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UNIVERSITY HISTORY

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

The institution that would later be known as Columbia University, the aptly named King’s College, underwent a similar if not heightened religious and political experience during the prologue to the War for American Independence. Just like the College of Philadelphia, King’s College was founded in a bustling, politically active, commercial, densely populated port city replete with ethnic and religious diversity. After experiencing a politically volatile seventeenth century, altering from a Dutch Colony, to a proprietary one like Pennsylvania, to a royal colony, to part of the Dominion of New England, it finally emerged in the eighteenth century as a stable, Anglicized, royal province. In New York, as in Virginia, a royal governor appointed by the King led the executive branch and a local elected assembly constituted the legislative branch.131 By 1760, New York was the second most populous city behind Philadelphia and was made up of landowners, lawyers and judges, merchants and sailors, farmers and artisans, slaves and indentured servants, with natural tensions arising between these groups as the city expanded and interests collided.132 Colonists were mainly of Dutch or English ancestry, along with some French, German Palatines, Scotch, Irish, Swedes, Portuguese Jews, and Black freedmen and slaves constituting the rest. This diversity did instigate tensions between the Britons and other ethnic groups, in particular the resentful former Dutch masters of the land.133 As the eighteenth century progressed, however, much of these divisions were blurred by intermarriage and acculturation, and New York developed a strong English character.134 Like other colonies, religious sects such as Presbyterian, Jewish, Dutch Reformed, Dutch Lutheran, Dutch Calvinists, Puritan, French Huguenot, and the Church of England also vied for greater control over the populace. Most of them though bridled under relative Anglican political dominance, even though only around ten percent of the population identified as part of the Church of England.135

Also similar to Philadelphia was King’s origins as an institution wedded to the Church of England and in response to the threat of the new Presbyterian College of New Jersey (Princeton) cajoling burgeoning scholars out of New York City.136 In 1751 the New York Assembly appointed ten trustees to manage the lottery funds raised to found King’s College. Seven out of these ten were members of the Church of England, four of them vestrymen of Trinity Church (an institution which also granted King’s College the use of much of its land and buildings).137 Many in New York, especially the Presbyterians, the more moderate, eventually Whiggish, and politically important Livingston family, along with the Dutch community, suspected such a preponderance of Anglican leaders. They hoped that King’s College instead would be publically controlled and non-denominational. With debates becoming heated, the Lieutenant Governor James De Lancey, a friend of the Archbishop of Canterbury, with the support of his powerful, eventually Loyalist, and wealthy merchant family and the more Anglican New York Assembly, aided the Church of England’s cause.138 King’s was granted a royal charter in 1754 (albeit without initial public funds), and while this institution tolerated other religions in their new Board of Governors (trustees), student body, and faculty, in reality the Church of England dominated this institution throughout the eighteenth century.139

First, the Board of Governors maintained and developed this Anglican supremacy. While initially in conflict with other Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed governors, Anglican clerics and laymen slowly gained a powerful majority on the board in the 1760s and especially in the 1770s.140 At the governors’ insistence, commencements were almost always held at Trinity Church in the 1760s and early 1770s.141 Most important however was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s propitious and direct influence on the workings of the Board of Governors and the college in general. In 1760, the governors asked Thomas Secker, then Archbishop, to “provide two tutors for the college: one to teach Literature and Mathematics and Experimental Philosophy; the other to act as Vice-President.”142 Soon after, Secker himself was voted a Governor of the College, and while he clearly could not attend meetings in New York, the Archbishop had the “full power and Authority to appoint a Proxy…[who] shall have full power to vote and act as a Governor…as fully and amply as if He the constituent [the Archbishop] were present at any and every meeting.”143 Secker’s successor, Fredrick Cornwallis, followed in this proxy-naming tradition, after the Governors assured him that the college “is under your Grace’s favor, patronage, and protection” and that the Archbishop “is always the first Governor of the College of New York.”144 Clearly, both prominent colonial and British members of the Church of England possessed a major influence on this Board of Governors.

Many people in New York, however, complained vociferously against the development of King’s board on such Anglican foundations. For instance, William Livingston, a Presbyterian and an original lottery trustee, wrote an exhaustive discourse in the Independent Reflector, a New York City periodical, in 1754 protesting the royal charter and the Church of England’s dominance of King’s Board of Governors. Livingston argued that “the said Establishment will be partial [to those of the Church of England] and a manifest Encroachment on the Rights and privileges of all other different Denominations of Christians residing in the Province.”145 Livingston’s main complaint was that the Anglican Governors were “empowered to supply all vacancies of Trustees [Governors] by their own choice.”146 Therefore future governors would most likely continue to be members of the Church of England regardless of the other governors’ objections. According to the surviving records, nothing was done other than to hire a Dutch Reformed man as a professor of divinity to assuage such fears.147 Like the College of Philadelphia, King’s College was instituting a perpetual Anglican supremacy on its governing body.

