|Chapter 23 Robert Emory 1845-1848. Three Years of Waning Strength|
ROBERT EMORY, who followed John Price Durbin as President, would probably have proven his equal but for his poor health. Emory, a graduate of Columbia in 1831, had come to the College on its reopening in 1834, eleven years before he became President, and had served it with great ability most of these years. Reports of his work and character seem almost extravagant, and he was, doubtless, a rare man. His health, always poor, became steadily worse after he became President. Somewhat like President Filler, his successor eighty-three years later, his work was done under the deepening shadow of decreasing physical powers. Nevertheless, he held things well together, secured an increased student attendance, and met all college expenses from year to year. He, like Filler again, is to be judged by his earlier brilliant service as Professor rather than by his short term as President.
Emory's work at Dickinson was begun when he was but two months over twenty years of age, but there is ample evidence of his equipment for it. There are four special witnesses: Benjamin F. Brooke, W. Lee Spottswood, James A. McCauley, already quoted on Durbin, and Moncure D. Conway, of the Class of 1849, the distinguished writer and humanitarian.
Brooke was Emory's student for four years, and his testimony is that of his diary ten years after graduation, on an official visit to Carlisle. He says:
Visited the College Library ... saw the portrait of Dr. Robert Emory, with that look of firmness and of manly virtue that I knew so well. Prof. Emory was my beau ideal of a man. I shall never forget the impression his appearance made on me the first time I had an interview with him. He was Professor of Languages, and was perfect master of his branch of instruction. He had one motto always " the certainty of knowledge." He would not allow the students to "guess" at anything. "You know it, or you do not know it" was his constant expression.
I wish to record my impressions of his moral character, particularly. I have never known such an assemblage of virtues in any man. At least, such invariable symmetry of character in all that constitutes worth and greatness.... He himself seemed totally unconscious of the tremendous impression his appearance was making on all around him.... He seemed to me to be what he was by the most rigid discipline. He told me that he had been troubled with skeptical notions as to the reality of conversion and possibility of consciousness of the fact; at length he was resolved that if there was such a thing as experimental religion, he would find it or die in the struggle. And he prayed for it he prayed all night and finally the light came like the morning upon his soul, leaving no shadow of a doubt. He smiled and said, "I once served God because I feared him now I serve him because I love him."
He was kind, candid, gracious. He established Sunday Schools in all the country about Carlisle at his own expense, and supplied them with teachers from the College. (One of these probably grew into the flourishing country church at "McAllisters School House.")
As a talker he was clear and persuasive his voice seemed to be "dipped in the mellow stream of mercy." Take him all in all I shall not look upon his like again.
Brooke's impression of Emory's moral character is supported by Spottswood, already quoted on Durbin. Spottswood says:
The feeling of every man who approached Robert Emory was:
President McCauley writes:
... Robert Emory, little more than twenty years of age ... was a remarkable man.... In every sphere in which he was tried there was the demonstration of ability that ranked him with the first in each ... (on his death at 34), if, of his years he left an equal, he left no superior in the Church.
Moncure D. Conway considered Emory
the ideal college President. In personal presence, in his manners, at once gracious and dignified, in his simplicity and the sweetness of his voice, he had every quality that could excite young enthusiasm.... When he called on my brother and myself, I cannot remember what he said, but after he left we were ready to die for him.
By the calendar Emory was President for three years, but really for only two. His health kept him away from the College during the third year, 1847-1848, and he died on May 18, 1848. Emory's final report in 1847 announced that during the year the library, laboratory, and museum had been transferred to South College. The year's income had been $8,523.34, somewhat more than usual because of increased student attendance. It seems an amazingly small sum for a year's college income, but it more than met expenses. With his sadly early death the College and the Church lost rare ability and high devotion.
In 1847 Emory made two recommendations to the Board for buildings. One of these was for a library and society hall. The two literary societies were pressing for better meeting-places and library rooms. On Emory's recommendation the Board voted that when the two societies had secured $6,000, the College would add $4,000 for the erection of a suitable building on the campus. Nothing ever came of the movement, as the societies failed to secure the $6,000. Reference is made to it, however, in a society petition to the trustees in 1850 for an additional room in West College for library use, which they suggest as less costly than the earlier one. The request of 1850 was granted, and the two society libraries used the rooms so granted until their transfer to Bosler Hall.
