De Morgan by his wife Sophia. Part 2
This file covers events in De Morgan's life from 1827 to 1831. The material is a version of that written by De Morgan's wife Sophia Elizabeth in 'S E De Morgan, Memoir of Augustus De Morgan by his wife Sophia Elizabeth De Morgan (London, 1882)'.
There are four sections:
(i) De Morgan and the Frend family;
(ii) The founding of University College London;
(iii) De Morgan appointed Professor of Mathematics;
(iv) De Morgan resigns his professorship.
The other sections of these Memoirs are at:
There are four sections:
(i) De Morgan and the Frend family;
(ii) The founding of University College London;
(iii) De Morgan appointed Professor of Mathematics;
(iv) De Morgan resigns his professorship.
The other sections of these Memoirs are at:
1. De Morgan and the Frend family
It was at this time  that he became acquainted with my father, William Frend. They first met at the office of the Nautical Almanac, of which their common friend, Lieutenant Stratford, R.N., had been recently appointed Comptroller. Mr Frend and Mr Stratford were both members of the old Mathematical, and subsequently of the Astronomical Society. Though my father was, even at that time, far behind Mr De Morgan as a mathematician, the two had a good deal of mathematics in common. My father had been second wrangler in a year in which the two highest were close together, and was, as his son-in-law afterwards described him, an exceedingly clear thinker and writer. It is possible, as Mr De Morgan said, that this mental clearness and directness may have caused his mathematical heresy, the rejection of the use of negative quantities in algebraical operations; and it is probable that he thus deprived himself of an instrument of work, the use of which might have led him to greater eminence in the higher branches. This same heresy gave occasion to many amusing arguments and discussions. But between these two sympathy in matters of morals and principle formed a stronger bond than similarity of pursuit. My father had sacrificed good prospects as a clergyman to his conscientious scruples about the doctrines of the Established Church, as ex- pressed in the Creeds and Articles, and had been through life an earnest advocate of religious liberty. These circumstances won for him at once the respect and esteem of Mr De Morgan, who, like himself, had thrown off the restraints of a creed which he could not hold, and which he refused to profess without holding. I think my father, who was a good Hebrew scholar, afterwards helped him to clear away some of the doubts and difficulties resulting from mistranslations of Scripture, and fostered by the early teaching of a sect not critically learned.
We were living at Stoke Newington, in one of those old houses with wooded grounds, of which so few remain near London. It had formerly belonged to Daniel Defoe, and Isaac Watts had inhabited it. In my father's time it was the scene of many a pleasant gathering of men and women of all degrees of intellectual ability, and of almost every shade of political and religious opinion. The spot where the old house stood has become the centre of a district of streets and shops, built where the tall trees grew, and nothing now remains to commemorate its existence but the name of Defoe Street.
