[ Chapter 6 ] [ Histories ] [ Chapter 8 ]


Let us now take a rapid survey of eastern and southern Pennsylvania, as the country appeared to Dr. Cutler, the founder of the Ohio University. In July, 1788, he made the journey to the Ohio country in a sulky. Setting out from his native Connecticut he entered Pennsylvania near the mouth of the Lehigh river, and we will follow him only in so far as his observations pertain to said State. He passed through Bethlehem, Allentown, Reading and Harrisburg. He writes that the last named town contained about one hundred good houses, "all built in less than three years." "Many of them were of brick and three stories high. Half the people are English." He also mentions that there were as yet no churches. On the third of August he arrived in Carlisle. "Roads mostly good, but now intolerable; very level." He found Carlisle to be a larger town than Reading and mentions that it contained two hundred and eighty houses, "large and well built." Here he came across a family on their way to Fort Pitt. They had a coach and three wagons. Dr. Cutler notes that "just before we came to the town we saw on our left the barracks. They are built of brick in four ranges, one at the end." They appeared like colleges, "an immense pile of buildings exceeding anything in this part of the country." He makes no mention of a college. Shippensburg was a new town containing about one hundred and fifty houses, all on one street. (In America, at least in the United States, newness is a wholly relative term.) The road to the foot of the mountain was "excessive bad." From this place he went over the Blue Mountains into Horse Valley, then into Path Valley, ascended the Tuscarora Mountain and came down into Ahwick Valley. Here he found much work being done on the roads. He also met a Packer with ten horses loaded with ginseng, two barrels to a horse. Ginseng at Fort Pitt was two shillings a barrel; at Carlisle it was five. (How many of the present residents of Carlisle know what ginseng is, or at least have ever seen the plant?) Fourteen miles from Bedford our traveler crossed the "Juniata branch of the Susquehanna river on a good long bridge." "Bedford is the poorest county in Pennsylvania." The town, however, was fairly well built, some of the houses being "tolerable good." (Bedford county was laid out in 1771 and Westmoreland in 1778; but before the end of the century there were eight counties where there were only two at this time.) At this place our traveler overtook Judge Symmes, well known in Ohio pioneer history, and especially in that of Miami University at Oxford, the younger sister of the institution at Athens. Judge Symmes was a native of Long Island but at that time a very wealthy resident of New Jersey. With him were several members of his family. His outfit consisted of six heavy wagons and a chair, thirty-one horses, three carpenters and one mason. The company had been on the way three weeks.

Proceeding, the reverend gentleman writes that Buffalo Mountain was on his left. He found the roads in this region all good, except where they were new. At a place called "The Glades" the streams began to flow westward. Not far away our diarist preached to a large congregation for a Mr. Finley, who was ill. The woods were full of horses — three or four hundred — but no houses were near the place where the congregation had assembled. The Reverend Mr. Finley had two congregations eight miles apart. They were doubtless Presbyterians. Dr. Cutler crossed the Youghiogheny at a place he calls Summerall's, then the Mononghahela, which he considered a fine river, at a ferry which he calls Devour's Crossing. Washington was then new, with stumps in the streets. The court house and the jail, those ubiquitous concomitants of civilization, were in the center. "Fine country all around." In the vicinity of the present town of Wellsburg there were "fine gardens, mills, tanneries, etc." The remainder of the journey was made by water on the river, which is big but generally narrow, obstructed by no shallows along the state which bears its name, and is rarely out of service. Our diarist makes brief comments on the taverns at which he stopped, and notes whether they were kept by Irishmen or "Dutchmen." At one place he came across an extremely handsome woman and could not believe that she was "Dutch" until she herself informed him that she was born in Germany. Our traveler generally found the stopping places bad or very bad. But as there was rarely more than one within reach, it was generally a case of "eat and sleep here or go without either." In midsummer there was generally a place to sleep but not always "food for man and beast." At this time there was not a turnpike in the whole country. The first road of this kind was that between Philadelphia and Lancaster. It was finished in 1796 and was regarded as a masterpiece of road-building. It was, in fact, "the wonder of America." Having now arrived at the southwest corner of the state, let us take note of some of the happenings in that region during the next few decades.

