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But as these funds could not be realized or applied unless there was created a board of trustees capable of holding them, they prayed for an act of incorporation from the regents, with all the powers and privileges conferred by law upon Columbia College, and that the name of the institution should be “The College of Schenectady."
The regents, on the 27th of March, denied this application, upon the ground that sufficient funds had not been provided.
Failing in this effort, an application was made in November of the same year for the incorporation of the private institution as the “Academy of the Town of Schenectady.” This application was successful, and an academic charter was granted in January, 1793.
Early in 1794 the regents were again petitioned for a college charter for the academy, but this was denied upon the ground that the state of literature in the academy did not appear to be far enough advanced nor its funds sufficient to warrant its erection into a college.
On December 18, 1794, was presented the final and successful petition to the board of regents. It thus begins:
We, the subscribers, inhabitants of the northern and western counties of the State of New York, taking into view the growing population of these counties, and sensible of the necessity and importance of facilitating the means of acquiring useful knowledge, make known that we are minded to establish a college upon the following principles:
1st. A college shall be founded in the town of Schenectady, county of Albany and State of New York, to be called and known by the name of Union College.
2d. The said college shall be under the direction and government of twenty-four trustees, the majority of which trustees shall not at any time be composed of persons of the same religious sect or denomination.
These two provisions mark a new era in college erection. Of the colleges which antedated Union, we find Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, and Williams were distinctively Congregational; William and Mary, St. John's, and Columbia, Episcopar; Brown, Baptist; Princeton and Hampden-Sidney, Presbyterian; Rutgers, Reformed; and Dickinson, Methodist. Union was the first strictly nonsectarian college in the country. The name itself was given as expressing the intention of uniting all religious sects in a common interest and for the common good by offering equal advantages to all, with preference to none. It was designed to found an institution upon the broad basis of Christian unity, and this idea has ever since been faithfully followed in the spirit of the original intention, no particular religious denomination having at any time claimed or attempted to control its management or to influence the choice of trustees or faculty. Its motto, “In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas," has been characteristic of the perfect harmony and genuine catholicity which has marked its entire history.
At last success crowned the efforts of the “citizens,” and on February 25, 1795, a charter was granted to Union College, naming twentyfour trustees, giving full power for granting degrees, and the most
ample guarantees against denominational control. The chronicles of the day record that the news of the granting of the charter, when it reaebed Schenectady, was celebrated by great rejoicing, with the ringing of bells, firing of cannon, display of flags, bonfires, and a general illumination.
Vext to Dominie Romeyn, to Gen. Philip Schuyler belongs the honor of tablishing the college at Schenectady. The city of Albany had offered strong pecuniary inducements for making the capital the site of the college, but the vigorous efforts of General Schuyler so reenforove the Schenectady petition that it secured the young institution for that town. The following letter from General Schuyler to Dr. Romeyn, announcing the signature of the charter, evinces the hearty interest he felt in the new college:
ALBANY, March 2, 1795. REFEREND AND DEAR SIR: On Wednesday last the engrossed Charter was submitted to the Regents and approved of, and on Friday the seal of the University was affixed thereto with the Chancellor's signature, an event the more satisfactory to me, as I have long since wished to see the vicinity of my native place honored with such an Institution, and I sincerely congratulate my fellow-citizens of Schenectady in particular, and the whole of the Northern and Western parts of the State in general, on the facility with which they will be able to obtain a collegiate education for their children. May indulgent Heaven protect and cherish an Institution calculated to promote virtue and the weal of the people. Please to re Dest the gentlemen to whom has been confided the subscription paper to the funds of the ('ollege, to add my name to the list for one hundred pounds. I shall strive to procure a douation on the part of this State, and as I have already conversed with some leading members on the subject, I trust my efforts will be $("Cresful. The charter, with all the evidences of the funds, are, by order of the Regents, to be delivered to one of the trustees of the (College. If Chief Justice Yates does not come down, they will be delivered to one of the gentlemen here, to be delivered to him as the first trustee named in the act of incorporation. I am with great regard, Reverend Sir, Your most obedient servant,
. PH. SCHUYLER. The Rev, Dr. ROMEYN.
A subsequent act, April 6, 1795, authorized the trustees of the academy to convey, and those of the college to accept, the academy building on l'nion and Ferry streets, and this was accordingly done.
