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Common Nonsense: The Surprising Role of Penn, Columbia, and William and Mary in the Atlantic Revolutionary Era
The College of Philadelphia

The most surprising and intriguing story of a colonial North American college with Tory leadership comes from the College of Philadelphia. What makes this institution’s early history so interesting is the notion that it was founded by Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s Founding Fathers, as a “non-denominational” school. These “facts” presuppose that it and its leadership would harbor no special affinity for Anglican England, especially during the American Revolution and its lead-up. But the college’s role in this period is much more complex, and in most cases runs counter to the simplistic story told or assumed by many people, especially Penn students and alumni. It was a college whose first provost, William Smith, was a staunch advocate of loyalty to the Crown and the Church of England. And it was an institution that would illicit vitriolic condemnation by many Patriots, prompting the state takeover of 1779.

The College of Philadelphia was founded amidst a backdrop of demographic and political tensions in Pennsylvania occurring in the latter half of the eighteenth century. In 1750 there were around 250,000 residents of this rich, abundant, agricultural and commercial province.5 Included in this population were a polyglot of immigrants and people of English, Welsh, Scottish, German, French, Dutch, Swedish, and even Spanish ancestry, many of whom belonged to Church of England, Lutheran, German and Dutch Reformed, Roman Catholic, Moravian, Presbyterian, Baptist, or Quaker congregations. Ruling over these citizens were the Proprietors, the descendants of William Penn who owned the colony since 1681 by right of royal decree. These men constituted the executive authority, who lived in England for the most part (and had altered their religious beliefs from Quakerism to Anglicanism) and appointed Governors to represent them in the colony. During the middle decades of the eighteenth century, the Proprietors Thomas (who owned three-fourths of the colony) and Richard Penn (who owned the other fourth) declared themselves “true and absolute Proprietaries of the Province of Pennsylvania” with the right to “Grant, Ordain, Declare, Constitute and Appoint” various officers and edicts.6 These Proprietors, however, steadily lost power as the century progressed. Due to the Penn family’s distractions in England due mainly to bankruptcy issues, aggressive legislators in Pennsylvania were able to gain significant authority over paper money, tolls and fines, relations with Native Americans, and by the 1750s some limited regulation of the courts.7 These legislators formed the Assembly of Pennsylvania, which was the center of local power and the unicameral legislative branch of the colonial government. While the members of this body were elected by popular vote, they did not represent the entire population.  Members of the upper and upper middle class (especially from the Philadelphia area) dominated this body for much of the eighteenth century, creating an almost oligarchical local government.8 These two branches, Assembly and Proprietary, Legislative and Executive, would engage in countless political battles over the control of this colony leading up to the Revolutionary War. Their contest would foreshadow and add to the debate between the merits of overseas versus local authority in the 1760s and 1770s that would culminate in the call for American independence. This political struggle would also engage and separate the two most prominent players in the early history of the College of Philadelphia: William Smith and Benjamin Franklin.

To understand fully the process of Smith and Franklin’s partnership and subsequent estrangement, a quick history of the founding of the College of Philadelphia deserves discussion. Amidst the religious melting pot of Pennsylvania, the Church of England clergyman, George Whitefield, arrived in 1740 with the intention of preaching at the Anglican Christ Church of Philadelphia, as part of what later would be called the First Great Awakening. A full description of the Great Awakening is beyond the scope of this essay, but needless to say it was a movement of great Protestant revitalization and evangelicalism, stimulated by moving sermons made by resolute itinerant preachers. So successful were these speakers, not only in attracting supporters but also in criticizing clergymen and denying traditional churches much of their congregations, that Christ Church rejected Whitefield’s request to use its sanctuary. Concurrent and within this pious movement was an appeal to establish a school to educate the poor of Philadelphia. To accomplish both goals, a group of trustees of mostly humble origins procured land on 4th and Arch Street and commissioned the construction of a large building to double as a charity school and a House of Public Worship for Whitefield and other preachers to use. Unfortunately these original trustees went bankrupt in 1741, leaving only a partially-made edifice. While the “New Building” housed many sermons in the 1740s, the lack of funds hindered the establishment and maintenance of a school.

In 1749 however, a new group of trustees, led by the printer, publisher, postmaster, and promising scientist Ben Franklin along with other citizens of power and wealth purchased the New Building with the goal of creating an institution of higher learning in Philadelphia.9 While these trustees founded the institution as “non-sectarian” and without the patronage of any religious body, person or government (the first one of its kind in the thirteen colonies), eighteen of the original twenty-four trustees belonged to the Church of England, and several of them were vestrymen of Christ’s Church.10 This fact would color the legacy of the institution in the decades to come. Attempting to further the novelty of the institution, Franklin advocated for a more utilitarian education in his 1751 "Idea of the English School, Sketch'd out for the Consideration of the Trustees of the Philadelphia Academy,” one that focused on such subjects as English, rhetoric, spelling, math, geography, history, logic, and natural and moral philosophy.11 Unfortunately for Franklin though, his fellow and more traditional trustees overruled him and created an Academy that prioritized instruction in the classics instead.12

Classes at the “Academy of Philadelphia” began in January 1751, and in September of the next year the new trustees (at the behest of the original trustees and Rev. Whitefield himself) finally added a “Free School” to educate the poor children of the city. It would take only four more years for the school to accomplish the final goal of its founders and become a degree-granting collegiate institution. On the 14th of May, 1755, the “College of Philadelphia” was formally established by Proprietary charter. But with this English recognition came a key royal stipulation: to subscribe to three oaths of loyalty to the Crown. By order of King George II, all the trustees had to swear to obey “the further Security of his Majesty’s person and Government,” “the Succession of the Crown in the Heirs of the late Princess Sophia,” and “An Act for preventing Dangers which may happen from popish recusants.”13 While these oaths reflected the standard operating procedure in 1755, the new trustees of 1779 would triumphantly declare them null and void all while repudiating the man whom they deemed the prime and resolute devotee of such commitments, William Smith.