Although American colleges, until well along towards the end of the nineteenth century, were small affairs, they generated a large amount of strife; some of them more than others. Those in the Keystone State had their full share. If it be true that the University of Pennsylvania had three hundred students a dozen years before the outbreak of the revolutionary war, it was not only the largest institution of its kind in the country, but probably the most turbulent. The fact that it was located in the City of Brotherly Love and among people who were pacifists on principle, did not have a pacifying effect. Dickinson seems to have bad little peace for almost fifty years. As early as 1787 an academy was started in the court house at Washington by three Presbyterian ministers. When it was burned down in 1790 they transferred their school to Canonsburg, seven miles distant. This hegira had an unfortunate effect, for it became the nucleus of Jefferson College. It seems to have been the only college to receive the name of the "Father of American Democracy." This was afterwards shared, with the "Father of his Country." Although Washington College and Jefferson College were only a few miles apart, the trustees, with the pertinacity of their religion, refused to unite for more than fifty years. The absurdity of this aloofness becomes all the more glaring when we reflect that both concerns were under the tutelage of the same religious body and that the students were necessarily few in numbers. The magnet that ultimately drew the two colleges together was the conditional promise of a considerable sum of money by a member of one of the boards. Since then their joint history reads like the last chapter in a popular novel, in which the reader is told that the hero and the heroine "lived together happily ever afterwards." For a number of years conditions in "that corner" appear to have been much like those at Dickinson, except that there being two boards of trustees and two faculties the penchant for logomachy was largely gratified without involving the student body, although they doubtless had their own troubles.

A later writer, when dealing with the Whiskey Rebellion that broke out in the aforesaid region, declares that the belligerents were, for the most part, of native stock, but that they had inherited two traits from their European ancestors: fondness for ardent spirits and a proclivity for theological controversy. He adds that they believed in the injunction, "Quench not the spirit," but connected it with the clause, "Stint not the spirits," provided they could be taken in liquid form. Although that part of the Keystone State is somewhat rough and rugged, the native inhabitants are now neither the one nor the other; on the contrary, for almost a century its citizens have been among the most orderly and prosperous in the Union. It should be noted that the whiskey for which these men showed such a marked predilection that they were ready to fight for the privilege of making and consuming it in unlimited quantities, was at least ten years old, far less deleterious to health than the modern product that can be made "between two days," And which is known by the expressive but not elegant name of "rotgut." Evidently these pioneers could not see the consistency between fighting Great Britain for imposing a tax upon them to which they had not consented and quietly submitting to a tax imposed by their own government to which they had not consented either. The authorities found, for the ten thousandth time, that, in the words of Edmund Burke, it is as hard to tax and to please as to love and be wise. The only tax which a man saw paid willingly (and we may fittingly substitute sees for saw) so far as he was himself concerned, was the tax paid by the other fellow, whether by his neighbor or by someone whom he had never seen and never expected to see. It is well, however, to keep in mind, when dealing with the western insurrection, that it was not the only one with which the government had to contend, although in the other cases it was not deemed necessary to call upon the Federal government; at any rate there was no answer to the call. The Fries Rebellion, or the Hot Water Rebellion, as it was sometimes designated, made a good deal of trouble in some of the eastern counties. Owing to the participation of women armed with pails of hot water the conflict partook somewhat of the nature of the Batrachamyomachia with which the students of Greek literature are familiar, — that is, a few of them are. The Fries Rebellion proved that "the Dutch" were quite as little disposed to pay taxes as their fellow citizens in the western part of the state. On the whole, the Pennsylvanians were perhaps less prone to take up arms against Great Britain than those of any other colony. Many of them were pacifists from conviction, while others were pacifists for different reasons. All of our school histories have much to say about the sufferings of the troops at Valley Forge; few tell their readers that there was no scarcity of food and clothing within easy reach, and that the farmers preferred to sell these commodities to the British for gold, rather than to the Colonials for promises. Doubtless many of the farmers agreed with the Irishman who, when twitted with being a coward, replied, "I would rather be a coward all my life than a corpse for five minutes."

