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The constitution being signed and made public, with the names of the gentlemen proposing themselves as trustees and founders, the design was so well approved of by the public-spirited citizens of Philadelphia, that the sum of eight hundred pounds per annum, for five years, was in the course of a few weeks subscribed for carrying the plan into execution; and in the beginning of January following (viz. 1750) three of the schools were opened, namely, the Latin and Greek schools, the Mathematical, and the English schools. In pursuance of an article in the original plan, a school for educating sixty boys and thirty girls (in the charter since called the Charitable School) was opened, and amidst all the difficulties with which the trustees have struggled in respect to their funds, has still been continued full for the space of forty years; so that allowing three years education for each boy and girl admitted into it, which is the general rule, at least twelve hundred children have received in it the chief part of their education, who might otherwise, in a great measure have been left without the means of instruction. And many of those who have been thus educated, are now to be found amongst the most useful and reputable citizens of this state.
The institution, thus successfully begun, continued daily to flourish, to the great satisfaction of Dr. Franklin; who, notwithstanding the multiplicity of his other engagements and pursuits at that busy stage of his life, was a constant attendant at the monthly visitations and examinations of the schools, and made it his particular study, by means of his extensive correspondence abroad, to advance the reputation of the seminary, and to draw students and scholars to it from different parts of America and the West Indies. Through the interposition of his benevolent and learned friend, Peter Collinson, of London, upon the application of the trustees, a charter of incorporation, dated July 13, 1753, was obtained from the honourable proprietors of Pennsylvania, Thomas Penn and Richard Penn, Esqrs. accompanied with a liberal benefaction of five hundred pounds sterling; and Dr. Franklin now began in good earnest to please himself with the hopes of a speedy accomplishment of His original design, viz, the establishment of a perfect institution, upon the plan of the European colleges and universities; for which his academy was intended as a nursery or foundation. To elucidate this fact, is a matter of considerable importance in respect to the memory and character of Dr. Franklin, as a philosopher, and as the friend and patron of learning and science; for, notwithstanding what is expressly declared by him in the preamble to the constitutions, viz. that the academy was begun for “teaching the Latin and Greek languages, with all useful branches of the arts and sciences, suitable to the state of an infant country, and laying a foundation for posterity to erect a seminary of learning more extensive, and suitable to their future circumstances;" yet it has been suggested of late, as upon Dr. Franklin's authority, that the Latin and Greek, or the dead languages, are an incumbrance upon a scheme of liberal education, and that the ingrafting or founding a college, or more extensive seminary, upon his academy, was without his approbation or agency, and gave him discontent. If the reverse of this does not already appear, from what has been quoted above, the following letters will put the matter beyond dispute. They were written by him to a gentleman, who had at that time published the idea of a college, suited to the circumstances of a young country, (meaning New-York) a copy of which having been sent to Dr. Franklin for his opinion, gave rise to that correspondence which terminated about a year afterwards, in erecting the college upon the foundation of the academy, and establishing that gentleman as the head of both, where he still continues, after a period of thirty-six years, to preside with distinguished reputation
Philadelphia, April 19, 1753.
I received your favour of the 11th instant, with your new* piece on Education, which I shall carefully peruse, and give you my sentiments of it, as you desire, by next post.
I believe the young gentlemen, your pupils, may be entertained and instructed here, in mathematics and philosophy, to satisfaction. Mr. Allisont (who was educated at Glasgow) has been long accustomed to teach the latter, and Mr. Grewt the former; and I think their pupils make great progress. Mr. Allison has the care of the Latin and Greek school, but as he has now three good assistantsll he can very well afford some hours every day for the instruction of those who are engaged in higher studies. The mathematical school is pretty well furnished with instruments. The English library is a good one ; and we have belonging to it a middling apparatus for experimental philosophy, and purpose speedily to complete it. The Loganian library, one of the best collections in America, will shortly be opened; so that neither books nor instruments will be wanting; and as we are determined al. ways to give good salaries, we have reason to believe we may always have an opportunity of chusing good masters; upon which, indeed the success of the whole depends. We are obliged to you for your kind offers, in this respect, and when you are settled in England, we may occasionally make use of your friendship and judgment.
General idea of the college of Marania. | The Rev. and learned Mr. Francis Alison, afterwards D. D. and vice-provost of the college.
# Mr. Theophilus Grew, afterwards professor of mathematics in the college.
|| Those assistants were at that time Mr. Charles Thompson, late secretary of congress, Mr. Paul Jackson, and Mr Jacob Ducbe.
If it suits your conveniency to visit Philadelphia before you return to Europe, I shall be extremely glad to see and converse with you here, as well as to correspond with you after your settiement in England; for an acquaintance and communication with men of learning, virtue and public spirit, is one of my greatest enjoyments.
I do not know whether you ever happened to see the first proposals I made for erecting this academy. I send them inclosed. They had (however imperfect) the desired success, being followed by a subscription of four thousand pounds, towards carrying them into execution! And as we are fond of receiving advice, and are daily improving by experience, I am in hopes we shall, in a few years, see a perfect institution.
I am very respectfully, &c.
B. FRANKLIN. Mr. W. Smith, Long-Island.
Philadelphia, May 3d, 1753. SIR,
Mr. Peters has just now been with me, and we have compared notes on your new piece. We find nothing in the scheme of education, however excellent, but what is, in our opinion very practicable. The great difficulty will be to find the Aratus,* and other suitable persons, to carry it into execution ; but such may be had if proper encouragement be given. We have both received great pleasure in the perusal of it. For my part, I know not when I have read a piece that has more affected meso noble and just are the sentiments, so warm and animated the language ; yet as censure from your friends may be of more use, as well as more agreeable to you than praise, I ought to mention, that I wish you had omitted not only the quotation from the Review,* which you are now justly dissatisfied with, but those expressions of resentment against your adversaries, in pages 65 and 79. In such cases the noblest victory is obtained by neglect, and by shining on.
* The name given to the principal or head of the ideal college, the system of education in which hath nevertheless been nearly realized or followed as a model, in the college and academy of Philadelphia, and some other American seminaries, for some years past.
Mr. Allen has been out of town these ten days; but before he went he directed me to procure him six copies of your piece. Mr. Peters has taken ten. posed to have written to you ; but omits it, as he expects so soon to have the pleasure of seeing you here. He desires me to present his affectionate compliments to you, and to assure you that you will be very welcome to him. I shall only say, that you may depend on my doing all in my power to make your visit to Philadelphia agreeable to you.
I am, &c.
B. FRANKLIN. Mr. Smith.
Philadelphia, Nov. 27th, 1753.
Having written to you fully, via Bristol, I have now little to add. Matters relating to the academy remain in statu quo.
The trustees would be glad to see a rector established there, but they dread entering into new engagements till they are out of debt; and I have
The quotation alluded to (from the London Monthly Review for 1749,) was judged to reflect too severely on the discipline and government of the English universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and was expunged from the following editions of this work.