KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS
Life at Laurel Town in Anglo Saxon Kansas by Kate Stephens

OF THE UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS

VII

Years were going on and these students' world growing more competitive. Over a soil that had a generation before known only the monopolies of Indians and the herding of bison, pioneers were learning the secret of co-operation. The more aggressive Farmers' Alliance succeeded Grangerism. Prosperity was enlisting an army. Materialism setting aside spiritual estimates. Altruisms of the Anglo-Saxon state-makers retiring in shamefacedness. Sympathy with them becoming void. Of those two race instincts, idealism and utilitarianism, the second gaining headway -- leading


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to the saying: "The trouble with the Yankee is he rubs badly at the juncture of soul and body."

Then, suddenly, a bursting of booms. Corn at ten cents, or its use as a fuel. The birth, in 1890, and on Kansas soil, of the People's Party. And the cry of a gaunt, underfed farmeress pointing her finger at a politician of Jack Falstaff girth and shrilling:

"Say! You! It ain't no use you a-talkin', an' a-talkin', an' a-talkin'. You ain't never done nothin' for Us; an' you never will."

And through the stump-speechers of a limber-tongued Irish agitatress; "We must raise more hell; and less corn."

New politics taught organization. Community ideas strengthened. Sons and daughters of Grangers and Allied Farmers who, in infancy, had learned lessons of co-operation, accelerated social unifying. Reaction from the overmastering solitariness of the Anglo-Saxon pioneers -- people, we must repeat, ill at bending to concerted action, overwhelming individualists earnestly seeking the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of our fore-parents; blotting out opportunism, expediency, puny practicality lying at hand; dreamers, yet swift and strong to dare and do -- reaction was a rising tide.

In the university many facts bore witness to the changing spirit. Loss of faith in the individual's spontaneously constructive exercise was one loss of fer-


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vor for "hiking" along country-roads in delight of fresh air and bouyant body, opening thoughts to solitary horizons, assimilating lore learned indoors while out resting under a hedge or branches of an oak; trudging, for instance, toward "Blue Mound" stretching on the south-east prairie and veiled in a seductive sapphire haze; or trending north-west to a tiny lake upon whose languid waters yellow chinquapins rustled vivacious teal sallied and wood-ducks preened their velvet feathers.

The impossible happened. At an institution not fifty years founded by men and women who had gloried in loneliness of soul, and what they were able to accomplish solitary thought; in a state settled and developed by spiritual strength and independence of the individual, sports, ritualized, supervised by a trained expert called coach, worked imperialistic excesses way. Before sons and daughters of farmers who drove their own plough horses, a few sometimes over-developed youths, to whom the coach gave his special attention, competed with strangers of identical experience; while the majority, athletes by proxy, now and then a pastry skin among them, sat hammering bleachers and yelling. The scene lacked little for recalling, to thinking minds, how certain dancers dance for degenerate orientals, who, themselves, recline on cushions.

Then, too, in this institution of greatest aspirations


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of the human spirit, numbers increased of those spending no little time in student publications, setting on foot dances and theatricals, in fact engaging so continuously in "business," and "society," that the on-looker sometimes wondered if they really were in the university to study. These absurdities of theirs may have been youngsters' attempts to act the role of live-wires;" imitate someone they admired in their pre-academic life. But the pity of the waste! -- pity that commercialism should negate a university's spiritual authority! -- pity that overseeing wisdom should not prevent division of attention and demand effort to the limit of the students' abilities! Even among boys and girls with the soundness of an agricultural democracy behind them such excesses must bring lower scholarship and inferior in their train.

Clearer vision of ourselves we sometimes gain if we turn to others' horizons: -- Oxford and Cambridge Universities have for centuries lifted the life of England, rather of all Britain and her Colonies, through unbending devotion to their ideals of humanity; through their influence upon students carrying their spiritual seed to the people. A democratic university may lose this great cleansing and elevating influence, in part, if, stooping to subserve passing pettiness, it leaves unexalted its own native rights.


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VIII

With an increase of synthetic, community thinking, moving in emotionalized masses and disclaiming critical, analytical judgment (forgetting the examples of Amos and Hosea and Isaiah -- the all-subduing force of the conscience of a single individual in opposition to the world) -- with the socializing of estimates of the last decades of the nineteenth century, there also grew in Kansas abnormal regard for "popularity."

