« PreviousContinue »
conduct of the Saybrook people, who seem to have taken themselves quite seriously. They had lost the college, but the library was still with them, and that they proposed to keep by force if necessary. The Civil authority was invoked, and the Governor and Sheriff appeared upon the scene. On account of the determined opposition of the community, it became necessary to impress unwilling farmers with their oxen and carts, and the removal of the books commenced amid great excitement. During the night, bridges on the road to New Haven were broken. This might delay the removal, but of course could not prevent it. Unfortunately many of the books, with valuable manuscripts, were lost and never recovered. Thus ended, somewhat ignobly, the Saybrook period of the college history. At no time during this period was the college completely domiciled at Saybrook; but the commencements were held there for fifteen successive years. The whole number of students graduated there, as recorded in the triennial catalogue, was 56, giving an average of less than 4 to each graduating class.
And now we find the college—the Wethersfield secession collapsed—the Saybrook connection severed—calmly pursuing the even tenor of its way under the new and efficient Rector, Rev. Timothy Cutler. Apparently it was firmly established, when suddenly, like a thunder clap out of a clear sky, an event occurred which shook the college to its foundation, and appears to have thrown some doubt once more upon its continued success. This was nothing less than the announcement that Rector Cutler, the head of this Puritan college, had gone over to Episcopacy, and was actually about to seek ordination at the hands of a bishop. We cannot adequately realize the dismay occasioned by this event, but we are helped to form some idea of it by President Woolsey's illustration. He says: “I suppose that greater alarm would scarcely be awakened now, if the Theological faculty of the college were to declare for the Church of Rome, avow their belief in transubstantiation, and pray to the Virgin Mary.” When it was found that Rector Cutler's views and intentions could not be changed, he was removed from the Rectorship.
President Woolsey says: "This act of deposition all will allow to have been necessary in a Seminary which was intended for the training of ministers as much as for any other purpose; and which was founded, endowed, and governed by adherents of the Congregational system.” If any are disposed to question this, we may ask how many denominational colleges even at the present day would permit a president to retain his place, after leaving the denomination and joining another?
At the same meeting in which Rector Cutler was excused from further service, the trustees voted that hereafter the Rector and all his associates on the teaching force must subscribe to the Saybrook Confession, and in addition must give satisfaction of the soundness of their faith in opposition to Arminian and Prelatical corruptions; that the Rector and two trustees should have the power to examine a tutor with respect to the confession and soundness of his faith; and that if ever there appeared just ground for suspicion that a Rector or a tutor was inclining toward Arminian or Prelatical principles, a meeting of the trustees should be called as soon as possible to examine into the case. This is quite suggestive of a panic on the part of the trustees. And indeed their fears did receive justification from the difficulty experienced in finding any one who was willing to take the place of Rector Cutler. Three men were successively selected but all declined. So the presidency was put in commission, the trustees engaging to run the college in turn, each for one month. Strange to say, it survived this treatment for about four years, and then, in 1726, Rev. Elisha Williams, who had instructed the Wethersfield students before the various fragments of the college were united at New Haven, was chosen Rector.
The most unfortunate result of the Cutler incident was the resulting bit of legislation mentioned above, fixing upon Yale a sectarian character which it took a hundred years to outgrow. It was a false step in the process of founding the college which had to be retraced; but it was not retraced until persistent unfriendliness to so-called "prelatical corruptions” had prepared the way for the establishment of Trinity College at Hartford in 1823. The rule requiring a doctrinal test was repealed at a special meeting of the trustees on the day before the petition for a charter for an Episcopal college was presented to the legislature; but that conciliatory measure was then too late. Theodore D. Woolsey was appointed tutor soon after, and was the first college officer admitted to the Faculty since 1722 without subscribing to the doctrinal test.
A gift made to the college during these years of uncertainty should be mentioned here, partly to keep in remembrance the generosity of the distinguished donor, partly to correct a widely believed misapprehension with regard to its value. In 1731-32, Bishop Berkeley gave to the college his farm in Rhode Island, and the trustees leased it for 999 years. It has been publicly stated that this land is part of that on which the city of Newport stands, which makes it now of great value, so that the college has been largely the loser through a lack of business capacity, said to be quite characteristic of ministers. Our treasurer, Mr. Tyler, tells me that the property is situated in Middletown, the town adjoining Newport, that it is still a farm, and has been handed down from father to son for a long time. It consists of 96 acres of not very productive land, and the college receives for it a yearly rental of $140, which Mr. Tyler says is all it is worth. We may therefore turn the tables on the critics of the ministers. According to their own logic, the facts show remarkable business sagacity on the part of the reverend trustees, for the arrangement made by them in 1763 has continued to bring to the college a fair income for 138 years.
