Light on the hill: A history of Tufts College, 1852-1952

Miller, Russell


The endowment for the school of law and diplomacy provided in Fletcher's will began to trickle in as various parts of the estate were settled. The first installment ($100,000) arrived in 1925, and in the following year the Trustees authorized the setting aside of the income in accordance with Fletcher's bequest. President Cousens was also authorized in 1926 to start planning for "the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy." A few weeks later, Professor George Grafton Wilson of the Harvard Law School was appointed "Lecturer in International Law in the Fletcher School" for the academic year 1926-27. An assistant in the Government Department was also appointed and paid from the Fletcher School fund. These were somewhat misleading appointments, as the Fletcher School had not yet actually come into existence. They represented, however, more than bookkeeping sleight-of-hand. The appointments were quite in accord with Cousens' broad interpretation of the Fletcher bequest. Long before the estate had been settled, the Tufts president had insisted that the word "school" might "mean almost anything. ... If we wanted to we could make the Fletcher School of Law merely a group of five or six eminent men who give courses of lectures on College Hill to those who care to listen." The two appointments were actually operative in the school of liberal arts, where Professor Wilson taught the course in international law in the Department of Government and International Law, following the resignation of Professor Arthur I. Andrews. In 1927, because Professor Wilson was otherwise committed, W. Penn Cresson was elected Professor of International Law and Diplomacy "in connection with the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy." This rather makeshift arrangement did not work out very well. In 1928 a substitute had to be provided when Professor Cresson served as a member of the United States delegation to the Sixth International Conference of American States in Havana. Illness then prevented him from fulfilling many of his academic duties the following year. As a consequence, instruction in international law by way of the school of liberal arts was temporarily abandoned.



It appeared by 1927 that appropriate trust fund investments intended to finance the Fletcher School were in order, and a committee was appointed to investigate possibilities for the school. That part of the Fletcher legacy earmarked for the school was derived from the sale of part of the Florida lands, and by 1929 all but a $75,000 mortgage had been "conservatively invested in stock and bonds"; the mortgage was cleared away during the following year when the federal government purchased part of the land for reforestation purposes. The next step was to obtain clarification of the exact intent of that portion of Fletcher's will that provided for a school of law and diplomacy. This was made necessary because Boston University was an interested party to the Fletcher bequest. Fletcher had been a member of the Trustees of Boston University as well as of Tufts, and in his will he had stipulated that if his $1,000,000 gift were not used by Tufts "for the purposes declared therein," Boston University would receive the bequest. Expert advice was obtained which removed any question that Tufts' plans for using the gift might be inconsistent with Fletcher's intention. According to the ruling handed down, Fletcher's purpose was not to be narrowly construed. More specifically, the interpretation was offered that he did not have in mind a school "of the usual kind, which prepares men for admission to the bar and for the active practice of the law."[14]  Instead, according to legal advice, Fletcher envisioned "a school to prepare men for the diplomatic service and to teach such matters as come within the scope of foreign relations [which] embraces within it as a fundamental a thorough knowledge of the principles of international law upon which diplomacy is founded, although the profession of a diplomat carries with it also a knowledge of many things of a geographic and economic nature which affect relations between nations." Some research on the part of the law firm that offered the liberal interpretation of Fletcher's intent divulged the fact that Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and the Walter Hines Page School of Diplomacy of the Johns Hopkins University offered such programs and that similar courses, in whole or in part, were also available at the American University in Washington, D.C., at Columbia University, and at Harvard. The


Wharton School in the University of Pennsylvania offered a four-year course for those interested in foreign trade. The conclusion was that there was "in process a development which has reached a point where it may well be said to have a recognized standing of its own," and that the Fletcher bequest could properly be used to establish a school of international law and diplomacy. The settlement of questions concerning the far-flung Fletcher estate in 1928 and the clarification of the Fletcher will at the same time led Cousens to plan optimistically for the opening of at least part of the school by September 1928.