With this dominance of the Church of England and the establishment of a royal charter the governors grew closer to the Crown and Britain. In an act almost identical to that of the College of Philadelphia, each new governor was forced to “sincerely promise and swear, that [they] will be faithful and bear true allegiance to his Majesty” and “will defend to the utmost of [their] power, against all traitorous conspiracies and attempts whatsoever, which should be made against his Person, Crown, and Dignity” especially against “Popish recusants.”148 Again no record exists of the governors altering these oaths of loyalty for their new members until after the Revolution had ended. The early governor’s minutes are furthermore full of notes about writing letters of thanks to certain prominent royal officials like William Pitt and the Archbishop for their generous contributions to the college.149 Most of these donations came from the trip James Jay made from 1761-1764 with William Smith to fundraise in England. As one should remember, King’s also received half the share collected from the Royal Brief granted by George III in 1762. The governors showed extreme gratitude for the "big part of the money collected in England for the use of this corporation” and were beholden to their English patrons.150  This Board of Governors was thus established on the cornerstones of the Church of England and royal power and dependency. 151

King’s Board of Governors would unsurprisingly become quite Loyalist in composition. From the early 1760s, the board would continue to write to George III praising him for his “gracious disposition…to patronize the means of Education,” prayed that “Almighty God may shower down the best of his Blessings upon your Majesty’s person and Government,” and swore to inculcate “every sound principle of Loyalty and Religion” in their school.152 In 1771 the governors promised to “extend the utility of this Institution and to approve ourselves faithful subjects” and lauded Lord North (Prime Minister from 1770-1782 and a key promoter of violence against the defecting colonists) as “so zealous a lover of his country and so faithful a servant of the Crown.”153 The governors also fostered a strong relationship with local royal officials. For instance, Governor Sir Henry Moore wrote to the board in 1765, “I shall to the utmost of my power protect and encourage [your] Institution.” 154 The governors later bestowed the honor of LLD on Moore’s successor, William Tryon, in 1774 even after he had resolutely supported such unpopular taxes as the Tea Act and condemned New York’s own tea party. Governor Tryon also remained a prominent member of the Board of Governors even as he was coming under serious political pressure by the Sons of Liberty and other Patriots in 1775. 155 Most of the governors would abhor the Stamp Act and Townshend Act protests and the erection of a liberty pole in New York. Many too began to publish vitriolic Loyalist political pamphlets in the early 1770s.156 For instance, Charles Inglis, another Anglican Priest, a governor from 1770-1781, and interim-president from 1771-1772, led the call in 1771 to affirm that King’s College sought to “[perpetuate] to the latest Ages the Union between Great Britain and her Colonies.”157 Of the twenty-one regular members of the board in the early 1770s, fifteen would identify as Tories by 1776, and nine of them would leave the U.S. permanently.158 Some of them, including Inglis, would found a new Loyalist college, also by the name of King’s College, in Nova Scotia after fleeing New York when the British garrison evacuated in 1783. 

In addition to the governors, King’s early presidents likewise espoused these ecclesiastical and political mentalities. William Livingston, in his 1754 objection piece, had also deprecated the fact that “the said charter excludes from the office of President all persons whatsoever who are not of the Church of England.”159 Such a charge was no fabrication; King’s College’s charter stipulated that the president had to “be a member of and in communion with the Church of England.”160 Samuel Johnson was the first and perhaps most vociferous such president. He was born in Connecticut in 1696, but took quick affinity to the Church of England, receiving his Holy Order in England in 1723. The only Anglican Minister in Connecticut, he bemoaned in 1737 that most Americans championed “anti-monarchical as well as anti-episcopal principles,” and later that “I rather fear the age is growing worse and worse so fast, that the Freethinkers and Dissenters…will never drop their virulence and activity.”161 In 1747 he feared that such dangerous Presbyterian “Dissenters” and “Free-Thinkers” of New Jersey had set up a sectarian school that “will be a fountain of nonsense” (referring to the school that would later become Princeton). 162 After moving to New York, in 1750 he re-focused his criticisms on politics, deriding the New York Assembly and others for their focus on only local exigencies, saying that many in New York held “republican mobbish principles” and that their “wild extremes of boundless latitude of free thinking” made them forget “all notion of any Christian Kingdom to whom they are accountable.”163  In the 1760s he proposed that the King appoint more royal officials “in the nature of a Vice Roi, or Lord Lt.” to “preside over” and counter “the present republican form” of colonial Charter Governments causing many “people [to be] nearly rampant in their high notions of liberty.”164 Johnson clearly was another prominent educator who followed a strict Anglican and Royalist mold, a mold that the charter of King’s College itself had established for its president and a mold that he would have wanted his students to mimic.165

Johnson’s successor, Myles Cooper, enjoyed similar religious and political stances.166he Board of Governors.167 The Archbishop adored Cooper’s piety and advocacy for an American Episcopacy and lauded him as “a grave and good man, and very well affected to the Government.”168 Cooper would continue to promote the foundation of a Bishopric, even when such a proposal assumed the political connotations of a deliberate effort by Britain to subvert further American liberty. A close friend from London, Harden A. Atkinson, even stated, “you are the man” to be such a bishop.169 Cooper followed in the tradition of Johnson by instituting mandatory daily prayers for the students. Included in these prayers was a plea to “save and defend all Christian Kings princes and Governors, and especially thy servant, George our King, that under Him we may be godly and quietly governed.”170 King’s College’s Black Book of Misdemeanors contains three instances, in 1772, 1773, and 1775, of students being punished for absenting themselves from or talking during prayer sessions.171 With such a martinet at the helm, students would find it hard to defect from the Anglican and loyal direction of the college while they were in school. According to Myles Cooper himself, a “strictness of Discipline” made King’s College, “one of the firmest supports to the Church of England in America.”172

