The Princeton University Library
in the Eighteenth Century

William S. Dix


SAMUEL DAVIES, fourth president of the college at Princeton, began the preface to the first printed catalogue of the college library, which he himself compiled, as follows:

A large and well-sorted Collection of Books on the various Branches of Literature, is the most ornamental and useful Furniture of a College, and the most proper and valuable Fund with which it can be endowed. It is one of the best Helps to enrich the Minds both of the Officers and Students with Knowledge; to give them an extensive Acquaintance with Authors; and to lead them beyond the narrow Limits of the Books to which they are confined in their stated Studies and Recitations, that they may expatiate at large thro' the boundless and variegated Fields of Science. If they have Books always at Hand to consult upon every Subject that may occur to them, as demanding a more thoro' Discussion, in their public Disputes, in the Course of their private Studies, in Conversation, or their own fortuitous Tho'ts; it will enable them to investigate TRUTH thro' her intricate Recesses; and to guard against the Stratagems and Assaults of Error: It will teach them Modesty and Self-Diffidence, when they perceive the free and different Sentiments of Men equally great and good…. [1]

On September 27, 1759, at the first meeting of the Trustees after Davies had arrived in Princeton and taken up his presidential duties, the Minutes record, "That President Davies be desired as soon as he conveniently can to take a Methodical Catalogue of the Books in the College Library, and order the same to be printed at the Expense of the College." [2] The fact that the catalogue was completed and printed under the date of January 29, 1760, just four months after the instructions of the Trustees, may suggest the high priority the young president gave to this library project.

This prefatory statement to the Catalogue of 1760 not only sounded a persistent and dominant theme of the educational theory upon which the little college was based and upon which it operated throughout most of the century, but it was also surely the most direct and forthright manifesto of the role of the library in the academic process that was published in America in the eighteenth century. [3] Although its style is of its century, with Miltonic overtones from the seventeenth century, its emphasis upon independent study, intellectual freedom, and the integration of the library with the teaching program seems thoroughly modern. This proclamation of the importance of the library and its role is so remarkable that some inquiry into its origins, both in the history of the college and in Davies's own background, seems a good starting point for a history of the Princeton University Library.

A brief chronology may help keep the facts in order. The college was opened in May of 1747 under the provisions of a charter granted in 1746 under Acting Governor Hamilton. Its origins lay in the rising demand for a college of genuine quality to fill the need both for broadly educated men in the learned professions and for scholarly ministers of the gospel in the pastorates of the Middle Colonies and the developing regions to the south and west. Its purposes were outlined in this order in a statement prepared for a fund-raising trip to Britain in 1752: "It will suffice to say that the two principal Objectives the Trustees had in view, were Science and Religion. Their first Concern was to cultivate the Minds of the Pupils, in all those Branches of Erudition, which are generally taught in the Universities abroad; and to perfect their Design, their next Care was to rectify the Heart, by inculcating the great Precepts of Christianity, in order to make them good Men." [4]

Jonathan Dickinson, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth Town, New Jersey, was elected the first president and taught the eight or ten students temporarily in his own parsonage in the hope that permanent buildings could soon be erected in Princeton, which had already been tentatively selected as an appropriately central and salubrious location. In spite of this concern for health, the first five presidents were to die in office within fourteen years, President Dickinson having died of pleurisy within a few months after his inauguration, the Reverend Aaron Burr took over the leadership of the little college in the fall of 1747 and moved it to his parsonage in Newark.

After a variety of vigorous efforts, with particular assistance from Governor Jonathan Belcher, who had secured a revised and sounder charter, sufficient funds were raised to construct Nassau Hall and the President's House. In November of 1756 the President and the students, now numbering about seventy, moved to the permanent home of the college in Princeton. President Burr, the importance of whose services to the college has still not been adequately recognized, did not live long enough to enjoy the new and commodious quarters. He died in the early fall of 1757, soon after preaching Governor Belcher's funeral sermon, and was succeeded by Jonathan Edwards. That great theologian and phi- losopher, who had been an advisor of his son-in-law Burr on college matters, had just arrived in Princeton when he died in March of 1758 of a smallpox inoculation.

Edwards was succeeded, after some disagreement in the Board and some reluctance on the part of the nominee, by Samuel Davies, who, at the request of the Trustees, had undertaken an arduous but successful fund-raising journey to Britain about five years earlier and who, at 36, was probably the most famous pulpit orator in America.

Davies in his turn lasted only eighteen months as president, dying in February of 1761 after a productive if brief term of office, The Reverend Samuel Finley, who had been head of the well-known academy of Nottingham, was elected to follow Davies. Finley's term of five years was one of general growth for the college, the number of students having risen to 120 by 1764.

Whether the death in office of five presidents in less than fifteen years made them seek tougher stock or whether it was thought that the appointment of a distinguished foreigner might help close the rift in the American Presbyterian church, the Trustees decided

to offer the presidency to John Witherspoon, pastor at Paisley in Scotland and already a leader in the Scottish church. After a trans-atlantic courtship, he was finally persuaded to accept. He arrived in Princeton in August of 1768, and until his death in 1794 he led the college with determination and vigor through the difficult times of Revolution and postwar recovery, quickly acquiring a role of political leadership to parallel his leadership in educational and theological matters. At the same time that he was active in the struggle for independence, he made Princeton the center of intellectual currents that helped mold the philosophy of the new nation.

Witherspoon's son-in-law, Samuel Stanhope Smith, succeeded him in May of 1795. His administration marked the transition to the new century in spirit as well as in chronology. [5]


The origins of Princeton were doubly rooted in dissent. [6] The ministers of the gospel who founded the college, like the founders of Harvard and Yale, had, of course, many points of disagreement with the established church, the Church of England, in theology and in ecclesiastical government. The founders of Princeton, in addition, perceived a need for the new college because, as New Lights, they differed from the more conservative Old Lights of the Presbyterian church.' [7] As Richard Hofstadter and Wilson Smith point out, "Byand large the early colleges were set up to propagate the orthodoxies of their denominations and communities…" but "a new note, imposed by the interdenominational politics of New Jersey, was struck in the Princeton charter: students could not be excluded from or discriminated against in college because of their religion." [8] For these reasons the intellectual climate at Princeton in its colonial period was a little different from that at the other colleges.

The Charter of 1746, noting that "the said Petitioners have also expressed their earnest Desire that those of every Religious Denomination may have free and Equal Liberty and Advantage of Education in the Said College notwithstanding any different Sentiments in Religion," established the structure of the college laws, "not excluding any Person of any religious Denomination whatsoever from free and Equal Liberty and Advantage of Education, or from any of the Liberties, Privileges or immunities of the Said College on account of his or their speculative Sentiments in Religion and of his, or their being of a Religious profession Different from the said Trustees of the College." [9] In the Charter of 1748, a revision of the earlier Charter of 1746, the italicized words were dropped, perhaps because the word "speculative" seemed needlessly provocative. Both charters are surprisingly liberal. Not always are those who have battled for their own freedom, particularly in matters theological, so ready to extend a measure of freedom to others. [10]

The founders of Princeton and many of their associates, mostly Presbyterian clergymen, were uncommon men. To come to grips with them as persons it is necessary to get rid of certain stereotypes. Perhaps it was the age of the Volstead Act that evoked the image of the Protestant preacher as a blue-nosed killjoy, fanatical and illiterate. Perhaps the typical minister did become a different sort of person in the great wave of religious change that swept over America in the early decades of the nineteenth century. At any rate, these eighteenth-century Presbyterians do not fit the later image.

Any notion that they may have been teetotallers vanishes immediately if one glances at the innkeeper's bill for a college function. [11] They had no difficulty in accepting the lottery five times as a legitimate device for college fund raising. [12] Nor were these men earnest but uncultured backwoods evangelists, as some practitioners of other sects were. Aaron Burr, the second President, was the head of a struggling little college in the colonies with only a handful of students. Yet he could write in terms of easy familiarity to Philip Doddridge, perhaps the most famous of the English Dissenting ministers, urging him to use his influence at Court lest Jonathan Belcher, a friend of the college, lose his office to Chief Justice Morris, who was seeking the post and who might be less friendly. "So that whatever you do to support his Excellency's Interest at the Court of Great Britain will be a very acceptable Service to Church and State…In the present state of Affairs Tis of more Consequence to the Interest of Religion to have a good Governor in the Jerseys than any of the other Provinces." [13]

A little later, anticipating the death of the ailing Governor and believing that his son, Jonathan, Chief Justice of Halifax, would be a worthy successor, he wrote to the Reverend George Whitefield, "If you could by the Marquiss [sic] of Lothian, Lady Huntington or any other of your Friends at Court forward that Matter you would do a most Acceptable piece of service to all your Friends here and indeed to the whole Province.” [14]

Yet at the same time that Burr could deal with imperial politics with this assurance, he was himself attending to the whole range of duties that went with the management of a small, rather isolated, understaffed boarding college, as his account book indicates. [15] It records tuition, paid and not paid, textbooks bought and sold to students, even shoes and articles of clothing provided. The President of the College of New Jersey before the Revolution obviously had to be international diplomat, teacher, spiritual advisor and counselor in loco parentis, business manager, bookseller – and librarian.

Burr and many of his associates in the formative years of the college were indeed deeply religious preachers. Their interest in the young college was in a literal sense a consuming one. They were in addition broadly learned, politically sophisticated men of affairs. Bernard Bailyn has characterized the importance of the clergymen in the cultural life of the colonies: “For the vast majority of Americans it was the clerics who provided the continuing contacts with the explicit, articulate cultural inheritance. They were the main agents of transmission, and the way in which they fulfilled this role affected the character of the evolving culture.” [16]

Nor was the college itself simply a rural preparatory school. From the very beginning, because of the conditions which produced it and because of the quality and the efforts of the men surrounding it, Princeton aroused interest and enthusiasm not only in the North American colonies but also in Britain.

It is against this general background that one must place Samuel Davies’ preface to the Catalogue of 1760. Another document of the same period, An Account of the College of New Jersey, a pamphlet which appeared four years after the library catalogue, makes it clear that the surprising liberality and modernity of Davies’ concept of education was not an isolated personal view but was a matter of institutional policy. The name of the author does not appear, probably to emphasize that this was an institutional statement, as the title page indicates, “published, by order of the Trustees, for the information of the public; particularly of the friends and benefactors of the institution, in Europe and America.” The author was Samuel Blair, a graduate of the Class of 1760 and a tutor in the college from 1761 to 1764. A genuine interest in the techniques of teaching is obvious:

The usual method of instruction in the sciences is this. The pupils frequently and deliberately read over such a portion of the author they are studying, or a particular science, as it is judged they can be able thoroughly to impress upon their memories. When they attend their recitations, the tutor proposes questions on every particular they have been reading. After they have given, in their turns, such answers as shew their general acquaintance with the subject, he explains it more at large; allows them to propose any difficulties; and takes pains to discover whether his explications be fully comprehended. Advantages, which are seldom attainable, in the usual method of teaching by lecture. [17]

I have emphasized the last clause because it seems to me to underscore the concern of the college with genuine teaching, with the understanding of principles rather than the mere memorization of facts, with the development of the capacity for independent thought. [18]

Then follows this remarkable and admirable statement: "In the instruction of youth, care is taken to cherish a spirit of liberty and free enquiry; and not only to permit, but even encourage their right of private judgment, without presuming to dictate with an air of infallibility, or demanding an implicit assent to the decisions of the preceptor." This absence of dogmatism and encouragement of independent thinking leads straight to the library, and, echoing Davies, Blair makes the role of the library explicit: "The Senior, Junior, and (towards the conclusion of this year) the Sophomore classes are allowed the free use of the college library that they may make excursions beyond the limits of their stated studies into the unbounded and variegated fields of knowledge; and, especially, to assist them in preparing their disputations, and other compositions." [19]

The ground was already prepared at Princeton by the time Davies arrived to lay out so clearly his view of the library and education. A college tradition, I suppose, is something that makes it different from other colleges down through the years. If an institution only five years old can be said to have a tradition, Princeton already had by 1752 the tradition of teaching that has persisted in varying forms for more than two centuries.

Aaron Burr, in addition to all his other admirable qualities, must have been a great teacher, hailed by his contemporaries for "his easy, familiar methods of instruction." [20] By 1752 his methods had become the methods of the institution, and when the Trustees published a promotional pamphlet in that year in anticipation of the Davies-Tennent trip, they were inclined to boast that Prince- ton's undergraduate education was just a little better than that offered elsewhere:

It may be said, without any intention of disparagement to other learned seminaries, that the governors of this college have endeavored to improve upon the commonly received plans of education. They proceed not so much in the method of a dogmatic institution, by prolix discourses on the different branches of the sciences, by burdening the memory and in- fusing heavy and disagreeable tasks; as in the Socratic way of free dialogue between teacher and pupil, or between the students themselves, under the inspection of their tutors. In this manner, the attention is engaged, the mind entertained, and the scholar animated in the pursuit of knowledge. [21]

The preceptorial system was not invented out of whole cloth by Woodrow Wilson in 1905. It had its roots in the college even before Nassau Hall was built.

While the strikingly liberal views on education and the library expressed in the Catalogue of 1760 were clearly a formulation of a general educational philosophy that already existed in the college -- continuity being provided by the Trustees and a closely-knit body of graduates -- in accounting for these views one needs to look closely at their author, Samuel Davies, his background and his experience.

Samuel Davies, born in 1723 in a Welsh farming community in New Castle County, Delaware, attended the elder Samuel Blair's school at Fagg's Manor in Chester County, Pennsylvania. This school was set up on the model of the elder William Tennent's famous Log College. The speculation cannot be resisted that something in the teaching of Samuel Blair, Sr. prepared the seedbed for the growth of the educational theories expressed by Samuel Davies in 1760 and by Samuel Blair, Jr. in 1764. [22] The elder Blair had been born in Ulster, had come to America in early youth, and had been educated at the Log College under William Tennent. [23] Something in that fertile soil seems to have encouraged the growth of imaginative educational ideas.

