[Editor's Note: The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Only in the case of obvious spelling and other typographical errors have corrections to the original printed text been made.]


[ Preface ] [ Histories ] [ Chapter 2 ]


The history of American colleges does not begin with the selection of their trustees, nor with the erection of their first building, nor even with the date of their charter. Their origin is to be sought in the intellectual, moral and religious forces that later found their concrete expression in these visible forms. Educational systems, even the most unsystematic, do not spring up in a night, like the prophet's gourd, nor leap full-fledged from one man's brain, like Minerva from the head of Jupiter. They have always been of slow growth; often for long periods they have not grown at all. Every event, is, of course, preceded by another of like character, this by another, and so on ad infinitum. Albeit, in the genesis and development of American colleges we have fairly definite starting point on American soil and need not go overseas to seek it. For one thing, we have, in the colonies, a different religious atmosphere from that prevailing in the old country. The social conditions were also more or less different, while economic conditions were widely diverse. It is a question whether the people of New England showed greater zeal in the cause of education, at least in its elements, than did the early settlers of Pennsylvania, and whether her learned men were more interested in the cause. But the New England commonwealths exhibit a continuous development, although very slow, while in Pennsylvania, a stagnation, or at least a retardation of interest, supervened, that had a deleterious influence on educational progress. As early as 1683, the Assembly which met in Philadelphia enacted that: "And to the end that the poor as well as the rich may be instructed in good and commendable learning, which is to be preferred to wealth, Be it enacted, etc., That all persons in this Province and the Territories thereof, having children, and all guardians and trustees of orphans, shall cause them to be instructed in reading and writing, so that they may be able to read the Scriptures and to write by the time they attain to twelve years of age, and that they may be taught some trade or skill, that the poor may work to live, and the rich, if they become poor, may not want; of which every County Court shall take care," etc. Before the end of the century, or at least in the early years of the next, there were schools, not only in Philadelphia, but as far inland as Berks County. Nor did the immigrants from England and Scotland only establish schools, but likewise some of the early-comers from Germany were men of great learning and inspired with a burning zeal in the cause of education. Let us note briefly the conditions in Penn's colony that led to the establishment of Dickinson College at a time when there were as yet few students. Although nearly a century had elapsed since the transaction between King Charles and Penn, most of the population was still in the southeastern part of what afterwards became the State of Pennsylvania. The means of intercommunication were as yet very primitive; nevertheless, quite a dozen more or less successful attempts had been made to found colleges in different parts of the thirteen colonies, all of which are still in existence, although their careers have been widely different. The following is believed to be a complete list of American colleges founded prior to or contemporaneous with that at Carlisle: (1) Harvard, (2) William and Mary, (3) Yale, (4) University of Pennsylvania, (5) Princeton, (6) Washington and Lee, (7) Columbia, (8) Brown, (9) Rutgers, (10) Dartmouth, (11) Hampden-Sidney (12) Dickinson. The Moravian college and seminary at Bethlehem lays claim to being the oldest college for women within the territory of the Union. It was organized in 1742. A similar institution was put in operation at Winston-Salem in North Carolina thirty years later. Washington College in Maryland was chartered in 1782, and Washington College, Tennessee, the following year. Albeit, the personnel of neither, including faculty and students combined, amounts to more than a hundred individuals. By the end of the century the number of similar institutions had more than doubled. It would be interesting to know the minds of the men who were the initiators of these educational projects. Their largest asset was faith. Not a few of them found, however, that although faith may remove mountains, it will not remove an appetite, nor provide a permanent shelter. In this respect Dickinson was somewhat more fortunate and its tribulations came later. It has been pointed out in the historical sketch of the Ohio University, that its founder considered fifty thousand dollars an ample income for all its needs in saecula saeculorum. When we are prompted to smile at the limited intellectual outlook of these men, we will do well to recall that many of the universities of continental Europe had no equipment except an old monastery. When Schiller was appointed professor of history at Jena, an event that occurred about the time Dickinson was getting under way, the position carried with it no salary. He seems to have been honest enough to consider the honor an adequate compensation, for he admitted that he knew very little history. At Dickinson the first class to receive diplomas was that of 1787; it consisted of nine members. Five years later there were thirty-three. The classes between 1799 and 1803, both years included, numbered eight and five respectively, or twenty-six in all. In 1806 and 1810 there were four men in each. From 1817 to 1821 no classes are reported. The next year there were two members. From 1832 to 1835. no students are reported, revealing a condition of affairs that will be dealt with farther along. The next year there were four graduates. The largest classes up to 1850 were those of 1792 (33), and the same number in 1829. That of '40 fell short by one.