Besides the reverence for the Crown that naturally stemmed from his Anglican religious commitments, Cooper held a firm respect and love of Britain and the British Empire. Cooper possessed many dear friends in England, such as Thomas Dalton and Harden A. Atkinson of London, and Thomas Fothergill, Joseph Smith, John Collins, and Thomas Thurlow of Oxford, who wrote many letters offering their advice, support, and respect to Cooper during his tenure in America. Another close acquaintance, George Berkeley of Canterbury, generously stated, “I shall always be happy to do you or your seminary any service in England.”173 Cooper made the best of such connections when he (like Smith and Jay had done ten years before) sailed to England in 1771 primarily to gain more funds. He successfully petitioned and developed stronger relationships with such men as the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of York, Lord Hillsborough (who as secretary of state of America from 1768-1772 authorized the use of British troops in Boston), Lord North, and King George III himself.174 Myles Cooper and King’s College therefore became deeply indebted to many of the individuals most hostile to the Revolutionary cause.

Even when outcries in America against British authority and royal officials rang louder, Cooper was committed to demonstrating his support for the Crown’s prerogative and power. Earlier in 1771, amidst the outcry over the Boston Massacre the year before, Cooper wrote to the new Royal Governor William Tryon, stating that the governors of the college were “a loyal and affectionate people.”175 King’s College, in the words of Cooper and Governor Tryon, would strive to be an engine of loyalty to the Crown, with the goals to “[cement] the union between Great Britain and the Colonies,” teach “principles of Loyalty and Affection to their sovereign and their country,” and “diffuse a spirit of Loyalty… thro’ his Majesty’s American Dominions.”176 These statements demonstrate that the president wanted his students and his larger community to espouse his strong loyalist beliefs. In 1773 when Johnathan Shipley of St. Asaph expressed sympathy for American opposition to the Tea Act, Cooper exploded, saying, “What a son of a bitch is the Bishop of St. Asaph!”177 And when Tryon left for England in 1774, Cooper publically (his letter was published in the New York Gazetteer) praised his “late generous and noble donation” to King’s and hoped Tryon would return soon to “a grateful, a respectful, and (under such an administration) an happy and affectional people.”178 Cooper was subtly disparaging those who held little respect for royal authority and who supported such actions as the Burning of the HMS Gaspee in 1772 or the Boston Tea Party of 1773. As revolutionary tension hung in the air in the early 1770s, Cooper and most of the governors knew where they would stand if the conflict came to blows, and hoped the students and most of the rest of New York would stand with them.

Cooper’s Anglicanism and Loyalism was matched by most of the other faculty at the school. Like that of William and Mary and to some degree the College of Philadelphia (but unlike the College of New Jersey), the faculty at King’s College focused on instruction of the classics and analysis of the texts of authors such as Homer, Virgil, and Caesar rather than on some of the more recent and radical moral philosophical tracts such as those of Locke.179 Additionally, four out of five of the arts curriculum cohorts and two out of the three medical school faculty would lend their support to the British during the war.180 John Vardill, another tutor who was elected as the professor of natural law in 1773, promoted to New Yorkers and his students the peaceful acceptance of tea-shipments and denounced the boycotting of British goods. The governors would therefore describe him to the Bishop of London as “a faithful subject of his Majesty King George” in their recommendation letter to have him ordained as a priest.181 Vardill would later become a British spy during the Revolution, justifying this future action by saying, “of all Tyranny I most dread that of the Multitude.”182 Tutor Leonard Cutting (1755-1763) and President pro tempore Benjamin Moore (1775-1777), also were especially noted for their Loyalist convictions. All in all, there were only two Patriot-leaning members on the faculty, Robert Harpur and John Jones. Jones, a medical professor, left New York for Philadelphia and helped organize the medical branch of the Continental Army at the outbreak of the war.183 Harpur, a Presbyterian, had suffered so many abuses by some of his students (including an incriminating cartoon by John Vardill when he was a college senior in 1766) for his religion and Irish ancestry that he resigned to become only a private tutor from 1766-1776.184 Certainly these two were the exception that proves the rule. The majority of the faculty of King’s College unquestionably espoused Anglican and Loyalist beliefs leading up to the Revolution. The author David C. Humphrey notes too that “Undoubtedly such faculty attitudes penetrated classroom lectures and comments” and thus constrained rather than encouraged any iconoclastic ideas by the students.185

