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Title: Letters of a Lunatic - A Brief Exposition of My University Life, During the Years 1853-54
Author: Adler, George J.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Letters of a Lunatic - A Brief Exposition of My University Life, During the Years 1853-54" ***

                         LETTERS OF A LUNATIC,


                       DURING THE YEARS 1853-54.


                          G. J. ADLER, A. M.,

                    ETHNOLOGICAL SOCIETIES, &C., &C.

        Spectatum admissi risum teneatis, amici?
                                           Horat. Ars Poet. v. 5.

    [Greek: mê ny toi ou chraismê skêptron kai stemma theoio]!
                                                      Iliad I. v. 28.

                        PRINTED FOR THE AUTHOR.

                     PREFATORY NOTE TO THE PUBLIC.

IN a recent publication on German Literature, I hinted to the reader my
design of giving an account of an event in my personal history, which I
alleged to be the cause of an absentment from my proper place of study,
and consequently of an injustice to my public. I now proceed to fulfil
my promise, by offering to my personal friends, and to such as are
interested in matters of academic education and morality, a few of the
many letters written by me during the past year. I might have added
others, both of an anterior and of a more recent date. The question
however was not to write a volume, but simply a brief exposition, of a
page or two from my life in connection with a public institution of the
metropolis, and thus to bring a matter of private and iniquitous dispute
before the forum of the public, after having vainly sought redress in
private. My main object was of course to vindicate and defend my
character, my professional honor and my most sacred rights as a rational
man and as a public educator, against the invasions of narrow-minded and
unjust aggressors, whose machinations have for several years been busily
at work in subverting what other men have reared before them, in
retarding and impeding what the intelligence of our age and country is
eager to accelerate and to promote. The much agitated question of
University reform and of the liberty of academic instruction, which of
late years has engaged the attention of some of the best intellects on
both sides of the Atlantic, and which within a month past has again
occupied the public mind, and even called forth legislative intervention
may, however, perhaps likewise receive some additional light from the
following pages, which I now submit, not from any motive of vanity, or
from the expectation of self-aggrandisement or of histrionic applause;
but from a sense of duty to the cause of liberal culture and of sound
morality, to which I have devoted many a year of laborious effort and of
earnest thought.

    NEW-YORK UNIVERSITY, }                                 G. J. A.
       _June_, 1854.     }

                               LETTER I.

                              New-York University, Sept. 10th, 1853.

    Rev. Isaac Ferris, D. D.

Dear Sir,--I deem it a duty of justice towards myself, as well as to the
honor of the Institution of which I am an officer and yourself the
newly-elected head, to bring to your consideration a few circumstances
from the history of our incidental intercourse during the past winter,
which at the time of occurrence, struck me with painful surprise, and
which I cannot suffer to pass without my most earnest protestations.

1st, During the earlier part of the winter, in passing out of my
lecture-room one morning, I met you in the hall of the University with a
pale face, asking me in the most uncalled-for and singular manner the
strange question:--"_Are you my superior?_"--The reply, which I ought to
have written on the spot to such an enquiry, I would now make by saying,
that such an idea never occurred to me, and that, as I had never seen
any thing of your presence in the actual performance of duty in the
University at the time of my instruction to the students, such an idea
_never could have suggested itself_ to me. The question of superiority
or inferiority being, moreover, of a relative nature and one that (in
our profession) can only be settled by actual services rendered to the
cause of letters and by actual acknowledgements obtained in a proper
manner and from competent judges, it would be folly for me or for any
one else to attempt to place it on any other ground; and for that reason
I never touch it, although I am always ready to acknowledge both moral
and intellectual superiority, wherever I become aware of its existence.

2d, On a second occasion, I met you by accident in the hall before my
door, when to my equal surprise, you informed me by indefinite murmurs
and in the same painful half-way-utterance, "_that I had the chapel_,"
and "_that I was in the next church_," pointing to Dr. Hutton's. This
cannot possibly be the case, as I am not of your persuasion in matters
of religion, and if I am to communicate any instruction in the
Institution, it must be done in the usual way.

3d, During the horrid disorders within the Institution the past winter,
I repeatedly heard vociferous declamations in the adjoining room, and at
one time the famous words of Patrick Henry were declaimed by Mr. Bennet
(I think) of the last class: "_Give me liberty, or give me death!_"
fearfully emphasized, and _your own voice echoed_: "_Death you shall
have!_" As at that particular time I underwent the crucifixion of
college-disorder, at the same time receiving occasional intimations that
either in my speculations or in my instruction _I was going too far_,
and that on that account it was necessary for me to leave, I cannot
possibly be mistaken in supposing, _that both that horrible word of
yours_, as well as the frequent scandalous vociferations were intended
as an insult for me; (and, _if that is so_, I would most respectfully
beg leave to reciprocate the compliment).

4th, At the dinner of the Alumni my attention along with that of all the
rest of the assembled guests was directed towards you, at the time you
rose to speak. While yet standing, you turned towards me with a peculiar
expression of countenance (which I beg you to allow me to reciprocate)
and in an under-tone (distinctly audible to me) asked the guests of the
opposite side of the room (between whom and yourself there appears to
have been a collusion): _Shall I have to become the step-father of that
man?_ and again in the same tone and with the same expression of
countenance: "_Next year I shall see another man in that man's place!_"
The subsequent exchange of salutations _over Prof._ Martin was ironical
on your part, and independently of the rudeness of the act, wholly out
of place. No one else present was treated in the same way.--In regard to
the last expression, with which you honored me on that occasion, I would
say, that by the repetition of the scenes of immorality and disorder of
which this building was the theatre (in the most odious sense of that
term) during the past year, such an event might be possible, not however
without some troublesome resistance on my part and _the prospect of
another change_.--In regard to the first question, I will myself take
the responsibility of a reply, by frankly informing you, that, although
I do not feel the slightest inclination to question the responsible
honor of your office, and with due deference to the reputation for moral
integrity (of your _scholarship_ I have never seen any proof), which
must have secured the same to you, I nevertheless most emphatically
decline such paternal supervision--having for many years past been
myself of full age, and even won a place _as a man_ among the men and
scholars of our land. And this I purpose to maintain, whether I am in
the University, or out of it. I must, therefore, beg you _to take back
the offensive words at the next dinner as publicly as they were
uttered_, or else I shall be obliged to take measures in defence of my
honor, which, painful and disagreeable as they would be to me, would
nevertheless be a necessary duty of self-protection. As for my peculiar
views and position with reference to questions of scholarship and
education, I have undergone no change of opinion whatever, nor could I
undergo one, unless it were the necessary consequence of a rational
conviction; and I shall have my hands full for some years to come, to
write out and publish what I have but imperfectly and in a desultory
manner indicated in my lectures and conversations; and while I am
convinced that in many respects I have (as is usual) been voluntarily
and involuntarily misunderstood, I am sure, that in the main I am right,
and entitled to a hearing or a reading, whether, as has been intimated
to me, I go too far or not.--In regard to the many scandalous
interruptions by spectral noises (by day and by night), of which I well
remember the chief authors, and in regard to my other persecutions, I am
aware, that they can only be the subject of commiseration and of merited
contempt, and that under the given circumstances, it would be difficult
to obtain redress or justice. I shall, however, procure some legal
advice on the subject. Allow me, in conclusion, Sir, to assure you of
the absence of all hostile personal feeling on my part. I have said what
my duty imperatively demands, and my silence would have made me a
villain, justly liable to perpetual abuse.

