Home > Amherst > History > A History of Amherst College (1894) > Table of Contents >
Chapter 5
from A History of Amherst College by William S. Tyler 1830

A Period of Rapid Growth, 1825-36 --- First Scientific Course --- The Chapel Building --- Unsuccessful Appeals to the Legislature --- Hours and Fines --- The President's House.

The year which began in September, 1825, was the first entire collegiate year of Amherst College.  With this year our history enters on a new epoch.  The new organization of the faculty dates from this time, since not only the new officers now commenced the duties of their office, but those who had been members of the faculty before had hitherto served the college for their old salaries and in their old departments.  The faculty at this time was constituted as follows:  Rev. Heman Humphrey, D. D., president, professor of mental and moral philosophy and professor of divinity; Rev. Edward Hitchcock, A. M., professor of chemistry and natural history; Rev. Jonas King, A. M., professor of oriental literature; Rev. Nathan W. Fiske, A. M., professor of the Greek language and literature, and professor of belles-lettres; Rev. Solomon Peck, A. M., professor of the Hebrew and Latin languages and literature; Samuel M. Worcester, A. M., professor of rhetoric and oratory; Jacob Abbott, A. M., professor of mathematics and natural philosophy; Ebenezer S. Snell, A. M., tutor of mathematics.  The first catalogue which bears the names of this faculty was printed in October, 1825, by Carter & Adams, who established the first printing-press in the town in 1825.  The catalogues, which had hitherto been printed abroad, were henceforth printed in Amherst.

On the catalogue for 1825, John Leland, Esq., appears as treasurer, and Rufus Graves as financier.  In 1826 the constitution of the charity fund was so altered by the concurrent action of the board of trustees and the board of overseers in the manner provided for in article 13, that the office of financier of that fund and that of treasurer of the college could be united in one person; and from 1826 John Leland was both treasurer and financier till 1833, when Lucius Boltwood was appointed financier and John Leland retained the office of treasurer.

From one hundred and twenty-six, in 1823, the number of students increased, the next year, to one hundred and thirty-six; in 1825 it rose to one hundred and fifty-two, and from that time it went on increasing pretty regularly, with a slight ebb in 1830 and 1831, for a period of eleven years, till rising to its spring-tide in 1836, it reached an aggregate of two hundred and fifty-nine.  For two years Amherst ranked above Harvard in the number of students, and was second only to Yale.  Thus was the sentiment of the committee of investigation confirmed, that institutions almost always flourish under persecution whether apparent or real, and gain new strength from opposition.

If we inquire into the causes of this rapid and extraordinary growth of the college, the most obvious, and, for a time, the most powerful, was unquestionably the violent opposition which it encountered.

This brought it into immediate notice in Massachusetts.  This soon made it known and conspicuous through the whole country.  This enlisted the sympathy and support not only of those who held the same religious faith, but of all who love fair play and hate even the appearance of persecution.  Local feeling, sectional jealousy, the envy of neighboring towns and of parishes in the same town, the interest of rival institutions, sectarian zeal and party spirit, hostility to orthodoxy and hatred of evangelical religion, all united to oppose the founding, the incorporation, and the endowment of the college; and the result was only to multiply its friends, increase the number of students, and swell the tide which bore it on to victory and prosperity.

In 1835, two years before the close of our period, Jonathan B. Condit and Edwards A. Park became professors.  The former was connected with the college only three years, and the latter rendered the service of only one year and one term.  At the resignation of Professor Park, in 1836, Professor Fiske was transferred from the Latin and Greek chair to that of intellectual and moral philosophy, and W. S. Tyler was chosen professor of the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages and literature.

The number of students was increased for a year or two by the introduction of a new course of study running parallel to the old.