Particularly relevant to our inquiry are the eleven years that Samuel Davies spent ministering to the Presbyterians and other nonconformists in Hanover County, Virginia, interrupted only by his trip to Britain for Princeton. In Virginia he rode to congregations in as many as seven separate meeting houses scattered through I five counties. [24] In this rather unpromising locale extending from the edge of Tidewater west to the effective frontier he "established Presbyterianism so firmly…that by the late 1750s he had probably become the most celebrated of American Presbyterians," [25] and at the same time he was judged by qualified contemporaries the finest pulpit orator of his generation. The young Patrick Henry is said to have attended his sermons and analyzed his oratorical style. [26]

His most important achievement in Virginia, however, was his continuing and largely successful battle against the established church to win the legal right to preach the gospel, maintaining that his sort of preaching was legal under the Act of Toleration of 1689. A student of these political activities concludes, "His grappling with the legal restraints set a precedent and tone in Virginia that had broad implications. Davies was recognized as

the liberal, the radical of his time, and his followers were the same for their era of revolution and separation of church and state." [27] Davies argued only for toleration, but his efforts must have had some effect in softening up the establishment and thus indirectly helped pave the way for Jefferson's religious freedom bill in 1786. [28]

Davies was a political radical only in the context of his time and place. Indeed one of the reasons he is said to have won the good will of the royal governor was the great success of his recruiting sermons in bringing out volunteers to defend the frontier against the Indians in the French and Indian War. Yet the experience of marshalling arguments against a rigid orthodoxy, of defending firmly over a period of years the right to be different, must have given his mind a certain temper by the time he sat down in 1760 to write a few sentences about liberal education and books and libraries.

There is plenty of evidence in his letters and journals of his deep interest in books and reading and in education. The strong Presbyterian commitment to an educated and even a learned ministry extended in some degree to the education of congregations. Jonathan Edwards had urged, "Consider yourselves as scholars or disciples." Douglas Sloan observes: "Probably none exerted themselves as vigorously as did Davies in Virginia to assist his congregation in carrying out this commission. Davies did not establish an academy, probably because his many other responsibilities prevented it, but he encouraged several who did, and he constantly tried to supply the people in his churches with books and reading material. He wrote often to his friends in London and Scotland requesting donations of books for the poor whites and slaves in his congregations, and he tried to see that the little reading material that was available was passed around from church to church." [29]

His curiosity extended beyond books to life, and he becomes for us the more human because of it. In the diary of his British journey he wrote, "When I came to N. Castle in the Evening, I found a Comedy called the Careless Husband was to be acted: and as I apprehended I should not be known, and consequently m could give no Offence, I went to gratify my Curiosity. But the Entertainment was short of my Expectation." [30] It is perhaps just as well that the representative of Princeton and the American Presbyterian ministry was not seen in attendance at Colley Cibber's somewhat racy comedy, but no preacher lacking in a sense of humor could have written the final sentence of this entry.

Davies himself was the author of sermons and hymns that went through many editions; his poems were widely read and were the subject of a continuing critical debate in the columns of the Virginia Gazette in the colony's capital. Only such interests could have made him accept the invitation of the Trustees of Princeton to take a leave of absence from his Hanover congregations and his beloved wife to go with Gilbert Tennent on an extended trip to England and Scotland, 1753-55, to solicit gifts of money and books for the struggling college. And only the same concerns could have made him leave Hanover permanently in 1759 to become President of the college after declining the election the year before, "even though he was assuming the foremost position his church could convey." [31]

As President, in the brief period before his early death, "he surprised even himself by the zeal with which he proceeded to reform and modernize everything, so that ultra conservatives began to sigh for the good old days of unwatered Calvinism. They took

fright in his unfeigned joy in promoting secular studies and filling the library shelves with volumes on mathematics and Newton's philosophy." [32]

In seeking an institutional model for the sort of educational theory that both Davies and Blair were expressing with such clarity and enthusiasm, one notes the substantial impact upon the college of John Witherspoon's arrival in 1768 from the Scottish universities. But the kind of educational enterprise Princeton was to be had already been determined before the advent of Witherspoon. As to the English universities, an English historian of education has summarized the situation: "Yet when all is said and every allowance made, it must be admitted, on the evidence of some of the most gifted of their students and the verdict of impartial historians, that the English universities during the eighteenth century were generally in a state of repose, not to say coma, undisturbed by the fresh vigorous thinking of men conscious of the problems with which they were faced in religion and politics, industry and commerce." [33]

It was fortunate, therefore, that the natural affinities of most of those who were establishing new colleges in the North American colonies lay elsewhere. The Conformity legislation of 1662 and later years had effectively driven dissenting dons out of Oxford and Cambridge. To meet the need for higher education conducted free of the restrictions of the Test Act, the "Dissenting Academies" began to appear toward the end of the seventeenth century. Often supported by wealthy dissenters in the rising merchant class, many of these unofficial institutions flourished until near the end of the eighteenth century. These academies, although nearly always small, were not preparatory schools, but educational institutions of university grade, with formal curricula extending for four or five years. The period during which they flourished was a critical one in the founding of American educational institutions and in the establishment of democratic traditions in the New World. As Bernard Bailyn has summarized the situation, "Only the academies broke free [from inertia and traditionalism], and though they too carried over traditional elements, they were uniquely progressive institutions. In them an impetus, built up within the confines of nonconformist intellectual life, and bearing…peculiar proclivities for the new science, was released with great innovating force. This impulse carried over into the colonies where dissent was endemic, where intellectual restraints were negligible, and where the response to motions in English intellectual life were continuous, quick, and sensitive." [34]

For somewhat similar reasons there had grown up in Ulster institutions bearing some resemblance to the Dissenting Academies in England. The Scotch Presbyterians in northern Ireland were forbidden to attend the university in Dublin and the journey back to the universities in Scotland was difficult and expensive. Thus "Presbyterian academies" began to appear, and the pattern was brought to America in the wave of Scotch-Irish migration. Douglas Sloan discusses these academies and their relation to Princeton: "The first Presbyterian academies were founded by men who had come directly from Ulster or Scotland, but after mid-century most of the academies were established by graduates of the College of New Jersey and the pattern was repeated as these academies in turn sent out their students." [35] From the founding of the Log College in 1747 down to 1802 at least sixty-five academies have been identified. Although some of them trained young men for the ministry, many were grammar schools only. They do not seem to have been studied enough to permit generalizations here about the influence of their educational theories and practices upon Samuel Davies, David Blair, and their associates, although it is perfectly clear that the general influence of the remarkable Log College group was a pervading one in the early years of Princeton.

It is to the Dissenting Academies, then, that we must look for many of the sources of institutional and educational policy underlying Samuel Davies's remarkable preface to the Catalogue of 1760 and David Blair's elaboration in 1764 of an educational procedure which gave such importance to books and the college library. [36] The influence was not, of course, a matter of slavish imitation, but the growth of similar ideas, nourished by correspondence, by the American environment, and sometimes by personal experience such as that of Davies himself. The channels through which the influences flowed are relatively clear .


The influence of Aaron Burr, President of Princeton from 1748 to 1757, was probably the most important of any of the five presidents before John Witherspoon, if only because he survived long enough to have a sustained impact. Burr corresponded on educational as well as political matters with Philip Doddridge, who was head of the influential academy at Northampton. Their correspondence is the easy and allusive discourse of two able men with similar backgrounds and values, engaged in a demanding occupation and sharing professional ideas and gossip.

Burr's letter of May 31, 1750, for example, begins with an expression of pleasure in Doddridge's books and gratification that these books are spreading in Germany. Burr thanks his English correspondent for his friendship for "our infant college." There is gossip about the envy of "some among our Episcopal Brethren" and the fact that "others of our own Denomination are jealous of the spread of Calvinism & what has been here branded with the odious name of New Light." He tells the story of a student Latin oration of such quality that it immediately convinced a critic of the College of New Jersey. Then there is talk about a Professor of Oriental Languages whom the college needs but cannot afford and reference to a possible candidate recommended by Doddridge. Burr expresses his pleasure in "the flourishing state of your academy," comments on his own current reading, asks what Doddridge thinks of Grove's Moral Philosophy as a student text. He is gratified with the report of his English friend's interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury. "The Disquisition, etc. was a very acceptable present to our Library." [37] In this sort of atmosphere the flow of ideas across the Atlantic was easy.

There was even more direct contact. Although the diary which Samuel Davies kept on his British trip of 1753-55 records his introspective musings on his own unworthiness and the varying inspirations for his sermons more than his discussions of educational theory, it is clear that he talked with the leaders in the academies. While he may have been a bit shocked at times, the experience of meeting a large number of prominent nonconformists with widely differing views certainly is a part of the background of this statement from the preface: "It [the availability of books] will teach them Modesty and Self-diffidence, when they perceive the free and different Sentiments of Men equally great and good…" The trip was a part of Davies's education in tolerance.

Fryd. July 19. Rode to Hull, in Company with a friendly Gent. Mr. Ellis, Minister of Cave, one of Dr. Doddridge's Pupils, who like many others of them has embibed the modern sentiments in Divinity. The very word Orthodox is a Subject of Ridicule with many here. The Dissenting Ministers here take greater Liberties than I should chuse. They make no Scruple of gaming, attending on Horse-Races, mingling in promiscuous Companies on the Bowling-Green, etc. [38]

The influence of the Dissenting Academies is specifically visible, it seems to me, in two broad areas, teaching methods and curriculum. The former is of more interest in the consideration of the role of the library in the educational process. The library collection must always reflect to some degree the subjects studied, but there is room for wide differences in the extent to which the teaching process demands that the library be used or, at the other extreme, simply ignored. A contemporary participant's description of the teaching method and the overall atmosphere of intellectual freedom at Northampton Academy in 1752, the year after Doddridge's death, parallels closely what we have seen Davies and Blair saying about Princeton eight to twelve years later:

In my time the academy was peculiarly favourable to the serious pursuit of truth, as the students were about equally divided upon every question of much importance, such as Liberty and Necessity, the sleep of the soul and all the articles of theological orthodoxy and heresy; in consequence of which all these topics were the subject of continual discussion. Our tutors also were of different opinions…Our lectures had often the air of friendly conversations on the subjects to which they related. We were permitted to ask whatever questions and to make whatever remarks we pleased, and we did it with the greatest, but without any offensive, freedom. The general plan of our studies…was exceedingly favourable to free inquiry, as we were referred to authors on both sides of every question, and even required to give an account of them…The public library contained all the books to which we were referred. [39]

This is the testimony of Joseph Priestley, who was the product of one of the Dissenting Academies, Northampton, and tutor at two others. This laudatory account by the famous scientist may be slightly suspect as the glowing recollection of a youthful period by a man whose pursuit of truth had since led him considerably beyond any nonconformist orthodoxy in theology or in politics. Yet one can also speculate that a radical, having gone so far, might have remembered his old school as stifling. Shelley in retrospect would hardly have found the Oxford of 1811 favorable to the serious pursuit of truth, as Priestley found Northampton.

The linking of the library with these assigned books "on both sides of every question" (in complete conformity to the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights) underscores the relation of these pedagogical methods to our contemporary concept of "teaching with books." That great man, Philip Doddridge, took another step into the mid-twentieth century by giving occasional lectures on the library at Northampton, an early example of "library instruction." [40] Doddridge's method, which he emphasized so strongly that he became famous -- or infamous -- for it, was described by a former pupil, Job Orton: "He never concealed the Difficulties, which affected any Question, but referred them to the Writers on both Sides, without hiding any from their Inspection." [41]

John Taylor, already a famous liberal theologian when he became head of Warrington Academy in 1757 , addressed his students at the beginning of the year and outlined for them the guiding principles of the institution:

I.                    I do solemnly charge you…that in all your studies…you do constantly,

carefully, impartially, and conscientiously, attend to evidence, as it lies in the Holy Scriptures, or in the nature of things and the dictates of reason, cautiously guarding against the sallies of imagination and the fallacy of ill-grounded conjecture.

II.                 That you admit, embrace or assent to no principle or sentiment, by me

taught or advanced, but only so far as it shall appear to you to be supported and justified by proper evidence from Revelation, or the reason of things.

III.               That if at any time hereafter any principle or sentiment by me taught or advanced, or by you admitted or embraced, shall upon impartial and faithful examination, appear to you to be dubious or false, you either suspect or totally reject such principle or sentiment.

IV.              That you keep your mind always open to evidence; that you labor to banish from your breast all prejudice, prepossession and party-zeal; that you study to live in peace and love with all your fellow Christians; and that you steadily assert for yourself and freely allow to others, the inalienable rights of judgment and conscience. [42]

One wonders how fully this high standard of rationality and academic freedom prevailed in real life, but it was certainly given more than lip service.

It is my impression that this enthusiastic insistence that students make up their own minds declined a bit at Princeton with the arrival of John Witherspoon. He approved of the method in principle, but having used it himself to arrive at the Truth, his forceful personality may have made it difficult for his students not to unquestioningly accept that Truth. In his course on moral philosophy he refers students to a variety of authors as diverse as Shaftesbury, Mandeville, Wollaston, Hume, and even "the whole Deistical Writers, & the answers written to each of them in particular." [43] In his treatment of them the Doctor may not have been quite so evenhanded as Doddridge is said to have been, however . His summary of Hume's position makes no attempt to conceal the fact that Witherspoon, as usual, held a firm position: "David Hume has a scheme of morals that is peculiar to himself, he makes everything that is agreeable, & useful, virtuous & vice versa. By which he entirely annihilates the difference between natural and moral qualities, making Health, Strength, Cleanliness, as real Virtues as Integrity & Truth."

There was almost certainly more lecturing than Priestley's "air of friendly conversations" in Witherspoon's classroom. Furthermore, as president of the college he was unwilling to tolerate the teaching by others of philosophical systems to which he was totally opposed. At least Ashbel Green records one such instance: "The Berkeleyan system of Metaphysics was in repute in the college when he entered on his office. The tutors were zealous believers in it, and waited on the President, with some expectation of either confounding him, or making him a proselite. They had mistaken their man. He first reasoned against the System, and then ridiculed it, till he drove it out of the college." [44] The principal tutor involved was Joseph Periam of the Class of 1762. He resigned at the end of the year, but since he took with him a testimonial from the Trustees, it is not clear whether or not he was discharged for his injudicious advocacy of the ideas of Bishop Berkeley.

Nevertheless, much of the liberalism of the Enlightenment was reflected in Princeton's educational theories and in Witherspoon's approach to education. At the least he wanted his students to be exposed to books in which differing points of view were offered. His lecture notes are heavy with bibliographic references. Students were clearly expected to read widely, and it is easy to see why President Witherspoon was willing to work so hard to build up the college library.

It is clear beyond any reasonable doubt that the methods of instruction developed and in use at the Dissenting Academies and adopted at Princeton and other American colleges placed heavy emphasis upon the use of books and libraries. [45] By a twist of history not unique in library annals, the Academies, where the teaching methods demanded books, had weak libraries because of their small size and their relatively brief history, while the somnolent old colleges of Oxford and Cambridge had rich collections. It was clearly the central place of the library in the teaching process that made the Princeton presidents and trustees give such a high priority to developing the library.

The other great influence of the Dissenting Academies on Princeton and other American colleges was upon their curricula. There is a rather surprising amount of detailed evidence on what was taught in the colonial colleges and even what textbooks were used, in published catalogues and promotional essays, in the minutes of faculties and trustees, in student letters and diaries. There is also a surprising amount of difference in the interpretation of this evidence.