Doctor and Reverend William Smith first visited the Academy of Philadelphia in 1753 on the invitation of Benjamin Franklin. Smith had studied at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, was a tutor in Scotland and London in 1750, and then journeyed to New York City in 1751 to be a private tutor. 14  Two years later, while still in New York, Smith wrote his famous essay, A General Idea of the College of Mirania, which outlined his ideas on education. According to Smith, those people intent on obtaining employment in learned professions should be instructed in “Divinity, Law, Physic, Agriculture, and the chief offices of the state” while those pursing mechanical trades ought to follow a different and more specific system of education.15 Such novel ideas impressed Franklin, then president of the Board of Trustees, who quickly struck up a correspondence with him. After meeting Smith in person, Franklin and the board hired Smith in 1754 as a master to teach Logic, Ethics, and Natural Philosophy. When the institution became a college the next year, Smith became its first provost (the equivalent of the modern post of college president), a post he would retain until 1779. But behind his specific progressive educational ideas was a commitment to traditional forms of government, religion, and instruction. In his writings in the 1750s, Smith (as many colonists did at the time) constantly commends “British Ardor,” “fair Britannia’s Isles,” “the Glory of the English Name,” and other elements of the British government.16 He was also ordained as a priest of the Church of England in 1754, drafted a prayer book for the Academy, which extolled God to “Bless, protect and defend our most gracious Sovereign, and all the Royal Family, together with all those who are put in Authority under him; particularly the Proprietaries,” and desired to make the college a stronghold of Anglicanism, which the Penns had wanted as well.17 The reverend also countered many of Franklin’s hopes for reforming the curriculum of the college, in the end maintaining the other trustees’ traditional and Oxfordian notions that education in the classics should supersede that of English in particular.18 The most vitriolic conflict between the two men however would occur over the legitimacy and support of the Proprietary government of Pennsylvania, and Smith would doggedly espouse the traditional and anti-local position.

At the time of the college’s founding, Smith and Franklin were friends who respected and admired one another.19 But while Smith was a dedicated supporter of the Penns and the Proprietary government (partially because Smith received a £50 annual retainer from Thomas Penn for his services as provost), Franklin at this point vacillated between backing the Proprietors versus the Assembly in their political war for control of Pennsylvania.20 Smith attempted to convince Franklin to support the Executive cause but was wary of Franklin not coming around, writing to Thomas Penn, “I must suspend my Judgement of my Friend for a little…A little Time will discover all.”21 Franklin definitively committed to the Assembly side (or the Quaker party as it was known) in 1755 following resentment over members of the Proprietary party asserting their control over many of the charity schools in the region, threatening Franklin’s postmastership, and snubbing him of praise for supplying General Braddock’s army with wagons and provisions in his campaign against the French.22 What resulted was an intense battle in the press, with Smith penning two important pamphlets entitled “Brief State of the Province of Pennsylvania.” After the disastrous defeat of General Braddock in western Pennsylvania during the French and Indian war and a general fear of future French and Native American attacks on English settlers, these writings condemned the Quaker majority in the Assembly for such insecurity. Smith detested that the Quakers “have no mind to give a single Shilling for the King’s Use, unless they can thereby increase their own power,” condemned their dangerous pacifism in such a time of war, and highlighted the hazards of almost purely republican government.23 Franklin countered with writings of his own to defend the legislature and criticize the Proprietors instead, but Smith’s papers were far more influential and represented a serious challenge to the Quakers and the Assembly.24

In the wake of these events, Franklin and Smith’s friendship was shattered for good. In 1755, the Board of Trustees altered the manner of electing their president from a vocal acclamation or a visible raising of the hands to a secret ballot.25 Undoubtedly in a large part due to the political pressure of Smith and other Proprietary-favoring trustees and now with no need to publically show their disapproval, the board elected Reverend Richard Peters as their president instead of Franklin the next year.26 Three years later, in 1759, while in England trying to convince the Penns to give up their control of Pennsylvania, Franklin would grumble, “Before I left Philadelphia everything done in the Academy was privately pre-concerted in a cabal.”27 He further hoped that, “the Proprietors will be gibbeted up as they deserve, to rot and stink in the Nostrils of Posterity.”28 Smith meanwhile privately scorned Franklin, sarcastically disparaging “the aspiring views of a certain mighty politician” and according to Franklin falsely “reported about the diminution of my friends.”29 The damage was irreparable. Both men lacked an ability to cooperate or understand the views of the other and their political disputes spilled over into the affairs of the college. Franklin, a key revolutionary leader and Founding Father, would play little part in the rest of the early history of the College of Philadelphia.

Smith again was to demonstrate his inimical beliefs against the Assembly and local power with at least the tacit support of the majority of the college’s trustees. On February 4, 1758, the Minutes of the Trustees of the College of Philadelphia recorded, “The Assembly of the Province having taken Smith into custody…they (the Trustees) ordered that the said classes should attend him for that purpose at the usual Hours at the place of his present confinement.”30 Thus we are witnesses to a curious scene of a college provost teaching courses from his jail cell. While the official charge Smith received was of libeling the Assembly, his real “crime” was his unflagging criticism of the Legislature during the French and Indian War.31

Smith continued to attack the Quakers in the legislature during this conflict, going further than merely denouncing their pacifism by deeming them replete with proud, factious, avaricious, and contentious individuals, all disloyal to the preservation of the empire. He demanded that all Assemblymen should swear an oath of allegiance to the King and declare that they would defend the colony against its enemies, while knowing that swearing oaths and military service were forbidden in Quakerism.32 It is not surprising then that the Quaker-dominated legislature decided to incarcerate him. What is perhaps more startling is the fact that trustees and faculty continued to endorse a convicted criminal and allow him to continue his duties as provost and teacher while in prison. Smith took his case all the way to the King in the form of an appeal, composing a petition in February 1758, “imploring your Majesty to afford your unfortunate Petitioner, and Subject, such Relief as in your Wisdom shall appear just and equitable.”33 George II took action on behalf of the provost, and not only was Smith vindicated, but soon after the Archbishop of Canterbury and five other Anglican bishops recommended that he receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from the University of Oxford.34 Smith soon after actually did receive honorary degrees not only from Oxford, but from Aberdeen, and Dublin as well. Smith’s actions however also prompted the Pennsylvania Journal to publish a series of anonymous articles in late 1758 declaring that the college was an enemy to the liberties of the province, was in the hands of those loyal to the tyrannical control of the Proprietors, and that a new college should be established based on local (rather than Proprietary) interests.35 Nothing concrete resulted out of this attempt, but enmity between Smith and local leaders grew, and the battle lines between those devoted to local concerns and those who believed in traditional and overseas authority were now being more clearly drawn.

