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instead of groping blindly in the darkness of ignorance or the obscurity of uncertainty and doubt.
Pecuniary Hindrances. Though it is many years since Columbia College began to be spoken of as a richly endowed institution, it is very certain that no college in the United States has been more sorely straightened for deficiency of means than this has been throughout the more than a century and a quarter since its foundation, with the exception of a few very recent years. Most colleges in difficult emergencies have found relief in the liberality of interested friends. Many have, in successive years, received benefaction after benefaction from their own attached alumni, or from the friends of education generally. Hardly one has failed to command, in its infancy, the undivided sympathies of the community in the midst of which it has been established, and whose interests have been seemingly more or less involved in its prosperity. But such has not been the good fortune of Columbia College either in the beginning or during its subsequent history. Its creation was violently opposed while yet it was merely a project in embryo; and its charter was only obtained after a long and very determined struggle. The contributions for its support from private sources, if any, were very meager; and its principal reliance for the means to erect its first building, and to provide the first essentials necessary to the prosecution of its educational operations, was a public lottery authorized by the provincial legislature; an expedient then frequently resorted to in aid of benevolent or educational institutions, though at the present time hardly regarded as a legitimate means of raising money. To the corporation of Trinity Church it was indebted for a site on which to build, having received from that body a grant of land considerably larger than necessary for the purpose, amounting to several acres, forming a part of what was then called the Church Farm, beyond the limits of the inhabited portion of the island. This donation, though at the time of vital importance to the infant institution, in default of which it might have failed to become permanently established, was, in view of the source from which it came and of the conditions accompanying it, not without an influence seriously prejudicial to its immediate interests; for it tended to estrange yet more widely those who had been opposed to it from the beginning, and whose good will it was most desirable to conciliate.
The land received from Trinity Church, though it supplied the immediate need of a site for the College, was for many years otherwise unproductive. With the growth of the town, however, it at length feil into demand for building lots, and thus gradually became a source of income. The amcunt actually raised in inoney to set the College in operation in the beginning fell considerably short of thirty-five hundred pounds, a sum less than nine thousand dollars of our present currency. At the end of about a dozen years the need of additional resources began to be so severely felt, that an appeal was made to Sir llenry
Moore, the Royal Governor of the Province, for relief in the form of a grant of public land. The appeal was successful, and a tract equal to about one township of land was awarded to the College, situated very advantageously on the northeast border of the Province; but this, in the subsequent settlement of the disputed boundary between New York and New Hampshire (which then included Vermont), fell within the territory of the neighboring State, and so was lost to the College. After this the records of the College furnish no evidence of any benefactions received by it from public or from private sources up to the time of the Revolution; although a paper apparently designed for publication left behind by Dr. Myles Cooper, second president of the College, on his sudden flight in 1776, and quoted by President Moore in his History of Columbia College, claims that “since the passing of the charter, the Institution hath received great emolument, by grants from his most gracious majesty King George the Third, and by liberal contributions from many of the nobility and gentry in the parent country; from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, and from several public-spirited gentlemen in America and elsewhere." These gifts, whatever may have been their number or importance, were probably devoted to the enlargement of the library, and the improvement of the apparatus; for after the temporary suspension of the operations of the college during the Revolution, we find it, on its revival in 1784, so feeble financially, that its governors (then the Regents of the University of the State) hesitated to appoint a president, “because the deranged state of the funds of the college and the great losses it had sustained, rendered them unable to offer such a salary as would induce a suitable person to accept the office.” The institution remained, therefore, for three years without a head, though regular exercises were maintained, and degrees were conferred, the diplomas being signed by the secretary of the corporation. In 1792 the wants of the college were in a measure relieved by a grant of seventy-nine hundred pounds, about $20,000, from the legislature, and an annuity of seven hundred and fifty pounds, or about $1,900, continued for five years. Encouraged by this liberality, the Trustees commenced the erection of an additional college building. They also established a School of Medicine, and appointed a Professor of Law, viz., Mr. James Kent, afterwards the distinguished chancellor. As a consequence of this enlargement of their scheme of operations, they speedily fell into sore embarrassment, and in 1796 addressed an unavailing petition to the legislature asking for a continuance of their subsidy beyond the time named for its cessation. A few years later, in 1802, some small addition to the resources of the institution was received from a grant of certain lands divided by the Regents of the State University between Columbia and Union colleges. These lands were situated at Ticonderoga and Crown Point, on Lake Champlain and Lake George; and a report from a committee of examination, appointed by the Trustees, gave reason to hope that they would prove an important source of revenue. This anticipation was, however, disappointed, the lands remaining for many years unproductive, though subject to taxation. At length in 1811 the Crown Point lands, known as the Garrison lands, on Lake George, then in the equal joint ownership of Columbia College and Union College, were sold to James Caldwell for the sum of $5,000, one-half coming to Columbia College; and seven years later, in 1818, the remaining Crown Point lands, called the farm at Crown Point, were leased for five years, at an annual rent of $62.50. In this same year a portion of the land at Ticonderoga, amounting to ten acres, lying on Lake Champlain, was leased to James Caldwell, the purchaser of the Garrison lands at Crown Point, for a term of forty years, at a nominal rent and taxes, conditioned that the said Caldwell should “construct a wharf and suitable buildings for passengers within two years, and keep the same in repair, and direct the course of travel that way so far as he can.” On the 3d of May, 1819, the remaining lands at Ticonderoga were leased for one year at a rent of fifty dollars; and in 1823 the eight acres at Ticonderoga, said to be then remaining unsold, were conveyed to the heirs of Peter Deale for the sum of two hundred dollars. Finally, on the 6th of May, 1828, the comunittee previously appointed to dispose of the lands at Crown Point, reported that they had sold the same for ten dollars an acre, and that the proceeds of the sale amounted to $3,213.34.