The Fletcher School did not become a reality in 1928; in fact, it did not open its door for five more years. Yet considerable necessary groundwork was laid in the intervening period. One forehanded idea developed in 1929 and 1930 was to collect a group of eminent persons who could "be invited to consider themselves a Board of Advisers" during the preliminary stages and who might then become the Board of Visitors to the school when it actually came into being. Among those first suggested were Owen D. Young, Edith Nourse Rogers, Mrs. Roland B. Hopkins, and Manley 0. Hudson. In 1930 Cousens' list had become a "Committee of Seven" which included several listed above, plus Frederick Hodgdon and Frank Knowlton (representing the Trustees), Christian Herter, Charles K. Webster, Roland W. Boyden, Daniel G. Wing, and James T. Shotwell. Cousens also had one or more conferences with literally dozens of other individuals whose judgment, by the very nature of their positions and reputation, would be of value. This list included President Lowell of Harvard and Sherwood Eddy.

The President offered tentative plans for the school to the Trustees in 1929 on his own responsibility, without having yet submitted them to the special Trustee committee on the Fletcher School which had been created some time before. The full Board nonetheless gave his plan their "general approval" and authorized the committee, "after checking the plan in detail," to submit it to the appropriate court to be sure that it was compatible with the conditions in Fletcher's will. After the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts approved the Tufts petition in 1930, it appeared that the road was finally clear for the working out of detailed


plans.[15]  Boston University also gave its assent to the detailed draft of the plans for the Fletcher School.

The problem of interpreting Fletcher's will having been presumably cleared away, Cousens put on paper his thoughts as to the nature of the school.[16]  He saw it as mainly (but not exclusively) graduate in character, offering the degree of Master of Arts in International Law to a highly selected student body that would attain a maximum of fifty. A building to accommodate the school was to be provided on the Medford campus, and the course would require the conventional minimum of one year in residence. If students were discovered to have deficiencies in certain basic subjects such as history, economics, and foreign language, they could satisfy prerequisites through courses in the school of liberal arts. Cousens emphasized the need of a Board of Visitors, machinery for which had long existed in the organization of the College. However, unlike the existing bodies of Visitors, the one for Fletcher would be composed of persons generally outside the Board of Trustees and having no connection with the institution; because of their interest in international affairs, they would render "real service in initiating the policy of the School." The Fletcher School was to be housed in a new building constructed on the Hill, next to Miner Hall, with access both from the main Campus Drive and by a short path from the corner of College Avenue and Professors Row on the southeasterly corner of the main campus.

After the building was provided for, Cousens estimated that an annual income of $50,000 from the Fletcher bequest, which in 1929 he allocated down to the last cent, would be sufficient to operate the school. The two chief members of the faculty were to be a Professor of International Relations, who was to serve also as dean


of the school, and a Professor of International Economics. Both were expected to spend at least half of each year abroad and for this reason were allotted general travel expenses in Cousens' plan.[17]  There would be four additional staff positions carrying professorial rank: a Professor of International Law, a Professor of Diplomatic History, and one Assistant Professor each in International Relations and in International Economics. Cousens never for a moment saw the school completely separated from the rest of the College. One-third of the salary of the Professor of International Law was to be contributed by the school of liberal arts, and the chairman of the Tufts Department of History was to serve as Professor of Diplomatic History, with the school of liberal arts contributing the majority of his salary. The high salaries for three of the four full professors (who were to be brought in from outside the institution) were, as Cousens noted, "entirely out of line with any other salary scheduled in the institution." This was, to him, "the crux of the whole plan"; only the very best men should be obtained, and their services came high. The division between Fletcher and College funds in the payment of salaries was made because it was "to be expected that certain courses in the School of Law and Diplomacy would be open to Seniors in the School of Liberal Arts." Likewise, the Professor of International Law would teach the undergraduate courses previously taught by Professors Wilson and Cresson. Tuition had yet to be considered, but he believed it would "not be very difficult to secure ten to fifteen scholarships of $500 each." There were also to be five Teaching Fellows giving service half-time, and a secretary-librarian. Cousens allotted the remainder of the $50,000 ($5,500) for a library and for building maintenance.

