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A Public Appeal for Redress to the Corporation and Overseers of Harvard University Part 2

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At first, Dr. Royce undertook to dictate to me beforehand the nature of my reply to his rejoinder, and sought to restrict it to the parliamentary freedom of a purely literary discussion. Ignoring the fact that he had himself rendered a purely literary discussion impossible by his own reflections upon personal character, he endeavored now to restrict my defence to a purely literary discussion of what, with amusing deficiency in the sense of humor, he considered to be his "criticisms"; whereas these pointless and ignorant criticisms had no importance whatever except as leading up to his "professional warning." The only object of a reply to his rejoinder was to expose its true character as a second libel, and thereby make plain to the dullest mind the outrage of his "professional warning."

Evidently fearing this, and being anxious to prevent the exposure, he sent to me through Mr. Weston, who called upon me for the purpose on April 15, the following unspeakable doc.u.ment, apparently without a suspicion that it p.r.i.c.ked the bubble of his previous iridescent pledge to "ask no mercy":--

MEMORANDUM OF APR. 13, 1891.

1. Dr. Abbot's article must be in Mr. Weston's hands in MS.

by June 1, for issue in the July No., if possible.

2. This article must not exceed, in actual number of words, Prof. Royce's last rejoinder.

3. Prof. Royce is not to reply to the above article of Dr.

Abbot before or simultaneously with its publication in the "Journal of Ethics"; and the controversy is thus to be closed in the "Journal" by Dr. Abbot.

4. Dr. Abbot's article is to be strictly a rejoinder, is not to raise essentially new issues, is not to a.s.sault any further his opponent's personal character, is to be parliamentary in form, and free from personally abusive language. Otherwise it is perfectly free as to plainness of speech.

5. Prof. Royce is to see this article at once, and before it goes to the printer.

6. Should Prof. Royce, after seeing the paper, object to the article as "_not in conformity with the conditions of No. 4_ (_above_)," then, but only then, the article is to be submitted, before publication, to the judgment of some impartial friend or friends of both the disputants, such friend or friends to be chosen as promptly as possible, and by agreement, and to arbitrate the question, "_Whether Dr.

Abbot's final rejoinder is in conformity with the conditions of this present memorandum?_" The arbitrator or arbitrators may be any person or persons agreable [_sic_] to the wishes of both the disputants, as determined in case the mentioned objection of Prof. Royce should be made, but not otherwise.

7. Should Prof. Royce _not_ object to the article, or should he not formally object _on the grounds mentioned_, then the article of Dr. Abbot is to close the controversy in the "Journal of Ethics."

8. Should Dr. Abbot _not_ accept the conditions of the present memorandum, he is at liberty to withdraw his paper, or else to let both the papers now in type appear as they are, at his pleasure.

[Signed] J. R.

It is difficult to conceive the state of mind in which so extraordinary a doc.u.ment as this could have originated. My answer to Dr. Royce's officious interference was a short and dry rejection _in toto_. Dr. Royce was not the responsible editor of the "Journal of Ethics," and had no power to dictate any conditions of publication whatever. That a libeller should actually presume to dictate to the libelled the terms of his defence, to demand that this defence should be submitted to himself in advance of publication for approval or disapproval, and, in case of disapproval, to invoke a board of referees for the sole purpose of enforcing his own arbitrary and preposterous "conditions,"--this was too exquisitely absurd. But there was method in the madness. The central aim of the "Memorandum" is clear on its face: namely, _to refuse the forensic freedom necessary to self-defence against a libel, and to concede only the parliamentary freedom proper to a purely literary discussion_. Since, however, the only object of my writing at all was to expose his rejoinder as a second libel, and since the central aim of the "Memorandum" was to defeat this very object, nothing could be plainer than this: that Dr.

Royce, having been guilty of two unprovoked and malicious libels, now sought to prevent the exposure of his guilt by suppressing the necessary freedom of self-defence. For, I repeat, the only possible defence against a libel is to prove that it _is_ a libel, and this cannot be done without reflecting upon the "personal character" of the libeller. It was no fault of mine that he had himself rendered a "parliamentary" discussion impossible; it was no fault of mine that he had made his own "personal character" the real point at issue; it was no fault of mine that he now betrayed his secret alarm, uttered a cry for "mercy," and convicted himself out of his own mouth, in his extraordinary and indescribable "Memorandum." That "Memorandum" tells the whole story.