                                   I am, Dear Sir,
                          with the most distinguished consideration,
                                             Yours, &c.
                                                          G. J. Adler.

                               LETTER II.

                                New-York University, Sept. 12th, 1853.

    To his Honor, the Mayor }
    of the city of New-York.}

Dear Sir,--I deem it my duty as a citizen of New-York, and a member of a
literary institution, of which your Honor is _ex-officio_ an officer, to
apprize you of a fact of my personal history during the past winter,
which as it is intimately connected with the maintenance of social
order, should not for one moment be passed over by the authorities of
the municipal corporation. I have for a number of years past been
connected with the University of the city of New-York, first as a
resident graduate and lately as the Professor of a modern language, and
have ever since my connection with the institution resided in the
building on Washington Square, spending most of my time in authorship
and instruction in a room, which for several years I have occupied for
that purpose. In consequence of some bad feeling towards me on the part
of certain enemies of mine, who of late have done all in their power to
annoy me, the quiet of my residence has been disturbed in a scandalous
manner, by day and at all hours of the night, for weeks and months
together, so as to inflict on me the torments of perpetual interruption
not only in my work during the day, but of rest during the night, until
my health was completely shattered; and in this miserable manner I have
lost nearly the whole of last winter without accomplishing any of my
purposes with satisfaction or comfort. This outrageous annoyance has
been the source of severe loss to me not only in regard to my health,
but also in a pecuniary point of view. My salary in the institution
being altogether inadequate for my support, I have been engaged for a
number of years past in preparing works for publication, and this winter
the ruin of my health from the causes already mentioned has also
threatened me with the ruin of my income. As this villainous business
has proceeded in part from the institution itself, or rather from
individuals personally hostile to me and to my purposes, I deem an
address to your Honor so much the more in place, as I believe it to be
officially your duty to interpose your municipal authority in matters of
this kind, and to reprimand or punish men for the immorality of so
flagrant a disturbance of the peace. As my ears have almost daily been
wounded by disorderly noises, not only from students, but (and mostly)
from other persons, who ought to blush for such base conduct, I cannot
say, that I am unacquainted with the authors of the nuisance, and could
easily designate to you at least half a dozen. Such cries as "Go on!
Stop!--Out of the institution with that man!--Kill him!" besides
multitudes of vulgar chuckles, screams and other horrid vociferations
have been heard by me from well-known voices, until at times I felt as
if I could support the vexation no longer. Numberless insults in the
street and even menaces were constantly thrown out by a low gang, who
were evidently hired for the vile purpose, and I have seen things, which
I never witnessed before either in Europe or America. A certain firm of
this city seems to have commenced the nefarious hostilities. I have
suffered encroachments on my personal safety to which no American
citizen ought for one moment to submit. As I cannot afford, nor feel
inclined to lose my time and health any longer, I would respectfully
submit to your Honor's consideration _my claim to the protection of the
laws of the city_ in this respect, to which as an American citizen I am
entitled, and the necessity of a sterner maintenance of order by the
police of the city. Disagreeable and painful as it is for any one to
come into hostile collision with fellow-citizens, there are nevertheless
cases, in which such enmities may be innocently contracted, and holding
mine to be of such a nature, I may confidently expect the ready and
effectual interposition of your Honor and of the honorable members of
the Common Council, to whom the order and honor of the city must ever be
dear, in a matter that seems to me to involve one of the most cherished
principles of our republican freedom, viz., the personal safety and
peaceable domicile of every member of our community, of every citizen of
this vast republic.

To sum up my complaints briefly, they are as follows:--1st, Personal
hostility towards me in the institution itself; 2dly, Horrid footsteps,
noises and loud conferences under my window by day and by night; 3dly,
Menacing insults from low people in the street, without the slightest
provocation on my part.

Trusting that your Honor may find an early occasion to give me an
opportunity for finding my firm conviction true, that the majesty of the
law is capable of being upheld by its representatives in the community,
and that I may have a different tale to tell respecting the morality of
the city and my own sense of personal safety,

                       I am your Honor's
                            most respectful and obedient servant.
                                                         G. J. Adler.

                    LETTER III.--(Answer to No. I.)

    Rev. Dr.----

Dear Sir,--Understanding that you are a friend of Professor Adler, of
this University, and know his brother, I take the liberty of calling
your attention to his present condition.--During the last winter he gave
various indications of a disordered mind, and these have become more
decided during the past summer. I am distressed to see his haggard look,
and have feared unhappy results. He is unfitted for the business of
teaching, and his friends would do well to get him another institution,
adapted to such, away from study. I think there should be no delay in
the matter.--We all esteem Dr. Adler highly, and would be delighted with
his restoration to the full use of his fine intellectual powers.

May I solicit your fraternal aid in this case, and please let me hear
from you at an early day.

                                 I am with great regard,

    University of the City of }
  New-York, _Sept_. 19th, '53.} (Signed)    Isaac Ferris.

                       EPILOGOMENA TO LETTER III.

As the above letter was handed to my personal friends for the purpose of
conveying the desired intelligence, and sent to me, when the report of
my illness and mental derangement was found to be groundless and false,
there can be no impropriety or breach of courtesy or justice in its
publication. The serious consequences to which it gave rise, the
deprivation of my liberty for six entire months, and the suspension of
my functions as an academic instructor (though not of my activity as an
author, which under the most inauspicious circumstances was still
continued) alike demand, that it should be made known in connection with
my own communications before and during my imprisonment. A comment or
two will exhibit the contents of the Doctor's epistle in their proper

1st, The Dr's. letter is itself a contradiction and an egregious symptom
of insanity on his part, which is, moreover, confirmed by his previous
conduct from his first entrance into the institution. In comparing the
University with the Lunatic Asylum, I find that the former during the
winter of 1852-'53 (I may add, ever since my return from Europe in 1850)
was a far more disorderly and irrational place than the latter, where
the occasional confusion or the perpetual (sane and insane) perversity
of men is the lamentable, but natural and necessary (consequently
_irresponsible_) result, of an internal physical or intellectual
disorder or defect, which is moreover susceptible of classification and
of a psychological exposition, while in the former it was "got up" for
the particular purpose of subjugation or of expulsion, and where
consequently it was the result of _responsible_ perversity and malice,
_susceptible of moral reprobation_.