His second proposal concerned North College. Few there be who know anything about it. Just north of West College there was for many years a wood-house, and this came to the dignity of a recognized college building through the financial needs of students. There were frequent trustee proposals to make possible lessened cost to students. One of these appears in Emory's 1847 report. He did not see how student expenses could be further lessened, unless by a proposal he made "that two or three shops should be provided for students who are acquainted with trades. This can be done at little expense, on a plan that I will submit."
Emory's proposal was referred to the Financial Committee, with power to act, but at a cost not to exceed $300.
This action was had July 7, and five days later Emory signed a contract with a local builder "to fit up the stone wood-house back of College into four rooms with dormitories, with a cellar under the whole, according to plans." The work was to cost $300, and to be completed "before 6th Sept. next." There exists an unsigned, undated, unattached draft of the probable plans, though it gives only three rooms and six large closets. This plan shows that the wood-house was 45 feet long by 10 feet wide. The three rooms are 10 feet square with double closets in each, 5 feet square. The rooms were to be 8 feet in the clear, and the cellar 5 feet. The large closets were probably for the tools of the artisan students who were to use the rooms.
In the story of a student prank which appeared in "The Dickinsonian" in 1875, Dr. Thomas G. Chattle, of the Class of 1852, says that there was "another building, whose ashes have long since been swept up in the dust of the past, standing in the rear of West College, and known as North College." In room one of this building Conner and Haller "pressed various suits for their fellow students, at enormous prices, and thus smoothed their way through college." In room two "Tussey hammered the soles of his classmates during the week., while his Sundays were spent in seeking the welfare of souls in the hamlets of Perry County." The college catalogue lists students as rooming in North College each year but one, from 1847 to 1855, and the three students named by Dr. Chattle are so listed.
This old wood-house was built in the early years of West College, when the College furnished the students with wood for their fires. It was prominent enough to find a place on a plan of Carlisle, made in 1850. The winter's supply could be bought more cheaply in summer. It needed, however, to be stored under lock and key, as it was retailed to students. The stone material was a concession to architectural conformity. [Would that later builders had been equally responsive to the artistic demands of their surroundings!] Yet at best it must have been a blot on the campus just north of
West College. It served its purpose for a time but apparently the activity of the students in their trades raised such opposition in the town that the trustees finally forbade all such work by students. After ten years of some sort of service the old wood-house disappeared. Egle's "History of Pennsylvania" says that it was destroyed by fire. It material was given to the Emory church organization for use in its building enterprise.
So disappeared North College!
One month before Emory had made his wood-shed proposal, a very difficult and dangerous situation for the College had developed. A riot over runaway slaves on June 2, 1847 at the court-house had resulted in the death of one Kennedy of Hagerstown, who claimed the slaves. Professor McClintock was present at the time of the riot, and was charged with participation on the side of the slaves. Both town and College were deeply stirred. An ordinary riot would have excited both, but the slave question was becoming a serious one. The local Herald Expositor deplored the matter, and said all sorts of complimentary things of Kennedy, who died June 30, after which a great town meeting was held to express disapproval of the riot, and by resolution to extol the virtues of Kennedy. Many citizens assembled at the court-house and marched in a body to the station to pay tribute of silent respect as the body was placed on the train to be carried to Hagerstown. The Hagerstown Torchlight in the meantime was fulminating against McClintock and the College.
