The Jacksonville College Affair.
SPRINGFIELD, June 23, 1862.
About six weeks ago a majority of the senior class met at the recitation room of the professor of rhetoric and respectfully requested that everything of a political character be excluded from commencement, or that a fair representation of both sides be allowed.
Notwithstanding the deferential manner in which they acted toward his highness, the professor became very indignant, declaring that it was a great insult, and that he did not acknowledge their right to dictate to him what was proper to be spoken on that occasion. They denied having acted in a dictatorial manner, but claimed the right of petition. The professor was inexorable. Surprised at his conduct, they abandoned the idea of an exclusion of political sentiments, and went about preparing their briefs.
One of the young gentlemen, to whom allusions is made, was the first to hand in his brief. It was returned to him so much disfigured as to be scarcely recognizable, and, what is very remarkable, everything of a political character was carefully suppressed on the ground that it expressed nothing else than the "Richardson Address," and to use the professor's own expression, "would disgrace a Hottentot." He reported the result to his classmates — three of whom in connection with himself, declared that if they could not have the same privilege which was accorded to the other portion of the class, they would request to be excused from taking any part in the exercises. They went to the professor for the purpose of reconciling the matter, but only to be insulted, he degrading the dignity of a professorship by resorting to personal abuse. Thinking that perhaps it would be better, the young man after modifying it considerable, but still maintaining his political views, again presented to him his oration, but only to have the insults and taunts renewed. Once more did he throw himself upon the reputed good sense of the professor by sending it in a third time with several alterations, the whole of which was approved by the other three. This time it was rejected unconditionally. He was never told it was not thrown out on account of the sentiment therein contained, but that it was rhetorically defective, and that it was now too late for him to prepare for commencement. Subsequent to which time, however, another member of the class handed in his brief, which was approved. Thus, after rejecting the oration twice, for no other reason than that the sentiments did not suit his own peculiar views, Prof. Saunders ungenerously told him that he could not speak at commencement.
Finding that they could not have a fair expression of thought — a thing unprecedented in college history, or in any country, except where tyranny prevails — they resolved to take no part in the exercises. Upon the facts being made known, the citizens of Jacksonville, irrespective of party, requested that they deliver their orations as prepared, on the evening of the 19th, that an impartial public might judge of their merits or defects. They complied with the request, and on the evening of commencement day, rehearsed their speeches before a thronged audience, with a success beyond the most sanguine expectations of their friends. After the exercises were over the Hon. Cyrus Epler offered a resolution, that in the opinion of those present there was nothing contained in the speeches to which a candid mind would object, and that they would compare favorably with any spoken on that day. It was received with shouts of applause and unanimously adopted.
Those who heard the speeches on the morning of commencement — and those in the afternoon — and who know the circumstances as they exist, can judge of the spirit of intolerance which actuates the faculty of Illinois College. For simply maintaining their rights the diplomas to which they are justly entitled were withheld — and the professor and his friends, smarting under the severe rebuke which they have received, seek a defense by misrepresentation, which, when properly exposed, will only render his conduct the more infamous.