Such political attitudes of the college’s leaders prompted officials in New York and England to view King’s as a likely bastion of Loyalism and a strong bulwark against revolution in the prelude to the Revolutionary War. Thus in the early 1770s, in part due to Cooper’s campaign, King’s received 20,000 acres of land through a royal grant, special cash appropriations from the Crown (including a £200 per year pledge by King George III in 1775), and another generous 24,000 acre plot of land that was “very good in quality” endowed by Royal Governor William Tryon.186 Other prominent Englishmen also gave donations in the early 1770s, such as the Reverend Dr. Bristow of London who offered up his personal library of around 1,500 volumes, Mr. Tanner Rector of Lowstoff in Suffolk who gave 20 guineas, the Bishop of Cashell who donated £50, the famous Royal Admiral Sir Charles Hardy who gave £500, the former Royal Governor of Massachusetts Bay and the Bahamas, General Shirley, who pitched in £100, and even an Oxford professor who contributed a copy of his vegetable system.187 In 1772, the King graciously granted remission of the quit-rents owed by King’s College, with the support of Lord North and Charles Townshend (who proposed the 1767 Townshend Acts that further taxed and regulated the colonies).188 Two years later Governor Tryon further praised King’s for instilling “sound principles of religion, loyalty and learning” and promised to “recommend this seat of learning to the consideration of the Crown.”189 Tryon and Lord Dartmouth, at the previous request of Myles Cooper and the governors, crafted a proposal to elevate King’s above all other colleges by raising it to university status with the goal to “put this college…on a footing as respectable and advantageous as possible” and on par with Oxford, Cambridge, and Dublin.190 The author John F. Roche argues that the Privy Council probably would have accepted such a proposal had the hostilities between Britain and her thirteen colonies not broken out while it was under consideration.191 By 1775, King’s College was the darling child of Britain and the Crown.

At the dawn of the Revolutionary War, King’s College clearly possessed a Board of Governors, president, and faculty that were overwhelmingly Tory, beholden to British patronage, and trying to convince students and other citizens of the validity of their beliefs, facts that would not escape the notice of the burgeoning Patriotic forces. Especially after the battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, King’s obstinate loyalty provoked the ire of these Revolutionary supporters. The Sons of Liberty reportedly condemned President Cooper as “the supposed author of almost every piece that was published” upholding the British side of the imperial controversy.192 The Revolutionary government that quickly took control of the city in the spring of 1775 accused Cooper and four other Loyalists of petitioning London to send more troops to squash the rebellion.193 A member of the new government cried, “You [Cooper] have unsheathed the sword of Britain and pointed it against the bosom of your country.”194 Soon the powder keg exploded. In May 1775, a large mob stormed the president’s house. In a poem written exactly one year later, Cooper recalled that a band of “chiefly Fanatics, and descendants of Regicides, and Republicans…urged their way to size my guiltless Life.”195 These Patriots forced him to run from his home in the middle of the night. As a testament perhaps to his lauded teaching and personality, many of his students at King’s College, both Patriot and Loyalist, were loath to see him hurt by any physical violence. A few of them, including a young Alexander Hamilton, delayed the mob for a few precious minutes while Cooper fled. 196  He was forced to hide ignominiously by the banks of the Hudson for a full night. The next morning, the disgraced president sought refuge on the royal ship HMS Kingfisher and sailed back to England. Nine other governors soon would follow him and escape America.197

Cooper would continue speaking out against the American cause when he returned to Oxford, never shaking his committed reverence for the Crown. On May 10, 1776, less than two months before the Declaration of Independence, the former president cried “O May [the Patriots] cast their Arms away, to thee [God] and George [III], submission pay, Repent and be forgiven.”198 He further cursed all those Patriots “too prone to heed sedition’s call.”199 A year later he preached a sermon in which he argued that the “Health of a state requires a regular and due subordination of its Members to the governing power,” and clearly disparaged the Americans’ “wanton and barbarous Rebellion.”200 In 1780 he would write to a friend lamenting the fate of Major André who was hung after his association with Benedict Arnold’s treachery. 201 Cooper also exhorted the British commanders to send more men to the Southern colonies as the best way to win the war.202 Many of the remaining governors boldly supported him, awarding him £150 for his services to the college in 1781, expressing a yearning for “our connection in Better Days,” and lamenting “the Tumult and Disorder of the times.”203 Right as the Treaty of Paris was being signed in 1783, Cooper was visiting such friends as the famous Anglican loyalist minister Samuel Seabury and James DeLancey, the son of the former Lieutenant Governor.204 Success by the Americans would not alter Cooper’s undying loyalty to his English home, Crown, and fellow citizens.

King’s College, while perhaps the most Loyalist school in terms of the number of Tory faculty members and governors, surprisingly did not experience the same overhaul during the Revolutionary War as did William and Mary and the College of Philadelphia. After Cooper fled, Benjamin Moore assumed the role of president from 1775-1776. Moore was another priest of the Church of England and undoubtedly loyal to the Crown, albeit with a significantly lower political profile.205 In fact, Moore became president at the very recommendation of Cooper, and according to the Board of Governors only would serve during “the absence of Dr. Cooper” because Cooper was “out of Town.”206 No mention was made of the reasons for Cooper’s leaving, and implicit hope was held that he would return.

