Chapter Two - Curtain Raiser
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WITH all else in order, there was still the question about a girl in Londonderry. It would seem that the candidate had already answered this to his own satisfaction by marrying another, not long after his arrival in America. Synod, however, before admitting any man to the sacred calling, must have full assurance upon every point of worthiness. In knowledge of Scripture, in doctrine, in adherence to the Westminster Confession of Faith, John Steel had shown himself beyond challenge or demur. He could preach cogently from a given text. He could write and speak Latin and had an adequate command of Greek. It was agreed that the Presbytery of New Castle might accept him as a licentiate upon trial, while a letter went out, and an answer was awaited, to clear up that rumor of a previous promise of marriage. This was at Philadelphia, at the annual meeting of Synod, May, 1742. The reply, when it came, must have shown that, if promise there had been, the lady was now ready to renounce it, a reasonable view. Synod, on May 24, 1744, received from the New Castle brethren their report of Mr. Steel's ordination.1

So began a ministry of preaching and teaching which, as if drawn by some inner force toward the storm centers of danger and disputation, would end in the remote frontier village of Carlisle thirty-five years later. Even before his ordination, John Steel had supplied churches out along the western fringe of settlements. For the Presbytery of Donegal he had gone to Rockfish and Roanoke in the spring of 1743, and in the fall was



at Great Conewago, near what is now Hunterstown, not far from Gettysburg.2

From these events and those which followed one can draw a picture of the man-aged about twenty-eight, bearing himself with the firmness and assurance of one of God's elect, speaking plainly and with decision, a man made for leadership. Friends could rely upon him, and he would not relent toward an enemy. He would face danger readily, and hold all the loyalty and admiration that comes to the resolute and brave man. He would acquire, in time, a good measure of worldly wealth, another sign of predestined favor from above.

The minutes of the Presbytery of Donegal, September 7, 1743, record Great Conewago's call to "Mr. Steel, Probationer of the Presbytery of New Castle, " and with this there is a notation on a unanimous agreement regarding a school, the papers on which (alas) had been mislaid.3 Among ministers such as these, whose sermons were, in effect, lectures on theology rather than mere appeals to faith and kindiness, education was a primary concern. Teacher's desk and pulpit stood together, schoolroom form and pew. Great Conewago must have promised a congenial field for him, but it was a teacher's desk that would keep John Steel in New Castle Presbytery for the next eight years.

This school was quite new, and beyond the usual thing in parish education. It would be both classical and philosophical, a practical step toward the foundation of a college. It was opened in that autumn of 1743, in a room in the home of the Rev. Francis Alison on Thunder Hill, near New London Crossroads in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and not far from the Delaware line.4 Five years before, the Synod of Philadelphia had taken up the problem of maintaining an educated ministry so far from the universities. In 1739 it had approved a plan, but then the outbreak of war with Spain, the mustering of men and resources for the Caribbean expeditions, had delayed it. War and the threat of war with France remained, but now also an open conflict within the church had brought a countervailing urgency, and the school was opened with full Synod support.

From 1735 to 1742, classics and theology had been taught at Gilbert Tennent's "Log College" at Neshaminy, north of Phil-



adelphia. New London followed as a prompt, but not a spiritual, successor. Between them lay the Old Side-New Side, Old Light -New Light division of the Presbyterian Church. "Hell-fire Tennent," as William Smith had dubbed him, was a New Side man, and the Log College was being extolled by Whitefield as having brought "New Light" to the wilderness.5 New Light men cherished the ideal of a learned ministry, but were evangelists as well, lighters of the fires of revival, following inspiration from within as often as synodical direction, calling upon the people to accept God's love, promising heavenly grace. It was a new sort of religion, a new escape from sin, a new choice between eternal weal or woe.

