions in America as a protest against the repressive methods of the Trustees. An anonymous notice that such a demonstration would take place had been posted on the bulletin boards of the school, but the protest failed to materialize, although President Butler made his address as arranged.

During the day, also, about 100 alumnae and undergraduates of Barnard College met in Brinckerhoff Theatre, Milbaank Hall, and arranged for a mass meeting at the same place today to protest against the resignation of Professor Beard. They also adopted the following resolution:

"We, the undersigned undergraduates and alumni at Barnard, having abruptly lost the extraordinary privilege of studying American politics under Dr. Charles Austin Beard, when on Oct. 8 Professor Beard resigned from Columbia University, express our keen distress at the deprivation we thereby sustained."

No names, however, were signed to the resolution, it being announced that if the names of the protestants became known their plans for the meeting today might be frustrated.

Meantime it was rumored last night that still another demonstration would be held today, and that handbills would be distributed on the campus at 9 o’clock this morning, asking all students to quit their morning, asking all students to quit their classes at 11 o’clock and assemble on the steps of the library.

Finally, it was reported last night that several of the professors at the university, anticipating any action that might be taken by the Committee of Nine, had sent a letter to President Butler, demanding that the Trustees of the university grant a "Magna Charta of Academic Freedom" by divesting themselves of control over educational matters and restricting themselves solely to matters of finance and material affairs.

Several professors issued brief statements for the newspapers, expressing their sympathy with Professor Beard, and only two, so far as could be learned, asserted that they thought his action unwise. One of these was Professor Ellery C. Stowell, who said that "freedom of discussion" such as contended

(2) for by Professor Beard "should not be confused with the treasonable propaganda of Professor Cattell and Dana." The other was Professor E. W. Cunliffe, Associate Director of the School of Journalism, who asserted that he did not think Professor Beard had any reason for resigning. "I am not in sympathy with his action," said Professor Cunliffe.

President Nicholas Murray Butler refused to make a statement on the controversy, as did most of the Trustees.

Cattell’s Letter to Stone

The charge by Professor Cattell against Professor Seligman was contained in a letter Cattell wrote to Professor Harlan F. Stone, Dean of the Columbia Law School. Professor Cattell had asked Professor Stone to express his views on the legality of the expulsion, and upon the refusal of Professor Stone to do so, sent copies of the letter and Professor Stone’s reply to the newspapers. This is Professor Cattell’s letter to Dean Stone.

Garrison-on-Hudson, N.Y., Oct. 4, 1917.

Professor Harlan F. Stone, Dean of the Law School Columbia University:

Dear Mr. Stone: I fear that you disapprove of my views on war, though they were shared by most of my colleagues a few months ago; but I am sure that you know that the letter which I wrote to members of the Congress did not oppose "the effective enforcement of the laws of the United States," and was not an "act of sedition or treason," the alleged grounds of my dismissal by the trustees.

Do you care to give me advice on the legal questions involved in the case? Professor Seligman, speaking as acting dean of the graduate faculties and Chairman of the Committee of Nine of the Council, told me last Spring that if I were dismissed he hoped I would take the question before the courts in the interest of academic freedom. He said that I had accomplished more than any one living to improve university condition; that the trustees were "fools"; that most of them are "idiots." He wrote to me (Jan. 27) indorsing the expression of my opposition to war as follows:

"I want to congratulate you on you admirable letter which appeared in The Post on Thursday. So many of our scientific friends have lost their balance that it is refreshing to not the utterances of one who sees straight. Sooner or later we shall all come around to your standpoint."

Whatever may be the opinion held of me in this period of prejudice and unreason, from which I trust we shall soon emerge, my services to the university are a matter of record. I obtained for my department more money than the university has ever paid me. I made the department of psychology the strongest in the world, and as head of the departments of philosophy and anthropology made them the strongest in America. These are the only scientific departments in which Columbia stands first. I have also been of service to the university by my contributions through editing and otherwise to science and education throughout the country. I am now charged with lack of patriotism, whereas it has always been one of my chief satisfactions that I have done my share to give leadership in this country in psychology, the only science in which it does lead, and have edited her in America journals known throughout the world as the best in their fields.

In dismissing me the Trustees are injuring the university to an extent which they do not understand, though President Butler has not the excuse of ignorance. They may have a legal right to do this injury to the university and to me, though that is not certain. They have, however dismissed me in the middle of the year on false and libelous charges, without payment of the pension which I had earned by twenty-six years of service. President Butler stated in one of his annual reports that the pension right mad the salary of a professor $1,200 more than he was paid at the time. When Professor Peck was dismissed his lawyers claimed that his salary was due for the balance of the year, and the amount was paid.

