In one particular the College has fulfilled the wishes of its founder. He said in his will,
“I desire that by every proper means, a pure attachment to our republican institutions, and to the sacred rights of conscience, as guaranteed by our happy Constitution, shall be formed and fostered in the minds of the scholars.”
Three fourths of the whole number of young men, out of their time, who were apprenticed from Girard College, have joined the Union army. We must confess, also, that a considerable number of its apprentices, not out of their time, have run away for the same purpose. With regard to the exclusion of ecclesiastics, it is agreed on all hands that no evil has resulted from that singular injunction of the will. On the contrary, it has served to call particular attention to the religious instruction of the pupils. The only effect of the clause is, that the morning prayers and the Sunday services are conducted by gentlemen who have not undergone the ceremony of ordination.
The income of the Girard estate is now about two hundred thousand dollars a year, and it is increasing. Supposing that only one half of this revenue is appropriated to the College, it is still, we believe, the largest endowment in the country for an educational purpose. The means of the College are therefore ample. To make those means effective in the highest degree, some mode must be devised by which the politics of the city shall cease to influence the choice of Directors. In other words, “Girard College must be taken out of politics.” The Board of Directors should, perhaps, be a more permanent body than it now is. At the earliest possible moment a scheme of instruction should be agreed upon, which should remain unchanged, in its leading features, long enough for it to be judged by its results. The President must be clothed with ample powers, and held responsible, not for methods, but results. He must be allowed, at least, to nominate all his assistants, and to recommend the removal of any for reasons given; and both his nominations and his recommendations of removal, so long as the Directors desire to retain his services, should be ratified by them. He must be made to feel strong in his place; otherwise, he will be tempted to waste his strength upon the management of committees, and general whitewashing. Human nature is so constituted, that a gentleman with a large family will not willingly give up an income of three thousand dollars a year, with lodging in a marble palace. If he is a strong man and an honorable, he will do it, rather than fill a post the duties of which an ignorant or officious committee prevent his discharging. If he is a weak or dishonest man, he will cringe to that committee, and expend all his ingenuity in making the College show well on public days. It might even be well, in order to strengthen the President, to give him the right of appeal to the Mayor and Councils, in case of an irreconcilable difference of opinion between him and the Directors. Everything depends upon the President. Given the right President, with power enough and time enough, and the success of the College is assured. Given a bad President, or a good one hampered by committees, or too dependent upon a board, and the College will be the reproach of Philadelphia.