|Chapter 15 Jeremiah Atwater 1809-1815. |
A Brave Fight Lost
JEREMIAH ATWATER was of an old New England family. The first of his line in this country landed in Boston in 1637 and soon joined others in founding New Haven. There he was born on December 27, 1773; and to New Haven he returned from Carlisle after his Dickinson, experience and there lived until his death on July 29, 1858, in his eighty-fifth year. His family gave generously to Yale, and one of his descendants says: "I sometimes think that if my ancestors had been less generous our family at the present time would be financially better off." He says "financially," probably mindful of the fact that it is the generous character of these ancestors which still abides in their descendants and makes them the worth while people they are.
Atwater graduated from Yale in 1793 with an honor which gave him the three-year graduate scholarship, going to that "Senior ... who passes the best examination on ... Greek and Latin authors." He also won in 1794 and 1795, at the close of the first and second years of his scholarship, the premiums established by Noah Webster (Yale, 1778) for the best essay. At this time, 1795, he became tutor at Yale and began the study of theology with Timothy Dwight, who had just become President of Yale.
He evidently won Dwight's approval, for on his recommendation the young tutor, after four years' service at Yale, became Principal of the Addison Grammar School at Middlebury, Vermont, which was established in 1799, as preliminary to a college. Middlebury College was chartered in 1800; and Atwater, then in his twenty-seventh year, became its first president. This position he resigned in August, 1809, to become Principal of Dickinson College, to which also, as has been stated, he was chosen on the recommendation of
President Dwight. He hesitated to accept but was persuaded to do so by a letter from Benjamin Rush, as appear in a letter he wrote Rush: "Till I rec. your letter in the spring of 1809 nothing was farther from my mind than the tho't of engaging in a literary institution so far south. In 1794 I was applied to to instruct the Quaker Grammar School in Philadelphia but was dissuaded from accepting the offer by President Stiles, who, for various reasons, was opposed to it, and advised me never to go as far south, if I meant to be useful or respectable as an instructor!"
Another letter from Atwater to Rush, on July 18, 1809, prior to his leaving Middlebury for Carlisle is of so fine spirit as to beget admiration for the man and the wish that he might have been spared the experiences of the next six years. He writes: "I have not been in the habit of claiming great things for myself. My support here has been a slender one. I have learnt here to make sacrifices for the good of the institution & to practice some self-denial. Indeed without something of this spirit the institution here, being unendowed, never could have flourished at all. I do not go to Carlis & le with the expectation of getting rich. I intend to devote myself to the institution, & if I am supported, it is sufficient. I think I shall labour zealously in coöperation with others to build up the institution & make it useful."
He reached Philadelphia and the home of Rush in September, 1809, and shortly thereafter journeyed to Carlisle in time for commencement. On October 2 he writes Rush of his trip from Philadelphia: "We left Philadelphia about 12 o' clock on Wednesday, & rode about 20 miles that day on the turnpike towards Lancaster. We found the pavement rather bad for horses. The next day we tarried at Lancaster. On Friday we arrived at the banks of that beautiful river, the Susquehanna., with which we were much delighted. On Saturday we went about 2 miles out of our way to see Harrisburgh, & then rode to Carlisle.... The college building is elegant & spacious.... But with respect to the internal affairs of the College its state is very much that of a city
broken down & without walls. I find that almost everything is to be begun anew. I find many discouragements; but nothing great & arduous is accomplished without patient industry & laborious efforts....
Judge James Hamilton, Secretary of the Board, writes Rush in December following, telling of the impression being made by Atwater and the hopes for the College raised by his conduct. "It will give you great pleasure, I am persuaded, to learn that Mr. Atwater has conducted himself in such a manner, since his arrival here, as to give general satisfaction to the trustees, as well as to the inhabitants of this village & its vicinity. His affability, admirable disposition & courteous manners conspire to render him a most agreeable member of society, & to insure to him the esteem & friendship of all who have the pleasure to know him. I make no doubt but these amiable qualities, joined to his great industry & capacity to teach, will make him equally popular with the students in college. We may now, I hope, flatter ourselves that our college, in due time will surmount every obstacle that stands in the way of its progress, & that under the auspices of Mr. Atwater & its other professors it will arrive at a pitch of eminence, not inferior to that of any other seminary in this country....
These letters from Atwater and Hamilton picture Atwater's beginnings in Carlisle; and his own frequent letters to Rush are the principal source from which estimates may be formed of the man and his methods. Like Nisbet, he wrote pretty freely, but his letters were very different in tone. He was slow to mention difficulties and did so generally only after he could offer plans to meet them. This was possibly due to the very different temperaments of the two men, but it may have been because Atwater's letters were to Rush, his tried and trusted friend through all the years.