It would be not only common decency, but also common sense, for the Trustees to pay the pension due me, which can be done by the purchase of an annuity, if that is preferred. Otherwise there will be ultimately unrest among members of the Faculty; a law suit will bring out facts concerning the President, the Trustees, and the university which will not be of service to them.

I venture to consult you rather than either of two other distinguished lawyers who take an interest in my relations with the university, as well as for me, if you consent to use the sound judgment I have always so greatly admired in this difficult situation.

You may show this letter and I reserve this liberty. Very truly yours.

J. McK. Cattell.

Dr. Stone Refuses to Act.

Following is Dr. Stone’s reply:

Columbia University, in the City of New York School of Law, Oct. 5, 1917.

Office of the Dean:

J. M. Cattell, Esq., Garrison-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Dear Mr. Cattell — I have just received and read your letter of the 4th inst. If you anticipate any further action with respect to your dismissal from professorship by the university authorities I think it quite important that you should have good legal advice. My relations to the university, however, are such that there would, I think, be a lack of propriety in my undertaking to advise or act for you professionally. It seems to me, therefore, desirable from every point of view that you should consult some one who has no connection professionally or otherwise with the university.

Yours sincerely, HARLAN F. STONE

Professor Cattell’s reply to this was:

Garrison-on-Hudson, N.Y., Oct. 6, 1917.

Professor Harlan f. Stone, Dean of the Law School, Columbia University:

Dear Mr. Stone: I had no intention of asking you to act as my counsel in a lawsuit against the trustees of the university for the pension due me and for libel. I wrote to you because I thought that you might, in consultation with others and in the interest of the university, wish to correct the unwisdom and injustice of the trustees in disregarding the recommendations of the Faculty Committee that I be given the pension that I have earned. I ask no favor from the university or from any one connected with it. But I do not wish to cause the university any injury other than will result from the ill-advised and illegal action of the trustees.

Unless you advise me to the contrary, I shall understand that I may show this correspondence. Very truly yours,

J. McK. Cattell.

Seligman Contradicts Cattell

Professor Seligman was at a meeting at Columbia University when he was informed last night of the text of Professor Cattell’s letter.

"So far as the alleged statements of mine are concerned," said Professor Seligman, "I can only regret that Professor Cattell’s memory is as treacherous as his conduct is ungenerous. In the first place, I never stated anything of the kind. I never advised him to sue the Trustees in case he was dismissed. On the contrary, I had only a short time before sighed a letter expressing my complet dissent from his general attitude in the university.

"Not only his memory is treacherous, but his conduct is ungenerous, for all last Spring I did my very best to save him from what has now turned out to be a well merited fate. I have not the least desire to enter into a personal altercation with Professor Cattell, and can only reiterate my profound regret that he has seen fit to inject personalities and inaccuracies into a record that has already been marred by so many lapses of dignity, wisdom, and good taste."

Professor Seligman will preside this morning at the meeting of the Committee of Nine of the University Council. This committee was appointed several months ago after the Trustees had, on several occasions, criticised statements about the war and kindred subjects mad by various professors at the university, and after it had become apparent that the friction between the Trustees and some members of the Faculties was developing dangerous possibilities.

The members of the committee were chosen from the personnel of the University Council, which is made up of Deans and other representatives of the Faculties, and, in addition to Professor Seligman, consists of Professor J. E. Russell, Dean of Teachers College; Professor W. A. Dunning of the Department of Political Science; Professor John Dewey of the Department of Philosophy; Professor J. C. Egbert of the Department of Philosophy, Professor H. E. Hawkes, Acting Dean of Columbia College, Professor S. W. Lambert, Dean of the Medical School, Professor G. B. Pegram, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science, and Professor A. H. Thorndike of the English Department.

At their meeting yesterday the committee discussed the situation thoroughly, and came to the conclusion, it was said, that "closer co-operation" between the Trustees and the Faculties was imperative, if the university was to continue its most effective work. Several members of the committee, while sympathizing with Professor Beard, expressed regret that he had added to the difficulties of the institution by resigning.

"We admire his courage," a member of the committee said, "but we also deplore the fact that he considered it necessary to resign. It adds to the difficulty of correcting the conditions which he complained."

Will Prepare Formal Report

The object of the committee in meeting today is to reduce it convictions to a formal report to present to the University Council on next Tuesday. There will be no meeting of the Trustees until the first Monday of November, but it is not impossible that the report of the Committee of Nine may be taken up with a special committee recently appointed by the Trustees to consider seditious or unwise utterances at the university. It was this special committee that forced the resignations of Professor Cattell and Dana.

