Johns Hopkins Magazine - June 1996 Issue

Historic Beginnings

By Morey Rothberg
Diary excerpts from John Franklin Jameson's years at Hopkins reveal an uncertain young man who was relentlessly critical of his colleagues--and of himself.

Scholars credit John Franklin Jameson more than any other individual for creating an academic profession of history in the United States. As the founding and most distinguished editor of the American Historical Review, the director of the department of historical research in the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the principal figure behind the creation of the National Archives, and finally chief of the division of manuscripts at the Library of Congress, Jameson lifted the study of history outside the boundaries of individual colleges and universities to make it a national enterprise.

If historians owe an immeasurable debt to Jameson, he himself credited Johns Hopkins University as an enduring source of inspiration in his professional life. Jameson enrolled at Hopkins in 1880 at the invitation of Herbert B. Adams, instructor in history and a fellow alumnus of Amherst College, and in 1882 received the first Hopkins doctorate in history. He served as an instructor there from 1880 to 1888. Reporting on the 25th anniversary of the university in 1901, he informed readers that "entrance into the Johns Hopkins was, to those who went there in its earliest days, like the opening of the Pacific before the eyes of Balboa and his men." At this university there were "no dated classes, no campus, no sports, no dormitories, no gulf between teachers and student where all were students, no compulsion toward work where all were eager."

In countless ways, Johns Hopkins left its mark on Jameson. He absorbed both the spirit and the methods of the Seminary of Historical and Political Science and recreated that experience for students at Brown University between 1888 and 1900 and at the University of Chicago from 1901 to 1905. He offered pioneering lectures in historiography and historical criticism and began explorations in social history that led to the publication in 1926 of his most distinguished work, The American Revolution Considered as a Social Movement.

A less-known legacy from Jameson's years at Hopkins is a set of diaries that he kept during his years there. In fact, the diaries extend back in time to his junior year at Amherst and forward to his professorship at Brown, but they are most complete and revealing for his time at Hopkins.

As valedictorian at Amherst, and the recipient of more scholarship money than all but two other students in the history of the college, Jameson might well have entered graduate school confidently. Johns Hopkins presented a bruising challenge to his vanity, however. Pride in his accomplishments would avail him little in the company of equally talented students and faculty--and

he was honest enough to see it. At the same time, he found the theories presented by Herbert B. Adams (in which he traced a direct connection between modern America and medieval Germany), along with much in the famous seminary, to be intellectually vapid. And Jameson was lonesome for his fianc‚e, Annie Welch, whom he had taught at a Massachusetts public high school before coming to Hopkins. Only the presence of Henry C. Adams, a professor of political economy, sustained his morale.

In the following excerpts, we see an arrogant, idealistic, and capable young man trying to get his personal, intellectual, and vocational bearings at a time when all the rules for doing these things were changing.

Jameson presented his first paper in November 1880 on "The Disturbances in Barbados" in 1876. In this paper, he compared racial problems in Barbados to those in America following the Civil War. He devoted the remainder of his first year to preparing an essay on the history of New York City. Jameson's second year was spent preparing for his oral and written doctoral examinations, and writing an article on the history of Montauk, Long Island, drawn from his dissertation.

19 November 1880
Took in Dr. Henry [C. Adams's lecture] and dinner at which we had a good time esp'ly over some Boston brown bread. Then got ready [for a meeting of the historical seminary] and went to Hopkins Hall. None of the Amherst fellows were there. I read my paper [on Barbados] first. Then came a splendid paper by Mitsukuri on Recent Changes in Japan, and an interesting one on the Arms of Maryland, by Dr. Browne, the librarian. These were very well received. I heard no commendations of mine, (exc. Dr. Hen. said "Very good paper") and no one but Hartwell spoke to me. I went home feeling sat upon, though of course one oughtn't to care; think it was unwise to bring in reconstruction-policy, and that I didn't do myself much proud, anyway. I am absurdly dependent on people's opinion....Concluded preparing papers to be read there is the least profitable sort of work, being designed to show off more than anything else.