To Old Side men all this was Methodism, or worse. It was the error of Pelagianism, of "self-righteousness," as if one could by a mere act of one's own will change the will of Omniscience. They stood with the stern traditional doctrines, with church government, with settled lines of authority and no man preaching unbidden to another's flock. Both sides still subscribed devoutly to the Westminster standards of 1646 and all the essential structure of Calvinism, but differed in implied doctrine and on many points of practice.6 Disputes on the qualification of a candidate for licensure and ordination (piety and visionary experience weighed against close-knit theology) and the qualifications of elders aroused intense excitement and had an inevitable tendency to political maneuvering. On these issues the organization had split in 1741—a New Side synod based at New Brunswick, an Old Side synod in Philadelphia, but the schism present and rankling everywhere. The rival synods would come together again in 1758, but the rankling and rivalry would go on, and would have their profound effect, years later, on the history of Dickinson College.

The Log College had been little more than a theological school with general training of grammar school quality, but on the whole, in classroom as in the field, New Side had all the initiative and verve.7 New Side founded its College of New Jersey in 1746. The New Side spirit made for a broader curriculum, and to this may be credited the fact that natural science and other studies of a practical sort were being taught in most



schools and colleges by mid-century.8 New London, meanwhile, continued as Old Side's chief educational establishment, a room in a farmhouse only, committed to traditional procedures, and yet-as is ever the way in education-winning a deserved success and lasting reputation by the personal quality of its teachers, Francis Alison, Headmaster, John Steel, his usher, and others as time went on. Synod's prime objective was training for the ministry, but a majority of the boys were gentlemen's sons getting a gentleman's education and, as the masters earned much of their income by boarding and lodging pupils, this was an important part of the operation. The masters, it should be added, still served the local pulpits also. One of John Steel's sermons has survived from these days "For the 4th Sabbath of Novr 1748. Deo Sit Gloria ."9

We know nothing of John Steel as teacher, but much of Francis Alison under whom he worked. Alison was a native of Donegal, north Ireland, a graduate of the University of Glasgow who had crossed the Atlantic in 1735, at the age of thirty. His first occupation was as tutor in the Maryland home of Samuel Dickinson. Samuel Dickinson's young son, John, was only eight years old when the family moved south to Dover, Delaware in 1740. It is a reasonable conjecture, though not supported by any contemporary evidence, that he was one of the boys of prominent local families who continued their education at the New London School.10  Certainly George Read, one of John Dickinson's close friends and associates of early days, was a pupil there. Another pupil, later a teacher, has left us a descrip-tion of its course of study.

Matthew Wilson remembered the school as "a seat of learning . . . of great and deserved renown . . . on the most generous and broad bottom, for all denominations of Christians equally; which was visited, examined and encouraged by the Synod of Philadelphia." Alison had carried it beyond Tennent's range of classics and theology. "As knowledge and composition or writing and speaking, are the greatest ends of a liberal education, we received the greatest advantage from his critical examination every morning of our themes in English and Latin, epistles English and Latin, descriptions in verse, and especially our abstracts or abridgements of a paper from the Spectators or Guardians



(the best standards of our language) substantially contracted into one of our exercises." He carried his boys on into "a course of philosophy, instrumental, natural and moral"—a version of the Moral Philosophy course offered to college seniors in these and many later years. Francis Alison, as Matthew Wilson looked back upon his youth, was "like Prometheus, Cadmus, or even Apollo of old," remembered not only for great learning but for wit, "facetious among chosen friends," and for a "fancy vigourous and lively."11

Alison, with a reputation as the best classical scholar in America, left New London for the Philadelphia Academy in 1752. In 1756, the Academy became a college under that dedicated, hard-driving Scotsman, William Smith. There Alison, who had been honored with Yale's M.A. the year before, and Glasgow's D.D. in 1758, became Smith's Vice Provost. Though the College had no church connection, Alison continued to be active in Presbyterian affairs. When he had left New London, so also had John Steel, but for a field more to his liking and more strictly within the fold of Old Side orthodoxy. As for the academy they had begun together and carried forward so success-fully, it was taken over by the Rev. Alexander McDowell, who moved it to Elkton, Maryland, and then, in 1767, to Newark, Delaware. Chartered and endowed, its history touches that of Dickinson College in later years, and stands in the background of the present University of Delaware.

