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Title: A Public Appeal for Redress to the Corporation and Overseers of Harvard University - Professor Royce's Libel
Author: Abbot, Francis Ellingwood, 1836-1903
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Public Appeal for Redress to the Corporation and Overseers of Harvard University - Professor Royce's Libel" ***

by Case Western Reserve University Preservation Department
Digital Library.)


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_Gentlemen_,--Believing it to be a necessary part of good citizenship
to defend one's reputation against unjustifiable attacks, and
believing you to have been unwarrantably, but not remotely, implicated
in an unjustifiable attack upon my own reputation by Assistant
Professor Josiah Royce, since his attack is made publicly, explicitly,
and emphatically on the authority of his "professional" position as
one of your agents and appointees, I respectfully apply to you for
redress of the wrong, leaving it wholly to your own wisdom and sense
of justice to decide what form such redress should take. If Dr. Royce
had not, by clear and undeniable implication, appealed to your high
sanction to sustain him in his attack,--if he had not undeniably
sought to create a widespread but false public impression that, in
making this attack, he spoke, and had a right to speak, with all the
prestige and authority of Harvard University itself,--I should not
have deemed it either necessary or becoming to appeal to you in
self-defence, or, indeed, to take any public notice whatever of an
attack otherwise unworthy of it. But under the circumstances I am
confident that you will at once recognize the inevitableness and
unquestionable propriety of my appeal from the employee to the
employer, from the agent to the principal; and it would be
disrespectful to you to doubt for a moment that, disapproving of an
attack made impliedly and yet unwarrantably in your name, you will
express your disapprobation in some just and appropriate manner. My
action in thus laying the matter publicly before you can inflict no
possible injury upon our honored and revered Alma Mater: injury to
her is not even conceivable, except on the wildly improbable
supposition of your being indifferent to a scandalous abuse of his
position by one of your assistant professors, who, with no imaginable
motive other than mere professional jealousy or rivalry of authorship,
has gone to the unheard-of length of "professionally warning the
public" against a peaceable and inoffensive private scholar, whose
published arguments he has twice tried, but twice signally failed, to
meet in an intellectual way. If the public at large should have reason
to believe that conduct so scandalous as this in a Harvard professor
will not be condemned by you, as incompatible with the dignity and the
decencies of his office and with the rights of private citizens in
general, Harvard University would indeed suffer, and ought to suffer;
but it is wholly within your power to prevent the growth of so
injurious a belief. I beg leave, therefore, to submit to you the
following statement, and to solicit for it the patient and impartial
consideration which the gravity of the case requires.


The first number of a new quarterly periodical, the "International
Journal of Ethics," published at Philadelphia in October, 1890,
contained an ostensible review by Dr. Royce of my last book, "The Way
out of Agnosticism." I advisedly use the word "ostensible," because
the main purport and intention of the article were not at all to
criticise a philosophy, but to sully the reputation of the
philosopher, deprive him of public confidence, ridicule and
misrepresent his labors, hold him up by name to public obloquy and
contempt, destroy or lessen the circulation of his books, and, in
general, to blacken and break down his literary reputation by any and
every means, even to the extent of aspersing his personal reputation,
although there had never been the slightest personal collision. Its
bitter and invidious spirit was not in the least disguised by a few
exaggerated compliments adroitly inserted here and there: these
merely furnish the foil needed to give greater potency and efficiency
to the personal insinuations, and, like Mark Antony's compliments to
Cæsar's assassins, subserved quite too many politic purposes to be
accepted as sincere. Only a native of Boeotia could be imposed upon by
them, when the actual character of the book in question was carefully
misrepresented, and when the self-evident trend, tenor, and aim of the
ostensible review were to excite public prejudice against the author
on grounds wholly irrespective of the truth or untruth of his
expressed opinions.

Of course, the very largest liberty must be and should be conceded to
legitimate criticism. From this, as is well known, I never shrank in
the least; on the contrary, I court it, and desire nothing better for
my books, provided only that the criticism be pertinent, intelligent,
and fair. But misrepresentation for the purpose of detraction is not
criticism at all; and (notwithstanding numerous quotations perverted
by unfair and misleading glosses, including two misquotations quite
too useful to be accidental) this ostensible review is, from beginning
to end, nothing but misrepresentation for the purpose of detraction.
Passing over numerous minor instances, permit me to invite your
attention to three gross instances of such misrepresentation.


The book under review had taken the utmost pains (pages 16-39,
especially page 39) to distinguish "realism" from "idealism," and to
argue for the former in opposition to the latter, on the ground of the
absolute incompatibility of the latter with the scientific method of
investigation. It had taken the utmost pains to make the contrast
broad and deep, and to point out its far-reaching consequences by
explicitly opposing (1) scientific realism to philosophical idealism
in general, and in particular (2) constructive realism to constructive
idealism, (3) critical realism to critical idealism, (4) ethical
realism to ethical idealism, and (5) religious realism to religious
idealism. Any fair or honorable critic would recognize this contrast
and opposition between realism and idealism as the very foundation of
the work he was criticising, and would at least state it candidly, as
the foundation of his own favorable or unfavorable comments. How did
Dr. Royce treat it? He not only absolutely ignored it, not only said
nothing whatever about it, but actually took pains to put the reader
on a false scent at the start, by assuring him (without the least
discussion of this all-important point) that my philosophical
conclusions are "essentially idealistic"!

So gross a misrepresentation as this might be charitably attributed to
critical incapacity of some sort, if it did not so very conveniently
pave the way for the second gross misrepresentation which was to
follow: namely, that the theory actually propounded in my book had
been, in fact, "_appropriated" and "borrowed" from an idealist_! The
immense utility of misrepresenting my system at the start as
"essentially idealistic" lay in the fact that, by adopting this
stratagem, Dr. Royce could escape altogether the formidable necessity
of _first arguing the main question of idealism versus realism_.
Secretly conscious of his own inability to handle that question, to
refute my "Soliloquy of the Self-Consistent Idealist," or to overthrow
my demonstration that consistent idealism leads logically to hopeless
absurdity at last, Dr. Royce found it infinitely easier to deceive his
uninformed readers by a bold assertion that I myself am an idealist at
bottom. This assertion, swallowed without suspicion of its absolute
untruth, would render it plausible and quite credible to assert, next,
that I had actually "appropriated" my philosophy from a greater
idealist than myself.