This "parallel or equivalent course," as recommended by the faculty, differed from the old, first, in the prominence which was to be given to English literature; second, in the substitution of the modern for the ancient languages, particularly the French and Spanish, and should room be found hereafter, German or Italian, or both, with particular attention to the literature in these rich and popular languages; third, in mechanical philosophy, by multiplying and varying the experiments so as to render the science more familiar and attractive; fourth, in chemistry and other kindred branches of physical science, by showing their application to the more useful arts and trades, to the cultivation of the soil, and to domestic economy; fifth, in a course of familiar lectures upon curious and labor-saving machines, upon bridges, locks, and aqueducts, and upon the different orders of architecture, with models for illustration; sixth, in natural history, by devoting more time to those branches which are now taught, and introducing others into the course; seventh, in modern history, especially the history of the Puritans, in connection with the civil and ecclesiastical history of our own country; eighth, in the elements of civil and political law, embracing the careful study of the American constitutions, to which may be added drawing and civil engineering.

Ancient history, geography, grammar, rhetoric, and oratory, mathematics, natural, intellectual and moral philosophy, anatomy, political economy and theology, according to the plan, were to be common to both courses.  The requirements for admission were also to be the same for both courses, not excepting the present amount of Latin and Greek, and the faculty strenuously insisted that the new course should be fully "equivalent" to the old, that it should fill up as many years, should be carried on by as able instructors, should take as wide and elevated a range, should require as great an amount of hard study or mental discipline, and should be rewarded by the same academic honors.

Besides the new parallel or equivalent course, the faculty earnestly recommended a new department for systematic instruction in the science of education, and they further suggested a department of theoretical and practical mechanics.

At a meeting of the board in December, 1826, they adopted the new system substantially as recommended by the faculty, and not long after the faculty drew up a plan of the studies, arranged in parallel columns wherever the two courses differed, and published it, together with other matter usually contained in the annual catalogue, and announced that this system was expected to go into operation at the beginning of the next ensuing collegiate year.

At the commencement of that year (1827-28) the whole number of students rose from one hundred and seventy to two hundred and nine, and the freshman class, which the previous year contained fifty-one, now numbered sixty-seven, of whom eighteen are set down on the catalogue as students "in modern languages."  So far forth the experiment promised well.  In regard to the number of students, it was at least a fair beginning.  But now commenced the difficulties in the execution of the plan.  These were found to be far greater than the trustees or the faculty had anticipated.  The teacher of modern languages, a native of France, was not very successful in teaching, and was quite incapable of maintaining order in his class, so that the faculty were compelled to appoint one of the professors to preside at his recitations.  The professors and tutors on whom it devolved to give the additional instruction, although willing, as they declared in their report, "to take upon themselves additional burdens," had their hands full already with other duties, and found unexpected difficulties in organizing and conducting the new course of studies.  The college was not sufficiently manned for the work it had undertaken, and was too poor to furnish an adequate faculty.  Truth also probably requires the statement that the new course, which was the favorite scheme of one of the professors, was never very heartily adopted by the rest of the faculty, who, therefore, worked in and for it with far less courage and enthusiasm than they did in the studies of the old curriculum.  Moreover they discovered, as the year advanced, that the new plan was not received by the public with so much favor as had been expected, that they had probably overestimated the popular demand for the modern languages and the physical sciences in collegiate education.  The students of the new course were not slow to perceive all these facts.  They soon discovered the fact, whatever might be the cause, that they were not obtaining an education which was in reality equivalent to that obtained by other students.

The next year, 1828, the freshman class fell back to fifty-two, just about the number of two years before; and of these so few wished, or particularly cared, to join the new course, that there was no division organized in the modern languages.  Those who had entered the previous year, gradually fell back into the regular course.  The catalogue for the year 1828-29 retains no trace of the new plan, except the parallel columns of the old and new courses of studies.  At their annual meeting in 1829, the trustees voted to dispense with the parallel course in admitting students hereafter, and made French one of the regular studies.  At the same meeting, the professor who was the father of the scheme resigned his professorship.  Thus not a vestige of the experiment remained, except that the class with which it was introduced graduated in 1831 the largest class that had ever left the institution.  Thus ended the first attempt to introduce the modern languages and the physical sciences as an equivalent of the time-honored system of classical culture in our American colleges.  The plan, as it was presented in the reports of the faculty, was exceedingly attractive and promising, and with ampler means and under more favorable circumstances might probably have been sustained and thus anticipated by half a century much of the success which now attends our elective courses.