John Steel, whose first call had been to the wilderness churches, had now returned to that field, just as a storm of flame and terror was about to break over the mountains of the Pennsylvania frontier. The records of the Presbytery of Donegal, 1750 to 1759, are lost, but we have glimpses of him, here and there, from other sources. In 1752, he had charge of the churches of East and West Conococheague, now Greencastle and Mercersburg. His "old white church" in the western parish was surrounded by a stockade when the Indian raids began after Braddock's defeat in the summer of 1755. It was garrisoned by its own military company, commanded by the pastor.12 The "Reverend Captain" becomes a legend of the embattled wilderness. After his fort on Church Hill was burned by the enemy, he was commissioned a captain in the provincial service.13 That



was on March 25, 1756, with orders "To take post at McDowell's mill, upon the road to the Ohio, which you are to make your Head Quarters, and to detach Patroling partys from time to time to scour the woods, in such manner as you shall Judge most consistent with the safety of the Inhabitants."14 He sent back information from the front, received and distributed supplies, enlisted recruits.15 His men guarded farmers at their work, and dashed in pursuit of the raiding braves, but everywhere the outer settlements were being abandoned. People were in flight even from Carlisle. Steel was at Carlisle in the fall and winter of 1756. Here the wagon roads ended and the pack horse trails began. Here the town's foremost citizen, Colonel John Armstrong, was strengthening the defenses of the place—he who, that August, had revenged Braddock by his fiery assault on the Indian town Kitanning, far to the west. Provost William Smith was there in that autumn, on a tour "to settle free schools," a dubious errand with panic everywhere and refugees on the move.16

By 1758, things were looking up. Then the royal and provincial forces mustered at Carlisle for their advance upon Fort Pitt, moving out at last in three long columns, "with drums tapping at the head of each," to keep them within distance of one another in the forest shadows.17 The days of terror and despair had passed. Auspiciously also—though events would prove it an impermanent solution—the two rival Presbyterian synods reunited. It was time, now, for the Reverend Captain to think first of his sacred calling. His family, Margaret Steel and their brood of six daughters and three sons, must have found a refuge somewhere during those years of Steel's Fort and the ravaged land, perhaps at Carlisle, perhaps at York, since we hear of him in both places. But it is Carlisle that he has in mind for a settled living.

Just west of the town by a mile and a half, on a hill above Conodoguinet Creek, stood the old log church of Meeting House Springs. For ten years it had been without a settled pastor, though we may feel sure that Captain Steel had filled its pulpit from time to time. Carlisle was now a boom town of the west, expected to grow quickly in size and prosperity. The Episcopalians would soon be building a church at its heart on the



public square, and the Presbyterians, overwhelmingly the larger denomination, should have their meetinghouse there as well. This was the parish for John Steel, and he would take the congregation in from Meeting House Springs to the town. Unfortunately, however, another shared the thought. Like so many, the congregation had been an uneasy mixture of Old Side, New Side, and New Side had a candidate of its own. As a result, with the union, there would be two congregations instead of one, and more sharply divided than ever. Old Side Donegal Presbytery had been a comfortable coterie of Captain the Rev. John Steel, Captain the Rev. John Elder, and four other stalwarts of like persuasion. The union had now added to their number one of their own ilk and four New Siders. One of the four was coming in upon his own nomination, and this was the one who had also chosen Carlisle as the vineyard he would till in the Lord's service.

George Duffield of the thin, sensitive, ascetic face was a man of twenty-seven, as against John Steel's ripe age of forty-four. He had graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1752, had been a tutor on its faculty, 1754 to 1756, and had then won success as a travailing revivalist. He had been in Carlisle at the time of the death of his first wife, September, 1757. And his remarriage, at Carlisle, March 5, 1759, had brought him into the family circle of Colonel Armstrong, that man of perspicacity and power-bringing him also a full expectation of taking charge of this substantial pastorate.18 In April, however, at his first meeting with the presbytery, he was staggered to hear John Steel called to the church at Carlisle, a call followed by Steel's hurried installation a few days later. One can imagine Mr. Duffield's dismay. He reveals it himself in the following letter to the Rev. John Blair, whose congregations near Shippensburg had been broken up by the Indian raids of 1756, and who had gone back to succeed his brother, Samuel, as pastor of the church and principal of the classical school at Fagg's Manor. Unfortunately the letter did not reach Mr. Blair, at least not by any direct route. It came first into the hands of Mr. Steel, who read: 

Carlisle, Ap. 20th. 1759.

