430 West ll6th st., New York,
October 8, 1917
Dear President Butler,
Having observed closely the inner life of Columbia for many years, I have been driven to the conclusion that this university is really under the control of a small and active group of trustees who have no standing in the world of education, who are reactionary and visionless in politics, narrow and medieval in religion. Their conduct, to use the language of a resolution adopted last Spring by one of the most important faculties, “betrays a profound misconception of the true function of a university in the advancement of learning.” How wide spread and deep is this conviction among the professors, only one intimately acquainted with them can know.
If these were ordinary times, one might more readily ignore the unhappy position in which the dominant group in the board of trustees has placed the teachers. But these are not ordinary times. We are in the midst of a great war and we stand on the threshold of an era which will call for all the emanci- pated thinking that America can command. As you are aware, I have, from the beginning, believed that a victory for the Ger man imperial government would plunge all of us into the black night of military barbarism.· I was among the first to urge a declaration of war by the United states and I believe that we should now press forward with all our might to a just conclusion. But thousands of my countrymen do not share this view. Their opinions cannot be changed by curses or bludgeons. Arguments addressed to their reason and understanding are our best hope.
Such arguments however met come from men whose die- interestedness is above all suspicion, whose independence is beyond all doubt, and whose devotion to the whole country, as distinguished from any single class or group, is above all question. I am convinced that while I remain in the pay of the trustees of Columbia Univeraity I cannot do effectively my humble part in sustaining public opinion in support of the just war on the German Empire or take a position of independence in the days of reconstruction that are to follow. For this reason I herewith tender my resignation as Professor of Politics, to take effect on the morning of Tuesday, October 9, 1917.
I cannot find words to convey to you what it means to sever close tie of so many years standing. Above all do I regret to part from my colleagues. As I think of their scholar- ship and their world-wide reputation and compare them with the few obscure and wilful tr…ustees who now dominate the university and terrorize the young instructors , I cannot repress my astonishment that America, of all countries, has made the status of the professor lower than that of the manual laborer, who, through his union, has at least some voice in the terms and conditions of his employment. Holding his position literally the day, the professor is liable to dismissal without a hearing, without the judgment of his real peers. I am sure that when the people understand the true state of affairs in our universities, they will speedily enact legislation which will strip boards-of trustees of their
absolute power over the inte1actual life of the institutions under their management.
In severing my relations with my employers, I do not leave the great republic of Columbia students. alumni, and professors. With them I have ties that cannot break while I live. And to you, Sir, I am deeply indebted
for the courtesy and thoughtful consideration that I have always received at yours hands.