The scene of the last post-revolutionary conflict in which Pennsylvanians engaged was much nearer to Carlisle than either of the others. In fact, if President Van Buren had not remained obdurate, soldiers from the Carlisle barracks would have been in Harrisburg in their war paint. This so-called Buckshot War seems not only to have been fought without buckshot but without weapons of any kind more dangerous than sharp tongues. The casualties were about as numerous as those reported by Dietrich Knickerbocker in his veracious History of New York.

There does not seem to have been much hostility or even ill feeling between the younger men of Carlisle, at any time, and the students. At any rate, very little was perceptible in the sixties. Neither does there appear to have been a prescribed list of penalties for offenses, as there was at Harvard for example, where it was very long. Nor was there ever any disposition to make any distinction of rank, and perhaps not in the country generally except in the South and at Harvard, where the social status of the parents fixed that of their sons. The lower class men were also regarded as inferior to the higher. Some of these regulations and penalties were still on the statute books of the college when C. W. Eliot became president. It is probable that Pennsylvania, owing to the heterogeneous character of its population and to the impress of its founder, was, for a long time, more nearly a democracy than any other State in the Union; for, be it remembered that a democracy and a republic are not the same thing. Notwithstanding the influence of Roger Williams, Rhode Island, in time, became perhaps the most reactionary state of the original thirteen. It is not probable that the young fellows at Dickinson were more obstreperous than they were elsewhere, although there is a strong likelihood that the demoralizing effects of the revolutionary war perdured decades after its close. Besides, in a small town a peccadillo could easily be magnified into a serious crime or an unpardonable sin. What was lacking in most colleges was a disciplinarian like Dr. Nott at Union, who understood boys and young men as few persons understand them. Although Union was often spoken of as "Botany Bay college," because of the number of outcasts assembled there, it does not appear that it turned out more men who became "hard cases" than other institutions. Nott seems to have governed young men mainly by placing confidence in them. Experience has proved that a "trusty" from a penitentiary will seldom disappoint a warden. Albeit, the days of Nott and Arnold are gone forever. When the entire student body did not exceed several, or at most, ten score, a considerable amount of oversight and personal influence was altogether practicable. But when the student body runs even into the thousands it is impossible. The problem is also rendered more complex by the fact that many of our colleges of former days have expanded into universities, and many of our college towns have grown into cities. Under such circumstances, personal oversight is out of the question. Less stress is laid upon repression and more, perhaps too much, upon fostering non-academic activities in order to direct the superfluous energies of young people toward moral ends, or at least towards ends that are innocuous. Something of the sort was absolutely necessary. If student life has lost something of its piquancy and picturesqueness, it has gained a good deal in wholesomeness.

It was probably not a unique condition of affairs that although the Dickinson boys engaged in occasional logomachies they never resulted in fisticuffs. American students, like their English predecessors and contemporaries, never resorted to the German mode of vindicating their honor. A German students' duel is about as deadly as a knockdown with fists, but it is much more elaborate and a great deal more bloody. English-speaking students unconsciously accepted the truth of a dictum uttered by a Swiss soldier to a Frenchman with whom he had a quarrel. When the latter declared proudly, "We French fight for honor; you Swiss fight for money," the former replied, "Each of us fights for that of which he has the least." A certain student whose name appears in the Alumni Record as retired in 1860 (and it might have been added, on advice of the faculty), threatened to "lick" the writer of these lines, at the first favorable opportunity, for insulting him. But he has not yet carried out this threat. The probable reason is that, as he afterwards entered the Christian ministry, he changed his mind. Moreover, he attained some distinction in his calling.

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