Revd. Dear Uncle,

Our affairs here look with an aspect as gloomy both in Church &

state as when our Indian Enemys infested our Borders, if not more so.

Mr. Steel, since his being over here, has assiduously labour'd for, party, and after having appointed two week day Meetings upon it, and people Not attending so as was desir'd, they finishd their subscriptions on Sab. before Presbytery.

Very few in the Town have yet subscribe, and whether they will I don't know. The affair was carried on with as much Privacy as the Nature of the thing would admit, and very few of the principal Men consulted in it. At the opening of the Presbytery, I joind them according to my Intention. The first affair brought before them was a Call for Mr. Steel from this and the lower Congn. It was without Deliberation presented to him, he immediately accepted it and the Instalment was appointed the following tuesday. Accordingly he was install'd last Tuesday, to be two thirds of his Time here, and the other below. This has revived a party spirit, and very generally disgusted our People up this way against the Plan of Union. There was the highest Probability of a very comfortable Union in this Congregation, which was the very Reason of the Matter being so precipitately hurried on.

Many are enraged and say, if the Synod allow of Such proceedings they cant see what they mean by uniting, and yet suffer their Members to act directly contrary to the Plan of Union, not the least Regard being had to it thro' the whole of this affair, More than it never had been. 'Twill not do for me to move it at Synod, but I can't help thinking the Synod ought to consider Such proceedings as directly oppose their Designs, and disregard their Authority.

Mr. Steel's and the Design of his stiff Adherents was to root me out of this, expecting either that I couldn't get a Subsistance, or that the Presbytery wouldn't Install two of their Members in the same Place. In the first they'l find a grand Mistake; and for the last, if the pby. refuse, when applied for, I shall apply to Synod. I shall live peaceably if I can safely, but if they are for overbearing, Welcome Contention.- I am more pleased with the Union, & more sensible of the Duty of regulating Presbyterys, since I join'd here: I choose this Presbytery, tho' I hardly expect much Comfort in it for a while.

                     I am, &c.

                                      George Duffield.

Little comfort would he have. Steel laid the offensive letter before the Presbytery, October 20, 1760. Duffield responded, April 29, 1761, with direct complaint: "Mr. Steel even before his settlement here, appear'd disposed to keep at an unbrotherly distance from Mr. Duffield." Mr. Steel had refused to baptize an



ailing child of Duffield's flock, unless the family would join his congregation, and had kept others from joining Duffield, though Duffield had encouraged some to join with Steel. More, and worse, was told: Mr. Steel had openly expressed his opinion that "he had rather his Meeting house were burn'd, than that such a Fellow as Mr. Duffd. shou'd preach in it, or words of that Import." To top it all, the letter, which he believed to be a plain statement of fact, had been intercepted, kept several months in spite of a promise to return it, and a "low underhand" use made of it, accompanied by implications that Mr. Duffield was a liar.19

Mr. Duffield may surely be pardoned for regarding such conduct with severity. Mr. Steel's view, on the other hand, is well enough explained in his sermon of August 21, 1753, where (speaking in general terms only) he warns us that "it is common for Seducers to put on a good appearance as it is sometimes Expedient for the Devil, in order to do his work the more effectually, to transform himself into [an] angel of Light & by so disguising their designs by smooth words and a pretended Zeal they gain the Esteem of such who have more of good affection than a setled judgment. It is therefore no small part of ye faithful! Shepherd to guard ye flock agt such wolves who approach ye folds in Sheep's clothing that they may do the more hurt." In such wise the feud went on, these two and their partisans, and would be echoing still, seventy years later, with a later George Duffield as target—old grudges flowering afresh among the trustees to Dickinson College.

