7. Colleges of the rev’n and Early Republic

Alma Mater/Spring 2014
Monday, February 10, 2014

1. First postings – Tuesday midnite
If a participant, should be able to make a posting /comment – Andrew Wright

2. First exam   — Next Wednesday 2/19

3. The Easter Egg Hunt
Kevin Boyd – leaving class
Patrick Galarza – with pretty good translation
Lacey beck – a photograph
Sheli Frank – a set of directions
Kelly Reller – No KC cornerstone How about Hamilton Hall?

Powerppint Presentation

King’s College – Nothing else left of it?
Anything of 49th Street
Anything of Bloomingdales?

07. Colleges of the Revolution & Early Republic

The KC à CC Transition

King’s College without its president at 1775 commencement;
Unclear whether classes held in spring 1776 – no commencement
Building seized by Continental army in summer 1776 – GW appropriating equipment
Those NYCers loyal to Crown leave for Canada, West Indies, Britain – several thousand
Building seized by  British after their occupation of Manhattan and Long Island.
Remains in British hands for 8 years à 11/83

Back-in-town  NY legislature takes up question in early 1784 – George Clinton, gov’r
– Who owns/can manage/dispose of the assets?
None of the old named/elected governors with patriotic standing
Mayor of NYC an ex officio member – James Duane – petition legislature
A  newly named,  “republicanized,” deAnglicanized,  state-wide replacement proposed
Proposal supported by KCers with Patriotic credentials —  Hamilton, John Jay – Patriot TCers
and the governor George Clinton

1784 Charter — “Columbia College in the State of New York”
Gone are the TC provisions for president being an Anglican/Anglican services
Adapted  Cooper’s “American University’ scheme of 1773 to state
CC to be the “mother” inst’n for all future colleges in the state — SUNY
Located in NYC because that’s where the assets were;
But governed by a state-wide board/Regents,  county representatives outnumbering NYers

Gershon Seixas – a Jew named to the initial board – to serve for 20 years; only one until 1928

Classes recommence that summer – DeWitt Clinton – returning junior to Princeton à CC (1786)

40-member Regents board not working—out-of-towners absenting themselves from meetings;  not drawing any students from out-of-town; not putting up any resources for NY school

NYCers back to legislature (Alexander Hamilton) to have it largely restore the pre-war arrangements
Drop the College’s statewide mandate/responsibilities – acknowledge its local character

1787 Charter

1. Change name to “Columbia College in the City of New York”
2. Remove state officials and county reps from Board of Regents à 24-member Board Trustees
Much more “private” in its governance – but only NY college and still eligible for state support

Board selects as College president William Samuel Johnson
son of Samuel Johnson; Ct. attorney; initially opposed Rev’n in Ct; provides state legal advice;
sent as part of Ct. delegation to Philadelphia constitutional convention – a “Signer”

1790s – State blowing hot and cold with respect to state subsidies; Board again aligning with TC,
its Tory past being forgotten/forgiving following its successful finding of a Republican rector

Other  claimant on state funds:.
Union College – founded in 1795
Hamilton College – 1812
College of Physicians and Surgeons — 1807

College of Philadelphia – rehabilitation process
Provost William Smith an unreconstructed Tory (SJ had the grace to die in 1772; MC to flee in 1775)
Penn. Legislature in 1779 – created University of Pennsylvania
1791 – Merged with the older college – self-perpetuating 20-person board (not a ‘public’ university in the sense of UGeorgia, (1785)  UNC (1786) 0r Penn State U. (1855)

William and Mary – leadership Tory but already discredited and with limited claims to college status
Had among its grads several revolutionary stalwarts – Jefferson/James Madison/John Marshall/


The six other colonial colleges – no apologies/corrective actions  needed – revolutionary bona fides
Stalwart presidents – Princeton’s John   Witherspoon     Yale’s Napthali Daggett

Country’s college graduates  in 1780s – 3000 or so —  a recognized national asset; put to public use

1. Highly literate and decently read; politically sophisticated after decade of political debating….
Leading pamphleteers – JA/TJ/AH/JQ Jr/ — conversant with European political thought
2. Professionally relevant – church leaders, doctors and LAWYERS – legislative service
3. Occupationally mobile – could attend constitutional conventions à Continental Congress sessions
4. Urbanites —  Only about 5% of population lived in urban areas; maybe a quarter of the college grads?