At the close of Rector Williams' administration, the college was fairly prosperous. The Hartford rivalry, the Saybrook excitement, the Cutler unpleasantness, had all died away, and success was assured. The work of founding the college was now complete, lacking only the formal recognition of that fact in its name:
Thus far it had been a collegiate school. In 1745 a new charter was obtained in which the institution was named Yale College, and its Rector was advanced to the dignity of President. This we may conveniently take as marking the close of the early formative period. The man who thus became
to old age.
the first President of Yale was Rer. Thomas Clap. He was also the last Rector, and as such, his name may properly end the list of honored names associated with the founding of the college. It the head of that list may also be placed, not inappropriately, the name of John Davenport. He it was who first conceived the plan of having a college in Yew Haren. For the realization of that plan he worked with unwearied zeal down
He did not succeeil during his lifetime in planting the college, but he did implant in the minds of the settlers an appreciation of what a college stands for, and a desire to secure it. This bore fruit after his death, when more was subscribed for the college in Vew Haren than in any other place. There may be doubt as to whether the actual founding of the college occurred in the closing year of the 17th century, but there can be no mistake in giving to men of that century the credit for laying, in a very real sense, the foundation of appreciation, sympathy, and desire, upon which the college rested.
Of the actual group of founders, seren were identified with towns of the old New Haren jurisdiction, and of them the most active was Rer. James Pierpont. He, more than any other one man, may be called the Founder of Yale. He was pastor of the First church in New Haven. His first wife was Mr. Davenport's granddaughter, and thus, as successor and relative by marriage to the first projector of a college in New Haven, he would naturally take a deep interest in the plan which in the earlier period failed of realization. He was well fitted to take up the work of his elder, and under more favorable conditions, start it toward a successful issue. In the first trying years the laboring oar fell to him, and without him it would seem that the enterprise might have fallen through. Toward the close of his life, it was at his solicitation that Mr. Dummer, the Colony's Agent in England, sought the acquaintance of Governor Yale, and enlisted his interest in the struggling young college at what proved to be the crisis of its early history. This work for it has been continued by his descendants, three of whom have been honored Presidents of Yale.
Honorable mention should also be made of Rev. Noadiah Russel of Middletown, who, "o far as the college records show,
was never absent from a single meeting of the trustees." faithfulness to their important trust, Mr. Russel may be taken as a representative of the body of trustees. They worked under great discouragement, in the face of many difficulties, and without reward other than the consciousness that they were helping to lay the foundation of an intelligent Christian commonwealth.
This was the purpose they kept steadily in view. It has often been said that Yale, in its early years, was practically a theological seminary. This opinion is largely due to President Clap. As we have seen, the attack made upon the independence of the college led him to put great stress upon
the fact that it was founded by ministers. Earlier than that, when the legal right of the college to separate from the parish and have a religious organization of its own was called in question, he defended that right on the ground of the ecclesiastical character and purpose of the college. As he put it, “The great design of founding this school was to educate ministers in our own way”—a sentence which has often been quoted as conclusive of the early character of the college. But the petitioners for a charter represented the desired school as a place "wherein youth should be instructed in all parts of learning, to qualify them for public employments in Church and Civil State." That the Founders were actuated by a deeply religious spirit, and sought by appropriate instruction to impress that spirit upon the students, no one can doubt. It would have seemed a strange doctrine to them if any one had said that religious instruction was inappropriate except in the training of ministers. In their apprehension, religion was the foundation of order and security in the civil state, hence religious instruction was equally appropriate for the two purposes of the school as stated in the petition. The terms of that petition, the few facts we have concerning the early course of study, and the large proportion of nonclerical graduates in the early years, point to the conclusion that Yale was always more than a Divinity School, and that it aimed from the start to give the broadest education attainable. In the absence of scientific text-books, the first Rector prepared a work on Physics for the