An early student of educational history, Louis Franklin Snow, concluded that:

The scheme at Princeton in 1764 [as outlined by Blair] has little to offer as a means of culture and of training for the general student that has not already been included in the Laws and Orders of Harvard as prepared by President Dunster in 1642. The Cambridge curriculum is having its perfect work. Pure and unmixed it was received. In this manner it was transmitted. It was only the disruption of the Revolutionary War and the readjustment necessarily following, which led to its decadence and replacement, in these colleges, by something more comprehensive and better fitted to train for citizenship, a purpose wholly different from the ideal that governed colonial Princeton, Harvard, and Yale. [46]

Even leaving aside the fact that the pre-Revolutionary Princeton graduate did in fact have a remarkable record of "citizenship," this summary is hard to square with the evidence. A later student has come to quite different conclusions.

From the Log College, Yale, and Harvard, it [Princeton ] drew its emphasis on the classics, and from the dissenting academies in England as well as from its parent institutions in this country, the lively interest in science which was characteristic of the century….. Princeton became not the college of a single synod or a single religion, or a single colony, but a more broadly conceived institution which served the purpose of secular education as well as the standards and the gradual secularization of purpose…. The application to politics of the eighteenth-century faith in reason and in the methodology of science led to an American justification for rebellion, for fealty to such principles as the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were thought to have the same empirical validity as the acceptance of Newtonian mathematics. The emphasis on science under the first five presidents had prepared the Princeton soil for this approach to politics, but it did not flower until Witherspoon brought the immediate impulse from Scotland. [47]

This argument may claim too much, but it does emphasize correctly, I think, the importance given to science at eighteenth-century Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

In making his appeal for benefactors to remedy the deficiencies revealed in the Catalogue of 1760, Samuel Davies emphasized the greatest need: "…few modern authors, who have unquestionably some Advantages above the immortal Ancients, adorn the Shelves. This Defect is most sensibly felt in the Study of Mathematics, and the Newtonian Philosophy, in which the Students have but very imperfect Helps, either from Books or Instruments." [48] Samuel Blair four years later was repeating the need for modern books: "The library wants many of the most approved modern writers, as hath been already hinted." [49]

These pleas for modern books and particularly for scientific books mirror the principal innovations in curriculum of the Dissenting Academies. One aspect of the curriculum of the Academies which was clearly echoed in America was the strong emphasis upon natural science. For some tutors, science was one more avenue of revelation, another way of understanding God's great purpose; others, such as Priestley, emphasized the utilitarian aspects of science. Natural philosophy was usually taught experimentally, or at least by demonstration, thus requiring "philosophical apparatus." Hence we find Davies in the same sentence lamenting the lack of books and the lack of instruments, and the various appeals for assistance almost invariably link the two. In the General Account of 1754, for example, the Trustees list among the needs: "furnishing the Library; which is at present very small; and procuring a proper Apparatus for philosophical Experiments." [50] While the need for books on mathematics was emphasized by Davies, the leaders of some of the Academies, including Doddridge, believed the subject to have only limited value.

Another fixture in the curricula of the Academies was of course found in the English universities as well and in the American colonial colleges -- the heavy load of courses in Latin and Greek and, for theological students, in Hebrew. The Academies took the lead, however, in dropping Latin as the medium of instruction. [51] There is some debate about when the practice of using English rather than Latin as the language of instruction became general - and about the extent to which it was borrowed from the Scottish universities; Princeton of course had channels to both the Academies and the Scottish universities. [52]

Another innovation of the Academies was the study of the English language, primarily composition, with some attention paid to examples of English literature as correct models. The emphasis of Protestantism upon preaching may have been indirectly responsible for the considerable time spent in elocution and oral expression in the vernacular. At Princeton one is struck by the importance given to "orations" in English and Latin, which survive still today, in form at least, in the two student addresses at Commencement, the Latin Salutatory and the English Valedictory. The study of the French language was introduced in some of the Academies and at Princeton after Witherspoon's arrival (but for an extra fee.) In another emphasis on the modern some of the Academies introduced the study of modern history, including political theory. Witherspoon's famous lectures on moral philosophy at Princeton devoted a great deal of attention to theories of politics. [53]


It would be of interest to analyze the collections of the library in relation to the curriculum, to show that there was (or was not) a core collection carefully selected to support specific courses, supplemented by additional readings which were (or were not) radical in terms of the prevailing philosophy or theology of the faculty. It would be interesting to check the collection against the titles sorted into categories by David Lundberg and Henry F. May to analyze the relative popularity of the various periods and strands of the Enlightenment. [54] But these studies cannot be made, or rather, if made would give fraudulent answers, because of our limited knowledge of what was actually in the library at various times in the century, and because of the almost accidental way the collection was built. The only eighteenth-century catalog is that of 1760, compiled only fourteen years after the college opened. Its 789 titles in 1281 volumes were nearly all gifts, over a third of them from a single donor, Governor Jonathan Belcher. Any librarian knows how nearly impossible it is to maintain a policy of accepting as gifts only those books that one would have purchased in the same priority! Davies in the preface points out that the "Library in particular has been almost entirely formed of the Donations of several public-spirited Gentlemen on both Sides of the Atlantic." [55] Then he goes on to reveal the fact that the catalogue was being published not so much to show the wealth of the library as to reveal its poverty, in the hope of stimulating additional gifts: "But after all this liberal Assistance, a Survey of its literary Wealth, which is exposed to View in the following Catalogue, will soon convince the Friends of Learning and Nassau-Hall how poor it still is in this important article…." The collection thus described, almost a random assortment of books within the boundaries set by the beliefs and tastes of the donors, can obviously tell us little about the kind of library the faculty really wanted. The preface tells us that they were not satisfied with the one they had.

That the Trustees of the college instructed a new President to catalogue the library as his first official duty and that he responded with an elegant and eloquent tribute to the role of the library in the educational enterprise is striking evidence that those concerned with the infant college at Princeton believed the library to be important. That this evidence and that offered by the Samuel Blair statement merely reflect the thinking of the college authorities is amply witnessed by the concern expressed repeatedly in Trustee meetings and by the priority given the library in the repeated attempts to raise funds.

The desperately poor college demonstrated ingenuity, skill, and persistence in conceiving and following up a whole range of fund-raising activities: individual solicitation, printed and widely distributed appeals, trips abroad, testimonials from well-known individuals and organizations, appeals to the government, lotteries, and that long-standing ecclesiastical device, the sermon by a visiting minister followed by a special offering. In all of these activities, which would do credit to a modern professional university development office, the library was prominently mentioned at every possible opportunity.

Its place in the financial balance sheet of the college was indicated by Samuel Davies in his diary on July 2, 1753, at the beginning of the rather speculative trip to Britain to solicit funds for a college whose only home was a parsonage: “There is now about 3000£ in the College Fund; but this will hardly be sufficient for the Erection of the proper Buildings; and if it should all be laid out for that End, there will be Nothing left for the Maintenance of the Professors and Tutors, to furnish a College Library, and to support pious Youth for the Ministry, who are unable to maintain themselves at Learning." [56] One can imagine the young man, overwhelmed by the responsibility placed in his hands, diffidently rehearsing his central appeal on the long voyage over. Buildings, faculty salaries, and scholarship funds are still in competition today with library development, and that library is fortunate which is not forgotten at the beginning of a capital campaign. The library was not forgotten at Princeton in the eighteenth century.

Davies and Tennent took with them as a propaganda handout, A General Account of the Rise and State of the College…, the eight-page pamphlet which the Trustees had prepared in 1752. [57] Revised editions of this summary of the aims, methods, and needs of the college were published in London and in Edinburgh in 1754, so that the canvassers could have something to leave in the hands of those on whom they called. [58] A postscript to the London edition, dated March 5, 1754, said that Davies and Tennent expected to be in Scotland from April to August and it named eight gentlemen who would receive contributions in their absence. It was an efficient operation.

The new editions made the needs of the library quite specific. A footnote was added at the first mention of the library to insert the phrase, “which is at present very small,” and another, following, “the State of their Treasury, is altogether inadequate to those I chargeable Demands”: “They cannot therefore be accommodated in a Building of less than forty Rooms, with a large Hall for public Exercises, a Library-Room, a Dwelling-House for the President and other convenient Buildings: the Expense of all which, it is thought, will amount to above £2000 Sterling, besides the Charge of Enlarging the Library, and furnishing a Philosophical Apparatus.” [59]

The two emissaries were further armed for their mission with an Address to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland from the Synod of New York, dated October 3, 1753. This Address summarizes the history of the college, its importance (with appropriate emphasis for the occasion on the education of ministers), and its financial needs: "That after all the contributions that have been made to said college, or can be raised in these parts, the fund is far from being sufficient for the erection of suitable buildings, supporting the president and tutors, furnishing a library, and defraying other expenses." [60]

Davies and Tennent were able to get sixty-eight “approved Ministers of the Gospel in or near London” to sign an endorsement of their mission, which they printed over the date January 19, 1754. The needs were “for the competent support of the President and Tutors, the erection of proper buildings, and furnishing a suitable library and philosophical apparatus.”61 The endorsement from the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge has already been mentioned. Although he was aiming for bigger things, Davies did not turn down scattered books. “He [Dr. Grosvenor] offered me Baxter's or Williams's Works; but I told him that I could receive them only for the Use of the College, and in that view they would be very acceptable.”62

In spite of his long struggle in Virginia against the Established Church, Davies did not hesitate to ask his old adversaries for funds -- to his own amazement. After the Bishop of Durham had given him £5 he wrote, “It is a matter of pleasing Wonder to me, that notwithstanding the present Langour of my Spirits, and my natural Bashfulness I can with Freedom and Composure, converse with these great Men.”63

Without detailing all of the fund-raising activities which were so important to the college and the library, it is sufficient to say that each president in turn seems to have given the development of the library as high a priority as he had opportunity. John Witherspoon even before he came to America was deeply involved in activities on behalf of the library. The two Princetonians who attempted in person to persuade the Scottish minister to accept the appointment were Richard Stockton of the Class of 1748, a Trustee and later to be a cosigner with Witherspoon of the Declaration of Independence, and young Benjamin Rush of the Class of 1760, then a medical student at Edinburgh and also to become a signer as well as an eminent physician. It seems to have been Rush's enthusiasm and charm that in time overcame Mrs. Witherspoon's reluctance to leave home.64

Witherspoon's correspondence with Rush during this period is sprinkled with thoughts of the library, even during the days when it seemed as if Mrs. Witherspoon's objections would prevail.65

He wrote to Rush from Paisley on July 7, 1767, “I have used some Endeavours & hope by my self & some others to send a Present of Books to the Library by the End of this Season…. I shall be glad to know what [?] is doing for the Library in Edin[burgh ].” On October 11 he expressed concern that Mr. Beattie, another Princeton Trustee who had stopped by Paisley, “did not seem sensible of the Poverty of the College Library which surprised me.”

The library was on his mind even in the most difficult days of these negotiations. Witherspoon had after much consideration declined the offer of the Trustees, who had then appointed Samuel Blair, a 26-year-old classmate of Rush. Blair resigned before taking office when the appointment was criticized because of his youth; word may also have reached him that Witherspoon was having second thoughts and might be available after all. In the midst of this transatlantic confusion Witherspoon wrote to Rush on December 21, 1767: “I cannot think of going to Edin[burgh] or making any publick Mention of the thing till an Authentic account comes from the Trustees -- However you may let our Friends (in Edinburgh) know especially I hope who so strongly urged my compliance that I will think they use me very ill if they do not exert themselves with uncommon Vigor in the Subscriptions for their Library.” It is obvious that Witherspoon would become a library-minded college president.

On December 29, 1767, Rush, who seems to have been confident all along that Witherspoon would go to Princeton and whose mind was characteristically running ahead to the future of the library, wrote to describe a 2/6 annual library fee at Edinburgh University and of the contribution of more than this amount by most students. The income of about £100 a year “is all laid out immediately in purchasing new Books. Wd not a Law of this kind tend greatly to enrich the Library of the College of New Jersey? I have many other things of like nature to hint to you, but they must be reserved 'til I see you.” Witherspoon must have wondered from time to time if all Princeton alumni would turn out to be quite so prolific in advice. It has been said, "Rush had a talent for making friends, but a genius for making enemies.”66 In the same December 29 letter Rush goes on to urge the cultivation of a Mr. Randall, who “has it moreover in his power to collect a considerable number of Books from the people of Dundee, & other towns around him.” Then, of a Mr. Hume: “…his Library I am told is very valuable, & contains a number of Books in the Oriental Languages. If we can prevail upon him to leave even this itself to the College, the Acquisition will be valuable.”

Two letters from Witherspoon in January outline additional plans for soliciting aid for the library. This concern for funds for the library is reiterated in a number of other letters. There is even some rather sharp disagreement between the two new friends about the timing and tactics of a major library campaign in Edinburgh. Finally, on May 10, 1768, Witherspoon finds time before leaving Greenock to pass along to Rush more prospects: “I desire that my compliments be particularly paid to Mr. Kinkaid who has a very valuable collection.” In a letter written from New York on September 8 he mentions sending the thanks of the Trustees to Mr Kinkaid for his donation.

As could have been predicted from this apprenticeship, President Witherspoon was tireless in his fund-raising activities, travelling up and down the seaboard with considerable success, planning a trip to Jamaica, and stimulating the Trustees to greater activity. One of the Trustees was given so much produce in Georgia that a ship had to be chartered to bring it home.67 In Williamsburg, that center of Anglican lethargy, the President preached to a great crowd in the Capitol yard and immediately collected £66, to which Governor Botetourt was said personally to have added £50.68 Witherspoon seems to have continued his efforts on behalf of the library whenever opportunity permitted during the years he was in office.

It is difficult to imagine a more favorable climate to nourish the early years of a college library. The college proudly proclaimed an educational policy of just the sort which was likely to make the library quite central in the educational process. Presidents and Trustees repeatedly enunciated the importance of the library in their view of the aims of the institution – “the most ornamental and useful Furniture of a College, and the most proper and valuable Fund with which it can be endowed.” Of course there was very little money for the library or anything else at first, but this problem soon began to be remedied through the energetic efforts of the trustees, the presidents, the friends, and soon the graduates of the “infant seminary.”


But what of the physical library during these early years, the collections themselves, and the provisions made for their housing and use?

In the absence of much specific information, we must assume that under President Dickinson in Elizabeth and President Burr while he was in Newark the college library consisted of a few shelves of books, perhaps housed in Burr's study along with his own personal library. These were both bookish men, who had been teaching students independently before the college was chartered, and their libraries almost certainly contained several hundred volumes. The inventory of Burr's books made after his death lists about 285 volumes.69 Here in the study the books could be adequately protected and loaned on cautious terms to the students. The study would have been the room, I suspect, in which a considerable amount of tutoring went on. These good men, Burr especially, were excellent teachers, and when one of them reached up for a volume to elucidate a point, he probably did not care whether he was reaching to the college shelves or his own.