22 March 1881
[Adams and I] fell to talking of my paper [on New York City], and he gave me some quite useful hints. At the same time, they weren't in the least intended to make my paper any better, but only to make it strike a committee favorably. He is very shrewd in such matters,--not an admirable accomplishment, it seems to me. I can't help having a very low opinion of him, he is so evidently on his make. He advised me to write it on one side, for looks, prefix a table of contents and insert in a preface a statement of the means and books employed, and say that this sort of thing hadn't been done before and suppress the mention I made of Part I being antiquarian rather than historical, and sprinkle foot-notes liberally, for effect...and much more to the same effect. He said Gilman & co. wouldn't look at much more than the contents, preface, and first few pages, and the paper ought to have a large and imposing appearance. I must write an abstract of it, and a good one, for the next circular.

He showed me the prospectus for next year; the graduate and undergraduate work is to be separate, which is a good thing; but the former is very meagre and includes almost no subject I should care to take, even without the knowledge that the best-sounding subject doesn't in fact amount to anything under him. He had to go; I stayed in the room, looking over a book or two first, then thinking over all he had said...[I]t made me very blue to think I should have to work with such methods and such objects, and perhaps waste my year and not get a fellowship, for he spoke discouragingly about it....Oh dear, what a mistake I made in coming here! And now, once here, I must spoil this year to get a fellowship, and work here next year, if I stay, though I might do the same work better elsewhere, alone, because the over-valued name of the University, and perhaps its degree, will give me a boost in getting a place. It's horrid. It's a hard thing to have to care so much about $500. I don't know but I would neglect it, and go to Amherst, or Woburn & Boston, or Columbia, and do good work, and trust to getting a place. But I want to be married and get at my work of teaching, and my life of happiness with Annie, as soon as possible, and so ought to take money into account.

24 May 1882
[S]haved and arrayed myself, and at 10 presented myself in the office for my oral examination. Had to wait some time, but occupied myself with reading in the last Univ. circular. When they called me in, all the profs. but [physicist Henry A.] Rowland and [biologist Henry N.] Martin were there; I sat at one end, with [economist Richard T.] Ely and Adams at right and left. Wasn't scared a bit; Adams seemed more uneasy than I. After some general questioning as to my previous training and my papers, esp. Montauk, Adams examined me some ten minutes in Teutonic and Anglo-Saxon institutions, [classicist Basil L.] Gildersleeve interposing a few times on Tacitus, and [mathematician James J.] Sylvester also asking some not very important questions. Then Gilman choked Adams off, rather rudely, and after Gildersleeve had made some questions on the sources of Greek history, Ely took me. His questions were of much the same character as those of his paper. Altogether I was in there about three-quarters of an hour. Gilman, in the office, said I had borne it very well. Adams says I will have my degree. I shall have to take back my notions about not caring very much; for I am really very much pleased, though I didn't seem to care much about it beforehand.... Adams, walking down Charles St., with me, much amused me by his advice that I'd much better have some teaching engagements for next year, even if not much money than remain here simply as fellow. He's getting rather anxious....When I came in to dinner, late, they all cried out, "Good-evening, doctor." They seem much pleased.

Returning to the university as an instructor in the fall of 1882, Jameson found his relationship with Adams transformed. An extensive discussion with him about the history and political science department encouraged him about his prospects at Johns Hopkins. At the same time, he found insufferable the proclivity Adams displayed to promote the seminary to the general public and to flatter students who needed constructive criticism instead. Jameson's engagement to Annie Welch had been broken off during the summer, leaving him free to consider in his methodical fashion where romance could be joined to scholarship.

22 September 1882
I am quite surprised to find how largely my dislike to the Univ. and aversion to remaining here many years was caused by my relations to Annie. I find myself now very much interested in work going on here, and thinking much of the various chances for advancement which it affords,--rather "on my make" in fact, at least theoretically; in practice I rather lack push. I hope I shall never come to think too much of success, nor blunt in the least the sensitiveness of conscience. I don't mean to, a bit; at the same time, I can see that a life without strong love is not [as] easily pitched high as one with, and that, with the increase of the attractiveness of my present lot and prospects, my desire to love and marry any one, even one who would so elevate me and whom I so admire as Jennie [Metcalf, a friend from Amherst], decreases. I can't help feeling a little ashamed of it, but it is, I think, the honest truth. It can be prevented, by thinking more of her and of the nobler ideals which she suggests; but it seems a sort of cold-blooded, artificial way of keeping up your interest in a girl. Still I needn't expect now any more that I shall ever again fall in love with any one unconsciously or involuntarily, especially with the great development of introspectiveness in me during the last two and a half years.