For the only substantial criticism of the book made by Dr. Royce is
that I "borrowed" my whole theory of universals from
Hegel--"unconsciously," he has the caution to say; but that
qualification does not in the least mitigate the mischievous intention
and effect of his accusation as a glaring falsification of fact and
artful misdescription of my work. It would be inopportune and
discourteous to weary you with philosophical discussions. I exposed
the amazing absurdity of Dr. Royce's accusation of plagiarism in the
reply to his article which, as appears below, Dr. Royce himself
anxiously suppressed, and which I should now submit to you, if he had
not at last taken fright and served upon me a legal protest against
its circulation. But, to any well-educated man, such an accusation as
this refutes itself. It would be just as reasonable, just as
plausible, to accuse Darwin of having borrowed his theory of natural
selection from Agassiz, or Daniel Webster of having borrowed his
theory of the inseparable Union from John C. Calhoun, or ex-President
Cleveland of having borrowed his message on tariff reform from the
Home Market Club, as to accuse me of having borrowed my theory of
universals from Hegel. Hegel's theory of universals is divided from
mine by the whole vast chasm between realism and idealism. The two
theories contradict each other absolutely, uncompromisingly,
irreconcilably: Hegel's is a theory of "absolute idealism" or "pure
thought" (_reines Denken_), that is, of _thought absolutely
independent of experience_, while mine is a theory of "scientific
realism," that is, of _thought absolutely dependent upon experience._
It is quite immaterial here which theory is the true one; the only
point involved at present is that the two theories flatly contradict
each other, and that it is self-evidently impossible that either
_could_ be "borrowed," consciously or unconsciously, from the other.
If Dr. Royce had ever done any hard thinking on the theory of
universals, or if he had the slightest comprehension of the problems
it involves, he would never have been so rash as to charge me with
"borrowing" my theory from Hegel, and thus to commit himself
irrevocably to a defence of the absurd; but eagerness to accuse
another has betrayed him into a position whence it is impossible for
him to escape with honor. Solely by misdescribing my philosophy as
"essentially idealistic" when it openly and constantly and
emphatically avows itself to be essentially realistic, could Dr. Royce
give the faintest color of plausibility to his monstrous and
supremely ridiculous accusation of plagiarism; solely by presuming
upon the public ignorance both of Hegel and of my own work could he
dare to publish such an accusation to the world. These gross
misrepresentations, however, he did not hesitate to make, since they
were necessary in order to pave the way to a third and still grosser
misrepresentation on which he apparently had set his heart: namely,
that, after borrowing the whole substance of my philosophy from Hegel,
I have been guilty of making "vast and extravagant pretensions" as to
my own "novelty," "originality," and "profundity," not only with
regard to my published books, but also with regard to my "still
unpublished system of philosophy." His words are these:--

"Of novelty, good or bad, the book contains, indeed, despite its vast
pretensions, hardly a sign."

"It is due also to the extravagant pretensions which he frequently
makes of late as to the originality and profundity of his still
unpublished system of philosophy, to give the reader some hint of what
so far appears to be the nature of our author's contributions to
philosophical reflection."

Precisely what have been these alleged "pretensions"? Dr. Royce cites
only three instances.

I. He first garbles a sentence in the prefatory Note to "The Way out
of Agnosticism," by quoting only one phrase from it. The sentence in
full is this: "By a wholly new line of reasoning, drawn exclusively
from those sources [science and philosophy], this book aims to show
that, in order to refute agnosticism and establish enlightened theism,
nothing is now necessary but to philosophize that very scientific
method which agnosticism barbarously misunderstands and misuses."
There is no "pretension" whatever in these words, except that the
general "line of reasoning" set forth in the book is, _as a whole_,
different from that of other books. If not, why publish it? Or,
without the same cause, why publish any book? I see no reason to
recall or to modify this perfectly true statement; Dr. Royce, at
least, has shown none. The "novelty" of the book lies in its very
attempt to evolve philosophy as a whole out of the scientific method
itself, as "observation, hypothesis, and experimental verification,"
by developing the theory of universals which is implicit in that
purely experiential method; and Dr. Royce does not even try to prove
that Hegel, or anybody else, has ever made just such an attempt as
that. Unless there can be shown somewhere a _parallel attempt_, the
statement is as undeniably true as it is certainly unpretentious.

II. Next, Dr. Royce extracts these sentences from the body of the book
(I supply in brackets words which he omitted): "The first great task
of philosophy is to lay deep and solid foundations for the expansion
[and ideal perfection] of human knowledge in a bold, new, and true
theory of universals. For so-called modern philosophy rests
complacently in a theory of universals which is thoroughly mediæval or
antiquated." What personal pretension, even of the mildest sort, can
be conceived to lurk in these innocent words? I did not say that I
have succeeded in performing that "task"; I repeat now what I have
often said and what I meant then; namely, that modern science has
unawares performed it already, that I have faithfully tried to
formulate and further apply what science has done, and that I
respectfully submit the result (so far as already published), not to
such critics as Dr. Royce, but to able, learned, and magnanimous
students of philosophy everywhere.

III. Lastly, though employing quotation marks so as to evade a charge
of formal misquotation, he perverts and effectually misquotes a
sentence of the book in a way which makes it appear exactly what it is
not,--"pretentious." I had said at the end of my own book (page 75):
"_Its aim has been to show_ the way out of agnosticism into the
sunlight of the predestined philosophy of science." This expression is
perfectly in harmony with the prefatory Note, which says that "_this
book aims to show_ that, in order to refute agnosticism and establish
enlightened theism, nothing is now necessary but to philosophize that
very scientific method which agnosticism barbarously misunderstands
and misuses," and which immediately adds: "_Of the success of the
perhaps unwise attempt to show this in so small a compass, the
educated public must be the judge._" Most certainly, there is no
"pretension" in this modest and carefully guarded avowal of the simple
aim of my book. But Dr. Royce twists this modest avowal into a
barefaced boast, and injuriously misquotes me to his own readers thus:
"At the conclusion of the book, we learn that _we have been shown_
'the way out of agnosticism into the sunlight of the predestined
philosophy of science.'" Gentlemen, I request you to compare
thoughtfully the expressions which I have here italicized, and then
decide for yourselves whether this injurious misquotation is purely
accidental, or, in view of Dr. Royce's purpose of proving me guilty of
"vast pretensions," quite too useful to be purely accidental.

IV. But Dr. Royce does not content himself with quoting or misquoting
what I have published, for the self-evident reason that what I have
published is not sufficiently "pretentious" for his purpose.
Disinterested anxiety for the public welfare, and tender sorrow over
the "harm to careful inquiry" which my book is doing by "getting
influence over immature or imperfectly trained minds," constrain him
to accuse me of "frequently making of late extravagant pretensions as
to the originality and profundity" of my "still unpublished system of

Precisely what have been these "extravagant pretensions"? Simply

In the preface to "Scientific Theism," I said of that book: "It is a
mere _résumé_ of a small portion of a comprehensive philosophical
system, so far as I have been able to work it out under most
distracting, discouraging, and unpropitious circumstances of many
years; and for this reason I must beg some indulgence for the
unavoidable incompleteness of my work."

Enumerating some reasons why I hesitated to begin the series of papers
afterwards published as "The Way out of Agnosticism," I said, in the
first of these papers: "First and foremost, perhaps, is the fact that,
although the ground-plan of this theory is already thoroughly matured,
the literary execution of it is as yet scarcely even begun, and from
want of opportunity may never be completed; and it seems almost absurd
to present the abridgment of a work which does not yet exist to be

Finally, in an address printed in the "Unitarian Review" for December,
1889, I said: "Without advancing any personal claim whatever, permit
me to take advantage of your indulgent kindness, and to make here the
first public confession of certain painfully matured results of thirty
years' thinking, which, in the momentous and arduous enterprise of
developing a scientific theology out of the scientific method itself,
appear to be principles of cosmical import.... Perhaps I can make them
intelligible, as a contribution to that 'Unitary Science' which the
great Agassiz foresaw and foretold." In a postscript to this address I
added: "For fuller support of the position taken above, I am
constrained to refer ... to a large treatise, now in process of
preparation, which aims to rethink philosophy as a whole in the light
of modern science and under the form of a natural development of the
scientific method itself."

What remotest allusion to my own "originality" is contained in these
passages, or what remotest allusion to my own "profundity"? What
"pretension" of any sort is here made, whether "extravagant" or
moderate? Yet this is the only actual evidence, _and the whole of it_,
on which Dr. Royce dares to accuse me of "frequently making of late
extravagant pretensions as to the originality and profundity of my
still unpublished system of philosophy"! The pure absurdity of such an
accusation reveals itself in the very statement of it. Dr. Royce is
referring here, be it understood, not to my published books, but to my
"unpublished system of philosophy." _How does he know anything about
it?_ I certainly have never shown him my unpublished manuscript, and
beyond those published allusions to it he possesses absolutely no
means whatever of knowing anything about its contents. Nothing,
surely, except full and exact knowledge, derived from careful and
patient personal examination of that manuscript, could possibly be a
ground of just judgment of its character. How, then, in absolute
ignorance of its character and contents, could any fair man hazard any
public verdict upon it? Yet Dr. Royce not only accuses me of making
"pretensions" about it which I never made, but dares to characterize
them as "extravagant," when, _for all he knows_, they might (if made)
fall far short of the truth. Whether in this case the evidence
supports the accusation, and whether the conscience which permits the
making of such an accusation on such evidence is itself such a
conscience as you expect to find in your appointees,--these,
gentlemen, are questions for you yourselves to decide.