Atwater was deeply religious and aimed to have a college in which religion was respected and honored, Despite the pecans of those who idealize the Carlisle of one hundred
years ago, the records show that it was pretty raw, and that religion and morality certainly were at a low ebb, so that young men in the College were under constant temptation from their surroundings. Atwater wrote: "I fear that there is not virtue here to make a college flourish. It is certain that there is great hostility manifested against the cause of religion, which students ought to be taught to respect ...." In October, 1810, he writes: "We have had two duels here lately and last week an instance of suicide a Mr. Brown ... men of considerable property." Following the dueling habit either of the town or the country at large, there were at least two duels between college students, one early in Atwater's administration, another shortly after its close. Principal Atwater saw that conditions were bad and set himself to the task of their cure. He was assisted by Henry R. Wilson, Professor of Languages in the College, 1809-1815, elected a month earlier than Atwater himself. Dr. Davidson, however, who retired on Atwater's coming, appeared to Atwater timid or unwilling to join him in the efforts for reform. He outlines his problem in a letter to Rush, dated April 22, 1810: "....I found the institution as I expressed it to you, as a city broken down and without walls, students indulging in the dissipation of the town, none of them living in the College and the religious state of things appeared to be in a great measure out of regard & estimation. Indeed, I believe that it has been on the decline here for nearly 20 years.... Drunkenness, swearing, lewdness & duelling seemed to court the day, instead of hiding themselves from observation. Three persons, the past winter, have come to a violent death. In short, everything concurred to demonstrate the absolute need of a reformation and that it was the height of folly to expect that a college could flourish without a different state of things in town...."
How far he was able to change the moral and religious tone of the town does not appear. Carlisle was a town of considerable importance, in which lived many influential people, proud of their history and traditions. Such a place
was not likely to change much on the call of a young stranger coming to them from distant New England. About the only evidences of change were his statement that Judge B [probably Brackenridge who had opposed him] had lost some of his following, and the further statement of Atwater toward the close of his first year that "The Trustees are beginning to think that religion will not hurt the College, as some few of them [did?]."
The second problem confronting the new Principal was that of discipline and order within the College itself, and to this he set himself with equal zeal and persistence. Buchanan's story of his own time under Davidson makes it clear that he had here a real problem. A letter to Rush of March, 1811, states his case and outlines his plans:
... my whole confidence of success (under Providence) depended on introducing some of the regulations of the New England colleges; particularly those relating to the all-important point of discipline, without which a college is a pest, a school of licentiousness. I considered the want of discipline the rock on which the southern colleges had split.... I came here & found no discipline, the young men their own masters, doing what was right in their own eyes, spending their time at taverns & in the streets, lying in bed always till breakfast, & entirely from under the eye of any college officers, caring nothing for any power which the faculty ever exercised. In fact, there was no government that could be called such. The faculty generally called in the trustees when there was any punishment to be inflicted & while they threw off responsibility, lost at the same time the respect of students. The trustees were convinced that it would not answer to have the students scattered over the town; but that the greater part must be collected at college, & there kept under some sort of discipline. But I saw that it would not answer to collect them there, without having persons on the spot to keep them in order & see that they were quiet & studious in their rooms. This office is performed in the N. E. colleges by tutors. The trustees being unable to procure tutors in town, I found it necessary to give up the house I had taken in town, . for the first year act as a tutor myself, at least in part.... So, after having for 10 years had tutors under me, I consented to take the place of one myself in sailor's language, to become once more a hand before the mast. The students, however, increased from about 30 to 100, & I informed the trustees at commencement in Sept. last that I must move out of the College & that they (in my opinion) must put one or two tutors into the College in my place....
