Page images
PDF
EPUB

Arrived at college, his day's work may be described in the words of a diary which is already in print, written by a distinguished graduate of the class of 1763, when a junior, who says :

“The method in which I divide my time is as follows nearly: Go to bed at 9 o'clock; rise about perhaps (512); (the figures are uncertain); prayers and recitation, which last to about 712; go to breakfast, and, if the weather is good, commonly take a small walk. This carries it to 8 or 814. Commonly from this time till 11 pursue my studies, unless something special; then attend recitation, which lasts to 12; then go to dinner; after, walk or follow some other exercise till (3?); then pursue my studies again till near 6, when I attend on prayers; after prayers go to supper, and spend the remainder of the evening commonly in conversation.”*

Not a very strenuous life, as compared with a diary of the present.

I recur to the pages of the faculty judgments for illustration of the changed times in another respect. *When we recall, as a matter of course, among the

expenses of building Connecticut Hall, an item of 67 pounds worth of strong drink, we may better understand how a typical instance of the cases of disorder then current was such an one as the following:

In the restoration of Connecticut Hall after the use and abuse of forty generations of students, the indefatigable committee have been content with restoring the portion above ground; but in the original plan the cellar also played an important part. This was carefully divided into bins, corresponding to the rooms above, subject to separate rental, and intended for the storage of perishable supplies brought painfully from home on horseback or despatched during term-time by friendly carriers.

In the case now referred to, the disorder consisted in breaking open the bin allotted to an unpopular tutor, stealing sundry bottles of wine (valued at six shillings sixpence), and letting out half a barrel of cider (valued at four shillings), “which

Kingsley's Yale College, I, 445.

*

19

[ocr errors]

damnified the cellar," says the careful record, "to the value of two shillings.” Four luckless youths, of whom one (Theodore Sedgwick) was afterwards a United States senator and justice of the supreme court of Massachusetts, were fined from ten to twelve shillings apiece,--at least triple the amount of actual damage—for the escapade.

And this example leads me to say that, of course, the overfree use of liquor was frowned upon by the government; but unquestionably a good deal of drinking went on without notice or protest. It seems as though it was only in consequence of excesses like that described by the records as "a general treat or compotation of wine, both common and spiced—at which the greater part of the sophomore class was present," that the faculty endeavored to check the abuse by a liberal distribution of their most usual penalty, pecuniary fines, ranging in case of the treat just noticed from two to five shillings.

That the devil of strong drink was not thus, however, totally exorcised, may appear from this subsequent record, where a student, "without any permit, sent a freshman to bring in a quart of rhum into college, and on the next Lord's day when he came into the chappel at the public worship, brought in part of the said ruhm in a bottle or phial, and gave it to some scholars, who then and there drank of it.”

The mention of sending a freshman on an errand without permit suggests two phases of the college life which also deserve notice.

The sending outside for liquor was in violation of the arrangements which provided a college buttery in the south front corner room on the ground floor of Connecticut Hall. In that office centered a very essential part of the social life of college for more than a century; the butler, who was a recent graduate, kept for sale among other things a supply of what perhaps that age regarded as "soft drinks," cider, metheglin and beer, and doled them out in small portions on easy terms of credit; it was the "Yale Coöperative Store” and something more of its generation, and a focus of gossip and good fellowship. By thus licensing a traffic in the milder drinks, it was hoped to remove

the temptation for ordering stronger liquors, which by other laws were prohibited.

Again, we are reminded in this account of that other ancient custom which was handed down from the earliest generations, and lasted until the dawn of the modern era under the elder Dwight-namely, the subordination of the freshmen to the upper classes, and their authorized instruction by the sophomores in their social duties.

In the eyes of the faculty this provision was almost the chief comerstone of good government, as may appear by this quotation from a vote of January 18, 1752:

“Whereas last Tuesday evening, Cary, a freshman, being called before the sophomores, went out of the room in contempt of them, and said these words: 'I swear I will not stay here any longer,' which is contrary to the laws of God and this college. It is therefore considered by the president, with the advice of the tutors, that the said Cary shall be suspended from all the privileges of this college.” He was, however, restored, four days later, on making suitable public confession for his crime in the hall.

