The University of Delaware: A History – Chapter 2
Chapter 2: The Founding of Newark College
When the academy had been closed almost three years, the inhabitants of Newark became eager to have it reopened. Fears of enemy encroachment were not serious after June 1778, when the British abandoned Philadelphia. British vessels patroled off Cape Henlopen for several years more and occasional maritime raids were made on bay shipping and up the small rivers of Delaware. The threat to an inland town like Newark, however, was not serious.
One hundred and fourteen men of the vicinity signed a petition to the General Assembly of the new "Delaware State" in March 1780 asking it to "constitute a publick Seminary of Learning" here where experience had shown "Boarding & Lodging for a great Number of Pupils can be furnished" as reasonably as anywhere in the state.1 But when the General Assembly met that spring in Lewes–it was peregrinating around the state at that time before it settled down permanently in Dover in October 1781–it took no action on this petition. Matthew Wilson, the only trustee of the Newark Academy who lived in Lewes, may have confused the assemblymen by presenting them with his own plan for a school in Newark. In his words, he "sketched out a charter for a Delaware college, similar to that of N. Jersey," to be established in Newark, "the best Seat for the Muses." Here, he argued, young men would be removed from the temptations of cities, which were fitter to produce dancing masters than "clean and decent" students. No state was more backward than Delaware, Wilson insisted, in cultivating "the soul-enlarging sciences." He knew that Delaware was too poor, oppressed by the war as it was, to do much for the time being, but if the assembly would "plant a College [in Newark] immediately," it could grow by degrees–especially if the legislature gave encouragement by supporting professors, purchasing a library, and attending commencements.2
His proposal might have been accepted, Wilson was told, but that Samuel Patterson, a legislator who was also a trustee, said that Wilson’s idea was not authorized by the board.3 In fact, the board of trustees had not been able to meet for years for lack of a quorum. In January 1781 they explained their problems and their needs in a petition to the legislature. There was a problem, they wrote, in assembling a quorum because some trustees, like Francis Alison and William Allen, had died, others were far away, like Andrew Allen, who had fled to London, and Hugh Williamson, who had moved to North Carolina, and still others were too busy or too old to come to a meeting.
No new charter was needed because they had a certified copy of the old one, but they needed "an adequate Fund," their attempts to raise money "having through various accidents proved ineffectual." And they came to the same conclusion on the need for a college as did Matthew Wilson when he had acted alone in the spring of 1780–conclusions that are not strange in view of the historic aspirations of the Newark Academy.
They asked the assembly to "erect" the institution "into a College upon a broad and catholick Bottom," with equal privileges for all denominations of Christians. Adjusting to the times, they were deemphasizing the Presbyterian connection and emphasizing a patriotic motive. "The publick Education of the youth of a State" would contribute to its good government. Appointment of some state officials to the board of trustees would give assurance that the institution would live up to expectations in terms of public service. These petitioners were undoubtedly thinking of the transformation recently effected in Pennsylvania, where the College of Philadelphia, which had a board loaded with favorites of the old colonial administration, had been turned into the University of Pennsylvania, dominated by supporters of the Revolution. Of the trustees signing this petition, one, Thomas McKean, was chief justice of Pennsylvania, and another, John Ewing, had been chosen as the first chief executive (under title of provost) of the new university. The trustee-legislator Samuel Patterson did not sign the petition.4
Perhaps Patterson did not wish to be committed to support it. At any rate, the legislature took no action on this petition, or on others presented in 1782 and 1783 that emphasized the need for more trustees from the state of Delaware.5
Meanwhile, without any official action by the trustees, the academy had been reopened in 1780 by a man named William Thomson. Little is known about his birth and early career but he may have been related in some way to Charles Thomson, the former secretary- treasurer of the board of trustees. In 1775 he had been married to Margaret Popham, an Irish-born resident of Newark, and he was apparently living in Newark before he reopened the academy since he was one of the residents who signed the petition of March 1780 in its behalf.6
Thomson’s revival of the academy met with fair success, though enrollments never reached pre-Revolutionary levels. By 1782 he had twenty-seven students enrolled,7 and over the next two years the enrollment ranged from twenty-two to thirty, in five graded classes. The boys boarded with Newark families, as before. We have the records of Robert Gibbon Johnson, of Salem, New Jersey, who attended the academy for three years from June 1782 to April 1786, lodging throughout that period at the home of Alexander McBeath, a leading citizen who had one of his sons in the academy at the same time. Johnson, the son of a wealthy landowner, was fourteen years old when he left the Newark Academy and entered Princeton College.8
In the year that Robert Johnson entered the Newark Academy, an era in its history closed with the death of Alexander McDowell on January 12, 1782. McDowell had remained a trustee and had signed the petition of January 1781 requesting a college charter for the academy, but otherwise he apparently had little to do with the revival of the school; in fact, at the end of his life he was living in New London and threatening to sue the treasurer, Samuel Patterson, and perhaps also John Ewing, for money owed him.9
A few years earlier there would have seemed to be no point in seeking money from the board of the academy, but, to the general surprise, some of its endowment survived the war and was in the hands of Ewing when the trustees finally were able to meet, on June 5, 1783. He reported having Continental certificates of various dates from 1777 on, with a face value of $6,700 and specie value of over 500; bonds of Benjamin Rush, Dr. Robert Harris, and Francis Alison (whether the late founder, or his son, a physician, is not clear), worth, with interest, 580; two legacies thought to be worth 125; and 52 10s., due on a house sold in 1779. The total value was stated as slightly more than 1,275, presumably in Delaware or Pennsylvania currency, which were similar in value.10
At this 1783 meeting of the trustees, held in Wilmington, the corporate life of the Academy of Newark began anew. No definite statement survives to indicate who presided, but since the name of John Ewing is listed first it seems probable that he served as president at this first meeting following the death of Francis Alison. Besides the funds that Ewing reported, reference is made to two deeds and mortgages that had been captured by the British but returned and put in the hands of Patterson, the treasurer.
Aside from the accounting that was made of these endowment funds, the business of the meeting was to confirm the position of William Thomson as the principal teacher and to appoint new trustees to replace those who had died or resigned. The five new trustees who were chosen consisted of two Presbyterian ministers, James Latta and John McCrery, and three laymen, Nicholas Van Dyke (the chief executive, then called president, of Delaware) and two other prominent residents of New Castle County, James Latimer and Richard Cantwell.
This election marks a stage in the increasing identification of the Academy of Newark with the State of Delaware. Despite pretensions that the academy was for all Christians, it did not cease to be a predominantly Presbyterian institution. Besides the two Presbyterian ministers, at least one other new trustee, President Van Dyke, was a prominent Presbyterian. But whereas only four of the thirteen original trustees named in the 1769 charter lived in Delaware, all of the five new trustees except Latta, who was a nephew of Francis Alison, were from this state.
The election of trustees from Delaware was not new. All members known to have been added to the original board before the war forced closing were from Delaware–Dr. McKinly, Patterson, Montgomery, and John Thompson (brother-in-law of Thomas McKean), as well as Caesar Rodney, who never accepted the appointment. But the addition of four Delaware trustees at once in 1783 gave a definite Delaware flavor to the board, which had once been dominated by Philadelphians. Whether or not this improved the chance of getting aid from the state legislature–and no aid came from this source for several decades–it did make getting a quorum easier. While semiannual meetings were not always held on time hereafter, the board usually managed to get a quorum at least once a year until the late 1790s.
Ewing attended no more meetings after June 1783. James Mease, of Philadelphia, was also present then, as was Patrick Alison of Baltimore, but thereafter no trustees attended from a distance, excepting Thomas McKean, who was a former resident and had close family ties in Delaware; at that, he attended only one postwar board meeting, in 1784.
