1. Samuel Miller, Memoir of the Rev. Charles Nisbet D.D. (N.Y., 1840), pp. 299-300. William B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit (N.Y., 1858), vol. 3, pp. 458-59.
2. Nisbet to Jedidiah Morse, Oct. 24, 1799. Yale University Library.
3. George Hay Kain and others, A History of the York County Academy, York, Pennsylvania (York, 1953), pp. 28-29.
4. Solomon Drowne to his wife, Oct. 31, 1788, John Hay Library, Brown University: Reading a very pretty town, but Carlisle "still more beautiful, containing some of ye most elegant stone buildings in the state." Robert Davidson, 1791, DCA, describes Carlisle as having 13 boarding houses, 27 shops and 400 dwellings.
5. David Wilson Thompson, Early Publications of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 1785-1835 (Carlisle, 1932), pp. 2 ff.
6. "JUNIOR," on p. 2, col. 3.
7. Rush to John Montgomery (?), July 1, 1785. Rush Papers, Library Company of Philadelphia, on deposit at HSP.
8. Miller, p. 136.
9. Pennsylvania Gazette, Oct. 27, 1784, states Dickinson had selected "about 1500 volumes." The bill for work on Nisbet's house, DCA, "195 feet Boards for Doctr nisbets Librerry," suggests about 1,100 volumes. Nisbet estate inventory, Cumberland County Court House, 1804, gives 1,425 volumes.
10. His salary was two to three times that of a professor. Philip Freneau derided it in rhyme:
It seems we have spirit to humble a throne,
Have genius for science inferior to none,
But hardly encourage a plant of our own: if a college be planned,
'Tis all at a stand
'Till to Europe we send at a shameful expense,
To send us a book-worm to teach us some sense.
Poems, written and published during the American Revolutionary War (Phila., 1809), vol. 2, p. 207.
11. Nisbet to Witherspoon, April 3, 1784, HSP: "The most offensive Letters to Government that I ever writ, have been those published in Newspapers during the War, some of them have been reprinted in London, Edinburgh, Newcastle & Glasgow itself, some of them eight times over, without the least Censure & I never was a Prisoner of State for any private Letter, except two to Lord George Gordon, which on Examination were found to be perfectly innocent, though I was the first Person in the British Dominions that was delated to Government for favouring the Cause of America." John Kay, Series of Original Portraits (Edin., 1877), vol. 1, p. 94n, cites Nisbet's opposition to Robertson. Miller, pp. 75-77, repeats anecdotes of Montrose.
12. Nisbet to Buchan, June 13, 1785. Miller, p. 133.
13. John Jamieson (1759-1838), philologist and poet, author of Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, etc., to Samuel Miller, Aug. 5, 1805. HSP.
14. Now owned by a direct descendant of the Nisbets, Mrs. Harry Sisk.
15. Rush to John Erskine, Oct. 25, 1785. Rush Papers.
16. July 23, 1785. Rush Papers.
17. Sept. 29, 1786. Miller, p. 148.
18. Rush Papers.
19. Rush to Montgomery, Nov. 15, 1783, Rush Papers: "I am preparing some thoughts to lay before the board of trustees upon the subject of education proper for a college in a new republican state." These would reach final form in his A Plan for Which are Added Thoughts upon the Mode of Education, Proper in a Republic (Phila., 1786). This is printed also in his Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Phila., 1798). Lyman H. Butterfield, ed., Letters of Benjamin Rush (Princeton, 1951), vol. 1, pp. 491-93, prints his "Plan for a Federal University" as first published in the Federal Gazette, Oct. 29, 1788.
20. Rush, Essays, p. 19. Olive Moore Gambrill, "John Beale Bordley and the Early Years of the Philadelphia Agricultural Society," PMHB, vol. 66 (1942), p. 429, mentions a plan for the endowment at Dickinson of a professorship in "the chemical, philosophical and elementary parts of the theory of agriculture."
