[ Chapter 5 ] [ Histories ] [ Chapter 7 ]


We return again to the Shenandoah valley, mainly for the purpose of contrasting the attitude toward the higher education of the Scotch-Irish and the Germans, who were now becoming numerous in eastern Pennsylvania.

It is also worth mentioning that although the most influential trustees of Dickinson were residents of Philadelphia, they looked for guidance to Princeton rather than to the university of their own city. Ambler points out, in his "Sectionalism in Virginia," that preachers from Yale and Princeton were important factors in shaping the social and intellectual forces in that region. The pioneer in this work was Samuel Davies (or Davis) who later became president of the College of New Jersey. In this region Princeton soon became a rival of William and Mary, although the latter had a long start in time and the advantage of proximity. Religious preference was doubtless the deciding factor. In 1747, a Princetonian of the class of the same year, founded a classical academy in Louisa county. During the same year the institution that later became Washington and Lee University was founded by John Brown, also a Princetonian. In 1776, the academy which later became Hampden-Sidney College, was established by Stanhope Smith, a Princetonian of the class of 1769. These are not all the educational institutions that were put in operation in this region by men who had received their education at the two colleges just named. In contrast with their humble origin, that of Dickinson is noteworthy. On the contrary, Ambler makes no mention of any educational institutions in this region founded by Germans until many decades later, although they were quite numerous, as has just been pointed out. In 1853 the Lutherans obtained a charter for a college at Salem, but before it was well under way the sectional war began to loom darkly behind the horizon, and it has had a very feeble support ever since. This was more than a century after the Presbyterians had planted their first college in the Old Dominion. Franklin College was chartered in 1787. Its inauguration was a notable event, for the reason, if for no other, that the aged Franklin honored the occasion with his presence. Although it had at different times men of note in its faculty, it did not for a long time rise above the "grade of a good high school." It should also be mentioned here that, although the Methodist Episcopal church was a large factor in the movement that resulted in the formation of the State of West Virginia, it had no college within this territory until the present century. Most of the students from this region went either to Dickinson or to one of the colleges in southwestern Pennsylvania, or to Marietta, or farther inland to the university at Athens. Most of the minor German sects, that early became numerous in Penn's colony and in the Shenandoah valley, were almost unanimous in their opposition to every kind of education except the merest rudiments. It was not considered necessary for girls to know anything except housewifery. Hardly any intellectual phenomenon is more perplexing in its radical inconsistency than the contempt with which the members of the German churches, as distinguished from the "sects," regarded an uneducated ministry and the meager support they gave to their colleges. Among the quarter of a million German's in Penn's province by the middle of the eighteenth century there must have been not a few who were in comfortable financial circumstances. The fact is, that until in comparatively recent times, large donations for educational and other public objects were very rare. Among Dickinson's first trustees are quite a number who bear clearly German names. Very soon after the first settlers arrived in the colony a concerted effort was made by men professing the Lutheran and the Reformed faiths to establish schools, and some progress was made. But in a few years the movement died out for lack of support.