2d, The allegation of my being "unfitted for the business of teaching,"
and of the propriety of finding me "another institution, adapted to
such, away from study," is an absurd and a libelous perversion of the
truth, which it is scarcely worth while to refute. From the year 1839,
the year of my matriculation at the institution, to the present hour I
have had no other profession, except that of having appeared in the
additional capacity of an author. Even during my undergraduate career I
taught successfully the various disciplines of our academic course, with
the approbation and to the satisfaction of the Faculty, members of which
examined and admitted to promotion several of my private scholars, who
had been expressly referred to me for tuition in the Classics, in
Mathematics, in Philosophy, &c.--Of my courses of instruction since my
official and regular connection with the institution (which dates from
the year 1846) in the language and in the literature which I was more
especially appointed to profess, it is not necessary to speak here, the
University itself having offered but little inducement and no emolument
or honor to the cultivation of the modern languages. In all the
professional services, however, which I have had occasion to render to
the institution of late years, my qualifications and my efficiency could
never have been honestly or honorably questioned. I have prepared my own
text-books, which have found their way into most of the literary and
educational institutions of this continent to some extent into Europe
even. One of them was begun at the very time, when "the indications of a
disordered mind had become more decided," and was completed with
scarcely a day's intermission of my work at the lunatic asylum, where I
subsequently improved my leisure (as far as my shattered health would
permit) by zealously engaging in some preliminary studies for a history
of modern literature.--It is equally needless to expatiate on my
extensive acquaintance, direct and indirect, with academic men and
methods both in the United States and in Europe, where within a few
years past I spent an entire year in the pursuit of literary and
philosophical studies at two of its most prominent Universities.--_To my
morality, both private and social, and to my religion, no one but a
hyper-puristic religionist or a calvinistic tyrant could possibly
object._--The real objection, and the cause of my being unfitted for the
business of instruction must therefore be looked for elsewhere. From
various indications and from several catastrophes in my personal
history, brought about by sectarian jealousy and fanatical intrigue,
from certain significant changes in the faculty of the institution, and
from innumerable efforts to subject me to a creed, or to the social
control of certain religious parties, I should infer that it manifestly
and palpably resided in a mistrust of what is vulgarly termed "the
soundness of my views" on certain questions, never discussed in
respectable literary institutions, and beyond their jurisdiction, or in
other words _in a suspicion of heresy_.--I claim, however, in opposition
to all these pretensions, which I deem an absurdity, my right (which is
_inalienable_ and _imprescriptible_) to my moral and intellectual
culture, commenced under the auspices and fostering care of my Alma
Mater herself (during a former administration) and continued and
perfected by years of serious and earnest effort in America and Europe,
since. _I recognize no sectarian guidance or control whatever in any of
the independent sciences, cultivated from time immemorial at academic
institutions, much less in the science of sciences, the very law and
indispensable condition of which is absolute freedom from all external
authority or restraint._ The law of intellectual freedom, of which the
Reader will find a short exposition in the concluding document of this
pamphlet (which I have extracted and translated from a distinguished
authority on the "Philosophy of Right") is recognized by the spirit and
the letter of the Constitution and by the political and social history
of the United States, by the Revised Statutes of the State of New-York,
by all the leading universities _of Protestant and Catholic Europe_, and
by a number of similar institutions in America, among which stands,
"professedly" at least, the University of the city of New-York. The
attempts of certain parties in connection with the institution and _ab
extra_ to "smother" (to use one of their own cant words) and to crush my
independence by gravely endeavoring to _coerce me into an alliance with
a questionable religionism, which is abhorrent to my ideas, my
habits and my sentiments, and by fomenting internal disorders for the
purpose of effecting an exclusion_, are an unconstitutional, an unjust,
an iniquitous invasion of my most sacred rights as a man, an American
citizen, a scholar and a professor. I repel, therefore, Dr. Ferris'
insinuation as a maliciously astute and as a false one, which of itself
declares the Dr. _incompetent to decide upon the merits of a real
scholar, and utterly unfit for the important trust of presiding over
the interests of any other but a sectarian institution of the narrowest
description, of the most painfully exclusive moral perversity_.

To this I may add, that in consideration of the many and various
disciplines, earnestly and steadily cultivated by me for several years
past, such as intellectual philosophy, the learned and modern
languages, linguistics and the history of literature generally, I could
in academic justice _demand the right_ to instruct in any one of the
departments for which I was fitted. That such a right exists, and that
it is applicable to my case, the reader may learn from Sir William
Hamilton's Essays on University Education, recently republished in
America, to which I refer _passim_. I can therefore confidently
challenge not only the chancellor, but, in case of a concurrence in his
sentiments, the entire faculty of the University to the following
proposition:--In case my capacity to teach or lecture academically is
questioned, I propose to take, and I demand one of the following
chairs; _where under suitable auspices and with proper and regular
provisions for the maintenance of order, I could at once begin_:--1st,
The Latin language and literature.--2d, the Greek ditto, ditto.--3d,
Moral and intellectual philosophy, either systematically or
historically.--4th, History or the general history of literature (of
which I have at present a text-book in preparation).--5th, Linguistics
or the classification of languages, including general grammar.--6th,
the history of modern (European) languages and literatures.--7th, the
elements of the Sanscrit, of which I still have a Mss. grammar,
compiled by myself for my private use, during the winter of 1851.--I
omit mentioning the remaining academic disciplines, for which I have no
particular taste, but which I still could teach, and for which I could
prepare the text-books, if it were necessary to do so.

3d, The alleged indications of insanity were _utterly unfounded_ at the
time they were made. I had recovered my usual health and spirits
immediately after the commencement of last year, about the beginning of
July '53, when those who had flagrantly disturbed the quiet of my
residence in and about the University building had vanished into the
country. Of the winter of 1852-'53 I only recollect, that subsequently
to the dismissal of my class, which I could not in honor consent to hear
any longer, I made a fruitless attempt to continue my private studies,
and to finish a commentary on a Greek drama which I had begun at the
commencement of the term, and that the ominous symptoms of _external
insanity_ about me soon increased to such an alarming extent, that I was
forced to lay aside my pen, unable to endure the outrage and annoyance
any longer; that gangs of scandalous ruffians in the shape of boys,
girls, men and women, many of whom I knew by their voices, kept up at
certain intervals, by day and by night, a nefarious system of
mystification and of nuisance from January to the end of June, in the
council-room of the institution, in the hall, before my door, in front
of my window, and on the parade ground; that in consequence of all this
my rest at night was completely broken, until I could only sleep by day;
that after a while I was confined to my bed most of the time, and that I
frequently did not rise for breakfast till 6 o'clock, P. M.; that it was
painful and disgusting for me to be awake, and that all I read for
several successive months was "Hegel's Logic" for two or three hours a
day, and that for some time I only eat once a day. In May, I think, I
fled to a neighboring State and University, partly with the intention of
changing my place of residence.--As a psychologist I was well aware,
that sleep was a sovereign preventive, as well as a remedy for all the
disorders of the mind, especially for those which might arise from
external causes such as those I have just described; I therefore
anticipated and _prevented_ the unhappy consequences which the Dr. seems
to have expected from the outrageous nuisance of his cherished
institution, where such scenes of scandal only _date from the time his
prospective and his actual entrance on the duties of his office_, and
really seem to have been made to order, I know not for whose benefit
(certainly not for mine). _During the summer I was_, in consequence of
the happy reaction and repose, _unusually gay and regular in my work_. I
then wrote an introduction to Schiller's Maid of Orleans, another one to
Goethe's Iphigenia, and a third to Tieck's Puss in Boots, all of which
have since been published in my new Manual of German Literature. I deny,
therefore, having ever given any symptoms of insanity whatsoever at any
time of the year, while I admit that a renewal of the scandal (which the
parties concerned have endeavored to revive since my release this
spring, but which I checked by a speedy notice to the police court and
to some of my friends), in the autumn might have led to such calamitous
results. Neither my Kant, nor my Rauch, nor my Hegel, nor any other
philosopher or psychologist could for one moment be induced to admit,
_that the presence of external causes and tendencies to intellectual
derangement were necessarily attended or followed by the malady itself_.
This would be an egregious logical fallacy, to which no intelligent
physician in or out of the Lunatic Asylum could for one moment
subscribe, without justly incurring the risk of being charged with an
inexcusable lack of professional knowledge and experience or what is
still worse, with a criminal connivance at an unjust and inquitous
conspiracy against the reputation and the life of an American citizen.
To the charge of the folly of suffering so long and so severely from so
gross a system of disorder which might have speedily been checked by the
extra-academic authorities of the city, I can only reply, that the
confusion and the consequent embarrassment was so great, that it was
impossible for me at the time to come to any decision as to the course
to be pursued. The most advisable policy would have been, to have left
entirely, and to have directed the correction or the punishment from a
distance. The following letters, written from the Lunatic Asylum
(_between which and the University there was a manifest internal
harmony, and which was evidently commissioned to complete the work of
humiliation and of subjugation_), may serve to elucidate the facts of
the case with some additional particulars.

