5. Revolutionary Colleges

History 3570x/Spring 2014
February 5, 2014


4. Colleges of Great Awakening Cont’d;

Institutional Forerunners:

Log College, Neshaminy Pa. – William Tennent (1727-1746) – son Gilbert
Shepherd’s Tent – Summer 1741 – New London, Ct – James Davenport
1740 — George Whitefield’s building/Charity School  in Philadelphia
1740s — Eleazar Wheelock’s Indian School in Lebanon, Ct.

Lasting inst’ns:
1746 — College of New Jersey à Princeton – New Light Presbyterian – contra Yale of Thomas Clap
The Tennents/John Dickinson/Aaron Burr/Israel Pemberton/Jonathan Edwards

1766 — College of Rhode Island à Brown – Revivalist Baptist Isaac Backus/James Manning

1768 – Queen’s College àRutgers – Revivalist Dutch Reformed/Theodore Frelinghuysen

1769 – Dartmouth College à Revivalist Congregationalists   Eleazar Wheelock



Two of Colonial Nine who bucked the revivalism of the Great Awakening

College of Philadelphia – chartered in 1755
Benjamin Franklin’s  Plans Relating too the Education of Youth (1749)
Alliance of the City’s Anglicans and its Old Light Presbyterians
Franklin – admirer/publisher of Whitefield but not a Great Awakener –.His son an Anglican
Chose William Smith as its provost – a protégé of Samuel Johnson


King’s College
Little interest in college-making into 1740s
The City’s few college graduates had attended Yale; a couple to CNJ after 1746(across the Hudson in Elizabethtown/Newark)
The Livingston family – Philip (1737)/William (1741)  — Presbyterians but not Awakeners

Only religious motivations??
Town bragging rights – both Philadelphia and NYC bestirred by New Jersey’s precedent
NY legislature promising money for a college – proceeds from a lottery (same mechanisn adopted by CT. for Ct. Hall)
William Livingston idea – 1749 — a non-secular college/publicly supported – denominationally unaffiliated
NY this semi-established province…. Assembly of up-province non-Anglicans – NYC site not a done deal….

Novelty not attractive to Anglican establishment – Trinity Church vestrymen/Royal officialdom/NY Senate
Site question resolved with Trinity Church offering 6 acres on the northern edge of Manhattan settlement
Begin to assume the college would be under TC control
Livingston – The Independent Reflector – spring 1753 – pre-emptive attack on the idea of an Anglican college;
all sorts of novel ideas being bandied about; got the Anglicans’ attention

Anglicans come up with possible president – Samuel Johnson (Yale 1716); Anglican convert in 1724; ordained in England;  SPGospel pointman
One of the colonies’ certified intellectuals – well-read in the science and theology of his day….

Small bargaining – Samuel Johnson as president// Chauncy Whittesley as head tutor??
Whittesley of David Brainerd charceterization – “as much grace as a chair”

TC doubles down – no land without conditions in charter:

President to be an Anglican
Religious services Anglicans’ Book of Common Prayer|
To provide temporary quarters for college; and a second job for Johnson….


Livingston gets the Assembly to hold back lottery money, keeps Presbyterians in opposition
But acting Governor DeLancey gets charter through Senate and signs for King George II
Charter has provincial officials and NYC ministers in ex-officio positions


May 1754 — Advertisement – curricularly expansive; welcoming all Xians

July opening
faculty SJ and 2 sons; Daniel Treadwell; open to Presbyterians on faculty

Fund raising in England in locally
1756 – cornerstone of KC building; opens in 1760
Johnson losing Interest in job – American bishop scheme not going to happen….

Myles Cooper shipped in from Oxford – ecclesiastical placeman/poet – a few years in the colonies…then back to Oxford and the High Table port…


226 students; 100 or so graduates 118 years/ several years with < 5 graduates


John Jay (KC 1764)
Gouverneur Morris (1766)
Robert R. Livingston (1766)
John Stevens


John Parke Custis – GW’s step-don?
Alexander Hamilton – 3 semesters 1774-75

Rich and complacent – Not trolling for students as other colleges were; few of its graduates into ministry (11 of 106)

One audacious move – 1773 — Cooper back from English sabbatical – brings idea for an “American University”
King’s to be the University; the other colleges to be colleges presenting their students for KC approval….

Typical of those running KC not seeing/hearing what was “blowing in the wind”
New York’s upper crust caught unawares of the revolutionary moment at hand – automatically sided with Crown against the street rabble
Anglicans/NY Anglicans/TC Anglicans/TC-KC Anglicans the highest concentration of Loyalists

May 1775 – Cooper makes his nocturnal exit to the safety of a British naval ship anchored down the street

148 students with known politics:

107 as Loyalists (72%)

29 Patriots         (20%)
12 L àPs             8%

25 KCers in uniform (AHamilton most conspicuously)  –  but 21 with the Crown




5. Colleges of the Revolution

Nine colleges in operation on the eve of the Revolution in 1775
Located in 8 ot the 13 colonies – none in Del/Md/NC/SC/Ga
— Occupied a dozen or so buildings – Most carrying some debt
A few – Harvard/Yale/W&M — benefiting from regular public subsidies; KC start-up support
Three – RI/Queens/Dartmouth – less than a decade old
Yale in 1775
164 students
6 Faculty – Pres/Prof. Dagget; Professor Nehemiah Strong