It is not clear who was president of the board of trustees through the immediate postwar years. The minutes make no reference to this office until 1794, when Dr. John McKinly is referred to as president; probably he had held the position for some time. After his death in 1796, Senator Henry Latimer, another doctor, began a long term of service as board president. Both men had previously served the board in lesser offices; McKinly had succeeded Patterson as treasurer in 1785, and Latimer had succeeded John Thompson as secretary in 1791.11
Apparently some thought was given after the war to moving the academy from Newark, for letters have survived from two trustees defending the location. Matthew Wilson, who had himself conducted a school at Lewes, declared he would allow Wilmington, New Castle, Dover, and Lewes to have private "grammar schools" that would "prepare for the Academy (i.e., in its ancient and original meaning, University of New-Ark," the oldest, best-located, and cheapest school, in his opinion, in three contiguous states.12 John Evans was also "fully of Opinion the School ought to be continued at New-Ark" and wanted it maintained "under the privileges of the old Charter." He acknowledged that "it has often been talked of to remove the School from New-Ark." This village, he argued, "is generally known to be healthy, which is a very great Incouragement for Parents to send theire Children to such a place." This point, "aded to the little risk there is in such a place to have theire Morals spoiled," along with other, unnamed considerations, were convincing to him.13
Perhaps the trustees regarded this question as settled by the fall of 1783, when they authorized some fairly extensive repairs to the academy building. New doors, sills, sashes, glass, and shutters were to be installed on the first floor, along with a new stove and two new windows in place of two doors. On the second floor, however, the windows were to be shut up with boards. Possibly the second floor had been the site of the old philosophical school. With it given up, the space was not needed, except, perhaps, for storage.14 This decision to close up the second floor demonstrates clearly the difference in scale between the postwar and the prewar academy. Despite brave talk about their hope of erecting a college "on a broad and catholick bottom," despite Matthew Wilson’s hope of an academy that would be a university to which preparatory schools in other towns would contribute, despite what it had once been, the Academy of Newark was now nothing more than a Latin grammar school.
As long as William Thomson remained principal of the academy it continued its placid course, prosperous enough to encourage the trustees to provide him with one or two ushers, or assistants. Isaac Eaton, Matthew Wallace, John Thomson (the principal’s son), and Robert Johnston came and went, shadowy figures who left little imprint on the scanty records of the now small and unimportant school.15
The effect of the postwar depression was seen in 1787, when the trustees persuaded residents of Newark to reduce substantially their charge for room, meals, and laundry from twenty-five to eighteen pounds a year. The tuition, however, remained at the already modest figure of five pounds a year.16 By 1794, when Henry and George Ridgely, of Dover, came to the Newark Academy, some charges were stated in dollars. Their widowed but well-to-do mother paid $60 a year for each boy’s board and room in the home of the schoolmaster, plus an extra $20 each "to have them more immediately" under Thomson’s attention. Tuition was still listed in the old way and at the old rate–five pounds.17
George was twelve and Henry, a future congressman, was fourteen when they came to Newark. To Mrs. Ridgely it was clear that it was a preprofessional curriculum, with Latin its basis, that was wanted, though there were doubts that George, who eventually entered the navy, was up to it.18 The boys had one dollar a month each as spending money through the school year, which consisted of two semesters, one beginning in May and ending in September, the other beginning at the end of October and ending in April. They did not go home for Christmas, for they had no long vacation then or at any other time except between terms.19
In October 1794, William Thomson left Newark to join the faculty of Dickinson College, then a Presbyterian institution, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The Newark Academy trustees intended to replace him with a clergyman from Scotland named John Burton, but for some reason he disappointed them. At the last minute the trustees filled the vacancy, at a salary of 125 a year, with a Reverend John Johnson, a man of whom little is known, though possibly he was a 1782 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.20
Under Johnson the academy did not do well, though possibly the decline was evident before Thomson left. In November 1794 there were only thirteen boys in attendance. The Ridgely brothers, who boarded with Johnson, found him "good-natured but not as good a scholar" as Thomson. At the end of the winter semester, they too left Newark for Dickinson.21
By September 1795 "the declining state of the school" was so obvious that Johnson agreed to take the loss himself if tuition money did not equal his salary, and at five pounds a head it would take an enrollment of twenty-five boys to pay him 125. By the close of the winter term in April, the enrollment had declined to four boys; nevertheless the trustees kept the school open, apparently appropriating some of the endowment money toward Johnson’s salary.22 The situation did not improve. In September 1796 Johnson resigned, and the trustees reluctantly decided to close the academy and, since it already had broken windows, to make it safe from further injury, by locking it up tight and boarding up the windows.23
The Academy of Newark was not the only Delaware school that was having trouble in these years. Its chief rival was the Wilmington Public Grammar School, generally known as the Wilmington Academy. This school also had a Penn charter, granted in 1773, and though it had not then shared the collegiate ambitions of the Newark Academy, its trustees constructed a "noble, stone edifice… commanding an extensive prospect of land and water" on high land along the east side of Market Street, between Eighth and Ninth streets. The trustees included the Reverend William White (later an Episcopal bishop) of Philadelphia, Thomas McKean, and the Reverend Lawrence Girelius, last Lutheran pastor of Old Swedes Church, who was the first president of the board. When the British invaded Delaware, this school was closed, like the Newark Academy. When it reopened it had suffered considerable damage from successive occupations by British, American, and French troops, but the trustees received compensation eventually from Congress.
They operated two schools in the same building, a Latin school and an English school, but with indifferent success, and the academy was closed from 1793 to 1796 and possibly again between 1797 and 1802. In the last-mentioned year the trustees received a new state charter for a "College of Wilmington," but despite the change in name the institution remained a struggling academy and never, so far as is known, awarded any degrees or seriously undertook college work. Lotteries were authorized for its benefit, but the Wilmington Academy declined until in 1821 a school for girls was allowed to occupy the premises and in 1832 or 1833 the site was cleared to make way for residential housing.24
At least three trustees of the Newark Academy, Thomas Read, Henry Latimer, and George Monro, also served at various times on the board of the Wilmington Academy. They must have been doubly disappointed by a statute enacted by the General Assembly of Delaware in 1796 that created a "fund for establishing schools" but provided that no part of this fund should "be applied to the erecting or supporting any academy, college, or university in this state."25
The probable reason for this exemption was the complete failure of public authorities in Delaware to do anything at all heretofore to support even the most elementary education, despite a provision in the state constitution of 1792 calling on the legislature to "provide…for establishing schools, and promoting arts and sciences."26 There was a feeling, as demonstrated clearly several decades later, that the state should help provide elementary instruction for children of the lower or middle class before it assisted academies and colleges, which necessarily catered exclusively to children of those wealthy enough to be able to provide a basic education from private resources.
The problems of the Newark Academy in 1796 were, however, in no way related to the 1796 law creating a public school fund, because it was many years before that fund was put to use for educational purposes and not until 1829 was any action taken to establish a public school system. Elementary education, except where furnished by eleemosynary institutions, like religious bodies (especially the Quakers), remained a private affair; at the secondary level the customary institution became the incorporated academy, with other towns in the state setting up their institutions rivaling the chartered academies of Newark and Wilmington.27 New Castle, for instance, had built an academy before 1801, when it was incorporated; the legislature empowered trustees to raise money by lottery for a Dover academy that was incorporated in 1810 and reincorporated in 1818; other schools and academies incorporated in these years include ones at Georgetown in 1812, at Camden in 1816, at Smyrna in 1817, at Odessa in 1818, and at Milton and Seaford in 1819.28
Considering the number of academies in Delaware and the fact that Newark was far from being either the largest, the most centrally located, or even the most politically influential community, it seems strange, at first glance, that it was from the Newark Academy and not from one of the academies in Wilmington, New Castle, Dover, or somewhere else, that the state college eventually grew.