It would seem. that the young men of German ancestry who went to college, had no desire to make the fact known. In the sixties no word of "Pennsylvania Dutch" was heard around Dickinson College, although a considerable portion of the young men must have been fairly familiar with it. Yet, of not one could it be said, "Thy speech betrayeth thee." Although there was a German state printer until 1856, the office was virtually a superfluity. Virginia and Ohio, and probably other states printed their laws in German until far along in the nineteenth century. A considerable number of persons, especially women, could read the German Bible and a hymn-book with some degree of comprehension, but they could read nothing else. The case with the men was somewhat better; they could and did read German newspapers, or at least one. Few of them, however, could read understandingly an act of the General Assembly. Philadelphia was, for a long time, the port of entry for most of these immigrants. They made their way westward and southwestward by various routes. Few of them, however, left the state after they had entered the Cumberland valley. For a long time the settlers along the border between Pennsylvania and eastern, Maryland did not know in what state they were. Those farther west were in a similar case, as a good deal of the territory now in the Keystone State was claimed by Virginia. It was almost childish for the various governments to quibble and even threaten to go to war over land when it was so enormously plenty. The two southern States could, of course, justify their contention by pointing to their prior occupation. Many of the "Pennsylvania Dutch" never lived in Pennsylvania. The activities of Otterbein and Boehm were at first confined entirely to the Germans of the first and second generation who had settled in southeastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, and to a less extent in Virginia. Albright was at first a Methodist, but his illiteracy and his limited knowledge of English were not relished by his confreres. What is known as the United Brethren church was organized in or near Frederick, Maryland. There is still a Dunkard meeting-house on the battlefield of Antietam. The Mennonites in the Shenandoah valley have been mentioned elsewhere. After Philadelphia, Baltimore was the port of entry for most of the Germans. As long as farm products were mainly transported by wagons it was sometimes hauled to Baltimore even from the Cumberland valley. In 1790 Baltimore had a population of about thirteen thousand, but by the end of the century it had almost tripled. In 1800 there were few Methodists in Pennsylvania; they were more numerous in Maryland and Delaware. At present there are more than twice as many Methodists in Delaware as all other denominations combined. Probably the same claim would hold good for Maryland. They are now the strongest religious body in Pennsylvania, next in order being the Presbyterians. No account is here taken of the Roman Catholics. A philosophical history of the various religious movements in southeastern Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware, would throw much light on the psychology of the people. A good deal of material is available in the records of the various denominations, but as it is written mainly from the inside by partisans, it needs an interpreter. It is the popular belief that "revivals" were mainly due to preachers who held to the Arminian creed. This is an error. Otterbein was a Calvinist. Jonathan Edwards, the most vigorous American defender of Calvinism, was also one of the most powerful revivalists. It is said that at one of his meetings he described the after-life of the damned in such lurid colors, that the effect produced upon his audience was so great as to necessitate the closing of the services.

How long this singular state of affairs existed, or how it came into being, the writer does not know; but certain it is that in his time it was a rare thing for a student to go to any member of the faculty for advice or counsel or aid. He who did so was fairly certain to find himself stigmatized as a "faculty pup." This aloofness was not due to the faculty, every member of which always seemed willing to be interviewed and to grant any reasonable request. When a student was summoned into the presence of any member of the faculty it was taken for granted — often jocosely — that he was, according to the language of the Prayer Book, one of those miserable offenders who had either done those things that he ought not to have done or had left undone what he ought to have done.

For about a century and a half after the founding of the Quaker colony there was very little sectional feeling among the different commonwealths. This fact must have obtruded itself more than once upon the readers of this sketch. As early as 1798 there were students in Carlisle from six of the states south of Mason and Dixon's line. There exists also evidence to the effect that even before the end of the century some of the prospective students were deterred from entering the college because of the arduous toil imposed upon those who bad been so (un)fortunate as to enter earlier. It has been remarked that when a man pays money for a tangible commodity, it is his aim to get as much for his outlay as possible; but when he pays for an education, or for what is regarded as such, he is generally willing to accept as little as the seller may choose to give, and will even protest that he is getting too much. It is almost as natural for a student to kick as it is for the quadruped whose name in English is spelled with four letters, the chief difference being that one uses his head, the other his heels. There is probably no word in the English or the German language that has wandered so far from its original Latin signification as studens. The familiar "student" and "studious" still remind us of their Latin ancestry. But who can discover the nexus between these terms and studens, except in athletics?

Nearly all students pass through the same mental metamorphosis during their four years in college. As Freshmen they are rather fresh. But if any of them manifest undue bumptiousness, they are soon taught better manners by their fellows. At Dickinson no student has ever been made to feel his inferiority in class or social rank, as at Harvard, for instance, in its earlier period. When the student enters his second year the Sophia which he has gained becomes blended with a certain measure of Moria, which somebody has expressed by the compound Sophomore. During that year he is really a first rate fellow, both in his own estimation and in that of his companions below him and above him. During his third year his stock of Moria has greatly diminished and that of his Sophia much increased. When he becomes "a grave and reverend Seniors smiling o'er a verdant past," he has almost ceased to be a typical student.1 The past is behind him and the future close in front. At Dickinson, at least within what may be called the historical period, as distinguished from the half-mythical period, the only penalty or penalties for serious infractions of the rules and regulations have been suspension, or dismissal, or degradation in rank, or small fines, which are however rarely personal. Every student is loyal to his fellows, and however he may dislike him, will never betray him. No college faculty will ever attempt, or at least in extremely rare cases, to convict a student upon the testimony of a fellow student, even of a peccadillo. When it is necessary to resort to extreme measures it is essential to call upon the civil authorities, which is a rare occurrence. Taking college students as a whole, they are capital fellows. The writer has known very few cynics or young men who harbored a permanent grouch.