With so large a number of students, and that number constantly and rapidly increasing, the officers of the college soon found the place too strait for them, and began very naturally to look about for more ample accommodations.  The most immediate and pressing want was felt to be that of a more convenient and suitable place of worship.  "When I entered upon my office, in 1823," says President Humphrey, "the students worshipped on the Sabbath in the old parish meeting-house on the hill.  I soon found that the young men of the society felt themselves crowded by the students, and there were increasing symptoms from Sabbath to Sabbath of collision and disturbance.  I accordingly told the trustees that I thought it would be safest and best for us to withdraw and worship by ourselves in one of the college buildings till a chapel could be built for permanent occupancy.  They authorized us to do so, and I have never doubted the expediency of the change on this and even more important grounds."

The chief reason which the venerable ex-president in his "Historical Sketches" proceeds to urge in favor of a separate congregation and place of worship for students, is the greater appropriateness, directness, and impressiveness of the preaching which can thus be addressed to them.  He deemed it a great loss of moral power to preach to students scattered among a large mixed congregation.

But the old chapel, laboratory, and lecture-room, and room for every other use, in the upper story of North College, could not long accommodate the growing number of students, even for morning and evening prayers, still less the congregation for Sabbath worship.  The subject of a new chapel came before the board of trustees at their first meeting under the charter.  They were encouraged to consider the subject and form some plans in respect to it by a legacy of some four thousand dollars or more which Adam Johnson of Pelham had left to the college for the express purpose of erecting such a building.  But his will had been disallowed by the Judge of Probate, and an appeal from his decision was now pending in the Supreme Court.  At this time, therefore, they only voted that in case the will should be established, the prudential committee be instructed to proceed with all convenient dispatch in the erection of a chapel building.  They furthermore authorized that committee to borrow any further sum of money which they might deem requisite for that purpose, not exceeding six thousand dollars.  "At the annual meeting in August, 1825, the call for a chapel and other public accommodations had become too urgent to be postponed without sacrificing the interests of the college.  In this emergency the trustees could not hesitate.  They saw but one course, and they promptly empowered the prudential committee to contract for the erection of a chapel building," and also a third college edifice, if they deemed it expedient, at the same time authorizing them to borrow such sums of money as might be necessary therefor, of the charity fund, of banks, or of individuals.

[The Chapel and Dormitories.]The work on the Chapel was commenced early in the spring of 1826, and so far completed in the course of the season that on the 28th of February, 1827, it was dedicated.  Dr. Humphrey preached the dedication sermon.  His text was:  "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."  "Five years ago," he says, "there was one building for the accommodation of between fifty and sixty students; four years ago there were between ninety and a hundred young men here; one year ago, there were a hundred and fifty; and now there are a hundred and seventy.  It is scarcely two years since the seminary was chartered, and yet I believe that in the number of undergraduates it now holds the third or fourth rank in the long list of American colleges!  God forbid that this statement should excite any but grateful emotions.  It is meet that we should carefully look over this ground to-day, that the inscription may be indelibly engraved on our hearts---'Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.'"

Meanwhile the decision of the Judge of Probate had been reversed, and the will of Adam Johnson established by the Supreme Court and, at the annual meeting of the board in August, 1828, it was voted that in testimony of their grateful remembrance of his munificent donation, the apartment occupied as a chapel should forever be called Johnson Chapel, and that the President be requested to have the words, "Johnson Chapel," inserted in large and distinct characters over the middle door or principal entrance of the apartment.

Besides the chapel proper, the chapel building contained originally four recitation-rooms, a room for philosophical apparatus, and a cabinet for minerals on the lower floor, two recitation-rooms on the second floor, a library room on the third floor, and a laboratory in the basement.  These recitation-rooms were named after the departments to which they were appropriated, for example, the Greek, Latin, mathematical or tablet rooms on the first floor, and the rhetorical and theological rooms on the second, and they were far in advance of the recitation-rooms of the older colleges in size, beauty, and convenience.  The college library was soon removed from the fourth story of North College to the room intended for it in the third story of the Chapel, and the room not being half filled by it, the remaining half, viz., the shelves on either side of the door, were for some time set apart respectively for the libraries of the Alexandrian and Athenian societies.  When better accommodations were furnished many years later for the mineral cabinet, the recitation-rooms of Prof. R. H. Mather and Prof. J. H. Seelye took the place of the tablet room, the old cabinet, and a part of the adjoining entry, and the rhetorical and theological rooms gave place to the small chapel.  And when Williston Hall provided for the chemical department, the old laboratory, so long the scene of Professor Hitchcock's brilliant experiments and coruscations of genius, was given up to storage and other necessary but comparatively ignoble uses.