Arguably the event that most wedded the College of Philadelphia to British, Church of England, and royal influence was the fundraising campaign on which Smith embarked in the early 1760s. In the first decade of the college’s existence, tuition rates, lotteries, and other sources of income could not keep up with soaring expenses. So the provost decided to take matters into his own hands and personally set off to raise money in England in 1761. This action was not without precedent as other colonial schools had acted similarly, and the Academy had previously received aid from charitable Englishmen and members of the Penn family.36 Smith was also well acquainted with many prominent citizens of the British Isles from his time spent growing up, receiving his education, teaching, and being ordained by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The greatest initial challenge he faced was thus not from any Englishmen, but from James Jay of New York, who had likewise come to raise funds for his new school, King’s College. Smith’s old nemesis, Benjamin Franklin, also posed a threat after he published articles in the British press extolling the population not to support Smith’s “sectarian” school that was bent only on molding young minds to the Church of England and the Proprietary cause.37 Smith and Jay were forced to join forces and compose a joint essay, “To All Friends of Religion and Patrons of Useful Knowledge” justifying their campaigns. The authors noted that without well-funded schools, colonies like Pennsylvania and New York possessed the “danger of becoming not only very unprofitable, but even an unwieldy and dishonorable Appendage of this Monarchy.” Likewise, if schools were well-funded, they would be critical in the maintenance of a loyal and devout British Empire. 38 Of course, Jay and Smith were pandering to British sentiment to accomplish their goals, but one has to believe that the two men were in fact deeply concerned with the preservation of the Crown and Protestantism in North America versus the proximate Catholic French and Spanish colonies. They considered their schools potential bulwarks of royal and ecclesiastical power in the colonies if financially secure.39

Their campaign was lengthy but successful, prompting the young King George III to issue a Royal Brief to aid both colleges in 1762. The Royal Brief directed every clergyman in England to ask for contributions from their parishioners and pay over the resulting sums to the possessors of the brief. George III justified such action because “the success of our Arms in America opens a new field [for] the Advancement of Divine Knowledge” and, like Smith and Jay had argued, King’s College and the College of Philadelphia will help in “enlarging the sphere of Protestantism.”40 Such a decree brought in a considerable amount of money, but there was an important stipulation. The Archbishop of Canterbury insisted that the following be added to the process of determining trustees for the College of Philadelphia: that “the Members of the Church of England or those dissenting from them…[shall not] be put on any worse footing in this seminary than they were at the time of obtaining the Royal Brief.”41 Behind this cleverly worded and seemingly tolerant declaration was the fact that about three-fourths of the trustees were Anglicans at this time, thus instituting a perpetual Church of England majority on the Board of Trustees.42 Smith did not need to think twice about acquiescing, as he delighted in preserving Church of England’s dominance at the expense of especially Presbyterian trustees. Smith then roamed the country for almost two years petitioning prominent Britons and distinguished clergymen.44

All in all, Smith returned to Philadelphia in 1764 with a total of £12,000, partially from the Royal Brief and partly from individual donors such as the King himself, William Pitt the Elder, and Richard and Thomas Penn (who also raised Smith’s personal salary).45 The Anglican reverence of its provost, the now formally established Church of England majority of its trustees, and the financial support of the Crown and prominent Englishmen cemented the connection between the College of Philadelphia and the Church of England (and England in general) in the eyes of many in Pennsylvania and beyond. Such a link would be a major justification for the 1779 state takeover of the institution. Summing it up nicely, the author Edward Potts Cheyney declared that this fundraising campaign “drew (the College of Philadelphia) closer to England and so weakened it for the day when loyalty to the Crown was to become disloyalty to the new state and nation.”46

Such an explicit pro-Anglican, pro-Proprietary, and pro-England legacy did not mesh well with the tumultuous political protests occurring in the thirteen British North American colonies from the passage of the Stamp Act in 1765 to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. But while it will be argued that Smith retained his loyal and traditional beliefs during the conflict and its run-up, the trustees, faculty, and students of the College of Philadelphia were deeply divided politically. For instance, Dr. John Morgan and Dr. William Shippen Jr., medical professors of the college, both were the Director-General of Hospitals of the Continental Army during parts of the Revolutionary War.47 Twenty alumni, members of the Board of Trustees, or faculty took part in the First or Second Continental Congress, and nine signed the Declaration of Independence.48 Famous and distinguished American Generals such as “Mad” Anthony Wayne and Thomas Mifflin also were former students of the college.

Additionally, the Presbyterian and future Patriot Francis Alison was the primary instructor of the course on moral philosophy, which included at least recommended readings of a few more modern and radical essays, such as John Locke’s Two Treatises, and Francis Hutcheson’s Moral Philosophy.49 These writings did espouse revolution when necessary to combat tyranny, republican forms of government (paralleling that of the commonwealth of England from 1649-1653), and were essential in forming the language of the Declaration of Independence. 50  While important in politicizing some of the students, this class was not the primary thrust of the curriculum, as mentioned before, Greek and Latin instruction was more heavily emphasized. Furthermore, Alison and Smith worked together only because of their common commitment to education, in all other matters, political and spiritual, they were constantly at odds.51 Smith, as will later be noted, rejected Alison’s notion that the situation in America in the 1770s necessitated Locke and Hutchinson’s ideas of a “just rebellion.” While Allison had made significant contributions to the curriculum and direction of the college in the 1760s in particular, as a Presbyterian he was increasingly discouraged about the Church of England’s rising influence in the institution.52 Not only was Alison dismayed by the 1764 clause instituting perpetual Anglican dominance on the Board of Trustees, he also lamented that three of his most able students of the 1766 graduating class sailed to England to become Anglican clergymen. Such disappointment after his favorite students defected to the Church of England led Alison to focus primarily on his congregation in New London, Connecticut and the affairs of the Presbyterian College of New Jersey.53 While Alison and his more radical classes certainly had some impact on students until his death in 1779, by the late 1760s and early 1770s, when debates over Revolution were starting to take form, it was Smith who assumed the primary spot as leader and educator in the College of Philadelphia.54   

On the other side of the political spectrum, famous Tories such as William Hamilton (who was tried for treason in New York in 1779) and Isaac Hunt counted themselves alumni of the College of Philadelphia.55 Jacob Duché, one of the first graduates of the college, a Church of England clergyman, the professor of Oratory, and a trustee, nominally supported the rebellion in its incipient stages but still professed deep loyalty to England. In an address to Washington’s troops in 1775, he beseeched God to “accept our most fervent prayers in behalf of thy servant, but our dread Sovereign Lord King George. Endue him plenteously with heavenly gifts, and grant him in health and wealth long to live!”56 He further prayed that God would “heal…our present unhappy divisions…betwixt us and our Parent-land” and stated that “my soul shrinks back with horror from the tragic scene of fraternal slaughter.”57 Later in the war he wrote George Washington on several occasions advising surrender and the repudiation of independence. Of the three trustees who were members of the Second Continental Congress, one voted for Independence, one voted against it, and one refrained from voting. Many other trustees who had warmly supported the rights of colonists during such moments as the Stamp Act protests and Lexington and Concord stopped short of endorsing independence. 58  The board also consisted of ardent Tories such as John and William Allen, John and Richard Penn, and James Tilghman.59 These men remained on pleasant terms with the British during their occupation of Philadelphia.60 Three other trustees, Duché, Andrew Allen, and Alexander Stedman, fled Philadelphia after the Patriots re-took the city and were later condemned by the state of Pennsylvania as traitors.61 Most of the other trustees had at most a lukewarm acceptance of the new government.62

