No. 243.
Mr. Davis to Mr. Bancroft.

No. 603.]

Sir: Referring to your No. 502, requesting information concerning the so-called American University of Philadelphia, and especially in regard [Page 428] to the proceedings of one Dr. P. F. A. Vander Vyver, of the island of Jersey, who offers for sale certain diplomas of the above-mentioned institution, I inclose herewith for your information a copy of a communication from the executive department of Pennsylvania, and of its inclosures, in answer to inquiries made at the instance of the consular agent of the United States at Konigsberg, concerning the subject in question.

I am, &c.,

Acting Secretary.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 603.]

Mr. Norris to Mr. Fish.

Sir: In reply to your letter of the 3d instant, making inquiry “whether the Philadelphia University of Medicine and Surgery have authority to grant a diploma of Doctor of Philosophy to a person who has not been a regular student of the university or who has not graduated in its course of study,” by direction of the governor I have the honor to transmit herewith a communication, with an accompanying circular from the secretary and treasurer of the board of trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, “which doubtless convey the information desired.

I am, &c.,

Private Secretary.

Hon. Hamilton Fish,
Secretary of State.

[Inclosure 2 in inclosure in No. 603,]

Mr. Piddle to Governor Hartranft.

Dear Sir: The letter from the Hon. Mr. Fish, with your indorsement, was this morning received.

An institution entitled the Philadelphia University of Medicine and Surgery did exist in Philadelphia, with power to confer degrees, hut at the last session of the legislature its charter was repealed. Dr. William Paine was the dean of this institution.

An elaborate report was at that time made by a committee, appointed by the legislature, which recommended the repeal of several charters. The report was adopted, and a hill passed.

It is reported that by an oversight the hill then passed did not repeal the charter of one of the institutions it was designed to reach.

The title of the Philadelphia University of Medicine and Surgery caused it to be confounded with the University of Pennsylvania, causing much very serious annoyance to the authorities of the latter, with which I am connected as secretary and treasurer.

I remain, &c.,


His Excellency Governor Hartranft.

[Inclosure 2 in inclosure No. 603.]

Frequent applications are made to the authorities of this university by gentlemen who desire to obtain honorary degrees. As these applications are made in evident ignorance of the rules which govern the university in conferring these degrees, as well as of the law of the State of Pennsylvania on the subject, it has been thought best to reprint the existing regulations.

[Page 429]

Extract from the statutes of the university.

“Of honorary degrees in divinity, law, arts, and medicine:

  • “1. These may he conferred either at the instance of the faculty or in pursuance of a resolution of the board of trustees; but no such degree shall be conferred unless the mandamus ordering the same be signed by two-thirds of the whole number of trustees, nor unless the candidate shall have been nominated at the board three months previously to taking the question on conferring the degree.
  • “2. The question on conferring an honorary degree shall always be decided by ballot, and the candidate must receive a unanimous vote.

“An act to prohibit the sale of academic degrees.

Section 1. Be it enacted by the senate and house of representatives of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania in general assembly met, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That it shall not be lawful for any university, college, or other institution incorporated under the laws of this State, with power to grant academic degrees, honorary or otherwise, to confer the same upon any person or persons upon the payment, or promise of payment, by any person, in consideration thereof; and any person knowingly signing a diploma or other instrument of writing purporting to confer an academic degree when such consideration has been paid, or promised to be paid, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof be sentenced to pay a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars and to undergo an imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both, or either, at the discretion of the court.

“Approved May 19, 1871.”