On the failure of Dr. Royce's very injudicious attempt at dictation, Dr. Adler found himself compelled to a.s.sume the editorial power and responsibility, which he ought to have a.s.sumed and exercised in the first instance by refusing publication to Dr. Royce's original libel.

But, yielding to Dr. Royce's influence, he took the same position, and still tried to shield the libeller from the just and lawful consequences of his libel. No principle is more firmly established in the public conscience, as interpreted by the common law, than that the fact of an attack by A involves the right of self-defence by B.

Whoever, therefore, has permitted an attack which he might have prevented is bound to permit the self-defence, also; and Dr. Adler, having granted to Dr. Royce the freedom of libelling me, was bound to grant to me the equal freedom of defending myself against the libel.

But this equal freedom Dr. Adler denied. After some fruitless correspondence, I wrote to him on May 4 as follows: "I require the freedom, not of 'parliament,' but of the courts--freedom to present my 'facts,' and no less to draw my 'inferences'--freedom to array my evidence, and no less to make my pleading. By publishing his new libel, you estop yourself from denying me this freedom. If you do deny it, I withdraw altogether and seek justice and redress elsewhere. I ask only what is self-evidently fair: (1) equal s.p.a.ce with Dr. Royce, (2) equal freedom with Dr. Royce, (3) no further rejoinders by Dr.

Royce, and (4) no editorial mention of the matter at all from the 'Journal' itself." To this letter Dr. Adler merely telegraphed his final reply on May 6 in these brief terms: "Regret your insistence on freedom of courts--parliamentary freedom open to you." This ended the matter, so far as the "Journal of Ethics" was concerned, in Dr.

Adler's explicit denial of a full and fair hearing in its columns to a party calumniated and libelled by one of his own contributors and a member of his own "editorial committee."

Negotiations, it is true, for the publication of my reply in the July number were a little later re-opened by Dr. Adler, on receiving advice from a legal friend of his own that to publish it would be his wisest course; but he himself broke them off on a trivial pretext, after receiving contrary advice from Dr. Royce's counsel, together with a copy of the legal protest sent to me personally. Thus Dr. Royce himself, recalling his original consent, procured the final rejection by the "Journal of Ethics" of my reply to his own attack. On June 19, I was notified that the July number had been made up without it.

But already, on June 9, I had received from Mr. J. B. Warner, acting as Dr. Royce's counsel, this formal protest against any other use whatever of my reply: "On Dr. Royce's behalf, I must warn you that he protests against the publication or any circulation of it, in its present shape, and must point out to you that it may, if circulated, entail a serious legal responsibility." To this strangely impolitic and utterly futile attempt to intimidate me in the defence of my own reputation, I chose to offer not the slightest resistance. The protest only facilitated that defence. How could a libeller more conspicuously put himself in the wrong, or more effectually ruin his own evil cause in all eyes, than by _trying to gag the man he had injured_? First, to prevent publication in the "Journal of Ethics" of the very reply he had publicly and defiantly challenged, and then to suppress all circulation of a few privately printed copies of it by means of legal threats: if Dr. Royce could afford to commit such blunders, why should I shield him from himself? "Whom the G.o.ds destroy, they first make mad."

Before proceeding to any more energetic measures, however, in order to vindicate my reputation, I was anxious to offer to Dr. Royce an opportunity of doing me justice in a manner which should be consistent with full vindication, yet should involve the least possible publicity and the least possible mortification to himself. Accordingly, on June 20, I wrote to Mr. Warner thus: "I beg leave to enclose a Card, which, if returned to me within a week from to-day, unchanged, dated, and signed by Dr. Royce, and if actually published in the October number of the 'Journal,' will render unnecessary further measures of self-vindication as now contemplated. I send this because you a.s.sured me that Dr. Royce disclaims all malice in the publication of the original article I complain of, and because I am willing to test the sincerity of his disclaimer before resorting to other measures for my self-protection. I expect you, who came to me in the character of a pacificator, and who expressed a creditable desire, in which I fully join, for the settlement of this trouble in some way which shall occasion no scandal to Harvard College, to exert your utmost influence with Dr. Royce to persuade him to perform this act of manifest justice to me. A frank retraction and apology, when unjust charges have been made as now, is not dishonorable and ought not to be humiliating; and I shall consider Dr. Royce's action in this matter as showing the sincerity or insincerity of his disclaimer of all malice in his original article." The enclosed paper above mentioned was this:--

A CARD.