These three connected and logically affiliated _misstatements of
fact_--namely, (1) that my philosophy is "essentially idealistic," (2)
that it has been "appropriated" and "unconsciously borrowed" from the
idealist Hegel, and (3) that I have frequently made "extravagant
pretensions as to the originality and profundity" of this merely
"borrowed" and "appropriated" philosophy--constitute in their totality
a regular system of gross and studied misrepresentation, as methodical
and coherent as it is unscrupulous. It is not "fair criticism"; it is
not "criticism" at all; and I do not hesitate to characterize it
deliberately as a disgrace both to Harvard University and to American

Yet, gross and studied and systematic as this misrepresentation is, I
should have passed it over in silence, precisely as I did pass over a
similar attack by Dr. Royce on my earlier book in "Science" for April
9, 1886, were it not that, perhaps emboldened by former impunity, he
now makes his misrepresentations culminate in the perpetration of a
literary outrage, to which, I am persuaded, no parallel can be found
in the history of polite literature. It is clear that forbearance must
have somewhere its limit. The commands of self-respect and of civic
conscience, the duty which every citizen owes to his fellow-citizens
not to permit the fundamental rights of all to be unlimitedly violated
in his own person, must at last set a bound to forbearance itself, and
compel to self-defence. These are the reasons which, after patient
exhaustion of every milder means of redress, have moved me to this
public appeal.

Dr. Royce's misstatements of fact, so elaborately fashioned and so
ingeniously mortised together, were merely his foundation for a
deliberate and formal "professional warning to the liberal-minded
public" against my alleged "philosophical pretensions." The device of
attributing to me extravagant but groundless "pretensions" to
"originality" and "profundity"--since he is unable to cite a single
passage in which I ever used such expressions of myself--was probably
suggested to him by the "Press Notices of 'Scientific Theism,'"
printed as a publishers' advertisement of my former book at the end of
the book which lay before him. These "Press Notices," as usual,
contain numerous extracts from eulogistic reviews, in which, curiously
enough, these very words, "original" and "profound," or their
equivalents, occur with sufficient frequency to explain Dr. Royce's
choleric unhappiness. For instance, Dr. James Freeman Clarke wrote in
the "Unitarian Review": "If every position taken by Dr. Abbot cannot
be maintained, his book remains an original contribution to philosophy
of a high order and of great value"; M. Renouvier, in "La Critique
Philosophique," classed the book among "de remarquables efforts de
construction métaphysique et morale dus à des penseurs indépendants et
profonds"; and M. Carrau, in explaining why he added to his critical
history of "Religious Philosophy in England" a chapter of twenty pages
on my own system, actually introduced both of the words which, when
thus applied, jar so painfully on Dr. Royce's nerves: "La pensée de M.
Abbot m'a paru assez profonde et assez originale pour mériter d'être
reproduite littéralement." (La Philosophie Religieuse en Angleterre.
Par Ludovic Carrau, Directeur des Conférences de philosophie à la
Faculté des lettres de Paris. Paris, 1888.) These extracts, be it
remembered, were all printed at the end of the book which Dr. Royce
was reviewing. Now he had an undoubted right to think and to say that
such encomiums as these on my work were silly, extravagant,
preposterous, and totally undeserved; but _to take them out of the
mouth of others and put them into mine was wilful and deliberate
calumny_. Systematic and calumnious misrepresentation is the sole
foundation of the "professional warning" in which Dr. Royce's
ostensible review culminates, and which is too extraordinary not to be
quoted here in full:--

"And so, finally, after this somewhat detailed study of Dr. Abbot's
little book, I feel constrained to repeat my judgment as above.
Results in philosophy are one thing; a careful way of thinking is
another. Babes and sucklings often get very magnificent results. It is
not the office of philosophy to outdo the babes and sucklings at their
own business of receiving revelations. It is the office of philosophy
to undertake a serious scrutiny of the presuppositions of human
belief. Hence the importance of the careful way of thinking in
philosophy. But Dr. Abbot's way is not careful, is not novel, and,
when thus set forth to the people as new and bold and American, it is
likely to do precisely as much harm to careful inquiry as it gets
influence over immature or imperfectly trained minds. I venture,
therefore, to speak plainly, by way of a professional warning to the
liberal-minded public concerning Dr. Abbot's philosophical
pretensions. And my warning takes the form of saying that, if people
are to think in this confused way, unconsciously borrowing from a
great speculator like Hegel, and then depriving the borrowed
conception of the peculiar subtlety of statement that made it useful
in its place,--and if we readers are for our part to accept such
scholasticism as is found in Dr. Abbot's concluding sections as at all
resembling philosophy,--then it were far better for the world that no
reflective thinking whatever should be done. If we can't improve on
what God has already put into the mouth of the babes and sucklings,
let us at all events make some other use of our wisdom and prudence
than in setting forth the American theory of what has been in large
part hidden from us."

Gentlemen, I deny sweepingly the whole groundwork of cunning and
amazing misrepresentation on which this unparalleled tirade is

I. I deny that my philosophy is "essentially idealistic," or that any
"careful" or conscientious scholar could possibly affirm it to be

II. I deny that I "borrowed" my realistic theory of universals from
the idealist, Hegel, whether consciously or unconsciously. The charge
is unspeakably silly. Realism and idealism contradict each other more
absolutely than protectionism and free-trade.

III. I deny that I ever made the "philosophical pretensions" which Dr.
Royce calumniously imputes to me. But, if I had made pretensions as
high as the Himalayas, I deny his authority to post me publicly--to
act as policeman in the republic of letters and to collar me on that
account. A college professor who thus mistakes his academic gown for
the policeman's uniform, and dares to use his private walking-stick
for the policeman's bludgeon, is likely to find himself suddenly
prostrated by a return blow, arrested for assault and battery, and
unceremoniously hustled off into a cell, by the officer whose function
he has injudiciously aped without waiting for the tiresome but quite
indispensable little preliminary of first securing a regular

IV. Most of all, I deny Dr. Royce's self-assumed right to club every
philosopher whose reasoning he can neither refute nor understand. I
deny, in general, that any Harvard professor has the right to
fulminate a "professional warning" _against anybody_; and, in
particular, that you, gentlemen, ever voted or intended to invest Dr.
Royce with that right. He himself now publicly puts forth a worse than
"extravagant pretension" when he arrogates to himself this right of
literary outrage. He was not appointed professor by you for any such
unseemly purpose. To arrogate to himself a senseless "professional"
superiority over all non-"professional" authors, to the insufferable
extent of publicly posting and placarding them for a mere difference
of opinion, is, from a moral point of view, scandalously to abuse his
academical position, to compromise the dignity of Harvard University,
to draw down universal contempt upon the "profession" which he
prostitutes to the uses of mere professional jealousy or literary
rivalry, and to degrade the honorable office of professor in the eyes
of all who understand that a weak argument is not strengthened, and a
false accusation is not justified, by throwing "professional warnings"
as a make-weight into the scales of reason. I affirm emphatically that
no professor has a moral right to treat anybody with this undisguised
"insolence of office," or to use any weapon but reason in order to put
down what he conceives to be errors in philosophy. In the present
case, I deny that Dr. Royce has any better or stronger claim than
myself to speak "professionally" on philosophical questions. The very
book against which he presumes to warn the public "professionally" is
founded upon lectures which I myself "professionally" delivered, not
only from Dr. Royce's own desk and to Dr. Royce's own college class,
but as a substitute for Dr. Royce himself, at the request and by the
appointment of his own superiors, the Corporation and Overseers of his
own University; and the singular impropriety (to use no stronger word)
of his "professional warning" will be apparent to every one in the
light of that fact.