This they did not do, and Professor Wilson opposed this and seems to have thwarted the plan. He had troubles enough, not only in the town, but with trustees and Faculty as well. He had to labor with the trustees to have the college building used as a dormitory, which seems to have been first done in his time; and then to get their approval of his fundamental tutorial policy, at first approved but later blocked by the influence of Professor Wilson. It is doubtful whether he was ever able to try tutors in the building, though he himself lived in it for a time. Rooms in the building were temporarily assigned to Professor Cooper. Most of the time students were rooming in the building without any proper supervision. The natural result followed, though what sort of disorders occurred we may only guess from trustee action growing out of an outbreak in May, 1813. Under the charter of the College, trustees alone could inflict any worth while penalty, so that this particular case came before the trustees on report of the Faculty that certain acts of "wanton, wicked and malicious mischief had been committed in the College and other disorderly proceedings therein, and that the perpetrators thereof had not yet been discovered." The trustees "Resolved That the students now lodging in the College be called on by the faculty to subscribe the following declaration as a condition of further residence therein: 'We do solemnly promise upon our word of honor each for himself that we will not do any injury directly or indirectly to the college buildings, doors, windows or to any part of the said building, or appurtenances on any property therein, nor permit any person whatever to commit the same as far as it is within our power to prevent the perpetration thereof.' The trustees have observed with great concern the injury the College is receiving from acts of wanton mischief and filthiness.... If the disgraceful filthiness should be repeated and the offenders cannot be discovered that the faculty be empowered to exclude from the occupation of apartments in the college as lodgers all the students.... The Board will adopt prompt measures for the discovery and bringing to
justice either by criminal prosecution or civil action the offenders who have committed the late daring outrages in the College."
A sidelight has been thrown on the college picture of the time in a chance letter of 1812. Oliver Hurlburd, one of Atwater's old faculty at Middlebury College, paid Atwater a visit at Carlisle, and in a letter to President Davis, Atwater's successor at Middlebury, gives a paragraph on Atwater's circumstances: " ... At Carlisle we spent a night with Dr. Atwater. Both Dr. and Mrs. Atwater appeared very glad to see us. He has a good number of students, and is situated in a delightful country; yet very unpleasantly situated. The officers of the College are at sword's points with each other. The students are lawless as the whirlwind. The inhabitants of the country, it is said, are of the stubborn race of the Scotch-Irish...." This was about what was to be expected from such conditions as existed. Two students, "lawless as the whirlwind," engaged in a duel shortly before, February 22, 1812, as shown by a brief trustee record of that date. On report of the Faculty in respect to this affair, the Board "Resolved, therefore, That George Oldham be expelled and he is hereby expelled from Dickinson College.... The trustees considered it but an act of justice to declare that his conduct in every other instance has been such as to meet their approbation and must express their regret that this sentence should be passed on a young man who had been so fair and conduct so exemplary."
Atwater had faith in the College. In January, 1810, he wrote Rush, "This is the only institution that bids fair to flourish between Philadelphia and the mountains." His faith seemed justified, for the College rapidly increased in numbers, though it is not quite clear how they were divided between college and grammar school.
At Davidson's last commencement, in 1 809, 16 graduated, and 26 students remained of the full enrolment of 42. In July, 1810, Atwater wrote Rush that student prospects were good; and the student body grew rapidly. There were about
90 in November and 110 the following May of 1811. The number increased to at least 120, as shown by his report of February, 1813, that their numbers had fallen from 120 to 90.
It seems most probable that this decrease in the college enrolment was due to a combination of circumstances, in which the disorders previously mentioned bore a considerable part, and to which the peculiar constitution of the Faculty at this time had a considerable relation, as will hereafter appear. That the College did attract students of importance is noted when we read that there were enrolled two sons of the original Du Pont, from Wilmington, and two nephews of President James Madison. The lack of harmony between the trustees and the Faculty continued, so that when, in 1815, Atwater resigned, the Faculty "informed the Board that the number of students in the College, including this class, is 42." Of these, 15 were then to graduate, from which it appears that the college roll had thus shrunk to what Atwater found it six years before.
The Faculty difficulties were accentuated through the inclusion about this time of two peculiar personalities. Dr. Aigster was employed as Professor of Chemistry and Natural Philosophy in September, 1810. His services terminated in a somewhat spectacular fashion in the following May, by reason of his interference in the marital affairs of two residents of Carlisle, claiming the young lady for himself. Atwater's comment on the situation, in a letter to Rush, suggested that Dr. Aigster was deranged, to which he adds that "it was not universally agreed that he was deranged, but it was considered that his usefulness was at an end. Of his own accord he proposed leaving town."
Thomas Cooper was selected as successor to Dr. Aigster, and his association with the College seems to have been unfortunate in all respects, despite his great ability. A consideration of his history indicates that he was a stormy petrel while in Dickinson College for four years, as he had been and was to be before and after the Dickinson experience.
Cooper was indeed a remarkable man. Born in England
in 1759, he studied at Oxford without taking a degree. An adventure in Paris, in 1792, where he was in close association with the French Revolution for two months, sent him back to England, where his disputatious methods continued. Seemingly devoted to democratic principles, and losing hope for England, he came to America in 1793. Returning to England very shortly, he came again in 1794 to America, settling at Northumberland, Pennsylvania, where he lived with the famous Joseph Priestley until the latter died, in 1804. He had no difficulty in again getting into trouble, inasmuch as he was accused and tried under the Alien and Sedition Laws, convicted, fined, and imprisoned. Learned in the law as well as in chemistry and the natural sciences, he served, 1801-1804, as a member of the important Luzerne Commission to settle the disputed claims to land in the Wyoming Valley. In the latter year he was appointed judge of one of the Pennsylvania districts, so continuing until April, 1811, when because of his peculiarities, the Legislature requested the Governor to remove him.