Newark, however, was the oldest of these academies; it had the largest and probably the most distinguished body of alumni; it had, thanks to colonial fund-raisers, the largest endowment; perhaps because of the Presbyterian connection or for other less clear reasons it commanded the most support from influential men who were willing to work for its benefit, particularly at meetings of the state legislature.
Yet at the end of the eighteenth century the Newark Academy might have faded gradually from existence had it not been for the action of some Newark residents and a young Presbyterian minister named John Waugh. It is difficult to determine where the primary credit belongs, but some time early in 1799 the old school reopened and once again offered instruction in Latin and Greek, with the promise of adding mathematics shortly. An advertisement in the Delaware Gazette of May 22, 1799, was signed by seven Newark men, including Joseph Hossinger and Alexander McBeath.
John Waugh, the "professor," as they called him in the advertisement, was a very young man, a graduate of Dickinson College in the class of 1798. One of his teachers there was William Thomson, who had been principal of the Newark Academy from 1780 to 1794, and it is likely that it was through Thomson that Waugh learned of the opportunity for a schoolmaster in Newark.29 Like Thomson, Waugh married a young woman from Newark, but it is likely that this alliance came after he moved to this town to teach.30
The trustees wanted the school reopened but seemed unable to do anything about it until their hand was forced by the Newark people and Waugh, who apparently broke into the academy building on their own, opened it up, and started the school before they received the approval of the board. One reason the trustees were slow in acting was that they had trouble getting a quorum for a meeting. In fact, though they were supposed to meet semiannually, they had no meetings at all in 1798; probably for that reason they showed little resentment when at their meeting on April 17, 1799, they read a memorial declaring that "some of the inhabitants of Newark have lately opened the School" under the direction of John Waugh. They called Waugh in to discuss the state of the school and its prospects and agreed to take the school "under their authority" and to pay Waugh fifteen pounds in addition to tuition money for the next six months. But they would not pay for the work done on the school in preparing it for the reopening, since this had been done without their authorization.31
Before long the trustees decided they had a very good man in John Waugh, who eked out his salary by serving as a supply pastor at neighboring churches.32 In 1800 they raised his salary to $50 a semester, plus tuition fees ($20 a year), and authorized repairs to the roof and the front door sill (requesting that the new sill be made of cheap stone rather than of wood), and they ordered a bank of earth to be thrown against each end of the building for support–which suggests the construction was not very sturdy.33 In the fall of 1801, following an examination of the students that they were now conducting semiannually, at the end of each semester, the trustees declared they had never received greater satisfaction at any previous time "either from the orderly conduct of the youth, or the accurate proficiency made in their education." This satisfaction was proclaimed in a newspaper notice that urged parents to send their children to Newark, so it might seem a bit self-serving. Yet when Waugh died, still a very young man, in December 1806, the trustees’ satisfaction did not last long.34
Since this tragedy occurred in the middle of a semester it is not clear who carried on for Waugh, but when the term ended the trustees paid $50 to his widow, which suggests she or her husband (before his death) had hired a substitute. Perhaps it was William Cochran, whom the trustees appointed for the next six months. They paid him the same stipend Waugh had received, $50 plus tuition fees, but referred to him as tutor, whereas their minutes speak of Waugh as rector.35 This suggests that Cochran was even younger and less experienced than Waugh, as does the fact that they apparently did not consider him as a permanent replacement. Little is known of this man; perhaps he was the William Cochran who was a member of the class of 1800 at Dickinson but did not graduate.36 Since this class was but two years after Waugh’s, their paths must have crossed, and it seems possible that Waugh would have brought him to Newark as an assistant.
The man the trustees wanted to take over the academy as principal was Francis Hindman, still another Presbyterian minister, but apparently an older and more experienced teacher than either Waugh or Cochran. There was some problem in Hindman’s past that remains mysterious. In about 1790 he had come to this area, where his mother’s family lived, from the Presbytery of Lewes and had been issued a call by the two churches that had sheltered the origins of the Newark Academy–the New London Church and the Elk, or Rock, Church, near Lewisville; yet because of an accusation of unbecoming conduct he was never installed. However, he stayed in this neighborhood, supplying various churches and keeping school.37
When the Newark Academy trustees first approached Hindman, they found him unwilling to accept their terms. Negotiations followed, and Hindman eventually agreed to come for $200 a year, double the previous stipend. Since tuition fees augmented the salary, the trustees made it part of their agreement with Hindman, as it had been with Waugh, that he would teach two boys each term free of tuition on their recommendation. While these negotiations went on, the school was unable to open as usual near the first of November; instead the opening under Hindman was fixed for the first Monday in January.38
Through these early years of the nineteenth century, unfortunately, no list of the students survives. One student of whom we know was Louis McLane, son of the Wilmington customs collector and himself a future statesman of national distinction, who was eighteen years old when he studied at the academy in 1802 after leaving the navy and before entering the law office of James A. Bayard.39 Apparently Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland were regarded as the chief recruiting grounds, since the trustees specified on at least two occasions that announcements regarding the academy should be placed not only in the Wilmington papers, but also in the Easton Star, the only newspaper on the Eastern Shore, as well as in some Philadelphia and Baltimore papers.40
Leadership of the trustees underwent changes. The Reverend Thomas Read, a former teacher in the academy, succeeded Dr. Henry Latimer as board president in 1805, though he was merely acting president until 1808, when Latimer, who was probably ill, was dropped from the board for nonattendance for three years. Samuel Barr became secretary and Dr. George Monro, treasurer, in 1805, with James R. Black succeeding Barr in 1810.41
In the spring of 1807 a committee reported on the condition of the treasury before Monro took over from Dr. Latimer, who had been treasurer as well as president from 1797 to 1805. Though they were not able to get a full account from Latimer, the committee reported that over $7,400 of endowment funds were invested in government securities.42 In the fall of this same year the new officers insured the academy building, apparently for the first time, for $1,000.43
Though the trustees seemed to be conscientiously setting their affairs in order, the school did not prosper under Hindman. By 1811, attendance had fallen to seventeen, and complaints about Hindman’s behavior reached the trustees. One problem referred to in their minutes related to Hindman’s "attendance in school at the usual hours"; in other words, he was not meeting his classes regularly. A more specific problem involved his forcibly seizing a letter a student named Goldsborough had received from his father, a prominent Eastern Shore physician. The trustees were not all convinced that Hindman should be dropped, but a vote to let him go carried by the narrow margin of 4 to 3, with two trustees not voting (but apparently unwilling to vote to keep Hindman) and four absent.44
The secretary was instructed in September 1811 to advertise for a new principal, and he did. "To take charge of the Institution," the advertisment read, the trustees wanted to find someone immediately who was not only "well acquainted with the LATIN and GREEK Languages," but who was also "a gentleman of character." Candidates were to apply to the Reverend Dr. Thomas Read, the president of the board.45
Not surprisingly, when a Presbyterian minister was conducting the search and when the tradition of leadership at the Newark Academy was what it was, the "gentleman of character" who was found to fit the bill was another Presbyterian minister. The man they chose seems now so likely a choice that wonder arises whether he was in the minds of some of the trustees when they fired Hindman. In that case, the advertisements were a sham, or, more likely, intended only to explore what other candidates might be found.
In the spring of 1811, before Hindman was dismissed, Andrew Kerr Russell, valedictorian of the Dickinson College class of 1806, accepted a call to two local Presbyterian churches, White Clay Creek and Head of Christiana. From college Russell had gone to Washington, Pennsylvania, to study theology with the Reverend Matthew Brown and supported himself while he studied by teaching in a college that Brown had just started.46 (After it combined with a neighboring institution it became, as it is today, Washington and Jefferson College.)