To the above mentioned causes of the ruin of my health, I may add, that
during the same winter I had an opportunity of witnessing a resurrection
of "Salem Witchcraft," practiced on me by a certain lady, a mother in
Israel of this city, who was manifestly in connection with the
ultra-calvinistic faction of the University, which is the one to which
Dr. Ferris is indebted for his elevation. I moreover discovered in the
same connection, one of the two sources, from which the low insults in
the street, at certain well-known hours of my walks, in certain places
and directions, (to which I made allusion in my letter to the mayor of
the city,) had emanated, and I received some additional light on certain
events of my personal history, to which I allude in letter No. 5.--A
father in Israel, a gray-headed sinner in my opinion, likewise informed
me _that they had the Irish to defend them_.--I venture to assert that
few of my countrymen, except perhaps the lowest rabble, would ever lend
their aid to such nefarious purposes.

From all that I have had occasion to observe of social disorder and
discontent in the city for several years past, I am sure that there are
men who foment intestine commotions, who shamelessly and openly conspire
against the honor and the interests, if not against the property and
lives of their fellow-citizens, and whom the State ought to prosecute
and punish as offenders against a clearly defined law of the

My sanity at the time of arrest I can establish:--1st, By the testimony
of those who saw me daily, and more especially, by that of a young man,
who came to see me frequently, after the reception of Dr. Ferris'
letter, and who in fact brought it from the office. 2dly, By the
testimony of a distinguished physician, who about a week before, dressed
a slight wound on one of my eye-brows, received from a fall against my
sofa in the dark. 3dly, By the fact, that I was quietly and constantly
engaged in writing, and in daily communication with the printer, who
stereotyped my "Hand-book of German Literature." _Symptoms of unusual
excitement, in consequence of such an outrage, are no proof of

                               LETTER IV.

                               Bloomingdale Asylum, _Dec. 26th_, 1853.

    To----, Washington, D. C.

        Dear Sir,

For several years past, I have repeatedly been on the point of making an
effort to resuscitate a slight, but to me no less cherished
acquaintance, by giving you some account of my doings and purposes,
which, I have sometimes flattered myself, might not be without interest
both to yourself and to such of your co-adjutors in Washington, as have
enlisted with you in the noble cause of extending and diffusing
knowledge among men. Of the proceedings of your institution I have
occasionally informed myself, both from the pamphlets and reports
periodically submitted to the public, and more especially from the
volumes of regular "Transactions," in the archæological and linguistical
parts of which, I have taken so much the greater interest, as of late
years my own attention has at times been almost exclusively directed to
the same field of investigation. It is true, I have as yet neither been
able nor willing to give any positive result of my studies. I have
hardly done anything more than "to break the ice." This, however, I may
safely say to have done, having not only had the best opportunities,
(since I saw you last in 1848) of surveying the field in the
time-honored centres of intellectual light on the other side of the
Atlantic, but having also since my return, as a member of several
Learned Associations, had special occasion and incitement to keep alive
my interest in these engaging pursuits. And if there be any truth in the
ancient adage: [Greek: archê hêmisy pantos], I may perhaps even
entertain the hope (_non invitá Minervâ_) of some future concentration
of my somewhat desultory excursions in these regions of light (where
ignorance indeed, but ignorance alone, sees only darkness) to some
radiant focal point. There are a number of subjects, closely connected
with the inquiries, that come under the cognizance of the
historico-philosophical section of your institute, which, I see, are
agitated anew by the _savants_ of the old world, and which to the
resolution of certain problems, relating to the primitive history of
this continent, are equally important here, perhaps entitled to our
special consideration. Recent investigations would seem to show, for
example, that our genial and acute Du Ponceau had by no means said the
last word on the subject he has so learnedly reported. Several new works
on the origin and classification of languages, that have made their
appearance in Berlin, &c., since the day of Humboldt's attempt, would
seem to invite to similar efforts on our side, and with special
reference to the immensity of our cis-Atlantic field, which ought to be
[Greek: kat' exochên] adopted as our own. Having most of these materials
at hand, I have sometimes been tempted myself to try, whether by an
_exposition of the present state_ of that science, as cultivated by the
Germans particularly, a new impulsion might not be imparted to it among
ourselves. Some such purpose has been among the tasks, which I had
proposed to myself for the present winter. The sudden suspension of my
studies, and the consequent uncertainty of my affairs, however, have so
seriously deranged my plans, that now I almost despair of being able to
accomplish any of my more immediate and necessary purposes.--You will
undoubtedly be surprised to learn, that I have been an inmate of the
Lunatic Asylum, at Bloomingdale, for now nearly three months; your
surprise will be still greater, when you come to learn, by what sort of
machinations I have been brought here.

For several years past, I have been made the object of a systematic and
invidious persecution, in consequence of which I have been obliged to
shift my residence from one place to another, to spend my means in
involuntary exile and unnecessary travelling, and altogether to lead a
life of a discouraging uncertainty.

Shortly after my visit to Washington, (1848), where I saw you last, I
was driven away from New-York, while yet absorbed in the midst of an
arduous undertaking, (my large German and English Dictionary, which in
consequence of my forced removal from the place of printing, I had to
finish at an inconvenient distance), under circumstances of the most
aggravated insults and abuses, (such as I had never dreamt men capable
of,) and about six months after its completion the same miserable clique
had already "finished" me in Boston and a regular "_hedjra_" to Europe
was the consequence.[1]--I spent a year in London, Paris and Berlin, in
a miserable struggle to repair my shattered health, (I had a cough,
contracted from sheer vexation, while in the clutches of the miserable
wretches, who seemed to be determined to vex me out of existence, which
clung to me a year and ever and anon returns again,) and what was still
more difficult, to forget the loathsome reminiscences of the immediate
past by bringing myself in contact with the sanatory influences of the
literature and art of the old world; partly with the intention of
remaining there. I returned, however, in the hope of finding my
difficulties subsided. But the same odious conspiracy, which had even
contrived to mar my comfort and happiness in one place on the other
side, (in Paris, where I spent the greater part of an academic year, at
the University and libraries, in various studies,) had, as I found to my
surprise, kept up a malevolent espionage over my peregrinations even,
and I have since been subjected to a series of vexations and intrigues,
which at times made me regret that I had not preferred any lot in a
foreign land and among entire strangers to such an ignoble
re-establishment at home. A personal attachment of former years was made
use of to harass and lacerate my feelings, and an underhanded, venomous
persecution, (which the parties, who were the authors, and who were in
alliance with certain ecclesiastical tricksters, did not even blush to
own), followed me at every step. The scum of New-York in the shape of
Negroes, Irishmen, Germans, &c., were hired, in well-organized gangs, to
drop mysterious allusions and to offer me other insults in the street,
(and thus I was daily forced to see and hear things in New-York, of
which I had never dreamt before,) while a body of proselyting
religionists were busy in their endeavors to make me a submissive tool
of some ecclesiastical party or else to rob me of the last prospect of
eating a respectable piece of bread and butter. This odious vice of
certain countrymen of yours was in fact the prolific source of all the
difficulties I complain of, and it is remotely the cause of my
confinement here.