So far I have treated Dr. Royce's attack solely from the literary and
ethical points of view. The legal point of view must now be

Plagiarism, conscious or unconscious, is a very grave and serious
charge to bring against an author, and one which may entail upon him,
not only great damage to his literary reputation, but also social
disgrace and pecuniary loss. If proved, or even if widely believed
without proof, it cannot but ruin his literary career and destroy the
marketable value of his books; and it matters little, so far as these
practical results are concerned, whether the plagiarism attributed to
him is conscious or unconscious. In an able editorial article on "Law
and Theft," published in the New York "Nation" of Feb. 12, 1891, it is
forcibly said: "Authors or writers who do this [borrowing other men's
ideas] a good deal, undoubtedly incur discredit by it with their
fellows and the general public. It greatly damages a writer's fame to
be rightfully accused of want of originality, or of imitation, or of
getting materials at second hand. But no one has ever proposed to
punish or restrain this sort of misappropriation by law. No one has
ever contended for the infliction on the purloiners of other men's
ideas of any penalty but ridicule or disgrace." Whoever _wrongfully_
accuses an author of plagiarism, then, holds him up _undeservedly_ to
"discredit, ridicule, or disgrace," and "slanders his title" to the
product of his own brain. This is contrary to the law. Yet this is
precisely what Dr. Royce has done in accusing me _falsely_, and as a
_"certain" matter of fact_, of borrowing my theory of universals from
Hegel. His accusation is made with as many sneers and as much insult
as could well be compressed into the space:--

"Dr. Abbot is hopelessly unhistorical in his consciousness. His
'American theory of universals' is so far from being either his own or
a product of America that in this book he continually has to use, in
expounding it, one of the most characteristic and familiar of Hegel's
technical terms, namely, 'concrete,' in that sense in which it is
applied to the objective and universal 'genus.' Dr. Abbot's
appropriation of Hegel's peculiar terminology comes ill indeed from
one who talks," _etc._ "This I say not to defend Hegel, for whose
elaborate theory of universals I hold in no wise a brief, but simply
in the cause of literary property-rights. When we plough with another
man's heifer, however unconscious we are of our appropriation, however
sincerely we seem to remember that we alone raised her from her
earliest calfhood, it is yet in vain, after all, that we put our brand
on her, or call her 'American.'... Now Hegel's whole theory may be
false; but what is certain is that Dr. Abbot, who has all his life
been working in an atmosphere where Hegelian ideas were more or less
infectious, has derived his whole theory of universals, so far as he
has yet revealed it with any coherency, from Hegelian sources, and
even now cannot suggest any better terminology than Hegel's for an
important portion of the doctrine. Yet in the volume before us we find
all this pretentious speech of an 'American' theory, and discover our
author wholly unaware that he is sinning against the most obvious
demands of literary property-rights."

Passing over the self-evident point that whoever is "_unaware_ that he
is sinning" cannot be "sinning" at all, since "sinning" consists in
_being aware_ of the wrong we do,--and, consequently, that Dr. Royce
comes here as near as he dares to a direct insinuation that my
plagiarism is conscious, and not "unconscious,"--let me call your
attention to the more important point, that Dr. Royce affirms my
conscious or unconscious theft from Hegel as a matter of _"certain"
fact_, not merely as a matter of _probable inference_. Yet the only
evidence he has to offer in support of this "certainty" is (1) that I
use the word "concrete" in the same sense as Hegel, and (2) that I
have worked all my life in a Hegelian "atmosphere." These two points
cover all the grounds of his accusation. Permit me very briefly to
examine them.

(1) The word "concrete" is not in the least a technical term
copyrighted by Hegel, nor is it his trademark. It is one of the
commonest of words, and free to all. But what sort of a reasoner is he
who infers the identity of two whole complex theories from their
coincidence in the use of only a single word? Even this poor and
solitary little premise slips out of Dr. Royce's clutch, for Hegel's
use of the word is _contradictory to mine_! Hegel has to put upon the
word "concrete" a very unusual, strained, and artificial sense, in
order to cover up the weakest point of his idealistic system. He
explains it, however, frankly, clearly, and unambiguously: "The
Concept or Notion (_Begriff_) may be always called 'abstract,' if the
term 'concrete' must be limited to the mere concrete of sensation and
immediate perception; the Notion as such cannot be grasped by the
hands, and, when we deal with it, eyes and ears are out of the
question. Yet, as was said before, the Notion is the only true
concrete." (_Encyklopädie, Werke_, VI. 316.) Again: "Just as little is
the sensuous-concrete of Intuition a rational-concrete of the Idea."
(_Ibid., Werke_, VI. 404.) A score of similar passages can easily be
cited. That is to say, Hegel avowedly excludes from his _idealistic_
theory of universals the "concrete" of sensation, perception,
intuition, or _real experience_, and admits into it only the
"concrete" of _pure or non-empirical thought_; while I avowedly
exclude from my _realistic_ theory of universals the "concrete" of
_pure thought_, and admit into it only the "concrete" of _real
experience_. Hegel's "concrete" cannot be seen, heard, or touched;
while to me nothing which cannot be seen, heard, or touched is
"concrete" at all. A mere common school education is quite sufficient
for comprehension of the contradictoriness of these two uses of the
word. Yet, in order to found a malicious charge of plagiarism, Dr.
Royce has the hardihood to assure the uninformed general public that
Hegel and I use the word "concrete" in one and the same sense!

(2) The assertion that I have lived all my life in a Hegelian
"atmosphere" I can only meet with a short, sharp, and indignant
denial. I know of no such "atmosphere" in all America; if it anywhere
exists, I certainly never lived, moved, or worked in it. The statement
is a gratuitous, impertinent, and _totally false allegation of fact_,
wholly outside of my book and its contents, and is used in this
connection solely to feather an arrow shot at my reputation; it is a
pure invention, a manufactured assertion which is absolutely without
foundation, and, when thus artfully thrown out with apparent
artlessness (_ars celare artem_) as itself foundation for a false and
malicious charge of plagiarism, it becomes fabrication of evidence for
the purpose of defamation. The less said about such an offence as
that, the better for Dr. Royce, and I spare him the comment it

Now, while it might be "fair criticism" _to infer_ my plagiarism from
Hegel, if there were only some reasonable or even merely plausible
evidence to support the inference (which I have just proved not to be
the case), it is incontestable that _to affirm_ this plagiarism, as a
"certain" matter of fact, without any reasonable evidence at all, is
not that "fair criticism" which the law justly allows, but, on the
contrary, a totally unjustifiable libel. In accusing me personally of
plagiarism on no reasonable grounds whatever, as I have just
unanswerably proved him to have done, and in making the "certainty" of
the plagiarism depend upon an allegation of fact wholly independent of
the book which he professed to be criticising (namely, the false
allegation that I have worked all my life in a Hegelian "atmosphere"),
Dr. Royce has beyond all controversy transgressed the legally defined
limits of "fair criticism," and become a libeller.