On a brief visit to Newark, the home of his mother’s family, Russell had become acquainted with the two local congregations and they with him. The local congregations were so favorably impressed that they each issued a unanimous call for him, accompanied by an offer of $550 that he thought a little skimpy, especially since he was concerned that teaching might interfere with his pastoral duties or his health. From this letter, written in April 1811, it is obvious that teaching figured in his plans in first agreeing to come to Newark, although not necessarily at the academy, for it had no vacancy then. It is likely that he planned to teach at a Newark English grammar school that had just been incorporated on February 2, 1811. Yet he did accept the call. The most important factor to him, he declared, was not money, but the state of society; he would not want to be where "profligacy of manners" abounded or where "extravagance and dissipation" prevailed.47 Newark passed muster on these grounds.
Russell’s fears that the extra burden of teaching might be too much for him turned out to be baseless, or nearly so, for he combined preaching and teaching for the next twenty-three years. But the teaching was on a higher level than he had reason to expect in the spring of 1811. For when the trustees of Newark Academy sought a man of character that fall, they were not long in deciding that Russell was their man. The position was advertised on October 2; it was filled on October 11.48 Russell sought a people of character and they sought a man of character. The appointment seemed to be a good match.
And so it turned out to be. The academy prospered under Russell. Enrollment grew from the seventeen students at the end of the Hindman regime to forty-one students in the winter of 1814- 1815.49 Russell had at once hired a tutor in order to teach more subjects than in the immediate past; he asked for new equipment, especially globes and maps.50 The second story that had been closed off at the beginning of the century had to be opened up again.51 Russell wanted to raise tuition to compensate the teachers properly, but the trustees at first demurred; it was now, they said, the same as at neighboring seminaries.52 But in another year they capitulated, raising tuition by $4 to $24 a year, or $6 a quarter, probably the basis on which the school year was now organized.
And now, in 1817, the trustees began to think expansively again. They appointed a committee to seek from the legislature the right to raise money by a lottery "and also obtain collegiate powers for the Institution."53
The following winter, two members of this committee, James R. Black, a New Castle lawyer, and Andrew Gray, a state assemblyman from Mill Creek Hundred who had a son at the academy, presented a petition from their fellow trustees to the legislature. They argued that a college for instruction "in the Languages and the other Branches of Literature and Science" could be supported by gifts from friends of literature and by the funds of the Newark Academy with the "Patronage and assistance" of the legislature, from which they requested permission to raise $50,000 by lottery. The state senate sent the petition to a committee of which Andrew Gray was chairman, and in a matter of only seven days a bill was enacted allowing the Newark Academy trustees to raise $50,000 by lottery to establish a college.54
To the Delaware legislature, as to other state legislatures in the early nineteenth century, the lottery seemed a painless way of raising money for civic causes. Roads and schools and even churches were financed in this manner, which most citizens found much less objectionable than additional taxes. The statute authorizing a lottery named a board of managers, consisting of twelve members of the Newark Academy board of trustees, headed by their president, the Reverend Thomas Read (now customarily referred to as Dr. Read because of an honorary D.D. recently conferred on him by Princeton). The managers could conduct the lottery themselves, but normal practice was to hire a firm of lottery managers, of which the best known was Yates and McIntyre. The firm would print tickets, establish a "scheme" for the lottery (deciding on the value and the number of prizes, as well as on the timing), advertise it widely, and set up a network of agents to sell the tickets.55
In this case no action was taken for seven years. The difficulty was that every manager was required to post a bond of $5,000 before the lottery could begin, and many of the managers refused. An antilottery or antigambling movement was under way in the Presbyterian Church, which was gradually moving toward a position of disapprobation. In 1811 the Presbyterian general assembly had refused to take any action on lotteries, but in 1827 it declared them "infatuating and destructive" and in 1830 said they "should be discountenanced by all members, as immoral, ruinous in their effects…even when for a praise-worthy end."
Among the managers for the lottery authorized in 1818 were four Presbyterian clergymen, Dr. Read, James Magraw, John Burton (who had long ago–in 1794–been offered direction of the academy), and Samuel Bell, and they, with some lay support, provided a core of opposition to this manner of raising funds.56 On the other hand, Andrew Gray, James R. Black, and Dr. Monro, as well as other trustees, warmly supported the idea of a lottery and succeeded in having Russell sent to Annapolis to seek permission to sell tickets in this lottery in Maryland.57
The issue of public support for education received a good bit of attention in Delaware in 1819. A "bill to provide for the education of children" passed the lower house of the legislature but was then reconsidered and postponed; ten years more passed before a public school law was enacted. Andrew Gray, writing under the nom de plume of "Civis," urged the need of a college as well as of elementary schools. In fact, he suggested, a college and a system of county academies should get priority over elementary schools because the former would first need to produce teachers for the latter. Money could be kept in the state that at present was spent at out-of- state colleges by Delawareans, and poor boys of ability could be educated through college in Delaware at public expense. For funding he proposed taxing steamboats, stages, and merchants, simply because they escaped the current Delaware tax laws, plus physicians, lawyers, and public officials, because they profited from their education and lived on the public bounty.58
Other newspaper correspondents supported public education, though one of them, calling himself "A Delawarean," disagreed with Gray, arguing that a state college should be in a more central place than Newark, which was Gray’s choice, and that Delawareans were already overtaxed and should not be asked for more money for the benefit of a few.59 Gray, nevertheless, persisted in his plans for a college in Newark.
It is not clear what Dr. Joshua Brinckle, of Kent County, had in mind when he proposed in 1820 that the lower house of the legislature consider "the propriety of establishing a college in this State, and the means of providing funds for the same." A committee was set up, with him as chairman, but it made no report. A year later, however, a more effective advocacy of a college was heard in the legislature, when the acting governor, Jacob Stout, raised the issue in the annual governor’s message at the opening of the session. It was time, he said, for Delaware to establish a college and academies of its own and to quit depending on other states for the education of its young men.60
The state House of Representatives quickly appointed a committee, with Andrew Gray as chairman, to take up the governor’s recommendations on education. The committee was also assigned a bill that Gray introduced to establish a college in Newark or its vicinity; this bill, with amendments, they reported to the House, where it was passed with little change on January 24. On January 30, the Senate also passed the bill, with minor amendments, including one changing the name of the new institution from the College of Newark to Delaware College. The House quickly concurred.
The new statute of 1821 provided a fund for the college from the use of steamboats and stagecoaches, as Gray had proposed in his letters signed "Civis." From every adult steamboat passenger, a tax of twenty-five cents was to be collected for the college, and half that sum from each child. Stagecoach lines were to pay eight percent of their gross receipts for the same purpose. After this income had served to build and endow a college, it was to be used to set up academies in each county.61
The beauty of the funding provisions, in the eyes of their advocates, was that they were to some degree a tax on transients who used Delaware as an avenue of passage between New York and Philadelphia to the north and Baltimore and Washington to the south. The customary route between these cities brought travelers down the Delaware River from Philadelphia to New Castle by steamboat and then from New Castle by stage to a landing on the Elk River in Maryland, where steamboat passage was available down the Chesapeake Bay. The travel of Delawareans by steamboat and stagecoach was insignificant compared to the steady flow of other people through this state. It seemed that Gray had struck on a beautiful scheme for financing the college.
But this was not all. The governor, then John Clark, had proposed in 1820 that Delaware agriculture and manufacturing, depressed by the panic of 1819, needed protection against foreign goods. In response to his message a legislative committee recommended that the state collect a license fee from all merchants selling foreign products, in order to discourage the practice. A bill for this purpose was prepared, but action on it was postponed. When it came up again in 1821, Senator Samuel H. Black, of Glasgow, moved to give the income of this tax for the next five years to Delaware College. His motion was defeated, but the Senate agreed to give half of the income to the college. The House concurred and the new statute was enacted on February 5.62
Suddenly the long quest of the trustees of Newark Academy for official college status seemed to have ended successfully. What the Penn proprietors had denied to Francis Alison and his associates in 1769, what the General Assembly of the new Delaware State had refused in 1780, this long-sought blessing of a college charter had at last been achieved in 1821. And not only college status was won, but what was at least as important, a regular source of income from state taxes, with the promise of a special windfall if the already authorized lottery could be put into successful operation.