The coming of this man to Dickinson was attended by characteristic difficulties. Principal Atwater was opposed to his appointment, but he seems to have been promised a relation to the College by two trustees, Watts and Duncan, one of whom had previously acted as his legal adviser before the Legislature. These men had a conference with Cooper in Bedford shortly after he had been removed as judge, and they there apparently promised him the college appointment at $800 per year, in consequence of which promise he was elected on June 17, 1811. The peculiar lack of concord among the trustees was shown by the presentation of a resolution of protest against his election, on September 28, 1811, signed by John Lynn, Robert Cathcart., James Snodgrass, D. Denny, Joshua Williams, D. McConaughy, and John Creigh, upon which the Board took no action. An attempt to bring Cooper's peculiar theology into harmony with the Calvinistic principles of the College was made by the pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Mercersburg, John
King, a trustee who was too old to meet with the Board. He wrote adroitly to Cooper, suggesting that the latter prepare and deliver a course of lectures "showing the uses and ends of science and pointing out its subserviency to religion in common with all the other works of God." This letter seems to have had no effect, for during September, after the election of Cooper, Atwater wrote Rush thus: "The whole affair seems like a sort of infatuation." Later, Principal Atwater wrote of Cooper's attitude toward a most unfortunate duel between two students that "He took the side of the students too much & has been applauded by them. There was something intemperate in his manner and disrespectful to the Faculty. Perhaps it was because he had been drinking quite freely."
When it is remembered that this forceful, erudite, brilliant man was openly at variance with the principles of the church which dominated the College, it is not hard to understand the reason for the decline in the number of the student body during the four years of his incumbency. That even his chemical technique was questionable appeared in a peculiar accident which blinded him for a time when he suddenly uncorked a bottle in which he had added nitric acid to bismuth.
At the close of the college year, in September, 1815, Cooper left the College, together with Principal Atwater and practically the entire Faculty. This was in anticipation of a definite closing which shortly thereafter occurred. Evidently the trustees did not agree with Atwater as to the standing of this difficult man, for there is a record, in November, 1815, which includes an acknowledgment to Cooper of "the great and important benefits the institution has received from you, and declaration that all your conduct either as a professor or as a gentleman. has been such as in every respect to meet our warmest approbation." This peculiar statement was signed by eleven trustees.
Upon leaving Carlisle, Cooper became a professor in the University in Philadelphia, and later, through the recom-
mendation of his friend, Thomas Jefferson, he was elected to a chair in the University of Virginia then about to open. But after his resignation from Philadelphia and acceptance of the Virginia position, the protests against his religious peculiarities gained such strength that his election to the Virginia chair was canceled upon the payment to him of a year's salary. In the meantime he taught at the University of South Carolina, there formulating arguments used by the political leaders of that state in support of their positions as to states rights and slavery. He became both acting president, and then president of the Columbia institution, eventually resigning in his own good time in January, 1834.
Cooper did the College one incidental service of high value. He had the disposal of Joseph Priestley's scientific apparatus and library, as he wrote Thomas Jefferson, in consequence of which the College obtained several pieces of this apparatus. The trustee record of December 17, 1812, recites: "Resolved that the trustees will accept on the terms proposed by Mr. Priestley a 3-foot reflecting telescope, 5 in. reflector mounted in best manner, $220; a lens, $250; and an air gun, $60. And that the amount be paid out of the apparatus fund and that Mr. Cooper be requested to inform Mr. Priestley of this resolution and that his draft will be duly honored."
The lens thus pur-
chased for $250 now seems priceless in view of its probable uses by Priestley in the discovery of oxygen.
Stories of Cooper's life say little of his family. In fact, there is generally little more than the fact of his early marriage in England, and his living in the home of Joseph Priestley during the last years of Priestley's life. A chance glance at an old volume of the Carlisle Herald discovered the announcement that Thomas Cooper married Eliz. Hemming, of Carlisle, on October 12, 1812.
