Autobiography of Andrew Dickson White - Vol. 1

By Andrew Dickson White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
EZRA CORNELL--1865-1874

O N the first day of the year 1864, taking my seat for the first time in the State Senate at Albany, I found among my associates a tall, spare man, apparently very reserved and austere, and soon learned his name--Ezra Cornell.

Though his chair was near mine, there was at first little intercourse between us, and there seemed small chance of more. He was steadily occupied, and seemed to have no desire for new acquaintances. He was, perhaps, the oldest man in the Senate; I, the youngest: he was a man of business; I was fresh from a university professorship: and, upon the announcement of committees, our paths seemed separated entirely; for he was made chairman of the committee on agriculture, while to me fell the chairmanship of the committee on education.

Yet it was this last difference which drew us together; for among the first things referred to my committee was a bill to incorporate a public library which he proposed to found in Ithaca.

On reading this bill I was struck, not merely by his gift of one hundred thousand dollars to his townsmen, but even more by a certain breadth and largeness in his way of making it. The most striking sign of this was his mode of forming a board of trustees; for, instead of the usual effort to tie up the organization forever in some sect, party, or clique, he had named the best men of his town -- his political opponents as well as his friends; and had

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