Unfortunately, the balloon of great expectations was quickly punctured. The friends of the college had achieved so much, so rapidly, that a reaction set in. That they were seeking more than the citizenry would support was indicated when a bill to borrow $20,000 for the college from the common school fund was defeated, though this would have allowed an immediate beginning of the College.63
As soon as the public became aware of the new taxes, public opposition became evident. After all, some vested interests were being disturbed, and they could be expected to fight back. Merchants, stagecoach and steamboat proprietors and employees, and all others dependent on transportation through Delaware for their livelihood, such as innkeepers and hostlers, would be likely to find the taxes obnoxious. Out-of-state interests–like investors in the Union Line of steamboats and importers and other dealers in foreign goods, including tea, coffee, spices, and wines–might also spur local protests.
The extent to which these were sources of opposition is not at all clear. An avalanche of letters to newspapers began in February and continued for months, but the authors often hid their identity behind pen-names. Local prejudices against Newark, as well as class prejudices, are easier to document. "A Wilmingtonian," for instance, claimed it was iniquitous to endow a college for the rich when there were no common schools for children of the poor and he lamented taking money from all over the state for Newark. "Nestor" suggested a class conspiracy. "A Friend in Sussex County" opposed aiding a college in a "poor corner of the state." In general, it was argued that it was unconstitutional to tax imports (through a license on retailers) or interstate travel, that it was unjust to tax the poor to support the rich (because poor men’s sons could rarely aspire to college), that elementary education should get prior support, and that the economy was too depressed to justify starting a college at this time.
Senator Samuel Black and Representative Andrew Gray were objects of personal attack, along with Representative Henry Whiteley, who was secretary of the Newark Academy board of trustees in 1821. Gray and Black signed letters explaining their actions, the latter categorically denying that the new taxes took money from the poor to aid the rich and defending himself from the charge of providing for his own children by declaring that the number of them, nine, precluded his thinking of a college education.64
At the same time that correspondents crowded newspaper columns with protests against the taxes for the college, public meetings in Wilmington, New Castle, and their vicinity (but not in lower New Castle County, nor apparently in Kent and Sussex) aroused popular prejudices and jealousies over the projected establishment of a college in Newark. Black, Gray, and Whiteley were hanged in effigy in both New Castle and Wilmington. These two communities, as time went on, were clearly revealed as the sources of opposition to the acts establishing and financing the college. They were both jealous of Newark as the location for a state college. They were also the homes of a good share of the merchants retailing foreign goods and of those interested in the operation of steamboats and stagecoaches.
In September, when the Democratic-Republicans, the dominant party in New Castle County for over twenty years, renominated Senator Samuel H. Black and Representatives Andrew Gray and Henry Whiteley, along with most incumbents, Wilmington and New Castle Democrats, with others, refused to accept this ticket and instead put an anticollege ticket in the field. The usual opposition party, the Federalists, who were in a minority in New Castle County–though still on equal terms or better in Kent and Sussex–decided to propose no ticket of their own, but instead to back the new anticollege "Independent Democratic" ticket.65
In the face of this opposition, Dr. Black withdrew from the contest. He had not changed his opinion about the tax laws he had supported and about the value of establishing a college, but he had served in the legislature a long time–since 1809–and declared that he saw no reason to continue a service that required him to be away from home five or six weeks every year.66 The controversy may have hurt Dr. Black a year and a few months later, for in early 1823 he missed being elected to the United States Senate by only one vote in a legislature that his party, the Democratic- Republicans, controlled. Feeling for and against him was so intense that no candidate won a majority and the Senate seat–both seats, in fact–remained vacant for a year.67 However, the Black family’s interest in Delaware College did not cease, as is notably demonstrated by the service of Dr. Black’s grandson, Charles Black Evans, who was secretary and treasurer of the board of trustees from 1896 to 1933.
While Dr. Black withdrew, Gray and Whiteley stood their ground in the 1821 elections, but they were overwhelmed. All of the incumbent assemblymen in New Castle County were defeated by a 2- to-l margin, though they did carry four hundreds, including White Clay Creek (where Newark is) and adjacent Pencader. Perhaps the college issue was not the sole reason for their defeat; in Kent and Sussex, where this issue does not seem to have been raised, the incumbents were also ousted, except for one man.68
When the new General Assembly met in January 1822, the anticollege forces went quickly to work, one of their members, Representative Jesse Chandler, of Christiana Hundred, which then included Wilmington, becoming chairman of a committee charged with bringing in a bill to repeal the College Act. But opinion in the assembly was not at all united, nor was the general public as far as its interest was demonstrated by petitions that were presented. For instance, Henry Moore Ridgely, of Dover, a former Newark Academy student, presented a petition signed by 300 New Castle County citizens against repeal of either the Retailers License Law or the College Act.69
In the end, the assembly compromised. The College Act was not repealed, but the heart was taken out of it by removal of the tax on steamboat and stagecoach transportation. The Retailers’ License Act was maintained, though amended to exempt apothecaries, but the provision that half of the income would go to Delaware College was repealed.70
It was a strange situation that resulted. The 1821 act incorporating Delaware College remained on the books, but the incorporation could not really go into effect because no trustees had been appointed and none were to be appointed until sufficient income had flowed into the College Fund to permit the construction of a college to begin. For the moment Delaware College was just a wraith, a vision of a college. But it was a wraith with a treasury, for the money that had accumulated was not to be taken away.
Governor John Collins told the legislature in 1822 that $2,387 had so far accrued from the Retailers’ License Act, half of which had been credited to Delaware College. No steamboat or stagecoach proprietors had paid any fees whatever, but the act repealing the taxes laid on their passengers had not cancelled their existing obligations. In theory they could be held for the taxes that should have been paid already; in practice, however, they were not, and no money ever came to Delaware College from this source.71
But one other law, one other source of funds, remained unaltered–the College Lottery Act of 1818. For those trustees who felt no moral or religious objection to raising money by a lottery, this was the hope for the future.
To allow the lottery to go forward, the General Assembly amended the 1818 act in 1825, reducing the number of managers to seven men and providing that a mere majority of them might act as soon as they posted bond. The four Presbyterian ministers were removed from the list of managers, leaving only such friends of the lottery idea as Andrew Gray, James R. Black, Henry Whiteley, and Henry M. Ridgely. "We have an opportunity," Black wrote Ridgely, in summoning him to a meeting, "of laying the foundation in our own State of a Seminary whose usefulness in our own day and in future years, may be very extensive."72
Negotiations were quickly completed with Yates and McIntyre, the professional lottery firm that had just managed a Union College (Schenectady, N.Y.) lottery, and sale of lottery tickets was soon initiated through a chain of agents, like John Sutton and Son of St. Georges, Isaac Tunnell of Georgetown, and J.J. Robinson of Wilmington. Yates and McIntyre printed and distributed tickets to the agents, held drawings, and dispensed prizes, of which there were many. They also handled other lotteries at the same time, combining for the first drawing, in August 1825, the college lottery with lotteries also authorized by the state for the benefit of the Middletown Academy and Immanuel Episcopal Church in New Castle. There was no thought of raising the full $50,000 in one drawing; instead, Yates and McIntyre spread their efforts out over ten years, to 1835.73
In 1824 the state had provided for the safekeeping of the funds from the retailers’ license tax that were already earmarked for Delaware College. They ordered the state treasurer to purchase government bonds or other productive securities and further directed him annually or semiannually to reinvest the dividends, as well as any donations that might be given to the projected institution. The money invested was to be called the College Fund.74
For the rest of this decade and into the 1830s money continued to accrue to this fund, while other money came directly from the lottery proceeds to those academy trustees who were its managers. Fifteen years passed from the original Lottery Act of 1818 to 1833, before construction of a college began.