CAMBRIDGE, June --, 1891.

I. I admit that I have no knowledge whatever of any "extravagant pretensions" made by Dr. Abbot "as to the originality and profundity of his still unpublished system of philosophy."

II. I admit that Dr. Abbot did not, consciously or unconsciously, "borrow his theory of universals from Hegel,"

or "sin against the most obvious demands of literary property-rights."

III. I unconditionally retract my "professional warning to the liberal-minded public against Dr. Abbot's philosophical pretensions," acknowledge that it was groundless and unjustifiable, and apologize to Dr. Abbot for having published it in the "International Journal of Ethics."

IV. I authorize the publication of this retraction and apology in the next number of the "International Journal of Ethics" without note or comment.

In his answer of June 24, Mr. Warner informed me that Dr. Royce had gone to Denver, and wrote: "As for the Card which you propose, I will leave Dr. Royce to make his own answer after he has seen it. I will say, however, for my own part, that, while he has always been ready to disclaim any desire to injure you personally, I think that his opinions concerning your philosophical system and its origin are unchanged, and he is not likely to retract them. I must say, too, that you have put your Card in a form in which you could not have expected Dr. Royce to sign it, and I do not regard it as any step, on your part, toward a pacific settlement, nor think your demand a reasonable one to make of a self-respecting man."

The next day, June 25, I wrote to Mr. Warner: "I ought distinctly to deny that my rejected article is 'a libellous paper.' Its statements are true; its motive is not malice, but a self-evident purpose to defend myself against Dr. Royce's libel; and, even if it should be concluded to come under any legal definition of 'libel,' I maintain that it is self-evidently a 'justifiable libel.' If I pay any heed to your notice, it is merely because your notice strengthens my case.--You do not mention when Dr. Royce will return from Denver; but, because my purpose in enclosing to you that Card is in good faith a pacific one, I will wait a reasonable time for his return beyond the date I mentioned. You will not judge the character of that Card accurately, and you cannot give sound or salutary advice to your client, if you ignore the libellous character of his original article.

I do not see how 'a self-respecting man' could ever have written such a paper; but, if he did it inadvertently and not maliciously, he would certainly do one of two things: (1) either submit courageously, unflinchingly, and without legal protest, to the reply it challenged and evoked, or (2) manfully retract charges demonstrated, as these have been, to be false. Have you really a different idea of 'self-respect'? Certainly not, for you are an honorable gentleman. Be this as it may, I warn you not to persist in considering that Card as other than a pacific step on my part, if you desire to counsel your client to his own good, or to prove yourself a real friend to Harvard College. I say this in good faith."

To this, on July 2, Mr. Warner replied: "Dr. Royce has returned, and I have submitted to him the Card which you have prepared. As I antic.i.p.ated, Dr. Royce says that he cannot sign it, nor can I advise him to do so. It goes far beyond any disavowal of malice or personal hostility, and it amounts to a retraction of the opinions which he actually holds about your philosophical system, and that retraction you surely cannot expect him to make. Dr. Royce has again expressed to me his regret that the form of his article should have wounded you, and he is entirely ready to disavow any intention of wounding you."

On July 11, I wrote in answer: "Most certainly I do not expect, or wish, that Dr. Royce should disavow any philosophical 'opinions' he may hold. What I complain of is a _misstatement of fact_, demonstrated to be such, which I believe to have had its origin in a spirit of malicious detraction, and to be now persevered in from no other cause.

In my reply to his article, which he himself challenged and then pusillanimously suppressed, he has had abundant means of information.