21. The attack began with his "Enquiry into the Utility of a Knowledge of the Latin and Greek Languages, as a Branch of Liberal Education, with Hints on a Plan of Liberal Instruction without them," published anonymously in American Museum, vol. 5 (June, 1789), pp. 525-35; and in Essays, pp. 20-56. American opinion was strongly utilitarian, and Matthew Carey thought Rush would have won his point had he been less vituperative. Saul Sack, History of Higher Education in Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, 1963), vol. 2, pp. 608-09. "Offal learning," from Rush to John Adams, Feb. 4, 1811, in John A. Schutz and Douglas Adair, The Spur of Fame (San Marino, Cal., 1966), p. 178.
23. Rush, Essays, p. 70.
24. Hampden-Sidney classed its grammar school as freshmen until 1812. Princeton had long had the full four classes. Pennsylvania conferred its degree at the end of the third year until 1826.
25. From the minutes of the Coetus, German Reformed archives, Lancaster Pa., courtesy of J. Stuart Prentice. Coetus replied to the College, April 28, 1785, regretting that it could not contribute its "Mite to this usefull undertaking." DCA.
26. The same requirement prevailed at the University of Edinburgh, where the idea had been borrowed from the faculty of Medicine. Alexander Grant, The Story of the University of Edinburgh (London, 1884), vol. 1, pp. 277-78. Rush may therefore have been advocating a requirement he himself had met as a student of medicine at Edinburgh.
27. Rush to the trustees, Oct. 21, 1786. Rush Papers.
28. Having adopted the Plan on Aug. 11, the trustees appointed a committee on Oct. 19, 1785 to review it, and the Minutes of Nov. 15, 1786, DCA, record its debate and adoption as revised.
29. Carlisle Gazette, Aug. 17, 1785. The news release had probably come direct from Rush, as had similar publicity in the Pennsylvania Packet, March 31, 1786.
30. Butterfield, vol. 1, pp. 374, 378. Rush had pronounced Mr. Tait to be "a man of great piety and formerly well acquainted with the business." Tait gives his own view of his troubles in a letter to Rush, May 20, 1786, Rush Papers. Here he mentions three Irish teachers of English and writing, "besides women's schools established for a number of years past in this town."
31. Rush Papers. The "Dialogue" may be attributed to Davidson, who had been much acclaimed for a similar performance at the College of Philadelphia, 1775. It had been spoken earlier at the public examination of June 15, an account of which was sent by John King to the Maryland Gazette, Aug. 5, 1785.
32. Minutes of the Presbytery of Brechin. Scottish Record Office, Edinburgh.
33. Thomas Nisbet to Rush, Aug., 1785, Rush Papers: "Dr. Nisbet's mental faculties are quite decayed & he talks more like a child than the man he was sometime ago." Nisbet to Rush, Dec. 5, 1785, ibid., describes his continued suffering. Rush to Richard Price, May 25, 1786, Butterfield, p. 389, gives his view in retrospect: "The letters written by Dr. Nisbet to his friends soon after his arrival in America, from which so many extracts have been published in the Scotch papers, were written under a deranged state of mind occasioned by a fever which fixed itself upon his brain. The Doctor has since perfectly recovered his health and reason, and is now perfectly satisfied with our country."
34. Whitfield J. Bell, Jr., "The Other Man on Bingham's Porch," SL 2, p. 44.
35. "Besides it might involve Dr. D in some Deferticulty if he should now accpt and afterwards be under the nessecety of resigning (perhaps in a short time) having some one placed over him in the institution who as yet has no connection with it and no pretensions to be his superior for I do not hesitate to give it as my opinion that one who has gone thro' the several Grades in teaching from a tutor in an accademy to a proffesors chair in a University is in all probabilly better qualified for and has a better claim to the Chair of a Principal than one who may not have had litle or no experience in teaching." Montgomery to trustees, undated. DCA.
36. Rush to Montgomery, Feb. 20, 1786. Butterfield, pp. 379-80.
37. Ibid., p. 376.
38. Miller, pp. 140-42. Nisbet's letter to Buchan, June 22, 1791, DCA, has at its head the Earl's dry comment, "Exaggerated account of affairs."
39. Nisbet to Rush, Jan. 9, 1786. Rush Papers. Apparently Rush, in a new and foredoomed effort to inspire, had urged his Principal to be a St. John and a Lycurgus. Nisbet adds "St. job."