Duffield, gentle and persuasive, had also some of the passion and intensity of his Huguenot ancestors. More, he had Colonel John Armstrong. The Colonel wrote to Thomas Penn, then in England, asking for a site for a church on the northwest corner of the square, opposite the grant to the Episcopalians.20 This received a favorable reply, as he could be sure it would. But such a transaction took time, and time was lacking, with Steel's people already building nearby, at the northeast corner of Hanover and Louther Streets.21 Duffield, duly called and installed in September, 1759, must meet the challenge at once, and so his meetinghouse was going up the while on precisely the opposite side of the square and equally near to the market and



the fort: "a wooden building, south of the stockade," on the southwest corner of Pomfret and Hanover Streets.22 The reunited Synod, learning of two rival meetinghouses in Carlisle, had at once expressed its grief "that there should be a spirit of animosity still subsisting amongst the people . . . and do warmly recommend to the people of both congregations to fall upon healing measures, and lay a plan for the erection of one house only, and enjoin it upon Messrs. Steel and Duffield to unite their counsel and use their influence to bring about a cordial agreement."23

Small chance now of that. Mr. Steel has it in mind to unite the congregations, but under his own leadership only. He is emerging now as a man of property. His home is on the other side of Hanover Street from his church. His wide tract of land toward Bedford in the west is rising in value and he is a substantial investor in Carlisle town lots.24 We find him (along with Francis Alison, Alexander McDowell and other staunch characters) subscribing £6 per annum to the fund for the relief of poor ministers, a sum which may be contrasted to his starting salary at the New London school, £15 a year, a mere tenth of his present stipend.25 On the back cover of one of his manuscript sermons, "For ye 2nd Sab. of Jany. 1769 for ye Evening," there is written out a schedule of interest accretions for a ten-year period, supporting other evidence of his having become, by that time, banker for his congregation, lending money for its projects.26

But what of education? In the midst of all this turmoil it was still the pastoral duty of each combattant to promote it. Boys could study Greek and Latin, learn their catechism as well, and never come near those fine-spun canons of belief and disputation. One tantalizing source is an appended "Chronological Table of Important Events" in Josiah Rhinehart Sypher's School History of Pennsylvania, published in Philadelphia, 1868. It lists, for 1760, "Classical school established in Cumber-land Valley."27 This must surely have been at Carlisle, as Conway Phelps Wing and others have assumed.28 Inclusion under "Important Events" implies positive information, though no source is given. The date corresponds with the coming of the competitive Steel-Duffield ministries to Carlisle.



Yet with such strong evidence of bad feeling, ex anima, total and irrevocable, it is not easy to conceive of the two pastors joining in any mutual effort. New Side parents might have put their boys under Mr. Steel's tutelage, or Old Siders sent theirs to Duffield, but the two gentlemen would hardly have conducted an institution together. Duffield had come fresh from his experience as a tutor at college. We have one record of a boy "sent to a grammar school under the tuition of the Rev. George Duffield," about 1763, and another of a young Irishman prepared in theology partly under George Duffield, "then of Carlisle."29 Steel, a teacher for nine years with Dr. Alison, was the superior in experience, yet the thin and scattered evidence leaves it to conjecture when, or whether, he was teaching at Carlisle. We only know for a certainty that a grammar or Latin school, described in the Pennsylvania Gazette of January 11, 1770, had been functioning there "for several years past." It belonged then with John Steel's congregation, and one can en-large the picture somewhat by following Mr. Steel's rising importance in the little town.

Both Duffield and Steel had other pastoral charges outside Carlisle, but Steel's were the larger. If Duffield had a prime advantage in Colonel (later General) John Armstrong, New Side stalwart, as kinsman and ally, the other had his own devoted and determined elders, among whom the name of Captain John Montgomery should be noted. Armstrong was virtually the founder and father of Carlisle, a man of sophistication and power. But Montgomery, storekeeper, soldier, farmer, judge and politician, would rise steadily in repute, becoming at the last a Member of Congress and the most active trustee of Dickinson College. His early dispatches as commander of a company of provincial troops in the French and Indian War have obviously been written for him, even to the signature. He was then, as the urbane Armstrong noted in 1758, somewhat wanting in "horn, hair & hoof."30 When at last we find him with pen in hand, composition and spelling show him as less expert with it than with the sword. Yet Montgomery, lacking education admired it in others and stood with school and college as a warm promoter—a rock of conservatism in religion and politics, and a successful man.



