The Voice of the Conservative Movement at Wabash College

What do we Mean by a College? Words of Wisdom from the Past

The future of the United States of
America is in question. A collapsing
economy, troubled government, and
corrupted society present unforeseen
challenges and obstacles for the country
as a whole, that are all the more
pertinent to the men of Wabash. The
chaotic changes occurring cast into
doubt the purpose and necessity of
postsecondary education in a new and
different world…
This description sounds remarkably
similar to the current state of affairs
in the United States and the situation
at our beloved college, but, in fact, it
is the setting for a remarkable speech
given on July 24, 1862, by the third
president of Wabash College, Reverend
Joseph Tuttle. This speech, entitled
“What Do We Mean by a College?”
provides advice and vision for his
chaotic time, advice which we would
be wise to consider and apply to our
college and our lives.
In this speech Reverend Tuttle
outlines three major points in the
training and teaching of Wabash men.
These three principals must be the
basis for the education of these men
“not because they are all but because
they are principal.” The first of these
is “Thoroughness, as the antagonist of
the superficial,” the second is Manliness,
and the third is Faith. Building
on these three principals we can hope
to address the rising problems and
equip ourselves both in spirit and in
mind for the hard times to come.
Before I go into further detail on
these important principles, it is necessary
to address the striking similarity
of the societal chaos that existed during
Tuttle’s time to that of our own.
Yes, the crises of the Civil War, inmany respects, were far greater than
those which we face today, but the
impending change in our society and
the uncertainty of what is to come in
the future are similar. These similarities
make Reverend Tuttle’s words all
the more pertinent to us, especially in
the very fact that we are not to that
point where immediate and massive
changes are required to save us from
oblivion. This allows us time, even if
it is a short while, to ponder and adopt
strategies in hopes to save our country
and our college.
Thoroughness applies to the training
of the total mind and body, to produce
a man who is prepared to tackle
any problem that he might face. This is
of greatest importance since, as Tuttle
says, “the demands for men will not
be less for a long time to come.” If we
can impart this Thoroughness to the
young men of Wabash, we can hope to
aid each of them in “his scholarship,
his pursuits, his aims, his labors, [and]
his life… Thoroughness must enter
into everything, and as such it is one
of the noblest gifts this college can
bestow.” As a college and a community
it is of upmost importance to focus and
strive to improve our excellence in
every endeavor we engage in, whether
that be in academics, extracurricular
activities, or our social encounters
with one another. The Gentleman’s
Rule demands this of us, as we should
demand it of one another.
Reverend Tuttle addresses the point
of Manliness in a way that is often
absent from academic discourse and
which should be taken into consideration
by professors, faculty, and, most
importantly, the administration of the
college. Manliness is not a negative
signifier in Reverend Tuttle’s discourse
but it is in essence, a man who is “an
intelligent and moral being in his relations
to society and to God.” There
are three elements to this Manliness,
“manliness of purpose,” “manliness
of thought,” and “manliness of life.”
“Manliness of purpose” divides men
into two groups of people: those who
are without settled purpose or are
driven to purpose to fulfill personal
and ever present needs, and those
who are driven to a heart purpose to
be inspired to action for the benefit
of all men. “Manliness of thought”
“is a capital element in the manliness
of a true man. Let him be moved
by a noble purpose to be and to do
something noble, and let him feed
that purpose with manly thought.”
Finally, “manliness of life” addresses
the noble aspects of man in his success
and perseverance through both
action and suffering. These aspects of
manliness are not cultivated fully in
our college today. We are a “Liberal
Arts College for Men” so it is strange
and somewhat questionable that we
do not embrace the finer qualities of
Manliness and attempt to instill it in
the men of our college. When did
the concept of Manliness become a
degraded and negative one?
Finally, and perhaps in our secular
society the most controversial of these
three points outlined by Reverend
Tuttle, is the idea of Faith. Reverend
Tuttle predicts, and accurately so, that
the “pendulum of popular opinion is
swinging toward skepticism.” Faith at
its very core demands a higher moral
quality for every man. This is something
that all can agree with, as living
to a higher moral quality is the task
of every Wabash man and is the basis
for our one rule. We are all called to
have this Faith in our college and its
mission. If we do not all buy into the
very basis for our college, then the
Gentleman’s Rule is truly dead and weshould question why any of us are still
here. I do not believe that this is the
case, and as long as the Gentleman’s
Rule is alive in the hearts of some
Wabash men then it is still possible to
bring it back to its former splendor.
I will admit these three points are
likely to be contentious among some
people on campus, but all I ask is that
we respect the words of our esteemed
and respected forefather. Ponder them,
discuss them amongst your friends,
fraternity brothers, and professors, apply
them to your lives, but at the very
least give them a chance and consider
them. These words were spoken by a
truly great and learned Wabash man,
one that has left an indelible mark on
our college. Do not take my word
for it! Pick up your copy of These
Fleeting Years and read his speech for
yourselves. If at the end of the day
you wholeheartedly disagree with
them, then have the discussion with
someone, discourse allows for the development
and the Thoroughness of
thought that makes us all better.

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