29 September 1882
[T]o seminar, where Adams explained things and the men reported on the things they had done this summer. I don't like the way things are evidently going to go on. Adams has a lot of half-educated young fellows, or not educated at all, sets them to work ambitiously at high-sounding subjects neither they nor he are half fit to treat, and then, when the crude performance is done, it is to be printed and published with a lot of others, and the seminary is to resolve itself into a mutual admiration society over "our series" and "our scientific work." It makes me vexed, and the consolation that work so superficial never can stand any severe tests or be of permanent reputation doesn't balance my disgust at the way the "new school" is edging itself into prominence. All my influence shall go to sober the tone of the work, and make it both more solid and more modest....The bane of this university is the attempt to do first-class work with second-class preparation.

8 December 1882
Thought considerably of the desirability of establishing an American Historical Assoc. or Congress, at whose annual meetings professors and others might meet, compare notes, get hints and stir up popular interest. It ought to be done, and I think even a young and unknown man could set the others at it. One can see the good it might do by observing how much interest its greater prototypes, the Scientific, Philological and Social Science [associations] excite every summer.

19 January 1883
We had a dreadfully long meeting [of the historical seminary]. Mr. Crowsdale, of the [Baltimore] Day, read a leader on Town and Gown, well-expressed, though commonplace and inappropriate to the meetings of a hist. assoc'n. Then [Charles] Shinn, the new member from California, already famous as the worst bore in the university, read a paper on Oxford and the Oxford Reformers of 1498. It was a sophomoric compilation from Ullmann, Seebohm, and a few other books. It was fairly well written, though with a great deal of glow and many mannerisms copied after Carlyle; but it was just full of errors and of ignorance, and given in a most bumptious, Western manner, as if giving boundless information. He read and read, and we "sot and sot," till, after he had read an hour, Adams felt obliged to choke him off, which he did with some difficulty. Then what should Adams do but praise it as very interesting and comprehensive. I had made a few notes, but Adams gave no chance to criticise, and when a few minutes of other talk had intervened, I concluded it had grown cold, and I'd better say nothing. But just as we were about to break up, Rose put a question which was really a criticism. That bringing the matter up, I felt I ought to pitch in, and did so. I had selected some six or eight errors, notable and easily disproved, and made points of those. Well, I was rather insistent about them, and might perhaps better have been a little calmer and more deferential; but I had been bored to death, like all the rest, by his tediousness, and in addition vexed beyond measure, as none of the rest of them seemed to be, by the pretentious ignorance of the man. He took it well, and Adams said no doubt it would have a wholesome effect. But why doesn't he ever criticise such a mess of errors and foolishness? No doubt some of the Southern fellows, accustomed to nothing but compliment, won't criticise each other, and perhaps thought me ungentlemanly in doing such a thing, but I couldn't stand it, nor let such an intolerable sham pass not only without criticism, but with praise. It's no way to do. After the sem. Adams and I talked an hour or so. Perhaps it might not seem valuable, for we talked of the management of the department in the same old way, arguing as before, though getting on very pleasantly. But it brings my notions where they have a chance to affect and modify his, lets him see my sense of the true policy, so that he is beginning to respect my judgment and ask and take my advice, and it also gives me points. We can work well together, and I believe he will do his best to keep me here, because he won't find anyone else who will ag[r]ee so well with him, my ambitions not conflicting with his, and my qualities supplementing his. For if I am too cautious and conservative, too much devoted to teaching and accurate scholarship, too intent upon an ideal excellence, he is in danger of branching out so much, in search of wider spheres of influence, as to spoil his teaching and his scholarship & weaken his hold on the immediate environment.