After the Peace of Paris, February, 1763, Carlisle would grow in population and prosperity, but first another tribulation must be borne. On the cover of one of those sermons of Steel's, all written in that fine, cramped script and bound in booklets small enough to lie in the palm of the hand, you will find the catchwords of his text from Isaiah, 9: 12, 13: "For all this his anger is not turned"; and under that, "June 4th, when the first Acct. Came of Indians doing damage—1763." As the prophet of old had seen the Syrians before him and the Philistines behind, so John Steel saw an unregenerate people between French and Indians: "We wt ye nation we belong to are concerned in a long war wt but little Success, & it is not yet come to a conclusion, & tho' both Civil & religious Liberty in a great measure depend on ye issue of ye war, yet alas, we Continue impenitent, & wickedness yet is on ye prevailing hand among us, & tho by means of this war we are much impoverished & feel ye effects of it, yet we lay it not to heart, & therefore we have much ground to fear yt God will bring ye Calamities of ye war yet nearer to us, nay unto our very bowels as he did lately in Scotland."31

This was Pontiac's Conspiracy, which set the whole frontier aflame again, with troops marching through Carlisle once more and the brutal murder of the peaceful Conestoga Indians by "Paxton Boys" from old John Elder's congregation. The furious political campaign of 1764 saw the Presbyterians solidly united against Ben Franklin's party. That had been in October. Peace came at the year's end, with the long pack trains assembling at Carlisle. Then came the chance discovery among the pack train loads of scalping knives and arms for the Indian trade, the news spreading like wildfire through the woods and bringing out the "Black Boys" to raid the trains and seize the contraband. War and the threat of war lingered through these years. In January, 1768, frontier ruffian Frederick Stump and his servant, Hans Eisenhauer, murdered ten Indians, men, women and children, in a drunken frolic—ample provocation to the tribes for war. The two were jailed at Carlisle and then, when ordered brought to Philadelphia, set free by a mob. John Steel followed the pack two miles from town, "but laboured with them in vain," as it was reported to Governor Penn.32 It was, like the Paxton riot,




an ugly business, with much expostulation, recrimination and self-defense, and no effective action. Some tried to fix the blame on Duffield's people because Colonel Armstrong, as justice, had detained the prisoners after the order had come to send them to Philadelphia for questioning, and so had given the mob its chance.33 In February, at the request of Lieutenant Governor John Penn, Steel headed a group sent west to evict, if possible, settlers who were taking up Indian lands before the completion of a treaty.34

So much for politics. On the ecclesiastical side, matters of greater import to the school had been taking shape. In April, 1764, Mr. Steel agreed to give equal time to the congregations of Carlisle and Silver Spring, at a combined salary of £150 a year.35 He, John Elder and four others had announced their dissatisfaction with the "new modelling of Presbyteries" that had taken place after the union of 1758, and set up their own Presbytery of Donegal for a number of years.36 This cut them off from the Synod, but Steel and his elder, Montgomery, sometimes appeared at its annual meeting. In 1767 the Synod refused them any recognition, and then, in the next year made a regrouping of presbyteries without geographical reference, an expedient to preserve some sort of harmony for a time at least.37

Meanwhile, on a higher level, powerful Old Side forces were moving in upon a New Side stronghold. Dr. Samuel Finley, President of the College of New Jersey, had died in 1766. The united church had been supporting this college and now—as Francis Alison and other conservative leaders saw it—there had come an opportunity to put an institution heretofore "unfit to make scholars ... on a better foundation."38 A satisfactory president must be chosen, together with some new faculty and trustees, and this would be combined with a strong financial inducement. The Princeton trustees, needing the support of the united church, nevertheless sensed an Old Side scheme to take over the whole, and there can be little doubt that this is what Alison and his coadjutors had in mind. It was now notorious that the Irish ministry was becoming increasingly New Light—embracing a view "inconsistent with the doctrine of Original Sin."39 All the while that the Ulster presbyteries had been



reaffirming their sturdy faith in strict Calvinist doctrine, their young men had been returning from the University of Glasgow with more liberal ideas, and so effecting a quiet revolution.40 Unless checked, Princeton might do the same.