The first reference to the library in the surviving official records is a note in the Minutes of the Board of Trustees for September 26, 1750: “Ordered that the President be allow'd to apply Certain Donations in his and Mr. Woodruff's hands, to procure a book-Case for the Use of the College.” We may beyond doubt construe this minute as a sign that the infant library had grown in its three years of life and had already acquired a trait which would periodically plague the Trustees for two hundred years and more: the habit of quickly outgrowing the space provided for it. This particular growth may have been the product of one of the first of a fairly steady flow of gifts. The Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge had expressed its gratification upon learning that the college had been chartered by voting to send “a parcel of good books” not to exceed £30 in cost.70

The proceeds from the successful Davies-Tennent expedition must have been applied in part to the library, as planned. The Account Book kept by President Burr from 1753 to his death in 1757 records surprisingly large expenditures for books.71 For example, an entry of June 10, 1756, indicates that Mr. Buell of Easthampton was paid £21 for “books from London,” and there are substantial payments to John Ward, a London bookseller.72

It is not clear, of course, that all of these expenditures were for the library. One of the numerous duties of President Burr was to serve as the college bookseller, selling textbooks to students. Some of these charges are certainly for textbooks. A letter from John Ward to Burr contains an itemized account for the current shipment, totalling £32-7-0.73 There are ten copies of Cole's Dictionary, fourteen of Salmon's Grammar, and so on, clearly stock for the student bookstore. I suspect that the library account and the bookstore account were often hopelessly muddled, for there are also single copies of titles that could hardly be textbooks. A summary account is attached for the period October 4, 1755-September 27, 1757, totalling the substantial sum of £196-9-5. John Ward also acted as an agent for gifts for the library, several of which were forwarded with this shipment.

The first visitor to the library to have left a record, appropriately enough in view of the intellectual debt of the young college to Yale, was Ezra Stiles, later to become president of that institution. Stiles, eight years out of college and practicing law, made a trip on horseback from New Haven to Philadelphia and returned in the autumn of 1754, keeping a diary of his journey.74 On the way south,

September 24,1754

...Arrived at Newark about 3 aft. Waited on President Burr. Went to prayers, after which 2 young gent. of the college acted Tamerlane & Bejazet, &c.75

September 25, 1754

Commencement; waited on Mr. Prest Burr, & viewed the college library. Went to meeting, where saw a most splendid assembly of gentlemen and ladies….

Thus, about seven years after the first classes began, the college library, even if it was only a few shelves in a pastor's study, was a proper attraction for the President to show a visitor.

On his way back from Philadelphia by the regular coach route, Mr. Stiles stopped by Princeton:

October 1, 1754

Breakfasted at Ferry. Viewed the foundation & plan of the college at Princeton, 177f. long & 53 2/3 f. wide.

Then in the manuscript follow sketches of the ground floor of Nassau Hall.

After the return of Samuel Davies and Gilbert Tennent in 1754 from their very profitable fund-raising trip to England, after a successful lottery, and after the difficult decision had been made to permanently locate the college in Princeton, the Trustees met on July 22, 1754, and voted to lay the foundation of the principal college building immediately, according to a plan drawn by Dr . William Shippen, brother of the trustee Robert Shippen, and by Robert Smith, a Philadelphia architect and builder.

In November of 1756 the students, the tutors, and the library moved from Newark into the largest academic building in the colonies.76 The library room was at the center of the north (the front) side of the building on the second floor, with five windows looking out toward Nassau Street. Its position is immediately apparent in the often-reproduced engraving by H. Dawkins that accompanied Samuel Blair's Account in 1764. In spite of two great fires and substantial remodelling, those familiar with the present Nassau Hall can visualize the library of 1756 as occupying the upper part of the area now filled by the marble memorial hall which one enters from the main door, extending back from the front wall to the line of the east-west corridor. Entered almost certainly from the second floor corridor, the library room must have been about 35 feet by 20 feet in size, reflecting the sanguine hopes of the trustees for the growth of the college and the library.77

Using present-day standards for estimating shelf capacity, I calculate that wall shelving, seven shelves high, covering all walls except that with the windows and allowing for a fireplace on each of the side walls (chimneys went through these walls), would accommodate about 2600 volumes.78 This estimate makes no allowance for the scientific instruments, which may have been kept in freestanding cases. Even more volumes could have been housed, and perhaps more elegantly, if the shelves were arranged not flat against the wall but in bays, as was often the practice in larger eighteenth-century libraries. Since the five windows were spaced about eight feet on centers, well-lighted bays could have been provided, but the arrangement of the remainder of the room might have been a bit awkward.

The Harvard library was using an arrangement of this sort early in the next century, presumably installed when the library was moved to the new Harvard Hall following the great fire of 1764. Elias Boudinot, a Princeton trustee, describes the Harvard library as it was when he visited the same room in 1809: “The Library is large & well chosen, consisting of 15000 Volumes, advantageously placed in Alcoves which are very convenient. There are 5 alcoves on each side, with a window in each alcove, and the name of the Donor over the entrance in large gold Letters."79 His obvious interest in the alcove arrangement may suggest that it was unfamiliar to him, even though he knew the Princeton library well from his meetings with the Trustees and with an even more august body in that room when he was President of the Continental Congress.

It is believed that Yale's library in the mid-eighteenth century was arranged on shelves flat against the wall. The room on the second floor of the College House was occupied in 1718 and must have begun to be crowded by the time of the Yale 1743 catalogue, when 2600 volumes seem to have been shelved in a room about 21 feet by 31 feet.80

It seems clear that in the eighteenth century the college library was not thought of as a place to which the student would come to read or study. In 1770 the Princeton library was open “twice every week for the space of one hour for delivering out Books to the students."81 Yet a limited amount of browsing must have been possible during those two hours, for there must have been chairs and tables. The Trustees normally met in the library room after Nassau Hall was built,82 and other official bodies to be mentioned later met there on special occasions.

We do not know the size of the collection that was moved from Newark to the spacious new room in Nassau Hall, but an analysis of the titles printed in the Davies catalogue four years later indicates that the library had 1281 volumes (789 titles) in 1760.83 0f these volumes some 475 had come from the library's first notable benefactor, Governor Jonathan Belcher. The Trustees Minutes for September 24, 1755 take notice of the gift, then record a formal Address of Thanks. “The late extraordinary Influence of your Generosity, in endowing our public library, with your own excellent Collection of Volumes, a Set of Globes, and other valuable Ornaments, can never be mentioned by us without the most grateful Emotions.” The address then goes on to propose that the new college building be named “Belcher Hall” in his honor. The Governor's response is recorded in the Minutes of the meeting of September 29, 1756: “…I absolutely decline such an Honour.” He then goes on to suggest that the building be named “Nassau Hall,” “'as it will express the honour we retain, in this remote Part of the Globe, to the immortal memory of the Glorious King William the Third who was a Branch of the illustrious House of Nassau.” The Trustees promptly accepted the Governor's suggestion.

The immediate acceptance of the name Nassau with the political and ideological overtones given it by Governor Belcher, while it may owe something to the desire to please a generous benefactor or even reflect relief that their handsome new building did not have to bear the somewhat impolite associations of his name, suggests sympathy on the part of the Trustees with the complex of ideas relating to the Glorious Revolution of 1688. This Whig radicalism was a part of the texture of Princeton and “formed the major part of American Revolutionary theory.”84

The minutes of this same meeting copy the deed of gift for the Belcher library and a catalogue of the books. The Governor's library contained about what one would expect a cultivated New England Puritan to have, with perhaps a somewhat more generours representation of English literature, including Milton, Bunyan, Defoe, Dryden, Cowley, Johnson, Watts, Shakespeare, Temple, Addison, Pope, Samuel Butler, the Spectator and the Guardian.85 While in accordance with Governor Belcher’s wish no campus bulding bears his name, it is appropriate that the arms at least of this first of a long line of library benefactors are carved above the entrance of the Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library and enhance the letterhead of the Friends of the Princeton University Library.

At this landmark in the life of the college, the first years in Nassau Hall, Princeton had almost 1300 volumes in its library; Harvard had more than 5000 at the time of the disastrous fire of 1764, and Yale had more than 2600 in 1742. When that observant visitor of libraries, Ezra Stiles, saw the Harvard library at the 1766 commencement, he estimated a total of 4350 volumes, thanks to a remarkable outpouring of gifts after the fire. By 1783 the Harvard library had doubled.86 That the same rank has been maintained for more than two centuries is not entirely a factor of the relative age of the institutions. The matter is worthy of some inquiry later.


After the arrival of President Samuel Davies and the publication of his Catalogue of 1760, the next momentous event for the college and the library was the coming of President John Witherspoon in 1768. He brought with him not only a new vitality in leadership for the college but also substantial contributions of books for the library. One senses his firm hand in the bulletins that began to appear in the newspapers. One such announcement, appearing within months of his arrival, invited “young Gentlemen, who have finished the ordinary Course of Philosophy, to return and pursue their studies at College, and fit themselves for any of the higher Branches to which they shall think proper chiefly to devote their future Application, whether those called learned Professions, Divinity, Law and Physic, or such liberal Accomplishments in general, as fit young Gentlemen for serving their Country in public stations.”87 Astonishingly it was announced that no tuition fees (except for instruction in French) would be charged for this post-baccalaureate independent study. A number of students took advantage of this opportunity, one of them, it will be remembered, being James Madison.

The particular importance of the library in this sort of “graduate” work was recognized, and in sharp contrast to his predecessors, Witherspoon chose to emphasize not the poverty of the library but its quality:

The President will also endeavour to assist every Student by Conversation, according to the main Object, which he shall chuse for his own Studies; and will give Lists and Characters of the principal Writers on any Branch, that Students may accomplish themselves, at the least Expense of Time and Labour. For the attainment of their Ends, a very valuable Addition to the Public Library was brought over with the President; another large Collection of the most standard Books is newly arrived; and a Third is very soon expected from London. So that this College, which had before all the Advantages for Study, that a retired healthful Place could possess, is now well furnished with a valuable Public Library, which will be improved by continual Additions.

While Witherspoon brought with him the lecture method, the promised “conversations” and guidance of students in their use of the library indicate that, at the “graduate” level at least, the great tradition of teaching established by Aaron Burr was not dead.88

The college life of one of these post-baccalaureate students is recorded rather sketchily in the Journal, 1783-85, of Gilbert Tennent Snowden of the Class of 1783.89 It is clear that in spite of the optimism of the official announcement some years before, the library, after the depredations of the Revolutionary period, was no longer adequate. “I brought several valuable setts of books with me,” Snowden writes, “the number of which would have been greater had I not known that several of the students had different authors the perusal of which I had at my option.”

The “continual Additions” promised by President Witherspoon were particularly notable in the philosophical apparatus, quite properly considered a part of the library and generally housed with it in the eighteenth-century American colleges.90 Despite his inferior training in mathematics and science, Witherspoon brought with him from Scotland a recognition of the importance of science, thus reinforcing the influence of the Dissenting Academies at Princeton.91 This new stimulus was almost certainly responsible for the action taken by the Trustees on September 29, 1769:

The Board taking into Consideration the great want of a Philosophical Apparatus for the use of the Students in this College in Nat[ural] Philosophy, of which it has been long destitute. It was now Resolved that Dr. Witherspoon, Mr. Brian, Dr. Shippen, Dr. Redman, Dr. Harris, Mr. Beaty & Mr. Caldwell, or any three of them be a Committee to consult & determine upn such & so many of the Instruments belonging to an Apparatus as may be judged by them to be the most necessary & immediately wanted. And the said Committee are empowered to send their Orders to England for the same as they conveniently can; Provided the amount of the Cost exceed not the sum of 250£ ster[lin]g.92

Thus armed, the new president personally entered into negotiations which would at one stroke put Princeton ahead of its academic competitors for the most elegant and up-to-date scientific apparatus. Of the sciences which revealed the divine order, astronomy was queen, dealing as it did with the stars in their courses, that army of unalterable law. The best available instrument for demonstrating the movement of the planets and their satellites was the orrery. Harvard had been presented one in 1732, made in England, and another had been sent over in 1767 when the first was lost in the fire of 1764. President Clap of Yale had himself made a rather crude orrery in 1743, the first constructed in America. Princeton had none.

This unfortunate situation was remedied when in 1770 Witherspoon persuaded David Rittenhouse to sell Princeton the orrery he was building, much to the chagrin of Dr. William Smith and his associates at the College of Philadelphia, who had to be content with a later version. Rittenhouse was of course the famous clockmaker become scientist, who later succeeded Franklin and preceded Jefferson as President of the American Philosophical Society.93

Installed in the library in Nassau Hall, the Rittenhouse Orrery immediately became the show piece of a growing collection of scientific apparatus.94 In the same year that the orrery arrived the first appointment was made to the Professorship of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, established in 1769 but at first unfilled for lack of funds. The first incumbent was William Churchill Houston of the Class of 1768 who had been a tutor since 1769 and since September 1770, “College librarian and keeper of the Philosophical Apparatus.” It was Professor Houston who acted as host to John Adams when he broke his journey to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia by stopping off in Princeton at the tavern known as the “Hudibras,” which stood just about where the northwest corner of the Firestone Library now stands. After a walk to “Morven,” the eat of Richard Stockton, with a Massachusetts student to whom he had brought a letter, Adams says he

…met Mr. Euston, the Professor of Mathematicks and natural Philosophy, who kindly invited Us to his Chamber. We went. The Colledge is conveniently constructed. Instead of Entries across the Building, the Entries are from End to End, and the Chambers are on each side of the Entries. There are such Entries one above another on every Story. Each Chamber has 3 Windows, two studies, with one Window in each, and one Window between the studies to enlighten the Chamber.