40. Jan. 30, 1786. Rush Papers.
41. Feb. 15, 1786. Ibid.
42. Edited and translated by David Wilson Thompson, Dickinson Alumnus, Feb., 1947, pp. 20-21.
43. Butterfield, p. 383.
44. Both from the press of Kline and Reynolds of the Carlisle Gazette, 1786.
45. I. H. M'Cauley, Historical Sketch of Franklin County, Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, 1878), pp. 120-21. Trustees Minutes. Information from Marion D. Neece.
46. Belles Lettres Society Minutes, Sept. 9, 1786, DCA: Mr. Cochran was admitted, "after signing an acknowledgement of Secrecy, & the Laws of the Society." On April 8, 1800, Mr. Hillyard was expelled, for he "not only divulged the secrets of Society, but had ridiculed & reprobated the proceedings."
47. Carlisle Gazette, Jan. 4, 1786. Pennsylvania Packet, Jan. 20, 1786.
48. Catalogue of the Union Philosophical Society, Dickinson College. Second edition (Carlisle, 1896), p. 3. Almost all the original records of the Society have been destroyed by fire.
49. Belles Lettres Society Minutes, March 2, 1793. DCA.
50. John Shippen's composition of Aug. 8, 1789, was published as a little book, Observations on Novel-Reading (Phila., 1792). It is dedicated to Charles Nisbet, whose philosophy, in a less happy aspect, is clearly reflected in its opening lines: "Although at first sight it appears natural that virtue should flourish in direct proportion to the advancement of knowledge, the contrary, it is to be feared, is too well founded in experience to admit a contradiction. Men, as they gain knowledge, invent new species of wickedness; and thus alas! the seeds of immorality and libertinism have found a very fruitful soil among mankind for the two or three latter generations. "
51. Taney's own recollections of his life as a student are given in Samuel Tyler's Memoir of Roger Brooke Taney, LL.D. (Balt., 1872), pp. 37-54.
52. Carl Brent Swisher, "The Education of Roger B. Taney," SL 1, p. 155.
53. Thompson, Early Publications of Carlisle, pp. 62-63. The Western Almanac was printed in 1791-99 by Archibald Loudon, who also brought out the Dickinson College Almanac, 1807.
54. The whole affair is recounted in a more-than-Nisbetian diatribe, DCA, An Address to the Students of Dickinson College. By Henry Lyon Davis. Qua dies tam festa ut cesset prodere Furem, Perfidiam, Fraudes, atque omne ex crimine lucrum Quaesitum. Juvenal.
55. A valuable glimpse of the early curriculum is given by Samuel Brown in a letter to John Coulter, Oct. 5, 1788. Library of the College of William and Mary. Admitted to the College in November, 1787, Brown had read 12 books of Homer and 3 of Cicero. With Davidson he had studied English grammar, Rhetoric, Chronology "and part of Natural Philosophy." With Nisbet he had written 180 lectures on languages, history of philosophy, criticism and logic. He had been reading books in English in the College Library. In mathematics he had taken Euclid, arithmetic, trigonometry and part of surveying.
56. "A Reminiscence of Doctor Charles Nesbit of Dickinson College. By James Duncan," PMHB, vol. 5 (1881), p. 103.
57. Charles Nisbet, An Address to the Students of Dickinson College, by the Rev. Charles Nisbet, D.D. On his Re-election to the Office of Principal of said College (Carlisle, 1786), p. 12.
58. Ibid. p. 10.
59. Student transcript of commencement address, Sept. 26, 1787. Library of Centre College.
60. Nisbet to Alexander Addison, May 11, 1792. Darlington Library, University of Pittsburgh.
61. Ibid. Herbert F. Thomson and Willard G. Bloodgood, "A Classical Economist on the Frontier," Pennsylvania History, vol. 26 (1959), pp. 195-212, give the best analysis to date of Nisbet's teaching, dealing only with this one aspect. Nisbet divided Moral Philosophy into three parts, Ethics, "Oeconomics" and Politics, "corresponding to books in the Aristotelian corpus, and to divisions that were frequently adhered to in the Scottish universities." His lectures on "Oeconomics" moved from family relationships, to contracts, to "Political Oeconomy" and to government. "Political Oeconomy" dealt with the principles of economics, resources, manufactures and money, commerce, taxation (pp. 197-98).
