Essay about An Analysis Of Matthew Vassar And Milo Jewett

Essay about An Analysis Of Matthew Vassar And Milo Jewett

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In 1861, Matthew Vassar and Milo Jewett had endowed a college that defied beliefs of the time and was unparalleled among other academic institutions in America – a chartered college that would give women an education equal to that of Harvard or Yale for men. The two men had worked together arduously for years to complete this task, yet after all this time, tensions arose and tempers flared between them. They were firmly divided over one issue – the opening date. Jewett wanted the college to open in the fall of 1864; Vassar preferred to wait until 1865. Unable to persuade Vassar, Jewett wrote a frustrated letter to a trustee, William Hague, in which he described Vassar’s decision as “fickle” and “childish.” Having read the letter, Hague put it in his top hat and visited another trustee, Charles Swann, who lifted the letter from Hague’s hat and read it. Believing the contents to a part of a coup, he immediately gave the letter to Vassar; who, feeling betrayed, ordered Jewett’s resignation. Jewett complied, and at a meeting of the trustees on April 29, 1864, his resignation was accepted. John Raymond replaced him as president of Vassar College.
Examining the “Top Hat Scandal” provides insight into Jewett and Vassar’s relationship and raises questions: how were these two men able to accomplish such a project as establishing a college, yet split over a seemingly minor issue? How did Jewett manage to persuade Vassar to spend his fortune in women’s higher education, an idea that went against popular sentiment, and a project to which his nephews objected? A description of Jewett in the journal of Benjamin Moran from 1862, an acquaintance of Jewett, expressed the view that there was nothing particularly prepossessing about him...

... middle of paper ..., $2500 of books, only to see it sit around, unused. Have the years taken such a toll on him and made him unable to finish his enterprise?
Jewett also tried to persuade Vassar that it would make him happy to open in 1864. Walking through the library and grounds of the college he had given his life’s fortune to would be the greatest source of enjoyment for him. Only if the college was in operation could he suggest further improvements for the gardens and buildings. Finally, he urged Vassar to consider the honor he would receive upon completing this endeavor. He would have made a great contribution to America’s higher education, for Vassar College would be unparalleled and he would be praised for his role as a benefactor to young women. Regardless, the same headstrong determination Jewett used to urge Vassar to build Vassar College was his downfall.

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