The Role of Princeton College Graduates

in Founding "Princeton Daughter Colleges"

[EDITOR'S NOTE:  Princeton College, founded by Governor Jonathan Belcher (1682-1757) (governor of New Jersey from 1746-1757), played an enormous role in establishing higher education in both the North and the South, thus contributing to the growth of Christian Civilization in America. 

    Excerpts (slightly edited) from: Samuel Davies Alexander, Princeton College During the Eighteenth Century (New York: Anson D. F. Randolph & Company, 1872), pp. xi-xv. 

    (For quotes from a work by Princeton graduate Nathaniel Whitaker, mentioned below, see the Belcher Bulletin article Programming the Judicial Machines.)]

    But the influence of the Alumni of Princeton on the higher forms of education in our country is more remarkable than all.  By the side of the church they planted the classical school, out of which grew many of our most important colleges.  What breadth of views these men must have possessed; what foresight into the future of the country, which prompted them to inaugurate these higher schools of learning in the very wilderness, and amidst the very clangor of savage war!  But they were men mighty in faith, mighty in prayer, and mighty in work, and we this day humbly and gratefully acknowledge their wisdom and their heroism.  But let me adduce a few facts to establish the claim that Princeton graduates have ever fostered the higher educational interests of our country.

    The man chosen to visit Great Britain and collect funds for an Indian Mission School in Connecticut, which afterwards grew into Dartmouth College, was NATHANIEL WHITAKER, a graduate of the class of 1752.  The College of Rhode Island (afterwards Brown University) had its origin in the conception and personal exertions of JAMES MANNING, a graduate of the class of 1762, and he became its first President.   Union College, New York, owes its existence in a great measure to the persevering exertions of THEODORE DIRCK ROMEYN, a graduate of the class of 1765, and its first President was JOHN BLAIR SMITH, a graduate of the class of 1773, and its second President was JONATHAN EDWARDS of the class of 1765.  Hamilton College, New York, owes its existence to SAMUEL KIRKLAND, a graduate of the class of 1765, through whose influence Hamilton Oneida Academy was incorporated, and to which he conveyed a large landed estate, and which became, under a new charter, Hamilton College.  The first Medical College in America, at Philadelphia, was founded by WILLIAM SHIPPEN, a graduate of the class of 1754.  He also delivered the first course of lectures that had ever been given in this country on Anatomy, and the first medical degree ever conferred in this country was by this college, and to JOHN ARCHER, a graduate of Princeton, of the class of 1760.   The second Medical College established in this country was at New York, and the men who had the chief hand in it, and who became its professors, were JAMES SMITH, a graduate of the class of 1757, and JOHN V. B. TENNENT of the class of 1758.  The first Provost of the University of Pennsylvania after its reorganization was JOHN EWING, a graduate of the class of 1754.  When Queens College (Rutgers) was revived in 1808, Dr. Livingston became the nominal President, but the Vice-President and the acting President, the man who had done more than any other in its revival, was IRA CONDICT, a graduate of the class of 1784.  In 1776, JOHN BROWN, a graduate of the class of 1749, started a grammar school at Timber Ridge, Virginia, at which Dr. Archibald Alexander attended among the first scholars.  This school grew into Liberty Hall, and that into Washington College, over which we find as first President, WILLIAM GRAHAM, a graduate of the class of 1773.   About 1776, SAMUEL STANHOPE SMITH, a graduate of the class of 1769, through his eloquence and energy, was the means of founding Hampden Sidney College in Virginia, and he was elected the first President.  The second President was JOHN B. SMITH, a graduate of the class of 1773.  The first meeting of the trustees to take measures for founding Dickinson College in Pennsylvania was held in 1783, and the leading man in the Board was BENJAMIN RUSH of the class of 1760.

    In 1789, THADDEUS DOD, a graduate of the class of 1773, established in western Pennsylvania an academy which was called Washington Academy, of which he was the first Principal; this under a new charter became Washington College.   A school in the same neighborhood, called the Log Cabin, was started about 1790 by JOHN McMILLAN, a graduate of the class of 1772.  Under a new charter it became Jefferson College, and JOHN WATSON, a graduate of the class of 1797, became the first President, and JAMES DUNLAP, of the class of 1773, the second President.  The first classical school in North Carolina was founded by JOSEPH ALEXANDER, a graduate of the class of 1760, and a charter was obtained from the colonial legislature in 1770, under the name of Queen's Museum.  This charter was repealed by the king, but a new charter was granted by the legislature in 1771, and again repealed by proclamation, as being too liberal.  But still the college flourished without a charter.  It was in the halls of this college that the Mecklenburg Convention held its sessions.  After the Revolution, this college became Liberty Hall under a new charter, and thirteen of its fifteen trustees were graduates of Princeton.  In the course of a few years, this college was transferred to Winnsboro, South Carolina, and merged in Mount Zion College, over which THOMAS H. McCAULE, a graduate of Princeton of the class of 1774, presided.   Soon after the Revolution, there were six admirable classical schools in North Carolina, five of them being under the direction of graduates of Princeton.  In 1796, JOSEPH CALDWELL, a graduate of the class of 1791, became Professor of Mathematics in the University of North Carolina.  He found the college in a state of disorganization, but by his faithful labor and energy, it was saved from ruin, and the foundation of its future usefulness laid.  Mr. Caldwell became its first President in 1804.  In 1811 he resigned, and ROBERT HETT CHAPMAN, a graduate of the class of 1789, succeeded him, but he remained only a few years, when Mr. Caldwell was recalled.  In Georgia, the second Presidents of Franklin College and Oglethorpe University were both graduates of Princeton.  In 1810, HENRY KOLLOCK, a graduate of the class of 1794, was elected President of the University of Georgia, but he declined the honor.  In 1785, Martin Academy, the first literary institution ever established in the great valley of the Mississippi, was founded by SAMUEL DOAK, a graduate of the class of 1775; afterwards it received a charter under the name of Washington College, and Mr. Doak became the first President.  In 1793, the territorial legislature of Tennessee granted a charter to Greenville College, and HEZEKIAH BALCH, a graduate of the class of 1776, who had conceived and matured the whole plan, was elected the first President.  In 1785, the legislature of North Carolina granted a charter to Davidson Academy, located in Davidson County (what is now Tennessee), THOMAS B. CRAIGHEAD, a graduate of the class of 1775, being the main agent in securing it.  In course of time this Academy became the University of Nashville, and Mr. Craighead was elected the first President.  In 1783, Transylvania Seminary (afterwards University) was established in Kentucky, through the influence of CALEB WALLACE, a graduate of Princeton, and DAVID RICE, a graduate of the class of 1761, became the President of the Board of Trustees, and its virtual manager.   And the last class of the century furnished two Presidents: JACOB LINDLY, the first President of Ohio University, and JAMES CARNAHAN of our own venerable college.

    Have we not, then, in these facts, [...] overwhelming evidence of the influence of Princeton in originating and fostering the higher forms of education in the formative state of our country?

    [...] [T]he conviction will be irresistible, that the country [...] and the cause of high Christian Culture, owe their present exalted position in the land to the noble men who went forth from Princeton during the last [i.e., the 18th] century.

Home - Policy Analysis - Christian Law Library - Christian History Library

Historical Biographies - Belcher Bulletin - Publications - Belcher History Center

About Governor Jonathan Belcher - About the Belcher Foundation - Copyright/Disclaimer - Site Index