|Chapter 24 The Administrations of John Price Durbin 1834-1845; and Robert Emory 1845-1848|
THE death of Emory in 1848 marked the close of an epoch of the college life under the new church auspices. Durbin and Emory, so closely related in their plans, and the Faculty with which they both worked, stamp their two administrations with such similar characteristics that the two may be treated almost as one. There was, too, at the close of the two administrations a definite break in the continuity of college life. Durbin left in 1845; in 1848 Emory and Caldwell died and McClintock went to another field. Only Allen himself, Acting President in Emory's absence, 1847-1848, was left of the original "old guard." Baird, it is true, had come in at the time of Durbin's leaving, and was quite the equal of the best; but change was at hand. An estimate, therefore, of the two previous administrations together seems fitting.
The Faculty of this formative period was a great one. Its leading members have been noted: Durbin in 1833, Caldwell and Emory in 1834, and Allen and McClintock two years later. Five others shared the period with them, three of them almost incidentally, one indifferently, and one with distinction. The three of incidental service were Roszell, Crooks, and Blumenthal.
Stephen Asbury Roszell, head of the Grammar School 1835-1840, served also as Professor of Languages in the College, 1837-1838. George R. Crooks, of the Class of 1840, was connected with the Grammar School 1841-1848, as Principal 1843-1848, and was also Adjunct Professor of Greek in the College, 1846-1848. Charles Edward Blumenthal, a physician, was Professor of Modern Languages and Hebrew, 1845-1854, but in an unusual way. Finances did not permit his regular employment; his work was elective
and his compensation was largely from extra fees from those who elected the work. The plan did not secure him a support, and he finally resigned and returned to the practice of his profession in New York. The fourth, Thomas Emory Sudler, was Professor of Mathematics for eleven years from 1840, but made little impression on the College and left under trying circumstances, later mentioned.
The last of these later comers was Spencer Fullerton Baird of the Class of 1840. He proved quite the equal of his older faculty associates, under whom he had done his own college work. Baird was elected "Honorary Professor of Natural History and Curator of the Museum" in 1845. On his election he writes to a member of his family, "No salary, and nothing to do. Received many congratulations therefrom." A year later he was given a salary of $400, the following year $600, and thereafter the full Professor's salary of $1,000.
The Faculty was a good one, even a great one, as judged by the men it was training. Moncure D. Conway gave his judgment in mature life that "the college Faculty was not surpassed in ability by any in America," and Conway was probably the most distinguished litterateur of all the college history.
Of the original five, Durbin, Caldwell, and Emory came in 1834 to serve the two college classes first admitted; and Allen and McClintock joined them two years later, when the other two college classes were added. Four of the five men had received the usual college training Allen and Caldwell at Bowdoin, Emory at Columbia, and McClintock at the University of Pennsylvania but the amazing Durbin, as already said, had done his academic work, elementary, preparatory, and college, while pastor of churches.
They were all young very young by present-day standards, and two at least of an age when men have now seldom finished their college studies. Emory and McClintock were born in 1814, so that Emory was only twenty years old when he came to the College in 1834, and McClintock only twenty-
two when he came two years later. Caldwell and Allen were each twenty-eight when they came, and Durbin, their chief, was thirty-four. Their youth, however, seems never to have been noticed as an objection. James A. McCauley, President of the College 1872-1888, when selecting an unusually young man for his Faculty said that he would trust a Faculty of bright young men with their future to make, and cited his experience as a student under the early Dickinson Faculty of very young men. It was not their youth that made them succeed, but the enthusiasm of youth, and such character, capacity, and early maturity as considerably atoned for that youth. They were carefully picked men, Durbin first by the Board, whose members knew his record, and the others largely his own selections. The chief selected his assistants, and the dream of President How in 1831 had become a reality. The internal peace for which poor How had sighed was realized, so that on leaving the College Durbin could say, "I have not been conscious of a single unpleasant occurrence among us [the Faculty]." How refreshing after the almost constant brawls of the earlier fifty years!
Durbin's life was spent in varied and widely different activities, all too briefly mentioned in the preceding chapter, giving a bare outline of his career. Quite different was the story of the two other men who joined him in Carlisle in 1834. Caldwell and Emory spent almost the whole of their effective lives in the College, and their services, even though brilliant, may be briefly mentioned. Fortunately, too, Conway and McCauley, already quoted, are on record as to both these men. One of his old pupils, himself an educator, says of Merritt Caldwell that he was "a rare man, a rare scholar, a rare teacher and a rare Christian." McCauley says he was "an accurate scholar ... a very careful teacher." Another says he "might have been a great man had he not died early." He was, unquestionably, a good teacher. Emory has been estimated in the story of his brief presidency.