Mr. Euston then shewed us the Library. It is not large, but has some good Books. He then led us into the Apparatus. Here we saw a most beautifull Machine, an Orrery, or Planetarium, constructed by Mr. Writtenhouse of Philadelphia. It exhibits almost every Motion of the astronomical World. The Motions of the Sun and all the Planetts with all their Satellites. The Eclipses of the Sun and Moon &c. He shewed us another orrery, which exhibits the true Inclination of the orbit of each of the Planetts to the Plane of the Ecliptic. He then shewed Us the electrical Apparatus, which is the most compleat and elegant that I have seen. He charged the Bottle and attempted an Experiment, but the state of the Air was not favourable. By this Time the Bell rang for Prayers. We went into the Chappell, the President soon came in, and we attended. The scholars sang as badly as the Presbyterians at New York. After Prayers the President attended us to the Balcony of the Colledge, where We have a Prospect of an Horizon of about 80 Miles Diameter. We went into the President’s House, and drank a Glass of Wine. He is as high a Son of Liberty, as any Man in America….95

Independence and the Revolution, which were to have such an immediately disasterous effect on the college and the library, had been foreshadowed at Princeton long before this conversation of two of the principal actors. At the Commencement in September of 1766 the customary orations took on a patriotic flavor, and most of the seniors made a point of wearing American-made cloth.96 On July 23, 1770, James Madison wrote to his father, “We have no public news but the base conduct of the merchants in New York in breaking through their spirited resolutions not to import, a distinct account of which I suppose will be in the Virginia Gazette before this arrives. Their letter to the merchants in Philadelphia requesting their concurrence was lately burnt by the students of this place in the college yard, all of them appearing in their black gowns and the bell tolling."97 By 1772 the Trustees, reacting to some public criticism of student political activities, found it desirable to require prior clearance of Commencement speeches, the first evidence, I believe, that the students were moving faster toward rebellion than the Trustees.

The campus continued to react promptly as the news of each stage of mounting tension reached Princeton by the coaches driving through Nassau Street on their way between New York and Philadelphia. In 1774 there were various "tea party" escapades, in which the college steward's stock suffered, as well as the property of at least one citizen of the town. While the faculty probably refrained from joining in the bonfires, the burnings in effigy, and the more riotous parts of these demonstrations, they were evidently sympathetic. Both officers and students agreed to abstain from drinking tea.

As is usual in such matters, the Trustees, not being on the campus and exposed daily to the group enthusiasm, did not move quite so fast. Thus, when the faculty selected as Salutatory Orator for the 1774 Commencement one Samuel Leake, who had been particularly visible in these demonstrations and who had used insulting language to one of the Trustees who had interfered, the Trustees rebelled. At their April meeting they cancelled the selection of Mr. Leake and instructed the President to appoint another Salutatorian. The following day, “Some Inconveniences arising from a Law of the Trustees now in Force giving the Tutors Authority equal with the President in all matters of Government,” a committee of the Board was appointed, perhaps significantly not including the President, “to draw up a Rule for the Administration of the internal Government of the College and to determine the Powers of the respective Officers….”98 The travail of empire was being reflected in the first notable tensions among the various elements in the college.

President Witherspoon, although a relative newcomer, soon moved into prominence in the affairs of the colonies. Beginning with membership in the Committee of Correspondence of Somerset County in July of 1774, his writings and his participation in the heated debates of various Provincial meetings resulted in his election on June 21, 1776, as one of the New Jersey delegates to the Continental Congress.99 The Trustees, while at first more conservative, emerged as patriots as the months went by.

One wonders whether the library had any role to play in the heady days before the Revolution. It of course played its part in an educational system that laid the foundation for a spirit of liberty. “It was from the professoriate, the curriculum, and the library that many students pieced together the framework as well as the substance of the religious, social, economic, and political tenets that guided their immediate activities and future careers. Much of the undergraduate curriculum proved most relevant for coping with the exigencies of the Revolution."100 But while the student could go to the library to read John Locke, was the library the place where he became aware of the great debate that was proceeding in the rich pamphlet literature of the period?101 At the 1769 Commencement an honorary degree was given to John Dickinson, along with John Hancock and the more conservative Joseph Galloway.102 Had the students read Dickinson's recently completed Letters from a Pennsylvania Farmer or the earlier pamphlet debate between him and Galloway? Had they read the arguments of James Otis, of Stephen Hopkins, of Daniel Dulaney, and were they to read before the debate ended on July 4 those of Josiah Quincy, or Alexander Hamilton, or Tom Paine? If so, one wonders if they found them in the college library? We would like to think that President Witherspoon or Professor Houston, both to become members of the Continental Congress, would have seen to it that the literature of this great debate -- on both sides of the issue – was made available to the students. I suspect, however, in the absence of evidence, that the role of the college library was not thought of as being quite so contemporary as to include the provision of political tracts.

There were other kinds of libraries on the Princeton campus, however, and soon on most campuses. They were the libraries maintained by the college literary societies which flourished at most American colleges from the 1760s until their decline about the middle of the next century. A historian who has been studying these societies intensively characterizes them: “The student literary societies engrossed more of the interests and activities of the students than any other aspect of college life. Elaborately organized, self-governing youth groups, student literary societies were, in effect, colleges within colleges. They enrolled most of the students, constructed -- and taught -- their own curricula, granted their own diplomas, selected and bought their own books, operated their own libraries, developed and enforced elaborate codes of conduct among their members, and set the personal goals and ideological tone for a majority of the student body. When their operations £altered, the college collapsed.”103

I shall have more to say later about the libraries of the two Princeton societies, the American Whig and the Cliosophic, both founded in the mid-sixties. The earliest record of their library holdings and of the use made of them does not begin until 1813, but we can extrapolate backwards from that later period to con- clude that it was just possible that the “Halls” acquired for their members at least some of the pamphlets preceding Independence and the adoption of the Constitution, as well as the classic works which helped provide the intellectual core of those events. While the societies at Princeton were strongly "literary" in their interests, their concerns were sufficiently political for them to acquire an account of the trial of Aaron Burr and Tom Paine's political works and sufficiently current to include quite up-to-date literary works of the period.

In the meantime the regular college library collections continued to grow, and in spite of increasing political tensions gifts from Britain, or at least Scotland, were not cut off. In February 1773, six Scottish gentlemen “from personal esteem of the Revd Dr Witherspoon President of the Colledge of New Jersey, & from conviction that the encouragement & support of said Colledge is of great importance for promoting the interests of religion in North America & for spreading the Gospel among the neighboring Heathen Indians,” jointly pledged from one to ten guineas each to be “employed in purchasing such books of divinity or books useful for young men training up for the ministry, as the library of that Colledge is not provided with.”104 In June of that year the Society in Scotland for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge appropriated an additional £50 "to the College of New Jersey for books."105

These early Witherspoon years seem to have been among other things a period of generally tidying up the college procedures. A college ledger was begun in 1769 (and continued with large gaps until 1839) which gives an account of the overall finances of the college and particularly its investments.106 Unfortunately it does not often record specific expenditures or gifts for the library until almost the end of the century.107 The desire to have orderly procedures was extended to the library, obviously none too soon. One of John Witherspoon's first acts was to have the Trustees appoint on August 18, 1768, Hugh Simm as first Librarian of the college. He served less than a year and was not immediately replaced. Before long, however, it was discovered, as it has been many times since, that even a small library needs attention. The Librarian was missed. “Mr. Sym who was hitherto appointed the College Librarian, having removed sometime ago from hence, and it being now represented that sufficient care is not taken of the books for want of a properly established Librarian who may be answerable for all lost or damaged Books,” something had to be done.108

At their meeting of September 28, 1770, the Trustees addressed themselves to the problem by appointing a new Librarian and specifying in detail what he was to do:

To remedy this inconvenience the Trustees now thought fit to appoint Mr. William Houston to be the College Librarian & keeper of the Philosophical Apparatus; who shall immediately cause all the Books to be collected together & properly arranged, and provide himself with a proper Book in which he shall enter a very exact Catalogue of all the Books belonging to the Library, & shall keep exact and punctual Entries in the same of all the Books that may be taken out & returned by the students who shall be answerable to him for all Books lost or damaged by them respectively. The Librarian shall be at liberty to appoint a Deputy under him for whose conduct he shall himself be responsible to this Board. He shall never allow the Library to be opened for any student to enter in, or any strangers be admitted but in his or his Deputy's presence. He shall also by himself or Deputy be oblig'd to give a regular Attendance twice in every week for the space of one hour for delivering out Books to the students who shall be allowed but one Book at a time.

To make sure that these reforms would be permanent the Trus­tees called for the development of a full set of rules and regula­tions and ordered that the income from the library fee be paid to the Librarian as compensation for the added duties of supervising the library:

And in order to satisfy the said Librarian for his services in keeping the Library and Apparatus it is ordered that the stew­ard do charge in the Quarterly Bills eighteen pence pr. Quarter on every student or resident Graduate belonging to

this College, and that he pay the same unto the said Librarian or his Order. And the President is desired, in conjunction with the Librarian to draw up a set of Rules and regulations for the better management of the Library &c. to be laid before the Trustees at their next Meeting, but which on publication shall be immediately binding on all the students & Residents of the College.

The unusual length of this minute and the obvious thought that lay behind the action taken indicate once again the high impor­tance given by the President and Trustees to the library and its sound management.

The Trustees Minutes, which are not always complete, do not show that any set of rules and regulations was brought back to the Board at this time. Perhaps since the rules were to be im­mediately binding on publication, it was not thought necessary to have them confirmed by the Trustees. If the rules were pub­lished, no copy has survived. The earliest published library regu­lations seem to be those printed as Chapter X of the 1794 Laws of the College of New Jersey, "Of the Library and Librarian."109

The library fee included in the 1770 instructions of the Trustees was not, as might be supposed, an innovation brought over by the new President at the suggestion of his young friend Benjamin Rush, for the Board had already established a library fee five years earlier: "It is ordered for the future, that every student and grad­uate (the officers of the college excepted) who makes use of the publick library shall pay to the steward the sum of two shillings and six pence every quarter of a year to be expended for the use of the library."110 Presumably this useful income was to be spent for the purchase of books, since there were at that time no library salaries to be met. The innovation in 1770 was the use of the fees collected to pay the salary of the Librarian. There must have been some difficulty in collecting the library fee, for in 1772 the Trus­tees again took up the matter and ordered that students pay the fee in advance to the Steward just as other college fees were paid and "that the Steward account for the same to Mr Houston the Librarian."111


Of the remainder of the 1770 regulations one need note only the provision that the library be kept open two hours a week. By 1794 this period had been reduced to one hour. These compara­tively generous hours and the provision for a deputy Librarian, when only three years before there had been no Librarian at all, suggest a certain expansiveness which had come into the Princeton air.

In these years immediately before the Revolution the college was prospering. In 1770 there had been 81 undergraduates en­rolled plus some 25 students in the grammar school. Three years later there were more than 100 undergraduates and as many as 80 grammar school students. President Witherspoon took a special interest in the school, the profits from which were a personal per­quisite, and it had become one of the best in the colonies. The col­lege had almost from the beginning been a national institution rather than a provincial one, and the President wrote with pride in 1772, "There are at this time under my tuition young gentle­men of the first fortune and expectation from almost every prov­ince on the continent as well as several of the West India islands."112 The college finances were by 1775 in better shape than they had ever been, the assets having doubled since Witherspoon arrived. The curriculum had been substantially strengthened, al­though funds were still not adequate to establish but one of the professorships which were contemplated. The library had grown from the fewer than 1300 volumes of the 1760 catalogue to more than 2000 volumes.

A vignette to symbolize the end of this happy period might pic­ture the sturdy back of John Witherspoon as he rode off to Philadelphia at the beginning of September 1774 to see for himself what was happening at the Continental Congress.113 Characteristically, he had to be in the midst of things, even though he was not to take his seat as an elected member of the Congress until June 28, 1776. Becoming more and more involved in revolutionary politics, he had less and less time to give to his teaching and the affairs of the college. The Congress was to come to Princeton soon enough.

The first of the many intrusions upon the college and the li­brary was not an ominous but an optimistic one, for it marked the beginning of self‑government. On August 27,1776, 13 councilmen and 39 assemblymen of New Jersey met in the library room in Nassau Hall as the first legislature of the new state.114 College was in session, but one suspects that the students by this time were not making much use of the library. A month later, at the regular commencement meeting, a few trustees, "seeing no probability of a quorum to do business regularly, on account of the difficulty of public affairs," resolved that an urgent effort should be made to hold a meeting in Princeton on the third Wednesday in Novem­ber.115 But on November 16, Fort Washington was surrendered to General Howe and in the same week General Greene was forced to abandon Fort Lee on the west bank of the Hudson. On Novem­ber 26, Newark was abandoned by the American forces, and the retreat headed ominously toward Princeton. There was to be no November meeting of the Trustees.116 The Minutes of the Sep­tember meeting are followed by this note in another hand: "N.B. The incursions of the enemy into the state & the depredations by the armies prevented this meeting, & indeed all regular business in the College for two or three years."

On November 29, with Washington retreating toward Prince­ton and the British in slow but relentless pursuit, President Witherspoon found it prudent to dismiss the students, having indeed waited until the last possible moment. Three days later Washington's cold, tired troops appeared at the edge of the town. Nassau Hall, along with other suitable buildings in the town, was used for several days to quarter troops. Then on December 7 the pursuing British troops began to take over the town, occupying Nassau Hall, which was used as barracks, hospital, prison, and command post. There they stayed until in one of the flank actions of the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777, they were driven out by a brisk attack which included a cannonade by Alexander Hamilton's battery. Having soundly trounced the enemy at Prince­ton and Trenton, it was prudent for Washington to retire toward the hills of Morristown before the full strength of Cornwallis's army could be concentrated against him. Thus Princeton was held after the battle for only a few hours by the Continental forces, then abandoned to the British, who in turn occupied it for a similar period, Washington's strategic position at Morristown making Princeton dangerously exposed. After the enemy's depar­ture, American troops under General Putnam used Nassau Hall as a barracks until the following June, and in October, 1777, the building, derelict as it was by then, became a hospital.117

The Trustees, meeting in Cooper's Ferry, New Jersey, in May, 1777, their first meeting since the hasty one of the preceding September, were eager to assemble the students and get back to the business of education. They requested Dr. Witherspoon "to move the Congress to resolve that troops shall not hereafter be quartered in the College."118 As late as May 1781 they were still protesting the quartering of troops in Nassau Hall, "which is still frequently practised."119

The cost to the college of its place in history was high. Nassau Hall was vandalized, and the little library that had been so eagerly and laboriously built up simply disintegrated. Benjamin Rush, with perhaps some characteristic hyperbole, writing from Prince­ton to Richard Henry Lee four days after the British left on January 3, described the town as ". . . indeed a deserted village. You would think it had been desolated with the plague and an earthquake, as well as with the calamities of war. The College and church are heaps of ruin. All the inhabitants have been plundered…."120 And this was before the years of occupation by the friendly but perhaps equally destructive American forces.