Almost every community in the thirteen colonies similarly housed both Tories and Whigs, but William Smith assured that the school would assume an overall Loyalist direction. The author David W. Robson is a bit too mild in calling Smith a “conservative patriot in an environment where that stance was often interpreted as Toryism.”63 It is true that Smith publically praised the repeal of the Stamp Act, attacked the Coercive or “Intolerable” Acts of 1774, and argued the correctness of America’s complaints against taxation. He also turned a blind eye to Francis Alison’s continued teaching of the writings of Locke, Hutcheson, James Harrington, and Algernon Sidney (other British writers who also advocated for republican forms of government and the right of revolution to prevent tyranny). 64 Throughout the conflict, however, Smith kept up his Anglican faith and teachings, leading Church of England services at the college, reading prayers at the opening and closing of the day’s exercises, and performing commencements and other ceremonies at Christ Church.65 Coupled with his continued reverence to the Church of England was his undying loyalty to, if occasional disappointment with, the Monarchy that controlled it. In the 1770s Smith demonstrated a clear continuity of beliefs from his early days supporting the Proprietors and overseas versus local forms of governance.

Smith did suffer through the agony of choosing between conflicted loyalties, that of the Crown and Proprietors who had helped sustain him and his institution versus that of American liberties, but in the end he could not commit himself to the Revolutionary cause and advocate separation from the Mother Country. In a commencement speech he criticized the Stamp Act riots of 1766, affirming that “the Cause of Liberty, Civil and Religious, is the cause of Britain herself” and constantly urged restraint and reconciliation on the part of Americans.66 In 1772 he made an address in South Carolina lauding the British Empire that “promises to enlarge itself…and to give law as well as happiness [to] every other part of America” and calling Great Britain “a nation enjoying liberty, religion and science, in their purest and most improved state.”67 Even after Americans heard about the Coercive (or “Intolerable”) Acts of 1774, Smith affirmed to the Bishop of London that, “I shall continue to act while I can be of any use in advising measures consistent with the Proprietors. I profess…all allegiance and subordination which we owe to the Crown and Empire of G. Britain.”68 Smith was convinced that the riotous colonists were in the wrong at least in any germinal calls to break away from their Parent state.

While he agreed with the injustice of taxation without representation and at least in theory the right of revolution in cases of extreme tyranny, as late as June 1775 the Reverend beseeched all colonists and students to act “with unshaken fidelity to a common sovereign” and aid in the “salvation of a great empire.”69 Even though he approved of Congress’ call for a solemn day of fasting and prayer in July 1775 to commemorate those who had already perished in the struggle, Smith exhorted his fellow Americans to refrain from further “Acts of Violence, Rashness, Intemperance, or Undutifulness to the country from whence we spring.”70 And while advocating for the restoration of the constitutional rights of American colonists, Smith regarded the ultimate goal as “a final settlement of the terms upon which this country may be perpetually united to the Parent State.”71 He confessed to a confidant in England, Dr. Richard Hind, that “a Suspension of Hostilities and Negotiation” and “a Return to our former Harmony” was a result for which he labored daily. Realizing that his conciliatory tactics “may Subject me to the Blame of the Violent of both Sides” (Smith was viewed sometimes with disgust by other Loyalists such as Samuel Seabury and Myles Cooper for not going far enough in his political statements) he confessed that “my Love is strong and my Zeal ardent for the Prosperity of both Countries.”72 No matter how appeasing to the Patriot side, these are not the words of a leading educator who was even insinuating that his students should support the violent revolution or form an independent government. Conversely he was desperately attempting to convince those who would listen, especially his pupils, to abandon such burgeoning radical ideas.

Even as the war progressed and the British were forced out of Boston Smith did not demur, urging Congress in February 1776 in his essay “Plain Truth” to reconcile with Britain and refute Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. In April and May of that year Smith covertly went so far as to call Paine’s writings “Common Nonsense” in his famous “Cato Letters” to The Pennsylvania Gazette.73 Smith wrote under the pseudonym “Cato,” evoking the famous censor, in these eight addresses, and thus we should consider what is in them his genuine beliefs, void of any conciliatory statements because of fear of Patriot retaliation on his person or on the Church of England. Other historians and writers such as Robson, Roche, Cheyney, J. David Hoeveler, Anetha Lucille Stoeckel, and Albert Gegenheimer have not emphasized enough the importance of these letters in determining Smith’s political views. Smith censured Paine in them, saying that “some [of Paine’s] assertions are too absurd for the possibility of refutation.”74 Instead Smith argued against purely republican government (as he had done in 1758) because “In the Republics of Italy…there is less liberty than in our monarchies.”75 The possibility of American independence frightened him, as he remarked, “we have long flourished under our charter government, what may be the consequences of another form we cannot pronounce with certainty…and may be worse than it is described.”76 Furthermore if America actually broke away from Britain, the provost reasoned, “we abandon all prospect of preserving our importance by trade and agriculture, the ancient, sure and experienced road to wealth and happiness.”77 Clearly, according to Smith, “the true interest of America lies in reconciliation with Great Britain.”78 Smith thus abhorred “every such writer (like Paine), I say, (who) insults his country in distress, and is a fellow worker with its enemies to hasten its ruin.”79 It cannot be emphasized enough that these anonymous letters demonstrate his unmistakable and sincere views. Where he might have spoken favorably at times about the Patriotic cause (if not the war) in public to preserve his job and reputation, in private he could not have been more firm in his resolution to stop the American revolt against Britain. These documents demonstrate that he possessed at least in the initial stage of the conflict a profound loyalty to the Mother Country and an unflagging belief that both England and America would live in peace, stability, and economic prosperity only if united.

