He had inherited from this predecessor a sort of pioneer-ship in position relative to the elective system just on trial as an experiment in college.
There exists an impression in some quarters that this system came in for the first time under President Walker
about 1853; but it had been, as a matter of fact, tried much earlier,—twenty years, at least,—in the Modern Language Department
, and had been extended much more widely in 1839 under President Quincy
The facts are well known to me, as I was in college at that period and enjoyed the beneficent effects of the change, since it placed the whole college, in some degree, for a time at least, on a university basis.
The change took the form, first, of a discontinuance of mathematics as a required study after the first year, and then the wider application of the elective system in history, natural history, and the classics, this greater liberty being enjoyed, though with some reaction, under President Everett
, and practically abolished about 1849 under President Sparks
, when what may be called the High School system was temporarily restored.
An illustration of this reactionary tendency may be found in a letter addressed by Longfellow
to the President
and Fellows, placing him distinctly on the side of freedom of choice.
The circumstances are these: Students had for some time been