The general condition of Nassau Hall was described somewhat later byAshbel Green:

When the present writer first became a student of the institution, in May 1782, only two of the four stories of Nassau Hall, were at all habitable. These had been imperfectly repaired, but the whole building still exhibited both internally and externally the desolating effects of the war of which, for a time, it had been a sort of central point. The impressions which had been made in the stout walls by a cannonade at the battle of Princeton were still visible on the outside, and some balls that had entered the windows, had left evidence of their efficacy, not yet effaced, in the rendings of the ceilings and partitions of the rooms. The two stories which had received no repairs, exhibited nothing but the floors and walls, stripped of their plaster, which with an accumulation of other filth, lay undisturbed in the place where it had fallen."121

The books in the library were almost all gone. One suspects that they were used by the troops of both armies more often for the starting of fires and for pipe spills than for the study of the classics and theology. There is a touch of regret in the comment of Ser­geant Thomas Sullivan of the British 49th. Regiment of Foot: "Princeton is a compact tho' small town, in which is a good Col­lege, built of stone, sufficient to hold four hundred students; but our army when we lay there spoiled and plundered a good Library that was in it. There was an organ and a nice Chapel in the Col­lege:"122

With the wisdom of hindsight, President Witherspoon must have reflected that it would have been possible as the armies ap­proached to pack up the books and the apparatus and cart them off to some secluded barn. Writing from Philadelphia to his son David, then a tutor at Hampden‑Sidney in Virginia, on March 17, 177 7, to describe how the family property had fared, he says, "I ordered all my books to be put up in boxes & sent to the Country lest the enemy should come that way again but at present we are entertaining hopes that they will not come this way at all."123

The orrery, perhaps because of its fame, fared somewhat better than the books. Although damaged, it was not carried off, as was most of the remainder of the philosophical apparatus. President Samuel Stanhope Smith, who had been a college officer since 1779, wrote later:

The Orrery was very much injured during the revolutionary war. . . . The injuries which it received were comparatively small, from the British soldiery. A guard was set to protect it: and the officers were said to be contemplating its removal to England; this, at least, was the general report and opinion. The principal injury was produced by our own militia, when the college was appropriated as a barrack for them. Many of the wheels were taken off, as handsome curiosities. This, how­ever, was no more than to be expected from a number of ignorant men, so imperfectly disciplined as, at that time, they were.124

We have another eyewitness report from the Chevalier de Chastellux of the staff of General Rochambeau, who on Novem­ber 29, 1780, passed through Princeton, eager to see the battle­fields on which Washington had won his famous victories. "The object of my curiosity," he writes, "though far removed from let­ters, having brought me to the very gate of the college, I dismount­ed to visit for a moment this vast edifice. I was almost immedi­ately joined by Mr. Witherspoon, president of the university…." The President showed the General about Nassau Hall, speaking a kind of French about which his guest noted, "I easily perceived that he had acquired his knowledge of the language from reading rather than conversation." What he saw was discouraging. "This useful establishment has fallen into decline since the war; there were only forty students when I saw it. A fairly extensive collec­tion of books had been gathered; most of these have been scattered. There remains a very beautiful astronomical machine," he writes, but "it was then out of order."

It is a rather interesting and revealing scene, not without a certain pathos: on the one hand the forthright but canny Scots­man, in his bad French, but "well pleased to display what he knew of it," seizing upon this visitor, obviously noble and pre­sumably wealthy and influential, showing him the desolation of Nassau Hall, wondering all the time whether he might really be useful to the college; on the other hand, the polished Frenchman, excited about Washington's tactics but not really interested in the problems of a provincial college and its missing library, yet too courteous to break away abruptly. "I confess also that I was rather impatient to seek out the traces of General Washington, in a country where every object recalled his successes. I passed rapidly therefore from the hands of President Witherspoon into those of Colonel Moylan [aide to Washington, assigned to Chastellux as a guide for this journey]. They were both upon their own ground; so that while one was pulling me by the right arm, telling me, `Here is the philosophy classroom,' the other was plucking me by the left, telling me, `This is where one hundred and eighty English laid down their arms.' "125

Funds had to be found somewhere to get the college going again, and the prospects were dim in the present unsettled state of the former colonies, which had established their independence but which had not yet become a country. The Trustees were forced to establish priorities. This time the library had to wait until the very fabric of the building could be restored and living quar­ters provided for the returning students. The Trustees agreed to repair the roof first, then to glaze the windows on the front, then to repair the chambers on the second story "but to proceed no further than to secure the roof, unless the committee appointed to apply to Congress, succeed in obtaining the money for the damages done to the building by the troops."126

These efforts of the committee were successful, a total of $19,357 in Continental currency having been received by No­vember 6, 1779, but this proverbial currency was depreciating so rapidly that by the time the money was in hand a dollar was worth only about five cents in cash.127 Even the building repairs had to proceed very slowly. All of the old fund‑raising devices were tried, with indifferent success, for most of the friends of the college had severe financial problems themselves.128

About this time the library figured prominently in an occurrence which brought excitement to the college and the town at the same time that it demonstrated the uncertainty of the times. In June of 1783 the Continental Congress, threatened in Philadelphia by mutinous soldiers demanding their back pay, accepted the sanctu­ary promised by the Governor of New Jersey and the hospitality of Colonel George Morgan at "Prospect," then of the College of New Jersey.129 During the summer and fall of 1783 the little town took on the bustle of a national capital, and the library, already stripped of its books, served as the hall of Congress. The prayer hall was probably used for ceremonial occasions, such as the formal expression of thanks to George Washington by the Congress or the reception of the first of the envoys to the new nation, Peter John Van Berckel, Minister Plenipotentiary from the Netherlands. The unused student chambers served as offices and committee rooms.

After this exciting interlude the arduous task of rebuilding had to be continued. In desperation, remembering the success of the Tennent‑Davies mission and perhaps stimulated by the presence of many foreign visitors, the Trustees authorized an ill‑conceived venture, a fund‑raising trip abroad. In December 1783, John Witherspoon and Joseph Reed, President of the State of Penn­sylvania and a Princeton trustee, set sail. Arriving in London, Dr. Witherspoon sent off around of letters to personal friends and people known to have been friends of the college. Because of the occupation of Nassau Hall by British and American troops, "the College has suffered greater injury than any other Institution of the kind," he wrote in an eloquent appeal drafted for the Earl of Buchan. "The Building was laid waste, the Library almost totally destroyed, the apparatus entirely taken away & the Orrery much injured though not removed."130

Had he waited for replies to these letters before he left Prince­ton, he would surely not have taken the trip, for they were blunt and almost uniformly discouraging. Dr. John Erskine, an old friend, quotes the comment of another friend which is typical: "I must doubt whether there is such a spirit of reconciliation with America in this country as would give any encouragement to his business. Besides I think it a great abasement of the Majesty of the United States, to send a late member of Congress a begging in England for any purpose whatever…. I am afraid he need be cautious in relating the Gothic burning of his library. It might hurt his business and endanger his safety."131

Witherspoon wrote also to the American peace commissioners who were in Paris at the time, asking about his chances in France. John Jay's reply indicates that Witherspoon (whose letter is lost) had asked specifically about gifts of three kinds: money, books, and scientific instruments. "I could not prevail upon myself," Jay writes, "to advise the experiment" of a trip to Paris. He adds wryly, "I am much mistaken if Europe in general does not wish that we were less knowing than we are already."132

But it was Benjamin Franklin who, in his direct fashion, put the matter in a light which must have made Witherspoon see that he should go home just as soon as he could discharge his responsi­bility to the Trustees. Franklin begins by advising against the venture on the practical grounds that the returns would prob­ably be less than the cost. President Wheelock of Dartmouth had come to Paris the year before seeking funds and had received little help. Then he opposes the trip on diplomatic grounds: "the very request would be disgraceful to us and hurt the Credit of Responsi­bility we wish to maintain in Europe by representing the United States as too poor to provide for the Education of their own Children.”133

These letters may have made even John Witherspoon, as shame­less a fund raiser as any Ivy League president of today, reflect a bit. Poverty may be a virtue in some parts of the Church, but to emphasize it constantly was hardly in accord with the aspirations of the new nation. On the outside of the manuscript of the memorial for the Earl of Buchan is written, "On further considera­tion I thought it indecent that anything of a mendicant shape should appear in Britain."

On the practical side the Doctor's advisors turned out to be ac­curate. He reported to the Trustees at their fall meeting, and the committee appointed to audit his accounts announced the next day that after deducting all expenses they found a balance in favor of the college of only five pounds, fourteen shillings. His pupil and admirer Dr. Green concludes sadly that "this occurrence must be set down as a defect in that sagacity and foresight for which he was generally remarkable."134

The library did make some progress during these hard years. The Trustees Minutes note occasional gifts of books: on August 2, 1785, from Dr. John Rodgers, one of their number, "an elegant copy of Aiius Montanus's Hebrew bible"; on September 27, 1792, from the Society in Philadelphia for the Abolition of Slavery "a number of books & pamphlets on subjects coming within the scope of that institution"; on April 10, 1793, "several valuable donations of books…presented by gentlemen in Britain"; on May 6, 1795, a gift of books from "some gentlemen in Scotland." Indeed, on September 28, 1786, whether merely in hope or in recognition of an increasing harvest, the Trustees ordered "that the treasurer prepare a blank book bound and lettered, in which he shall enter all donations made to the library, together with the names of the persons who bestow them."135

By 1788 the library had evidently sufficiently recovered to re­quire a catalogue. On November 25 of that year, President Wither­spoon authorized the Treasurer of the College to pay David Lyall twenty dollars for "arranging & making Catalogues of the Books" in the library.136 Five years later another catalogue was needed, either because of the growth of the collection or because the Lyall catalogue was inadequate for some other reason. At the Trustees meeting of April 10, 1793 it was resolved "that Dr. Witherspoon be empowered to procure a complete catalogue of the library to be formed with a double index." These catalogues were apparently never printed, and the manuscript copies were un­doubtedly destroyed with the books in the fire of 1802.

This was a period in which various college procedures and regulations were codified, probably under the tensions growing out of increasing student activism. One would like to believe that it was responsiveness to student demand that led the Trustees to affirm on September 28, 1786, that "all the students shall have access to the library under the regulations on that head estab­lished," a resolution evidently intended to insure that underclass­men were to have full use of the library.

In 1794 Princeton's first printed and published library regula­tions appeared as Chapter X of Laws of the College of New Jersey, Reviewed, Amended, and Finally Adopted, by the Board of Trus­tees in April, 1794 (Trenton: Isaac Collins, 1794). One thousand copies of this 36‑page pamphlet were ordered to be printed, and each student was to be furnished with a copy upon payment of twenty cents. The library regulations lack some of the color which other rules of the college certainly had; for example, "No hal­looing, loud talking, whistling, jumping or other boisterous noise, shall be permitted in the entries or rooms of the college at any time.… Any student who may be required to do so, shall open the door of his room or study to any officers of the college; and if he refuse, the officer may break it open, and the expense of re­pairing it shall be defrayed by the student, who shall also be punished for disobedience…. No student shall be allowed to disguise himself by wearing women's apparel…." But the library laws do have some interest, if only because of their primacy:

1.      Every student shall, at, the commencement of each session, pay to the librarian sixty‑seven cents, for the use of the library.

2.      The librarian shall attend at the library one day in the week, at noon, during the session, to give out books to all who have a right to apply. He shall enter the names of the persons in a book kept for that purpose, with the number and condition of the volume, by which entry he shall compare it when returned.

3.      He shall keep another book for the purpose of recording all additions made to the library, with the date of their reception, and if they are presents the name and place of abode of the donors, and these books shall be immediately entered in the catalogue.

4.      No one shall keep a book longer than as follows, viz. a folio, six weeks; a quarto, four weeks; an octavo, two weeks, and every other book, one week; he shall not lend it to any other person, and he shall be liable for every injury it receives, while in his possession; if lost, defaced or torn, he shall pay a sum proportionable to the damage incurred, or replace it, at the choice of the faculty. No person, not immediately con­nected with the college, shall take a book from the library, without depositing with the treasurer or librarian his note for the whole set, which note shall become due immediately after the expiration of the time above specified for the return of the volume.

5.      The faculty shall appoint a librarian, who shall execute the duties of his office agreeably to the direction of the faculty, in all matters which are not provided for by the rules estab­lished by the trustees.

6.      No book shall be lent to any person who lives more than a mile from the college.

7.      If the trustees or officers of the college, on any occasion, shall desire to consult a book in the library without taking it from the room, it shall be the duty of the librarian to attend them for that purpose.

There is a great deal of similarity between these regulations and those of the other colonial colleges, going back to the Har­vard "Rules for the Library Keeper" of 1667. The Yale regula­tions were first printed in 1745 as a chapter in the college laws, and William and Mary did not publish its library regulations until 1792, along with the college statutes. All of these regulations are primarily concerned with the protection and preservation of the books and the controls necessary to this end.137

The Harvard rules are much more elaborate and were revised more often during the eighteenth century than any of the others. One wonders whether this greater attention to library details is one of the factors which made the Harvard collections grow more rapidly. It is at Harvard that the attributes of a research or refer­ence library first appear in American college library statutes. In its 1765 laws provision was made for study tables and chairs in the library, which was to be kept open for use from nine to twelve and from three to five, one day a week.

The Bodleian Library at Oxford probably set the pattern for the English university libraries when its first statutes (1610) pro­hibited the lending of any books but required the building to be kept open for use on weekdays from eight to eleven and two to five (one to four in winter) at the special insistence of Sir Thomas Bodley.138 Bodley felt that the lending of books, even to noble patrons, would lead to "the abuse of all good order, & totall ruine of the Library."139 This view of library management was passed along indirectly to Harvard in 1725 when the first Thomas Hollis of London exercised the privilege of major donors to criticize the practices of the Harvard College Library, writing "Your library is reckoned here to be ill managed, by the account I have of some that know it, you want seats to sitt and read and chains to your valuable books like our Bodleian library … you let your books be taken at pleasure home to Men's houses, and many are lost…”140 I suspect that the practice of lending books for use outside the library began in the early American colleges as a matter of expediency, the librarian having too many other duties to allow him to sit in the library all day. The circulating library became the American norm, of course, although there are notable research library exceptions.

A comparison of the published regulations of the American colleges seems to indicate that only at Princeton could all under­graduates borrow books from the library without any special per­mission. If this is indeed true, the Princeton library was already beginning to reflect that special emphasis on undergraduate edu­cation which had been forecast by Samuel Davies in 1760 and which was to characterize Princeton for another century and more. The failure to develop professional schools and genuine graduate studies until near the end of the nineteenth century affected the library in many ways, rate of growth. being perhaps the most obvious.

On November 15, 1794, the "Old Doctor," John Witherspoon, died at “Tusculum” at the age of 72. The circumstances that made him the only college president to sign the Declaration of Inde­pendence added to the fame that his pupils were already spreading through the states. But one wonders what the college and its li­brary might have become under his determined leadership had not the war intervened. He was succeeded by his son‑in‑law, Sam­uel Stanhope Smith, who had already as Vice‑President played an increasing part in the operation of the college as the Doctor's health failed.