At the annual meeting of the trustees in August, 1827, it was voted that the prudential committee be directed to take immediate measures for erecting another college building for the accommodation of the students, similar to those already erected, and cause the same to be completed as soon as may be, provided that in their judgment a suitable site for such building can be obtained.

The site was soon selected, and before the commencement of another collegiate year, the building was completed so as to be occupied by students for the year 1828-29.  This new dormitory was better adapted to promote the health, comfort, and convenience of students, especially in its well-lighted and ventilated bed-rooms, and its ample closets, than either of the other buildings, and was perhaps a better dormitory, as being built on a better plan, than any that then existed in any other college.  It had, however, the disadvantage of running east and west, instead of north and south, so that the rooms on the north side were never visited by the sun, and no such rooms are fit to be inhabited.  Still it was for many years the favorite dormitory and its rooms were the first choice of members of the upper classes, not a few of whom, on their return to Amherst, look in vain for the North College of their day as the centre of some of their most sacred associations.  In the winter of 1857 it was destroyed by fire, and its site is now occupied by Williston Hall.

It was in connection with the site of North College that the process of grading the college grounds began, which, during so many years in the poverty of the college, was carried forward by the hands of the students, sometimes by individuals working out of study hours, and sometimes by a whole class volunteering to devote a half-day or a whole day to the work.  Or, if the process began earlier, we now find it receiving a special and grateful recognition on the records of the trustees, who, at their annual meeting in August, 1827, "having noticed with much satisfaction the improvements made in the college grounds, and hearing that these were effected principally by the voluntary labors of the students," passed a vote expressing the "pleasure they felt in view of these self-denying and benevolent exertions to add to the beauty and convenience of the institution.  "The same enterprise and public spirit also gave birth soon after to a gymnasium in the grove, a bathing establishment at the well, and a college band, which, for many years, furnished music at exhibitions, commencements, and other public occasions.

During the summer term of 1828, the students, with the approbation of the faculty, organized a sort of interior government, supplementary to that of the faculty, and designed to secure more perfect order and quietness in the institution.  A legislative body, called the "House of Students," enacted laws for the protection of the buildings, for the security of the grounds, for the better observance of study hours, and similar matters.  Then a court, with a regularly organized bench, bar, and constabulary, enforced the execution of the laws, tried offenders in due form and process, and inflicted the penalties affixed to their violation.  The plan worked smoothly and usefully for about two years, but at length a certain class of students grew restive under the restraints and penalties which were imposed; -for

None e'er felt the halter draw
With good opinion of the law.

And in 1830, after a most animated, and on one side quite impassioned, discussion in the whole body of the students, a small majority of votes was obtained against it, and the system was abolished.  Our readers will see in the House of Students an anticipation of the later College Senate.

When the Chapel and North College were finished, the trustees found themselves deeply in debt.  Indeed the college came into existence as a chartered institution with a debt of eighteen thousand dollars, the greater part of which, however, was liquidated by the thirty thousand dollar subscription.  The erection of the Chapel added some eleven thousand dollars to the burden.  North College cost ten thousand dollars more.  The purchase of the lot of land belonging to the estate of Dr. Parsons, on which the president's house and the library now stand, and the share taken in the new village church that the college might have a place to hold its commencements, swelled the sum still higher.