If he now refuses to correct a misstatement which grossly injures me, after he has been informed of the truth, the refusal admits of but one interpretation, and throws a satirical light on the merely private 'regret' he professes. Inasmuch, however, as you have objected (quite unnecessarily, as I think) to the 'form' of the Card I sent you, and inasmuch as I intend to leave no room for doubt as to Dr. Royce's real animus in this affair, I propose now that he send me such a retraction and apology as you yourself shall deem adequate, fitting, and due. In your letter of June 9, you admitted that Dr. Royce had 'transgressed the limits of courteous discussion' and that you 'do not defend in all respects the tone of the review.' It is plain enough that you, Dr.

Royce's own counsel, perceive at least something improper, something that ought to be retracted and apologized for. You are, then, I submit, bound to do what you can to right the wrong, which is not at all done by Dr. Royce's profuse, _but private_, disclaimers. He professes to bear no malice. Very well, then: let him make reparation for the wrong he has committed. He owes it to himself, if he considers himself a gentleman, certainly to his position in Harvard College, to send me some paper, specifying what he himself regrets in his own article, with authority to publish this paper in the 'Journal of Ethics.' The Card I sent sufficiently indicates what I think is due to me; if Dr. Royce, in other language, covers the same ground, it will be accepted as satisfactory. That is the very least that a gentleman would do under the circ.u.mstances. You cannot object to this proposal on account of its 'form'; if either you or he objects to it at all, it must be on account of its substance. Certainly you cannot affect to consider it as other than 'pacific.' I shall await your answer to it as to the only 'pacific step on my part' which remains possible to me."

In reply to this letter, on July 24, Mr. Warner wrote: "I forwarded your letter of July 11 to Dr. Royce, and he has written a reply to me which I think it best to enclose as he wrote it." In this enclosed letter, dated July 14, Dr. Royce first re-affirmed, in substance, the truth of his false and ridiculous accusation of plagiarism from Hegel, and then wrote as follows: "Now as to my feeling concerning what was regrettable in my article. I repeat once more--regrettable, in my eyes, was the manner of the article in so far as it actually gave unnecessary pain to Dr. Abbot. And I regard any pain as unnecessary that may have been due, _not_ to my objectively justified opinion of Dr. Abbot's work (an opinion which I cannot alter in the least), but to any severity of expression that may not have been absolutely needful to give form to this opinion itself. Dr. Abbot's reply has shown him to be not merely alive to the strong difference of opinion that separates us, but personally offended by an attack that was intended to be indeed severe, but directed wholly to matters of professional, but not of personal concern. This att.i.tude of Dr.

Abbot's I regret, and, in so far as I am to blame for it, I am willing to express my regret publicly."

This letter of Dr. Royce is, in effect, a deliberate and unqualified re-affirmation of every fact as alleged, and every inference as drawn, in his original libel--a deliberate and contemptuous re-affirmation of the whole system of elaborate misrepresentation which const.i.tutes it one tissue of libel from beginning to end. Nothing whatever in the substance of his article is retracted or regretted; nothing is "regrettable" even in its form, except vaguely, hypothetically, and conditionally; the only thing Dr. Royce "regrets," as a fact, is that his "objectively justified" and "intentionally severe attack" should have given needless "personal offence" and "unnecessary pain" to its object! This deliberate and contemptuous refusal to recall, to modify, or to apologize for any of the false accusations he has made against me is, I submit, demonstration of the malice which originally prompted them, and now moves him to maintain them; nothing further is needed to make their malicious character perfectly plain, and to prove the insincerity of his disclaimers of malice. But Dr. Royce seriously mistakes the nature of the effect produced by his "attack," when he affects to consider it as the quite needless excitation of excessive sensitiveness. If a gentleman in a crowd discovers his nearest neighbor engaged in filching his pocket-book, and at once hands the culprit over to the police, it would hardly be graphic to describe his frame of mind as needless "personal offence" or "unnecessary pain"; and the expressions are no more graphic as to my own frame of mind, when I discover Dr. Royce endeavoring to filch from me my reputation in the name of Harvard University. It is not always safe to reckon on the absence, in parties confessedly "attacked," of all capacity for _moral indignation_, or all capacity for moral self-defence.