Meanwhile Russell kept the Newark Academy functioning through good times and bad. The academy community was shocked in December 1815 by the suicide of a student from Elkton, eighteen-year-old William Henry Cosden. Cosden had run away from school to join the army, but had been ordered back by his father. According to the newspaper, he could not disobey his father but felt it dishonorable to return.75 Another sad event for the academy was the death of its good friend, Dr. Samuel H. Black, which occured suddenly in April 1827 when he was in Newark as a trustee attending the semiannual "exhibition" of the academy students.76
The exhibitions were a feature of ceremonies that included a public examination, conducted by the trustees, at the end of every semester. In 1826 the trustees were pleased that Russell’s students acquitted themselves well in rhetoric, "especially since it was not included amongst their internal duties but was an extra service, studied in hours of recess and thus not interfering with their regular recitations in the Classics." Similarly, the students in this classical academy acquired a knowledge of history "while prosecuting other studies."77
For a time an English school was conducted separately from the academy. Incorporated in 1811, but apparently functioning for years before that date, it was conducted in 1819 by Philip M. Steele and advertised itself as the "Newark English Grammar and Mathematical School." Its success must have been modest, for even in advertising its location it noted that Newark was "known for its flourishing Academy."78
In less than ten years the academy apparently absorbed the English Grammar School. In the spring of 1826 the academy trustees announced that to accommodate more students they were making substantial repairs, including fixing up a separate room for a mathematical and English department. They instructed Russell to hire two teachers, one for the classical and one for the English- mathematical department, both to be under his supervision.79
The trustees were emboldened to think of expansion by the fact that the lottery was at last going into operation. They were not, however, particularly pleased by the way in which Russell carried out the instructions they gave him, for he discharged his assistant in the classical department before the term was half over. What assistance he had in mathematics is unknown, but there must have been someone, for in 1827 Russell reported that only three or four students really belonged to the mathematics department, which was apparently on the second floor, though he sent all the students to it "as soon as they have recited below."
To indicate their disappointment, the trustees, in 1828, reduced the larger salary they had promised Russell in 1826 when they envisioned an expansion. At the same time they drew up new plans for the academy, which did not necessarily include Russell.80 The problem undoubtedly was, though this is never stated in the minutes, that Russell was unable to give full time to his school. He had agreed to come to Newark first of all as pastor of the two neighboring Presbyterian churches, Head of Christiana and White Clay Creek. He had accepted the teaching assignment gladly because he needed the money, and his needs became far greater after he married and became the father of eight children.81
He had, furthermore, been a successful teacher on the whole. The number of students fluctuated, even during the course of a semester, from a low of seventeen to a high of thirty-five. One of his last students remembered the school as a prosperous one that sent many of its graduates on to colleges such as Dickinson and Yale.82 The building was kept in repair; apparatus, even for chemistry, was purchased by Russell at his own expense; the campus was fenced; a seal was adopted. In 1820 a wash of yellow was applied to the exterior of the building, while the interior was white-washed.83
At various times committees of trustees sought to arrange with respectable householders of Newark what the trustees considered a moderate price (approximately $100 a year) for room, board, and laundry. They never ceased advertising the good reputation of Newark for both health and morals, and in regard to the latter promised that trustees would occasionally make trips of inspection to assure that students’ morals "are attended to at their boarding houses."84 It must have been with the intention of protecting students’ morals that the trustees, in April 1824, ordered Russell "to discontinue in future the exhibition of plays or Comedies."85
The order "to discontinue" plays suggests that the Reverend Mr. Russell had previously permitted them. This idea implies that Russell was more lenient than his trustees, or perhaps merely more lenient than the new president of the trustees. This position, vacated by the death of the Reverend Thomas Read, was filled in September 1823 by the election of another Presbyterian minister, the Reverend Eliphalet Wheeler Gilbert, pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, and destined to become one of the most important figures in the history of the institution.86
Gilbert’s leadership may also be responsible for the appointment of a committee in September 1824 to solicit gifts for erection of a new academy building. The trustees expressed the intention of supplying any deficiency in the building fund they were launching by dipping into the endowment, which amounted to over $6,000, largely invested in government bonds but partly in bank stock.87 Within a year, however, in September 1825, the trustees discharged this committee, apparently deciding that room could be made for the academy in the new college building that was to be provided by the lottery, sanctioned in 1818 but only now being put into operation.
No word of opposition to the lottery appears in the minutes of the trustees; on the contrary, they appointed a committee to ask the General Assembly to raise the ante–to authorize raising a further sum of $100,000 by lottery. One must conclude that Gilbert and other strict Presbyterians on the board were outvoted. The lobbying committee, of course, included no Presbyterian ministers; it was composed of two Episcopalians, Henry M. Ridgely and James R. Black, and a comparatively worldly Presbyterian Andrew Gray.
At the same time another committee was appointed to receive proposals for a college site, to decide on a plan for the building, and to consider bids for its erection. In as much as negotiations for the operation of the $50,000 lottery authorized in 1818 were just now under way, the trustees were rushing matters a bit.88
So it proved. A bill for a further lottery was introduced into the next assembly, but it was postponed and subsequently abandoned. No decisive step was taken for several years in choosing either a site or a building plan, though a plan was submitted by Charles Bulfinch, of Boston, who was at this time working in Washington as architect for the Capitol. Bulfinch was rewarded with the thanks of the board and a gift of $20 worth of lottery tickets, sent him through the trustee who had served as intermediary in presenting his plan, Col. George E. Mitchell, of Cecil County, Maryland. (Mitchell was a member of Congress at this time and could easily seek the advice of Bulfinch, who was an employee of Congress.) For two years the trustees delayed making any decision on beginning to erect a college, but finally, in September 1828, they decided to postpone the matter indefinitely.89
Some stirring of progress, however, was evident earlier in that year when the trustees determined to reorganize the academy. Two teachers were to be sought, one for the classical languages and ancient history, who was to be the principal or rector and receive $600 a year, the other, to be paid $500, for mathematics, modern history, and English grammar and composition. If over thirty students enrolled in either department, an assistant would be employed at a salary to be fixed later. Since a committee, including Gilbert, was set up to hire the new teachers, it was obvious that the trustees were considering replacing Russell.
A whole series of regulations were adopted at this time that may not have been new but a mere spelling out of customary practices. For instance, the school year was to consist of two semesters, separated by two three-week vacation periods, one beginning in mid-September and the other in mid-April; Christmas, New Year’s Day, and July 4 were single holidays; otherwise, there were classes six days a week, except for Saturday afternoons. In summer, classes ran from 8 to 12 and from 2 to 5; in winter, hours were shorter, 9 to 12 and 1:30 to 4:30. The day began with roll call and prayers, and each day two students, in turn, were to deliver prepared speeches, as practice in oratory. The tuition of $20 a year, was divided unevenly: $12 for the winter term, when expenses were greater, and $8 for the summer term. Students might enter at any time in the session, and fees would be adjusted.