Mr De Morgan first came to our house with Mr Stratford. He then looked so much older than he was that we were surprised by hearing his real age just twenty-one. I was nineteen. We soon found out that this 'rising man,' of whom great things were expected in science, and who had evidently read so much, could rival us in love of fun, fairy tales, and ghost stories, and even showed me a new figure in cat's cradle. He was in person very like what he continued through life, but paler, probably from the effects of his recent Cambridge reading. His hair and whiskers were very thick and curly; he was not bald till thirty years after. I remember his having a slight pleasure in saying things which startled formal religionists, but which we, who were not formal, soon understood to mean what they expressed, and no more. These sayings were humorous, and like the half-mischievous jests of a very young man. It was easy to see that a deep religious feeling underlay the contempt for observance which his early training had caused, and that his consciousness of the care and fatherhood of the Almighty was a sacred thing belonging to himself alone, not to be profaned by contact with human forms or inventions. My father, who, like people who have made their own belief, was a little impatient in argument, at first thought him an unbeliever; and so, in a certain sense, he was; but it was only in such things as he could not find a reason for believing. I mention religious questions because they entered much into our thoughts and conversation at that time. As to the Gospels, he waited for a better and more critical understanding of them than could be gained from his first instructors, and this a rather extensive reading of theology enabled him to acquire before he left this world. When I first knew him, I was puzzled by such books as Volney's 'Ruins of Empires,' Sir W Drummond's writings, and other works of antiquarian research, to which a great interest in our friend Godfrey Higgins's investigations had led me. Mr De Morgan showed me the scientific errors of some of these writers, and the insufficiency of their theories to account for all that they have tried to explain. He was well informed in Eastern astronomy and mythology, and saw that much of modern doctrine has gained something of its form, at least, from ancient symbolism. Lieut-Col Briggs, his uncle by marriage, had begun his 'Ferishta,' and his nephew's interest in the work had brought him much into the society of Oriental scholars. The ancient grandeur and simplicity of the East at once excited and satisfied his imagination. He sometimes said that India with its skies and mountains 'might be really worth looking at,' whereas he never saw any scenery in England than which he could not picture to himself something infinitely grander. He was proud of his birth in the sacred city of Madura, and at one time longed to visit his native country, and fancied that every one had the same instinctive desire. Luckily, his doing so when young was prevented by the defect of sight which justified his mother in refusing a cadetship for him.
During the ten years which preceded our marriage, his delightful flute, accompanied by my sister on the piano, was a great pleasure to us. I lost the gratification of accompanying him then, and it was afterwards a sorrow to me that I was not a musician. Our acquaintance began just before he became a candidate for the Professorship of Mathematics, but he, like my father, took an interest in the foundation of the new University, of which, indeed, my father had been one of the first projectors.
It has been observed that when the time is ripe for bringing forward any measure, ideas come at the same time to more than one mind fitted to receive them, and it is often difficult to find the author of the first suggestion. This is especially true in the case of the foundation of large institutions. In what follows I do not mean to assert that my father was the first suggester of a college or university in London, but, being one of the few persons now living who can remember the beginning of University College and the expressed designs and hopes of its founders, I venture to give, more in detail than the scope of a biography would justify, a short account of its origin; and in thus contributing my share of its history I must speak of that part which I best remember.
2. The founding of University College London
About or before the year 1820, some liberal-minded men, after long pondering on the disabilities of Jews and Dissenters in gaining a good education, came to the conclusion that as the doors of the two Universities were closed against them, the difficulty could best be met by establishing a University in which the highest academical teaching should be given without reference to religious differences. As this could not be done in an institution in which the pupils resided without excluding religion altogether from education, a necessary condition of the establishment was the daily attendance of students on college lectures, so that while living under their parents' roof they might be brought up in the religion of the family.
My father's ideas of the proposed institution had been embodied in some letters signed 'Civis,' and published in a monthly periodical edited by Mr John Thelwall, somewhere about 1819, which did not survive a third number. The writer was well qualified by his own academical status, and by the subsequent abandonment of Church preferment which led him into connection with intelligent Dissenters, to estimate the value of University training, and the great loss and deprivation sustained by young men every way qualified to profit by it who were unable from religious belief to receive it. He looked forward to the day when all forms of religion should be held equal within the walls of the noble institution which he contemplated, in which good conduct and compliance with rules should be the only conditions of admission. A short time after the publication of the letters referred to, Mr Thomas Campbell, the poet, first visited their writer, and informed him that Lord Brougham (then Mr Brougham) and Dr Birkbeck, with himself and one or two others, believed that the time for making the attempt was come. I was about twelve years old when Mr Brougham dined with my father to consult upon it. Some meetings took place, other liberal men joined them, and after some delay the first active committee was formed. Mr Frend was prevented by long and severe illness from taking an active part in the first movements, but he joined the general committee on his recovery, became a shareholder, and on the election of a council and officers was appointed one of four auditors.