The safeguard from abuse of their power by the sophomores lay in their being in turn subject to the seniors, who had the right of investigating the behavior of under classmen and reproving them for undue harshness.

But seniors themselves were by no means immaculate, in matters of dignity and propriety; as appears, to cite a trivial instance, by one of the earliest mentions of the incomplete "New College,” as Connecticut Hall was originally called, where some of the seniors who were first allowed as a special privilege to room there, before the whole was ready, were found guilty of breaking open the garret doors and moving their beds into the attractive unfinished expanse.

When Connecticut Hall was in its pristine newness, special rules were framed to ensure that no damage be done to the building, though the ingenuity of depredators could not be entirely foreseen. One of the earliest offenses on record is when half a dozen venturesome sophomores and freshmen (one of them, Chandler Robbins—in after life a doctor of divinity) cut out their names upon the leads and shingles on the top of the "New College," and were fined from fourpence up to one and six. Another similar but not so unfamiliar an impropriety was the cutting of names upon the doors, or on the solid oak tables which in those days were handed down as a part of the permanent furniture of each room.

The penalties for misconduct which I have thus far cited from the ancient records have been mainly in the form of fines; another effective weapon in the hands of the faculty was the penalty of degradation. Until 1766 the list of each class was arranged at entrance, not alphabetically, but on the basis of supposed social rank; and any grave misdemeanor might be punished in a way that would be keenly felt, by changing the culprit's place in the class list, and ranking him below some of those less fortunate youth whom he had hitherto been privileged to look down upon as his social inferiors. The custom had a long pedigree, and had come to Yale in the most natural manner from Harvard; but I am confident that it had never been congenial to the spirit of the place, and was found by the authorities to be exceedingly difficult in practice. It was, however, of avail as a penalty, and there are instances on record where it was resorted to for what seems such a comparatively trivial offence as going out of town without leave.

The question of the efficiency of the various punishments in vogue was sometimes debated by the faculty, with this curious conclusion in one instance, in March, 1753, where the record

runs :

"Whereas the ringing of the bell, contrary to the laws of this college, is a thing of very bad tendency, and is the occasion of great disorder in the college; and a great variety of punishments have been heretofore inflicted upon those who have been guilty of that crime, which have not been sufficient to stop and suppress it. And, whereas, last evening, the bell was rung almost incessantly, for the space of about an hour, partly before and partly after 9 o'clock; and Miner (a freshman) was catched in the act of ringing of it. It is therefore considered and determined by

the president, with the advice of the tutors, that the said Miner shall have his ears boxed by the president.

“This punishment was forthwith inflicted,” but it did not stop unlawful bell ringing.

The mention of the college bell, a valued possession dating only from 1742, suggests a notice of the other buildings in existence at the opening of Connecticut Hall. The bell then hung over the middle entry of the original college, henceforth to be known as “the Old College”; that long and high though narrow wooden structure, which had been built in 1718 on a part of the ground now covered by Welch and Osborn halls. This had the honor of having been the building to which the original name of “Yale College” was attached, an appellation which passed easily from the building to the whole institution, but which always remained in a peculiar sense the designation of this structure. In its palmy days it is described as an especially sightly building, with something of an air of grandeur, which Connecticut Hall never aspired to. It contained, besides bedrooms and studies, a dining hall (used also for daily prayers and after November, 1753, for Sunday services and a library.

In the dining hall commons were served daily to all the students, except the few who had liberty to board at home or with near relatives; and the fare provided by the steward was a source of perennial complaint. It was the frequent custom for students in want of pocket money to dispose of a portion of their daily commons—as, for instance, of their bread and beer,--and the noise and confusion attending this barter became such a nuisance that the faculty were obliged to adopt (in 1752) an order that no scholar should publicly cry or attempt to sell his commons on the Lord's day, or the evening preceding (which was holy time), or in study hours, on penalty of having them forfeited to the waiters, who were themselves appointed from among the needy undergraduates.

The only other building belonging at this date to the college was the president's house, a wooden Colonial mansion, built in 1722, and standing until 1834 nearly on the site of the present College street hall.

« PreviousContinue »