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Section 7

This webpage reproduces a section of
The History of West Point

by
William F. H. Godson

Philadelphia, 1934

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

p70 VIII
Interpretation of Results

In a thesis of another type it is possible that the interpretation of results might be both the most important and most difficult part of the work. In a history, however, any unusual interpretation would invalidate the study at once. The conventional method would seem to be to permit the facts to speak for themselves. This I have tried to do from page to page. My own remarks, where I have injected them, are made with a view to clarifying points of fact but not with the intention of forcing facts into any set mold of opinion.

So in attempting to make a final interpretation (as a summary of findings and conclusions must of necessity do to some extent) I have tried to maintain the role of impartial historian to the last, and to let the conclusions be those of the better qualified persons quoted in the course of the study.

p71 IX
Pertinent Applications

As with "interpretation of results," so with pertinent applications, I feel that a thesis which was a delight to write and which by reason of the diversity and dependability of sources may contain some permanent worth, would be weakened by an attempt to bring in any sweeping applications at the end. I have made no such attempt.

Applications of the dissertation itself are many, doubtless, as in the case of any carefully conducted historical research. Surely anyone following in my footsteps may find in my work some assistance in doing theirs. Persons wishing a short connected narrative of fifty important but not dramatically eventful years may find what they need here.

True to my introductory note, and introductory thought in attempting this study, I have ended as I began, hoping to offer an accurate general history of West Point 1852‑1902.

p72 X
Summary of Findings and Conclusions

West Point in 1852 was a place apart from the knowledge and interests of the country at large. The next decade saw improvements in the physical plant, clarification of the administrative jurisdiction, revision of the rules for admission, and changes in the curriculum. The Civil War brought unusual opportunities to graduates of the Military Academy, made increased demands upon the institution, and did not find it wanting.

1863‑1872 saw the conclusion of the Civil War. Few changes were made at the Academy during the days of the war and in the years closely following. Toward the end of the decade, however, a comparative study of West Point and other institutions of learning led to improvement and change.

1873‑1882 was a "golden era" for the Military Academy. Civil War veterans were high in government office and a very friendly interest was taken in the army and in West Point. Congress voted large funds. The post and the instruction facilities were improved. Public interest and confidence were clearly felt and more frequently manifested than before.

1883‑1892 was a period of steady but uneventful progress. High standards were maintained. West Point enjoyed the reputation of a great engineering school. Intercollegiate athletics obtained mushroom growth elsewhere and the trend was reflected at West Point. Liberal influences multiplied and the Academy became even better known.

1893‑1902 was an unsettled period. Our wars with Spain and in the Philippines subsequently, pacifying the Filipinos, kept the army before the public and served to increase the interest in West Point. The period ended with the Centennial year in which studies were made of the progress of the Military Academy during its first 100 years, and more pretentious graduation ceremonies took place.

Thus in the fifty years in question West Point developed so as p73to lose its original isolation. It became a part of the National life. It lost its monastic character to some extent. It was linked physically to the neighboring communities by new railroads and highways.

Intellectually, as physically, the fifty years saw West Point cease to be a secret soil where army officers were nurtured. It took on a wider usefulness educationally as it kept abreast of the times and even contributed to the developments of the times.

Spiritually West Point was not stagnant during the second half of its first hundred years. It made itself felt through the careers of its graduates whose lives were fine examples of patriotism and selfless service.

Conclusions

1. In West Point the government produced, 1852‑1902, by careful supervision and at considerable expense, a fine military educational plant with appropriate grounds, buildings, equipment and instruction personnel.

2. The service to the Nation in the World War proves to that date, and contemplated value to the Nation in the event of another war suggests for the future, that the Military Academy (during the fifty years in question) was built with wisdom and foresight and not merely to serve for the moment.

3. The opinions of qualified observers agree, and statistics indicate, that the graduates of the Military Academy (1852‑1902) were able to contribute to national life in spheres other than the military, and that they did so.

4. While West Point cannot, by reason of its exceptional situation and peculiar mission, stand as a model for civil educational institutions, it did (1852‑1902) much to foster high educational and other ideals and practices and was a laboratory where these might be observed.

5. The Military Academy did not teach practical subjects, did not offer success in business as an "outcome," did not seek to serve its students as other institutions of that period sought to p74do. But it seems to have served its sons well in that it fitted them to serve the nation well. In building strong healthy bodies, giving a sound fundamental education, and teaching a disinterested patriotism that placed "Duty, Honor, and Country" first, West Point was maintaining (during this 50‑year period) the high purposes for which it had been founded, and which still stand for something worth while even in our chaotic social, economic and governmental situation today.


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