Returning now to Dickinson College, it is recalled that Atwater's financial problem has not been mentioned, though its dark shadow was probably ever present with him. At once on his arrival he was asked to go to the Legislature with some trustees to seek a state grant. They failed, as he thought, because they asked too much, a grant outright instead of the purchase of their land. On their failure he wrote Rush in April, 1810, "I know not how the Trustees will get along and discharge some pressing debts without sacrificing their productive funds." Well he might say this, for shortly afterward he wrote: "The College ground & buildings have lately been attached by the heirs of Dr. Nisbet for a debt of $6,000 due them. Without aid the funds must go to satisfy their debt. The College building is unfinished." Atwater advised the trustees to borrow enough to tide them over till they could again try for a state grant, but they instead sold their endowment securities to pay at least part of their debt.
Some incidents of this sale transaction throw light on the progress of the construction of West College and its earliest use as a dormitory. When Rush learned of the trouble he sent the trustees, by Mrs. McCoskry, née Nisbet, a $500 bond of Francis Campbell, of Shippensburg, as a contribution on their debts. Even had it arrived in time, it would have been too little to save the situation. Judge Hamilton wrote to thank Rush and said "Our College hall [the old Chapel] is useless, being in an unfinished state. How would you approve of the appropriation of the bond to the com-
pletion of this unfinished part of the edifice?" Rush apparently agreed to its use for any purpose; for Hamilton writes later: "Your donation is appropriated to ... dividing rooms for the accommodation of students, and any surplus to the completion of the Public Hall."
The Public Hall, however, was forced to wait, and was not completed for at least ten years. The trustees decided about this time to board and lodge students in their building, and part, at least, of the Rush donation was used for finishing "the dining room and procuring the tables and benches and building an oven." In May, 1810, a start had been made toward bringing students into their dormitory, for it had then been "Resolved, That a number of rooms in the College not exceeding eight be divided ... so as to accommodate students." This was the first use of the yet incomplete new building as a dormitory; and in the absence of regular tutors Atwater himself undertook the tutor's work for a time. The completion of the boarding arrangements followed, and some students were lodged in the building.
But two years after Atwater's coming, the College was without endowment, owed money, and had an unfinished building. As Atwater had come from a college without endowment, he might have succeeded had they given him hearty support and removed the incubus of debt. In one of his letters he writes, "I do trust that God will yet raise up for the Institution benefactors"; and takes steps to answer his prayer as far as it was in his power to do so. He planned with Rush for an approach to the daughter of Dickinson for such endowment as she might be willing to give; and laid plans for enlarging the student body. Nothing came from Miss Dickinson; but the increase of the student body was immediate and decided so that he soon came to believe that he could almost ignore endowment and that the College might live without it. He outlined a budget to Rush less than a year after he reached Carlisle on this supposition. He based it on 100 college students, each paying $35 tuition, and 30 students in the Grammar School at $30 each. All
alike were to pay an annual entrance or matriculation fee of $4. His plan follows:
To give him time to work out the plan he proposed a guarantee fund for five years, writing Rush, "Now cannot a plan be devised to guarantee for 5 years to the trustees about $2,000 yearly, with an expectation that the increase of students will make it unnecessary to call on the subscribers to pay any part of what they guarantee? Say 400 shares @ $5. each. Have we not friends who would take them up? Mr. Duncan is favourable to a plan of this sort & thinks it would succeed. What would be your opinion?" In the Rush files there is a form of subscription drawn up in accordance with this proposal. Nothing further, however, seems to have been done in the matter.
The number of students needed to meet college expenses was secured sooner, probably, than was even hoped. The first college catalogue, issued in 1811, showed that Atwater had already a few more students than he thought necessary to carry the College, and but for the disastrous Cooper incident might have been able to carry on. However, following Cooper's election, and the disorganization and incident lack of harmony in Faculty and Board, the student body diminished. It is probable, too, that his own courage ebbed
with the lessening confidence of his constituency in the soundness of the College.
