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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Andrew Dickson White (1832–1918)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
AMERICAN cosmopolitanism in educational and political affairs is well illustrated in the life and writings of Andrew Dickson White, whose ripe scholarship has been rendered all the more influential by his wide and varied contact with men and things. As a statesman, as a teacher, as a diplomat, as an organizer of great educational movements, he has exhibited the true culture which makes scholarship subservient to life.  1
  His career is an illustration of the possibilities of activity in many fields open to the educated American, whose citizenship derives not a small portion of its worth from liberal and strenuous intellectual training. Born in Homer, New York, November 7th, 1832, he was graduated from Yale in 1853; going soon after to Europe, where, as an attaché of the Russian Legation, he carried on further study, laying the foundation of that broad historical and sociological knowledge for which he is distinguished. From 1857 to 1862 he was professor of history and English literature in the University of Michigan. He served as State Senator in New York from 1863 to 1866. He was one of the organizers of Cornell University, and its first president,—the duration of his office being from 1867 to 1885. It was owing in large part to his wise guidance and to his munificence, that the growth of the university proceeded so rapidly. He bestowed upon it an endowment of a hundred thousand dollars, and founded the White Historical Library, to which he presented a unique collection of books and manuscripts relating to the period of the French Revolution. In 1871 he was commissioner to Santo Domingo. From 1879 to 1881 he was United States minister to Germany. In 1892 he was appointed United States minister to Russia, an office which he held for two years. He was Ambassador to Germany, from 1897 to 1902, and member of The Hague peace commission, and president of the delegation in 1902. His ‘Autobiography,’ published in 1905, looked back upon over seventy years of important activities and many honors. But it by no means marked the end of his literary labor. He has continued to contribute to the reviews, and his ‘Seven Great Statesmen in the Warfare of Humanity with Unreason’ appeared in 1911.  2
  While his most comprehensive work is ‘The History of the Warfare of Science with Theology,’ it is in his pamphlets on the study of history and on education, that the secret of the vitality of his scholarship may be found. His conception of history is of interest, not because it is original, but because it is clearly the result of that wide acquaintance with men and affairs, through which the conviction is attained that history is not a mere record of wars, but the record chiefly of the development of humanity. It is revelation or it is nothing. “The great deep ground out of which large historical studies may grow is the ethical ground,—the simple ethical necessity for the perfecting, first, of man as man, and secondly, of man as a member of society; or in other words, the necessity for the development of humanity on one hand and society on the other.”  3
  With this elemental principle in mind, he is quick to perceive that the great forces of history being moral forces, apparently insignificant events may furnish a clue to the spirit of an entire period. “Louis XIV. receiving Condé on the great staircase of Versailles was an immense fact at the time; to us, in the light of general history, it is worth little or nothing. Louis XVI. calling for bread and cheese when arrested in Varennes, and declaring it the best bread and cheese he ever ate, furnishes a fact apparently worthless, but really of significance; for it reveals the easy-going helplessness which was so important a factor in the wreck of the old French monarchy.” History must therefore “occupy itself with men and events which signify something.” These extracts from the pamphlet ‘On Studies in General History and the History of Civilization,’ contributed to the American Historical Association, give evidence of an essentially modern and humanistic scholarship; as does also the pamphlet on ‘The Relation of National and State Governments to Advanced Education,’ in which the author advocates making institutions for advanced education the objects of governmental support, on grounds both of patriotism and of culture.  4
  In 1861, Andrew D. White published an ‘Outline of a Course of Lectures on History’; in 1876 a treatise on ‘Paper Money Inflation in France.’ In the same year appeared a little book with the title ‘The Warfare of Science,’ which had grown out of a lecture of which the thesis was that “in all modern history, interference with science in the supposed interest of religion, no matter how conscientious such interference may have been, has resulted in the direst evils both to religion and to science, and invariably; and on the other hand, all untrammeled scientific investigation, no matter how dangerous to religion some of its stages may have seemed for the time to be, has invariably resulted in the highest good both of religion and of science.”  5
  This book was supplemented by further articles in the Popular Science Monthly in support of the thesis, which grew gradually into the comprehensive work published in 1896 under the title ‘A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom.’ This work is at once popular and scholarly. It is written in a style which would interest a schoolboy, yet it bears evidence of a scholarship whose thoroughness is only equaled by its breadth. The author’s European residences afforded him opportunities for wide research, and for the consultation of sources. It has literally compassed the earth for information which would throw light upon subjects of worldwide significance. He traces the growth of the modern spirit in many departments of thought and speculation,—the passing away of the old order of mediævalism, and the dawn of scientific enlightenment.  6
  Dr. White’s publications have been numerous, and include, besides those already mentioned, ‘The New Germany’ (1882), ‘Democracy and Education’ (1891), and ‘The Work of Benjamin Hale’ (1911). An excellent example of his clear and forcible style, most appropriate to the positive and definite subjects of which he treats, may be found in his article on Erasmus in this LIBRARY.  7
 
 
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