Bayard Boyesen

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Bayard Boyesen, New York Times, 15 Jan 1911

Bayard Boyesen was an American Anarchist poet and teacher in the early 20th century. He wrote and published several original works of poetry and drama and contributed articles to Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman's journal Mother Earth. He worked as an isntructor of English at Columbia University, and a founder member and the first principle of the Ferrer Modern School in New York City; in 1911, he was forced out of his position at Columbia due to his radical politics and his affiliation with the Ferrer School.

From the New York Times

From "Staid Columbia University Shelters Radicals; Prof. Boyesen Is One, and He Is Connected With the Ferrer School---The Revolution in Education Which That School Is Trying to Bring About," in the New York Times (January 15, 1911), Magazine Section, Part Five, p. SM 10.

Such, apparently, is the reputation of the Columbia teaching staff. The words "teaching staff" are carefully chosen, for the radicalism of the institution is strictly confined to individuals. The university is not radical; its President and Trustees are perfectly prepared to stand in the old paths and consider for an indefinite period, but there has been among the professors in recent years more than one man marked out among his fellows for originality.
To-day every one is interested in the position taken by the instructor, Mr. Bayard Boyesen, in regard to the establishment of the Ferrer school along lines laid down by the famous radical educator. But Mr. Boyesen is not the first nor the only Columbia man who has stood for radicalism of some sort.
[...] These men have radical views as to education. On social questions the instructors at Columbia either have less original opinions or have at least not expressed themselves with the freedom of Mr. Boyesen. Among the students there is a Socialist society which grows, but is not very large.
[...] Nevertheless, unexpressed though it may be, there is a radical air about Columbia. This state of affairs is hardly to be wondered at, for New York, like Athens of old, seeks ever after some new thing, and it would be only natural that its university should reflect the temper of the town. And why should not the professors in a university be radical?
Mr. Boyesen is quite ready to break a lance on this subject when seen by a New York Times reporter.
"In Europe," he said, "when a professor at a university announces he is a Socialist or an Anarchist nobody is excited about it. As long as he teaches properly the subject to which he is assigned at the university his private opinions are held to be his own affair. It is only in this country that the majority seeks so vehemently to impose its point of view.
"In Europe a number of the leading scientists and writers have come out strongly for the Ferrer system of education. Anatole France is one of the most earnest of the movement's supporters and was associated with Ferrer in the publication of his journal, L'Ecole Renovée. Elisée Reclus, to mention but one of a number, is equally famous as an Anarchist and a scientist. The fact that he is an Anarchist does not lessen the respect paid him by learned men as perhaps the greatest geographer in the world.
"An out-of-town paper made a comment on my interest in the Ferrer school that struck me as really delightful. It pointed out solemnly that there was freedom of thought and speech in America; that it was a bulwark of our civilization, but that it existed only for those who were in sympathy with the Government. This is a novel and interesting interpretation of free speech, and one, I admit, that seems to become more and more popular in this country."
"What about the Ferrer school, Mr. Boyesen? Are you teaching revolutionary ideas? Is it your intention to make Socialists or Anarchists out of your pupils?
"No; we are not teaching isms of any sort," said Mr. Boyesen. "The people interested in the school are Anarchists, Socialists, single taxers, and libertarians of all sorts—all radicals, but our radicalism finds expression in our mode of teaching, not in imposing any doctrines on the children.
"However," added Mr. Boyesen with much calmness, "I don't want to seem to misrepresent things, so I must say that I shall be greatly disappointed if any child, after having the facts set before him, does not revolt against the iniquity of the system of government in this and every other country.
"I myself know of no system that seems to me a complete panacea for the ills of society to-day, but I believe that if we train the rising generation to be free men, if we allow them to develop without being blunted by the drill which is now called education, they will be able to find a system that will at least be an approximation of justice."

From "Not Dropped, Boyesen Says", in the New York Times (January 11, 1911), p. 12).

Prof. Bayard Boyesen, instructor of English at Columbia, denied last night that he had been forced out of Columbia for teaching anarchy and socialism in the Ferrer School. He hadn't taught either the one or the other in the Ferrer School, he declared, and, moreover, hadn't been forced out of Columbia. He has received a leave of absence for the second term of the present session that he might go to Europe to study, he said, and was at liberty to return to Columbia at the beginning of next session. Whether or not he would do so, he had not determined, he declared.


From "Sees Artist's Hope in Anarchic Ideas; Bayard Boyesen Says All the Masters Who Dared to be Original Were Persecuted", in the New York Times (March 18, 1912), p. 8.

While girls on the outside sold copies of his poems about Ferrer, Bayard Boyesen, who lost his place in the Faculty of Columbia University by his activities at the time of the execution of Ferrer, told a group of sculptors, artists, and art students at the Ferrer School yesterday why, in his opinion, all genuinely inspired artists get into a great deal of trouble in the course of their lives.
The Ferrer School, before whose pupils and friends Boyesen spoke, was founded by Boyesen and others shortly after Ferrer's death as a permanent memorial. For the purpose of illustrating Boyesen's talk about the artists in their relationship to philosophic anarchy, Boyesen had had the halls of the schoolrooms, at 114 East Twelfth Street, hung with the paintings of Robert Henri. William J. Durant, a former Catholic priest who has been won over to Mr. Boyesen's belief, introduced the speaker, and Leonard Abbott reviewed the progress of the movement for Ferrer schools in this country.
"In the first place I want to tell you that all of the artists of 35 years of age and thereabouts who are doing anything great in this city to-day, are not graduates of the New York Art School or the National Academy," said Mr. Boyesen. "Rather like Kent and Bellows they are pupils of Henri. That is why Henri's pictures are hung here."
"He stands for freedom. And because all genuinely inspired artists have stood for absolute freedom of conscience they have necessarily stood exactly where the philosophic anarchists stand. There is something irreconcilably different in the processes of inspiration and the processes of teaching at the established art schools. The art schools never crushed an absolute genius; they have hindered and retarded many."
[...]
Mr. Boyesen did not refer to his own case in his lecture, but in a heckling process that followed he spoke not with affection for the university from which he was dismissed. He was asked whether he had left of his own volition or had been dismissed.
"If ever a man was driven from his post I was," he said. "Of course, it was done by subterfuges. At first all information about the charges was refused. Then I was told I had been drunk at the boat races at Poughkeepsie. I was fortunately able to prove an alibi, as I could show that I had not been at Poughkeepsie in fifteen years. The same indirect methods kept up until I was out...."

Works