President Smith's dream of making the college the leading in­stitution of higher education in the country was to founder on the more conservative views of the Trustees, driven by the winds of student dissent which were sweeping across the country.141 It was evidently his initiative that led the Trustees to appoint a com­mittee to seek aid for the college from the New Jersey legislature, and an eloquent appeal was drafted, pointing out that "For the Library, for the Philosophical apparatus, and for the capital sunk by payments necessarily received in a depreciated currency, no reparation has ever been made by the State or by the federal gov­ernment.”142 The legislature after a great deal of lobbying by the committee and other friends of the college granted £600 per

year for three years, “appropriated, however, specially by the law, to the repair of the College, the purchasing of a philosophical apparatus, and replenishing the Library.”143 It is not clear how much of this money the library actually received. At the meeting at which the committee reported its success the Trustees immedi­ately resolved that of the first money received $1200 be spent for philosophical apparatus. Then $400 was appropriated for building repairs. There is no further mention in the Trustees Minutes of any further specific distribution of these funds to the library.

That the library did not at this time have as high a priority with the Trustees or the new administration as it formerly had is suggested by certain niggling negotiations with Samuel Campbell, a New York bookseller.144 President Witherspoon had evidently placed a library subscription for the third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, currently being published. After his death, some question must have been raised about the extravagance of this purchase, and a Trustee committee was appointed to negotiate with Mr. Campbell. He offered to take the set back, but the com­mittee finally agreed to accept the 16 volumes already in America

and the remaining volumes as they appeared, all of which were to be uniformly bound. To have such an incident appear in the minutes of four meetings of the Trustees (May 7, 1795; April 13 and September 28, 1796; and September 26, 1799) hints at a nig­gardliness in library expenditures which did not make the future without Witherspoon look very promising.145

Two travellers who recorded their impressions of Princeton about this time have left ample evidence that the college had not yet recovered completely from the war. Moreau de Saint Mery, a Martinique‑born Frenchman who spent four years in Philadel­phia, found the front yard of the college “untidy, covered with the droppings of animals who came there to graze…. Everything bears the imprint of negligence, and one reaches the building grieved that the pupils have such an unpleasant example before their eyes…. Behind the college there is an extremely large court yard. It is dirty and uncultivated, and everything in it [gives] evidence of neglect.”146 Inside Nassau Hall he noted without com­ment "a chapel, a refectory, a library of about two thousand vol­umes, and the justly celebrated planetarium built by Dr. David Rittenhouse."

Isaac Weld, a somewhat jaundiced Anglo‑Irish tourist, received an equally unfavorable impression:

Here is a large college, held much in repute by the neighbor­ing states. The number of students amounts to upwards of seventy; from their appearance, however, and the course of studies they seem to be engaged in, like all the other American colleges I ever saw, it better deserves the title of a grammar school than a college. The library, which we were shewn, is most wretched; consisting, for the most part, of old theologi­cal books, not even arranged with any regularity. An orrery, contrived by Mr. Rittenhouse, whose talents are so much boasted of by his countrymen, stands at one end of the apart­ment, but it is quite out of repair, as well as a few detached parts of a philosophical apparatus, enclosed in the same glass case. At the opposite end of the room, are two small cup­boards, which are shewn as the museum. These contain a couple of small stuffed alligators, and a few singular fishes, in a miserable state of preservation, the skins of them being tat­tered in innumerable places, from their being repeatedly tossed about."147

Perhaps the poor state of the library, at least of its housekeep­ing, can be attributed to the fact that from January of 1796 to 1804 neither the Trustees Minutes nor the Faculty Minutes record the designation of anyone as Librarian, although the action of the Trustees in making such appointments had been meticulously noted more than 25 years before. Whether no Librarian was in fact appointed or whether the appointment was not considered impor­tant enough to record, some decline in interest in the library at the very end of the century seems evident.


There is no evidence that anyone had borne the title of Librar­ian before the arrival of John Witherspoon. In the Minutes of the Trustees, meeting of August 18, 1768, the day following Dr. Witherspoon's first meeting with the Board, it is recorded: “Dr. Witherspoon having recommended to this Board Mr. Hugh Sim, [sic] a Young Man who came over with him to this Country, as a Person of singular Ingenuity & Merit, and well qualified to serve the Interests of this College; the Trustees thought proper to ap­point the said Mr. Sim to the Offices of Librarian and Inspector of the Rooms in this College and Resolved that the sum of five pounds procn: (proclamation) money P Annum, together with his Commons in College be allowed the said Mr. Sim for his Services in these departments.”

As his obituary was to express it, Simm

. . . though bred a mechanic, at an early period of life dis­covered so strong an inclination after literary pursuits, that without the assistance of a teacher, he made considerable proficiency in the study of the Latin language &c. The dis­covery of this invincible propensity to literature, as well as the aptness to learn joined to a religious turn of mind, in­duced the late celebrated Dr. Witherspoon, when he left Paisley, to take him along with him to America, where in Princeton College, New Jersey, over which the learned Doc­tor presided, besides devoting his attention to the study of the learned languages and other branches of science, he be­came a Student of Divinity.148

On December 2, 1768, in his first letter home, Simm wrote to his brother, a weaver in Paisley:

on my first arrive [sic] here I was exammened [sic] and faund [sic] qualifyed in all the yousfoul [sic] learning that is taught here and heave [sic] received the degree of batcheleer [sic] of arts on which occasion I composed and spoke a latine oration before the trustees of the college which was very obligingly recived [sic] -- the doctor teaches me divinity privately and have allready composed some sermons with which he is very much pleased -- he is very kind to me and I have just now received from him six pounds of monny [sic] -- I receive my mainence [sic] in the college and heave a room of my own‑ -- the professors are very obliging to me and I am. at present the first student [illegible word] the college….149

For a student without a previous degree to be awarded a B.A. upon examination almost immediately after his arrival was cer­tainly unusual and possibly unprecedented. At almost every com­mencement during this period honorary degrees were awarded to distinguished men, beginning with Governor Belcher in 1748. The degree ad eundem was also frequently awarded to graduates of other colleges upon the completion of certain formalities, an M.A. ad eundem being granted at the commencement of 1768 to Alex­ander Sears Hill, A.M., of Harvard. But the degree to Simm was clearly regarded as something different. The account of the com­mencement exercises of 1768 in the October 12, 1768, Pennsyl­vania Chronicle, after listing the other recipients of degrees, continued, “Hugh Sim [sic], of Scotland, was admitted to the honorary degree of Bachelor of Arts.” In the broadside catalogues which began to be issued in 1770, listing all graduates by classes, Simm's name is separated from the names of the regular degree recipients by a type rule, as are honorary and ad eundem degree recipients in other classes.150 There can be no doubt that Dr. Witherspoon thought him an exceptional young man.

Six months after his December 2 letter, Simm begins another letter to his brother:

In my former letters I informed you of the steaddiness of the Drs favour towards me which in many instances hath been more than I could either expect or deserved I shall thairefore say no more with respect to that but inform you of another change in my condition which hath lately taken place -- After I had taught about six months in the College a letter came to the Doctor desiring to know if he could provide a teacher for a grammar school about twenty miles from the college (at Freehold, New Jersey) -- The Doctor thought proper that I should undertake it which was also my own desire I accord­ingly received a recommendation and arriving at this place was very kindly received by the trustees of the school -- Here I teach latine Greek and natural philosophy . . . . I am to receive about 50 or 55 pounds of this money a year, 15 of which I pay for boarding.151

Thus after about six months ended the Princeton career of the college's first Librarian. This skimpy and sometimes ambiguous evidence -- and this is all there is -- suggests that his rank was something like that of a present‑day graduate assistant. In the two letters to his brother he speaks of teaching, but he unfortunately makes no mention of his duties as Librarian or Inspector of the Rooms. The latter post, held at various times during this period in combination with other college offices, seems to have entailed duties somewhere between those of a proctor and those of a dean of students.

The salary of five pounds a year plus room and board suggests something like a modest fellowship rather than a teaching rank. The new professorship in mathematics and natural philosophy was filled in 1771 at £125 per year, with the expressed hope that the salary could be raised in the future, and Dr. Witherspoon's initial salary was £350 plus various perquisites. The increase to £50‑55 for Simm when he took his grammar school position also tells something about the position of college Librarian at Princeton in 1768. While it is evident that the faculty and the Trustees believed the library to be of great importance, it was not perceived that its care and nurture required the services at this point of more than a bookish graduate student. The President himself, with a handful of professors and tutors, would retain a major interest in building the collection and in directing the students' use of it.

While the influence of Princeton's first Librarian could not have been great during a tenure of only six months at the age of thirty, the very primacy of his position requires a glimpse at this self‑taught man who attracted the attention of the great Dr. Witherspoon. Hugh Simm emerges from the letters and docu­ments in the Princeton University Library as an interesting, sometimes annoying, and always appealing man.

From Freehold, Simm went to a grammar school in New York City, where he married, then headed a school in Albany. With the advent of the Revolution, in spite of his early association with the rebel Witherspoon, he remained a Loyalist and suffered for his opinions. “The unhappy situation of the Friends of Government in the midst of the Subversion of Civil and Religious order is too difficult for me to describe,” he writes to his brother on October 2, 1778.152 He had been twice fined for refusing to go with the militia to Ticonderoga and “for not going against General Bur­goyne.” After his school in Albany was broken up, he went through a period of unemployment and real hardship, then was com­missioned quartermaster of a newly‑formed British regiment. Following brief service on Long Island he was retired on half pay and at the end of the war was returned first to London and then to Paisley, where his pension was continued.

One suspects that Witherspoon discovered after six months that Simm's self‑won learning was not sufficiently disciplined and told him that there was no future for him at Princeton. Nonethe­less, Simm was an intriguing person. With an evident flair for languages, he taught Latin and Greek, was ready to teach Hebrew at one point, and in Albany quickly learned Dutch. His intellectual curiosity made him a keen observer of nature, and he described to his brother with enthusiasm the serpents, the poison ivy, and the lightning bugs of the New World. He proposed, five months ahead of the event, to test a theory about sun spots through simultaneous observations at precisely the same hour in New York and Paisley. When the appointed day arrived, he wrote to inform his brother that he was that day to be married, but he had not forgotten the proposed solar observation -- unfortunately made impossible by clouds. A sincerely religious, but not ostentatiously pious man, he endured substantial hardships with a stoic calm. Loyal to his former benefactor Witherspoon after he had left Princeton, he stoutly denied some gossip about the Doctor which was being circulated in Scotland.

Above all, he clearly possessed that essential virtue of the librar­ian, a genuine love of books and reading. As his obituary notes, “His fondness for books continued to the latest period of his life, by which means he had obtained a large share of historical and general knowledge; and being naturally of a social and communi­cative temper he could with great facility impart what he knew to others.” In spite of his brief tenure, Hugh Simm was surely not an inauspicious occupant of Princeton's first library chair.

After the departure of Simm in the winter of 1768‑69 a successor as Librarian was not appointed immediately, and the library re­lapsed into disorder. The concern of the President and Trustees has been described earlier. This time in filling the post they not only drew up a statement of the duties of the Librarian and gen­eral operating principles but they also looked somewhat higher in the academic ranks. William Churchill Houston had been a tutor for a year when he was made in addition “College Librarian and Keeper of the Philosophical Apparatus.”153

William Churchill Houston had received his A.B. from the college with the Class of 1768, and, through the customary inde­pendent study and examination, was to receive his M.A. in 1771. When appointed Librarian in September, 1770, he had been teaching in the grammar school while an undergraduate, had been its master in 1768‑69 (and thus Hugh Simm's supervisor), and in September, 1769, had been appointed a tutor in the college.154 This was a responsible post for a young man, since at this time Dr. Witherspoon and two tutors seem to have handled all of the college instruction. Houston's great ability must have been evident, for in September of 1771, just three years after receiving his undergrad­uate degree, he was elected Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, a newly‑created chair.

He seems to have retained this post and the librarianship until 1783, when he resigned to manage his extensive law practice. On September 27, 1775, the Trustees Minutes recorded that he “chose to resign the office of inspector of the rooms; & added that he was willing to allow £5 pr. Ann to any person whom the board should appoint to that duty, out of his salary for the Library.” In 1779 he became the Treasurer of the college.

It seems clear that “during the early revolutionary years it was Houston, more than anyone else, who held together the college,” Witherspoon of course being particularly occupied elsewhere.155 Yet Houston himself found time to serve for a while as a captain in the Somerset County militia in 1776, as deputy secretary of the Continental Congress in 1775 and 1776, in the New Jersey As­sembly from 1777 to 1779, as a member of the Continental Con­gress intermittently from 1779 to 1785, and as clerk of the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1781 until his death at the age of 42. This bare summary of his service to Princeton and to the nation tells us nothing about his role in the library, but it gives some idea of the quality of the man and suggests that he probably did as much as anyone could have done to prevent the disasters that befell the library during his term of office.

After the resignation of Houston the post of Librarian was occupied by a series of men who held the office briefly along with the position of Tutor and one or more of the college administrative posts -- Clerk of the Faculty, Inspector of Rooms, Overseer of the College Repairs. The librarianship seems to have been assigned almost routinely to the man with the least seniority among the two or three tutors.

As well as can be determined from the Trustees Minutes and the Faculty Minutes, these are the Librarians for the remainder of the century:

Gilbert Terment Snowden, Class of 1783

September 28,1786‑April 18,1787

-‑Also Tutor and Overseer of College Repairs156

G. Thornton

1787 (?)