But this is by no means all. If the bat-like accusation of an
"unconscious", yet "sinning" (or sinful) plagiarism hovers ambiguously
between attacking my literary reputation and attacking my moral
character, there is no such ambiguity hanging about the accusation of
"extravagant pretensions as to the originality and profundity of my
still unpublished system of philosophy." A decent modesty, a
self-respectful reserve, a manly humility in presence of the
unattainable ideal of either moral or intellectual perfection, a
speechless reverence in the presence of either infinite goodness or
infinite truth,--these are virtues which belong to the very warp and
woof of all noble, elevated, and justly estimable character; and
wherever their absence is conspicuously shown, there is just ground
for moral condemnation and the contempt of mankind. Dr. Royce has not
scrupled to accuse me of making, not only "pretensions," but even
"extravagant pretensions," which are absolutely incompatible with the
possession of these beautiful and essential virtues, and thereby to
hold me up to universal contempt and derision. He has done this, by
the very terms of his accusation, absolutely and confessedly _without
cause_; for the system of philosophy which is "unpublished" to others
is no less "unpublished" to him, and an accusation thus made
confessedly without any knowledge of its truth is, on the very face
of it, an accusation which is as malicious as it is groundless. To
make such a self-proved and self-condemned accusation as this is, I
submit, to be guilty of libel with no ordinary degree of culpability.

But the libel of which I have greatest cause to complain is not
confined to exceptional or isolated expressions. These might
charitably be explained as mere momentary ebullitions of pettishness
or spleen, and pardonable as merely faults of temper in a criticism
which was in the main conscientious and fair. But the libel of which I
complain most of all is one that constitutes the entire ground and
framework of the article _as a whole_. Every part of it is
methodically spun and interwoven with every other part, in such a way
as to make it one seamless tissue of libel from beginning to end. This
I say in full consciousness of the interspersed occasional
compliments, since these have only the effect of disguising the
libellous intent of the whole from a simple-minded or careless reader,
and since they subserve the purpose of furnishing to the writer a
plausible and ready-made defence of his libel against a foreseen
protest. Compliments to eke out a libel are merely insults in
masquerade. The libellous plan of the article as a whole is shown in
the _regular system_ of gross and studied misrepresentation, of
logically connected and nicely dovetailed misstatements of facts,
which I exposed at the outset. Every intelligent reader of my two
books is perfectly aware that they are both devoted to an exposition
of the fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between philosophical
idealism and scientific realism, and to a defence of the latter
against the former, as the only possible method by which a spiritual
theism can be intellectually, and therefore successfully, defended in
this age of science. Only one who has read and digested the two books
can fully appreciate the enormity and the unscrupulousness of the
initial misrepresentation, slipped in, as it were, quite casually, and
without any argument, in the apparently incidental and
matter-of-course statement that my "conclusion" is "essentially
idealistic." It is _not_ "idealistic" at all, but as radically
realistic as the premises themselves; and no professor of philosophy
could ever have called it "idealistic" by a mere slip of the tongue or
pen. The intelligent origin of this misrepresentation is clearly
enough suggested in the use to which it is at once put: namely, to
render plausible the otherwise ridiculous charge that my theory of
universals was "borrowed" from an idealist. Next, the same origin is
more than suggested by the use to which these two misrepresentations
together are put: namely, to show that any claim of "novelty" for a
merely "borrowed" philosophy is a "vast" and "extravagant pretension."
Lastly, the same origin is inductively and conclusively proved, when
these three inter-linked misrepresentations, as a whole, are made the
general foundation for a brutal "professional warning" to the public
at large against my "philosophical pretensions" in general. Not one of
these fundamental positions of Dr. Royce's article is a fact,--least
of all, an "admitted fact"; on the contrary, each of them is
energetically and indignantly denied. But the libel of which I
complain above all is the _regular system_ of gross and studied
misrepresentation by which the most essential facts are first
misstated and falsified, and then used to the injury of my literary
and personal reputation.

It may, I trust, be permitted to me here to show clearly what the law
is, as applicable to the case in hand, by a few pertinent citations.

"The critic must confine himself to criticism, and not make it the
veil for personal censure, nor allow himself to run into reckless and
unfair attacks, merely from the love of exercising his power of
denunciation. Criticism and comment on well-known and admitted facts
are very different things from the assertion of unsubstantiated facts.
A fair and _bona fide_ comment on a matter of public interest is an
excuse of what would otherwise be a defamatory publication. The
statement of this rule assumes the matters of fact commented on to be
somehow ascertained. It does not mean that a man may invent facts, and
comment on the facts so invented in what would be a fair and _bona
fide_ manner, on the supposition that the facts were true. If the
facts as a comment upon which the publication is sought to be excused
do not exist, the foundation fails.... The distinction cannot be too
clearly borne in mind between comment or criticism and allegations of
fact.... To state matters which are libellous is not comment or
criticism." (_Newell on Defamation, Slander, and Libel_, p. 568.)
Applying this to the case in hand: the "admitted facts" are these: (1)
my philosophy is realistic from beginning to end; (2) I have not
worked all my life, nor any part of my life, in a Hegelian
"atmosphere"; (3) I did not borrow my theory of universals from Hegel;
(4) I have made no vast or extravagant pretensions whatever as to my
own philosophy. But Dr. Royce invents and states the exact opposite of
all these facts, and then bases on these purely invented facts most
undeserved "personal censure" and most "reckless and unfair attacks."
Therefore, his article is a libel in its whole groundwork and
essential spirit.

"If a person, under pretence of criticising a literary work, defames
the private character of the author, and, instead of writing in the
spirit and for the purpose of fair and candid discussion, travels into
collateral matter, and introduces facts not stated in the work,
accompanied with injurious comment upon them, such person is a
libeller, and liable to an action." (_Broom's Legal Maxims_, p. 320.)
Applying this to the case in hand: Dr. Royce "defames" my "private
character," when he accuses me of "frequently" indulging in
"extravagant pretensions"; he "travels into collateral matter," when
he alludes at all to my unpublished manuscript; he "introduces facts
not stated in the work, accompanied with injurious comment upon them,"
when he alludes to this unpublished manuscript for the sole purpose of
saying (untruthfully) that I "frequently make, of late, extravagant
pretensions as to its originality and profundity," and again when he
says that I have worked all my life in a Hegelian "atmosphere," for
the sole purpose of founding upon this false statement a false charge
of plagiarism.

In the "Griffith Gaunt" case, Judge Clerke said in his charge to the
jury: "The interests of literature and science require that the
productions of authors shall be subject to fair criticism,--that even
some animadversion may be permitted, unless it appears that the
critic, under the pretext of reviewing his book, takes an opportunity
of attacking the character of the author, and of holding him up as an
object of ridicule, hatred, or contempt. In other words, the critic
may say what he pleases of the literary merits or demerits of the
published production of an author; but, with respect to his personal
rights relating to his reputation, the critic has no more privilege
than any other person not assuming the business of criticism."
(_Abbott's Practice Reports_, New Series, VI. 18.) Applying this to
the case in hand: Dr. Royce, "under the pretext of reviewing" my
"book, takes an opportunity of attacking the author, and of holding
him up as an object of ridicule and contempt," if ridicule and
contempt are the deservedly universal punishment of the plagiarist and
the braggart. To so unprecedented a length has he carried this attack,
as deliberately and formally, in the name of his "profession," and
therefore, by necessary implication, in the name of Harvard University
itself, to "warn the liberal-minded public" against me, _precisely as
one warns the general public against an impostor soliciting alms under
false pretences_! This is a flagrant violation of my "personal rights
relating to my reputation"; and, therefore, according to the above
judicial ruling of an American court, Dr. Royce is guilty of wanton
and unprovoked libel against one who never injured him in the
slightest degree.