9 March 1883
Shinn read his twice-deferred abstract of his paper on Spanish plots in the S.W. 1783-1803. It turned out that he had no new fact, after all. He prattled on, much as last time, managing to last half an hour. Adams has several times assured me that there was more to Shinn than I thought, that, for instance, probably no man we had had in the seminary (seeming to be so unkind as to include me, alas!) had so much literary ability. If so, literary ability isn't what it is cracked up to be. The impression on me is, that Shinn was given tonight another chance to make a fool of himself, and did it, with a completeness that left nothing to be desired. Adams ought to tame him, to show what good work is, and compel him to do that or none. But that would "trow a coldness over de meetin'."...I have, in one day's record, apparently, secretly eviscerated and dismembered most of my contemporaries, which indicates my hypercritical temperament about as plainly as--well, as my noting the fact evinces my self-conscious feeling that somebody is going to read this sometime.

Jameson's relentless criticism of the historical seminary as well as the students in it barely disguised his uncertainty as to his own abilities. Following a stellar performance in the seminary by Woodrow Wilson, a new graduate student, in January 1884, Jameson told himself, "I shall be able to understand, but I shall not be able to criticise." At the same time, however, he established himself as a figure of some distinction in the scholarly world through his articles on New York history and as a book reviewer for the prestigious German journal, the "Historische Zeitschrift." Further, he spent many hours cataloging the newly acquired library of the Swiss jurist Johann Bluntschli and making himself available to the graduate students for consultation. Still, Jameson's enterprising schemes to enlarge his career while maintaining high standards of scholarship ran afoul of efforts by Adams to manage the seminary as a single unit of production.

Jameson saw teaching more as a means to support his scholarship than as something to be valued for its own satisfaction. Yet his immediate desire to secure a permanent position at Johns Hopkins led him to accept a heavy teaching load and an ambitious program of scholarly publication. At President Gilman's request, Jameson taught a course in historical geography that he loathed, and he reluctantly published a series of papers in the new Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science after Adams reminded him "how insecure a young man's tenure is here, how much Gilman believes in rotation."

4 April 1883
I told [Adams] of my arrangement with the "Historische Zeitschrift"; but discovered that I was like children in the market-place; for he didn't dance. Was evidently vexed. Said it had been his plan to have that matter worked out on a co-operative basis, i.e., to have things reviewed for it by various members of the seminary; and seemed to think I had been stealing a march on the crowd. I'm sure I had no such intention. My recollection of what he had said upon the subject was, that it was a thing someone here ought to do. I got the impression that he had no intention of doing it himself; nor have I the slightest remembrance of any such co-operative plan. This P.M. he tried to assure me that I had no such exclusive engagement as W. F. Allen's with the Revue Historique, which is to some extent true; also that I couldn't do it all well myself, and had better parcel it out among the members of the seminary. But I don't see it; I am not sufficiently master of American history to perform this task without occasionally showing poor work; but I don't know how it would help matters to pass it over to others who would do poorer. "Cooperation" is a great thing, but it has its limits. Even supposing that to make the names of our students known abroad were identical with making them favorably known, which Adams seems to assume (& wh. perhaps I am assuming in my own case, in undertaking this) I don't [see] why I should give over all the advantage of my promptness and industry to the Johns Hopkins history boom. Adams is head of the department, so preaches devotion to the interests of the department solely; but I don't choose to be like the comites in the Germania, ascribing all my own repute to the princeps. I want to be fair to all men,--but including myself.

16 April 1883
Went by appointment, to see Pres. Gilman, who told me he was intending to propose that I be made associate; also talked about the creation of a bureau of maps and charts. Then at sem. saw Adams, with whom I went over to the biological laboratory, to inspect our future quarters, and lay some plans. On the way I mentioned my displeasure at seeing the titles of my articles still upon the prospectus [for the Studies in Historical and Political Science], after what I had said. He took me to task for my sentiments, and we had another long discussion about the matter. He says it is selfish in me not to be willing to contribute more to the benefit of the department. This is a mean thing to say, after all the gratuitous work I did for the department on the Bluntschli library; I am not obliged to sacrifice myself to the interests of the department, i.e. of H. B. Adams, to such an extent as to publish in the series an article written before I half knew how, and which I never shall have the leisure to revise; I didn't sell myself body and soul to the univ. for $600 a year. Sir, if this be "individualism," make the most of it.--I ought to have resented the tone of his remarks much more strongly than I did; I never appreciate how I am being treated till afterward, (i.e. fully).