Not only did Smith resolutely espouse such stances, he subtly tried to force his students to do the same. Not only in classes would Smith subtly encourage such Loyalist opinions, but Smith would also censor the public presentations of his students. For instance, at the college’s 1765 commencement (after the imposition of the Stamp Act), Smith commissioned two students to recite a long poem that paid tribute to Britain’s royal family and its patronage of this institution. Smith was also known for his extensive re-writing of his graduates’ commencement addresses.80 For instance he most likely added several stanzas acclaiming the king and stating that the “gracious George shall reign the Friend of Justice, and of Man… [who] gives us Peace, and fosters Liberty” to a decidedly pro-American commencement speech in 1766.81 Due to Smith’s high reputation, his public statements encouraging reconciliation undoubtedly were absorbed and influenced the political stances of his students. As mentioned before, some of his former students such as Isaac Hunt and William Hamilton did adopt their mentor’s political stances that shied away from revolution and independence. Smith wanted his institution not to gain a reputation for radicalism and undoubtedly hoped that those he taught would share his more loyal views.

Such writings and actions had occasioned a suspicious Philadelphia’s Committee of Observation and Inspection to summon Smith in early 1776 to respond to charges that he spoke disrespectfully towards Congress and the Patriot leaders of Pennsylvania. While he was exonerated because of the weak principal witness and later allowed to deliver a memorial oration for General Montgomery in February 1776, Smith’s continued emphasis on reconciliation prompted John Adams to deem it “an insolent performance.”82  While Smith’s political writings largely halted after July 1776 so as not to elicit further retaliation, Smith could not commit himself to support independence or the new republican government fully in word or deed.83 Smith’s intransigence, while noble, would do little to save his college.

Concurrent with Smith’s new reticence was the rise of a group of Patriots, led by men of position and ability but populated primarily by those of lower social classes, called the Constitutionalists party, i.e. those who favored the new Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776. This constitution radically expanded the electorate, empowered the unicameral Assembly, and abolished the Proprietary Executive and replaced it with a Supreme Executive Council that had greatly diminished authority.84 The Constitutionalists considered schools a necessary arm of politics, especially in such a republican government that relied on greater participation of the populace, and hoped to create a plethora of such institutions that charged low tuition rates, were truly non-sectarian, and were established and controlled by the Legislature rather than a private board of trustees.85 Clearly the loyalism of many of its leaders, its Proprietary connections, the Church of England dominance over the Board of Trustees, and its private founding made the College of Philadelphia inimical to the goals of the Constitutionalist party. From 1776-1777 the Constitutionalists did everything they could to counter the college, including attacking Smith in the press and spreading the rumor that new trustees continued to swear the 1755 oaths of allegiance to the Crown (in fact, there is no mention in the Trustee Minutes that they changed or abolished these oaths).86 But the Constitutionalists lacked substantial legal justification to alter this private college into one controlled by the state.87

This conflict was put on hold as the British occupied Philadelphia from 1777-1778, but the British invasion only fanned the flames of resentment towards the college. Reports from the Assembly noted that at this time some trustees “were now with the British army under General Howe” and Francis Alison grumbled, “Dr. Smith has made his peace with Howe.”88 Finally, after the British abandoned the city, the Assembly formed a committee in February 1779 ostensibly to investigate the college’s financial situation. By the spring the investigation grew to include the Supreme Executive Council.89 Its leader, Joseph Reed, assessed that the college, “appears to have allied itself so closely to the government of Britain” with many of its trustees and especially Smith displaying “manifest attachment to the British government.”90 In June, the Pennsylvania government ordered that the college dismiss three prominent trustees who had shown immoderate levels of loyalty to the British, and while Smith and the trustees complied, the manner in which they did hardly helped their cause in proving their obedience to the new government. Instead of recognizing the governmental order and the alleged treachery of these three, the trustee minutes simply state “Mr. Alexander Stedman not having for many years appeared at the board, and being now removed to New York, his place shall be supplied by the choice of a new trustee,” and “It being resolved that the seats of Andrew Allen Esqr. and the reverend Mr. Duché are vacant, it is agreed to choose two new trustees.”91 Such excuses for dismissal that obfuscated a direct state order further proved to many Pennsylvanians that the leadership of the College of Philadelphia was not completely aligned with the new government or independence movement.

The investigative committee finally published its report in September 1779, condemning the college for: 1) violating the “plan of free and unlimited Catholicism” with the 1764 provision to preserve the Anglican majority on the Board of Trustees, 2) preserving the 1755 trustee oaths to the Crown that were “totally inconsistent with the independence and constitution of this commonwealth,” 3) tolerating traitors, 4) displaying hostility to the constitutional government, 5) not conforming to the oaths required by the new state of Pennsylvania, and 6) possessing inadequate funds.92 Such grounds justified the passage of an Act by the Assembly in November 1779 to revoke the charter of the College of Philadelphia and create in its place the University of the State of Pennsylvania that conformed “to the revolution and to the Constitution and government of this commonwealth.”93 John Ewing replaced Smith as provost, Joseph Reed became the president of the Board of Trustees, and twenty-four new trustees, including six senior ministers of the various religious denominations of the city, took oaths of loyalty to the Constitution and state of Pennsylvania.94 In one final gesture the trustees affirmed, “we forever renounce and refuse all allegiance, subjection and obedience to the King and Crown of Great Britain.”95

Some may debate the true Loyalism of many of the trustees and even Smith himself versus the perhaps trumped-up charges by the Constitutionalists who wanted to reconstitute and control the college. The greatest piece of evidence of this claim is the fact that some former trustees, including notable Patriots such as General Thomas Mifflin, William White (who served as Chaplain of the Continental Congress), and Robert Morris (often called “the financier of the Revolution”), protested the closure of the college and subsequent state takeover. They wrote in 1780 to the Pennsylvania Council of Censors (equivalent to the Supreme Court) that the old provost and faculty “conducted the said seminary…to the great satisfaction of its numerous Benefactors and Founders…and were fully confirmed and established in their Rights and Franchises, under the American Revolution.”96 Furthermore these men denounced the State’s overhaul of the College of Philadelphia “without any misdemeanor, offence, Neglect of Duty or Breach of Trust, in any manner proved,” and that according to the 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution, “no legislature can have authority to divest [any seminary of learning] of their Franchises.”97 These men, while citing the Pennsylvanian Constitution to try to win support from the Constitutionalists in power, were actually part of the Republican or anti-Constitutionalist party. This party advocated for a greater separation of power and a diminished executive authority of the State Legislature and argued that the college was a species of private property and thus invulnerable to government interference. Smith joined them in their subtle denouncement that the closure of his institution was meant only “to serve [the Constitutionalist] Party.”98 While these technical and legal justifications might be valid, the State government denied their petition in part because they believed that the school posed a threat to them and the educational goals of the Constitution of 1776.99 This fact demonstrates that such conflicts were not black and white, Whig vs. Tory ideology. Personal and political conflicts within different Patriot groups that went beyond the strict Revolutionary or Independence debate perhaps played a role in the closure of the institution. Certainly there existed other political motives for creating a new state-controlled institution that may have prompted the more radical Assembly to exaggerate the levels of Loyalism within the College of Philadelphia’s leadership.