In the case of Strauss _versus_ Francis, Chief Justice Cockburn said:
"The question is as to the article as a whole.... The verdict must be
upon the article as a whole, and whether, as a whole, it is to be
deemed malicious and libellous." (_Foster and Finlason's Reports_, IV.
1107.) Applying this to the case in hand: Dr. Royce's ostensible
review presents its darkest, most odious, and most libellous aspect to
him who most thoroughly, penetratingly, and comprehensively studies
out the inner structure of its argument _as a whole_, and who most
intelligently compares it with the book which it falsely professes to
criticise fairly. Allow me to quote here a passage from page 39 of
"the Way out of Agnosticism" in order simply to show you how
uncompromisingly this passage, which sums up the entire results of the
first half of the book and luminously forecasts the entire conclusion
of the whole, plants my system on the side of Realism:--

"The scientific, modern, or American theory of universals, which
results necessarily from analysis of the scientific method, is
Scientific Realism, as opposed to Philosophical Idealism; and it
determines the subdivision of scientific philosophy into its three
great departments, the theories of Being, of Knowing, and of Doing.
The scientific theory of Being results from analysis of the
Genus-in-itself, and constitutes ontology or Constructive Realism, as
opposed to all forms of Constructive Idealism. The scientific theory
of Knowledge results from analysis of the Concept, and constitutes
psychology or Critical Realism, as opposed to all forms of
transcendental or Critical Idealism. The scientific theory of Conduct
results from analysis of the Word, and constitutes anthroponomy
(including ethics, politics, and art in its widest sense), sociology,
or Ethical Realism, as opposed to all forms of Ethical Idealism. The
scientific theory of the universe, as the absolute union of Being,
Knowing, and Doing in the One and All, results from comprehension of
these three theories in complete organic unity, and constitutes
organic philosophy, scientific theology, or Religious Realism, as
opposed to all forms of Religious Idealism."

I submit this long extract to you, gentlemen, not to bore you with
metaphysical speculations, but simply to enable you, as educated men
who understand the meaning of plain and straightforward English on any
subject, to follow the twistings and turnings of an extraordinarily
sinuous and disingenuous intellect, and intelligently to decide a
question which needs here to be settled clearly in your own minds:
could any competent professor of philosophy, undertaking to give, as a
fair critic, a truthful account to the public of the contents of my
book, read that passage, and then, omitting all reference to the
contrast there and everywhere made between realism and idealism,
honestly tell that public, without any further information at all on
the subject, that the "conclusion" of my philosophy is "essentially

Yet that is the conscienceless misrepresentation with which Dr. Royce
prepares the way for all that is to follow, deceives the reader at the
very outset, predisposes him to believe the preposterous charge that I
"appropriated" my main theory from the great idealist Hegel, arouses
his indignation or mirth, as the case may be, at my alleged strutting
about in borrowed plumes, and so leads him at last to applaud the
righteous castigation of the "professional warning," by which the
peacock-feathers are made to fly in all directions and I myself am
scourged back among my brother-jackdaws, the impostors, charlatans,
and quacks of myriad kinds. This is the purport and the spirit of Dr.
Royce's ostensible review, "_as a whole_." Is it the "fair criticism"
which the law allows? Or is it the "libel" which the law condemns? Is
it the fair and critical judgment which your silence shall sanction,
as Harvard's official verdict on my work? Or is it the libellous and
vulgar abuse which your speech shall rebuke, as shaming Harvard more
than me by bringing the ethics and manners of the literary Bedouin
into the professor's chair?


But, gentlemen, the gravest aspect of Dr. Royce's ostensible review
remains still to be considered. Is libel--vulgar, violent, and brutal
libel--the means by which Harvard University, represented by one of
her professors of philosophy who openly claims to address the general
public in the name of his office and of her, proposes to realize the
lofty ideal of her President, and make herself the "philosophical
pioneer" for each new generation in the pursuit of truth? Is this the
welcome which she accords to serious, dignified, and not unscholarly
works, giving the results, however partially and imperfectly wrought
out, of patient and independent reflection for more than thirty years
on the highest problems of human life and thought? Is this the best
sympathy and encouragement she has to offer to her own sons when they
take up in earnest the task of helping her to realize her own ideal?
Is this the attitude in which she confronts the great questions of the
age, and the spirit which she aims to foster in her young men? I do
not believe it; but you alone, gentlemen, can give the authoritative
answer to such queries.

When civil service reformers plead the urgent necessity of political
reform, they are irrelevantly charged by the adherents of the spoils
system with being "hypocrites and pharisees." Precisely so, when I
plead the urgent necessity of philosophical reform, I am irrelevantly
charged by Dr. Royce, in effect, with being a false pretender, a
plagiarist, and an impostor. The charge is just as true in one case as
in the other. But, be the charge true or untrue, the attention of keen
and candid minds is not to be diverted by this perfectly transparent
device from the main point of reform.

What is this needed philosophical reform?

Briefly, _to substitute the scientific method for the idealistic
method in philosophy_, as the only possible means, in this critical
and sceptical age, of making ethics and religion so reasonable as to
command the continued allegiance of reasonable minds. Unphilosophized
science conceives the universe as nothing but a Machine-World; and in
this conception there is no room for any Ethical Ideal. Unscientific
philosophy conceives the universe as nothing but a Thought-World; and
in this conception there is no room for any Mechanical Real. On the
possibility of developing a scientific philosophy out of the
scientific method itself must depend at last the only possibility, for
reasonable men, of believing equally in the real principles of
mechanical science and in the ideal principles of ethical science.
To-day the greatest obstacle to such a reasonable belief is the
"philosophical idealism" which directly contradicts it; and the
greatest reform needed in modern thought, above all in the theory of
ethics, is the substitution of the scientific method for the
idealistic method in philosophy itself.

The cause of philosophical reform, indeed, cannot be long delayed by
any Philistinism in those who, by their professional position, ought
to be its most ardent friends. The method of science is destined to
revolutionize philosophy--to modernize it by founding it anew upon a
thoroughly realistic and scientific theory of universals. The net
result of all the physical sciences thus far, the one fixed result to
which all their other results steadily point with increasingly evident
convergence, is that _the already known constitution of the real
universe is that of the Machine_. This universal fixed result, and not
mere individual self-consciousness, is the necessary and only
beginning-point of a constructive philosophy of Nature; for, where the
special sciences end, there universal philosophy must begin. It is the
task of philosophy to-day to show that the unquestionably mechanical
constitution of the universe, instead of being the ultimate boundary
of scientific investigation, is merely the starting-point in a new
series of investigations, no less scientific than those of physical
science, but far more profound; and to show that the mechanical
constitution itself, when deeply studied and comprehended, necessarily
involves the organic and the personal constitutions. In this way, and
I believe in no other way, can it be proved to the satisfaction of the
modern intelligence that the Mechanical Real itself, at bottom,
includes the Ethical Ideal--that the Moral Law, the Divine Ideal
itself, is the innermost Fact of Nature. I have made, and make now,
not the slightest personal "pretension"; but, finding in all my
reading no outline of any such argument as this, and believing it to
be fruitful of the very noblest results, I have done my best to point
out its possibilities to other earnest searchers after truth. Not
until this new field has been faithfully examined and explored and
proved to be sterile, shall I cease to recommend it to the attention
of all who would fain _see reason_ to believe that the Ethical Ideal
is no Unreality, but rather the innermost Reality of the real universe
itself. I speak only to those who have souls to hear and to respond;
let the rest listen to Dr. Royce, and be dupes of his "professional
warning." But the cause of philosophical reform will not be stayed by
him or by them: the world's heart is hungry for higher truth than
idealism can discover, and will be grateful in the end to any
philosophy which shall show what mighty moral conviction, what
unspeakable spiritual invigoration, must needs grow out of
comprehension of the despised Real.