What one generation will struggle for the next is apt to treat with neglect. Generations more easily placed, that is, are prone to cast aside what their parents with abnegation won. "Natural resilience;" you suggest; "philosophic search for the novelty of change after finding the prevailing order's defects. Every age differs from the one which precedes it; a classic age swings to a romantic."

We have seen reactions from the apostolic aloofness of mind and aloofness of action that distinguished early Kansas idealists -- products, we repeat, of those Puritans who declared the world's well-being, its moral government in fact, to lie with each act of each man, woman and child. Adoption of "popularity" witnessed another reaction.

Shrines to the god rose on many house-hearths. Uncounted victims bled upon his altars. Not to be "pop-


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ular" became exceedingly unpopular. Indeed, to cast the reflection of "unpopular" on a person was not wholly unlike the old imputations of wizardry and, witchery, in that such reflections set the object a target for scoffs. The truth fell forgotten that only a fool sticks to hearsay, nur ein Narr bleibt bei ein Red.

The craze affected even the fancied exaltations and serenities of academic life. Report about a member of the faculty turned on whether he was "popular" -- no matter if he merely pursued an aggressive self-advertisement, or if he adapted himself to shifting opinions and watched to seize opportunity, or lacking personal convictions avoided the friction that rises from loyalty to fundamental principles. Whether "popular" among students, or their elders, it was not necessary to explain; the use of the word, indefinite but a booster, cast a spell.

A man may be popular for the reason Socrates was popular with young men of Athens -- because warming his heart and piloting his effort works the forward-looking, insistent conscience of the race; because he loses the individual and utters the race voice. Then, again, he may be popular for the reason a street-corner faker who gives out lollipops is popular.

In Kansas "popular" became a cabalistic, fairly hypnotizing word, we say. That is one of the dangers constantly threatening a democracy's Thinking Shop -- danger lest intellectual independence is not safe-


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guarded; danger lest policy in following gusts of opinion pay better than principle; danger lest smooth, smug mediocrity dominate; danger lest, a professor -- of all men he who has devoted himself to the communication of truth --become as timid as a hare; danger lest he suppress his views to maintain a colorless neutrality and give no point of attack. The character of a body rarely rises above the average of the individuals who form that body.

Nowadays fashion among university teachers is to be wide-awake men; half man of the business world with an eye on the practical; half theorist, of the type of the engineer. Of necessity university pundits are practical in a degree. But they are identified with ideas; they are public employees, and, if loyal to their duty of the communication of truth, they must discuss issues affecting all peoples of the earth. They should be leaders. Contentedly to interpret crudest ideas of a populace, to minimize the spiritual side of human life and rob life of lofty ideals, is an ignoble deed and must end in vulgarizing a university, in making Shop predominate Thinking. Perhaps what James Russell Lowell said of poets is true of professors; "The reputation of a poet who has a high idea of his vocation, is resolved to be true to that vocation, and hates humbug, must be small in his generation."

Worshipers of popularity ultimately cheapen to commonplace and lack the distinction of premiership.


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IX

In a democracy slogans serve weakness as well as strength. Daily cares forbid ubiquitous Mister and Mistress Everybody considering deeply each matter put before them for action. A thought, compressed into a gathering cry, is seeded among the people; then it motivates the mass.

A slogan passes from mouth to mouth, we say, and often leads to deeds. How long it may take to find truth in its core depends upon the people's earnestness and intelligence. We are still in that stage of development when a lie may run the whole world round while truth is putting on her boots.

So it is distortions creep into history; histories great, histories small. Lovers of verity, workers for verity, all see that. A thing is done, for instance, you plant a young apple-tree. You say, "I am digging for its foundation, planting the tree in what folks say is a soilless, unprofitable ground. But the sapling is of right grain and girth, and I have faith that weak as it is, it will with the help of God, grow to maturity, cheer men with its beauty and further men with its fruits."

The tree flourishes.

Later comers on the earth, seeing its ample bowery and far-reaching aid to man, which in the planting were clear to long-visioned souls only -- later comers


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seeing the beauty of its shade, and value to the state of its harvest, bunch hearsays and ascribe the humane vision and severe labor of the digging and planting to other than you, who remember the thirteenth chapter of Luke and its mustard seed, "which a man took and cast into his garden, and it grew and waxed a great tree; and fowls of the air lodged in its branches."