Alison, as of December 4, 1766, had in mind himself as President, teaching "Moral Philosophy, the institutes of the law of nature & metaphysicks," and John Ewing of his Philadelphia faculty in the chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy.41 Alexander McDowell and Matthew Wilson, then conducting the school at Newark, might be an alternate choice which would give "our gentlemen satisfaction." It is significant that for lesser faculty he tossed in the name of Duffield as teacher of languages. This would show his willingness to promote some New Side men as well. It also shows that Duffield was considered a capable teacher of languages. But most of all, it suggests an eagerness to alter the situation at Carlisle. Yet even as a delegation was on its way from Philadelphia to put forward an irresistible proposition, the Princeton trustees adopted a course designed both to defeat the Old Side maneuver and add new lustre to their institution. They elected as President an eminent and liberal-minded Scottish clergyman, John Witherspoon.

Still the issue hung precariously in balance. Would Witherspoon accept? The invitation, warmly urging him to do so, was followed by other letters from America warning him against it. In April, 1767, he at last declined, the balance tipped by Mrs. Witherspoon's unwillingness to part from home and friends forever. But Princeton had on the ground an ardent young alumnus pleading its cause and refusing to accept rejection. Benjamin Rush of the Class of 1760 was a medical student at the University of Edinburgh, 1766 to 1768, and he now continued to pursue the matter with an almost poetic fervor. In giving his refusal, Dr. Witherspoon had strongly recommended his close friend and protégé, Charles Nisbet, the young minister at Montrose. He had written to Nisbet and to Rush, and fully expected an accomodation to be reached. It was here that Rush first learned of Nisbet's reputation for great learning and a scintillating wit. Yet the young doctor was not a man for second choices. He was with the Witherspoons at Paisley in August, 1767, turning all his persuasive charm upon the lady, and it worked. The Wither-



spoons would sail from Greenockin the spring of 1768.

Back at Princeton, meanwhile, Alison's forces had renewed their pressure for participation and the trustees seemed ready to yield, at least in part. In October, 1767, they elected a compromise candidate to the presidency, Samuel Blair, aged twenty-six, who would step aside should Witherspoon come after all. He was a nephew of John Blair, to whom Duffield's famous letter had been addressed, and who, as a man acceptable to both parties, had been appointed Professor of Divinity.42 Then came the news of Rush's success—signalling victory for New Side and the collapse of Old Side ambitions.

There was thus still no bastion of higher education dominated by the conservative party. The College of Philadelphia had no sectarian tie, and Alison's superior, Provost Smith, was an Episcopalian. Defeated at Princeton, Old Side would strengthen its defenses elsewhere. A charter was secured for Newark Academy to place it on a more permanent footing, and it became an object of special interest and attention from Vice Provost Alison, John Ewing, the sharp young mathematician on Philadelphia's faculty, and others.43 This mood of umbrage and rededication was reflected also at Carlisle.

Carlisle was showing signs of high promise as a prosperous market town and, perhaps, a future metropolis of the west. Handsome stone houses were clustering near the square. The old log courthouse had been replaced by a spacious brick one in 1766, and, by deed dated in September of that year, Thomas and Richard Penn had finally conveyed the land on the square's northwest corner, not to Duffield's group, but to John Steel, John Montgomery and other "trustees appointed by the Presbyterian congregation of Carlisle."44 As for Mr. Duffield, he had been named by the Synod to accompany the venerable Charles Beatty on a tour through the western settlements in that fall of 1766, stirring up religious zeal among the lonely farms and even a hope of awakening the Indians to God's love45—this last an aspiration which had probably never warmed to enthusiasm in the breast of John Steel. The congregation of the Second Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, New Side, had sent Mr. Duffield a call in 1763, again in 1766 and again in 1771. He went at last in September, 1772, and was formally installed in the fol-



lowing year.46 His Carlisle flock sought vainly to lure him back in that year, but would continue to see him from time to time as a visitor.