These thoughts are not remote abstractions, up in the air, out of
reach, of no practical value or application; they touch the very life
and soul of Harvard University. For want of such thoughts, many of the
brightest and most intellectual of her students, graduates from the
philosophical courses, go out year after year disbelieving totally in
the possibility of arriving at any fundamental "truth" whatever, even
in ethics. Several years ago, the then President of the Harvard
"Philosophical Club" said in my hearing that he "saw no ground of
moral obligation anywhere in the universe"; and this declaration was
apparently assented to by every one of the fifteen or twenty members
present. This very last summer, a recent graduate told me that he left
college bewildered, depressed, and "disheartened," because he saw
nowhere any ground of rational "conviction" about anything; and that
it was "just the same with all the other fellows"--that is, all his
companions in the study of philosophy. It is time, high time, that
this state of things should be searchingly investigated in the
interest of Harvard University itself, the facts determined, their
causes ascertained. While such a state of things prevails, Harvard
conspicuously fails to be a "philosophical pioneer" except in a
distinctly retrograde direction--conspicuously fails to discharge the
highest service which she owes to the world: namely, to send out her
young graduates well armed beforehand for the battle of life with
clear, strong, and lofty _moral convictions_. Whatever other causes
may exist for the failure, one cause at least is certain--the
self-proved and amazing inability of one of her professors of
philosophy to give an honest or intelligent reception to a thoughtful,
closely reasoned, and earnest plea for philosophical reform in this
very direction, or to criticise it with anything better than
irrelevant and unparliamentary personalities, studied and systematic
misrepresentation both of the plea and of the pleader, and a
demoralizing example of libel, so bitter and so extreme as to furnish
abundant ground for prosecution.


Here, gentlemen, you may very properly inquire: "Why do you not, then,
prosecute Dr. Royce in the courts, instead of bringing the case before

Briefly, because I have not yet exhausted those milder means of
obtaining redress which it befits a peaceable and non-litigious
citizen to employ before resorting to legal measures. You would have
had just cause to complain of me, if I had precipitately prosecuted
one of your professors for a "professional" attack without giving you
previously an opportunity to discipline him in your own way, and in
dignified recognition of your own ultimate responsibility. A
prosecution may not, I trust will not, prove necessary; for I have
neither malice nor vindictiveness to gratify, but only a resolute
purpose to defend my reputation effectually against a malicious libel,
and not to permit the libeller to set up a plausible claim that, by
silence and passive submission, I "tacitly confess the justice of an
official condemnation by Harvard University of my 'philosophical
pretensions.'" Except for that one phrase, "professional warning," in
Dr. Royce's attack, this appeal would never have been written, or the
least notice taken of his intrinsically puerile "criticisms." When Mr.
Herbert Spencer, whom I have more than once publicly criticised, can
yet magnanimously write to me of this very book, "I do not see any
probability that it will change my beliefs, yet I rejoice that the
subject should be so well discussed,"--and Mr. William Ewart
Gladstone, "I am very conscious of the force with which you handle the
subject,"--and ex-President Noah Porter, "I thank you very sincerely
for sending me a copy of your last book; I had already read it nearly
twice, and found much in it very admirable and timely,"--I could very
well afford to pass over Dr. Royce's ineffectual "criticisms" with
indifference. But when he insinuates to the uninformed public that
these same "criticisms" have the weighty sanction of Harvard
University, it is quite another matter. That calls upon me to defend
myself against so atrocious a calumny.

But even self-defence has its proprieties, and to these I scrupulously
submit. The first step was to send a reply to the periodical which
published the attack. This was sent. At first, Dr. Royce effusively
agreed to its publication, and wrote a rejoinder to be published
simultaneously with it. Later, in alarm, he procured its rejection,
and, through legal counsel, served a formal notice upon me not to
publish or to circulate it at all. The second step was to demand from
Dr. Royce a specific retraction and apology; this he contemptuously
refused. The third step was to appeal from the recalcitrant employee
to the responsible employer, and to lay the case respectfully before
the supreme representatives of Harvard University itself. This I now
do, and it is entirely unnecessary to look any farther. But, in order
to lay the case before you fully, it is incumbent upon me to state the
details of these proceedings with some minuteness, and I now proceed
to unfold the extraordinary tale.


Dr. Royce wound up his ostensible review with these words of bravado
and of challenge: "_We must show no mercy,--as we ask none._" This
fierce flourish of trumpets I understood to be, at least, a fearless
public pledge of a fair hearing in the "Journal of Ethics" of which he
was one of the editors. Moreover, I conceived that a magazine
expressly devoted to ethics would be ashamed not to practise the
ethics which it preached--ashamed not to grant to the accused a
freedom scrupulously made equal to that which it had already granted
to the accuser. Lastly, I was averse to litigation, and desired to use
no coarser weapon, even against a calumniator and libeller, than the
sharp edge of reason itself.

Accordingly, I sought redress in the first instance from the
"International Journal of Ethics." On January 21, I mailed to Mr. S.
Burns Weston, the office editor, an article in reply to Dr. Royce's
ostensible review, together with a letter in which I wrote: "I do not
at all complain of your publishing Dr. Royce's original article,
although it was a most malicious and slanderous one, and undertook
(not to put too fine a point upon it) to post me publicly as a quack.
If you do not deny my indefeasible right to be heard in self-defence
in the same columns, I shall feel that I have no cause whatever to
regard you or your committee as a party to the outrage, and shall
entertain no feelings towards you or towards them other than such as
are perfectly friendly. Let even slander and malice be heard, if truth
shall be as free to reply." Pressing engagements had prevented me from
writing the article in season for the January number of the "Journal
of Ethics," but it was in ample season for the April number.

I sent it at last because I had full confidence in the soundness of
what Thomas Jefferson said so well: "Truth and reason can maintain
themselves without the aid of coercion, if left free to defend
themselves. But then they must defend themselves. Eternal lies and
sophisms on one side, and silence on the other, are too unequal."

The "International Journal of Ethics" is under the control of an
"editorial committee" of eight, Dr. Felix Adler at the head and Dr.
Royce at the end; the other six members live in Europe and have no
share in the home management. Mr. Weston is not a member of the
committee, has little editorial authority, and, in case of
disagreement between the two American members, would, as he himself
expressly and frankly informed me in answer to a direct question, obey
implicitly the directions of Dr. Adler. To Dr. Adler, therefore,
belongs the general and ultimate editorial responsibility, whether
legal or moral, since, according to Mr. Western's just quoted
declaration, Dr. Adler alone has actual power either to procure or to
prevent publication; while to Dr. Royce is assigned merely the special
department of "theoretical ethics." Hence Dr. Adler and Dr. Royce were
jointly responsible for the original libel, the latter for writing it,
the former for publishing it; but Dr. Adler alone was editorially
responsible for publishing or refusing to publish my reply to it. It
was to Dr. Adler alone, as responsible editor-in-chief of the "Journal
of Ethics," that I looked for publication of my defence, as the best
possible reparation for the wrong done in publishing the libellous
attack; and I looked to him with confidence for this partial and
inadequate reparation, believing that, as head of the "ethical culture
movement," he would be anxious to conduct the "Journal of Ethics" in
accordance with the highest principles of justice, honor, and fair

To my astonishment and indignation, however, my manuscript, instead of
being considered and finally passed upon by Dr. Adler, was forwarded
by him or by his direction to Dr. Royce! The latter, getting wind of
it, had "insisted" that it belonged to his department of "theoretical
ethics," and "claimed the right" to _edit it with a rejoinder in the
same issue_. Nothing could be conceived more unfair or more absurd. A
libel had been published by Dr. Adler, and Dr. Adler sent the defence
against this libel to be edited by the libeller himself! Protest was
in vain. Dr Adler denied his own moral responsibility, washed his
hands of the whole affair, and even refused to enlighten himself as to
his own duty (notwithstanding my urgent request that he should do so)
by taking counsel of some wise and able lawyer of his own
acquaintance. Instead of doing this, he affected to consider my
self-defence against a libel as merely a reply to an ordinary
"book-criticism," made a few inquiries as to the "usual practice of
journals" with reference to book-criticisms alone, turned my article
over to Dr. Royce as one on "theoretical ethics," and permitted him to
attach to it a rejoinder which reiterated the original libel with
additions and improvements, but in which he took pains to say of my
reply: "I may add that even now it does not occur to me to feel
personally wounded, nor yet uneasy at Dr. Abbot's present warmth."
These words have a peculiar interest with reference to his later legal
notice against all publication or circulation of this very reply: his
assumed or genuine pachydermatousness soon gave way to fearful
apprehension of its effect upon the public mind.