The early letters of Atwater, even those on the bad moral conditions of the town and College, have a forward look. In February, 1813, however, after a little over three years' effort, he writes Rush in another spirit. The heart has gone out of him, and he is looking forward, not for the College, but toward his own departure. This letter of February, 1813, is full of suggestions as well as facts on existing conditions. Even Rush now despaired of anything worth while at the College, and Rush proposed to resign from the Board on Atwater's withdrawal, but he died in the meantime. Atwater writes:
I this day recd. yours of the 30th ult. It is a long time since I have been intending to write you a letter, but various circumstances have caused a delay. One reason has been that since last Sept. I have been obliged to preach &c., in the place of Dr. Davidson, & have of course been more than usually occupied. You have known what have been my feelings about leaving this place. In June last, I recd. from Dr. Green a letter which had much weight with me. From it I extract the following; "I have talked over your case with our mutual friends Dr. Rush & Mr. Ralston & am now briefly to tell you the result. That you should be dissatisfied with your present situation is not surprising after all that has taken place at Carlisle; I must say that notwithstanding all, it appears to me to be your duty for the present to remain where you are, till you are clearly called away. When you are clearly called, where you have the prospect of doing more good, go immediately. But wait for that as patiently as you can. I do not think as favourably of L. as you appear to do. A door will open for you in the best time ... till then wait & trust in the Lord." After receiving this letter, my mind was rather more at ease, than it had been, & I have endeavoured since, to shape my conduct in conformity to the advice, which it gives. No opening has yet presented itself of the kind mentioned, & having purchased a house, & been at considerable expense in settling down here, I have felt myself under a sort of necessity of remaining, for a while, under circumstances wherein I should not, if I had no family. I read with satisfaction that you will defer resigning your trusteeship while I am here. I feel grateful for this expression of your kindness ... as I have felt in relation to numerous past expressions of it, the warm sense of which I shall carry with me to my grave. A principal reason for the tenacity, which was manifested in getting Thos. C. here was I suppose that Messrs. Watts & Mr. Duncan (who were not
aware of any opposition) had in the first instance improperly gone beyond their powers as a committee & had absolutely made a bargain with Mr. C. before he had been regularly elected. I think that Mr. C. is daily losing friends from various causes ... among these, is a knowledge of his habits which are not all of them the most exemplary. I think he will before long run himself out. It will be well, if he does not previously run the College out. Our number of students is reduced from 120 to 90.... I endeavoured to do the best in my power, under existing circumstances.... I have told the trustees decidedly that tho' disposed to do all in my power, I will not hold myself responsible for the evils which may arise under present management. They are beginning to get alarmed for the fate of the College, & find it difficult to extricate themselves. Men do not love very well to retrace their steps when they have gone wrong.... They now manifest that they feel more dependence on me, in relation to upholding the College than they were willing to, in their zeal for Mr. C. In fact, they treat me with more respect & deference.... Perhaps you would smile if I were to allege this, as one evidence that they are coming to their senses. Dear Sir, I have often felt for you. You have shown yourself a true substantial friend to the Institution & how have you been treated? I forget my own trials whenever I think of the returns made to you for your generosity & disinterested friendship. But I think that it is Cotton Mather who says in his Essays to Do Good that "when we have done our utmost to serve mankind, we must expect their ingratitude in return." The good men will look to God & a future state. I will only add respecting Mr. C. that I think the number of his friends is very small at present in the Board, & that before long these who elected him will say (what, I think, they are now silently saying to themselves) that they were wrong & that others were right. Our Professor of Languages, Mr. Wilson, resigns in April. No one has yet been agreed on to succeed him. I think students behave better than last year, perhaps because their number is smaller, & some of the worst have left. Young men from Virginia with rooms in the town & not confined to college walls will conduct themselves here much, as I am told, they do ... when in Philadelphia attending medical lectures. But I am happy to say, that a great proportion of our young men are studious & promising.... In teaching such I have great satisfaction.... From the trustees (at least some of them) I have felt alienated. But I love the students & am happy, when benefitting them. To Thos. C. I am not very partial, & never shall be, till he reforms. By the way, I don't know that as yet he has been able to corrupt the youth. That he is disposed so to do, I have no doubt. Let him take his own course; the worse his conduct the sooner we shall be rid of him.
Atwater seems to have been on pleasant terms with the trustees, who failed, nevertheless, to provide generous
support. Conditions were not better than those described in a previous chapter. In fact, some of the worst features of this bungling appeared at this time. It was in 1814 that a trustee committee was directed to inquire of the Faculty why they were not observing the various resolutions of the Board. About the same time the trustees directed the Principal and each Professor to make a written report to their secretary at the close of each week of "all delinquents or absentees, . . . for the inspection of the Board."
The charter required that any serious discipline of students be by trustee action, but there was no requirement that the trustees discipline their Faculty. They had not yet learned that they had presumably employed experts in education who should know better how to conduct the work of the College than they, lawyers, preachers, and merchants as they were. Thirty years of bungling had not yet taught the lesson. It was not learned for twenty years more.
The story of the Atwater administration is largely told. There remain to present some few things to give a proper understanding of the course the College was taking.
Dormitory rooms in the college building for students and teachers, and the equipment of a kitchen and dining-room probably represented the only changes in the interior of the building for these years. The month after Atwater's arrival the purchase of the first college bell was authorized, and his letter of February 4, 1810, announced that it had been put in place. Its cost was $111.40, and it had to be "waggoned" from Philadelphia to Carlisle. This bell served for thirty-four years, when President Durbin substituted a larger one.