William H. Allen came to the College two years later than Emory and Caldwell, but he soon made his place, and was
popular both as man and teacher. Dr. R. A. F. Penrose, of the Class of 1846, and later Professor in the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, said "Allen ... was a grand teacher. I have never met his superior.... His lectures ... were the clearest and most philosophical I have ever listened to. They possessed ... adhesiveness. That is, the student somehow could not forget them. And hence it was that the graduates of Dickinson knew more about these things than any of the other young men of the day." Though Professor of Natural Science, Allen was called on to teach rhetoric; he seemed to Conway to be an abler man than the author, and led his class into wider fields. He served the College as President pro tem., 1847-1848, in Emory's year of absence. In 1850 he left the College to become President of Girard College, where he served for twelve years. He was President of Pennsylvania State Agricultural College from 1865 to 1867. Then he returned to the presidency of Girard College for fifteen years, dying in Philadelphia in 1882. He twice declined to be considered for the presidency of Dickinson, probably because he thought a clergyman should be chosen at that time.
John McClintock served in the college Faculty 18361848. He was editor of the Methodist Quarterly Review, pastor of the American Chapel in Paris, and became President of Drew Seminary at Madison, New Jersey, where he died in 1870. He was, possibly, the most brilliant man of the circle; he "could study hard, and long, and rapidly." Durbin is quoted as saying, "If there is any such thing as a universal genius, Mack is one." McCauley says of him, "He was, even at that time [of his Dickinson professorship], a great man; and the noble fruits which crowned his after years were there in full promise."
Conway says, "Dr. McClintock made Greek studies interesting, and Professor Crooks had much skill in teaching Latin. We studied in Manuals compiled by them jointly, and it used to be said that 'to enter the Kingdom of Heaven one must study his Bible carefully and his "McClintock and
Crooks" prayerfully.' ... We were all proud of his reputation and careful not to encroach on his time."
Though not one of the five original immortals of this Faculty, Spencer Fullerton Baird may be added without lowering the standard. He was an almost passionate lover of nature from early boyhood, and even as a lad was in correspondence with some of the leading naturalists of the country. He graduated from the College in 1840 and was a member of the college Faculty, 1845-1850, after which he went to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. A great man! Conway says of him, "Baird, the youngest of the Faculty, was the beloved Professor and the ideal student. He was beautiful and also manly; all that was finest in the forms he explained to us seemed to be represented in the man. He possessed the art of getting knowledge into the dullest pupil. So fine was his spirit that his explanations of all the organs and functions of the various species were an instruction also in refinement of mind. Nothing unclean could approach him. One main charm of spring's approach was that then would begin our weekly rambles in field, meadow, wood, where Baird introduced us to his intimates."
Baird left the College in 1850 to go to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, where he rendered distinguished service for thirty-seven years. His letter of resignation from the Faculty indirectly pays high tribute to his association at the College. He was only twenty-seven years old, and his youth might discount his statement, but for the fact that he was already a recognized scientist whose words meant what they said. "The perfect adaption of my new position to all my tastes and feelings is the sole cause of my leaving Dickinson College.... On no account would I have voluntarily exchanged a position here for one in any other college in the country."
It is not strange that Conway said, "The college faculty was not surpassed in ability by any in America." It is doubtful whether there has been at any time in the country a college faculty that averaged so near to genius. In the final
quarter of the last century the then college students, but now the older alumni of the College, heard from the then aging alumni report of their own college life with Durbin and his Faculty; and the emotion of their older college brothers seemed possibly a little sentimental and mawkish to the younger men. The younger men did not understand it; for, without depreciating unduly those who came after them, that galaxy of Dickinson teachers of the thirties and forties has probably never been surpassed, and possibly never equaled at Dickinson or elsewhere. Four of the six were geniuses, and the other two not far from it an average seldom reached.
Conway says another thing of this early Faculty, surprising for that period of sectarian rivalries: "Although it was a Methodist College, best teachers had been secured without regard to doctrinal views, two of them, I believe, not being members of any church." One of these was Allen. "Spencer F. Baird, afterwards chief of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, was never a Methodist, and his wife was a Unitarian. He was our professor of zoölogy.''