The students, mostly from slave territory, were equally excited, and at first were on the point of leaving in a body. Moncure D. Conway was one of these excited southern students. In his Autobiography he gives much space to the slave riot and McClintock's part therein., a very small part of which must suffice:
McClintock was the last man one might expect to see mixed up in any disturbance, and there was wild excitement when, on a bright June afternoon (1847), rumors spread of a fatal riot led by this same professor! One
Kennedy of Maryland had discovered his three fugitive slaves in Carlisle, and in an attempt to rescue them when led out of the court room he was mortally wounded.... McClintock kept entirely out of it (the riot), and started homewards, stopping a moment to ask the doctor if Kennedy was badly hurt, and to express regret.... There was probably not an abolitionist among the students, and most of us perhaps were from slave states. My brother and I, like others, packed our trunks to leave College. A meeting of all the students was held in the evening, in the college chapel, at which President Emory spoke a few reassuring words; but we Southerners, wildly excited, appointed a meeting for next morning. At this meeting (June 3) we were all stormy until the door opened and the face of McClintock was seen, serene as if about to take his usual seat in his recitation room. There was a sudden hush. Without excitement or gesture, without any accent of apology or of appeal, he related the simple facts, then descended from the pulpit and moved quickly along the aisle and out of the door.
When McClintock had gone the students present, ninety in number, signed a paper exonerating McClintock of all blame in the matter, and sent it to leading papers for publication. Many papers, however, would not be informed, but gave rein to their passion and abused the man and College.
McClintock was indicted for riot and tried in the local courts, together with a large number of negroes. The case became not so much an attempt to arrive at a judicial decision as a test between the two opposing systems of the country, which were gradually coming more and more closely to deadly grips on the question of slavery. Noted and able lawyers, both North and South, volunteered their services for this, one of the picket clashes of the coming struggle. Conway sketches the trial:
Witness after witness, perjurer after perjurer, came forward to testify that McClintock was with those who struck down Kennedy, had said to the fallen man that he was served right, etc. Those acquainted with McClintock knew this testimony to be false, but how could it be disproved? A well-known citizen, Jacob Rheem, testified that he was told by a man that he had overheard two men say they were resolved to drive McClintock out of Carlisle. The overheard conversation indicated a conspiracy, but Rheem could not remember the name or locality of his informant. McClintock's lawyer, Hon. William Meredith, tried in vain to get some clue, but when all seemed hopeless Rheem sprang forward and pointed to a man just entering the courtroom, and cried, "There's the man!" The stranger, called to the stand, fully corroborated Rheem.
The countryman's exposure of the conspiracy against McClintock
greatly impressed the students and the community, but was not needed to clear him. Several lawyers, not anti-slavery, testified that at the time when he was alleged to be in the riot he was some distance off, talking with themselves. The trial only bequeathed a heavy case against slavery. It was the doom of that institution that every step it took outside its habitat left a track of blood. One slaveholder seizing negroes seeking liberty outweighed the benevolence of ten thousand kind masters whose servants clung fondly to them.
McClintock was acquitted and continued at the College for another year. Thirteen of the negroes, tried at the same time, were convicted. Judge Hepburn, who presided at the trial, was disappointed by the verdict of acquittals, and said so. Had it been a civil case, he would have exercised his right to set the verdict aside. He showed his animus in the matter by heavy sentences for the convicted negroes, as much as three years in the penitentiary for some of them. Their cases were appealed and on orders of the higher court they were discharged after a few months.
Conway's statement that there was probably not an abolitionist in the student body in 1847 is, on first thought, surprising. It was only fourteen years before the outbreak of the Civil War, but it was a time, however, when the middle states were hesitant on the subject of slavery. They trembled for the outcome, and were crying "peace, peace," not knowing that before peace must come the sword. One might expect that there would be a large abolitionist element at this time in a Pennsylvania College under Methodist auspices. Apparently it was not so, and there are documents supporting this view.*
*Bishop Beverly Waugh, a trustee of the College, wrote to President Durbin of the College from Boston in June, 1839, after he had just held one New England conference and was about to go to another: "I have come through one of the New England storms of abolitionism with whole bones. Time must tell the rest. I was blessed with the counsel and aid of Bishop Soule, who will be with me at Maine Conference likewise.... I think it may be said that the violence of abolitionism is over in New England. The party is divided and confused. They agree not what to do or not to do. May they come to their proper senses on the subject."
This letter shows the Bishop's opposition to the New England attitude toward slavery. It shows also that he considered Durbin as in sympathy with him, and this was the Durbin who espoused the anti-slavery position in the General Conference of the Church in 1844. As before stated, a majority of the Philadelphia Conference delegates in that General Conference of 1844 took the southern view of the controversy over Bishop Andrew.
