The Papers of Joseph Henry


My dear Sir

As it is desirable for all concerned, that there should be matured, before the next meeting of our Trustees, some plan which will secure to our students, as far as practicable, a course of instruction in Natural Philosophy, like to that which they now enjoy;—permit me to submit for your consideration the following propositions. If either of them should meet your views, I will do all I can to carry it into effect. If neither should be acceptable, I will thank you to suggest some one more agreeable to your own views and feelings.
In case you are not committed to a contrary course, I would propose, that you should give notice to the Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, that at the expiration of twelve months from the 1st of July next, you will resign your post of Secretary; and resume your former relation to the College: and that you should agree to do so on the following conditions,
1 That from the 1st of July 1848, your salary shall be $2.000 year.
2 That for the ensuing year, your salary shall remain as it now is;[1] with the understanding, that you are to make adequate provision for the instruction of the students in the studies of your department,—by instructing them youself alone, or with the aid of some competent teacher to be employed by you, with the approval of the Faculty.
If the above proposition cannot be acceded to, I would then propose, That you should make a permanent arrangement with the Regents of the Smithsonian Institution which will enable you to spend two months in a year in Princeton; and that you should also engage to deliver here, year by year, a course of thirty lectures on Physics:[2]—and that as a compensation, you should retain for the use of your family, should you deem it desirable, the house now occupied by you; and receive a salary of $500. a year, or $700. a year without a house.[3]
In this case it would be requisite to appoint another Professor, who might be styled Professor of Mechanical Philosophy; and whose duty it should be to teach, with the exception of Physics, the branches now taught by you, and also to lecture on Architecture.[4] For one, I would greatly prefer the first of these, propositions; and I mention the other simply because I deem it much better for the College than to lose your services altogether.
You need feel no delicacy about receiving a larger salary than your colleagues. With the exception of Dr Torrey, who only devotes only a part of his time to the College, and of myself, you have been much longer a Professor than any of your colleagues, and on that account you are fairly entitled to a larger compensation; to say nothing of the greater value of your services:—and I can assure you, that no one of us will feel himself undervalued, because of any addition to your salary, ours remaining as they are.

With the most sincere respect & esteem,

Your friend & colleague,

John Maclean
Professor Henry.
Henry Papers, Smithsonian Archives. Copy: Maclean Papers, Princeton University Archives, Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University.
    [1] Henry probably received his full salary ($1,500 and a house) from Princeton for the 1846–1847 academic year, during which he continued to reside in Princeton but traveled to Washington periodically.
    [2] The course Henry had been teaching was much longer. The previous year, for example, he delivered eighty-nine lectures. Henry Papers, 6:412n.
    [3] At a meeting on June 30, 1847, Princeton's Board of Trustees agreed to retain Henry as professor of natural philosophy, with a salary of $500 and the use of his current house, and specified that he could be assisted by other faculty members. The board promoted John T. Duffield to assistant professor of mathematics so that Stephen Alexander could assume part of Henry's duties in natural philosophy. Trustees' Minutes, June 30, 1847, vol. 3, p. 480, Princeton University Archives, Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University; John Maclean, History of the College of New Jersey, 1746–1854, 2 vols. in 1 (1877; New York, 1969), 2:320.
    [4] George Musgrave Giger (Henry Papers, 6:338n), adjunct professor of Greek, took over the lectures on architecture, which had been given by Henry from 1833 to 1838 and then by A. B. Dod until his death in 1845. Catalogue of the Officers and Students of the College of New Jersey for 1847–'48 (Princeton, 1848), p. 20; Henry Papers, 6:431n.