These governors and president were not forced to purge their Loyalist elements during the war, as were the College of Philadelphia and William and Mary. This difference can probably be explained by the fact that any internal reformist groups or the state government did not have the time or ability to conform the institution to the Patriotic cause. The King’s College Matricula read for the 6th of April, 1776, “a message was sent to the Treasurer of the College…from a number of men who styled themselves the Committee of Safety desiring the governors to prepare the college in 6 Days for the reception of Troops” and then simply, “The Turbulence and Confusion which prevail in every part of the country effectually suppress every literary pursuit.”207 Thus the war itself, rather than new leaders and charters as a result of it, brought the colonial era of King’s College to an end. The remaining governors were not happy with the proceedings of the day but could do nothing about it. George Washington’s Continental army occupied the college’s buildings as a hospital in the spring and early summer of 1776, and when the British captured the city later that year they too appropriated the old King’s College campus. The great fire of New York in the aftermath of the invasion destroyed most of the buildings. British soldiers gutted the rest. 208

Some Loyalist governors remained active with the College though during the war, hoping that King’s would be re-opened after a British victory. For instance, Moore called at least one governors’ meeting in British-occupied New York City in 1779.209 In 1781 there was also a move to lodge some donated money in the bank of England for safe keeping until King’s was restored.210 Many, as mentioned before, remained in British-controlled New York and some of their more virulent Loyalist members had to flee to other British provinces after the war. Of course some governors such as James Duane, who helped recruit the New York militia in 1776, supported what he called “this great Revolution,” but they were clearly not in the majority.211

The governors who remained in America would have to wait until the 1783 Treaty of Paris and peace finally occurred to recover the school. They soon changed the institution’s name to Columbia College in 1784, thereby erasing any overt royal connections. But the naming of William Samuel Johnson to the presidency demonstrated that some political continuity would be preserved. Johnson, son of the first president Samuel Johnson and a Church of England layman, was initially a reluctant supporter of the Revolution and did not participate in the fighting. Like many conservative Whigs, he later joined the Federalist Party and supported Anglo-American trade while condemning the excesses of the French Revolution. Many of the faculty and now “trustees,” who either exhibited conservative Whigism from the onset or were compelled to shake their Loyalism if they wanted to remain in America, shared these political beliefs. With Johnson at the helm, Columbia in the near future would remain an (albeit conciliatory) private, conservative, and Anglican-favoring institution.212

The most surprising aspect of this history, and which could be said about the College of Philadelphia and William and Mary, is the fact that so many prominent Patriots emerged from this institution. Even with the preponderance of loyalty to the Crown by their pedagogical leadership, and while certainly many students and alumni became Tories, former scholars of King’s College included the likes of John Jay, Robert Livingston, Gouverneur Morris, and Alexander Hamilton who played essential roles in the American Revolution and the subsequent formation of the United States’ government. But it was not the faculty or leadership who were responsible for their more radical politicization. As mentioned before, King’s (unlike that of the College of New Jersey) curriculum did not offer many of the moral philosophical tracts, like those of Locke, which would be essential in the call for independence.213 True, other writings on moral philosophy and even many classical works in the curriculum or in collegiate libraries exposed students to notions of the virtues of promoting republican government and just resistance to tyranny, but these leaders plainly tried to convince their students and others that the situation in 1770s British North America did not warrant such responses. One can begin to see the opposition of some students in a petition signed by many future Patriots made to the governors to let an expelled scholar, George Rapalje, back into the school.214 But it was clearly similar and remarkable resistance, rather than conformity to the authority of their Alma Mater, that led the various students of King’s College, and to some degree those of the College of Philadelphia and William and Mary, to write, speak out, and fight against their Mother Country. Such was the political rigidity and censorship in King’s that Robson states “Students at King’s who wanted to express themselves on politics had to do so outside the college.”215 These students became “radicalized” not in any large part by their professors or classes, but in other ways such as reading moral philosophical tracts on their own and applying them to the current situation, or absorbing outside popular pamphlets, speeches, and newspapers that helped convince them of the legitimacy of the revolutionary cause.216

None of these three institutions’ leadership demonstrated initial radical thought or political iconoclasm during the Revolutionary conflict. Certainly King’s College was the institution most favorable to the British cause, followed by William and Mary and then the College of Philadelphia. It is remarkable that such colleges and their leaders, associated with names such as Franklin, Jefferson, and Hamilton, in many cases tried to stifle such Patriotism and were only forced by internal or external forces to promote such beliefs. Mainly native Britons and those of the Church of England controlled all three institutions, and while it is true that not all Anglicans were Loyalists, most of the important ones we see here were. Many of them had difficulty separating allegiance to their religion from devotion to the Mother Country, especially when their church was the Church of England of which the King was the head and which clearly depended on English and royal patronage. One, however, should not cast their actions as evil or treacherous as many perceived them during the Revolutionary struggle. They faced the impossible question of choosing between divided loyalties: the place of their birth or ancestry, spiritual home, and source of financial stability for many versus local allegiances and abstract and debated concepts about liberty, republicanism, and property rights. Indeed, Patriotism was not a majority opinion in America for much of the conflict. New York in particular remained deeply divided on this issue.217 But the initial responses by these three institutions to the Revolution certainly question one’s understanding of American colonial colleges as bastions of republican and revolutionary thought. 