The student body met two days after the riot and declared unanimously that they deemed McClintock incapable of the wrong charged. They expected that he would be "vindicated from the imputations cast upon him." There seemed to be no difference of opinion that interference on behalf of runaway slaves was a heinous wrong.
The slave riot occurred on June 2, 1847, and the college trustees met a month later, July 7 and 8. The closing minute of the meeting evidently grew out of the riot troubles of the previous month: "The President made an oral communication to the Board on the subject of slavery and abolition, stating, in accordance with the wishes of certain members of the Board, the policy of the Faculty in regard to those subjects. And it was 'Resolved, That the Board has heard with great satisfaction the statement of Presdt. Emory and request him to commit the same to writing for publication."' The Finance Committee was to see that it was published.
The next issue of a local paper, The Herald Expositor, contains Emory's statement on the subject. It was the duty of the Professors, he believed, to teach the college subjects, "not to be partizans or propagandists of any peculiar creed in politics or religion.... We would not seek the discussion of vexed questions, whether in politics, morals, or religion, but if they come up naturally and properly, we would not, as honest men and faithful teachers, withold the frank statement of our opinions."
He stated that the question of slavery naturally belongs to Moral Philosophy: "That department is my own, and I am entirely ready to state to you the views which I hold and which I impart. But I presume this is neither necessary nor expected.'' Professor McClintock is no abolitionist. He has "never held the following Doctrines or any of them: (1) That the United States Government can interfere with Slavery in the several States. (2) That the States can interfere with the policy of each other on the subject. (3) That all Slaves should be immediately and unconditionally emancipated. (4) That Slave-holding is a sin under all cir-
cumstances. (5) That non-slave-holding should be made a term of membership in the Christian Church."
Emory's position may be inferred from the above, but added light is given by his letter in 1846 to Mr. Brooke, his old student. He writes of a contemplated meeting of the Christian Alliance and of a proposed program for the meeting. "As soon as I saw the resolutions about Slave-holders I regarded it as an apple of discord.... I felt so provoked ... that I was almost ready at once to abandon the thought of attending the Convention.... The Convention itself ... might yet think proper to say nothing at all on the subject of slavery, as I certainly think they ought not. It really seems as if the demon of discord would never cease his foul work upon the South. It is enough to make one's heart sick, to think that an effort to promote Christian Union should be made the occasion of new strife. I hope it will not be so among us!"
Even such a man as Emory was crying "peace, peace," and had not seen the futility of the cry. It should not be forgotten, too, that there were still a few slaves in Pennsylvania at least thirty-seven in Cumberland County at the time of the census of 1840.
Lincoln, not Horace Greeley, was right in his estimate of the attitude of the great majority of the American people toward slavery. New England abhorred it; the South had been driven almost to worship it; and the great middle belt of our country mildly deplored it, but tolerated it as a necessary evil, fastened upon us by our historical development. It required South Carolina's guns against Sumter to stir the college territory, and even for years northern soldiers insisted that they were not fighting to free slaves, but to preserve the Union. Dickinson College, in 1847, was almost certainly only very mildly alive to the evils of slavery.
But to return to the facts of President Emory's letter of acceptance of his election, in 1845, we may note that it was prophetic. "I shall have to encounter a floating debt of
more than two thousand dollars, and an annual deficiency of nearly five hundred dollars [occasioned by the withdrawal of the state appropriation ... ]. I cannot anticipate either that the office will be a pleasant one, or that I shall be able long to sustain the drafts that it would make on my strength." He was not able long to carry the burdens of the office. His active connection with the College ended in July, 1847. Possibly the contract for North College was his last official act. By reason of his illness, he was given leave of absence, July to October, but was not able to resume his duties. He tendered his resignation to the Finance Committee.They declined to accept it, but he never returned. He died in Baltimore the following May.
In Emory's absence, 1847-1848, Professor Allen acted as President pro tem., and a sorry story he had for the trustees when they gathered in July, 1848. He reported "The past year has been marked with prosperity and misfortune." Professor Caldwell, the senior Professor, had died, President Emory had died, and Professors McClintock and Crooks had accepted other appointments, leaving only Allen himself, Sudler, and Baird. It was a dismal situation.