The New York Times
24 May 1903


   To the Editor of the New York Times:

   As I happen to be the innocent cause of the criticism in the editorial columns of your excellent paper to-day relative to the supposed action of the Lectures and Libraries Committee of the Board of Education at its last meeting, I must ask you to allow me a brief space for explanation.

   You state that the committee pronounced an "edict of expulsion" against Paul Jones; meaning thereby that all biographies of that distinguished patriot-sailor had been stricken from the list of new books to be provided for the various classes of our public schools. You are quite in error on that point, but I believe that the error was caused by misinformation deliberately supplied by some one for his own petty ends.

   The list of books as finally agreed upon by the School Librarian, Mr. Leland, and the Board of Superintendents, contained three lives of Paul Jones—one by Cyrus Townsend Brady, one by Seawell, and a third by the antiquated Abbott. Desiring to give our school children the best that could be had, I made a motion to substitute Buell’s Life of Jones for Abbott’s. I think I can state truly that the committee was unanimous in the belief that the substitution should be made, but I was induced to withdraw my motion for the present in order to avoid a probably delay in having our new book list pass through the official stages of confirmation. However, I had Abbott’s life stricken from the list, leaving Brady’s and Sewell’s admirable lives of Jones undisturbed.

   Thus, you see, the committee only struck off a life, not the life of John Paul Jones, for whom I personally—and every one of my colleagues, no doubt—have as "intense an admiration" as yourself, Mr. Editor. You may be sure, also, that when the proper time comes, Buell’s life will be added to the list. Without disparaging Brady’s admirable work, allow me to add that I believe with you, that Buell’s life is the best, and I so said at the committee meeting.

   As to "Uncle Tom's Cabin," no doubt the committee would be divided in opinion should the question of striking it from the list come before the Committee on Libraries. As a matter of fact it has never been raised at any regular meeting. Personally I would oppose striking it from any prepared list, because I do not believe in attempting to suppress any branch of literature for mere political or sentimental reasons. Next to the Bible, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is the book most read in our country to-day. You might as well try to suppress all histories of the rebellion as to try to suppress Mrs. Stowe’s great book, which really played an important part in the anti-slavery fight before secession.

   In conclusion, Mr. Editor, allow me to express my admiration of your New York City history competition, which I have no doubt will be crowned with brilliant success. I was glad to read president Roger’s hearty and sensible commendation.


   New York, May 22, 1903.