College discipline has been a problem ever since there were colleges, but the problem was solved, in so far as it was solved at all, differently in England and America on the one hand, and the Continent on the other. The continental student, after he was admitted to the university, was left almost entirely to his own devices, while the English and American student was always more or less under surveillance. In the continental universities the theological students are carefully guarded and segregated, while such is not the case in the United States. We are here, however, concerned only with the college and not with the university student. The young American goes to college for a fairly definite object, at least outside of New England, but he has not always a definite idea as to how it should be attained. There is, however, a marked difference between the methods by which the goal should be reached, ranging all the way from strict honesty to deliberate dishonesty. It is well known that at the present day many of the wealthier students depend mainly on cramming for a few weeks before the time for final examinations, to the great pecuniary benefit of the poorer students who have the knowledge and need the money for which it can be cashed in. This custom has never been in vogue at Dickinson. It is claimed by the Southern colleges that student honor is higher among them than it is in the North. There is more than a grain of truth in the claim. The writer does not know much at first hand about college honor in the twentieth century, but he can testify that fifty years ago it could have been improved in certain places.

It is not surprising that the students, or at least a considerable portion thereof, were unruly; it would have been surprising if such had not been the case. The internal history of American colleges until some years after our sectional war is, to a considerable extent, a record of strife with the faculty or among themselves. These conditions may have been inherited from their transatlantic peers, or they may have been a parallel development. The history of higher education in England, where it has almost from time immemorial been less turbulent than on the continent, is to a considerable extent a record of roistering, when it is not something worse. It can, however, be truly said that the large number of prominent men, compared with the entire population, who came forth from American colleges until about half a century ago, was due in great measure to the limited number of studies in the curriculum, which necessitated a greater measure of concentration than the wide range of choice now permitted. Too much thought is given to finding something easy, then something easier still. It is moreover doubtful if undergraduates spent as much time to no purpose under the old regime as they do "in these last times." What is called "deviltry" is for the most part spontaneous and requires little premeditation. Conversely, the large part of the non-academic activities of the twentieth century demand forethought and fore-preparation and are apt to become all-absorbing, at least for the nonce. A fundamental article of the pedagogical creed of the olden time seems to have been that the more wearisome a study can be made the more efficacious it will be. This is a parallel case to the peasant belief that the "nastier" a medicine tastes the more potent it is.

It is probable that all colleges, until within the memory of men still living, held their chapel exercises at six o'clock in the morning. This was a decidedly unpopular hour, especially in the winter. A student now and then appeared in chapel en deshabille, going to bed again after the services. In order to put an end to this practice the faculty decided to hold one recitation before the exercises. An old citizen who lived near the college told the writer that the language sometimes used by students when passing her house in the dark hours of the early morning, while engaged in adjusting their toilet, indicated a decidedly undevotional state of mind. According to the reports of the army surgeons who examined the recruits for overseas service, somewhat more than one-third of them were morons; in other words, their mentality was about that of a boy or girl of fifteen or sixteen. The average man is prompted to regard these "scientific reports" a good deal as he regards the story of the roc's egg — greatly exaggerated. There is, of course, some truth in them. Would anybody affirm that no moron ever gets into college, or even into the faculty? — if he has "a cousin in the consistery or a friend at court."

When a group of students has a grievance against the faculty, or against any member thereof, the attorneys are all, or nearly all, for the prosecution. The defendant is usually without counsel. As the talk progresses the grievance augments. Few students seem to be aware that an instructor who insists on honest work is not doing so for the teacher but for the learner. The "victims" of this tyranny usually see this for themselves, — but not until after they have been some years out of college. Nevertheless, no wise man Will take it for granted that students are always in the wrong. In this respect there is less and less cause for complaint. If an instructor is not fairly satisfactory to his students, they can usually change their course or their teacher.

1"When we first came on this campus we were Freshmen green as grass;
Now we're grave and reverend Seniors, smiling o'er the verdant past."

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