Although Dickinson's record is not "hoary with age," it must be evident to anyone who gives its history a moment's consideration, that it is impossible to write anything approaching a connected story within a briefer space than a large volume. Otherwise, the best that can be done is to draw attention to a few "high spots," like those in a landscape illumined by the first rays of the rising or the last rays of the setting sun. Or the writer may endeavor to combine within himself the functions of the truant wife of Menelaus on them ramparts of Ilium, or that of Satan on the high mountain. He can point out the salient features of the landscape below him and name the chief characters that give life to the scene. The latest Alumni Record1 is an octavo volume of five hundred pages of fine print, and contains nothing except the briefest possible list of names and dates, so far as they could be ascertained. The number of graduate alumni is a few more than two thousand. Of the young men who attended college, but who, for various reasons, did not graduate, the list of names is about one-fifth longer. This list does not include the names of the graduates of the Law Department, which, after having been in operation for a number of years, was suspended, but was later reopened and has been doing efficient service up to date. It should also be noted that although Dickinson College has never claimed to he nor aspired to be anything more than a college, its scholastic standard has always been higher than that of not a few institutions that are called by the more ambitious title of university. The list of Dickinson's alumni is not an exceptionally, long one, and when the friends of other colleges point to much longer lists, Dickinsonians are wont to cite the Fable of the Lion and the Hare, to prove that it is not the number of the offspring that counts, but the quality Monroe's Encyclopedia contains the following tribute:

"The record of Dickinson's alumni is indeed remarkable. With Bowdoin and Princeton, it is the only other American college possessing the distinction of having graduated both a President of the United States and a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The list of other Federal Judges, of members of the State Judiciary, and of Governors of States, is surprisingly large, while it is doubtful if any other educational institution of similar size has furnished to the country as many as nine Cabinet officers, ten members of the highest legislative body, and fifty members of the lower house. In addition, the Legislature of Pennsylvania began very early to contain a large number of Dickinson's graduates."

Towards the close of the last century the attendance began to rise, with the result that the latest catalogue contains the names of nearly two hundred freshmen, a larger number than the entire student body up to the end of the last century. The largest number reported for any year previous to 1900, was in 1858, when it was one hundred and ten. How widespread was the influence of the small classes, even prior to the year 1800, may be here briefly pointed out, so far as the meager records make it possible. Much evidence to the same effect will appear in later portions of this volume. Of the Class of 1790, one member was born in Pennsylvania, one in Virginia, and one in North Carolina; but all died in different parts of Ohio. Of the Class of 1792, one member was born in North Carolina and died in Ohio. Another was born in Ireland but died in South Carolina. One was born in Pennsylvania, but died in New York;. while a fourth, born in the Keystone State, ended his days in North Carolina. Of two who were born in Virginia and Pennsylvania, respectively, one died in New Orleans and one in Ohio. Of two others who were born in Pennsylvania, one died in Missouri, the other in Tennessee. This brief statement takes no account of those who were born and ended their days in the Keystone State, although the two events may have occurred in widely sundered localities. It is also worth noting that although the Ohio University was established under New England auspices, that influence did not long perdure. Three of its presidents were Pennsylvanians, two of them Dickinsonians, whose combined administrations covered almost one-fourth of its existence and about one-third of its actual operation. Of the graduates before 1800, Jonathan Walker was a Judge of a United States District Court and father of Robert Walker of Mississippi, Secretary of the Treasury under President Polk. Francis Dunlevy (or Dun- lavy) was a leading member of the Ohio constitutional convention in 1802. At the first General Assembly, which met at Chillicothe, he was elected one of the three district judges. In 1810 be was chosen presiding judge of the first or Cincinnati district. He had been one of the ten members from Hamilton, by far the most populous county in the state at that time. He was one of the few men active in early Ohio affairs who might have been said to be liberally educated. Robert G. Wilson, who was really the first president of the Ohio University, must have attracted a good deal of attention in his ministry a long way from home, as lie received the honorary degree of D. D. from Princeton, which was not his alma mater. It has been pointed out elsewhere in this sketch, that the early relations between New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio were intimate, considering the distance at least between the former and the latter, and the difficulty of passing from one to the other.

