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the cabinet, or the field. It was motives like these that led to the establishment of Dickinson College.
Carlisle was fixed on as the seat of this institution for va rious and solid reasons. The situation is healthy, the adjacent scenery picturesque and beautiful, the surrounding country abundantly fruitful, and every article of subsistence plentiful and cheap. In addition to this, the inhabitants of the place as well as of the neighbourhood in general are remarkable for the decorum of their manners, the purity of their morals, and their uniform observance of the duties of religion. Advantages like these are truly invaluable in relation to an academical establishment; for to prepare youth to become either great men or good and useful citizens, their education must include not only literary and scientific acquirements, but health of body and rectitude of mind.
The college in Carlisle was originally the offspring of individual patriotism, bounty, and enterprize. Pre-eminent among those who interested themselves in its behalf was the late honourable John Dickinson, a distinguished revolutionary patriot, the celebrated author of the "Farmer's Letters," and president, at the time, of the supreme executive council of Pennsylvania. Possessed of an ample fortune and a liberal heart, he made the infant college a donation so munificent, and rendered it in other respects such important services, as to be justly regarded as the father of the institution. He had accordingly the honour of bestowing on it his name.
In the year 1783, the college received a charter, and the legislature of the state adopting it, then, in some measure, as their own, made a small endowment in its favour, and encouraged it further by a promise of future protection and support. The original number of trustees was forty, of whom the charter required that fourteen should be clergymen. It may with truth be said, that the charter-trustees were among the most worthy and distinguished characters of the state. Besides being many of them conspicuous for talents and learning, they possessed in an eminent degree all the qualities and endowments, both physical and moral, requisite to constitute good men and useful citizens. It belongs to time to produce changes and reVOL. V.
volutions in all that is sublunary. We cannot, therefore, be surprised to learn that at the expiration of twenty-seven years only fourteen trustees of the original number survived. Of these eight are clergymen and seven laymen.
The first meeting of the trustees was held in Philadelphia on the 15th of September, 1783, when his excellency John Dickinson was unanimously elected president of the board. Their first meeting in Carlisle was on the 6th of April, 1784, when the occasion was celebrated with a solemnity corresponding to the importance of the object in view. After the performance of divine service, the president delivered an eloquent and admirable address on the importance of education, and the motives which had led to the establishment of the institution. On the following day the board of trustees proceeded to the election "of a principal and a professor of languages. To the former office was chosen the reverend doctor Charles Nisbet, of Montrose, in Scotland, a character alike pre-eminent før piety and literature, and to the latter, Mr. James Ross, now of Philadelphia, who justly takes rank with the first classical scholars of America. The college was now organized, and continued under the special direction of a committee of the trustees, till the month of July of the same year, when Dr. Nisbet arrived, and entered immediately on the duties of his station.
The funds of the institution were at this time low. Private munificence, though in many instances conspicuous, had not yet been exercised on a scale of sufficient extent to meet the exigences of the establishment, nor were the public finances such as to enable the state to supply the deficiency. But, though struggling under the weakness of infancy and the embarrassments of poverty, the school acquired both rank and reputation.
Till the year 1803, the exercises of the college had been held in a small and inconvenient building. But individual contributions keeping pace with the increasing wealth of the county, the trustees were by this time enabled to erect for the institution a spacious edifice. Soon, however, were the flattering prospects arising from this source completely blasted. For, in the course of the same year, the edifice was unfortunately destroyed by fire. Happily, the library, globes, maps, and
apparatus, not having been removed from the old building, escaped the conflagration.
Public misfortunes afford opportunities for the display of public virtues. And such a display was very honourably made on the present occasion. The College edifice was scarcely reduced to a ruin, when a subscription was opened for the erection of a new one. And in twenty-four hours this subscription was filled with great liberality by the inhabitants of Carlisle. An example so noble and praiseworthy, could not be lost-could not be inoperative on those who beheld it. Accordingly a spirit of contribution equally liberal, pervaded the surrounding country, till, in a short time, the trustees were enabled to erect another College superstructure, on an enlarged scale, and an improved plan. On this occasion a sum of money was also granted on loan, by the Legislature of the State.