21 November 1883
Nothing exalted enough to call unhappiness or melancholy, but just dejection and discontent. This seems to be rather frequent this year; The cause is, I should judge, that the summer vacation placed before my mind thoughts on which was formed an ideal of a happy life, while last year I was content with ideals wherein professional aims had the most important place. If a thought of remotely possible happiness is going to make me querulous, I had better be without it. But also, there are temporary causes, like bad weather, too close application to work, etc. At all events, today the imperfections in my teaching, the occasional defects of my memory, the slight discomforts of my position under Adams the schemer, the narrowness of my groove, the insufficiency of my acquisitions, the slowness of my special work, the failure to accomplish any striking result, the smallness of my professional acquaintance, the remarkable fewness of my friends, the lukewarmness of their regard for me, the absence of delight from my life and of spirits from my nature,--seem to have taken the first place in my thoughts.

10 January 1884
Found, at class, a note summoning me to see Gilman. He wanted me to give a lecture in Hopkins Hall, as one of a course bearing on Greek Archaeology, my contribution to be a lecture pointing out in a general way the geographical relations of Greece, indeed of the Levant generally, next after the introductory lecture by Dr. Waldstein; it must be an oral lecture without notes,--stand up in front of the maps and tell 'em all about it. He wished in part to show up the new departure in geography, in part to give me a chance to show what I could do. This was kind, and appreciated; but in fact it was simply a chance to show what I couldn't do. I disliked to disoblige him, for he seemed to have his heart quite set on having such a lecture given, totally unnecessary as it would be. But I declined, not only because I wasn't sufficiently up on it, but also because, if I were, extempore discourse was something I was incapable of. If I ever do come forward before a Hopkins Hall audience, it will be with something worth while and well prepared; and furthermore it will be in the field of history and not of geography. Talking with Adams just before dinner he said he thought it would have been wiser to undertake it; perhaps it would have been more politic, I don't believe it is wiser to do such things. But it made me feel a little uncomfortable.

6 March 1884
Don't see what makes me sleepy daily toward the end of the evening. Perhaps I am a little tired. This may be the reason, too, why I am feeling rather dissatisfied and blue. It may be simply that I need more rest and exercise; but I think it is founded on better reasons than that. In fact, what have I to look forward to, as to either happiness or success of a kind that I care for? I have the capacity and am acquiring the education, to make a good historian. Yet I shall be obliged, in the most favorable event, to spend the next fifteen years in the drudgery of teaching. For drudgery it is, as I begin to see. You may think you are going to exert great influence over a considerable body of young men, wake them to enthusiasm, and greatly contribute to their political education. But the fact is, that you exercise no influence over them, they have no enthusiasm, and as to political education, that doesn't consist in retailing borrowed and unverified generalizations, yet nothing else is possible with the rapid transit we have to make through great periods with scanty, hand-to-mouth preparation each day. Fifteen years of this sort of thing, carried on in the lifeless way in which I carry it on, may not spoil the historian in me. But this is the most favorable possible event. Against it is the great chance that the family may not be prosperous, the chance that such keeping-down of expenses as would be required in order to get money enough to retire on may prove impracticable, and the chance that I may find it insupportable or think it morally indefensible to live unmarried and childless. And there is no use in blinking the fact that marriage, involving forty years' teaching instead of fifteen, will make absolutely impossible those professional designs which alone can make it worth while to have lived. I wish, every day of my life, that I had money. It is not simply a useless, but a pernicious line of thought. But, without money, what have I to look forward to but the crushing out of every aspiration and the monotonous routine of a schoolmaster's life without a genius for teaching.

Jameson was "really an able scholarly, conscientious, manly fellow," Adams informed Gilman in July 1885, but the young scholar's proven abilities did not prevent Hopkins trustees from serving notice that he could not expect to remain at the university indefinitely. The refusal of the trustees to grant him yearly salary increases provoked Jameson in 1886 to appeal directly to them. "I do not wish to praise my teaching," he insisted, "but I think every one of the students who has followed my courses during these three years would do that for me, and do it warmly."

More was at stake in these negotiations than Jameson's self-regard. The election of Democrat Grover Cleveland as president in November 1884 jeopardized the position his Republican father held as postmaster of Amherst, and even Jameson's personal plea to Cleveland in the White House was unavailing. With his father unemployed by March 1885, Jameson assumed financial responsibility for his entire family, and while he had searched for college teaching jobs since his second year at the university, his attendance at the first meeting of the American Historical Association in September 1884 convinced him that there was "less chance than I expected of seeing men from whom a job may come."