The establishment of University College, called at first the London University, promised to fulfil the hopes of all friends of education, and was hailed as a forerunner of religious freedom. My father naturally took the liveliest interest in its progress. Mr De Morgan welcomed the opening of the College, as not only meeting a great want of the time, but as offering to himself a prospect of leaving the study of Law, which he did not like, for the teaching and pursuit of Science. When the time came for the appointment of Professors he sent his name in as a candidate for the Mathematical chair. He was one of thirty-two candidates. The committee for examining testimonials found among his the highest certificates from Dr Thorp, Dr Peacock, Professor Airy, Professor Coddington, and others, his Cambridge teachers. He was much younger than any of his competitors, but his election to the chair of Mathematics was made unanimously, and afterwards confirmed by the Council on February 23, 1828, being formally communicated to him without delay.
It was a little characteristic incident connected with the appointment of the future Mathematical Professor, that while the election was going on in one part of the college, and he with some others of the candidates were in the common room, he took up a volume lying on the table, which proved to be Miss Porter's 'Field of the Forty Footsteps.' The scene of this novel is laid in the fields which formed the site of the building and its surroundings. It was said that, some years before, the marks of the weird 'forty footsteps' might still be seen in the ground, but builders and stonemasons had effectually removed them, and fanciful comparisons were drawn between the effacement of these marks of the brothers' rivalry and the barbarity of their lady love as the new foundations arose, and the disappearance of crime and ignorance under the work which the College had to do. The love of fiction was strong enough in the candidate's mind to make him forget his interest in what was going on, and he had run through the volume before a whisper reached his ears as to the result of the election.
In looking at the past history of an institution it is useful to trace not only the successes, but the mistakes which have caused failure and disturbance; for even in cases where present prosperity may lead to imitation, a statement of errors committed and corrected will be as a chart of the rocks to be avoided hereafter. I shall try to give a truthful sketch of the early history of the College; not entirely omitting those elements in its formation which created discord in the first years, and which had some share long after in the disastrous termination of my husband's connection with it. Had he lived long enough he would have himself done this, far better than any one else. His pen was held for a time by consideration for contemporaries, most of whom are now gone. Circumstances connected with his memory have arisen since he was taken from us which make it imperative on me to do the work which he left undone.
To learn this history fairly we must look back to the state of education, and to the needs and disabilities which at this time led to the foundation of the London University. These disabilities and needs were felt, not so much by highly educated academical men wishing for a cheap school for their sons, as by the great body of enlightened Jews and Dissenters, held back by religious tests from sharing in University advantages, but intelligent enough to perceive the value of what they lost, and rich enough to supply the want for themselves. The wealth of this party was of course represented by commercial men. To these must be added some parents living in London and the neighbourhood who could not afford to send their sons to college, and to whom the attendance on daily lectures while living at home seemed more desirable. A few of the most liberal thinkers of the time gave their best help to the completion of the design, but the large body of men who had been trained under University discipline held aloof from an institution from which religious tests were excluded, and which might at some time compete with the two Universities, bound up as they were by old usage with the interests of the Established Church, whose foundations were laid in the time of a church older still.
Thus, with the exception of the few enlightened scholars who generally held out a hand to their less fortunate brethren, the founders of the London University were either liberal politicians, not always familiar with the details of academical discipline, or mercantile men, who, with the best possible intentions, had no experience of the best way of securing concord and due balance in the relations of governing body, teacher, and pupil.
The Deed of Settlement of the London University bears date 1826. The Institution was a proprietary one, the funds being raised partly by shares, partly by subscriptions. The management was vested in a council of twenty-four gentlemen chosen from among the proprietors, and a general meeting of proprietors formed the highest court of appeal. The Professors were elected by the Council; and a Warden, who was to be the medium of communication between the Council and Professors, and superintendent of the household department, was appointed. The duties of the Professors were confined to their classrooms, in which, as it afterwards appeared, they were not absolute. It would have been well for the infant institution if a piece of advice given by Mr De Morgan long after, and in a different connection, [on the establishment of the Ladies' College, Bedford Square] could have been acted on at this time. 'Never begin,' he said, 'by drawing up constitutions. They are sure to prove clogs on the wheel. Let the work begin in good earnest, and with no needless machinery. If it is done well you will soon see what is wanted, and the constitution will be formed by meeting the needs as they arise.' The founders of University College, as of other public institutions, had not grasped the idea of this natural growth, and the effect of their arrangements was to put a clog upon the wheels, which shook the whole vehicle, and well-nigh overturned it at first going off.