The entire history of the disposition of these lands cannot be traced in the minutes of the Trustees; but from the ascertained particulars above given, it is evident that they went but a little way to supply the then urgent wants of the College. These wants were, during all this time, exceedingly great ; and as the legislature, stimulated by the enlightened recommendations of the early governors of the State, had manifested a disposition to foster, by liberal grants, the infant educational institutions of the State, they were brought to the attention of that body in frequent memorials. The earliest of these representations was made in 1786 by the then governing Board of the College, styled the Regents of the University. It set forth the wants and embarrassments of the institution, and also the defects of its organic law. The legislature responded by passing an act placing the college under a Board of Trustees with clearly-defined powers, which act has remained substantially unaltered down to the present time; but it made no provision for its support or relief. A later petition was successful in securing the grant of seventy-nine hundred pounds above spoken of, and the annuity of seven hundred and fifty pounds for five years; but an application made in 1796 for the continuance of this annuity was unsuccessful. An application in 1801 for the specific sum of two thousand pounds, to enable the Trustees to complete an additional building then in progress, received no attention. This building remained in an unfinished state for many years, and the condition of things was brought to the attention of the legislature in a memorial adopted by the trustees, March 7, 1814, in these words: “ The foundation of a new wing to the edifice laid by the order and under an appropriation of your honorable body, has been for years a heap of ruins solely for want of further public assistance.” The memorialists describe the condition of the College as on this account and many others discreditable to the city and the State. They say that, “ Situated in the most important city of the State, an object of curiosity and remark to strangers, and indispensable in its position to a large portion of the students, who must obtain a liberal education on the spot or be deprived of it altogether, Columbia College presents a spectacle mortifying to its friends, humiliating to the city, and calculated to inspire opinions which it is impossible your enlightened body would wish to countenance.” Of the wants of the College, they say: “ The library of the College, which fell a sacrifice to the war of independence, has never been replaced but in so slender a degree as to make it a subject of ignominious comparison with the pre-eminence in this respect of other American colleges. The Philosophical Apparatus, originally good, has been damaged by long use and unavoidable accident, and is now incompetent to the advanced state of the Physical Sciences. There is no proper apartment for the reception of a decent library, there is no hall fit for the performance of public exercises. There is no astronomical observatory, which is of essential moment both to our commercial and military marine; a solid basis for such a structure was laid at the same time with the foundation of the new wing, and left unfinished for the same cause. Your memorialists are under the necessity of exacting, in two instances, the labor of two professorships from one person, which renders the toil unreasonable and oppressive. They have found it due to the state of science and to public opinion to institute a professorship of Chemistry as a part of the academical course, and have appointed a professor without being able to give him any compensation.” After presenting further considerations of similar character, the trustees go on to say:
“Your memorialists are emboldened to hope that their appeal to the magnanimity of your honorable body will not be fruitless, especially when, in addition to the preceding view they respectfully add:
"1. That the patronage which Columbia College has received for a period of thirty years has been very limited, and has not in the aggregate amounted (if your memorialists are correctly informed) to one-fifth part of the benefactions made with the most praiseworthy munificence to a kindred institution.
“2. That Columbia College was once in possession of landed property which, if she still retained it, would be amply sufficient for her wants and would save your memorialists from the afflicting necessity of importuning your honorable body. That property was transferred by the State of New York on great political considerations to other hands. It was entirely lost to the Col. lege, and no relief under the privations which the loss occasioned has hitherto been extended to her.”
This last consideration proved effectual. Indeed, it is a little surprising that it had not been earlier and persistently urged. The reference is, of course, to the 24,000 acres of land constituting the grant from the colonial government, transferred in the subsequent adjustment of boundary to the State of New Hampshire. By an act passed April 13, 1814, the legislature transferred to the College “ all the right, title, and interest of the people of this State in and to all that certain piece or parcel of land, with the appurtenances, situate in the ninth ward of the city of New York, known by the name of the Botanic Garden, and lately conveyed to the people of this State by David Hosack, with the appurtenances;" but this grant was coupled with the express condition “ that the College establishment shall be removed to said tract of land hereby granted, or to lands adjacent thereto, within twelve years from this time; and if the said establishment shall not be so removed within the time above limited, then and from thenceforth this grant shall cease and be void, and the premises hereby granted shall thereuponi revert to the people of this State.”
Another hardly less burdensome condition required that the trustees of the College should, “ within three months from the passage of this act, transmit to the trustees of each of the other colleges of the State a list of the different kinds of plants, flowers, and shrubs in said garden; and that, within one year thereafter, the said trustees of Columbia College should deliver at the said garden, if required, at least one healthy exotic flower, shrub, or plant of each kind of which they shall have more than one at the time of application, together with the jar or vessel containing the same, to the trustees of each of the other colleges of this State who shall apply therefor.”
The estimated value of the Botanic Garden at the time of this concession was $75,000 ; but the condition that it should be continued to be maintained as a Botanic Garden made it impossible for the trustees to derive from it any income by leasing; and the further condition that the college should be transferred to it, and that its buildings should be erected on it within twelve years, when means were lacking even to maintain the buildings actually existing in a habitable condition, was such as to make the grant a benefaction only in show. Naturally, therefore, the legislature was memorialized to repeal these conditions.
The earliest detailed statement of the financial condition of the College after 1800 which appears on the minutes of the trustees is of the date of 14th Dec., 1805. From that it appears that an income had begun to be derived from the lease of portions of the Church Farm, the land granted to the College by Trinity Church. The amount received from that source within the year was five hundred and sixty-one pounds fifteen shillings; equivalent at ten shillings sterling to the pound, which was the value of New York currency at the time, to about fourteen hundred dollars. Benefactions from unknown sources furnished a