One bright spot in this gloomy panorama was the intense relationship Jameson developed with Martha Ward Carey, a strikingly beautiful boarding house owner and friend to many Johns Hopkins students. Twenty-two years older than Jameson, Martha Ward lost two brothers in the Civil War, but sustained her family and rebuilt its shattered finances before marrying James L. Carey of Baltimore, who died in 1875. Given to romantic fantasies, Jameson imagined that he was in love with her. These feelings evaporated over time, but the residue was a strong bond between Jameson and the Ward family that lasted until his death.

19 May 1884
Going down to the univ. after lunch, found there a note from the trustees inviting me to continue here as associate next year at my present salary. It was a crushing and sudden blow, and knocked the bottom out of every one of my most cherished plans. Besides, it was so confoundedly mean after all the work I've done this year and the laying of so much more on me for next year, that I was more angry all the afternoon than I ever was before in my life, solely, however, with Gilman and Adams, for the one was mean enough to do it, and the other was mean enough to let him, when he might have prevented it. They did it because they thought they could, I not having any other prospect; and $250 could be saved to this great university.

3 October 1884
Felt pretty well prepared when I went into my Eng. history class; but was too fluent. In my const[titutional history] class only two, Ryttenberg and Steiner. It isn't going to be so hard to run this class, if there are to be only two men in it, but I should rather it were not these two Jews. I don't like Jews; they are almost never really gentlemen, and they have no soul or sympathetic qualities.

23 February 1885
At noon commemoration exercises, whereof chief feature was an hour's address by Gilman. It was very tedious to me, but of course he has to adapt his remarks to those who hear him only that once, and not to those who have heard him say the same things a dozen times. Still it wasn't a scholarly performance, it was addressed wholly to the pit, and every part of it was an adroit means to some end,--here to please the Quakers, here to puff [Semitics professor Paul] Haupt, here to dig the anti-vivisectionists. It was a discussion nominally of the ways in which universities have helped civilization, but I observed that only those departments were taken up which are worked here, and almost all the illustrations were taken from the J.H.U. But the thing that made me most angry in this Apology to the Baltimore Public for the Existence of the Johns Hopkins University, was the immense amount of religious cant he worked in, giving a misleading idea of the thorough and orthodox Christianity of this univ., in order to please the most obscurantist, dead and stagnant population in America. Confound it, they're getting worse and worse, truckling more and more; before long they will get so awfully Christian there is no living with them. We wicked infidels are already rather isolated, and I judge "spotted." That is, a man with decided disbelief in Christianity is; a man who doesn't care much one way or the other, goes to church, and leads a life of low and selfish ambition, is not frowned upon.

26 March 1885
Well, the blow has fallen. Allinson at breakfast showed me in the [Baltimore] Sun the appointment of Couch as postmaster at Amherst. I kept up an appearance of calmness, not to say unconcern, and merely expressed surprise; but in reality it is a very sad and severe thing. My father loses an office for which he was more than well fitted, and which he had managed admirably, and in which he could work as long as he could do anything. He is obliged to begin life again at the bottom, with only a house, at the age of 56, worn out in constitution, unfit for his former work of teaching, with a family and his sister dependent on him, with, in my opinion, but little chance of succeeding in making a living, and I fear but few years to live.

And to me it means the abandonment of every hope I had allowed myself to retain, the hope of going abroad next summer, or indeed at any time, the hope of securing fewer hours, the hope of giving myself the best sort of historical training and finally satisfying the requirements of my intellect and the best and highest desires of my heart by producing a great historical work which should be a signal contribution to the political information of my countrymen and so, to the best of my ability, helping on the race to its higher destiny. For now I must employ every spare hour to get money for them. And the teacher's life which I have been looking at with daily disgust and hope of final release, must be my life until I die. I think it was a fortunate thing that Mrs. Carey happened only the other day to impress vividly upon my mind the duty of loving such work more, caring more for my students, and infusing more love and enthusiasm into just this part of my activities. I feel now as if I could do this; especially with her to help me,

I met her on the street after lunch, walked with her to No. 9, & found her there at 5, after a lecture on the Federalists which interested me, to take her home. She made me walk Eutaw Place with her, talking Am. hist. But I went to her house again after dinner, and talked it all over with her, getting help to my courage and resolution, more from the lights her wonderful nature throws upon it than from any definite suggestions she made. There are none to make, except to be brave.