As I cannot enter into the history of this institution farther than is necessary to explain my husband's connection with it, no names except those which belong to that part of the history will be brought forward.
The design of the London University, as set forth in pamphlets, speeches, and the general understanding of the time, and repeated many years later in an official document, was to provide a liberal education in Classics, Mathematics, Physical Science, and Medicine, without regard to religious distinction either in teacher or pupil. The teaching was to be given in lectures attended daily by students, and the only condition of entry, beside the fee, was good conduct and compliance with the rules laid down for the maintenance of order in the college.
In conformity with this avowed principle of religious neutrality we find, among the Professors first chosen, three Clergymen of the Church of England, one Independent minister, a Jewish gentleman, who in his place of Hebrew professor taught the reading of the Old Testament, and other gentlemen nominally churchmen, but whose religious views were known to vary from strict orthodoxy to the widest latitudinarianism.
3. De Morgan appointed Professor of Mathematics
The appointment to the Mathematical Professorship pleased some of Mr De Morgan's Cambridge friends, who spoke and wrote of it as a boon to the London University and to himself. It would be untrue to say that all his friends rejoiced in it, for his own family and near relations, who had anticipated a brilliant success for him at the Bar, felt that to take a position as yet doubtful, with a greater doubt of fitting remuneration, was really a sacrifice on his part. My father shared in this feeling, and, in reply to the expression of it, Mr De Morgan wrote:-
You seem to fancy that I was going to the Bar from choice. The fact is, that of all the professions which are called learned, the Bar was the most open to me; but my choice will be to keep to the sciences as long as they will feed me. I am very glad that I can sleep without the chance of dreaming that I see an "Indenture of Five Parts," or some such matter, held up between me and the 'Mecanique Celeste', knowing all the time that the dream must come true.One false step due to the tendency in young associations to frame constitutions before their needs are known, was the appointment of a Warden for the new University. The next error arose from the same cause, and showed the inability of the governing body to perceive what was due to men of worth and education, if they meant such men to give them the weight of their character and influence. As a good friend to the new College wrote to Mr De Morgan, speaking of two influential members of Council: 'A believes that the University depends on the Professors, B that the Professors depend on the University.' Unfortunately the A.s were in the minority.
Mr De Morgan received the official notice of his appointment on the day of the election, and was informed at the same time that 'a formal certificate of appointment will be prepared, in which the duties of the Professors will be specified, and they will be required to sign an acceptance of the authority of the Council and of the rules of the University on receiving them.'
These conditions and obligations were not such as could be accepted by men accustomed to academical discipline, and who knew the value of their work. They were the work of a governing body new to its own duties, and to the claims and rights of those for whom they were composed. But after a strong remonstrance the Professors were enabled to hold their diplomas on a simple declaration of adherence to the constitution as set forth in the Deed of Settlement. The classes opened on the following November, and on the 5th the Professor of Mathematics gave his introductory lecture, when, as he says, he 'began to teach himself to better purpose than he had been taught, as does every man who is not a fool, let his former teachers be what they may.'
This lecture 'On the Study of Mathematics' takes a much wider view of that study, and its effects upon the mind, than its title alone would imply. It is an essay upon the progress of knowledge, the need of knowledge, the right of everyone to as much knowledge as can be given to him, and the place in mental development which the culture of the reasoning power ought to hold. It is not only a discourse upon mental education, but upon mind itself. It was the work of a young man of twenty-two years and four months old, and the earnestness and sanguineness of youth may be seen in the strong determination with which his work was begun, and the high hopes which he felt of the work the University had to do. How well his part was done, after years, and the consenting voice of many pupils whose own work bore the fruit of his teaching, have given proof.