It is doubtful whether any such freedom from the influence of the church controversies of the time could be found in any other of the church colleges coming into being during the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Dickinson set a high standard of intellectual freedom, and it has been maintained through the years. Conway's statement that "best teachers had been secured without regard to doctrinal views," could be made of the college Faculty today, with representatives from most of the leading churches on its rolls. This rare freedom from denominational bias in the selection of teachers illustrates the catholicity of the whole college life. It was originally largely Presbyterian, but its charter was undenominational, and that charter has never been changed. There is no word in charter or by-laws to show that it is affiliated with any church. To a college thus free in the letter of the bond, the preachers and people of two great Conferences of a Church gave time and money,
their hopes and prayers, and never in any way fettered it in the freedom of its work, though both Conferences suggested the possibility of manual training as part of the college course. In spite of this freedom, or possibly because of it, the College certainly has been second to no institution of that Church in the loyal performance of the work expected of it. The ties of honor and affection have been stronger and more effective probably than legal bonds could have been.
The members of such a Faculty were but indifferently paid. Like many other great men, their reward was largely found in the joy in their work. Durbin's salary was $1,200, and that of the Professors $1,000. In addition, the President had his residence in the eastern end of East College, and the Senior Professor in the west end of West College. Funds for the payment of salaries were uncertain, depending in no small measure on the fees of students. In 1837, just after the first class had graduated, there were no funds in the hands of the Treasurer, and the Professors were asked to be "patient.''
In 1839 much-needed help came to the College from the state. A state grant of $1,000 annually for ten years was made to such colleges and academies as could qualify. Dickinson and eight other colleges qualified, and received the full grant for five years and half of it the sixth year, but in 1844 the General Assembly withdrew the appropriation altogether. This withdrawal of state aid was one of the difficulties facing Emory when he became President in 1845. The seriousness of this withdrawal of expected support appears from the fact that the entire operating income of the College was less than $7,500 the last year of the payment of the full state grant, which was over 13 per cent of the income. The first year of this grant, 1838-1839, the Treasurer reported at commencement salaries in arrears as follows: Durbin., $1,000; Allen, $250; Emory, $100; Caldwell, $100; McClintock, $100. The deficits in spite of state grant had at one time so accumulated that Durbin spent a good
part of a year in an attempt, only partly successful, to raise funds to meet them. In 1842 the probable deficit for the next year was such that all salaries were reduced by 8 per cent, and the occupants of the two college residences were each asked to allow $80 per year rent for their houses. This arrangement was expected to be temporary, for one year only, and was probably not necessary even for that year; but it shows how narrow was the margin between the life and death of the College, how careful of expenditure both College and Professors were required to be, that they might live at all. Yet though salaries were small and at times in arrears, they were always finally paid. The College borrowed the money when it was necessary, if anybody could be found to lend it; so that there was no such condition as that from which Principal Nisbet and his faculty associates had suffered so long.
In another particular the trustees were generous, almost to excess, and seemed to feel, in the word of the well-known ritual, that they had taken their Professors "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer." Though the Professors suffered much from sickness and were much out of their classrooms, especially Caldwell, Emory, and McClintock, their salaries were continued, for almost an entire year at one time, their work being done by others who were paid by the Board. Financial stress, or perhaps wiser policy, led to a change in 1847. Thereafter "salaried officers or Professors" were required to meet the expense incurred by their absences. This new rule was not applied to President Emory, who was absent the entire year, 1847-1848. His full salary seems to have been paid to his estate.
Crowded classes should have greeted such a Faculty, but such was not the case. Parents really know very little of the educational worth of colleges to which they send their children; and how should they? Most of them are influenced by the reports of those who knew the college years before, while its whole spirit may have changed in the meantime; or by the enthusiastic reports of students in attendance at
the time, and these know little or nothing of comparative standards, and are naturally boosters for their own. The average parent, with a son or daughter ready for college, appeals to our pity. Decisive choice must be made, with little reliable information on which to make that choice. The college with a good press bureau, possibly with an eloquent president or an alumni secretary of winning manner, is able to gather a student body, even though its work may be poor and its morals bad.
The great work of Dickinson College and its Faculty of these years did not secure its deserved student body. Its average college student body was but little over one hundred, and the grammar-school body about seventy-five. The catalogue records the following attendance from year to year, beginning with 1834-1835:
The sharp fluctuations in attendance, especially in the Grammar School, are hard to explain. Emory, as Acting President during Durbin's absence in Europe in 1842-1843, suggested that a number of other schools had recently been organized in this territory, and this may have caused the
decline in numbers. It is interesting to note that Emory's years, 1846-1848, represented a steady increase in college enrolment, and that the growth continued the first year of his successor, 1849.