The college was organized on the 19th of October, 1795, by the election of the Rev. John Blair Smith, D. 1)., of Philadelphia, as president; John Taylor, A. M., as professor of mathematics and natural philosophy, and the Rev. Andrew Yates, as professor of the Latin and Greek languages. The first commencement was held in May, 1797, in the old Reformed Dutch Church, and the first degrees conferred upon three young men who had finished the course of study then required. This was an occasion of signal and novel interest to all the country around, and drew together a large and enthusiastic audience. These thrre graduates were, Cornelius D, Schermerhorn, of Greenbush; Joseph Sweetman, of (harlton; and John L. Zabriskie, of Schenectady.
The two latter were both living at the semicentennial of the college in 1845, and Rev. Dr. Sweetman delivered the anniversary address on that interesting occasion.
A manuscript report of the board of regents to the legislature, March 6, 1797, signed by Chancellor John Jay, and now in the l'nion College library, shows the progress made by the new college during its first two years. An extract is appended:
UNION COLLEGE. From the Report of a Committee of the Trustees it appears that the Property of the College consists in various articles to the following amount, namely:
Drs. ('ts. Bonds and Mortgages produsing an annual Interest of 7 per cent ... 21301 Subscriptions and other Debts due on the Books of the Treasurer...... 4983 10 Cash appropriated for the purchase of looks....
13.56 45 House & Lot for the President
3500 Lot for the Scite of the College .........
3230 House & Lot heretofore occupied for the Academy-a donation from the Consistory of the Dutch Church.
5000 Books &c, in the possession of the Trustees and on the way from Europe 2381 99 Cash appropriated by the Regents for the purchase of looks in the hands of the Committee ...
.. ............ 100 Legacy by Abraham Yates Junr. Esq., of Albany .....
4242260 and 160 acres of land. The Faculty of the College at present consists of the President and one Tutor, and the salary of the former, with an House for his Family is 1100 Dollars; and of the latter 66) I ol ars per Annum, with an additional allow. ance at present of 230 Dollars on account of the extraordinary price of the neces. saries of li.e. There are thirty seven Students, right in the Class of Languages, twenty in the Class of History and Belles Lettres, six in the Class of Mathematics, and three in the Class of Philosophy - The Course of Studies, is the first year, Vugil, Cicero's Orations, Greek Testament. Lucian, Roman Antiquities, Arithmetic, and English Grammar; the second year, Geography and the use of the Globes, Roman History, History of America and the American Revoluiion, Xenophon, liorace, Criticism, and E.oqnence; the third year, the Various Branches of Mathematics, and Vulgar and decimal Fractions, and the Extraction of the Roots, Geometry, Algebra, Trigonometry, navigation, mensuration, Xenophon, contin. ned, and Homer; and the fourth and last year. Natural Philosophy, the Constitution of the l'nited States and of the different States, Metaphysics, or at least that part which treats of the Philosophy of the Hunnan mind, Horace continued, and Longinus, and during the course o! these Studies the attention of the ("lasses is particularly required to Elox'ution, and to composition in the English Language.A provision is also made for substituting the knowledge of the French Language instead of the Greek, in certa cases, in the I unds should hereafter admit of insti. tuting a French pro psorship: (the first optional coarse all which, together with the System of Discipline, in conta ned in a printed (opy of the Laws and Regulations for the Government of the ( ollege and which accompanies this Rejort.
The Trustees farther resort that the officers of tir ('ollege discharge their duty with ability, diligence and helity and that the Students generally have exhibited spec imens of their program in Science at the Examinations, which are public and stated three times a year; and tinally that it wonld essentially promote the interest of that part of th ('ountry if the Legis ature would patronise with further donations this infant Seminary: the want of means to endow professorships obliges the
present officers to attend to too many branches of Science; insomuch so that the President has during the present year instructed the Classes of History, ChroDology. Antiquities, Geography, Natural and Moral Philosophy, Criticism, Logic, Constitutions of the United States and of the different States, and Languages.
President Smith resigned in 1799, and was succeeded by Rev. Dr. Jonathan Edwards, the younger, who died in office in August, 1801. His successor was Rev. Dr. Jonathan Maxcy, who resigned in 1804.
