Page images

for lasting remembrance; and the donor, Mr. Nathaniel Lynde, was a wealthy and liberal resident, who was also at this meeting elected the first Treasurer of the School, though it is uncertain whether he actually entered on that service.

The Rector put in charge of the expected students was the minister of Killingworth, the next town to the west. It is known that this choice of Mr. Pierson was in the minds of the leaders from the first, and this was another argument for deciding on Saybrook—the only site in view which could have ensured the retention of the rectorship by the one man who was wanted for the post.

We have, then, the Collegiate School erected in Saybrook in November, 1701; but before pursuing the story of its fortunes, let us ask what sort of a world it was in which the new-born College found a place.

The charter of organization was granted by the Governor and Company of His Majesty's Colony of Connecticut-His Majesty being King Williarn the Third, now in the closing months of his reign. To realize the distance of that time from ours, one need only glance at the sole English newspaper which was issued during that meeting at Saybrook, the semi-weekly London Gazette. America is not so much as named in the number for November 13, which is chiefly concerned with the Proclamation dissolving one Parliament and calling another and the stream of loyal addresses on occasion of the French King's ungracious backing of the Pretender's title to the claims of James II, who had just died in exile.

In English arms and statesmanship it was the age of the great Duke of Marlborough; in letters, the age of Defoe and Swift, of Steele and Addison, of Bentley and Evelyn, of Congreve and Cibber; in science, of Newton; in philosophy, of Locke; in religion, of Burnet and South; but these great names were practically as far away from the life and experience of the Connecticut Colony in her scattered and obscure villages, as they are from the life and experience of to-day. Though the colonial government was in theory dependent on the English crown, 'in fact the people enjoyed high privileges, notably that of electing their own Governor and inferior officers; but these blessings were held with constant risk of loss, more by reason of rash legislation in the sister Province of Massachusetts Bay, than from Connecticut's own imprudence. Happily the present danger was averted, and the undisturbed confidence of the community justified by the event.

Of the details of life and activity in Saybrook, I have no right to speak: it is enough that the same simple surroundings, there as elsewhere in the Colony, developed a sturdy, self-reliant stock, not easily overawed by dignities.

The erection of the College at Saybrook was as yet, however, merely nominal. The Trustees held their second meeting at New Haven in April, 1702, when Mr. Pierson, who had already one or two students, announced his readiness to accept the rectorship, but declined to promise a removal to Saybrook. It was voted at the same meeting that the School should not be permanently settled further eastwards than Saybrook nor further westwards than New Haven; and a commentary on this vote is found in a letter written soon after by Mr. Buckingham to Major James Fitch, of Plainfield, who had offered to the Trustees a tract of land described in the accompanying deed as a gift to “the Collegiate School in Saybrook." His interest in the School was increased perhaps by the fact that he was himself a Saybrook boy, the child of the first Saybrook minister; but Mr. Buckingham wishes to request that the deed may run instead “to the Collegiate School in Connecticut,” adding, “A strong designe hath risen up to carry it farther westward: it is not yet fixed: whether the continuing it in an hovering posture be to advantage, time will discover.”

Five months later, on September 16, 1702, at Mr. Buckingham's house, which faced the College house, the Green lying between them, the first Commencement was celebrated privately, when one candidate, who had finished his studies with the Rector, was admitted to the degree of Master of Arts, and four Harvard Bachelors were also advanced to the grade of Master. In contrast with modern standards the bill of £3. 4, which the Treasurer paid for the expenses of the occasion, seems modest enough.

The second College year began with this date, and during its course some eight students were under the care of the Rector, aided by a Tutor,-the Senior Class of one being John Hart, of Farmington, afterwards pastor in East Guilford, and the father of a more distinguished Saybrook pastor, whose descendants are with us to this day.

For the next three or four years the School continued on the same plan,—the students being taught in Killingworth, and Commencements held at the meeting house on Saybrook Point. Very likely the Trustees could not afford to pay what was needed to compensate Killingworth for the loss of a pastor, and so they allowed the existing arrangement to go on; but it pleased no one, least of all the Rector's parishioners, who were just threatening final measures to rid their village of the School, when the Rector died suddenly, in March, 1707.

As soon as possible a pro-tempore Rector was named—the Rev. Samuel Andrew, of Milford—and the Senior Class of that year migrated to his house, while the rest of the scholars settled in Saybrook under a Tutor.