[1] The details of this scandalous act of vandalism, which
  though it nearly cost me my life, I did not even mention in the
  preface to my large German and English Lexicon, finished in the
  course of the same year, are too diffuse and complicated, to be
  noticed here. As the leading personages of this drama, however, were
  the representatives of powerful and influential ecclesiastical
  organizations, and as shortly before, repeated and desperate
  proselyting efforts had been made by some of these men, and by their
  miserable underlings, I cannot possibly be wrong in designating the
  vile commotion, by which I was swept from my post, _as the venomous
  explosion of ignoble and of bigoted elements_, which have in fact
  been the prolific source of all the confusion I complain of now. I
  distinctly remember the treacherous and inquisitorial anxiousness of
  a certain (now) president of a prominent University, (with whom I
  was reading Logic,) to become acquainted with German metaphysics,
  the mysterious meetings of a certain ecclesiastical committee, the
  efforts of a certain temperance coterie at a certain hotel, and a
  dozen other despicable conclaves and combinations, whose
  machinations were too palpable to be mistaken or forgotten. I also
  know, that a certain philosophy to which I was known to be
  particularly partial, is looked upon with jealous suspicion by
  certain superficial and insignificant pretenders to that science,
  whose ignorance and malice forges weapons of destruction out of the
  noblest and sublimest conceptions that have ever emanated from the
  intellect of man. To all these ambitious and noisy enemies of
  intellectual freedom, _whose littleness asperses, calumniates and
  levels whatever is gigantic and sublime_, I would here say, once for
  all, that if they could but rationally comprehend this Goethe, this
  Jean Paul, this Fichte, Kant and Hegel, whom they regard with so
  much horror, their _moral regeneration_ would almost be beyond a
  doubt, and if they could think and write like them, their title to
  enduring fame would never need an advocate or petty trickster to
  defend it.

In the course of this last year, however, these manoeuvres assumed a
still more startling and iniquitous shape than before. Hitherto my
_domicile_ had been safe and quiet. For, although meddlesome attempts
had been made to force certain associations on me and to cut me off from
others, I had still been left sufficiently unmolested to accomplish
some study without any flagrant interruptions. This last resource of
self-defence and happiness was destroyed me at the beginning of last
winter. New appointments at the University, (some of them degradations
to me, at any rate, employed for _humiliating_ purposes,) and the petty
jealousies, nay even animosities, which among men of a certain order of
intellect are the natural consequence of such changes, soon introduced
disorder into the Institution, fostered a spirit of rebellion against
me, and before the end of the first term of the present year, my course
of instruction was entirely broken up. The difficulty (which in fact was
wholly due to a shameless inefficiency of discipline,) was enveloped in
a sort of mummery, the sum and substance of which, however, was plainly
this: "that if I remained in the Institution in the unmolested enjoyment
of a peaceful life of study, my independent progress would be an
encroachment on certain colleagues of mine;" and this was in fact,
thrown out as a hint for me to leave. The rent of my private room in the
building had _already been nearly doubled_ by Prof. J. ---- for the same
reason. As the University, however, had contributed but an insignificant
item to my support, I neither considered it necessary to remove from the
building, which is accessible to all classes of tenants, nor did I make
much account of a self-made suspension of my course, although I grieved
to think of the means that had been used to superinduce such a
necessity. Prof. L----, who has always exhibited a pettiness of
disposition, altogether unworthy of a man of science, had _openly before
my eyes_ played the confidant and supporter of a disorderly student, who
on my motion was under college discipline, and the meetings of the
faculty were made so disgusting to me, that I could no longer attend to
make my reports. New methods of annoyance were devised. The council-room
of the Institution, next door to mine, was converted into an omnibus for
noisy meetings of every description--religious gatherings in the
morning--ominous vociferations during recitation time--obstreperous
conclaves of students in the afternoon--and violent political town
gatherings in the evening. Besides all this, the menials of the
Institution were corrupted into unusual insolence towards me, (among
them my special attendant,) and the vexations of this description became
so annoying to me, that for some time I had actually to do my own
chamber-work. I had almost forgotten to mention certain mysterious
_desk_-slammings in the council-room, and equally significant and
intimidating _door_-slammings, particularly at a room opposite mine,
which communicates (I believe) with a private part of the building, now
occupied by a dentist, (that sublime science having also found its way
into our college,) at unseasonable hours of the night, sometimes
accompanied with various remarks, one of which now occurs to me: "Oh,
you are not one of us!" (sung in operatic style.) The quiet of my
residence was, moreover, destroyed by horrid vociferations at all hours
of the night, before my very door, and regularly under my window, and
these were made not only by students, (of which there were only a few,
_supported in their insubordination_) but by an extra-academic body of
men and women, certain zealous religionists and their impenitent
coadjutors, evidently the abettors of my in-door enemies, _and by two of
my colleagues_. A night or week of such proceedings would be enough to
set a man crazy. What must be their effect if they continue for months?
And yet expressions like the following were perpetually ringing in my
ears:--"Go on!" "You _are_ the man!" "You are _not_ the man!" "Go on!
no, stop!" (by the same voice in the same breath.) "Out of the
Institution with that man!" (by the laurelled valedictorian of last
year.), "Stand up!" (by Prof. C----, close to my door.) "He started with
nothing!" (by the same voice in the same place). "Pray!" (by ditto.)
"You have finished!" "Go away!" "Thank God, that that man is out of the
Institution!" (by a lady member of a certain religious fraternity, on
terms of intimacy with a certain prominent politician of the
neighborhood.) "Pursue him, worm that never d-i-e-s!" (theatrically
shrieked by the same voice.) "You are a dead man! Dead, dead, dead,
dead!" (by the voice of a certain popular preacher.) "He is deceived, he
is deceived!" (by the spokesman of a body of theological students in
front of the neighboring Seminary, as I was passing.) And at times even:
"Die!" "Break!" (on the supposition that I was in embarrassed
circumstances.) "_Whore!_" even was one of the delectable cries! To
these I should add the mysterious blowings of noses (both within _sight_
and _hearing_,) frightfully significant coughs, horse-laughs, shouts and
other methods of demonstration, such as striking the sidewalk in front
of my windows with a cane, usually accompanied with some remark: "I
understand that passage so!" for example. A clique in the Historical
Society, (where I had been several times insulted at the meetings,) and
several religious coteries and secret organizations were evidently
largely concerned in the business. To these noises and sounds
corresponded an equally ingenious series of sights, so arranged as to
leave no doubt whatever, but that the impressions of my sense of hearing
were no delusion, and that there was no mistake about the authors. My
spirits and health were completely shattered by the close of winter, and
I crawled out a miserable existence, being confined to my bed most of
the time, unable to do anything but to read an hour or two a day. The
summer season emptied the University and the city, and I was relieved
from the pressure. The repose was like a gift from heaven. A stout
resolution soon consigned the terrors of the past to a _provisional_
oblivion. I collected myself, recovered my usual composure and bodily
strength, made arrangements for two additional text-books to my series,
at which after the 1st of July I began to work steadily, in the hope of
getting out of my pecuniary difficulty which the recent events of my
life had entailed. One of these is now ready for publication and will
appear in a short time. After I had fairly recovered the proper balance
of mind, I wrote to the Mayor of the city, and to Dr. Ferris, the
Chancellor of our University. To the former I complained of persecution
_ab extra_, which might be stopped by police intervention, of the latter
I demanded explanations for personal vexations and insults. Besides
having connived at, nay participated in the disorders of the
Institution, and besides having employed the menials of the
establishment to enforce a ridiculous submission to an unconstitutional
authority, the Dr. had in the presence of the Alumni of the Institution,
convened at a banquet in the Astor House, openly insulted me by saying;
"_Shall I have to become the step-father to that man?_" and again:
"_Next year I shall see another man in that man's place!_" Both these
expressions were used by the Dr. as he stood before the assembled
guests, while making a short speech. In uttering them, he looked at me
with a supercilious grin, and the question was addressed to the opposite
side of the house, between which and the speaker there was a manifest
collusion. My letter consisted of a protestation against the scandalous
disorders of the Institution in general, and a request that the Dr.
would retract the obnoxious offer of an unacceptable paternity as
publicly as it was made, to include also a recantation of the words:
"_Death you shall have!_" uttered near the door that connects my room
with that of the Dr's., _in his own voice_ and in connection with a
declamation of Patrick Henry's famous speech, "Give me liberty or &c."
This letter of mine was answered by spectral demonstrations (not unlike
those of ghost-rappers,) in the Chancellor's room (next to my private
study) between 11 and 12 o'clock on the night after its delivery, and by
the insolent behavior of the University scullion, who on the following
day after many other impertinences told me: "_You must not speak so to
the Chancellor, my son!_" No other reply was made, and no further notice
taken of my complaint. And yet my deportment towards Dr. Ferris had
never been disrespectful, while his whole course towards me had been
singularly provoking and offensive. He seemed to be ignorant of the
fact, that I was both an alumnus and an officer of the Institution, and
that as such I expected to be regarded in the light of a gentleman and
of a scholar. By ignoring my protestations the Dr. treated me like a
freshman, while his goings in and out of the building and his degrading
alliance with the menials of the Institution, who were the accomplices
of the disorder, gave him the character rather of a mechanic's "boss"
watching over an apprentice than of a dignified president of a
respectable literary institution.