An effort was made to meet this indebtedness at the time by private subscriptions and donations, but the amount raised in this way was not even sufficient to pay the bills for North College.  For the remaining and now constantly increasing indebtedness, no resource seemed to be left but an appeal to the Legislature.  The first application to the Legislature for pecuniary aid was made in the winter session of 1827.  The petition signed by President Humphrey, in behalf of the trustees, sets forth the pressing necessities of the institution, and how they had arisen, asks nothing more than the means of defraying the expenses already incurred for the accommodation of its increasing number of pupils, and such further aids and facilities for the communication of knowledge as are indispensable to its continued prosperity, and urges no claim except the unparalleled private munificence and individual efforts by which it has been sustained, and the duty devolved upon the Legislature by the constitution, and cheerfully discharged by them in reference to the other colleges of the state, to foster institutions of learning established by their authority, and governed in no small measure by trustees of their own choice.  This petition was referred to a committee of both houses, who gave the petitioners a patient hearing, and manifested a willingness on their part to aid the college, but "they found the state of the public finances incompatible with such aid," and hence felt constrained to make an unfavorable report.  This report was accepted by both houses, and there the matter rested for four years.

In the winter session of 1831, the trustees came before the General Court again with substantially the same petition, made more urgent by increasing necessities, but only to meet with substantially the same result.  The committee, consisting of Messrs. Gray and Lincoln of Worcester, from the Senate, and Messrs. Baylie of Taunton, Marston of Newburyport, and Williams of Northampton, from the House, recognized the necessities of the institution, as also its merits and success.  Indeed they made an admirable argument in favor of a grant, but, with a non sequitur which surprises the reader, they concluded with a recommendation that for the present, at least, the grant shall be withheld.  The last two sentences of their report read as follows:  "The degree of public estimation which the college enjoys is evidenced by the unexampled success which has attended the exertions of its officers, and which has placed it, as regards the number of its pupils, in the third rank among the colleges of the United States.  Your committee are not unmindful of the obligation which the constitution imposes on the Legislature to cherish and foster seminaries of learning, and if the present state of the treasury would justify it, they would not hesitate to recommend that a liberal endowment should be granted to Amherst; but under existing circumstances it is their opinion that the further consideration of the petition of Amherst College for pecuniary aid be referred to the first session of the next General Court."  This report met the prompt acceptance of the Senate, and, on the same day, the concurrence of the House.

At the first session of the next General Court, which commenced in May, 1831, the petition of the trustees and the report of the committee of the last Legislature were referred to a joint committee, consisting of Messrs. Lincoln and Brooks, of the Senate, and Messrs. Huntington of Salem, Bowman of New Braintree, and Hayes of South Hadley, of the House, who were unanimously of the opinion that the public interest required that pecuniary aid be afforded to Amherst College, and submitted a resolve for that purpose.  The resolve gave the college fifty thousand dollars in semi-annual instalments of two thousand five hundred dollars each, but, owing to the shortness of the summer session, the subject was again postponed.

The state being now in funds, it was not doubted that a grant would be obtained as soon as the General Court could have time to act deliberately upon the subject.  Accordingly a new petition was drawn up by authority of the trustees and presented in January, 1832.  It was referred to a highly respectable committee, who adopted substantially the favorable report of previous committees, and unanimously submitted the same resolve.

When their report came before the House for discussion in committee of the whole, the college was attacked with great acrimony on the one hand, and defended with distinguished magnanimity and ability on the other.  Mr. Foster of Brimfield, Mr. Buckingham of Boston, Mr. Bliss of Springfield, and Mr. Calhoun of Springfield, who was a trustee and who was then speaker of the House, spoke ably and eloquently in the defence.  Others desired to be heard on the same side.  But the majority was impatient for "the question."  The vote was taken.  It went against the college with "fearful odds," and on motion of Mr. Sturgis of Boston the whole subject was indefinitely postponed.  Thus, after a suspense of five years, during which they had obtained the favorable reports of four successive committees of the Legislature, were the hopes of the trustees blasted in a moment, and the debts of the college returned upon them with a weight which it was impossible any longer to sustain.