Duffield's departure had been presaged in the acquisition by Steel's congregation of their church site on the Carlisle public square. Here would be built a larger and grander edifice than the older two, and one in which all could come together. The first contract was signed on February 16, 1769; a second on April 26, 1771.47 Robert Smith, of the Carpenters' Company of Philadelphia, had drawn the plans.48 Another memo scribbled on the cover of a John Steel sermon reads, "Feb. ye 4th Sab. 1771. When it appears we are on ye Brink of a Spanish & french war"-an apprehension then sweeping the colonies, but happily dispelled.49 By 1772, the new church was at last roofed over. Though it would not be entirely finished for another twenty years, it could now be used for worship, and-we may surmise-for the school.50

Since sometime in 1769, the school had had a master to give full time to it, a young minister from Ireland. The hand of Alison may be seen here, as well as John Steel's. To any experienced educator it would have been obvious that the American Presbyterian Church needed but one college. But if Alison's party could not control Princeton from within, it could still set up a secondary system on an equally secure foundation. These schools would adhere to the old standards, and the life of the college would depend upon them. As a beginning, there would be two, Newark in the East and in the West, Carlisle. That announcement in the Pennsylvania Gazette of January 11, 1770, is unsigned but explicit:

Carlisle, January 1770. 

WHEREAS a LATIN SCHOOL has for several Years past, been erected in this Town, and is now kept by Mr. HENRY MAKINLY, who professes to teach the Latin and Greek Languages in the most concise and perfect Manner. In order therefore that the School might be settled upon a regular Footing, Trustees are chosen to take Care of it, and a certain Number of Gentlemen, of good Repute in the literary World, have engaged to visit and examine the Scholars, as often as it may be convenient.

From these Considerations, we flatter ourselves that this School will continue for many Years, and be productive of the most important Advantages, as it is constituted under these Regulations, and

continued in a Town both pleasant and healthy, where Lodgings may be had in, or convenient to Town, at the Rate of Nine Pounds a Year, a Thing scarcely to be got in the Neighbourhood of any other Semi-nary in the Province. These Advantages, duly considered, we hope will be a sufficient Inducement for Gentlemen to send their Children to said School.51

With Mr. Duffield's departure, the Synod had left it to the two congregations to unite under Mr. Steel, hopeful that when his pastorate should come to its close they might be able to agree amicably upon a successor. Thus it is that the grant of land made by Thomas and John Penn, March 3, 1773, for the purpose of building a schoolhouse names three New Side men among the nine patentees. They were Colonel John Armstrong, Stephen Duncan and William Lyon, prominent citizens all. The others also were community leaders: Steel's old stalwart, John Montgomery, William Irvine, Robert Magaw, Robert Miller, George Stevenson and James Wilson. Of the nine, all but Miller and Stevenson would serve later as trustees of the College.

On December 13, 1773, the church "now under the pastor-al care of the Rev. Mr. John Steel," having found itself "under great inconveniences for want of being a body politic in law," was granted a charter by the Penns.52 Twelve trustees were named, again with New Side representatives among a majority of Old Side men. All was now fixed upon a safe foundation. Steel and Alison could feel confident of the school's growing with the town, sheltered in the Church, firm in doctrinal and classical probity.

Yet this was the year also of the destruction of the cargoes of tea, to be followed in the next by the punitive acts of Parliament and the meeting of the first Continental Congress on September 5, 1774. Thirteen years earlier, American papers had featured news of two men who claimed to walk the earth "by the order of Heaven. They say that the World will infallibly be at an end in 1773...."53 It was not to be quite as final as that, yet the year we mark as the beginning of Dickinson College history had little about it of a bright dawning. Eight more years would pass before a schoolhouse would be built upon the newly granted lot, and there would be at least two years with no school held at all. War, an enemy alike of religion and the intellectual life, would be darkening hopes and sweeping plans aside.



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