This analysis opposes in many ways the glossed-over histories that these colleges advertise and older books have emphasized. For instance, Penn’s Perelman quadrangle displays a sign commemorating 1779 simply as the year the college was “reborn” as the University of the State of Pennsylvania. The 1906 illustrated book of the University of Pennsylvania also goes into detail about Penn’s campus’ previous proximity to Independence Hall and the Betsy Ross house and the fact that the college was founded by Ben Franklin, but does not mention William Smith or the forced closure of the school.218 Columbia University currently has a display in its library subtly connecting King’s College with Hamilton, the revolution, and the new musical (without mentioning King’s Loyalist role in the conflict). Columbia’s 1912 historical sketch of its own history merely says that “Cooper was an ardent Tory” and underscores the contributions that students such as Hamilton, Morris, and Jay made rather than mention the absolute Loyalist dominance of the early faculty and governors.219 And finally, William and Mary’s campus displays statues of Jefferson, James Monroe, and George Wythe prominently while neglecting any physical reminder of the Loyalist faculty that existed along with them. Older scholarship too, such as the 1871 sketch of the college, only highlights such facts as “Thirty students and three professors joined the army at the beginning of the Revolutionary War,” without mentioning Camm or other teachers’ profound Toryism.220 These exhibitions and early “official” histories do not tell the whole story of this period. At best, these three colleges played an unintentional or limited role in forming such Patriots, perhaps less than what even other contemporary authors such as John F. Roche, David W. Robson, and J. David Hoeveler attribute to them. While offering some more radical texts that might lead some young scholars to adopt republican persuasions and patriotic rhetoric, much of the respected faculty and trustees countered these notions with ideas of loyalty or at least reconciliation that they hoped would be, and often were, emulated by their students. These institutions and their leadership therefore certainly do not deserve significant credit for advancing the American independence movement.221

 


131. Michael Kammen, Colonial New York, A History (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1975), 99.

132. Ibid., 279-280.

133. Patricia U. Bonomi, A Factious People: Politics and Society in Colonial New York (New York: Columbia University Press, 1971), 24.

134. Bonomi, 25-26.

135. Interestingly, the Dutch Reformed Church had persecuted many of the Lutherans, Jews, Quakers, and other sects that had sought haven in the colony, thus limiting some of the religious diversity in the region. Kammen, 342, 60; Bonomi, 25, 177.

136. David C. Humphrey, From King’s College to Columbia, 1746-1800 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976), 3.

137. Lottery Trustees of King’s College, [Report of Trustees appointed for erecting a College in this Colony], [New York, 1751 November 25] (ms., 3p. draft), Columbia University Archives (CUA), King’s College Papers, Box 1; Humphrey, 16-17.

138. Robson, 5-8; Kammen, 344-345.

139. Bonomi, 177.

140. Humphrey, 67-71, 143.

141. King's College (New York, N.Y.) The matricula or Register of admissions & graduations, & of officers employed in King's College at New York [between 1920 and 1940] electronic reproduction, (New York, N.Y.: Columbia University Libraries, 2009), JPEG use copy available via the World Wide Web, master copy stored locally on DVD#: ldpd_7441339_000, Columbia University Libraries Electronic Books, 2006.

142. Thomas Secker, Archbishop of Canterbury to Philip Bearcroft, Lambeth, UK, October 22, 1760 (Photocopy of original in S.P.G. Archive, Letterbook B; a.l.s., 2p.), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 1.

143. Secker, Proxy of the Rev. Myles Cooper, October 14, 1763 (With one page photocopy; a.d.s., 1p.), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 1.

144. King’s College Governors to Frederick Cornwallis, Archbishop of Canterbury, on his accession to the see, New York, November, 1768 (a.d., 1p.), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 2.

145. Livingston, William, New York, May 16, 1754 (Mr. Livingston’s “20 Reasons” for requesting that his Protest [Protest against the acceptance of Acts for Vesting the Lottery in Trustees and to Continue the Duty of Excise and the Currency of the Bills of Credits] be entered on the Minutes; a.ms.s., 7p.), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 1.

146. Ibid.

147. King’s College Governors, New York, May 13, 1755 (petition, signed by Governors, addressed to Lt.Gov. James DeLancey for additional charter to establish a Dutch Reformed Professor of Divinity; ms.d.s., 1p), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 99.

148. King’s College Governors, New York, May 7, 1755 (oath, signed by the Governors, with typescript copy; ms.d., 2p.), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 99. On the 25 of March, 1761, the Governors had to make the same oath to King George III.

149. King's College, Rough Minutes of the Governors, May 7, 1755- March 20, 1770, CUA King’s College Manuscripts, Box 15, Folder 2.

150. Ibid.                                                                                                       

151. In fact, the first cornerstone of the College was laid on August 23, 1756 “in honor of George II, King of England.” Governors of King’s College, [Account of laying of cornerstone of the College], New York, August 23, 1756 (Cornerstone laid “in honor of George II, King of England” by Governor Charles Hardy of New York Colony. Text in Latin and English, draft, 2 photocopies; ms., 3p), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 1.

152. Governors of King’s College to King George III upon his accession to the throne, New York, May 12, 1761 (a.d.s., 2p.); Governors of King’s College to George III, [New York], July 23, 1763 (Congratulating the King on the conclusion of peace with France and Spain upon the end of the French and Indian Wars; ms.l., 1p. draft), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 1.