I had by that time, (the middle of September last,) almost wholly
recovered my health; the horrid recollections of last winter having been
supplanted by the amenities of my summer studies in solitude; and I had
nearly completed one of the new text-books I had agreed to prepare. A
week glided away--and two--the session commenced--I was quietly engaged
in my own business, without making any overtures to commence my public
duties. In fact, I hesitated about commencing at all. About the first of
October, a young man, a nephew of mine, brought me a telegraphic
despatch from a distant city, requesting a confirmation or denial of the
report there circulated, that I was dangerously ill, unconscious of
myself, &c., and in immediate imperative need of friendly aid, being
neither mentally nor bodily able to take care of myself. As there was a
mistake in the name of the enquirer, I considered the matter a hoax, got
up for mischief or the amusement of some inquisitive party, and retorted
an abrupt telegraphic: "_None of your business, sir!_" A few days after,
I received a letter of complaint from my brother-in-law, of----, stating
that the telegraphic enquiry had been made by himself, and with the
kindest regard to my comfort; that a letter from Dr. Ferris to a brother
Divine of that city had been the cause of the sudden consternation among
my relatives there. The Dr.'s letter was itself enclosed, having been
surrendered to the party for whose benefit it was composed. In this
letter the Dr. declares me _incompetent for the business of
instruction_, alleges, that during the last winter I had given various
symptoms of a disordered mind, which during the summer had increased
(?!!) to such an extent, as to give serious alarm to the humane feelings
of the Dr., and in consideration of which, he advises my friends "to
take me at once away from study, to some institution adapted to such."

On the morning of the receipt of this intelligence (the 5th of Oct., I
think,) I had just arranged my papers for my day's work, and in the best
spirits and in excellent health, (deducting a cough which during the
infamies of last winter I had contracted,) was about to begin preparing
some copy for the printer. This strange way of answering a just
complaint and grave accusations very naturally brought back the
recollections of all the contumelies and horrors of last winter, than
which the reign of terror has nothing more startling, save perhaps only
the guillotine or the inquisition. The patience of Job could not have
held out any longer. I went at once in search of the Dr., and finding
him in conversation with Prof. Loomis, in the lecture room of the
latter, asked him whether he had written the letter I held in my hands.
His cool reply in the affirmative was itself an insult, made as it was
in a manner, which confirmed my previous grounds of offence and the
impression, that the Dr. would not remember that I was not an
undergraduate in search of a step-father, but a gentleman and an officer
of the college. Impatience and anger could not be restrained, and I told
him that _he was a ---- and a ----!_ and read his epistle publicly in
the recitation-room of one of my colleagues, and in the hall of the
University, at the same time inveighing in somewhat violent terms
against the disorders of last winter. The result was general
amazement.--My conduct may be considered too hasty by many. It is true I
might have acted more rationally and calmly. As it is, however, so
flagrant an outrage deserved exposition, and the production of _such_ a
statement made after _such_ provocations is not only a justifiable act
of self-defence, _but a merited punishment of intrigue and falsehood_,
_which I shall never have occasion to regret_. Few men after such scenes
would have stopped short at mere words. From the "_Take care!_" of
Proff. L. ---- and J. ----, (who were criminally involved in the
conspiracy of '48,) I inferred, that something was coming; indeed, I
myself inquired, whether they were going to let such a grave matter rest
without notice, as they had done with all my lenient protestations.

Two days after, on coming home from a walk, I was arrested by two
officers of the police, consigned to a low prison for several hours, and
without trial, (which was said to be over,) and without any legal
counsel, _converted into an insane man by the oath of two physicians_,
(one of them quite a young man,) who pretended to found their opinion on
an examination of about ten minutes, and since then I have lived among
lunatics in the asylum, from which I date this letter. My asseverations
and objections before the justice were in vain. Dr. Ferris and a
Wall-street broker cosily persuaded the judge in my presence, "to make
me comfortable!" I have since finished the volume I had begun, though my
absentment from my library obliged me to leave it less perfect than I
had intended to make it. For this purpose I was rational enough, it
seems. I venture, moreover, to assert, that in all other respects (save
only the obstinate affirmation of the _reality_ of the scenes of last
winter, which I am absurdly expected to deny,) my conduct _since_ my
imprisonment here has been found to be that of a man in the full
possession of all his intellectual powers. Nor can the physician at the
head of this institution conscientiously confirm either the sentence of
the judge, or the affidavit of his professional brethren. I look upon it
as perjury and a miserable shift to evade the real case of complaint, if
any there be. A rational trial before a tribunal, where each side of the
question could have been produced, would have been the part of honorable
men, conscious of their own rectitude, and of the justice of their
cause. But what aggravates these proceedings, is the strange expectation
that I should humbly acquiesce in the supposititious incrimination of
having been too unsafe to be left at large, of having been really
incapable mentally and physically to take care of myself--and the still
more singular menace of _swearing me perpetually crazy, and of
effecting a permanent abridgment of my liberty_, in case I should
attempt to defend myself, either legally or with my pen, against so
palpable and serious infraction of the dearest rights of an American
citizen. The scenes of last winter, of which I have given you but an
imperfect outline, which were got up for the purpose of consolidating
the power and preponderance of my adversaries, and of frustrating my
efforts to defend my position in my usual way, i. e., by giving positive
proof of my ability by actual services to the cause of academic
education--_these scenes of scandal and of terror I am expected to call
a delusion of my senses, and thus to falsify my personal history_,
_accuse my consciousness of mendacity, and literally to aid and abet
the iniquity of my aggressors_.