In spite of these facts, there still remains irrefutable evidence that as an institution, the College of Philadelphia did not overtly support independence or republicanism, was not a leader of radical change, and rather possessed an overall philosophy of obedience to traditional and royal forms of power.100 As late as 1780 Smith referred to the old Proprietor as “the late honorable Thomas Penn Esqr.”101 The provost never objected to the Constitutionalist’s claims of his own Loyalism, only defending himself by declaring that he was a dedicated schoolmaster who “advanced the literary credit of Pennsylvania.”102 Smith’s (and other prominent trustees and faculty) writings, sermons, and teachings continually showed an unequivocal affinity for British monarchical authority and reconciliation with the Mother Country even when the Continental Congress was on the verge of Declaring Independence only blocks away from his college. Smith seems only to have reluctantly conformed to American Independence after it was secured so that he could remain in the United States and eventually return to a restored college in 1789 (the College of Philadelphia and University of the State of Pennsylvania merged in 1791 to become the University of Pennsylvania).103

While certainly exposed to some important moral philosophical tracts, the students of the College of Philadelphia were likewise being told not to apply their teachings to the current situation by their respected provost and some prominent trustees and faculty. These leaders emphasized that the time for radical action and justified revolution was not now. Thus those that became revolutionaries received most of their politicization from outside the classrooms, e.g. the pamphlets, speeches, tracts, and newspapers circulating throughout the colonies. Or they had to make the difficult choice of following what their more distant moral philosophical teacher was espousing versus what their prominent provost was. Far from being an example of American revolutionary drive, the early record of the College of Philadelphia is a prime demonstration of how some colleges in North America were in fact hesitant to cast their lot with the Patriots, and often the leaders of the institutions that we may see as catalysts for progressive change in fact espoused antithetical beliefs to their students and wider communities.        

The other two institutions of higher learning under scrutiny, The College of William and Mary and King’s College, possessed even clearer connections to Britain, with their leaders expressing outspoken loyalty to the Crown in the prelude to the American Revolution. Both were, unlike the College of Philadelphia, expressly Church of England institutions. Their faculties consisted of primarily Anglican clergymen who received key support and direction from the Church of England. Most of these men also advocated for instituting an American Episcopate. This hope to create bishops of the Church of England in America was linked with Loyalism in the minds of many Patriots. As the author David W. Robson eloquently writes, “The colonists resisted the establishment of Anglican bishops as part of the plot to take away their liberties.”104 Further cementing the association of these colleges with Britain was the proclivity to hire teachers from British universities (especially Oxford), and the financial connections these institutions had with ecclesiastical and government officials in London. Each of these two schools will be examined in further detail to evaluate their Anglican and Loyalist beliefs, effect on students, and the nature of their initial political impact on the War for American Independence.


5. William S. Hanna, Benjamin Franklin and Pennsylvania Politics (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1964), 1.

6. Thomas and Richard Penn, “Charter incorporating the Trustees of the Academy and Charitable School in the province of PA.” July 13, 1753, UARC, UPA3, Box OS11, Folder 1117.

7. Hanna, 6-8.

8. This oligarchical rule was kept in place in many instances through personal and familial alliances between prominent men of Pennsylvania. It was also dependent on keeping the citizenry politically impotent and discouraged from meddling in political affairs, engaged in intra-group conflicts, and ensconced in ignorance and anxiety. Ibid., 3-4.

9. Some scholars have speculated that the emergence of the College of New Jersey (Princeton) in 1746 prompted these men to establish a local school to obviate the need for Philadelphia boys to travel to New Jersey to receive a proper schooling. Such claims could be plausible, as Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette makes several mentions of the College of New Jersey from 1746-1749 and the potential of Philadelphian citizens to attend, but are only speculative as no direct records demonstrate this particular motive for founding the College of Philadelphia. Additionally, the trustees chose the “New Building” because they reasoned it would be cheaper to complete construction on this structure and pay off the previous debts owed than to establish the school at another proximate location. “Scheme of a Lottery to be set up in Philadelphia,” The Pennsylvania Gazette, December 12, 1749.

10. Edward Potts Cheyney, History of the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1940), 32.

11. Benjamin Franklin, "Idea of the English School, Sketch'd out for the Consideration of the Trustees of the Philadelphia Academy,” in Richard Peters,  A sermon on education : Wherein some account is given of the academy, established in the city of Philadelphia : Preach'd at the opening thereof, on the seventh day of January, 1750-1 / By the Reverend Mr. Richard Peters. (Philadelphia: Printed and sold by B. Franklin, and D. Hall, at the Post-Office, 1751), in Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library (ARBML), Curtis Collection, 472.

12. Cheyney, 17-34.

13. Additional Charter of the College, etc. of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. [Phila. 1791], UARC, UPA3, Box 31, Folder 1888, 4.

14. Cheyney, 40-44.

15. William Smith, A general idea of the College of Mirania; with a sketch of the method of teaching science and religion, in the several classes: and some account of its rise, establishment and buildings. Address'd more immediately to the consideration of the trustees nomi. (New-York: Printed and sold by J. Parker and W. Weyman, at the new printing-office in Beaver-Street, 1753): 14, in ARBML, AC7 Sm683 753g.

16. William Smith, “A poem on visiting the Academy of Philadelphia, June 1753” (Philadelphia: Printed [by Benjamin Franklin], in the year MDCCLIII. [1753]): 6, in Curtis Collection. Folio 511F; Smith, College of Mirania,  6; Ibid, 86.

17. William Smith, Prayers, for the use of the Philadelphia Academy (Philadelphia: Printed by B. Franklin, and D. Hall, MDCCLIII. [1753]):15, in Curtis Collection, 508; J. David Hoeveler, Creating the American Mind: Intellect and Politics in the Colonial Colleges (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2002).

18. Cheyney, 73.

19. Smith even wrote a poem to Franklin heralding him as “a teacher and friend to mankind” and a “renowned inventor.” William Smith, “Ode [to Benjamin Franklin],” UARC, UPT50 S664 Box 3, Folder 80.

20. James H. Hutson, Pennsylvania Politics 1746-1770, The Movement for Royal Government and Its Consequences (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972), 159.