The school of law of our university had a real history like this of your hypothetical apple-tree. Later generations fell into the fallacy -- a fallacy for the most part of the ignorant and shallow-minded -- of taking a name familiar to their ears and round it grouping tales of affairs grown large and benefactive. Philologists call such a process myth-making, and tell us that fancy plays in its building a larger part than fact. Pity of it is that the myth-making not only sets forth an untruth, but destroys what Solomon called "an understanding heart," love of justice and truth; ability to discriminate between truth and falsehood. "Nobody can live long," wrote Dr. Johnson, "without knowing that falsehoods of convenience or vanity, falsehoods from which no evil immediately ensues, except the general degradation of human testimony, are very lightly uttered, and once uttered are sullenly supported."

Solicitude for the foundation of the school of law led Judge Stephens through years to press forward needs of the state and the university. The past is


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mother of the future, and he was ever endeavoring to make experiences of the past build riches for time to come. He believed every American should know general principles of law, that American citizens, approaching manhood and womanhood, should know that the government of their country is a Government of Law, that, as an ancient Greek said of his countrymen, "the master they own is law." Such knowledge would instil veneration for law, guard against violations of law, and show that enforcement of the law rests mainly with the people. To restate one of his categories: -- Fundamental ideas of law a school of law should offer to every student of the university; in addition to its own school's peculiar learning for its students. In a commonwealth where conditions are not yet stereotyped, in a state to which men have come because they believed competition lighter there than in their old home, acid jealousy eats its way to a greater role in life than in less fluid conditions. But Judge Stephens, conscious that he could receive no personal benefit from the founding, knowing that his connection with the school of law could be no other than urger and adviser of its inception, permitted himself an expansive zeal and enthusiasm in furthering his ideas.

Finally, in November, 1878, after advising with the administrative board, and after refusing their offer of deanship, Judge Stephens had the gratification of


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opening "the law department" for which he had labored. "The state owes to itself to adopt that policy which shall most advance the welfare of its inhabitants," he said in his address that evening. "Knowledge of the law makes better citizens, more moral, more honest . . . to love justice and hate iniquity the more." "It becomes of greatest importance that the educational institutions of our state . .. educate the people in knowledge of the law, not necessarily to make practicing lawyers but to protect the state itself, . . . that truth may prevail in the state's laws, and justice increase and dwell among the people."

Processes of evolution are slow, we have constantly to tell ourselves. Wherever men congregate, and human life is lived, Bodenstedt's lines keep true;

Wer die Wahrheit denkt,
Muss sein Pferd am Zügel haben;
Wer die Wahrbeit schreibt,
Muss sein Fuss im Bügel haben;
Wer sie aber spricht,
Muss statt Fusse Flügel haben.

Who thinks the truth,
Must hold the bridle in his hand;
Who writes the truth,
Must ready in the stirrup stand;
Who speaks the truth,
Must have on wings to flee the land.

But returns do hearten toilers for justice.


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The foundation of the university of a democratic commonwealth is primarily to train men and women to living for things of the spirit -- to preserve and inculcate all ancient truth and further all modern, to guide all people, of intellectual impulse enough to comprehend it, in the way of truth. Truth is the core of the university's strength in all its functions, all its schools. Only through unfailingly serving truth can the university lead to the fulness of life truth brings.

"To love the truth, to wish to know it, to believe in it, to work, if possible, to discover it; to dare to look it in the face, to swear never to falsify, diminish, or add to it, even in view of an apparently higher interest, for no really higher interest can possibly exist," is as true for the university of a democracy in America, as when in such sentences, Gaston Paris pleaded for truth's universality before the French Academy.

"For the truth, it endureth; and is always strong," quoth Zorobabel of old, "it liveth and conquereth for evermore."


X

To see life objectively in Kansas is difficult. Absorbed in living it, you do not see the woods for the trees. In older communities where life is more in perspective, caste, artificiality, restricted opportunity, conditions are easier to pronounce upon; manners,


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habits, usages, forms matured and established give a background and make the sketching in of characters easier. In Kansas you are confronted and confused by striking individualisms or socialisms. And each and every is busy. A Kansas child it was who caught up a popular hymn and sang:

"There'll be humpin to do;
If we all get to heaven,
There'll be humpin to do."

So in a utilitarian, alfalfa-enfolded university whose support has been through apportions by a biennial legislature, life can not be dull or without ideals. Life can not be dull or without ideals in any democracy, if its people have real life, real liberty and pursuit of real happiness in their hearts. And students of this university are democrats of democrats. An arid formalist might merely denominate them "good mixers;" a Henry James say, "superabundant, promiscuous democrats, without love of selection." Yet their instinct for the right probably tells them that the completest aristocrat is the completest democrat, and that this spiritual law holds in Kansas; that it is only the self-doubting democrat who is not an aristocrat, and only the self-doubting aristocrat who is not a democrat.