62. Charles Nisbet, "Hints on Education," Port Folio, vol. 8 (1812), p. 259, distinguishes between the "schoolmaster" who teaches by "extempore and repeated admonitions," and the "humanist, by premeditated and continued discourse." Miller, p. 320, quotes Matthew Brown, Class of 1794: "His plan of instruction in College was by Lectures, which the classes were expected to write in full. He delivered them with so much deliberation and with such pauses, that, after some practice, we were able to take down the whole .... There were, however, few classes, all the members of which would consent to sustain the labour of doing this. His lectures were thought by some to be too voluminous; but they were exceedingly rich, and excellent in their kind. Besides a thorough and philosophic investigation of his subject, it was always illustrated by appropriate anecdotes, characterized by that wit and vivacity for which he was so distinguished. He seldom finished a lecture without some exhilirating anecdote, and some brilliant flashes of wit and humour, electrifying the whole class." "Glimpses of Old College Life," William and Mary Quarterly, vol. 8 (1900), p. 213, cites similar student notes on Bishop Madison's lectures. with separate questions and answers.
63. Some contrasting definitions help to characterize the teacher:
Nisbet: "Moral Philosophy has for its object the direction of the will & human actions. It is the province of moral philosophy to regulate human actions." John Young notes, 1787. DCA.
John Witherspoon: "Moral Philosophy is that branch of Science which treats of the principles and laws of Duty or Morals. It is called Philosophy, because it is an inquiry into the nature and grounds of moral obligation by reason, as distinct from revelation." Lectures on Moral Philosophy and Eloquence (Phila., 1810), p. 5.
Nisbet: Natural Philosophy is "That which treats of matter & investigates the Nature & Properties of Bodies." "Questions and Answers on Logic," c. 1787 Cumberland County Historical Society, Carlisle.
Davidson: "Natural Philosophy is that science which instructs us in the properties & operations of the material world, helps us to look into the secrets of nature to see the beauty of creation, & to please ourselves with the wonderful works of God." Lecture notes of John Creigh, 1787. Cumberland County Historical Society.
64. Tyler, p. 41.
65. Edwin Augustus Atlee, Essays at Poetry, or a Collection of Fugitive Pieces; with the Life of Eugenius Laude Watts (Phila., 1828), pp. 34-35.
66. Sprague, p. 457.
67. Ibid. Also Miller, pp. 340-41.
68. Historical Magazine, ser. 1, vol. 6 (1862), p. 357.
70. Among the students taking the course were David Denny, Samuel Mahon, Nathaniel Randolph Snowden, John Thompson, Samuel and William Woods and John Young. Perhaps also Alexander Porter. Of these, only one received an advanced degree, Snowden's M.A., 1790.
71. Miller, pp. 211-12.
72. PMHB, vol. 3 (1879), p. 291.
73. As still remembered by Taney, many years later. (Tyler, p. 43.) He notes that all boys were made to buy the book, bringing us a very early example of this requirement and the resulting student grudge.
74. Moral Philosophy, Lecture 29, Feb. 23, 1787. DCA. Transcript by John Young, then aged 25, the most accurate recorder of Nisbet's lectures.
75. Philosophy, morning lecture, July 16, 1788. DCA. John Young.
76. Ibid., afternoon lecture.
77. Nicolas Malebranche (1638-1715), author of De la Recherche de la Verité.
78. Thomas Reid (1710-1796), An Inquiry into the Human Mind, on the Principles of Common Sense (Edinburgh, 1764).
79. Joseph Priestley (1733-1804), Examination of Dr. Reid's Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense (London, 1774). Priestley's study, Hartley's Theory of the Human Mind, followed in 1775.
80. Philosophy, June 24, 1788. DCA. John Young.
81. Ibid., June 27, 1788. Conclusion of the lecture.
82. Tyler, p. 40.