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KEASBEY, LINDLEY MILLER

KEASBEY, LINDLEY MILLER (1867–1946). Lindley Miller Keasbey, teacher, scholar, and activist, was born on February 24, 1867, in Newark, New Jersey, the son of wealthy and aristocratic Anthony Quinton and Edwina Louisa (Miller) Keasbey. His father, a successful lawyer, had been appointed by President Abraham Lincoln as the United States Attorney for New Jersey, where he served from 1861 to 1886. Lindley Miller Keasbey received his early education at Newark Academy and St. John's Military Academy. He graduated from Harvard with the class of 1888, then attended graduate school at the Columbia Law School and School of Political Science, earning an M.A. in 1889 and a Ph.D. the following year. He earned all these degrees with honors. Then he traveled to Germany and studied at Berlin and Strassbourg. It was while in Germany that Keasbey became acquainted with the work of Achille Loria and the Free Land Theory, a connection that would prove very important later in his life. After returning to the states, Keasbey in 1892 married Cornelia Simrall of Louisville, Kentucky, and soon thereafter he took his first teaching job at the University of Colorado. While there he published The Nicaragua Canal and the Monroe Doctrine (1896), first in German and then in English, and several articles on key issues of the day, including monetary policy. It was while he was in Colorado that his two daughters were born, and it was there also that he became friends with the future president Woodrow Wilson, who spent a summer teaching there. From this friendship came Keasbey's appointment at Bryn Mawr when Wilson left for Princeton. At Bryn Mawr Keasbey translated into English Achille Loria's Economic Foundations of Society, publishing it in 1899. This work included the free land theory, the central idea of which was that profits are made solely from the suppression of free land. After several successful years at Bryn Mawr and several more books, Keasbey in 1905 accepted an invitation to move to the University of Texas as head of the political science department. There he became very popular with the students and helped them start the Economic and Political Science Association.

All went smoothly until 1908, when a former student told someone in Dallas that Keasbey was a socialist. A letter was written to governor Thomas M. Campbell concerning Keasbey's alleged socialist leanings; the letter was passed to David F. Houston, president of UT, and then to Thomas S. Henderson, chairman of the board of regents. Keasbey denied that he was teaching socialism, but refused to comment on his outside activities. Houston told the board that Keasbey was a revolutionary socialist, but that the students greatly admired him and considered him their favorite professor. In June 1909 Lindley Keasbey was removed from his position in political science and made head of the newly created Institutional History Department. It was in this role that Keasbey came into contact with a young farm boy seeking an education, Walter Prescott Webb. Webb took two classes from Keasbey, and claimed that he was the best professor he ever had and that he learned more from Keasbey than from all of his other professors combined. Webb would later mention Keasbey's influence in his inaugural address to the American Historical Association. Keasbey remained a popular figure on campus and was even considered a candidate for the presidency of the university in 1915. This related mostly to his relationship with Governor James Edward Ferguson through his program for tenant farmers (see FARM TENANCY) and the rumor that he wrote some of the governor's speeches. However, as World War I began, Keasbey joined the antiwar side of the conflict. While many of his friends ended up in President Wilson's administration, Keasbey did not, and in 1917 he left his wife and home quite suddenly and went north to join the peace movement. He had been active with the Emergency Peace Federation from 1915 to 1917 and opposed American military intervention, but after the United States joined the war in 1917, Keasbey and his fellow activists felt the need for a new organization. He helped in organizing the People's Council of America, one of the more radical antiwar groups, and began speaking at rallies on their behalf. The regents of the University of Texas, embittered in the Ferguson budget controversy, asked Keasbey to defend himself before the regents for his activities with the People's Council. Keasbey refused, saying that he would have the People's Council send a list of their aims to the regents. So, on July 12, the regents voted unanimously to remove him in the best interests of the university. They gave no public reason, simply adding his name to the list of anti-Ferguson professors that were fired. This situation led to Roy Bedichek's later statement that when the issue of academic freedom came up it was always the most brilliant professors who were fired first.

Keasbey was never reinstated to the faculty. He and his wife were separated for a year while he looked for work in New York and a business venture failed. He grew ill and rejoined his wife, moving to Tucson, Arizona, in 1925 for health reasons. After partially regaining his health, he began raising dogs, achieving national recognition for his Catalina Kennels. While in Arizona, he converted to Catholicism and became a regular attender of Mass. This new emphasis in his life may partly explain the work Three Worlds in One, which he described to Webb in a letter dated October 10, 1931. In the letter he stated that he felt that the things he taught were superficial and did not answer the why and whither, only the when, where, and how. He wrote that the answer to all these things is contained in his Three Worlds in One, which is full of religious, philosophical, and musical references to the number three; the Trinity, major and minor thirds, and other things. He lived in Tucson until 1944, leaving after his daughter Cornelia Simrall Allerdice and her small son were killed in a New Year's Eve fire. He and his wife moved to Whittier, California, to be close to their younger daughter. Lindley M. Keasbey died on September 17, 1946, in Whittier. His papers were given to the University of Texas in the mid-1970s by his daughter at the request of Mazie Mathews, who was writing a master's thesis on Keasbey. The papers are housed in the University of Texas archives at the Center for American History.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Ronnie Dugger, Our Invaded Universities: Form, Reform, and New Starts (New York: Norton, 1974). Mazie E. Mathews, On the Hither Edge of Free Land: Lindley Miller Keasbey and the Evolution of the Frontier Thesis (M.A. thesis, Southwest Texas State University, 1973). William E. Nicholas, "World War I and Academic Dissent in Texas," Arizona and the West 14 (Autumn 1972). William A. Owens, Three Friends: Roy Bedichek, J. Frank Dobie, Walter Prescott Webb (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1969). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Walter Prescott Webb Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Walter F. Pilcher

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Walter F. Pilcher, "KEASBEY, LINDLEY MILLER," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fke46), accessed September 19, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.