Although the college was still feeble, it was not without enterprise. l'nder the presidency of Dr. Edwards, in 1798, a new edifice was begun on a scale magnificent for that day. This building was afterwards known as the “West College,” located on the corner of Union and College streets, and was finished in 1804. It was in the Italian style of architecture and from the designs of Philip Hooker, then an eminent architect of Albany. It was of stone, three stories high, besides a high basement, and was surmounted by a central cupola. The ground plan measured 150 by 60 feet, and the original cost was about $56,000, besides $4,000 for the site. It contained a residence for the president, the chapel, library, and recitation rooms, and a considerable number of dormitories. In 1815 it was sold to the city and county for a court-house, jail, and city offices, and while thus owned it was commonly known as the “City Hall.” The college received in payment 3,000 acres of land in detached parcels in various parts of Schenectady ('ounty. In 1831 it was repurchased by the college for $10,000), and used for the library, cabinets, and residence of freshman and sophomore classes until 1854. It was then resold to the city for the sum of $4,000)and was used by the city as a union school until the year 15, when it was demolished to make room for a more modern school building. Between 1805 and 1810 a row of two-story brick buildings was erected on College street for use as dormitories. It was known as the "Long College," and was sold about 1830.
An event occurred in 1804 which proved to be of peculiar and lasting advantage to the institution, and from which its success may be justly dated. This event was the choice of the Rev. Eliphalet Nott, as prouident. Mr. Xott was then a young clergyman of Albany, known at the time as the eulogist of Hamilton, as an eloquent and effective publie paker, of dignified and courteous manners and distinguished learning, but not as yet known for that talent in the education of young men which this election gave him the opportunity to exercise, and which has never been surpassed in the history of any American college. Endowed by nature with a keen perception of character, a discriminating judgment in developing latent talent, a dignity of manner commanding both love and respect, a facility in governing Jonk men, wherein the secret lay in teaching them to govern them**•*•**, and a zeal and earnestness in the discharge of every duty, he arquindi and held through a long and active life a commanding position is an educator throughout the country,
The financial history of l'nion ('ollege from this period until 1853 forms a chapter by itself-a chapter which the moralists of these latter days would cheerfully pass over unnoticed, but the fact remains and must be admitted that I'nion College was placed on a secure financial foundation by a tremendous gambling device, which, if applied to-day, would not only place Dr. Nott and his reverend coadjutors under the frown of public sentiment and the ban of church discipline, but would have landed them inside the bars of a State prison. We are more enlightened and conscientious than our grandfathers. The church fair of to-day was the lottery of the early part of the century. The lottery was the most beneficent institution of that day. Not only was it permitted, but it was especially authorized by law as a proper and legitimate method of raising money. It was regarded as perfectly innocent and uobjectionable, and was not only tolerated, but sustained and encouraged by the whole Christian community. Lotteries were employed to secure funds for charities, for schools, for hospitals, for colleges, and for churches. It must not be thought strange, therefore, that a Christian minister like Dr. Nott, following the fashion of the day, invoked the aid of the popular device and became the successful manager of the hugest lottery deal ever authorized by the State of New York.
When the new president assumed his office the finances of the college were in a nearly desperate condition. During the administrations of his three predecessors there had been a constant lack of funds to meet the regular current expenses of the college. The failure of Dr. Smith's expectations in this respect was one of the causes of his early retirement. Dr. Edwards died, after a short incumbency, weighed down with concern as to the fate of the institution placed under his charge. Dr. Maxcy was not more fortunate than his predecessors, and his short administration was a continuous struggle with financial embarrassment, from which extrication appeared hope. less. Less than $35,000 had been obtained from individual subscriptions, and some of these were still unpaid. The State had at various times granted, in money or in lands afterwards sold, property which availed $78,112.13. The new building (West College) was still incomplete and the college was badly in debt.
At this juncture the young Albany clergyman assumed the presideney. Ile at once applied to the State for aid, and in Mareh, 1805, it came in the shape of the grant of the proceeds of four lotteries of $20,000 each. The returns, however, were slow, and in 1806 the leyislature borrowed $15,000 on the credit of the State and loaned it to the college, to be repaid from the proceeds of the lotteries. In 1811, when the lotteries were wound up, the college had realized from them about $70,000, which was applied toward furnishing the equipment,