The campus was originally "commons," and was first fenced in 1803, when a locust-post and chestnut-rail fence enclosed it. November 2, 1810, the Board "Resolved, That on the 20th of November inst. the college ground will be leveled and forest trees planted, and Resolved that the inhabitants of the town and neighborhood be invited to lend their aid and assistance, by public advertisement, and that the Trustees, in town, will attend and direct." Whether the
invitation was accepted is not known, though the report of the condition of the campus twenty-five years later indicates that little was done.
One old custom was changed during this administration. Chief justice Taney and President Buchanan both said that the nomination of the valedictorian and salutatorian of each college class was made by two societies. The Faculty then decided which of the two should have first and which second honors. It was ordered, September 30, 1812, that the Faculty should thereafter make the selection for honors.
Some of the students had left the College for the defense of Philadelphia in the War of 1812, and were not able to be present at commencement late in September. They were granted their diplomas in absentia.
The earliest college catalogues of any kind known to have been issued were from Atwater's hand. He sent out, late in 1810, what might be called a general catalogue with of all graduates to date of issue, and wrote Rush that he would send him a copy. Two copies of this are in the Rush collection and one in the possession of the College. These are the only copies known to exist, though there may be others. Atwater issued at least two other catalogues of Faculty and students. The earlier one, of December, 1811, lists 118 college and grammar-school students. Of these, 16 were from Carlisle and 30 of them roomed in the college building. The later one, of August, 1812, shows 124 students; 17 from Carlisle, and 17 in the college building. Most of the students in both years roomed in the private homes of Carlisle, those of Atwater, Cooper, and McCormick among them. All three of these catalogues were printed on one side of a large single sheet of paper.
Early in his stay in Carlisle, Atwater tried to secure for the College the Presbyterian Theological Seminary, whose establishment was then being discussed, but it went to the older and better established college at Princeton.
Dr. Davidson preached his last sermon in the Presbyterian Church on September 4, 1812, and Atwater writes the
following February that he was then serving that congreg tion. As the church had no regular pastor during the remainder of Atwater's stay in Carlisle, it seems probable he continued to occupy the pulpit as a supply.
Five men were added to the college Faculty during Atwater's administration, one of them twice, but official trustee record of election appears in the case of Thomas Cooper only. Dr. Aigster preceded Cooper, but the only evidence of his connection with the College is found in the Rush correspondence, as already given. In 1810 Claudius Berard was engaged to teach, as stated in a letter of Atwater to Rush. His coming was deemed of sufficient importance to call for special advertisement. The President of the Board wrote Rush on May 7, 1810, and asked that he insert in one or two Philadelphia papers the following advertisement:
DICKINSON COLLEGE. The trustees anxious that this now prosperous institution should further merit public encouragement have engaged a gentleman of character and talents to teach the French language. He has also some knowledge of the Spanish. This acquisition, long wished for ... now forms a compleat system of education at this Seminary. The next session of the College will commence on the first of June ensuing.
Claudius Berard is listed in the first catalogue list of Faculty and students, December, 1811, but not in the second list of August, 1812. Berard is also listed as a "non-graduate" member of the college Class of 1812. He was later a member of the Faculty of 1814-1815. He probably taught Modern Languages from 1810 for a year or two, and pursued some college studies while teaching, but without graduation. He then left the College, but returned to teach for the year, 1814-1815, after which he taught French at West Point Military Academy till his death in 1848.
There is no official record of the election of Professors Shaw and Nulty, but they were named in trustee minutes as Professors testifying before the trustees to the guilt of students being tried; and John Borland's election is established only by a letter of Atwater to Rush. Borland had
taught in the College before, but left in 1805 to teach in New York. He returned for one year only, in 1811-1812. Professor Wilson resigned in 1813 and was succeeded by Joseph Shaw, of Scotch birth and education. He left in 1815, after two years' service, for work in Albany Academy, where he died in 1824. It is recorded of him that his students remembered him with gratitude and affection. Eugene Nulty taught mathematics in 1814-1816, after which he became the actuary of a Philadelphia life insurance company.
On Atwater's withdrawal, September, 1815, Shaw, Berard, and Cooper also withdrew. Even McNeily, head of the Grammar School, left, but a Mr. Trimble was at once chosen to take his place. There remained for the College only Nulty, of whom nothing really is known. There was practically no Faculty with which to begin work one month later, after the regular fall vacation, with only Nulty in the College and Trimble in the Grammar School. Atwater was gone, and the College was worse off than six years before when he came.