What part he had in obtaining for the College its subsequent reputation it is not for me to say. How he was repaid, the judgment of the future must determine. The Mathematical class during the first session consisted of nearly one hundred pupils. In the next year there was an increase of numbers. The Professor gave two lectures every day, the first from nine till ten A.M., the second from three to four in the afternoon. After each lecture he remained for a time at his desk, in order that pupils who had found any part obscure might come to him to have their difficulties cleared up. In this way the two lectures occupied about three hours in the day, and the pupils' exercises which were to be examined rather less than an hour more.
Various proposals had been made by the most active among the Professors for improving the condition of the institution; among those which were carried into effect were the foundation of a day school in connection with the University, and the annual distribution of prizes and honours. But, as might be expected from the elements of which the new institution was founded, it could not go on long smoothly. Troubles began soon after the opening, due to arrangements which resulted from the formation of a constitution and laws before the working necessities of the institution could be known; and all the misapprehensions which soon arose among the component members were traceable to this cause. These were set forth chiefly in the following pamphlets, printed for private circulation:-
- 'A Letter to the Shareholders and Councillors of the University.'
- 'Statements respecting the University of London, prepared at the desire of the Council by Nine of the Professors.'
- 'Letter to the Council of the University of London, by Leonard Horner, Warden of the University.'
- 'Observations on a Letter, &c., by L Horner, Esq., &c., &c., by Nine Professors.'
The visit to Paris was paid just before Colonel Briggs left for India. It was a time of great enjoyment, and besides the society of his uncle's family and the pleasures of Paris life, then quite new to him, whose time had been altogether given to study, he made acquaintance with many of the scientific men and scholars of the time. Among these were MM Hachette (with whom he corresponded till M Hachette's death in 1834), Biot, the Duc de Broglie, and others. With M Quêtelet he became acquainted two years later. M Bourdon, whose work on Algebra he had translated, was in Paris, but the two never met.
My husband's interest in his birthplace had always been kept alive by intercourse with his many relations there, some of whom were in the Madras army, some in the Civil Service. It is well known how frequent were the disputes and jealousies among the servants of the East India Company. Col De Morgan had suffered much from accusations made against him by superior officers, for which the later justice done to him hardly compensated. Col Briggs, who was acknowledged to be an able and well-informed officer, had his share of trouble. In 1829, great difficulties arose in the government of the Mysore, owing partly to the mixture of native rule, and partly to the province being under the direction of the Governor of Madras, who appointed Commissioners for it. Owing to these disorders, Lord W Bentinck, the Governor-General, determined to separate the Mysore from the Madras Presidency, and appointed Col Briggs and another officer Commissioners, with full powers over the province. Of these Col Briggs was the chief. This appointment displeased the Governor of Madras, who left no stone unturned to reverse it, and after a year and a half succeeded in getting Col Briggs removed, and another officer put in his place. The difficulties and real hardships (for he was then ill) which Col Briggs underwent during this time were communicated to his sympathising nephew and friend in England, who gave what help he could by calling the attention of the Directors of the Company to the case. Nothing could be done, however, and Mr James Mill writes, 'From all I hear, I believe Col Briggs' friends have reason to rejoice in his dismissal.'