State constitutional conventions between 1777 and ratification of Constitution – 30 or s
Contintntal Congress – 1776-1788 (13 sessions)
State legislative sessions; state constitutional conventions
Ad hoc  conventions – Mt. Vernon/Annapolis
Philadelphia – majority of delegates college graduates  55 delegates —
13 ratifying conventions – anti-Federalists less often college graduates
Federalist Papers – AH/JM/JJ
Staffing the Cabinet and  first presidential administrations – federal courts

Revolutionary Agenda
No intention of privileging the unlettered any more than the poor – assumed leadership to come from a subset of the educated and the prosperous/ wealthy
First state constitutions – office eligibility by wealth thresholds – gov’rs/senate/house/voters…

–elitists or so charged; Harvard/Yale/Columbia/Penn…..
Jay/Gouverneur Morris/Hamilton

Jay – “We own the country; why shouldn’t we govern it?”
His initial access to NY bar by in late 1760s – only College graduates to [practice law?
Only medical school graduates to   practice medicine?

Federalists – Prepared to stand for office; but not RUN for office

But Jefferson/Madison/Robert Livingston – leaders of the challenging Democrat-Republicans
by no means yahoos
Jefferson’s thoughts on education:
Access not to be dependent on family/family wealth
Free/compulsory schooling through reading/writing à  an informable electorate
Educational hundreds à counties provide next level for the good students (grammar schools)
The brightest of the grammar schools to go to the University – on public scholarships
spent last decade of his life promoting, designing UVa
in the company of the not-so-bright-fee paying sons of the FFV….
Most successful college graduates to go on to public service à House of Burgesses

Jefferson-Adams correspondence – 1813 – role of old families in NE and Va.
“a natural aristocracy” characterized by “talent and virtue”
Adams less sanguine that this aristocracy will be recognized and acknowledged
But both believed in the superior qualities of a “meritocracy”

Irony – Virginia not supporting  ‘Mr. Jefferson’s University” — UVa becomes the wealthy man’s college
into the 1960s

Shift from Federalist and Republican periods à Jacksonian democracy

Three  other developments of the Early Republic – Again Jefferson the key player – with implications for higher education

1. A party and a party system that trolled for votes wherever they could be found
D/Rs having success with urban workers;  distinguishing themselves from the bosses….
Attack banks as consolidating privilege….
Parties increasingly open nominating candidates with modest backgrounds

2. The Purchase of Louisiana (1803) – set the national agenda for the next century:
propagate and  subdue the west;  skills needed not those acquired at college
Purchase of West Florida
Seizing of Texas – lands from Mexico in 1848

3. Rustification [and Democratization] of the Republican Politics
New states necessarily inland and sparsely populated – 13 1n 1787 (all along east coast); 33 in 1860
Move of state capitals away from early commercial centers
NY/NH/Penn/Va?/NC/SC – in 1790s
Placement of national capital in swampy DC in 1800 – TJ’s idea/AH opposed but went along
Urban elites disinclined to leave Phil/NYC/Charleston to engage in state politics

Urbanization slowed in early 1800s and when it resumes it is because of immigration to eastern cities and growth of river ports with transplanted easterners and immigrants
Boston/Newport/Philadelphia/Charleston/ Annapolis only modest growth in early 1800s

Rustification of College-going — Contributes to this westward/population dispersion
Princeton/Dartmouth/Queen’s  –located in country villages
Wm & Mary – Williamsburg no longer capital – not much there
Yale/Brown – in sizable towns
Columbia/Penn – urban instns

Next 20 – Williams (1793) à Union/Hamilton/ Hobart/Colgate – Copying curriculum from established colleges (especially Yale)
Colleges in the early 1800s did multiply at a rate faster than the student demand for them justified; they were created by local combinations of denominational constituencies and land developers in the hope that they would generate sufficient demand to stay in business.  The  dozen or so  state colleges founded before the 1850s were similarly premised on creating demand more than with meeting existing demand.


The “Great Retrogression” Thesis
How many Ante-Bellum colleges?
Why so many?
How many Ante-Bellum collegians
Why so few?
The democratization of entry into the professions
Student Power/Student Soverignty

The durability of the fixed/classical curriculum; the problem with electives

Last updated: February 7, 2014


4 Responses to 7. Colleges of the rev’n and Early Republic

  1. Kevin Boyd says:

    The only artifact from the Midtown campus of Columbia University that is located on our current campus is the gate that is between Butler Library and Weston Plaza (in front of John Jay). There’s a small plaque on the gate to identify it.

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