The Trustees, when they do meet, probably will select a new Chairman, as William Barclay Parsons, the regular Chairman, is in Europe.

Following is a statement sent to THE NEW YORK TIMES last night by Professor Ellery C. Stowell, Associate Professor of International Law:

Professor Beard’s resignation is a most regrettable event in that Columbia loses one of its finest men and teachers, and at the same time his withdrawal confuses the issue of free speech, which, in my opinion, is not in any way involved. We have to consider three phases of this situation: First, the dismissal of Professors Cattell and Dana; second, the manner in which this action was taken by the Trustees; and third, Professor Beard’s resignation.

The free expression of opinion and the carrying on of a propaganda are quite distinct. If in the ordinary course of my lectures, correspondence, or even in reply to a bona fide inquiry I stated my views in regard to our entry into the war, any attempt to discipline me for what I have saide would be an infringement of free speech, but when on the other hand I write to members of Congress urging them to enact legislation which will impede the vigorous prosecution of the war to victory, I am carrying on a propaganda — of a seditious nature in that case, and when furthermore I employ the university letterhead I am bringing in the university into a matter in which it is not properly concerned. A professor, like any other individual, is free to carry on a propaganda, but he may properly be dismissed from the university whenever he propaganda is itself treasonable or sedition.

Calls It Rank Sedition

In time of peace it is better that much unjustifiable propaganda should go unchecked rather than that the university authorities should be suspected of any attempt to interfere with freedom of action and freedom of speech of professors, but after war has been declared by the constituted authorities, any propaganda which attempts to check effective military action, such as that prohibiting the sending of our troops to France, is rank sedition.

A professor who participates in it should be expelled without delay from any university whose fair name he tarnishes by his disloyal conduct. Professor Dana’s activities have been patent to every one. He has joined that seditious group of the People’s Council and has been associated with those who are most active in thwarting the attempt of our authorities to conquer Germany.

I have the greatest respect for Mr. Dana’s character, becuase he is willing to go to any extreme for what he believes. I am certain that he is in the wrong, and his attempted action out to be met by a check no less energetic. He and his confreres had their day in court. They urged their arguments against our entering the war, and we have now, in accordance with the regular procedure of this country, declared war through our constituted authorities. Those who carry on a propaganda against war are like men in an parliamentary assembly who, having lost the vote in a regular manner, persist in their attempt to usurp the floor in arguing the question. Anywhere they would be expelled forthwith, and if these seditious attempts do not sop, the American people and Government engaged in the glorious campaign to beat Germany, will have to suppress those misguided individuals, however noble may be the motives which actuate them.

Should Consult Faculty

I believe that the Faculty is better able to judge of the proper limits of academic freedom than the Board of Trustees, and think the faculty ought to be consulted before any such action is taken, and if Professor Bears resignation lends to th recognition of the justice of this form of procedure it will to that extent be conducive of good. After the Faculty has advised it would still be for the trustees to act upon their responsibility before the community. The previous consultation of the Faculty would only enlighten public opinion and set the matter forth so clearly that the public would be in a position to judge it. In the present instance where the disloyal and seditious acts of the two professors in question were so well known to everybody, the trustees might reasonably be considered as acting for the loyal members of the community. It is to be hoped that they will in the future consult the Faculty before taking action, but it is no less important that the Faculty members make it clear that they approve the dismissal of the professors in question.

If we are to win this war it is necessary to have the whole strength of the country behind the Commander in Chief. Any one who starts a propaganda of resistence or who tries to force the hand of the Government by compelling it to state its terms of peace is interfering with that centralization of power which is necessary for the effective conduct of the campaign. Every individual is free even now in war times to state his views. It is only when he attempts to organize opinion by means of a propaganda that he is arrested.

The day has not yet arrived when a people engaged in a life and death struggle will permit a minority to start a back fire to embarrass it at home. Those who are not for the vigorous prosecution of the war take action to oppose it at their peril.

Many people do not perceive that wars are now fought in great part far from the cannon’s roar. The enemy will attach as much significance to the number of subscribers to the Liberty Loan as they do to events upon the field of battle. By such means the people in war time indicate their confidence in the Government, and when there are signs that this confidence is failing the Government has to give heed.

As long as it does possess the confidence of the country it is not to be tolerated that agitators carry on an active propaganda against the war or any measures which are vital to its success. A sentimental tenderness toward sedition would cost this country lives of hundreds of thousands of its brave defenders. I believe it would have a wholesome effect if we were to shoot a few spies and traitors. It is the hour for every loyal citizen to act. The time for paralyzing discussion is gone.

The Executive Committee of the American Union Against Militarism yesterday sent Professor Beard a telegram congratulating him on his "courage in resigning."



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