No attempt had been made in 1929 to prepare a detailed curriculum, but the president offered some general suggestions. The Fletcher School, as a graduate institution, was to be strictly professional in its objectives. At least four areas should be taken into account in working out a course of study: the consular service, the secretarial departments of the diplomatic service, teaching, and industry overseas. The uniqueness of the school would not lie so much in the courses to be offered as "in the stress laid upon the outstanding character of the three chief men, and the provision that


they must use the world as a laboratory to the end that theirs may be a contribution to education in international affairs in the broadest sense." Cousens had consulted sufficient experts by 1930 to present to the Trustees a "hypothetical" curriculum for the Fletcher School, organized for the most part along the lines he had suggested the previous year. The courses were grouped under four general headings and represented a combination of full-year and one-semester courses in International Relations, International Economics, International Law, and Diplomatic History.

In accord with his plans to find the very best man possible to head the school, Cousens selected Professor James T. Shotwell of Columbia University. Shotwell, a distinguished scholar and maker of diplomatic history and expert in the complex field of international affairs, had taken a great interest in the Fletcher School project and offered some suggestions for the curriculum.[18]  He was unofficially offered the position of dean (with the equally unofficial consent of several of the Trustees) by Cousens, but the disappointed president had to be content with a refusal on the grounds that Shotwell was too deeply involved in other projects to accept. Shotwell added that if he were a few years younger and did not have so many other obligations (including commitments in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, of which he later became the head), he would have "seized the opportunity with eagerness." Cousens thereupon readjusted his sights. After coming regretfully to the conclusion that the search for a director who had Shotwell's qualifications, and who was at the same time available, was "hopeless," he decided to concentrate on finding "a relatively young man whose future lies before him and whose reputation has not yet been established." Meanwhile, he continued to seek advice about the school and turned to Harvard for counsel. There followed a series of conversations with Manley 0. Hudson, George Grafton Wilson, and Roscoe Pound, dean of the Harvard Law School. The upshot of the informal meetings was the suggestion that the operation of the Fletcher School might be made a joint project of Tufts and the Harvard Law School. No such arrangement could be concluded without the approval of President Lowell and the Harvard Corporation, so Lowell was apprised of the


discussions. As soon as he was informed by Dean Pound, who took the initiative and assumed "somewhat of a controlling hand," the Harvard president agreed to an expansion of the idea of cooperation to include utilization of all of Harvard's educational resources that might be appropriate.

During the first semester of 1931-32 Cousens was on leave of absence for a trip abroad, but officials at Harvard were sufficiently intrigued by the possibilities of the new school to approach Dean Wren, of the Tufts School of Liberal Arts, to discuss "the possibility of combining with Tufts in establishing a School of Diplomacy." No decisions were made at the time, any possible action being necessarily deferred until Cousens' return. Preliminary conversations were resumed between the presidents of the two institutions early in the spring of 1932. The end product was a memorandum submitted to the Tufts Trustees and to the Harvard Corporation outlining a proposal for joint administration of the Fletcher School. This seemed to offer a unique opportunity that would redound to the mutual benefit of both Tufts and Harvard, and Cousens predicted that a development of "far reaching consequences" was in store for the College. This proposal to cooperate formally with other institutions in the Boston area in conducting an academic program was not the first. At the same time, it did represent the most far-reaching such venture as well as the most durable, in spite of grave difficulties that developed over the course of years and threatened more than once to bring the experiment to an unhappy end.


[14] Frank Knowlton, an alumnus of the Class of 1899 and a member of the firm of Choate, Hall and Stewart, acted as counsel for the College.

[15] The member of the firm of Choate, Hall, and Stewart who presented the petition on behalf of the College reported that the judge before whom the case was heard "entertained no doubts whatever about the complete propriety of the plan for the school as now outlined and of the further propriety of changing it from time to time to meet exigencies as they might arise." The basic outline of the course of study was prepared by Halford L. Hoskins, then chairman of the Department of History and later the dean of the Fletcher School when it opened four years after the court ruling was handed down.

[16] His proposals were embodied in his annual report to the Trustees in the fall of 1929.

[17] Half of the traveling expenses of the Professor of International Economics was to come from the Braker Fund.

[18] For an account of important aspects of his career, see James T. Shotwell, Autobiography (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1961).

  • Light on the Hill, the history of Tufts College, was published to coincide with the centennial of the institution in 1952. A second volume was published in 1986. This edition was created from the 1966 edition of Light on the Hill, Volume I.
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