Soon after that the whole School was brought together in Say. brook and a second Tutor employed, while Mr. Andrew served thenceforth merely as a referee in difficult cases and as presiding officer at the Commencements. And in recognition of this step, which marks the full establishment of the School in Saybrook, Mr. Lynde at length, in 1708, executed the deed of the house which he had offered seven years before to the Trustees, who now for the first time took formal possession of the premises.

Henceforth the students increased in number—up to or just over twenty-five,-and the graduating class twice swelled to a total of nine, the average being less than half that figure, and the age of graduation just beyond nineteen years.

Of the sixty young men who received degrees at Saybrook, nearly one-half filled Connecticut pastorates. The most eminent of the group in their after careers were Jared Eliot, Rector Pierson's successor in the Killingworth pulpit, unrivaled amongst

[ocr errors]

his generation as an investigator in physical science, Jonathan Dickinson, first President of Princeton College, and Samuel Johnson, first President of Columbia College and the father of Connecticut episcopacy.

If we ask what the classes at Saybrook studied, a general answer only can be furnished. On admission they were examined in Greek and Latin grammar, in the translation of easy passages in both tongues, and in Latin Composition. The first two years of the course were given mainly to the three learned languages, the Scriptures being the text-book for Hebrew and Greek, and a stiff course in Logic being added in Sophomore year, which was taught either by oral dictation or by a Latin text-book. The third or Junior year was devoted mainly to Physics, which was studied from a manuscript Latin treatise by Rector Pierson; while the Seniors were engrossed with Metaphysics and Mathematics. Besides these subjects, Rhetoric and Theology were assigned to fixed hours weekly through the whole

four years.

Proficiency in colloquial Latin was thought to be secured by requiring all the undergraduates to use that tongue in their intercourse with one another, outside the classrooms.

The day began with public prayers at six o'clock--or at sunrise when that was after six,—and the rest of the forenoon, except the half-hour for breakfast, was given to study and recitations. After the noon dinner came an hour and a half for recreation. The day's work ended at evening prayers, except for any who chose to study between nine o'clock, when all must be in in their own rooms, and eleven, when lights must be out.

Regularity in College duties and respect for the rights of the outside community were secured by a system of penalties, in which pecuniary fines held a large place. And there were some compensating privileges, as in 1703, at the beginning of a tedious French and Indian war, when the General Assembly passed a special Act exempting students from military service.

In the later part of the life of the School at Saybrook, important changes occurred in the Board of Trustees. By 1714 one-half the original body, including such conspicuous members


as Chauncy, Buckingham, Pierson, and Pierpont, had died; and their places had been filled with successors whose choice was natural from their prominence in the Colony, but whose local affiliations strengthened on the whole the dormant claims of New Haven to the final possession of the School.

In 1714 one notable event happened: the Trustees received from England over 700 volumes at once, to be added to their slender library, and the immediate result of such riches was an absolute necessity for a larger building. The Assembly was approached for aid, and £500 was at length granted, to be paid from the sale of lands transferred from Massachusetts to Connecticut in compensation for encroachments her boundary.

In April, 1716, when this payment became due, the question of remaining at Saybrook came up in a new form. A crisis had arrived. The School had a non-resident Rector, two Tutors, who happened to be young, inexperienced, and unpopular, and about twenty-five scholars, some of whom were unable to find lodgings within a reasonable distance. Perhaps the choice of Saybrook had not fully justified itself by the measure of

prosperity attained in the past fifteen years. For instance, three students only had come in all these years from Western Massachusetts, four from Long Island, and none from Rhode Islandnot a hopeful response to the argument advanced when Saybrook was chosen, that so adjacent neighbors might be best accommodated.

And the Trustees were divided among themselves. Some of those desirous of removal had so far fomented the dissatisfaction with the tutors, that the Board were compelled at this meeting to sanction a general dispersal of the scholars into small groups, studying for their degrees wherever they could find fit teachers.

In May, two influential Trustees who lived in Hartford took the extraordinary step of joining with other gentlemen in asking a hearing from the Assembly in behalf of a removal of the School to that town. This attempt to ignore the chartered rights of the Trustees was happily unsuccessful, the chief result being to arouse a more violent opposition to the movers.

« PreviousContinue »