It is with public institutions as with individuals. Misfortunes frequently visit them in quick succession. This truth was very mournfully confirmed in the instance under consideration. In January, 1804, Dickinson College sustained a severe and afflictive loss in the death of the Rev. Dr. Nisbet, its distinguished and much beloved principal.
The trustees of the institution were soon afterwards convened to adopt such measures as might be rendered necessary by this calamitous event. On that occasion, after the most feeling expressions of regret and sorrow, for so afflicting a dispensation, a resolution was unanimously passed, that the trustees, professors and students, should wear crape on the left arm, for the space of thirty days, in token of respect to the memory of the deceased. The liberal and benevolent reader will pardon a momentary deviation from the more immediate track of this paper, to pay a just, though humble tribute to exalted worth.
Dr. Nisbet was, in the true sense of the word, a great man. He possessed a memory capacious and retentive, almost beyond belief. His judgment was solid, his taste correct, and his reasoning powers most acute and forcible. These had received all the cultivation and improvement that could result from the most unwearied application, continued throughout the course
of a long life. He was among the best classical scholars of the age. He could, with a facility truly surprising, repeat all the beautiful and striking passages of the classic authors. The ease with which he acquired languages, surpassed belief. He was familiar not only with the learned and oriental languages, but also with most of the modern languages of Europe. Though his mind was stored with all the knowledge that books could impart, yet was he most unassuming and humble. There was no pedantic display, no fastidious exhibition of talents-nothing dogmatic or magisterial in his manner or conversation. While he instructed all around him by the extent of his information, he delighted them by the style and manner in which it was communicated. As a Divine he had few equals, and certainly no superiors. His discourses were solid, argumentative and perspicu'bus, abounding in moral truths, and enriched by precepts of practical piety. His Lectures on Theology contain a complete body of Divinity. As a teacher he seemed to open a new mine of knowledge, on every subject to which he turned his attention. And such was the peculiar happiness of his manner, that he gave life and interest to the dryest topics.
On the death of Dr. Nisbet, instead of proceeding immediately to the election of a successor to the place he had so long and so honourably filled, the trustees committed the superintendance of the College to the Rev. Dr. Davidson, under the title of "President of the Faculty." In this situation the doctor continued with great credit to himself, and no less advantage to the institution, till the autumn of the year 1809.
In the early part of the same year, a meeting of the trustees had been held, with a view to definitive arrangements for the appointment of a principal. On this occasion, the eyes of the board were directed to the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Atwater, then president of Middlebury College, in the state of Vermont. was regarded as a character worthy to become the successor of Dr. Nisbet, and to be
o once under the died with the destinies of an institu
of that distinguished scholar. Proposals on the subject were accordingly made to him, which, after due deliberation, he thought proper to accept, and was in
ducted into office in the month of September, 1809. He delivered on the occasion, an inaugural address, which did equal honour to his head and his heart-to his knowledge of letters, his acquaintance with academical discipline, his regard for morality, and his veneration for religion.
Dr. Atwater received his education at Yale College, and having both there and in the state of Vermont, acted in the character of a teacher, is perfectly familiar with the excellent discipline of the schools and colleges of Newengland. Nor is he a disciplinarian only in theory. He has a peculiar fitness for the practical government of youth.
Conscientious in the discharge of his duty, and ardent in the prosecution of a favourite pursuit, he is exclusively devoted to the interests of the institution over which he presides. And thus far have his exertions been rewarded with the most flattering success. Under his direction the discipline of the College has been very signally improved, and the number of pupils increased in a ratio far beyond the calculation of the most sanguine. Should nothing occur to check its present career of prosperity, it furnishes fair and ample promise of rivalling, in a short time, the most distinguished seminaries of learning in the United States.
To the citizens of Pennsylvania, this should be a proud and precious consideration. It ought to inflame their patriotism, awaken their honest state-partialities, and determine them to promote with parental solicitude, the interest and reputation of Dickinson College.
The institution contains at present, about an hundred pupils, and its officers are,
The Rev. Jeremiah Atwater, D. D. Principal and Professor of Logic, Metaphysics, Moral Philosophy, &c.
James M'Cormick, A. M. Professor of Mathematics.
Claudius Berard, Professor of Modern Languages.