After this result no time was lost in calling a special meeting of the trustees to consider what was to be done in this critical emergency.  The board met on the 6th of March.  It was an anxious day, and direction was sought of Him who had hitherto succored the college in all its perils.  Letters full of hope and encouragement were read from influential friends in different parts of the State, urging them without delay to appeal to the public for the aid which the Legislature had so ungraciously refused.  They accordingly resolved to make an immediate appeal to the friends of the college, asking for fifty thousand dollars as the least sum which would relieve it from debt and future embarrassment.  A committee of their own body, consisting of the president, Hon. Samuel Lathrop and Hon. William B. Banister, was appointed to publish the appeal, and President Humphrey, Professor Fiske, Rev. Joseph Vaill, Rev. Sylvester Holmes of New Bedford, Rev. Calvin Hitchcock of Randolph, and Rev. Richard S. Storrs of Braintree, were appointed agents to solicit subscriptions,

The appeal met with a prompt and hearty response.  The people of Amherst put their shoulders again to the wheel and raised three thousand dollars---they had given little short of twenty thousand dollars in money before.  President Humphrey visited Boston the first week in April, and in a few days had raised a subscription of seven thousand dollars there.  A subscription was started spontaneously among the Amherst alumni at Andover---fifty-seven out of one hundred and fifty-three students at Andover at this time were alumni of Amherst---and they in their poverty subscribed from ten to twenty-five dollars apiece.

Under the influence of such arguments and appeals, evangelical Christians through the State rallied to its support with such cordial good will that we find them congratulating each other and the college on the rejection of its petition by the Legislature.  At the commencement in August it was announced that thirty thousand dollars had been subscribed.  It was feared that the remaining twenty thousand dollars would come with great difficulty, but the work went bravely on to its completion, and on the last day of the year, December 31, 1832, the news being received that the whole sum was made up and the subscription was complete, the students expressed their joy in the evening by ringing the bells and an illumination of the college buildings, thus celebrating with the beginning of a new year what they believed to be a new era in the history of the college.

During the presidency of Dr. Moore, and the first ten years of Dr. Humphrey's administration, the old-fashioned system continued unchanged, according to which morning prayers and the morning recitation were not only held before breakfast, but were held at hours varying from month to month, sometimes changing almost from week to week, according to the season of the year, so as to bring the recitation at the earliest hour at which it could well be heard by daylight.  The breakfast hour was thus very late in midwinter, and yet the light in cloudy weather was often very imperfect for the morning recitation.  In 1833, by vote of the faculty, the bell for morning prayers was fixed at a quarter before five in summer and a quarter before six in winter.  And this was done at the request of the students, a large majority of whom petitioned for the change.  This fact is worthy of note, as illustrating the character and spirit of the students at the time.  And the arrangement of recitations and study hours, which was thus introduced, and which continued for many years, was, in some respects, preferable either to that which preceded, or to any which has followed it.  The student's working day was thus divided into three nearly equal parts, in each of which two or three hours were set apart for study, and each period of study-hours was followed immediately by a recitation.  Recitations at intervening and irregular hours were carefully avoided, and in order to avoid them, the tutors, and to some extent the professors, did not confine themselves to one department, but heard different divisions of the same class at the same hour,---in the morning perhaps in Greek, at noon in Latin, and in the afternoon in mathematics.

The observance of study-hours was enforced with much strictness by college pains and penalties, among which fines were perhaps the most frequent.  This was the day when fines were in vogue in all the colleges, and when in Amherst College the system rose to its highest (or sank to its lowest) pitch of perfection.  Fines were imposed for exercise or bathing in study-hours, for playing on a musical instrument, for firing a gun near the college buildings, for attending the village church without permission.  In short, fines seem to have been the sovereign remedy for all the ills that the college was heir to.  The records of the faculty in these days preserve the memory of fines imposed on students who now adorn some of the highest places at the bar, on the bench, and in the pulpit, to say nothing of the medical profession.  This much at least may be said to the credit of the faculty, that they were impartial in their administration; for we find a vote recorded imposing a fine of fifty cents a week on any member of the faculty who should fail to visit every week the rooms of the students assigned him for such parochial visitation!  But Professor Fiske entered his protest, and this vote was soon rescinded.