4 June 1885
Left my note for Gilman. In the middle of the day a note was brought to the house from him, saying I had better take the Century Dictionary's offer as assistant editor, as it looked like a good thing, referring me to an enclosed copy of a trustees' resolution, and saying come in and see him before I left town. It was a mighty rude sort of a note, couched in such a style as only a plantation-overseer or a college president would use. If he'd really meant to say good-bye, it seems to me that even he would be more polite about it; it looked like fluff, and still more so did his sending up a reply immediately by a messenger. That was absurdly artificial, no one can think it wasn't an affectation. At the same time there seemed no escape from the decision of the trustees, that they, in view of additional expense of phys. lab. and med. dept. (if they can't afford a med. dept., why have one) would spend no more money in salaries next year than this; a generous policy, sure to attach ambitious young men! And it made me sad to think of a chance that after all, if my father's prospect[s] don't improve, I may have for the money's sake to go away from here, and leave so soon my happiness and inspiration. But a love so closely connected with all that is highest in me ought to make duty sweet beyond the bitterness of parting.

Early in his studies at Johns Hopkins, Jameson became fascinated by social history, encouraged in part by the writings of Hippolyte Taine on the French Revolution, but his innate conservatism deflected him from this politically provocative field. Instead, his chief published work was an unexceptional biography of the Dutch colonizer, Wllem Usselinx, published in 1887, and Jameson gradually turned his attention toward historiography and historical criticism instead of narrative history. He found that graduate students judged his lectures on historical methods to have been "the most interesting and profitable they had had since they had been at the university." His teaching and his explorations in Dutch colonial history proved sufficient in 1888 to elicit from Brown University president Ezekiel G. Robinson an offer to assume the professorship of history there.

26 January 1887
I began [a lecture on historical writing] at 5, sharp, with an audience of 110 or 120; the hall soon was full, however; except a few seats. Various friends were there; not many instructors or professors. I pitched in, feeling first-rate, and gave it with zest, and in my best manner. It took exceedingly well, and was much applauded at the end, and occasionally during it. From all I hear I think it was as successful as any lecture ever given in Hopkins Hall by any of the men. This is my seventh year, and no one outside has known me. And those who did know me have thought I was, in [French instructor Frederick] Warren's phrase, as dry as a contribution-box. I think I surprised nearly everybody. Mrs. Carey heard a man say this was the most brilliant man in the univ. Williams told me it was the most interesting lecture he had ever heard in Hopkins Hall. And I have, altogether, been hearing very nice things. Warren says that from what he hears I shall have a crowd on Friday; he considers I have boomed Jameson stock greatly. Sorry that Gilman couldn't hear it. He came in just at the last minute, however, and I am sure saw how forcibly I was talking, how attentive every one was, and how well people applauded; and that is the main thing, so far as he is concerned. I suppose this first lecture will make the reputation of the course. Altogether, my choice of subject was skilful, though it looks dry on a bulletin board.--Well, I am much pleased with it all, and greatly encouraged. Mrs. Carey is full of kind pleasure over it, dear, lovely friend! That I gave them at all is due to her, as will be, mainly, all the success that may henceforth come to me from trying to be more than a scholar in the univ. I owe an immense amount to her;--more than I appreciate, very likely.