153. Governors of King’s College to George III, New York, October 12, 1771 (a.l., 3p. 2 copies); Governors of King’s College to Lord North, New York, October 12, 1771 (Requesting constitution of University status and remission of quit rents; a.l. 3p. 2 copies), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 2.

154. Governors of King’s College to Henry Moore, New York, November, 1765 (Congratulations on his appointment as Governor of New York, draft and portion of reply; ms.l., 2p.), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 2; Governors within reach of King’s College, Bills of Exchange, New York, August 31, 1775 (a.d., 1p.), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 3.

155. King’s College Matricula, 35.

156. Humphrey, 144.

157. Governors of King’s College to Lord North, New York, October 12, 1771 (Requesting constitution of University status and remission of quit rents; a.l. 3p. 2 copies)

158. Robson, 76-77.

159. Livingston, “20 Reasons.”

160. King George II of Great Britain, Draft of Charter of King’s College, [New York], August, 1754 (ms.d., 24p. endorsed), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 1.

161. Samuel Johnson to the Archbishop of Canterbury, May 3, 1737, in Samuel Johnson, President of King’s College, his career and writing,  ed. Herbert Schneider(New York: Columbia Press, 1929), I, 88; Reverend S. Johnson to Bishop Secker, October 25, 1754,  Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, ed. E. B. O’Callaghan, (Albany, 1857),XXXI, 912.

162. Samuel Johnson to Cadwallader Colden, April 15, 1747, in Life and Correspondence of Samuel Johnson, D.D., ed. Edward Beardsley(New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1874), 140.

163. Samuel Johnson to the Archbishop of Canterbury, July 12, 1760, in Samuel Johnson, President of King’s College, his career and writings, I, 95.

164. Samuel Johnson, “Questions Relating to the Union and Government of the Plantations (1760),” in ibid., 298-299.

165. Johnson lamented though to John Camm that “our adversaries…make It believed, that nineteen twentieths of America are utterly against receiving Bishops, and that sending them…would cause more dangerous disturbances than the Stamp-act itself,” displaying a link believed by many Americans between the foundation of Anglican American bishops and British taxation. Samuel Johnson to Rev. Mr. Camm, 1767, in Life and Correspondence of Samuel Johnson, D.D., 324.

166. Johnson would even write multiple letters to Cooper advising him on what to do in certain situations with regard to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the handling of students. Samuel Johnson to Myles Cooper, Stratford, Conn., November 18, 1768 (a.l.s., 1p. with typed copy), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 2.

167. Roche, 23-24.

168. Thomas Secker to Samuel Johnson, November 4 1760, in Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York (Albany, 1857), VII, 448.

169. A. Atkinson to Myles Cooper, May 6, 1772, CUA, King’s College Manuscripts, Box 3, Folder 13.  

170. King’s College Matricula, 57.

171. King's College (New York, N.Y.) Book of misdemeanours in King's College [ca. 1931], electronic reproduction (New York, N.Y.: Columbia University Libraries, 2009), JPEG use copy available via the World Wide Web, master copy stored locally on DVD#: ldpd_7441355_000 NNC, Columbia University Libraries Electronic Books. 2006.

172. Myles Cooper to [Jonathan Boucher], New York, March 22, 1773 (With typed copy and notes from MHT. a.l.s., 4p.), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 2.

173. George Berkeley to Myles Cooper, May 21, 1773, CUA, King’s College Manuscripts, Box 3, Folder 14.

174. King’s College Committee on Ways and Means, Meeting Report, New York, September 18, 1771 (Meeting of the Committee for considering of Ways and Means for promoting the Interest of the College by the Mediation of Doctor Cooper during his stay in England, held at Boton’s Tavern the 18 September 1771, Signed by J.T. Kempe, J. Watts, J. Duane, M. Cooper, J. Ritzema, G. Banyar. Report  ms.n. added 30 September; ms.d., 2p.), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 2.

175. Governors of King’s College, Address to Governor William Tryon and his reply, New York, July 23, 1771 (a.ds., 4p.), CUA, Columbia Papers, Box 2.

176. William Tryon to the Governors, President, etc. of the College, [New York, ca. 1771 September 30] (Reply to their letter of 1771 July 23; ms.l.s., 2p.) King’s College Papers, Box 2; Governors of King’s College to Frederick Cornwallis, Archbishop of Canterbury, New York, October 12, 1771 (Requesting constitution of University status and remission of quit rents; ms.l., 4p. copy), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 2.

177. Myles Cooper to William S. Johnson, August 9, 1773, in Samuel Johnson, President of King’s College, his career and writings, I, 489.

178. Governors and Faculty of King’s College, to Governor William Tryon and his reply, New York, 1774 April 7 (Address in New York Gazetteer; p.d., 4p.), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 3.

179. Robson, 81-82.

180. Ibid., 40.

181. Governors of King’s College to Richard Terrick, Bishop of London, December 28, 1773 (Testimony on John Vardill, 1749-1811; ms.l., 1p.), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 2.

