King’s College, 1754 – 1775: A Timeline

King’s College Timeline, 1754 — 1775

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1524 May – The Italian navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano, in the employ of Francis I of France,  sailed into New York harbor, the first reported European visitor to what later  becomes New Netherlands and still later New York.  
1609 Henry Hudson explores the river that bears his name in the employ of the Dutch. Region named New Netherland.  
1623 The Dutch begin trading operations on Manhattan Island, calling it New Amsterdam.  
1636 Harvard College founded by Massachusetts Puritans in Cambridge.  
1653 New Amsterdam incorporated by a charter issued by the Dutch West India Company  
1664 The English oust the Dutch from control of New Amsterdam and all of New Netherland, calling both New York.  
1693 The Anglican minister James Blair founds the College of William and Mary in the new town of Williamsburg.  
1693 Ministry Act effectively makes New York City, Westchester and Long Island under the religious establishment of the Anglican Church.  
1696 Trinity Church opens in lower Manhattan.  
1701 Connecticut Presbyterians of a Calvinist persuasion found a college as a counter to the latitudinarian ways of Harvard. College eventually acquires the name of one its benefactors, Yale, and settles into existence in New Haven.  
1703 The rector of Trinity Church, William Vesey, and the governor, Lord Cornbury, discuss the prospects for a college.  
1704 New York merchant and real estate speculator proposes that some Manhattan properties in the King’s gift be used to found a college, declaring ‘New York is the centre of English America and a fit place for a colledge.” Nothing comes of either plan.  
1705 Queen’s farm ceded to Trinity Church by New York governor Lord Cornbury; mention made of it as future site of a college.  
1746 New Jersey and Pennsylvania New Light Presbyterians,  dissatisfied with Yale’s opposition to the Great Awakening, found the College of New Jersey, which eventually settles in Princeton.  
  New Yorkers react to New Jersey’s initiative by reviving plans of their own for a college with authorizing a lottery for £ 2250.  Yale graduate, attorney and Presbyterian William Livingston (1723-1790) among the promoters.  
1749 Livingston anonymously published  Some Serious Thoughts on the Design of Erecting a College in the Province of New York. His doing so revives public interest in the project.  
1751 The New York Assembly, where Livingston had influence, authorized a provincial lottery that would allow L/ 3, 443 to be raised to underwrite a college.  
1752 October – A newcomer to New York, and an Anglican, William Smith, published  Some Thoughts on Education: With Reasons for Erecting a College in This Province, in which he assumed any such college would operate under Anglican auspices. He mentioned Connecticut Anglican minister Samuel Johnson (1696-1772)as a possible first president.  
1752 Johnson and vestrymen of Trinity Church become active in laying plans for a college, which, after some discussions of more rural settings, is to be in New York City.  Trinity Church offered 5 acres of  land  [“Queen’s Farm”] to make it so.  
1753 March – April — William Livingston uses his new launched weekly newspaper, The Independent Reflector, to over the course of six issues attack plans for an Anglican college, insisting instead on a non-denominational one.  
1754 May 14 – The Trinity Church vestrymen now conditioned their previous grant of land for the college to its having an Anglican president and adhering to Anglican liturgy in any public observances. The acting governor, a member of Trinity Church, James De Lancey, accepted these conditions on the part of the province.  
  May 31 – Samuel Johnson published in the New-York Gazette “Advertisements of the Beginning of Tuition in the College.” It welcomes all Christians to apply,  making no mention of the Anglican aspects of the College.  
  July 17 – Instruction begins in temporary quarters in a schoolhouse adjoining Trinity Church. Johnson and his younger son Samuel William provide the initial instruction. Eight young New Yorkers comprise the freshman class.  
  October 31 – The charter for King’s College approved by the Governor and his Governor’s Council, in the name of King George II. The New York Assembly not a party to the Charter and displeased with not being involved and withheld some of the promised public support from the four lotteries.  
  A 41-membr Board of Governors to direct the College. Supposedly representative of all Protestant persuasions, the Governors were overwhelmingly either Anglicans or members of the Dutch Reformed Church. New York’s Presbyterians refused to participate and Livingston remained unreconciled.  
1755 College of Philadelphia founded by Philadelphia Presbyterians and Anglicans. Becomes the University of Pennsylvania in 1778.  
1756 August – Cornerstone laid for King’s College building. Projected cost of £11,000.  
1756 The Assembly agrees to give half the money collected  in the lotteries to the College. In all, the College received some 3800 pounds of public funding.  
1756 New York bar makes admission to legal apprenticeship  to college graduates, thus privileging future King’s College graduates wishing to become lawyers.  
1758 Two private benefactions of deceased Trinity communicants Paul Richard and Richard Murray, assure the College ample funds to pay for the new college building under construction.  
1760 Three-storied College building opened on a 5-acre site bordered by Church Street on the east, Greenwich on the west, Murray Street on the north, and Barclay on the south. The College was then within site of the Hudson River 150 yards to the west. Building then contained both dormitory space for residential students and classrooms.  
1763 A distracted Samuel Johnson retires to Connecticut, allowing the recently arrived from Oxford Myles Cooper (1735-1785) to become the college’s second president.  Johnson’s interest in instruction in the sciences gives way to a more belle lettrist curriculum.  
     
1767 November — New York doctors y Samual Bard, Peter Middleton and Samuel Clossy  organize themselves into the medical faculty of King’s College, only months after first American medical college opened in Philadelphia.  
1767 King’s College governors request rights from New York City to water lots between western boundary of college site and Hudson River.  
1772 March — Princeton president John Witherspoon published a fundraising appeal, Address to Inhabitants of Jamaica, and other West India Islands, in Behalf of the College of New Jersey, in which his claims for his college included its rural setting and the absence of Anglican control.  
  November – the newly ordained Anglican minister  John Vardill (1749-1811), a King’s College graduate (1766) and protégé of Myles Cooper,  published his Response to Dr. Witherspoon’s Address, in which he extolled the advantages of an urban setting for a college and objected to Witherspoon’s characterization of King’s College as under Anglican control.  
1773 Myles Cooper, after a visit back home in England, proposes that King’s College be designated “the American University,” the only degree-granting university in British America, with the other now eight colleges cast in the subordinate role of the several colleges of Cambridge and Oxford University.  
1774 Growing popular resistance to British rule divides New York society, with nearly all those families identified with Trinity Church and King’s College supportive of the Crown. King’s College faculty and most of its students equally opposed to resistance. Graduates John Jay (1764) , Gouverneur Morris (1766), Robert R. Livingston (1766) and Alexander Hamilton(1774-75) the exceptions in their support of the revolutionary cause among the College’s 226 alumni.  
1775 May 25 – President Myles Cooper, threatened by a revolutionary mob in the wake of the clash at Concord-Lexington,  departed New York on a British naval ship, never to return to America. By then the College had effectively closed. No commencement ceremonies in 1776, when city under revolutionary control.  
1776 April – College closed on orders of the revolutionary Committee of Safety. No 1776 Commencement.  
1776 September — The College is occupied by the British occupying force and is used as a military hospital for the next seven years.  
1783 November  23– The British evacuate New York City, leaving the status of the College Hall in doubt. Most of the pre-war governors  had been Loyalists and emigrated at the outset of the war.  
     
     
     

 

Last updated; December 17, 2013
ram31@columbia.edu

 

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