21. William Smith to (Thomas) Penn, 1755, in Penn Official Correspondence, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, VII.   

22. Hanna, 84-87.

23. The first major irony of this story is that the provost of the College of Philadelphia disparaged these Quaker legislators, when years later the school’s mascot would become the Quaker. William Smith, A brief state of the province of Pennsylvania (New York: reprinted for J. Sabin, 1865), 25.

24. Hanna, 96.

25.Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania Minute Books, Volume 1, 1749-1768 (College, Academy and Charitable School), June 10, 1755

26. Ibid., May 11, 1756.

27. Benjamin Franklin to Professor Kinnersley, July 28, 1759, in Cheyney, 109.

28. Leonard W. Labaree et al., eds., The Papers of Benjamin Franklin (New Haven, 1959-2003), VII, 374.

29. William Smith to Pennsylvania Gazette, April 15, 1756, in Cheyney, 109-110; Benjamin Franklin, The Completed Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin, ed. Mark Skousen (Washington D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2006), 22.

30. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania Minute Books, Volume 1, 1749-1768 (College, Academy and Charitable School), February 4, 1758,

31. Robson, 29-31.

32. Ibid., 31-32.

33. William Smith, “Petition to King including report of trial with list of Subscribers,” January 6, 1758, in William Smith Papers, UARC, UPT50 S664 Box 5, Folder 1.

34. Neda M. Westlake, “William Smith, First Provost of the University,” Library Chronicle of the Friends of the University of Pennsylvania Library, XXVI (1960), 31.

35. Cheyney, 110-111.

36. Ibid., 61-62.

37. Hanna, 146-147.

38 William Smith and James Jay, An Humble Representation By William Smith, D.D. and James Jay, M.D. In Behalf of the lately erected Colleges of Philadelphia and New York. (London, 1762), Sabin 84523, UARC, UPA3, Box 32, 1940.

39. Smith would often conflate the maintenance of the British Empire and royal power with the preservation and extension of Protestantism. In his pamphlet, Discourses on public occasions in America, also written in 1762, Smith promotes “a general zeal in their defense” of both the British Empire and Protestant cause, which would be aided by schools instilling reverence for both. William Smith, Discourses on public occasions in America / By William Smith.... (London: Printed for A. Millar [etc.], 1762), in Horace Howard Furness Memorial (Shakespeare) Library. E199 .S65, 1.,

40. King George III of England to [whom it may concern], London, August 19, 1762 (Brief for the raising of money for the King’s College and the College of Philadelphia in Great Britain, by William Smith and Sir James Jay. Copy of original in Lambeth Palace Library, London, original endorsed by Archbishop Secker; ms.l., 9p.), King’s College Papers, Box 1.

41. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania Minute Books, Volume 1, 1749-1768 (College, Academy and Charitable School), June 14, 1764,

42. Cheyney, 122-123.

43. Hanna, 160-161. So great was his love of the Church of England that many accused Smith of plotting to become the first Anglican Bishop of America.

44. William Smith, “Account of fundraising activities,” 1762, UARC, UPT50 S664 Box 4, Folder 1.

45. Cheyney, 66; Hutson, 159.

46. Ibid., 67.

47. Robson, 37-38.

48. Cheyney, 115.

49. These writings advocated for the right of revolution if a government became tyrannical and transgressed people’s natural rights to life, liberty, and property. Smith and the trustees of the College of Philadelphia did not allow as many moral philosophical tracts to be taught as did the College of New Jersey. Robson, 81.

50. Ibid., 85-87.

51. Elizabeth A. Ingersoll, Francis Alison: American philosophe, 1705-1799 (Ann Arbor, Mich., University Microfilms, 1974), 490.

52. Alison and Smith would go head to head in the press in the debate over if Church of England bishops should be instituted in America. Alison protested, and Smith was forced to defend his congregation. Hoeveler, 336.

53. The Memorandum of Rules passed by the Trustees also indicate that Dr. Alison at this point spent more time in the Latin School. Memorandum. Collection of Rules passed at different Times by the Trustees of the College [Academy and Charitable School] of Philadelphia, August 11, 1767, UARC, UPA3, Box 13, Folder 1125; Ingersoll, 491-493.

54. The Memorandum of Rules states that “professors to reign according to Seniority.” Clearly, Smith was the most senior member of the faculty (with Alison) and so would possess an even greater power over the direction of the school. Memorandum. Brief of Trustees’ Minutes, Volume 1, n.d., UARC, UPA3, Box 12, Folder 1131.

55. William Smith, Pennsylvania Packet, May 13, 1779, in William Smith Papers, UARC, UPT50 S664 Box 5, Folder 5.

56. Reverend Jacob Duché, The Duty of Standing Fast in Our Spiritual and Temporal Liberties, A Sermon, Preached Before the First Battalion of the City and Liberties of Philadelphia (Phila.: printed and sold by James Humphreys, Jenior The Corner of Black-horse Alley, Front-Street, 1775), UARC, UPA3, Box 32, Folder 1906.

57. Ibid.

58. Whether out of laziness, neglect, or subtle loyalty, the trustees had not changed their paperwork for their bonds by October, 1776. They still read “and in the __ Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord___ by the Grace of God, King of Great-Britain, etc.” which had to be crossed out by the person filling out the form. Francis Allison to Trustees of the College, Academy, and Charity School of Philadelphia, Bond for £100, October 11, 1776, UARC, UPA3, Box 1, Folder 9.

59. William Tilghman and John Penn were still close acquaintances in 1788. John Penn to Benjamin Chew, April 21, 1788, UARC, UPA3, Box 8, 775a; Robson, 76.

60. Cheyney, 119.

61. Andrew Allen was noted especially for his praise of King George as the “Defender of the faith” and commended “his Crown and Dignity.” Andrew Allen, Bedford County, PA, October, 1772, UARC, UPA3, Box 1, 10a; Anne Dexter Gordon, The College of Philadelphia, 1749-1779: Impact of an Institution (Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms, 1976), 252-253.

62. Hoeveler, 343.

63. Robson, 33-34.

64. Ibid., 34, 85.

65. Cheyney, 172.

66. William Smith, An Exercise Containing a Dialogue and Two Odes, Performed at the Public Commencement in the College of Philadelphia, May 20, 1766 (Philadelphia, 1766), 4-7.

67. William Smith, “To the Friends of Religion and Patrons of Liberty and Useful Knowledge,” January, 1772, UARC, UPA3, Box 33, Folder 1939.