Until somewhat recently the opinion prevailed, both in Ohio and Pennsylvania, that the early settlers in the former state were mainly from New England. The facts are against such a hypothesis. The belief probably arose from the fact that the Ohio University was founded by natives of New England and that its lands attracted a considerable number of settlers from the same region; and also from the further fact that Marietta was almost exclusively a New England colony. Moreover, at a somewhat later period, several men in the Connecticut or Western Reserve achieved political prominence in national politics, and thus drew attention to that part of the state. The Ohio University never had a president who was a New Englander, although a few members of the faculty hailed from east of the Hudson. This is no place to relate the history of the Virginia Military lands; suffice it to say that the tract occupied a large part of the territory lying between the Scioto and the Little Miami rivers, besides extending a considerable distance north of the. present capital of the state. That Dickinsonians who were either natives of Pennsylvania or temporary residents of. the state, were present in large numbers, has already been pointed out. Professor Hinsdale, in his "Old Northwest," has shown that, except for the colony at Marietta, the early immigrants came, for the more part, from Virginia and Pennsylvania. He was able to trace the ancestry of twenty-six (26) of the thirty eight (88) delegates who met at Chillicothe in 1802 for the purpose of framing a constitution. This city is more than fifty miles south of the center of the state, while all the delegates save two were from a somewhat broad fringe of counties lying on the Ohio river. At that time the population of what afterwards became the State of Ohio was somewhat less than fifty thousand. Of the twenty-six delegates above referred to, about half were from Virginia, but only three from New England. The same author also traced the ancestry of thirty-three of the forty-seven of Ohio's representatives in Congress up to 1829. The preponderance was no longer with Virginia, which furnished only six members. The contingent from the Keystone State was now nine, while New Jersey, its eastern outpost, furnished six. The same number came from Connecticut. One each were natives of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Kentucky and New York. It is not an unjustifiable assumption that the two middle states dominated the new state, and that among colleges, Dickinson and the College of New Jersey "led all the rest."

It is probable that very few of the non-graduates of a college are absolute failures. It is known that a majority of the students who leave college without taking a degree, have a good reason for doing so; nor should it be assumed that every student who withdraws from college by the advice of the faculty is inherently vicious. Dickinson's alumni, up to and including 1796, numbered about one hundred and twenty. Of these more than ten per cent are known to have migrated to Ohio. Albeit, Dickinsonians did not cease to move eastward as well as westward. Of the men whose names are recorded in the Alumni Record nearly one hundred and fifty gave their address as Philadelphia. All the States and the District of Columbia are represented; a few, however, by a single name only. About thirty were domiciled in the Buckeye State, four in Oregon, ten in Washington, and three times as many in California. These data and the quotation from Monroe's Encyclopedia are a shining tribute to an institution which Dr. Holmes would have classed among the freshwater colleges. However, the epithet just cited is worth at least the passing comment that if used by a less important person than the genial doctor it would have passed unnoticed or been "cast as rubbish to the void."

We now return to our enumeration. Ninian Edwards was a judge of the Circuit Court, of the Court of Appeals, Chief Justice of Kentucky, territorial governor and later governor of Illinois, and later still United States senator. Matthew Brown was the first president of Washington, and later president of Jefferson College. Callender Irvine was commissary-general of the United States army by appointment of President Jefferson. Alexander Nisbet was for some time a judge in Baltimore, and later president of the Northern Central Railroad. Jesse Wharton. was a member of Congress from Tennessee, and later United States senator from the same state. Roger B. Taney is dealt with in another part of the volume. Including the Class of 1796, at least ten Dickinsonians ended their days in Ohio. Then there is no similar instance until we come to the Class of 1805, which contains the name of George Buchanan, who died in Steubenville, after serving the Presbyterian church for nearly forty years. A considerable number of students from the South entered northern colleges; very few went in the opposite direction. The inviting climate was not considered a sufficient counterbalance to other disadvantages.

1 This record, in its present form, is mainly due to the painstaking labor of George L. Reed, a son of President Reed of the college.

[ Preface ] [ Histories ] [ Chapter 2 ]