Nov 20, 2021

The Cutler Lecture Centennial

The first Cutler Lecture was delivered in 1921 by former US President (and future US Supreme Court justice) William Howard Taft. Who followed in his impressive footsteps?

The Ask the Archivist column in the Fall 2021 Rochester Review answered a question from Professor Gerald Gamm, who asked about the history of the Cutler Lecture Series which celebrated it centenary in 2021. You can read the article here

James Goold Cutler (1848-1927) served as Mayor of Rochester from 1904 to 1907, and was a member of the University's Board of Trustees from 1915 until his death. Cutler had trained as an architect, and briefly practiced in partnership with Andrew Jackson Warner.

His experience as an architect probably inspired the invention for which he is most widely known: the Cutler Mail Chute, which he patented in 1883. The chutes were installed in multi-story buildings to enable the collection of mail at the central location: residents simply dropped their letters in the chute and were spared the need to find a post office or mailbox on the street. The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections holds a small collection of papers, mainly photographs, related to the Cutler Mail Chute Company. Alum Karen Greene (PhD 1969) used the collection in research for her book Art Deco Mailboxes: A Design History. (The image above was designed by Claude Bragdon.)

The lecture series was suggested and funded by Cutler. Cutler took as his model the Stafford Little Lectures established at Princeton University in 1908, and wrote President Rush Rhees in 1920:

"It appears to me that the most useful contribution which I can make to promote the making of democracy safe for the world (to invert Mr. Wilson's aphorism) is to found in the University of Rochester, a course of lectures, designed to promote serious consideration, and consideration by as many people as possible, of certain points fundamental, and therefore, vital, to the permanence of constitutional government in the United States."

Not lost on him was that the initial speaker at Princeton was former President Grover Cleveland. "The problem, as I see it, is to secure a man of commanding position, as the first lecturer, who will strike our keynote at the outset."

It's clear from Cutler's correspondence with Rhees that his was a strong personality with strongly held opinions. Despite his reference to Woodrow Wilson, Cutler was not a great fan of the President, writing Rhees, "I think the choice should fall upon a man who stands actively before the public as a loyal American citizen, sound on Constitutional government and not tainted in any way with Mr. Wilson's nebulous idealism.

Curiously, in 1927, Cutler also established a lecture series at the College of William and Mary on the same principles as at Rochester. According to the William and Mary website, "Mr. Cutler declared as a basic proposition that our political system breaks down, when and where it fails, because of the lack of sound education of the people for whom and by whom it was intended to be carried on."

You can read the first six Cutler lectures here.

The 100th Congress and the 1988 Presidential Elections
1921 Taft, Willliam Howard Liberty Under Law  
1922 Burton, Theodore E. The Constitution of the United States--Its Origin and Distinctive Features"
1923 Davis, John W. The Constitution--A Thing of Life
1925 Beck, James M. Beck (US Solicitor General) The Changed Conception of the Constitution Read more  
1926 Hill, David Jayne Hill Human Nature in the Constitution Read more
1927 Warren, Charles The Trumpeters of the Constitution Read more
1928 Munro, William Bennett 1. The Constitution and the Taxing Power
2. The Constitution and the Control of Credit
3. The Constitution and the Regulation of Commerce
1930 Merriam, Charles (University of Chicago) 1. The Constitution and the Unwritten Attitude
2. Nation, State, and City under the Constitution
3. The Constitution and the Political Parties
1931 McBain, Howard Lee (Columbia University) "We, the People" Read more
1932 Powell, Thomas Reed (Harvard University) The Changing Constitution Read more
1934 Isaacs, Nathan (Harvard University) Recovery Under the Constitution:
1. The Natural History of Constitutions
2. The Hard Case of 1933
3. The Spirit of the American Constitution
Read more
1935 Kemmerer, Edwin W. (Princeton University) Our Present Day Monetary Policy and the Constitution Read more
1936 Hamilton, Walton Hale The Place of the Supreme Court in The Economic Order:
1. The Voice of the Interpreter
2. The Changing Concept of Due Process
3. The States of the Nation
1937 Corwin, Edward S.   Princeton "The Court and the Constitution:
1. The Rise and Extension of the Judicial Review of· Acts of Congress
2. Point of View in Constitutional Law
3. The President's Proposal
Read more
1938 Breuning, Heinrich (Former chancellor of Germany "The Reason for the Present Crisis in Traditional Democracy Read more
1939 Beard, Charles A. "Interpreting the Constitution:
1. The Dred Scott Process
2. Fugitive Slave Case
3. Unwinding the 14th Amendment
Read more
1941 Becker, Clark, Cornell University   Read more
1941 Morley, Felix A Federation of States and European Peace  
1943 Friedrich, Carl J.  Harvard 1. Civil Liberties for a Free World
2. Constitutional Government and the Needs of Total war
Read more
1944 Ball, Joseph H.  (US Senator) cancelled Read more
1948 Smith, Thomas V.  Civil Liberties: Their Nature and Limits Read more
1950 Wolfers, Arnold The Search for World Security  
1951 Wright, Quincy     
1964 Easton, David A Framework for Political Analysis  
1965 Kahn, Herman Escalation and Crises  
1966 Sharp, Mitchell (Finance Minister of Canada) Read more
1967 Stokes, Donald (University of Michigan) Ideological Competition of Parties: The Case of England
1968 Olson, Mancour Problems of Quantification for a Social Report
1970 Barber, James D. (Yale University) How to be a Good President  
1972 Polsby, Nelson (University of California, Berkeley)  
1974 Wildavsky, Aaron    Read more
1975 Lowi, Theodore (Cornell University)   Read more
1979 Wilson, James Q. The Politics of Regulation  
1980 Rohde, David (Michigan State)   Read more
1982 Rabushka, Alvin (University of Rochester and Hoover Institution, Stanford) Read more
1983 Jones, Charles O. Keeping Faith and Losing Congress: Thoughts on Jimmy Carter
1985 Fiorina, Morris (Harvard University) Continuity and Change in Congressional Elections
1986 Putnam, Robert (Harvard University) Domestic Politics, International Economics, and Western Summitry: 1975-86  
1987 Mann, Thomas E.
1988 Barker, Lucius J.  (Washington University, St. Louis) Jesse Jackson's Presidential Campaign: 1984 Looking at 1988 and Beyond  
1989 Nie, Norman Political Participation in American in 1967 and 1987: Some Comparisons  
1991 Jacobson, Gary C. The Politics of Divided Government and the 1990 Election
1993 Simes, Dimitri Russia and the United States Problems  
1997 Panel at Fenno conference    
2007 Panel at Niemi conference    
2018 Forman, James Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America
2019 Clark, Anna How to Poison a City: Revelations from the Flint Water Crisis  
2021 Wolbrecht, Christina (Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy at the University of Notre Dame)


Post from Melissa Mead John M. and Barbara Keil University Archivist and Rochester Collections Librarian

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