4. De Morgan resigns his professorship
The session of 1829-30 began nearly as the last had ended, and the dissensions in the institution were publicly known. In March 1830 the Mathematical Professor's share of the difficulties became serious, and a correspondence between himself and the Warden resulted in some modifications of the functions of that officer. But the disturbances on the Medical side continued through the year, the result of a series of alternate mistakes on the part of the authorities and remonstrances on that of the Professors. One of these remonstrances is contained in a letter written by Mr De Morgan, who had been asked by some members of the Council to lay before that body the views he had expressed in a conference with a Committee appointed to examine into some complaints preferred by the Anatomical class against their instructor, Professor Pattison:-
Gentlemen, - In compliance with the wish expressed by you when I had the honour of an interview with you, I lay before you the views which I entertain on a subject most essentially connected with the welfare of the University, viz., the situation which the Professors ought to hold in the establishment. This question is of the highest importance, inasmuch as upon the manner in which it shall be settled depends the order of education and merit which will be found among the Professors in future, and the estimation in which they will be held by the public.Mr De Morgan also wrote the following letter, officially addressed to the Council through the Warden:-
In order to induce men of character to fill the chairs of the University, these latter must be rendered highly independent and respectable. No man who feels (rightly) for himself will face a class of pupils as long as there is anything in the character in which he appears before them to excite any feelings but those of the most entire respect. The pupils all know that there is a body in the University superior to the Professors; they should also know that this body respects the Professors, and that the fundamental laws of the institution will protect the Professor as long as he discharges his duty, as certainly as they will lead to his ejectment in case of misconduct or negligence. Unless the pupils are well assured of this they will look upon the situation of Professor as of very ambiguous respectability, and they will only be wrong inasmuch as there will be no ambiguity at all in the case.
With the public the situation will be altogether as bad. Wherever the Professor goes, he will meet no one in a similar situation to his own that is, no one who has put his character and prospects into the hands of a number of private individuals. The clergyman, the lawyer, the physician, the tutor or Professor in the ancient Universities, will all look down upon him, for they are all secured in the possession of their characters. Nothing but the public voice, or the law of the land, can touch them, and a security as good must be given to the Professor of the London University before he can pretend to mix in their society as their equal.
If these were the sentiments of one individual only, they would merit little attention; but if they be the opinions of a majority of the present Professors, or even of a large minority, the committee may be sure that they are prevalent among the class of men from which the University ought to expect to draw its Professors. The sense of the Professors on this subject can be readily ascertained, and the committee will incur a heavy moral responsibility should they, without the most attentive examination, propose a change which may place the Professors, present or future, in the situation I have described. For mark the consequences. If I am right, every man who has the feelings of a gentleman will abandon the University in disgust; the same feeling will prevent any person of considerable attainments from offering himself for the vacant chairs; and the University, in the general school at least, will sink into the most paltry of all establishments for education, if, indeed, it long continue to exist. I am not mentioning my own opinions alone; such deductions are very common at present. I hardly meet one of my friends who does not seriously advise me to resign my situation on these very grounds.
The committee has done me the honour to ask my opinion as to the principles to be laid down for the future regulation of the Professorships. I will state, in few words, my own convictions on the subject.
The University will never be other than divided against itself as long as the principle of expediency is recognised in the dismissal of Professors. There will always be someone who, in the opinion of some of his colleagues, is doing injury to the school by his manner of teaching; and there will always be attempts in progress to remove the obnoxious individual. The medical school is peculiarly subject to this evil, owing to the very frequent jealousies of one another which arise among the members of that profession. No man will feel secure in his seat; and, consequently, no man will feel it his interest to give up his time to the affairs of his class. And yet this is absolutely necessary in the general school at least, for from the moment when a class becomes numerous the preparation, arrangement, and conduct of a system of instruction is nearly the business of a life; at least, I have found it so. If a Professor is easily removable, he will endeavour to secure something else of a more certain tenure; he will turn his attention to some literary undertaking, or to private pupils, while he remains in the institution, in order that he may not be without resource if the caprice of the governing body should remove him and this to the manifest detriment of his class, which, when it pays him well, ought to command his best exertions. In addition to this, he will always be on the watch to establish himself in some less precarious employment, which he will do even at pecuniary loss, since, especially if he have a family, it must be his first object. In this way, the University will become a nursery of Professors for better conducted institutions of all descriptions, since no man, or body of men, desirous to secure a competent teacher in any branch of knowledge, will need to give themselves the trouble to examine into the pretensions of candidates as long as any one fit for their purpose is at the University of London. The consequence will be a perpetual change of system in the different classes of the University, and the eventual loss of its reputation as a place of education. These evils may be very simply avoided by making the continuance of the Professors in their chairs determinable only by death, voluntary resignation, or misconduct either in their character of Professors or as gentlemen, proved before a competent tribunal, so framed that there shall be no doubt in the public mind of the justice of their decision.
