Sunday, May 9, 2010

Columbia University (1)

One of the oldest educational institutions in the United States, situated in New York City. The first step toward its foundation was the authorization in 1746 by the Colonial Assembly of public lotteries for the establishment of a college in the Province of New York. The proceeds, amounting in 1751 to £3443 18s., were vested in a board of ten trustees, of whom seven were members of the Church of England.

The preponderating English influence thus represented, and the application of the trustees for a royal charter, excited much opposition in New York, where it was thought that the college should be entirely an American institution. Nevertheless, a charter for "King's College" was obtained from George II. in 1754, and the management of this college was vested in a corporation composed of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Governor of the Province, and other crown officers ex officio, the rector of Trinity Church, the ministers of the Dutch Reformed churches, and twenty-four gentlemen of New York.

In the following year Trinity Church conveyed a considerable plot of land to the college on condition that its presidents should always be members of the Church of England, and that the Church Liturgy should be read in the college mornings and evenings. Dr. Samuel Johnson, of Connecticut, was installed as the first president; and in 1756 the erection of a college building was begun near what is now West Broadway and Murray Street. In 1764 Dr. Johnson was succeeded by the Rev. Myles Cooper. Under President Cooper the college prospered, and a medical department was founded in 1767; but President Cooper was a Royalist, and becoming involved in 1774 in a political controversy with Alexander Hamilton, then still an undergraduate, was presently mobbed at his house, and soon after sailed for England.

In 1776 the college buildings were seized by the Committee of Safety for hospital purposes, and the college exercises were practically suspended until 1784, when the institution reopened as Columbia College, under a State charter, vesting its control largely in political officers. This, however, proved unsatisfactory; and in 1787 a new charter was granted similar to the original one except as to the denominational clause, and the management of the institution was vested in a self-perpetuating board of twenty-four trustees. About this time the income of the college was £1330, while its faculty numbered six, three giving instruction in medicine and three in the arts. New life was given to the institution in 1792 by a grant from the State of £7900 outright and of £750 for seven years. The faculty was enlarged, and Mr. James Kent, afterwards the famous Chancellor Kent, was elected to a professorship of law. But the State refused further funds in 1799, and the college suffered seriously in consequence. In 1813 the medical school was incorporated with the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

In 1814 the Legislature granted the college a strip of land known as the Hosack Botanical Garden, extending from Forty-seventh to Fifty-first Street, and from Fifth Avenue to nearly Sixth Avenue, as a reimbursement for lands in New Hampshire belonging to the college which were ceded by the State on the settlement of the New Hampshire grants. For many years this property yielded no income; but at present it is an important source of revenue. In 1823 Professor Kent was reappointed to the chair of law and delivered his famous lectures, which were, in 1826 published as Kent's Commentaries. In 1830 the contemplated establishment of a rival institution in the city of New York spurred on the board of trustees to new activity. The full course was enlarged, and scientific and literary courses were instituted, designed for special students.

In this Columbia would seem to have anticipated its future development as a university. But the time for such a project was not ripe, and the special courses were discontinued in 1843, though their major subjects were continued in its full course. In 1857, owing to the rapid growth of the city, the college was removed to the site bounded by Forty-ninth and Fiftieth Streets and Madison and Fourth Avenues, and a postgraduate course, combining all the features of a university, was projected as part of a general plan of expansion. In 1858 a law school was established. Beginning with 35 students, it had an attendance of 171 in 1864. In 1860 a nominal union was effected with the College of Physicians and Surgeons. To meet the increasing need of mining and other engineers, Columbia College established, in 1864, the School of Mines and Metallurgy.

Dr. Frederick A.P. Barnard succeeded President King in 1864 and a new era of progress began. Dr. Barnard was a friend of classical learning, but he held that a system of education not supported by popular sanction can never be made an efficient instrument of culture; and when the attendance at the college fell to 116 in 1872, the fact was attributed by him to the rigidity of the college curriculum. In 1880 the School of Political Science was established, and in 1881 a department of architecture was instituted in the School of Mines. In 1883 a course of study under the general supervision of the college faculty was designed for women, and in 1887 women were authorized to receive the degree of B.A., but this practice was discontinued on the establishment of Barnard College (q.v.) for women in 1889.

When President Barnard entered upon his duties as president, Columbia College consisted of the college, an inchoate School of Mines, the Law School, and a nominally associated Medical School. Twenty-five years later, at the close of President Barnard's administration, Columbia College comprised the college, the School of Law, the School of Political Science, and the School of Mines and Metallurgy, including the Schools of Civil and Sanitary Engineering, Applied Chemistry, and Architecture. The university had increased greatly in size, and the elective system had been largely introduced.

To be continued: Page: 2

BIBLIOGRAPHY: From My collection of books, The New International Encyclopedia; Dodd, Mead and Company-New York Copyright: 1902-1905 21 Volumes

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