In July, 1837, a month before the first passenger train reached Carlisle, the Durbin college organization came to its first commencement with a graduating class. Provision for only two classes, Freshman and Sophomore, had been made in 1834, and the Sophomores of 1834 were ready for graduation in 1837. There was only a small class seven from the College and four from the Law School. Though unsuspected at the time, there were among the graduates a future governor of the state to greet the then Governor Ritner, present to grace the occasion; a future bishop of the church, a major and a chaplain of the army, a collector of internal revenue, and a member of the state legislature. This was not a bad showing of those who stood out in later public service, and the other five did possibly equally well in less conspicuous fields. The future bishop was the valedictorian of the class.
This first class was only one of many such preparing men for outstanding service to society. The first twelve classes, 1837-1848, by which latter date the members of the original Faculty were dropping out, show that the College was turning out men fit to meet the needs of their time. The College has always prepared many preachers and lawyers, and these two professions lead in numbers for the twelve classes, which produced 49 preachers and 58 lawyers; of the preachers, 2 became bishops and 2 moderators of their respective church bodies. Of the lawyers, 19 became judges of courts, serving the general government, 27 became army officers, and 21 held civil appointments. There were 14 members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives; 4 were United States Senators; and three held positions in the National Cabinet. Two became state governors, and one a lieutenant governor; 21 served in state assemblies, and 5 were members of state cabinets. To higher education these twelve classes
furnished 11 principals of schools, 10 college presidents, and 15 college professors, besides many other teachers and one state superintendent of schools. There remains one outstanding man, not coming under any of the above heads: Spencer Fullerton Baird, whose record has already been sketched. St. Paul's Cathedral in London has a tablet with an inscription to Sir Christopher Wren, "If you would see his monument, look around"; so, if you would see what the College was doing, look at its product.
The story of this period may well close with extracts from a letter of Bishop Thomas Bowman, valedictorian of the Class of 1837. It was written in 19o2, twelve years before his death, while he was living in retirement with his daughter in East Orange, New Jersey. The Bishop wrote:
In my boyhood days, living near Berwick, Pa., we had very poor public schools. I had to walk nearly three miles to find a teacher that could instruct me in English grammar. When fourteen years of age, I was sent to an academy at Wilbraham, Mass. There I found things in a very fine condition and I began to prepare for college.
At the end of the year, I returned home and my parents having learned of a good school nearer our residence, I was sent to the seminary at Cazenovia, N. Y. There I spent three very pleasant and profitable years.
In 1835 when I left the Seminary I expected to go to the Wesleyan University in Conn., but my father having learned that the Baltimore and Philadelphia Conferences of our Church had recently taken possession of the old Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., which had been transferred to them by another denomination, and feeling that we ought to be loyal to our Church, decided that I should go there and graduate. I cheerfully consented, and in 1835 went to Carlisle and entered the Junior class. I found Carlisle a nice country town, located in a beautiful valley and occupied by a fine class of people. The College had been two years at its work. It had but one building on its nice campus. The building contained a chapel, several recitation rooms, two society halls, a library, and a number of small rooms used as dormitories for students. There were less than 100 students in the College and Grammar School. But they were a bright and promising company of young people. The Faculty was not large, but was a very able body of thoroughly educated men. They had no elective studies as the colleges now have. But we had a thorough course of Latin, Greek and English, which required much hard study and gave us good mental training. Our dear President, Dr. Durbin, and all the Professors,
did excellent work for the moral as well as the intellectual training of the students. They were a body of noble Christian workmen.
In 1837 our class was the first to graduate after we took possession of the old College. After graduating I spent one year in the Law School under the noble Judge Reed. But having become deeply impressed with a sense of duty to enter the ministry, I joined the Baltimore Conference in 1839. After one year's work on a large circuit, I was unexpectedly, at the request of Dr. Durbin, sent to teach in the Grammar School of the College. After three years of pleasant work, my health declined and I was obliged to retire.
In the later years of my life, especially since 1872 (as Bishop of the Methodist Church), my official work has called me all over the United States and through many distant lands. Thus I have had the opportunity of visiting nearly all the old and valuable colleges and universities in our own country and in many foreign lands and I am now pleased to say that I never was ashamed of my old Alma Mater, and never regretted that I was sent to graduate in dear old Dickinson College. God bless the Trustees, the President and Professors, and all her students forever.