But this, it has been said, will be to give the Professors a vested interest. I assert that, in the proper sense of the words vested interest, it ought so to be. Who have more interest in the well-being of the University than I and my colleagues? Is it the Proprietary and the Council, on account of the capital invested by them, and their zeal for the advancement of education? In the latter we yield to none of them; and as to pecuniary risks, I, for example, have invested the whole results of an expensive education, for the original outlay of which I might buy fifty shares at the market price; and even omitting this, I have invested here my time, character, and prospects, all and every one of which is as truly an investment of capital as that made by any proprietor with this addition, that it is my all; whereas the portion of any proprietor is a very small part of his. Can it be expected, then, that the Professor should be the only person in the institution who has no interest in it? and that he, merely on account of the important part he has to play, should be placed in a situation not so respectable as that of a domestic servant? These are truths which cannot but have the greatest weight with every person who shall hereafter think of embarking his fortunes here; and the only way to secure proper Professors on the whole is to respect these truths, and not to let incidental advantages, even supposing them such now, be considered of more importance than general results.
An institution such as ours is a machine meant to last for centuries, but this it cannot do if those who manage it are content to avail themselves of expediency, which is made for the day, in preference to fixed principle, which will never wear out.
I have written these sentiments because I feel no trouble too great when the end proposed is so truly useful. Personally I feel but slightly interested, for I cannot conceal from myself that the chance of resuming my duties in the University is very small. The opinions which I have here given will be the guide of my conduct, and, I have reason to believe, of that of others also. But should the result of the present proceedings be that a Professor of the University of London need not hold down his head for shame when he hears his situation mentioned, and the terms on which he holds it, no one is more ready than myself to stand or fall with this institution. This is, I fear, not an unmeaning pledge, for past events have so fixed in the minds of men an impression unfavourable to our prospects, that I fear our number of pupils will be seriously diminished in the ensuing session.
In conclusion, gentlemen, I have to thank you for the polite attention with which I was received by you when I took an opportunity of laying these sentiments before you in person, and I beg to subscribe myself,
Your obedient servant,
Augustus De Morgan.
90 Guilford Street, July 15, 1831.
Sir, - I beg leave to address the Council through you on a subject which I approach with great reluctance.The whole was brought to a crisis a few days after by the dismissal of the Professor of Anatomy, the resolution for which concluded with these words:- 'Resolved - That, in taking this step, the Council feel it due to Professor Pattison to state that nothing which has come to their knowledge with respect to his conduct has in any way tended to impeach either his general character or professional skill and knowledge.'
It is well known to the Council that I have often differed from them on matters connected with the management of the University, and that, when I have done so, I have never hesitated to declare my opinions in the plainest language. The Council will therefore believe me when I say that I am convinced that they and the Professors have during the last session been coming to such an understanding as would have made the supremacy of the former quite consistent with the respectability and independence of the latter. A third body has, however, interfered in the question, whose declared intentions, if carried into effect, will render it impossible for me to continue in the situation I at present hold.
Should the result of the labours of the Select Committee be the abrogation of the by-laws alluded to at the General Meeting, I respectfully inform the Council that it is my intention to seek elsewhere the subsistence and character which I had hoped to gain in the University of London alone. At the same time I feel it would not be dealing fairly with the Council if I let them remain in ignorance of my determination, considering that the deliberation of the Proprietors may possibly be pushed to a late period in the vacation, when a proper choice of a successor to my chair may be rendered difficult by the shortness of time remaining for that purpose. Having announced my intention, I am therefore in the hands of the Council; should they consider it unfair in me to offer a conditional resignation dependent on circumstances over which they have no control, I will, on intimation to that effect, offer an absolute resignation immediately. My wish is decidedly to remain in the University, if that can be done consistently with my own notions of what is due to my character. Having thus shortly stated the predicament in which I find myself placed, I leave the matter to the decision of the Council.
