Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 13. Colonial Colleges

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XXIII. Education

§ 13. Colonial Colleges

More voluminous than the literature of the lower schools is that relating to the colleges. One of the earliest literary productions of the colonists, the anonymousNew England’s First Fruits published in 1643, gives a full description of Harvard with its charter, curriculum, and rules governing student conduct. It reflects the spirit of the times, revealing the conception of education and the devotion of the people.

  • After God had carried us safe to New England, and we had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, named convenient places for God’s worship and settled the civil government, one of the next things we longed for and looked after was to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity, dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches when our present ministry shall be in the dust.
  • At the close of the century Cotton Mather in his Magnalia gave an elaborate history of the college, with accounts of its later rules and its chief dignitaries. Such charters and codes of rules are to be found for all the colonial colleges. These include Harvard, founded in 1636, named two years later, opened in 1639, and graduating its first class in 1642; William and Mary, founded in 1693 but for a generation perhaps little more than a grammar school; Yale, founded in 1701 but migratory for sixteen years; the college of New Jersey, more popularly called Princeton, founded in 1746; Pennsylvania, founded as an academy by Franklin in 1746 but chartered as a “college, academy and charitable school” in 1756; King’s, now Columbia, founded in 1754; Brown, founded in Rhode Island by the Baptists in 1764; Queen’s, now Rutgers, founded by the Dutch Reformed Church in 1766; and Dartmouth, founded as an Indian charity school in 1754 and chartered as a college in 1785. The first six were the achievements of entire colonies in which the sectarian motive was strong and the early population unified by belief. Two were direct outgrowths of religious sects. The last was a philanthropic venture. Benefactors gave their names to three; colonies to two; loyalty to reigning monarchs to three; Franklin was largely instrumental in the creation of Pennsylvania. Dartmouth alone was “the lengthened shadow of a man,” Eleazar Wheelock.