This succinct and engaging history of the founding of Cornell University traces the institution's origins within the educational climate of mid-nineteenth-century America. Originally delivered as six lectures celebrating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the opening the university, this book was first published by Cornell University Press in 1943.
Beginning with a survey of collegiate education prior to the Civil War, Carl L. Becker details the history of the Morrill Land Grant College Act that made possible the establishment of Cornell (among other universities); deftly portrays the lives of the Ezra Cornell, who supplied the essential idea and funding for the university, and Andrew D. White, who, as legislator, lobbyist, and first university president, made Cornell's dream a reality; and desrcibes the events surrounding the incorporation and opening of the university in 1868.
Also included in this book are fifteen documents pertaining to its founding, as well as Becker's 1940 lecture, "The Cornell Tradition: Freedom and Responsibility."
"This book is written with the lively grace that marks all of Professor Becker's work and is illuminated with shafts of humor. The author's thorough investigation has brought to light new and valuable material on the history of Cornell. But perhaps the greatest merit of the book lies in the penetrating judgment with which persons and events are appraised. The review of the Morrill Land Grant College Act and the characterizations of Ezra Cornell and Andrew D. White command unqualified admiration."—American Historical Review
"A detailed and well-documented history of the circumstances surrounding the incorporation and establishment of the university . . . . Although primarily concerned with the founding of one university, Becker has succeeded in giving an interpretation of developments in higher education around the middle of the nineteenth century which reveals deep insight into the educational and social significance of the complex movements which led the the establishment of the so-called land-grant colleges. . . . A valuable feature of the present volume is that it makes available for the first time a number of documents relating to the founding of Cornell University. Also included in the book is an address, 'The Cornell Tradition: Freedom and Responsibility,' delivered by Becker in 1940 on the 75th anniversary of the signing of the charter establishing Cornell, . . . in which he makes a strong statement of the simple but profound thesis that, in a democracy, a university's freedom of research and teaching is inextricably linked with a supreme social responsibility."—Journal of Higher Education
"A few universities have been fortunate enough to have their histories written by distinguished historians who, as literary stylists, are genuine artists. Cornell is the latest addition to this select group. . . . The twenty pages of the first lecture give a better picture, evaluation, and interpretation of the old traditional college and of the educational renaissance in which Cornell was an impressive leader than the reader will find in poring over dozens of volumes and thousands of pages."—Mississippi Valley Historical Review