182. John Vardill to Peter Van Schaack, September 15, 1774, in Humphrey, 215.

183. Robson, 40.

184. [Robert Harpur]. College Intrigues, or The Amours of Patrick [Pagan] [New York] 1766 April 18 (a.ms., 3 p. Cartoon and accompanying text entitled: Advertisement.  Lampoon of Prof. Robert Harpur drawn and written by King’s College students), CUA, King’s College Papers, 99; Robert Harpur Personal Account Books, 1770-1790, CUA, King’s College Manuscripts, Item 111.

185. Humphrey, 216.

186. Myles Cooper to the Governors, New York, October 12, 1772 (The Report of Myles Cooper, President of said College, on his Return from England; a.l.s., 3p.), King’s College Papers, Box 2; Roche, 25-26, 39; Governors of King’s College, Minutes, New York, March 20, 1770 (“Rough Minutes” of meeting held at the “House of George Burns Inholder”; ms.d., 4p. draft), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 2.

187. King’s College Matricula,  40; David Latouche to Myles Cooper, Dublin, October 21, 1773 (ms.l.s., 1p.), King’s College Papers, Box 2;  Myles Cooper to the Governors, New York, October 12, 1772 (The Report of Myles Cooper, President of said College, on his Return from England; a.l.s., 3p.), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 2.

188. King George II of Great Britain, “Warrant for Remission of the Quit Rents, London,” June 19, 1772 (Directed to Andrew Elliot, signed by Frederick, Lord North, Jeremiah Dyson and Charles Townshend), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 2.

189.Governors and Faculty of King’s College, to Governor William Tryon and his reply, New York, April 7, 1774 (Address in New York Gazetteer; p.d., 4p.), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 3.

190.King’s College Committee on Ways and Means, Meeting of the Committee, New York, September 18, 1771 (Report with ms. note added 30 September, draft; ms.d., 3p.), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 2.

191. Roche, 39.

192. Cadwallader Colden to Lord Dartmouth, June 7 1775, in New York Colonial Documents, VIII, 581.

193. Roche, 71.

194. Peter Force, ed. American Archives, 4th ser. (Washington, D.C., 1837), II, 389.

195. Myles Cooper, “Stanzas Written on the Evening of the 10th of May,” CUA, King’s College Manuscripts, Box 13, Folder 5.

196. Roche, 72.

197. Robson, 77.

198. Cooper, “Stanzas.”

199. Ibid.

200. Myles Cooper, “National humiliation and repentance recommended, and the Causes of the present Rebellion in America assigned, in a Sermon Preached before the University of Oxford, on Friday, December 13. 1776,” (Oxford : at the Clarendon Press, 1777), 23,2, in Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Gale, University of Pennsylvania Library.

201. Myles Cooper to the Rev. Mr. George Panton, Dec. 30, 1780, CUA, King’s College Manuscripts, Box 3, Folder 21.

202. Ibid.

203. Governors of King’s College to Rev. Myles Cooper, [New York], June 13, 1781 (With typed copy; a.d., 4p.), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 3.

204. Myles Cooper to Peter Stuyvesant, September 1, 1783, CUA, King’s College Manuscripts, Box 3, Folder 22.

205. Roche, 72.

206. King’s College Matricula, 35; Governors of King’s College, Manuscript Documents, New York, May 16, 1775 (Photocopies of minutes; 2p.), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 3.

207. King’s College Matricula, 36-37.

208. Robson, 111-112.

209.Governors of King’s College, Notice of a Meeting, New York, November 12, 1779 (a.d.s., 1p.), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 3.

210. Executors of Henry Cuyler Sr. and Henry Cuyler Jr., “Proposal to the Governors of King’s College, New York,” May 7, 1781(a.d., 1p.), CUA, Columbia Papers, Box 3.

211. “George III proclamation appointing James Duane to the position of Clerk of the Chancery Court,” Parchment with a wax pendant seal, May 25, 1776, CUA, UA Flat Files, Drawer 3.

212. Humphrey, 280; Robson, 154-155.

213. Robson, 81-82.

214. “King’s College Students’ Petition to the Governors of King’s College on behalf of George Rapalje, New York,” July 1774 (a.d.s., 2p.), CUA, King’s College Papers, Box 3.

215. Robson, 91.

216. For instance, we see that Hamilton gained much of his politicization while still living in St. Croix in 1772 and speaking with the Presbyterian reverend Hugh Knox, a graduate of the College of New Jersey. Hoeveler, 326.

217. Bonomi, 18.

218. George Nitzsche, University of Pennsylvania illustrated (Philadelphia: John C. Winston Co., 1906), 1.

219. Columbia University, An official guide to Columbia University (New York: Columbia University Press, 1912), 3-4.

220. The College of William and Mary, The history of the College of William and Mary, from its foundation, 1693, to 1870 (Baltimore: Printed by J. Murphy & Co., 1870), 41.

221. It is also interesting to note that in the aftermath of the Revolution, all three institutions’ leadership followed different political paths. William and Mary altered completely to become the only major Republican college, the University of Pennsylvania assumed a more balanced political stance, and Columbia remained decidedly conservative and Federalist. These institutions’ more loyalist and conservative legacies were either combated or subtly incorporated into the new leadership as these institutions tried to make new names for themselves while educating their students as effectively as possible.