7 April 1887
Got along well with work in A.M., and was happy. At lunch Adams told me that, Judge Cooley having gone on the Interstate Commerce Commission, the professorship of history in Michigan Univ. had again been offered him--a fine opening, which he should accept if the salary were equal; it is $2200, will be $2500. [President James] Angell had asked him who would do, & inquired as to Woodrow Wilson, but Adams had him fixed with a better combination, and proposed to nominate me. Wanted me to say at dinner whether I'd go in for it. Consulted Warren on it. "Fine opening for a young man"; nothing better will probably turn up as long as I'm in Baltimore; and he doesn't see any chance of much advancement here, and says that no subordinate that he knows of means to stay here. There are some considerations against it with me, flattering as the chance is, (too flattering perhaps really to come to me). But the central thought is--my love for Mrs. Carey; that was what came into my mind first, when Adams spoke, and all argument as to my interest, as to my career, seemed to make no impression on me. I couldn't take it in; it slid off. I seemed to myself to have my mind made up to start with; it seemed to me inconceivable that I should really go. After much walking and talking with Warren, we repaired to his room. He is very kind and sympathetic, in an unyielding sort of way. I "took on" somewhat in a quiet way, cried, etc. Warren said it would be suicidal to decline outright, and I should then have no future here with the boss and Adams. So I intimated to Adams in as business-like a manner as I could, my willingness to consider the matter. I hope it will all blow over; It seems to me that I might well enough stay here, that my ambition is rather to be a first class historical writer than a great teacher or the organizer of a department, and that I do not care so greatly about success. But Warren says it is sheer weakness to decline such a thing on those grounds that really do decide me, and points out that I have all along been sighing for more force, and scope in an executive way, and would go but for this one thing. How is it? Am I unworldly, or am I simply weak? I believe it is true that I should in any case dislike mortally to go out there; but probably I should go but for this love. Warren says I must see that if it got out (my reason, i.e.) it would kill me among all the univ. people. But they are all of one stripe, worshippers of success. Yet should I be foregoing success for any higher cause? There is some duty about it, to be sure, a duty to cherish and help her; but I'm not really necessary to her. No, I should be staying just for love, i.e., just because I want to. Or is it something better than that? I live to some degree in an ideal world, and get my satisfactions from it. But at sixty, shall I regret having made so great a sacrifice of career to a love-affair?--Dunno. Am going to bed.

23 May 1888
At 11 Adams and Ely spring on me the question, whether I wanted to go to Wesleyan as professor of history and political economy at $2500. Pres. Van Vleck is coming tonight, and they can apparently give it to whom they will. It struck me with a chill, as the Michigan chance did last year, and I felt as if I couldn't go. But Warren's work on that doesn't need to be done over again, and I have made up my mind to take it if I can get it, though indeed I think religion will prevent. It would be dreadful to leave the Careys, and poor fun teaching scrubby Methodist undergraduates, but the Jamesons need the money and I need the opportunity, whereas there is not much future here; Adams will no doubt stay now.

5 June 1888
After breakfast to prayers [at Brown University], where I saw some of my future colleagues, most of whom seemed to me not very modern. Dr. Robinson showed me around, and we had much talk. Then met two members of the [trustee] committee, Mr. Chase & Dr. Gammell, the latter of whom walked me around town, and gave me his views. He believes there is a chance to work up a graduate department here. I encouraged him to believe I should do everything possible toward that end. Yet, with all my desire to do these things and to build up a big department here, I doubt whether my love of quiet study may not overcome this acquired taste for booming. Saw [Johns Hopkins graduate Henry B.] Gardner down town; he will be a most valuable ally [as professor of political economy]. After dinner the committee met and inspected me. Result favorable. Dr. R. returned from his faculty-meeting, after Gardner had arrived, for tea, and nothing was really said of salary until after tea, when the shrewd old man so fixed it that the rate of $2000 the first year could not be gainsaid. He said it would be $2500 the second year. I left with a feeling that the outlook was very favorable, for the new professor. Gardner, association with whom will be very agreeable and helpful, accompanied me to the boat [to return to Baltimore]. Went to bed early.

Brown University would be "a fine vantage-ground" for his career, Jameson now decided, especially since his family would be close by. His years at Johns Hopkins had been exciting, troubled, and filled with uncertainty, but he recognized the essential role the university had played in setting him on his life's work. It was with genuine sincerity and appreciation that, borrowing from Wordsworth, Jameson in 1916 said of his Johns Hopkins experience, "Joy was it at that time to be alive, but to be young was very heaven."

Morey Rothberg is the editor of John Franklin Jameson and the Development of Humanistic Scholarship in America (University of Georgia Press) , a three-volume edition of Jameson's papers. These diary entries were excerpted from Volume 2, The Years of Growth, 1859-1905, to be published in 1996.

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