3. Logic Of Colonial Colleges: Why Harvard, Why Yale?

Alma Mater/2014
January 29, 2014
Lecture # 3
3. Why Harvard?, Why Yale?

Virginians in place 86 years (1607-1693) before getting around to founding a college;
New Yorkers took  almost 130 years (1624-1754) to do so?
Harvard established in 7th year of English settlement in Mass. Bay

Mass. Bay conceived of a a temporary exile – an “errand into the wilderness” – by distressed and threatened religious dissenters of a high intellectual caliber

“Puritans” – Englishmen dissatisfied with the limited extent to which the Church of England departed from  the rituals and theology of Catholicism/Arminianism; its failure to embrace Calvinist tenets about the sovereignty of God and matters of church structure; its pressure on dissenters to conform

Puritanism in part a product of the Reformed universities – Oxford and Cambridge, but especially the latter, and even more especially. Of Cambridge’s Emmanuel College (founded 1587)
Emmanuel (30) — John Cotton/Thomas Shepard/Thomas Hooker/John Harvard
Trinity – John Winthrop/Hugh Peter/Nathaniel Eaton

Cambridge in 1623 – 3000 students; not surpassed for two centuries
English colleges governed by the property-holding tutors/faculty

General Court in 1636 – 15 of 43 were graduates of Oxbridge
Mass. Bay had 100 Cambridge grads; of whom, 43 Emmanuel graduates

                                           University Graduates in New England, 1660

 

Cambridge

103

Oxford

30

Other English universities

42

Harvard

91

 

All university men

266

85% of the University men were ministers

The idea for a college came from the colony’s political and religious leadership – a public undertaking of magistrates (Governor Winthrop) and  clergy  (Wilson, Shepard)
To be governed by overseers from the clergy and political positions until faculty in numbers…;

To be financed by tolls collected on the Charlestown ferry – and contributions from towns (“college corn”); and fund-raising in England [Hugh Peter, New Englands First Fruits (1643)]

1642 – Governance by 6 ministers and 6 magistrates, plus president, gov’r, lt. gov’r
1650 – Most governance shifts to the Harvard Corporation – President/Treasurer/5 Fellows (chosen from among the teachers)
1716 – Fellows elected who were not teachers  à teachers who were not Fellows//break with English pattern

Public Function
To prepare young men for the clergy??  50% of 17th C graduates into ministry
For public responsibilities more broadly?
To contain the crazies? Anne Hutchinson/Antinomiamism/Baptists/Quakers….
To  avoid the slide into barbarism? Half of university graduates return to England in 1640s….

 

Commercial character of Boston à merchants more accepting of Anglicanism (1684 – King’s Chapel);
Harvard and Cambridge more accommodating of Arminianism/Brattle Street Church
Fewer graduates into ministry; Increase and Cotton Mather badmouthing the institution for backsliding

The View from Connecticut

10 Connecticut ministers (9 of them Harvard graduates) secure charter for a “collegiate school” as an alternative to sending their young men to distant and religiously suspect Cambridge

Early locale shifts – Saybrook/Wethersfield/  until Elihu Yale gift in 1718 secured by Cotton Mather for school in New Haven

1708 – Saybrook Platform – Ct. churches depart from Congregationalist pattern of individual churches having full autonomy in selecting their ministers; Ct. ministers to be pre-approved by county-wide association/synod  of ministers and laymen à Presbyterianism

Governance:

Financing:

Public Function:

Yale’s colonial future to be representative/champion of Presbyterian way – “Old Light/Side”as opposed to:

1. Creeping Anglicanism/rationalism on the right (Rector Timothy Cutler’s defection in 1722; joined by tutor Samuel Johnson); Johnson a close student of Newton, Locke, Anglican theologians

2. Revivalist enthusiasms on the left in the persons of “New Light” evangelists, some their own graduates:  Jonathan Edwards (1720);  James Davenport ( 1737); Eleazar Wheelock (1733)
others: William and Gilbert Tennent; George Whitefield; Eleazar Wheelock

Rev. John Clap – 4th rector/1st president – 1740 – 1766 – Pugnacious champion of Old Light religion until well into his presidency when he comes to see rationalism/Anglicanism more of a threat. Forced out of presidency by student rioting and legislative inquiries

Summary:

If Puritan Harvard’s  (1636) descent into Arminianism (Unitarianism next) begot Presbyterian Yale (1701), Yale’s adherence to “Old Light”  Presbyterianism in opposition to the rise of revivalistic Protestantism of a multi-denominational character (“New Lights”) directly begot Princeton (1746), and indirectly and somewhat later the revivalist-focused   Brown (1766), Rutgers (1768)  and Dartmouth (1769), while Princeton’s establishment as a pioneering  New Light college begot  a more immediate response from the ecclesiastical right in the forms  of the anti-reviavalist  King’s College (1754) and the College of Philadelphia (1755)

Last updated: December 30, 2013
ram31@columbia.edu
 

 

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