A Carlisle Federal-Republican paper says that this
leaves the Coll. with but two officers, the professor of mathematics and the new appointed teacher of the Grammar School. "What can the matter be?" Mr. J. Atwater resigned, Mr. T. Cooper resigned, and Mr. McNeily resigned. [Shaw and Berard are not mentioned.] Something uncommon must surely have occurred to have occasioned such "a falling off." But we expected nothing less. Some of the toasts drunk on the Fourth of July last by those who were tutored in that college were sufficient to damn any institution that would sanction them. We hope, however, that professors of pure American principles may be found who will speedily redeem the lost character of an institution which was once so respectable and so justly celebrated.
This same paper, in its issue of July 6, had reported the Fourth of July doings, but none of the things reported explain its attack on "those who were tutored in that College." There was a general celebration in the morning, with flamboyant speeches. The anti-Federalist students then celebrated in College Hall with speaking by one of their
members. After this they adjourned to the hotel for a banquet from one to four o'clock. Here there were toasts of the same general character as those of the earlier community celebration of the morning. The subjects of the formal toasts and other elements of the event give an interesting picture of the time. There were twenty-one toasts, political and patriotic. The first nine toasts are given somewhat in full, but the last twelve are merely suggested, as follows:
1. The day we celebrate. With hearts devoted to Liberty we hail its return. Let friends to the divine right of kings hide their faces and mourn in sackcloth and ashes. "Hail Columbia...."
2. General Washington, the brightest star in the constellation of Virtue. May its light shine not in the path of the traitor. "Washington's March...."
3. The Cause of the People. The Cause of reason and justice; it will prevail in spite of faction. "Yankee Doodle...."
4. The President of the United States. In testimony of his worth he has the patriot's blessing and the tories' scorn. "Madison's March...."
5. The Union of the States. It has stood the siege of war, and now we have peace; let any strong, vile, insignificant faction dare attempt its separation. "Jefferson and Liberty...."
6. The Hartford Convention. In competition with British gold, their country's wrongs are feeble suitors. "Rogues March...."
7. The Patriots of South America. Liberty their polar star. Hallowed be their cause, and prosperous their exertions. "Hail Liberty...."
8. The Western States. The land of virtue and hospitality; the residence of patriots who "have utterance and action." "Colonel Croghan's March...."
9. The Navy and the Army of the United States. The ardor of their enterprise, and the glory of their achievement in defense of our national rights will be a lasting monument to their work. "Anacreon in Heaven...."
(The remaining toasts in part only)
10. Our Late Commission at Ghent.
11. The Heads of Departments.
12. The Congress of the United States. May they do more and say less. "Fire on the mountains...."
13. Dickinson College. The bright luminary of Pennsylvania. "College Hornpipe...."
14. The Faculty of Dickinson College. "Old Hundred...."
15. Thomas Cooper, Esq. The profound philosopher, the genuine patriot and the endeared friend.
(This shows that the Republican part of the college body at least were proud of their celebrated Professor, whatever the Principal and others might think of him.)
16. Thomas Jefferson. The Patriot and Statesman. "Jefferson's March...."
17. The Militia.
19. Dr. Benjamin Franklin.
20. Free Trade and Sailors' Rights.
2 1. The Fair." Last Week I took a Wife...."
These twenty-one formal toasts were followed by another series of impromptu ones, even more intensely partisan, if that were possible. In them the Federal party, then about dead as a national force, was pilloried in every way, with a display of party rancor undreamed of today.
The newspaper notes that there were other celebrations at other places, but gives no account of their programs. Federalist speeches at some other celebrations were ignored at the time, but held in reserve for use when the Faculty of the College was disrupted. Then it could say "only what was to be expected of a College training such men."
The Fourth of July seems to have been made the occasion for partisan rather than national purposes. The Gazette records that John Duncan Mahon, of the Class of 1814, spoke
before the Federal-Republican students on the occasion in 1814, Francis W. Brooke, of the Class of 1815, in 1815. The Federalists had probably dwindled so as to make their meeting hardly respectable. They probably met with other citizens, and some of them may have stirred the wrath of the Federal-Republican paper, as above.
There was a long-standing rule of the College forbidding speeches by the students on national or political subjects, and the bitterness of some of these toasts and the high pitch of political passion they reveal are probably good excuse for the prohibition. There were so many unexploded magazines in every community that it was unsafe to allow young men the use of fire. So we see that when they were at liberty they gave free vent to their political prejudices and passions.
So ends the Atwater period or perhaps it should be termed the Atwater-Cooper period with the seemingly simultaneous departure of the Faculty in September, 1815.