In reply to Mr. Warner, August 4, I wrote as follows: "Permit me further to say, with regard to Dr. Royce's letter, that I can only interpret it as a distinct refusal to retract his accusation that I have made 'extravagant pretensions as to the originality and profundity of my still unpublished system of philosophy'--a distinct refusal to retract his accusation that I have 'borrowed my theory of universals from Hegel'--a distinct refusal to retract his 'professional warning' based upon these accusations. These were the chief points of my Card, and I note the refusal implied by Dr. Royce's evasive letter. But I decline to accept his plea of 'conscientiousness' in maintaining the accusation as to Hegel. I might as well plead 'conscientiousness' in maintaining an accusation that Dr. Royce a.s.sa.s.sinated Abraham Lincoln, in face of the evidence that John Wilkes Booth was the a.s.sa.s.sin."

Here the correspondence closed. My apology for inflicting it upon you, gentlemen, must be the necessity of showing to you that, as I was plainly bound to do, I first exhausted every means of private redress before laying the matter before you publicly. Not till I had failed to obtain a fair hearing in the same periodical which published Dr.

Royce's libel, and not till I had failed to obtain from Dr. Royce himself a retraction of this libel, did I find myself reduced to the alternatives of either acquiescing in your own unwarrantably insinuated condemnation, or else of clearing my a.s.sailed reputation through direct and open appeal to you. I am no lover of strife, and least of all do I now seek revenge. I seek only such a vindication of my good name from unmerited calumny as you, in your own good judgment and in your own chosen way, are now, I most respectfully submit, bound in justice to give.

VIII.

To you, therefore, gentlemen of the Corporation and Board of Overseers of Harvard University, I make with all due deference this public appeal for redress of a wrong done to me by one of your appointees--a wrong done, not in his private capacity as an individual (for which, of course, you would not be justly held responsible), but publicly and explicitly and emphatically in the name of his "profession," that is, of his position as a professor in Harvard College. This position is an official one, due to your appointment; and his scandalous abuse of it renders him amenable to discipline by you to whom he owes it.

Therefore, I now formally appeal to you for redress of these specific wrongs, committed by a.s.sistant Professor Josiah Royce in flagrant violation of my rights as a citizen and as a man:--

I. He has published against me, in the "International Journal of Ethics," a libel which is as wanton and unprovoked as it is malicious and false, and for which no motive is even conceivable except mere professional jealousy or rivalry in authorship.

II. He has sought to give credibility and respectability to this false and libellous publication by invoking the authority, not of reason or truth, but of his mere "professional" position as professor in Harvard University, thereby artfully suggesting and insinuating to the uninformed public that Harvard University sustains him in his attack; whereas, in conferring upon me the degree of doctor of philosophy and in committing to me formerly the conduct of an advanced course of philosophical instruction, Harvard University has given emphatic testimony to the contrary.

III. Repudiating his bold promise to "ask no mercy," he has sought, with incredible cowardice and meanness, to deprive me of all opportunity of being heard in self-defence, _first_, by excluding from the "International Journal of Ethics" my perfectly reasonable reply to what he himself confesses to have been an "intentionally severe attack," and, _secondly_, by threatening me through his counsel with legal prosecution, if I publish it anywhere else or circulate it at all.

IV. Lastly, when, after all this, in order to spare him the mortification and disgrace of a public exposure, and in order to prevent Harvard University from incurring any possible discredit on account of his personal misconduct, I proposed to him a pacific settlement of the whole affair through a simple retraction of his calumnious accusations, and that, too, in words of his own choosing, he made no answer but a stubborn and contumelious re-affirmation of the original libel.

I submit that these acts of wrong const.i.tute conduct unbecoming a gentleman, a man of honor, or a professor in Harvard University, and justly ent.i.tle me to redress at your hands. This appeal has not been made hastily or without a patient and long-protracted effort to secure justice in other ways. Dr. Royce has succeeded hitherto, during many months, in defeating that effort; but now the appeal lies to those whom he cannot control, and now he must abide your judgment. Asking neither less nor more than justice, and believing that you will recognize justice as Harvard's highest law,

I have the honor to remain, gentlemen, in devoted loyalty to our Alma Mater,

Your obedient servant,

FRANCIS E. ABBOT.

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A Public Appeal for Redress to the Corporation and Overseers of Harvard University Part 2 summary

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