The day before my arrest, _I was solicited_ by a number of students to
commence my course, which I consented to do by the beginning of the
following week, and as this year I had already the proof-sheets of
several disquisitions on German literature in my hands, I could have
begun publicly and under the most favorable auspices. But it would seem
that these gentlemen were determined that I should _not_ begin, and that
they adopted this most admirable and effectual method of anticipating my
perfectly regular and legitimate movements. Indeed, by the enquiry,
"_What are you going to do?_" I have already been desired to infer, that
an entire abandonment of my profession was expected of me. Its exercise
had already been rendered as difficult as possible, several members of
the Council having for several years past virtually superseded me by
encouraging two other men on the same spot, which I in all honor was
entitled to occupy myself, and which contained hardly room enough for
one. What would Humboldt, Grimm, Ampère, Burnouf, and some of our other
friends on the other side of the water say to such proceedings? I am
reduced to penury, when from my public position I might be expected to
be independent, I am deprived of the liberty of academic instruction by
the terrorism of a narrow-minded clique, while successfully and
diligently engaged in adding fresh honor to my post, I am bereft of
freedom altogether by men, who owe their power to the fortuitous
concurrence of local and sectarian influences, who are utter strangers
to the large humanity of liberal culture, and who are too ignorant to
decide upon the merits of a man of letters, being themselves destitute
of both name and place among those who represent the literary and
scientific enlightenment of our age and country. But I have wearied your
patience already too long. I should like to have my case properly
understood at Washington, and you will pardon my having burdened you
with so much of the detail. In regard to my future movements I am
uncertain. Supposing even my liberation to be near at hand, it will be
difficult to commence in the midst of winter in the city, where all
educational arrangements are made in the autumn. This fact was well
known to those who have tied my hands. Several educational works I am
anxious to complete, one particularly, at which I was interrupted a year
ago this month.

                            I am, with great consideration,
                                         most respectfully and truly
                                                            G. J. Adler.

                               LETTER V.

                                 Bloomingdale Asylum, Nov. 17th, 1853.

    My dear sir,

In reply to yours of the 12th inst., I can say what I might have said on
the first day of my confinement; that neither the chancellor nor any one
else at the University can have or ever could have any apprehension
whatever of being molested by me in any place or in any manner whatever,
_provided they mind their own business_ and cease to give me any further
provocation. The Chancellor's conduct was pre-eminently odious, and
beneath the dignity of his office. His letter, which I still hold in my
hands, is as ludicrous as it is false. He is certainly very much
mistaken in supposing that by his tiny authority he can so easily crush
a scholar and a professor of my reputation and "standing." "Proud of my
connection with the University and anxious to secure my co-operation,"
when but a month before he solicited the "fraternal aid" of a distant
brother divine in his attempt to ship me out of the city as a sick man,
of a distempered mind, concerning whom he was most deeply and devoutly
concerned, and (what is still more strange,) of a man whom he pronounces
"unfitted for the business of instruction?" This is his own language and
this is the whole discovery, the _dénouement_ of the dirty transactions
by which I was harassed last winter. I admit that my conduct may be
regarded as too hasty. I might have defended myself in a calmer, more
dignified and more effectual manner. As it is, however, I shall make no
apology and I still think, that a month's imprisonment in the Tombs or a
severe castigation of a tangible description last winter would have
conferred a lasting moral benefit on certain persons in that
institution. In making this remark, I by no means intend to throw out
any menace, nor would I myself like the office of Knout-master-general
either to his imperial majesty at St. Petersburgh, or to his excellency
the Governor, or to the President of the United States; but I refer
simply to the moral good that would undoubtedly have accrued to the
souls of certain students and professors at the University during the
last winter from a dose or two of the "good old English discipline." As
to the infamous and unearthly noises that worried and distracted me for
at least six months, the ruin of my health and the entire suspension of
my studies were too grave a result to be easily overlooked or forgotten,
and the ignoble and bigoted clique at the bottom of that brutal
terrorism have certainly not failed to leave a lasting impression of
their power on my mind. No denial or assurance to the contrary will ever
invalidate the evidence of my senses. What I saw with my own eyes, and
heard with my own ears at the time I complained, is as true as are the
phenomena of my present experience. The guillotine alone was wanting to
cap the climax of those high-handed proceedings. It was a repetition of
the same narrow vandalism which in 1848 exiled me out of the city, and
in 1849 made me leave America in disgust. While I therefore disclaim
cherishing or ever having cherished the remotest desire to molest the
peace or safety of any member of the faculty--the fear of corporal
punishment betrays a bad conscience on the part of my adversaries and is
a virtual admission of their guilt, or else it is a fiction invented to
patch up a hopeless case;--I would at the same time assure all those
concerned in this business, that I am not an advocate of nonresistance
or of tame submission to such a gross injustice, and that in case of
need I can wield a pen to defend my rights before an intelligent public,
the opinion of which in matters of this kind, in America particularly,
is after all the last and highest instance of appeal.

The case is therefore perfectly plain. I deny having ever given any just
cause of apprehension to any man in the institution. The very
supposition is an absurdity. _They_ are the iniquitous aggressors
throughout. They have to endeavored to crush my intellectual
independence by carrying the principle of conformity to a ridiculous
extent, and by enforcing a submission to which no man of honor without
the loss of all his intellectual powers could submit.--I told the
chancellor on the spur and in the excitement of the moment what I
thought of the falsehoods contained in his epistle and of his previous
conduct which, if he is a gentleman, he is bound to justify. He gravely
ignored the letter of complaint I had addressed to him a month before,
or rather answered it by spectral demonstrations the night after its
reception. Such mummery and such terrorism, practiced on an officer of a
literary institution by a fellow-officer is surely out of place and Dr.
Ferris has not yet learnt (it seems) the meaning of an A. M. and of
certain other rights of Academic men, (to say nothing of the courtesy
customary among men of letters of every age and in all civilized
countries), to introduce or suffer such singular proceedings in a
respectable institution. As for myself I do not intend to be intimidated
in the least, and if my life and health last, I shall find the means of
defending both my honor and my position as a gentleman and a scholar. It
is all idle to attempt to crush or gag a man by terror. The humbug of
the spirit-rappers is no greater than the jugglery of
door-and-desk-slamming, of vociferations and mystifications so
successfully employed at the University during the whole of last winter.
As it regards therefore my alleged insanity on these points, I must
confess, that if a _denial_ of the _reality_ of this terrorism by which
the University (and certain societies) have carried on their nefarious
business of subjugation, be required of me, then I can _never_ become
rational again without adding falsehood to cowardice. It smacks too much
of the outrage of '48, when I was _compelled_ to admit the most damnable
affronts as delusive impressions of my senses and when other men's
infernal-pit-iniquity was alleged to be the offspring of my own
tobacco-fume! This is subjectivism with a vengeance! It is too big a
pill to swallow. It produces rather too great an excess of abdominal
convulsions, as the Doctors would say.