68. William Smith to the Bishop of London, July 1774, UARC, UPT50 S664 Box 3, Folder 24.

69. William Smith, “Sermon on the Present State of American Affairs; Preached in Christ Church, June 23, 1775; at the Request of Officers of the Third Battalion of Volunteer Militia of the City of Philadelphia and District of Southwark,” in The Works of William Smith, D.D., Late Provost of the College and Academy of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Hugh Maxwell and William Fry, 1803), II, 273-274, 286.

70. William Smith, “Sermon at All Saints Church, Philadelphia,” July 20, 1775, in Albert F. Gegenheimer, William Smith, Educator and Churchman (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1943), 175.

71. William Smith, “Sermon on the Present State of American Affairs; Preached in Christ Church, June 23, 1775; at the Request of the Officers of the Third Battalion of Volunteer Militia of the City of Philadelphia and District of Southwark,” in Gegenheimer, 167.

72. Roche, 76; William Smith to Dr. Hind, August 28, 1775, in Gegenheimer, 176.

73. “To the People of Pennsylvania, Letter IV,” The Pennsylvania Gazette, March 27, 1776.

74. Ibid., Letter VII, April 10, 1776; Roche, 93.

75. “To the People of Pennsylvania, Letter VII.”

76. Ibid., Letter IV.

77. Ibid., Letter III,  March 20, 1776.

78. Ibid., Letter II, March 13, 1776.

79. Ibid., Letter VIII,  April 24, 1776.

80. Roche, 53.

81. “An Exercise, containing a Dialogue, and two Odes, performed,” The Pennsylvania Gazette, June 5, 1766.

82. Roche, 93-94; Gegenheimer, 177.

83. Smith would only later complain about the “Hundreds of [Continental] Soldiers quartered upon the College” in 1777. Masters of the College, Academy, and Charitable School of Philadelphia (William Smith, Francis Alison, and James Cannon) to the Council of Safety, January 23, 1777, UARC, UPA3, Box 17, Folder 1443;  Anetha Lucille Stoeckel, “Presidents, Professors and Politics: The Colonial Colleges and the American Revolution” (Ball State University, Department of History, 1976), 51,

84. Later in the war Joseph Reed, president of the Supreme Executive Council, was frustrated over the lack of power he had in terms of monetary policy, regulation of the militia, and decisions of border control, lamenting, “we have laid the necessities of the Frontiers before the Assembly from time to time” with only delayed action on their part. Joseph Reed, President of Supreme Executive Council, to Colonel George Ashman, Lieutenant of the County of Bedford, June 28, 1781, UARC, UPA3, Box 9, Folder 842a.

85. Gordon, 255-256.

86. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania Minute Books, Volume 2, 1768-1779; 1789-1791 (College, Academy and Charitable School; University of Pennsylvania).

87. Ibid., 257.

88. Journal of the House of Representatives to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1782), 179-182; Francis Alison to Thomas McKean, in Douglas Sloan, The Scottish Enlightenment and the American College Ideal (New York, 1971), 95.

89. At this time, Smith curiously wrote again under the pseudonym “Cato” (although this “Cato” has not been completely confirmed as Smith) this time regarding King George III as “the greatest enemy America has on earth.” Such reversal of language is startling, even after three years of tumultuous political events, and might be explained in that the public knew now who “Cato” was and Smith was trying to get in the Patriots’ good graces as his school was being investigated. William Smith, “Letter regarding jury conduct” in the Pennsylvania Packet, May 13, 1779, UARC, UPT50 S664 Box 5, Folder 5, 3.

90. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania Minute Books, Volume 2, 1768-1779; 1789-1791 (College, Academy and Charitable School; University of Pennsylvania), March 6, 16, 1779,

91. Ibid., June 18, 1779,;  ibid., June 28, 1779,

92. Additional Charter of the College, etc. of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. [Phila. 1791], UARC, UPA3, Box 31, Folder 1888, 10; ibid., 12; Gordon, 271-275.

93. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania Minute Books, Volume 3, 1779-1788 (University of the State of Pennsylvania), December 1, 1778,

94. Additional Charter of the College, etc. of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. [Phila. 1791], UARC, UPA3, Box 31, Folder 1888, 11.

95. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania Minute Books, Volume 3, 1779-1788 (University of the State of Pennsylvania), December 1, 1779.

96. Thomas Willing, Thomas Mifflin, John Cadwalder, Robert Morris, John Redman, Samuel Powel, James Wilson, George Clymer, Alexander Wilcocks and William White (1780), to the Council of Censors, Ads. ‘“The Memorial of the Subscribers” of the College, Academy and Charitable School of Phila. A complaint about the disfranchisement of original trustees, policy for reappointment under the new charter,’ UARC, UPA3, Box 11, Folder 1030.

97. Ibid.

98. William Smith to Daniel Clymer, ca. 1789-1790, UARC, UPA3, Box 10, Folder 943.

99. Gordon, 272-274.

100. In constructing this narrative, we see that several other “myths” about Penn are fallacious as well. Already noted was the false Quaker legacy (and little known strong initial Anglican influence), with the Quaker mascot originating because of Penn’s association with the “Quaker” city of Philadelphia. The 1740 founding date is also called into question, with Penn not becoming a college until 1755.  And finally Ben Franklin’s role in the institution, while initially significant, waned as the years progressed, and we see times in which he was openly hostile to the institution and to the people, especially Smith, who were leading it.

101. William Smith to the Trustees of the University of the State of Pennsylvania, 1780, UARC, UPA3, Box 10, Folder 942.

102. Ibid.

103. As an epilogue to the story of the College of Philadelphia, as mentioned before Smith and other former trustees petitioned the Council of Censors of Pennsylvania to reverse the unjust closure of the school and settle Smith’s accounts. Only after a decade and the end of hostilities versus the British did a more conservative State Legislature finally concede and grant a charter to reestablish the College of Philadelphia, with Smith as provost, which existed alongside the University of the State of Pennsylvania from 1789-1791. During this two year period, debts rose for both of the institutions, enrollment dropped, and the high quality faculty members were spread thin over the two, compelling the College and the University to unite. On September 13, 1791, the “University of Pennsylvania” was incorporated.  The new University drew board members from both predecessors, from the old Constitutionalist party (which would become mostly anti-federalist and then Republican) and the more conservative Whigs (who formed the majority of the Federalist Party). Thus politically, the Philadelphia trustees became one of the most balanced groups in the country. But because of some firm opposition by the Board of Trustees, John Ewing was made provost of the new University instead of William Smith. Smith bitterly retired and died in Philadelphia in 1803. Gegenheimer, 180-182; Cheyney, 146-168; Robson, 160-161.

104. Robson, 39.