4 tutors

All nine enrolled 750 students/40 faculty – 150 graduates a year
150 or so trustees
2500 – 3000 living alumni (1/3rd of whom were in the ministry)


Colonial Nine graduates among the leaders of the bar and medicine,
especially in the larger towns (Boston/NYC/Phil)
Ongoing efforts by practicioners to limit entry into law and medicine and ministry to college graduates
Graduates and Trustees well placed in the political and religious upper reaches of their respective colonies


College-going an emblem of social standing; but also a means of securing it [John Adams/Alexander Hamilton]
Both, but more the former than the latter – implied direct costs and delayed entry into work force


John Adams used Harvard education to make it into law; well down in his class ranking, which was based on family standing
[Incoming Harvard and Yale students ranked by their father’s standing in the community (until 1770s)]

John Jay/Gouverneur Morris/Robert Livingston did not need King’s College to lay claim to being among the privileged

Alexander Hamilton – made great use of KC for making connections à army service under Washington an even more status booster



Political loyalties of the Colleges come the Revolution:
Princeton and Yale pretty solidly Patriots – as were their outspoken presidents (Naphtali Daggett and John Witherspoon)


Brown/Dartmouth/Queens also solidly in Patriots’ camp


Harvard and William and Mary had their Loyalists among students, faculty and trustees; W & Mary’s long struggle with House of Burgesses over their subsidy (Two-Penny Tobacco tax)

Harvard estimate on living graduates in 1775 – 16% stayed with Crown   Josiah Quincy, Jr.//Samuel Quincy


Penn had substantial ties to the Loyalist persuasion (20%?) – so regarded by Pennsylvania Patriots who broke College up à University of Pennsylvania (1779)

King’s College overwhelmingly Loyalist – 80% of students/faculty/Governors;
with a saving (literally) remnant of conspicuous Patriots –

John  Jay/Gouverneur Morris/Robert Livingston/Ahamilton
Loyalists: John Vardill; Richard, Robert, Samuel Auchmutys; Benjamin Moore; estates confiscated

Linkage between sympathy for Great Awakening and support for Revolution?? The case of the colleges.
Princeton as the GA college; KC as the anti-GA college

GA challenging standing order
GA challenging notion of religious establishment – settled ministers and royal officialdom
GA viewed by its critics as appealing to socially suspect constituencies – women/Indians/Africans…



Fighting on campus?

Harvard – next to Charlestown – at risk from 4/75 to Evacuation 3/76
Columbia – Battle of Harlem Heights – Sept 1776; building occupied for 7 years  11/83
Battle of Princeton – January 1777
Penn – British occupy Philadelphia in 1777/78

Yale – Bombarded from LI Sound

William and Mary – briefly occupied in 1781

Brown – occupied by Continental Army and used by French allies

Rutgers/Dartmouth – get away pretty clean



How to account for their outsized presence (if it was) in Revolution and the Government-Making that followed?



Population in 1775 – 2,500,000
1785 – 3,000,000  — with very few graduates in that decade; 3000 living alumni? 1 in 1000

Colleges were accommodating only 1 of every 150 college-age males   [.07%?]

Graduates represented .05% of the male workforce?


Collegians not to be found in maritime trades – sea captains up from the deck….
Not in farming – Most substantial southern planters with European educations
Relatively few merchants with college training – Hancock/


Collegians in military?


Military chaplains and army surgeons

Alexander Hamilton — KC

James Monroe /John Marshall – W&M

Not George Washington/Henry Knox/John Paul Jones


Where the grads came into play:

1. Pamphleteering run-up to the Revolution – JA/TJ/AH  –“The logic of rebellion”

2. Home front much taken up with forming/constituting governments for states

Colonies à states – a decade of constitution-writing – most writing >1

College-trained lawyers (and MDs, a few clergy) with legislative/judicial

Experience called upon and come to the fore
Those locals with experience/availability/interest sent to national gatherings


3. Diplomatic service – Servicing allies in France, Holland and Spain during war
Peace negotiations after 1781 Franklin the non-collegian-as-diplomat
John Adams/John Jay/


Attendees of  the Second Continental Congress

Signers of DI

Signers of Articles of Confederation


Attendees of the Constitutional Convention  (1787)


Washington’s first cabinet

Justices of the Supreme Court – John Jay/John Marshall
Of first 7 presidents, 6 were college graduates


The Early New Republic relatively comfortable with an educated governing class; first party challenges to the standing government come not from anti-intellectuals but from college grads — Thomas Jefferson/James Madison/Robert Livingston/Aaron Burr

Democratic-Republicans attacking banks but not colleges


Educated class and collegiate institutions of the revolutionary era not synonymous with Loyalism, although  NYC comes closest to where it might have been; KCers scramble to “republicanize” à “Columbia College” dissociate it from Tories;
Philadelphia where the post-war reaction was the greatest.


20 new colleges between 1780 and 1800 – mostly sited in non-urban settings mostly without nearby colleges
Colleges aiding and abetting the re-ruralization of American life and the removal of politics


Simultaneous separation of campuses and capitals:
New York – capital to Albany
Virginia – capital to Richmond
Pennsylvania – capital to Harrisburg
NH from Portsmouth to Concord
SC from Charleston to Columbia
NC from coastal Edenton to Raleigh
And movement of national capital to site – Washington, D.C., with no established college:

Last updated: February 5, 2014




Leave a Reply