The rules for deportment sound very strict. The students were to act like "young gentlemen," treating their teachers with "profound respect." They were forbidden to swear, riot, strike anyone, or associate with immoral persons, as well as to play cards, dice, or other games of chance. Drinking alcoholic beverages was not forbidden, but becoming intoxicated was, and students could be suspended or dismissed for possessing liquor, except for medicinal purposes, or for frequenting a tavern. Students were not permitted to keep a horse or a dog or to have a gun or ammunition (except with the rector’s approval), or a sword, dirk, sword cane, or any deadly weapon. Only the trustees could expel a student, and he could not then be readmitted.90
The committee appointed to secure teachers under the new arrangements advertised and received applications, but in September 1828 they announced they could not agree on recommendations and left the selection up to the board. Probably whether to continue Russell was the critical question; if so, he may have had a better chance with the board, where his relative by marriage, Henry Whiteley, was secretary, than in the committee, consisting of the Reverend Eliphalet Gilbert, Reverend Robert Graham, and Andrew Gray. (Russell had two marital connections with Whiteley; he had married Whiteley’s sister, who died a year later, and then he married Whiteley’s wife’s sister, who was also Whiteley’s cousin.) The eight members of the board of trustees who were present voted to reappoint Russell for the classical department and chose James Crawford, who had been assisting Russell for the past year, for the mathematics department.91
Year by year, if not semester by semester, Russell was reappointed to his post. But he was on tenterhooks of anxiety, uncertain of his status, mindful of the large, young family he had to support. "I must always attend to the time and give the signal for ringing the bell and [exercise] a vigilance which makes me feel like a slave," he wrote to the trustees. "I hope you will exercise that liberality towards me, which Providence has placed in your power….I have met with several heavy losses of late, when I have taken bonds for tuition &c. and thought them safe. I have been swindled out of several hundred dollars. In my present situation it is necessary that I should be engaged in teaching for the support of my family. Of the small support promised to me from my congregations I had to relinquish a considerable proportion of it about a year since. What will be the state of the seminary the next session I know not."92
Fortunately, considering the size of his family, Russell owned some land that must have brought additional income. His salary had been raised, but he said his work was harder because parents insisted that there be two separate departments, and he would have found it easier, with an assistant, not to separate the students. The other instructor, the teacher of the mathematical department, changed frequently. It was James Crawford from 1827 to 1830; in 1831-32 and possibly earlier it was a man named Upham; in 1832 the trustees voted to have but one "preceptor" (Russell) to teach all subjects; in 1833-34 N.Z. Graves conducted the mathematical department.93
Through these years, the trustees, encouraged by the steady accumulation of funds from the lottery, went on planning for a college, in which the academy would become merely the preparatory department. And in their plans they did not contemplate a place for Andrew Russell.
"I have served you faithfully," he wrote in 1834, when notice of his dismissal finally arrived, "for 23 years, indeed ruined my constitution with the labour and confinement, expended considerable money on the institution and had but a small compensation…and now when you have obtained funds, that will enable you to give liberal compensations you have studiously excluded me from having any thing to do with teaching and conferred your favours on strangers."94
In September 1828 the trustees had concluded it was "inexpedient" at that time "to take any means respecting the commencement of the College." Two-and-a-half years later they took the subject up again, appointing a committee to select a site and beginning action that culminated in the construction and the opening of the college in 1834. In September 1831 a new and larger committee was appointed, and it was given an expanded charge, not only to pick a site but to choose a building plan and recommend an organizational scheme for the new institution.95
None of these matters were decided very easily. Reporting in February 1832, the committee recommended two departments–(1) Languages and (2) Mathematics and Natural Philosophy–for the new college, each with a principal instructor, and, if the board approved, such assistants as were needed. The first department would have primacy, for the instructor in Languages would be head of the institution. He would teach English, Latin, Greek, rhetoric, logic, composition, moral philosophy, and history. The second instructor would teach mathematics, geography, astronomy, mechanics, hydrodynamics, "with other branches of Natural Philosophy and Chemistry." A third instructor would conduct the academy and teach all classes there.
The trustees accepted this proposal by a narrow vote of 5 to 4, the president abstaining, and with it a recommendation that the new college building should contain a classroom for each department, a room for chemical apparatus and one for other apparatus, a library, an auditorium, a private room for each instructor, and accommodations for boarding and lodging eighty students. It is not clear whether this plan contemplated taking the academy students into the new college building, but it probably did, since, without recorded discussion, the old academy building was abandoned when the college was built.96
Three sites were offered, and all had their proponents. One, belonging to Nathan Boulden, was northwest of Newark. A second, owned by Alexander McBeath, was at the town’s western extremity. A third, owned by George Platt, a trustee, was at the eastern edge of town. Over the next nine months, from February to November 1832, the trustees were quite changeable, voting at one time or another for each of these sites. When they finally decided to buy Alexander McBeath’s six-acre tract, including a house (as well as stables and barracks that he would remove) for $1,000, Andrew Gray was so dissatisfied that he resigned not only as secretary of the board (he had succeeded Whiteley in this post in 1830) but as a trustee.97
Building plans were apparently adopted with less discord than a building site. Bulfinch’s plan is not mentioned after 1826, but the trustees turned to another Bostonian when they determined in February 1832 to enter into an agreement with Winslow Lewis to erect the college building "agreeable to his plan and estimate, not exceeding" $15,000. Lewis, a former sea captain, is remembered today as the builder of over one hundred lighthouses, as well as for the invention of lighthouse equipment and as a textile manufacturer, but apparently he had sent plans to the building committee and came to Newark, at the trustees’ expense, to adapt his plans to the terrain. A Wilmington newspaper in 1833 referred to him as "the contractor for the erection" of the college building.98
Lewis was probably acquainted with Bulfinch; possibly Bulfinch recommended him for the Newark job. In any case, it seems likely that he would have seen Bulfinch’s plans for the college, but no proof of this is known. Bulfinch’s first alternative design for University Hall, Harvard, resembled the building erected in Newark, having a projecting Greek portico with six columns supporting a triangular pediment, this being part of a shallow cruciform plan with a large center section and narrower wings. (When constructed in 1813–14 Harvard’s University Hall was built to another plan.) Other buildings by Bulfinch that bear some relationship to Newark College (as it was first called) include the Massachusetts State House, the Boston Almshouse, and the Charlestown, Massachusetts, State Prison.
The Greek Revival style, which Newark College (now called Old College) represents, was fashionable in 1833, and there were many examples of it closer than Boston, though few or none in Delaware. One nearby example that Winslow Lewis, with his maritime connections, is likely to have known, is the United States Naval Asylum, in Philadelphia, designed by William Strickland and built in 1827-33, a strategic time in terms of influencing the style of the college building in Newark. The Sailors’ Snug Harbor on Staten Island, built in 1831-33, is a similar building and also likely to be known to Lewis.99
Work on the college building was begun either late in 1832 or in 1833, and it was occupied in May 1834. The trustees gave the building committee permission to change the arrangement of rooms with Lewis’s consent. When one of the old wooden columns on the portico was opened during the reconstruction of the building in 1916, a magazine and a group of Boston newspapers dating from March 8 to August 16, 1833, were found inside, along with two Delaware newspapers of June and August of that year. The name, A.J. Jones, that was on these papers is unknown otherwise, but their presence suggests that someone from Boston was actively in charge when the portico was erected.100
The column had apparently served the purpose of a modern cornerstone in preserving some keepsakes from the period of construction. The laying of the first brick in the college edifice was entirely without ceremony. Manlove Hayes, a Dover boy who later became a trustee of the college but was then a student at the academy, was playing with other boys around the open trenches prepared for the college foundation and asking questions of the man in charge of the masonry when the latter handed him a brick and showed him how to place it in the corner of the trenches, telling him he could ever after remember that he laid the first brick.101
The structure that was finally built was somewhat different from the one Winslow Lewis described to a reporter for the Delaware Gazette, according to the September 3, 1833, issue of this paper. A flight of eighteen steps was to rise to a portico at the center of the second story front, where four Doric columns of wood, based on brick pillars underneath, would support a projecting attic above. The paper credited Lewis with planning two "piazzias" (as the reporter called them) one on each wing "even with the portico," and each with four smaller columns.