If by my conduct I have incurred any censure or violated any law, or
menaced the safety or the life or property of any man in or out of the
institution, why in the name of reason and of common sense do not these
gentlemen proceed in the regular way, to secure exemption from the fear
of danger? Could they not have legally coerced me to keep the peace? or
could they not (a still more rational course) have requested a committee
of the council to meet for the purpose of examining and adjusting a
matter of such grave importance? Could I not and can I not now expose
the hollow misery of the sham, the real nature of which is as plain as
the noon-day sun? The course they have adopted is surely derogatory to
the moral integrity of the parties concerned, and my stay among lunatics
and maniacs is an unpardonable abuse of an excellent institution. The
day before my arrest, eight young gentleman volunteered to commence the
study of the language which I more especially profess and I had engaged
to begin with a public lecture in the Monday following. These
proceedings rob me now, for this winter at least, of the only advantage,
which my connection with the institution affords me, and it is manifest
enough that the difficulty was "got up" for the express purpose of
anticipating and of frustrating my preparations for the present

It still seems to me, that these gentlemen incriminate themselves in two
ways:--1st, By desiring me to remove out of the building, they incur the
suspicion of being themselves the authors or abettors of the nuisance I
complain of. I would propose to have some one stay with me and to retain
and pay for my study as usual. In that event I should have a witness and
the detection and punishment of the offenders would exonerate all those
who in case of my removal would have part of the criminal credit of
molesting the private residence of a professor and a scholar. 2d, The
fear of personal injury from the hands of one, who for many years past
has been known to be a man of peaceable and unexceptionable behavior and
who never attacked or struck any man in his life, appears to have its
origin in a consciousness of guilt and to be a virtual admission of it.
Do they perhaps think their conduct so outrageous, that the meekness of
Moses could no longer endure it without resentment? I grant that a
passionate man would be likely to take a more substantial revenge. I
myself however have no inclination to degrade myself in any such
way.--My confinement is on a false pretense, and if any made affidavit
to my insanity, they most assuredly must have perjured themselves.
Whatever I did, I have been provoked to do by what I deem a stupidity
and _a flagrant invasion of the rights and privileges of an academic
instructor, which no language can castigate with adequate severity_.

                                   I am most respectfully and truly
                                        your obedient servant.

  D. A. & Co., New-York. G. J. A.


"All property or rather all substantial determinations, which relate to
my personal individuality and which enter into the general constitution
of my self-consciousness, as for example, my personality proper, my
freedom of volition in general, my morality, my religion are
_inalienable_ and the right to them is _imprescriptible_."

"That that which the mind is _per se_ and by its very definition should
also become an actual existence and _pro se_, that consequently it
should be a person, capable of holding property, possessed of morality
and religion--all this is involved in the idea of the mind itself, which
as the _causa sui_, in other words, as a free cause, is a substance,
_cujus natura non potest concipi nisi existens_. (Spinoza, Eth. S. 1.
def. 1.)."

"This very notion, that it should be what it is _through itself alone_
and as the self-concentration or endless self-retrosusception out of its
mere natural and immediate existence contains also the possibility of
the opposition between what it is only _per se_ (i. e. substantially)
and not _pro se_ (i. e. subjectively, in reality) and _vice versa_
between what is only _pro se_ and not also _per se_ (which in the Will
is the bad, the vicious);--and hence too the _possibility_ of the
_alienation_ of one's personality and of one's substantial existence,
whether this alienation be effected implicitly and unconsciously or
explicitly and expressly. Examples of the alienation of personality are
slavery, vassalage, disability to hold property, the unfree possession
of the same, &c., &c."

"Instances of the abalienation of intelligent rationality, of individual
and social morality and of religion occur in the beliefs and practices
of superstition, in ceding to another the power and the authority of
making rules and prescriptions for my actions (as when one allows
himself to be made a tool for criminal purposes), or of determining what
I am to regard as the law and duty of conscience, religious truth, &c."

"The right to such inalienable possessions is imprescriptible, _and the
act by which I become seized of my personality and of my substantial
being, by which I make myself an accountable, a moral and a religious
agent, removes these determinations from the control of all merely
external circumstances and relations, which alone could give them the
capacity of becoming the property of another_. With this abnegation of
the external, _all questions of time and all claims based upon previous
consent or acquiescence fall to the ground_. This act of rational
self-recovery, whereby I constitute myself an existing idea, a person of
legal and moral responsibility, _subverts the previous relation and puts
an end to the injustice which I myself and the other party have done to
my comprehension and to my reason, by treating and suffering to be
treated the endless existence of self-consciousness as an external and
an alienable object_."[2]

[2] I emphasize this important clause for the particular
  benefit of those who in my personal history have had the absurd
  expectation that I should continue to entertain a respectful
  deference to a certain phase of religionism, which upon a careful
  and rational examination I found to be worthless and which is
  repugnant to my taste and better judgment, and of others who with
  equal absurdity are in the habit of exacting ecclesiastical tests (I
  will not say religious, for such men show by their very conduct that
  their enlightenment in matters of the religion of the heart is very
  imperfect) for academic appointments;--as if the science and the
  culture of the nineteenth century were still to be the handmaid of
  the church, as they were in the Middle Age; _as if Philosophy and
  the Liberal Arts could ever thrive and flourish in the suffocating
  atmosphere of the idols of the cave, the idols of the tribe, and the
  idols of the market-place!_

"This return to myself discloses also the contradiction (the absurdity)
of my having ceded to another my legal responsibility, my morality and
my religion at a time when I could not yet be said to possess them
rationally, and which as soon as I become seized and possessed of them,
can essentially be mine alone and can not be said to have any outward

"It follows from the very nature of the case, that the slave has an
absolute right to make himself free; that if any one has hired himself
for any crime, such as robbery, murder, &c. this contract is of itself
null and void and that every one is at full liberty to break it."

"The same may be said of _all religious submission to a priest, who sets
up for my father confessor_ (_step-father_, &c.); for a matter of such
purely internal interest must be settled by every man himself and alone.
A religiosity, a part of which is deposited in the hands of another is
tantamount to none at all; for the Spirit is one, and it is he that is
required to dwell in the heart of man; the union of the _per_ and _pro
se_ must belong to every individual apart."

Transcriber's Notes:

Passages in italics are indicated by _underscores_.

Passages in small caps are replaced by either Title case or ALL CAPS,
depending on how the words were used.

Punctuation was not corrected except for the quotation mark on page 20,
and the parenthesis on page 30, as cited below. Likewise,
inconsistencies in hyphenation have not been corrected.

Each instance of the oe ligature was replaced with "oe".

On page 6, "necessaay" was replaced with "necessary".

On page 8, "of" was inserted between "city" and "New York".

On page 10, "the" was inserted before "City of".

On page 12, "catastrophies" was replaced with "catastrophes", and
"pretentions" was replaced with "pretensions".

On page 15, "the the" was replaced with "the".

On page 16, "hemsy" was replaced with "hêmisy".

On page 19, "destoyed" was replaced with "destroyed".

On page 20, The quotation mark after "You are a dead man!" was moved to
after "Dead, dead, dead, dead!", and an extra quotation mark was deleted
after "certain popular preacher."

On page 24, "aad" was replaced with "and".

On page 27, "af" was replaced with "of".

On page 30, "all this in involved" was replaced with "all this is
involved", and an open parentheses was placed before "i. e.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Letters of a Lunatic - A Brief Exposition of My University Life, During the Years 1853-54" ***

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