I have the honour to remain, sir,
Your obedient servant,
Augustus De Morgan.
90 Guilford Street, July 1831.
Immediately on hearing of this resolution, Mr De Morgan sent in the following letter of resignation:-
To the Council.The answer came in the words, 'The Council accept your resignation.'
Gentlemen, - I have just seen Mr Pattison, who has informed me of his removal from his chair, and has also shown me a resolution, of which this is a copy. Here is distinctly laid down the principle that a Professor may be removed, and, as far as you can do it, disgraced, without any fault of his own.
This being understood, I should think it discreditable to hold a Professorship under you one moment longer.
I have, therefore, the honour to resign my Professorship, and to remain, gentlemen,
Your obedient servant,
A De Morgan.
90 Guilford Street,
Sunday, July 24, 1831.
In reply to a letter from my father, he wrote:
90 Guilford Street, July 29, 1831.At the time when he left the College, Mr De Morgan was living with his family in Guilford Street, but removed in the autumn of 1831 to 5 Upper Gower Street, where he lived till our marriage in 1837. His only sister had been married the year before to Mr Lewis Hensley, a surgeon of ability and good practice. My own family left Stoke Newington and settled at 31 Upper Bedford Place, Russell Square, in 1830.
Dear Sir, - I have just received your kind note, which I hasten to answer.
The Council, in a session held after the meeting on Saturday, deprived Mr Pattison of his Professorship, alleging at the same time, in vindication of themselves, I suppose, that nothing which had ever come to their knowledge had any tendency to lower their opinion either of Mr Pattison's general character or of his professional skill and knowledge; thus laying down the principle that a Professor might be deprived of his office without any fault of his own, and even under a fire of encomiums from the Council.
I had long fully made up my mind not to hold any office whatever which was not absolutely my own during good behaviour not even in the service of Government, should such a thing ever fall in my way. Immediately, therefore, on seeing the minute of Council containing the aforesaid removal, together with their most sufficient reason for the same as a rider, I addressed a letter to the Council that, under the principle there advocated, I should consider it discreditable to hold their Professorship one moment longer. The resignation was of course accepted, and I have done with them.
This step will be against my pecuniary interest should the University ultimately succeed very well, which the present proceedings of the Council will not allow any man to think who knows how much such an institution depends on public opinion. For the present moment, and up to the present time, I shall be no loser, since I know that by my own private exertions I can gain as much as, thanks to the dissensions in the University and the conduct of the Council regarding them, I have ever done in my public capacity.
With regard to an accusation and a hearing supposed by you necessary previous to the removal of a Professor, I must enlighten you on a principle discovered in the University of London by the Council, and faithfully acted on by them up to the present moment; viz., that a Professor in their institution is on the same footing with regard to them as a domestic servant to his master, with, however, the disadvantage of the former not being able to demand a month's wages or a month's warning. The proprietors, by their sense expressed at public meetings, have agreed with them, it appears to me.
I have still some interest in the University on account of some valued friends who remain behind, having what the advertisements call encumbrances. They, however, have expressed their determination to remain only one session longer; and feeling, as I do, that I never could send a ward of mine to an institution where it has been thus admitted by precedent that the student is a proper person to dictate the continuance and decide the merits of a Professor, I cannot wish the University to succeed, because I feel it ought not to succeed upon those principles.
If there be a large body of the Proprietary really interested in the moral as well as intellectual part of education, their efforts may yet save that fine institution. As a proprietor of it I would gladly lend my humble aid.
Yours most sincerely,
A De Morgan.
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