In no sense whatever was my reply an article on "theoretical ethics."
To what part of the "theory of ethics" belongs Dr. Royce's false
personal accusation of "extravagant pretensions"? To what part of the
"theory of ethics" belongs Dr. Royce's false personal accusation of
"sinning against the most obvious demands of literary
property-rights"? To what part of the "theory of ethics" belongs Dr.
Royce's "professional warning" against pretensions which were never
made? His false accusations and their false grounds were the main
theme of my article, and they had nothing to do with "theoretical
ethics," Dr Adler and Dr. Royce to the contrary notwithstanding. Dr.
Royce had no shadow of right to set up so preposterous a claim, and
Dr. Adler had no shadow of right to yield to it, as he weakly did,
thereby violating his own undeniable obligation, as editor-in-chief,
to do his utmost to repair the wrong which he himself had done in
publishing a libel. My article was avowedly nothing but a defence
against this libel, and, as such, was necessarily addressed to the
responsible editor of the "Journal of Ethics," not to the sub-editor
of one of its special departments--most assuredly not to the libeller
himself. The only fair and just course was to publish this defence
alone by itself, precisely as the libel had been published alone by
itself, and afterwards to allow Dr. Royce to follow it, if he pleased,
with a rejoinder in the succeeding number. I made not the slightest
objection to one rejoinder or a dozen rejoinders from him, provided
the responsible editor held the balance true, accorded as fair a
hearing to the accused as he had accorded to the accuser, and granted
to each in turn an opportunity to plead his cause without interruption
by the other. I asked no more than what Dr. Royce had already
received--an opportunity to enjoy the undivided and undistracted
attention of the audience for a limited time. He had had the ear of
the public for six months. Could I not have it for three?

But I regret to say that considerations of equal justice seemed to
have no weight whatever with Dr. Adler. Dr. Royce, despite his public
pledge, was "asking for mercy," after all, and got from Dr. Adler all
he asked for; I asked Dr. Adler for equity alone, and could not get
even that. The sole concession made was that I might follow Dr.
Royce's rejoinder with a second reply in the same number, thus closing
the case with a last word for the defence.

To this last proposal, in order not to refuse a meagre measure of
justice, I consented under protest. But the proof-sheets of Dr.
Royce's rejoinder, to which I was to reply, did not reach me till
March 18, and were accompanied with a notice from the "Journal of
Ethics" that my reply must be mailed "within ten hours after receiving
Royce's proof." This notice I answered as follows:--

"The proof of Royce's rejoinder, with your notes of the 16th and 17th,
arrived this morning at 9 A.M. As I have had to be at my teaching till
3 P.M., it was obviously impossible to mail a reply by 7 P.M. Hence I
telegraphed to you at once: '_I protest against the gross injustice of
postponing my article, or of publishing this new attack without the
last word you promised me. It is impossible to write this now_ [_i. e._,
within the ten hours stipulated]. _If you have any love of justice,
publish my article now, and postpone the rejoinders to next issue._'
Nothing stands in the way of this, the only fair course, except
Royce's insistence on his right to deprive me of the equality of
treatment which I supposed he himself guaranteed in his--'as we ask
none.' To hold back my reply to his libel for three months longer,
merely because he is afraid to let it go forth without an attempt to
break its force in the same number, would be disgracefully unjust in
him and in the 'Journal.' His rejoinder is simply a fresh libel; there
is nothing in it to which I cannot easily and effectually reply. But
what _right_ is there in refusing to me the opportunity of answering
one libel at a time? Or in compelling me to be silent nine months
[from October to July], in order to save him from being silent three
months [from April to July]? It will be a bitter comment on the
sincerity of the 'ethical culture movement' to make so unethical a
judgment in so grave a case as this."

But the April number of the "Journal of Ethics," nevertheless, was
published without my article. The latter was all in type, and the
proof-sheets had been corrected; nothing prevented its publication in
April except (1) Dr. Royce's insistence that my reply to his first
libel should _not be published at all without his second libel_, and
(2) Dr. Adler's weak submission to this unjust and pusillanimous
demand of his associate.

The whole matter was thus most inequitably postponed to the July
number, primarily at Dr. Royce's instigation. But I now found that I
was to be refused the freedom necessary to self-defence against the
second libel--the same freedom already yielded in replying to the
first. Now to answer a libel effectively requires the freedom, not of
the parliament, but of the courts. A mere literary discussion admits
of parliamentary freedom alone, and properly excludes all reflections
upon personal character. But Dr. Royce had most unparliamentarily
turned his ostensible review into a libel, and, contrary to all canons
of literary discussion, had indulged himself in reflections upon my
personal character as malicious as they were false. Now the only
possible disproof of a libel is the proof that it _is_ a libel,--that
it is either untruthful, or malicious, or both; and, since a libel is
both a civil injury and a criminal offence, the proof of its libellous
character cannot be established without reflecting upon the personal
character of the libeller. Hence Dr. Royce himself, by writing a
libel, had self-evidently raised the question of his own personal
character, and bound himself beforehand, by his own act, to submit
with what grace he could to the necessary consequences of that act;
and to seek to shield himself from these consequences, which he should
have foreseen clearly and nerved himself to bear bravely, was only to
incur the ridicule invited by a timorous man who first strikes
another and then runs away. Dr. Adler, moreover, as the responsible
editor of the "Journal of Ethics," had laid himself, by publishing Dr.
Royce's libel, under the clear moral obligation of according to the
accused the same freedom of the courts which he had already accorded
to the accuser; and to seek to escape this moral obligation was to
incur the censure invited by any one who assumes the editorial
function without properly informing himself of the duties which it
imposes with reference to third parties. Both the one and the other
had estopped themselves from denying to the accused in self-defence
the same freedom of the courts which they had granted to themselves as
accusers in attack.

Notwithstanding these plain facts, Dr. Royce and Dr. Adler united in
denying to me the necessary freedom of self-defence against the attack
which they had united in making.

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 document, apparently without a
suspicion that it pricked 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 assault 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

     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 document 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 assume the editorial power and
responsibility, which he ought to have assumed 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 space 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 gods destroy, they first make

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 assured
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

     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

     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
anticipated, 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 circumstances. 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

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 attitude 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 constitutes 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 assassinated Abraham Lincoln, in face of the evidence that
John Wilkes Booth was the assassin."

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 assailed 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.


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 Assistant 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

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 constitute conduct unbecoming a
gentleman, a man of honor, or a professor in Harvard University, and
justly entitle 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

Your obedient servant,


CAMBRIDGE, Oct. 1, 1891.

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On page 5, in the word Boeotia, the oe ligature has been expanded to
the two characters, oe. The sentence begins: Only a native of
Boeotia could be imposed upon by them, when the actual character....

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Public Appeal for Redress to the Corporation and Overseers of Harvard University - Professor Royce's Libel" ***

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