Energetic these students ever have been, self-reliant to an amazing degree. Productive labor in which


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many of them engage, even in early youth, has given them well-trained senses and personal initiative. Then, a climate of the intensity of theirs must breed the adventurous. Their radiant strength, both of soul and body I would bear witness to, as I have endeavored in other books. Added testimony a veteran lately gave me -- how his marvellous physical vigor, gained in youth on a Kansas farm, earned money to take him through the academic course; and yet how sad poverty proved when midnight carriages rolled by bearing his classmates from dancing parties, while he had spent the evening studying in his attic, and -- standing by an April garden he spoke -- "without any daffodil."

They breathe deep, these students, in a broad- chested way. Commonly they are low-voiced. Their language a sturdy vernacular not debased by idioms from foreign tongues.

If they produce, or when they produce, a literature -- for it is difficult to think a people, developing from such forbears, in so distinctive a climate, shall be sterile -- their literature will have universality, largeness of appeal. They will prove the truth of George Sand's saying, "God reveals himself more and more to poets of the people and philosophers of the people."

A literature which will attract by its elemental simplicity, I venture to predict. It will not delight


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in the petty, superficial; in wordy analyses; in rhetorical tricks, cult of style for style's sake; in virtuosity, finical elegance of manner made ridiculous by narrow spiritual range. Nor will it be bald, or barren. Springing in that environment it will have intensity of feeling -- that one generator of thought which is real thought -- and unswerving fidelity to the view of life of its people. It will be natural, independent, and far from insincerity and presence.

Love of Kansas --its lustrous sunlight and star-sown night-skies, its temperamental storms, the fountains and flora of its rolling earth -- is born in its people, warms their blood, knits their bone, strengthens their muscle and heightens their spirit to homage. Love of social test and experiment, also. They have their own flair. "Kansas folks," said doughboys, returning from France in 1919, to workers of the Kansas Welcome Association in New York, "Kansas folks are home. They understand; nobody else does." Emotions like these, seeking to express themselves through the medium of language, must give a state literature.

The speech of these students is English, I say, living speech, now and then strengthened by colloquialisms, a trace even of the archaic double negative, inherited from some county of England, or Scotland, or Ireland; racial crystals not yet shamed out of use by standardizing teachers and newspaper-reading. In


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other words the tang of home-spun phrase is in their tongue and has thus far escaped obliteration.

"He pronounced the letter R (litera canina) very hard," said John Aubrey of John Milton, "a certaine signe of a satyricall wits."

Students of this university pronounce the litera canina very hard; but it is not true that they have a satirical wit. Satire must have another horizon than the one in view. Absorbed in the juncture of their own heaven and earth, they are ardent, positive, constructive, optimistic, centered on what they are undertaking, thinking "with their guts," as the English say, as well as with their brains.

The look of their eyes I used often to wonder at. And, after years, I heard that others wondered, too; Les garçons ont quelque chose devant les yeux que nous autres nous ne connaissons pas, said a French surgeon in the summer of 1918, after visiting boys like these of Kansas lying wounded in his hospital in Paris. Je ne sais pas si c'est Dieu, ou le Président Wilson, ou la doctrine Monroe, mais c'est un ideal comme jamais je n'ai vu ma longue vie.

Life is to them an epic delight -- broad pictures, childlike enthusiasms and faith in their deed. They are single-hearted utilitarians who have seized their life-career-motive, what youth and a striking readiness to measure practical values make plain is within


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their grasp. If any among them fail, it is doubtless from lack of singleness of purpose.

Wer sein selbst Meister ist und sich beherrschen kann,
Dem ist die weite Welt und alles unterthan.

People of the heroic age of Kansas bequeathed the university to those later forming the body-politic, and declared the institution necessary to the spirit of their commonwealth. They had settled on the land called Kansas delighting with the delight of Anglo-Saxons in state-building. Hostilities rose; hostilities defying enumeration, defying definition in the vastness of their meaning to our nation's life. But those early people built on -- built doggedly, built with passion, because, fired by a great imagination, they knew they built forever.

"Old and early habits of conservative obedience to . . . the laws under which they grew up and found both liberty and protection still cling to them," wrote a visitor among them in the winter of 1855-56. "Immigrants of so high an order in cultivation, natural ability, or energetic foresight and calculation, never before planted themselves as the nucleus of a new State."




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