At the annual meeting of the trustees in 1832, a change in the vacations, which had been discussed at the two preceding annual meetings, was adopted, and went into effect the next collegiate year.  The vacations had hitherto been four weeks from the fourth Wednesday of August (commencement), six weeks from the fourth Wednesday of December, and three weeks from the second Wednesday of May.  They were now changed to six weeks from the fourth Wednesday of August, two weeks from the second Wednesday of January, and four weeks from the first Wednesday of May.  The most important feature of the change was that the long vacation, which had hitherto been in the winter, was henceforth to be in the autumn.  The new arrangement was ideally better, perhaps, both for officers and students, inasmuch as the autumn is the pleasanter season for recreation, and the winter more suitable and convenient for study.  But it was quite unsuitable and inconvenient for that large class of students who had been accustomed to help themselves by teaching in the winter.  The trustees provided that they might still be allowed to teach twelve weeks of each college year, including either of the three vacations, and it was hoped that they might find select schools in the fall as remunerative as common schools in the winter.  But the experiment proved unsuccessful, and, after a trial of eight years, in 1840 the college returned to a modified and improved plan, of which, however, the essential principle was a long winter vacation.  This plan was gradually superseded by the present arrangement, which provides for a vacation of ten weeks in the summer.

At their annual meeting in 1833, the trustees voted to relinquish the old practice of having a forenoon and afternoon session at commencement, separated by the corporation dinner, and at the commencement in 1834 the new system of one session was introduced, which has ever since continued, to the entire satisfaction of all concerned.

In consequence of some sickness in the president's family, the impression prevailed that the president's house, which was built for Dr. Moore in 1821, was damp and unhealthy.  At a special meeting of the board in October, 1833, the Trustees requested the prudential committee to ascertain how much of the recent fifty thousand dollar subscription would remain after the payment of the college debts, and in case there should prove to be a sufficient balance, they authorized the committee to make immediate arrangements for the erection of a new house, at an expense not exceeding five thousand dollars.  On investigation, the prudential committee estimated that after discharging all debts there would be a balance in the treasury of about four thousand dollars, which, with the sum realized by the sale of the old house, would be sufficient to cover the expense of the new.  They accordingly sold the old house for two thousand five hundred dollars, and commenced the erection of [The President's House.]a new one on land recently purchased of the Parsons estate, directly opposite the college edifices; and "during 1834 and 1835 the house was built, not by contract, but by day's work, and the consequence was that when the bills were all in they amounted to about nine thousand dollars."

At the annual meeting of the trustees in 1834, they voted to appoint a special agent for the immediate collection of the balance of the fifty thousand dollar subscription, and directed the prudential committee "to proceed with all convenient dispatch to erect an additional college hall, provided they can procure funds for the purpose by donation, or by loan upon the security of a pledge of the building to be erected and its income, for the repayment."  During the years 1835 and 1836, the process of grading the grounds in front of the existing edifices and preparing a site for a new hall at the south end of the row was commenced and carried forward at an expense of two or three thousand dollars.  But the hall was not erected, doubtless for the very good reason that the funds could not be obtained, and the site was reserved for the erection of the Appleton Cabinet under more auspicious circumstances.

At the same meeting of the board (1834), the tuition was raised one dollar a term.  At the annual meeting in 1836, there was a further addition of one dollar a term, thus making the tuition at this time eleven dollars a term, and thirty-three dollars a year.  At the same time the salaries of the professors were increased from eight hundred dollars to one thousand, and a corresponding increase was made in the salary of the president.  The tutors' salaries remained as they had been for a few years previous, viz., four hundred and fifty dollars.  The last votes at the meeting, one or two of mere form excepted, were as follows:  "Voted, that the prudential committee be directed, in view of the urgent necessities of the college, to apply to the Legislature of this Commonwealth at their next session for pecuniary aid.  Voted, that should the application to the Legislature fail of success, or should it be deemed by the committee inexpedient to make such application, the prudential committee be further authorized to adopt any such measures as may by them be deemed expedient for procuring aid from such other sources as may seem to promise the desired relief."

The number of students at the close of the period now under review, that is, in 1836, was large, and the college was in a highly prosperous state.  The faculty was strong and popular, the standard of scholarship, culture, and conduct was high, and not a few of the most distinguished names on our general catalogue are names of men who were graduated during these years.

 

Next chapter...

Back to the table of contents of A History of Amherst College...


Page last updated: 16 August 1999
©1998-2000, Richard J. Yanco