The contract, for $15,000, permitted completion of only part of the original plan. This was a small sum for so large a building, even in that day, so it is not surprising if changes were made to save money during construction. The exterior of the completed building is shown in a sketch by William D. Clark, dated 1835. This sketch portrays a three-story, cruciform brick building with a large central door at the front of the second-story opening onto a portico two stories high. The two wings had five bays on each side–that is, five windows on each floor–the bays being separated by pilasters.
Another sketch of the exterior survives from a fire insurance survey made in November 1837 for the Franklin Fire Insurance Company of Philadelphia.102 This shows a building measuring 180 feet from east to west. The wings were 23 feet deep, but the large central section, which was 40 feet wide, projected 21 feet in front and 36 feet in back, for a total depth of 80 feet. Doors are indicated in this sketch entering the ground floor on each side of the portico, in the center of the west wing, and at the side of the east wing.
The ground floor had a kitchen, dining hall, and classroom in the central section, with five rooms opening off a hall in each wing. The floors, here and elsewhere, were of painted white pine, and the walls were plastered. The feature of the second floor was a large auditorium that came to be known as the Oratory. In front and across a central corridor from the Oratory were two rooms, 11 feet by 16, in each corner beside the portico, with an entrance hall between them. Other rooms opened onto the corridor in either wing. Two stairways in front of the Oratory led to the third floor, where, besides rooms in the wings, other rooms opened off a passageway through the center section from front to rear. All of the rooms were warmed by stoves, which had pipes passing into flues made for the purpose. There was a pump and a large fireplace in the kitchen, and under it was a cellar with a brick oven.
The shortage of money for such a large building suggests that cheap materials were used whenever possible. This, as well as the destructive capabilities of teenagers, explains why the building was found before long to be in poor condition.103
With the college building under construction, there remained a problem that would bother the lawyers, at least, on the board of the Newark Academy, and that was the legal incorporation of the college they were creating. A statute incorporating such a college, Delaware College, had passed in 1821, but it never went fully into effect because it provided that the assembly would appoint trustees when taxes laid under terms of the same act produced a sum sufficient to begin construction, and, of course, they never did.104
The money that allowed construction of a college in 1833-34 came primarily from the Lottery Act of 1818 as amended in 1825; this law proposed a college in Newark but did not incorporate it.105 Consequently the academy trustees in 1832 appointed a committee to apply to the legislature "for an act to organize the Institution to be established."106 In January 1833, two of the trustees, Willard Hall and Henry Whiteley, presented the assembly with a petition, citing the Lottery Act of 1818 and stating that "the edifice for a college authorized" by that act was under contract, sufficient money having been raised, and that therefore they wanted the legislature to appoint trustees to conduct it.107
The assembly reacted quickly, passing "an Act to Establish a College at Newark" on February 5, 1833. As though unaware that in 1821 the college had been named Delaware College, the new institution was named Newark College by this act. Any complications that might have existed because of the earlier act were, however, removed by a section specifically repealing the 1821 statute. The money generated by the 1821 retailers’ tax was ordered to become part of the Newark College endowment.108
The only known controversy over the Newark College bill in the legislature was regarding the number and identity of the trustees who were to supervise the new college. The original bill called for twenty trustees; this was amended in the State Senate to thirty and by the House of Representatives to thirty-three men, who were to fill vacancies in their group as they occurred, with one limitation–no member of the faculty could be a trustee.109
The enlargement of the board was probably intended to give many elements in the state–geographic, religious, and political–representation on the board. All thirteen trustees of the Academy of Newark were included on the college board, which gave it a heavy Presbyterian bias to start out with; there were four Presbyterian ministers–Eliphalet W. Gilbert, Robert Graham, James Magraw, and Samuel Bell–plus several prominent Presbyterian laymen among the academy trustees. One of the provisions of the act of incorporation that was in harmony with the spirit of the laws in Delaware (and in many other states) since the Revolution was a prohibition of any religious test for members of the board of trustees, the faculty, or the student body.110
The population of Delaware at this time was overwhelmingly Protestant-Presbyterians were dominant numerically and politically in New Castle County, but Methodists were most numerous downstate, while many well-established and prominent families belonged to the Episcopal church. Probably it was in recognition of this situation that the legislators added two non-Presbyterian clergymen to the board. One was S.W. Presstman, the Episcopal rector of Immanuel Church, New Castle; the other was the Reverend Ezekiel Cooper, who had become very well-known as the head of the effective Methodist Book Concern, a publishing house in Philadelphia, and who had many Delaware connections.
The thirteen trustees of the Academy of Newark all resided in New Castle County or nearby (like Dr. John Groome of Elkton, the Reverend James Magraw of West Nottingham, and the Reverend Robert Graham of New London). The legislature saw to it that other parts of the state were represented, adding to the board such downstate representatives as Peter Robinson and William D. Waples of Georgetown, David Hazzard of Milton, Joseph G. Oliver of Milford, Henry M. Ridgely of Dover, as well as the Clayton cousins, Thomas and John M. A few new trustees were appointed from neighboring states, including Samuel McKean of Pennsylvania, and Benjamin Chew Howard of Maryland, perhaps because of their Delaware ancestry.
Professional men dominated the board of what was intended to be a liberal arts college, training men specifically for the learned professions. More than ten of the board members were lawyers, six were ministers, at least five were physicians, while eleven were farmers, millers, merchants, or of unknown occupations. It is possible that no great effort was made to spread membership on the board over these occupational groups, but political affiliation was a different question. It is surely not accidental that membership on the new board included such notable Jacksonian Democrats as Louis McLane and Henry M. Ridgely, while the opposing party was represented by its leaders, Thomas and John Middleton Clayton.
It seems quite proper that the act of incorporation specified that the first meeting of the college trustees, ordered to be held on April 1, 1833, should be called by Willard Hall. Hall was a native of Massachusetts and a Harvard graduate who had come to Dover to practice law, had won election to Congress as a Democratic- Republican, and had been rewarded for his political loyalty by appointment in 1823 as federal district judge for Delaware. The district court in Delaware had little business, and this fact left Hall free to devote his energy to the promotion of a number of reforms in his adopted state, notably including education. He is understood to be the author of the first Delaware public school law, passed in 1829, and for decades he served voluntarily as an unpaid and unofficial overseer of the condition of public education in Delaware.111
The passage of the School Law of 1829 had cleared the way for the college incorporation in 1833, in the sense that no longer could the legislature easily be charged with providing for the education of rich men’s sons while neglecting the children of the poor. So it was proper that Hall, the father of public education in Delaware, should call the first meeting of the trustees of what was to become the state college.
When the college trustees held their first meeting, on April 1, 1833, the group that assembled was very little different from the academy board. Only thirteen men were present–well over the quorum of seven, but much below the full membership of thirty- three–and of them ten were members of the old academy board. Of twenty new members only three attended, but they were men of some importance in Delaware–Senator Arnold Naudain, Chief Justice Thomas Clayton, and a leading Wilmington businessman, Allan Thomson–and of those not attending, over half indicated by letter that they accepted the appointment.
Still, as it began its existence, the board of trustees of the Newark College looked very much like the board of trustees of the old Newark Academy, with the Presbyterian element–three Presbyterian ministers were present–apparently in the driver’s seat. A Presbyterian layman and Sunday school teacher, Judge Hall, was temporary chairman, a Presbyterian minister, Robert Graham, gave the opening prayer, and after the meeting was underway another Presbyterian minister, Eliphalet Wheeler Gilbert, was elected as the first president of the board. Since Gilbert was already president of the Newark Academy board of trustees it was made clear at this first meeting that despite the legislature’s decision to more than double the old academy board in creating the college, the college that was indeed the child of the academy was to remain under the same leadership. The ancient aim of Francis Alison to develop a college from his academy was at last being realized.