-‑Also Tutor and Inspector of the College157

John Nelson Abeel, Class of 1787

May 15, 1793‑November 14, 1793

-‑Also Tutor and Clerk of the Faculty158

Robert Finley, Class of 1787

November 14,1793‑May 26,1794

-‑Also Tutor, Clerk of the Faculty, and Inspector of the College159

David English, Class of 1789

May 26,1794‑January16,1796

-‑Also Tutor and Clerk of the Faculty160

The available records do not indicate who, if anyone, was desig­nated Librarian immediately following English. John Henry Hobart was elected Tutor specifically in his place, but it is not clear that he assumed the librarianship as well.161

All of these overworked and underpaid young graduates of the college were clearly able men, most of them with a specific interest in education, as their later careers indicate. Snowden became minister of the Presbyterian church at Cranbury, New Jersey in 1790, where he served until his death seven years later at the age of thirty‑four.162 Abeel commenced the study of law but gave it up for divinity, graduating from the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, receiving a D.D. from Harvard, and serving pastorates in the Dutch Reformed church in Philadelphia and New York. He refused the presidency of Union College but became a trustee of Columbia and of Rutgers, as well as a founder of the New York Historical Society.163

Robert Finley graduated in the same class as Abeel at the age of fifteen and immediately became a master in the Nassau Hall gram­mar school. He served similar posts in an academy at Allentown, Pennsylvania, and one in Charleston, South Carolina, before as­suming his multiple duties at Princeton in the fall of 1793. After studying theology with Dr. Witherspoon during this busy period, he became pastor at Basking Ridge, New Jersey, where he served until 1817. In that year he became president of the University of Georgia but died within a few months of taking office. While at Basking Ridge he took leadership in an academy which was to become quite a famous institution. He served as a Trustee of Princeton for ten years and as a director of the Princeton Theo­logical Seminary for five, and was “the prime mover” in establish­ing the American Colonization Society.164

David English was head of the academy at Basking Ridge before his Princeton appointment. He left the college in 1796 to become co‑owner and editor of a semi‑weekly newspaper in Georgetown, “The Sentinel of Liberty.”165

What is one to say about the post of Librarian at Princeton in the eighteenth century? Considering the size of the collection and the poverty of the college, it does not seem to me surprising that the post of Librarian was a part‑time job, but rather remarkable that the position existed at all. After Dr. Witherspoon applied his considerable administrative talents to the college organization, the Librarian was formally designated by the Trustees as one of the handful of college officers. Even though responsibility for the library was merely an added duty for a junior faculty member, the way in which this responsibility was delegated indicates that the Librarian was clearly an academic officer. The library duties were not given to the college steward or to the treasurer, for example, but to a teacher, although that remarkable man Professor Houston was in the difficult times of the Revolution simultaneously li­brarian, treasurer, and teacher. The men who held the post, while young, were all men of more than passing ability.

The role of the Librarian can be said to share some of the importance of the library itself as articulated by President Davies in 1760 and as indicated by the very high priority given to it by the Trustees during most of the period. The Librarian was important because books were important. Since books were central in the teaching process, it was natural to make a teacher the Librarian. Although the duties must have been largely housekeeping ones, the consistent quality of the appointments suggests that there was never any disposition to give the post to a mere housekeeper. In the collegial system of governance which was emerging, the Li­brarian was recognized as a participant. He may have been a junior member, not quite equal, but I suspect that no one was quite equal to Dr. Witherspoon in a committee meeting.

There seems to be no reason to think that the post of college Librarian was regarded in a substantially different light in the other colonies. The Yale Laws of 1745 specify “That the Senior Tutor for the Time being shall be Library keeper and Shall Give his Attendance in the Library twice a week immediately after Dinner on Such Days as the President shall Order…."166 In the William and Mary Statutes of 1727 the Librarian seems to be thrown in with a rather mixed bag of college officers; but his appointment, along with the others, is dignified by being placed in the hands of the full faculty:

Let the ordinary government of the college be in the president and the six masters, viz. the two professors of divinity; and the two professors of philosophy, and the master of the grammar school, and the master of the Indian school…. To this meeting belongs the election and nomination of all officers that are necessary or requisite for the college business, such as the usher in the grammar school, the bursar, the li­brary‑keeper, the janitor, the cook, the butler, and gardener, the writing‑master, the workmen for building or repairing; bailiffs and overseers. But in lesser matters the president's order by word of mouth may suffice.167

One would like to believe that a Virginia tradition of fine food is responsible for the somewhat excessive participatory management which requires the cook and the butler to be appointed by the full faculty, but there is no comparable tradition of cleanliness to account for the similar appointment of the janitor.

In Columbia's first set of library regulations the library was committed to the care of the Professor of Languages and the Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, and one of them was required to be present in the library to circulate books one hour each week.168 These titles suggest a somewhat higher level of library responsibility, equivalent to that at Princeton under Professor Houston.

The Harvard regulations as revised in 1765 indicate that the Librarian is to be chosen by the Corporation:

The Librarian shall be chosen for a Term not exceeding three years subject nevertheless to be remov'd upon misbehavr & on his Removal or expiration of his term, he shall give up an account of the state of the Library to the Corporation; and the corporation or those whom they shall appoint, shall in­spect the library before another choice, & see that the books are all in their place & order, & if any damage hath come to the library by the neglect of the Librarian, or his inobservance of the laws of the Library, it shall be made good, out of his salary or otherwise. And as his trust & Work will be increased, by the Regulations & laws now made, He shall be allow'd a salary of sixty pounds a year.169

This seems to be a substantial upgrading of the position of Librarian, but there are ambiguities. It will be remembered that Hugh Simm's annual salary when he was appointed Librarian at Princeton three years later was five pounds plus room and board in the college. The discrepancy between this and Harvard's sixty pounds might be accounted for if there had been any great differ­ence in the academic rank of the incumbents. Simm of course had no formal academic credentials except his new Princeton degree, but Andrew Eliot, the Harvard Librarian from 1763 to 1767, had few more. Graduated from Harvard in 1762, he was appointed butler of the college in June of 1763. In September of that year, “for want of some other suitable person” he was made Librarian at a salary of six pounds per year. When the new laws for the library were adopted in 1765 he was reelected for three years at a salary ten times as great.170 Academic salaries in the eighteenth century are puzzling.

Sometimes members of the faculty were reimbursed for over­seeing the library, “for assisting the Steward in preserving order in the dining room,” and for other college duties by being given free meals in the college commons in addition to their regular teaching salaries. In the fall of 1787 two “professors” whose regular salaries were £200 and £75 were authorized by Samuel Stanhope Smith as Vice‑President to receive their meals for these additional services.171

John Nelson Abeel received a salary of £40 as tutor for each of the two sessions in 1791‑92.172 Presumably when he assumed in addition the duties of the Librarian in 1793 he was paid five pounds extra for that service, as David English was in 1795. English's accounting with the Treasurer, duly audited by John Beatty of the Board of Trustees, survives.173 It shows that he was paid £2‑10‑0 as Librarian for the session ending in September, 1795 and that he collected and turned over to the treasurer £20‑15‑0 in li­brary fees at five shillings each from 29 seniors, 27 juniors, 19 soph­omores, and 8 freshmen. Three seniors and one sophomore are named as not yet having paid their library fees. There seem to be no surviving records to indicate whether the difference between the Librarian's honorarium and the total fees collected from students was spent for the purchase of books after it was turned over to the treasurer.

In general, the circumstances of librarianship at Princeton in the eighteenth century correspond rather closely to those that prevailed at Harvard throughout the same period and indeed from 1667 to 1877:

During the early years of the College Library each library-­keeper or librarian held the office for a short time only, usually while he was preparing to enter the Christian min­istry…. Of the sixty men whose lives are recorded here only five . . . can be said to have made librarianship their pro­fession. Of the others twenty‑nine, or over half, became clergymen; seven were teachers; six entered the legal and three the medical profession; and the remaining ten fol­lowed various pursuits. The average term of office for the whole period is three and a half years; but for the first cen­tury (1677‑1777) the average was not quite two and one third years.174


The story of the Princeton library in the eighteenth century that is most clearly documented is the story of the devoted efforts of the faculty, trustees, alumni, and friends of the college to build a collection of books and philosophical instruments. That the effort was partially frustrated bespeaks the physical and economic disruption of the Revolution and perhaps the lack of great wealth in the Princeton constituency. That the effort was continued in spite of all the difficulties indicates a recognition that the library was the central and essential instrument in the kind of teaching envisioned by Dickinson and Burr and their successors. There are hints at least that this was not merely the rote learning of a few classical texts but an expansive kind of teaching involving wide reading, leading to considerable independence of thought and the development of skill in writing and speaking.

The Princeton library was intended to be a teaching library, available to both “Officers and Students,” as President Davies pointed out and later regulations insist. It was placed in the charge of teachers who were themselves bookish men. Well‑housed in the very center of the building devoted to student living and learning, the library was a symbol of the aspirations of a provincial college to reach beyond its colonial status and a token of the esteem in which its Presbyterian founders held education. It was the heart of the college that visitors were taken to see, and if some of them found its beat a weak one after the war, there was always enough vitality to nourish recovery.

Of the practical details of library economy there are few records, but in general the operating procedures of the Princeton library seem to have been not unlike those of the other colonial colleges. These procedures were determined not by theory but by the desire to make a few thousand cherished books as available as possible while at the same time preserving this scarce and hard‑won prop­erty for the next classes of students. The determining factors, then as now, were the availability of funds and the perception of priori­ties by the faculty and trustees. President Davies may have set an impossible goal in wanting his students to “have Bookes always at Hand to consult upon every Subject that may occur to them”; but to have a working collection immediately available for an hour or two a week under the guidance of a bright young teacher and to allow students to borrow books for use outside the library was a start in the right direction.


[1] A Catalogue of Books in the Library of the College of New Jersey, January 29, 1760. Published by order of the Trustees. (Woodbridge, New Jersey: Printed by James Parker, 1760). The preface is headed “The Design of the Publication.” A facsimile reprint with a valuable foreward by Julian P. Boyd was issued by the Friends of the Library upon the occasion of the dedication of the Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library, April 29, 1949.

[2] Trustees Minutes. Manuscript in Princeton University Archives.

[3] No comparable statement from any other American college of the eighteenth century seems to have been put into print. The Catalogue of the Library of Yale College (1743) has a preface by President Clap, who compiled it, but his comments are limited to an explanation of the classification system and a commendation of Samuel Johnson’s Introduction to the Study of Philosophy as a guide to study. Johnson, a Yale graduate, had written an outline of universal knowledge, with recommended books in each category, and an edition of this work was printed in 1743 apparently to accompany the Yale catalogue (A Catalogue of the Library of Yale College [New London: T. Green, 1743] and Samuel Johnson [1696-1772], An Introduction to the Study of Philosophy [New London: T. Green, 1743]). Useful though these two publications must have been, they contain nothing remotely like President Davies’ statement of educational and library philosophy. The other college library catalogues of the century were published by Harvard (1723, 1725, 1735, 1773, 1790), Yale (1755, 1791), Brown (1793), and Williams (1794). They contain no general statements of the utility and importance of the library in the educational process. See Jim Ranz, The Printed Book Catalogue in American Libraries: 1723-1900. ACRL Monograph #26. (Chicago: American Library Association, 1964).

A teasing echo in phrasing occurs in the first sentence of Davies’ introduction when he speaks of the library as “the most ornamental and useful furniture of a college.” Thirty years before, in a plea for funds for the library of the College of William and Mary, Professor William Dawson had written to Chancellor Edmund Gibson, Bishop of London, in a letter dated August 11, 1729: “In short, my Lord, the whole is only not compleat for want of the most useful and ornamental Furniture, Books.” (Quoted in John M. Jennings, The Library of the College of William and Mary in Virginia, 1693-1793 [Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1968], pp. 43-44.) Davies was of course in Virginia from 1747 to 1759, and he was undoubtedly often in Williamsburg, where his wife’s brother was associated with the Virginia Gazette and where her father had been mayor. Did he there hear or see Dawson’s rather striking phrase used? Good fund-raising slogans do not die easily. Or did both men draw upon some common published source?

[4] A General Account of the Rise and State of the College lately established in the Province of New Jersey in America .... (New York: Printed by James Parker at the New Printing‑Office in Beaver‑Street, 1752), p. 5.

[5] Quite readable accounts of the founding and early years of the college may be found in Varnum Lansing Collins, Princeton (New York: Oxford University Press, 1914) and Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker, Princeton 1746‑1896 (Princeton: Princeton Uni­versity Press, 1946).

[6] The college had two earlier homes before it moved to the town of Princeton. Although it was called the College of New Jersey and Nassau Hall at various times, and although it did not become Princeton University until 1896, I hope to avoid confusion by using the term "Princeton" throughout for the college and the university in all periods.

[7] I have chosen not to attempt to explain the feud between the New Lights and the Old Lights, a product of the Great Awakening, although the schism was a considerable factor in the founding of the college and perhaps for a while in its educational philosophy. Readers with only a marginal interest in theology might find such an explanation too heavy a burden in a narrative already of necessity heavily laden with theological matters. The story is told in many places, Wertenbaker's Princeton, for ex­ample. Henry F. May, in The Enlightenment in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), pp. 49‑65, explains in a broader context how Princeton became “the center of con­troversy and the defensive stronghold of American Calvinism.” Douglas Sloan in The Scottish Enlightenment and the American College Ideal (New York: Teachers College Press, 1971), pp. 43­-58, describes how the theological views of the New Side, as it was sometimes called, led to the founding of Princeton.

[8] Richard Hofstadter and Wilson Smith, American Higher Education: A Documentary Study (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), I, 4.

[9] Ibid., I, 88‑89.

[10] Richard Hofstadter makes the important point that Prince­ton's circumstances and charter were in fact different from those of the three older colleges, all of which were chartered by estab­lished churches and more subject to the intervention of state legislatures. This clause was “the first such statement of tolerant principles in an American college charter…. But the fact of pri­mary significance is that with Princeton we have the first instance of a college founded under the characteristic conditions of the America of the eighteenth, rather than the seventeenth, century: religious and ethnic heterogeneity, schismatic differences brought by the Awakening, and growing mutual accommodation and tolerance.” (Richard Hofstadter and Robert Metzger, The De­velopment of Academic Freedom in the United States [New York: Columbia University Press, 1955], p. 142.)

[11] For example, this one for the Trustees dinner at the Commencement of September 26, 1770:

£ s d

Dinners for 40 Gentlemen @ 2 / 6………………. 5 0 0

7 Bottles of Wine @ 5 /‑ each…………………… 9 5 0

14 Bottles of Beer @ 1 / 6 each…………………. 1 1 ‑

12 bowls of Punch @ 1 / 6 each………………… 0 18 -

8 bowls of Toddy @ 1 – each…………………… 0 8 -

£16 12 O

The bill is endorsed, “I allow 'the above account. Jno. Wither­spoon" (Manuscripts Division, Princeton University Library).

[12] For a full account of these lotteries and the involvement of the Trustees in them see Philip G. Nordell, "Lotteries in Prince­ton's History," Princeton University Library Chronicle, XV (Au­tumn, ig5 3)• i6‑3 7.

[13] Transcript in Manuscripts Division, Princeton University Library of ALS No. 155 in Doddridge Correspondence, Volume 4, in the Library of New College, London. Professor Horton Davies has pointed out to me that the idea of a dissenting divine having influence at Court was not necessarily wishful thinking on the part of Burr. There had been since 1732 an unofficial but

rather effective mechanism through which the dissenting view could be presented at Court and in Parliament. The "Protestant Dissenting Deputies" consisted and still consist of two members chosen from each congregation of Presbyterians, Baptists, and Independents within ten (later twelve) miles of London. Acting principally through a "Committee of Twenty‑one," the Deputies constituted at first a skillful lobby for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts and a sort of ACLU ready to react vigorously to particular acts of persecution against dissenters. The story of this organization is told in Bernard Lord Manning, The Protestant Dissenting Deputies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952). "For a large part of their history," says Manning, "the conduct of the national campaign for the relief of Dissenters re­mained in the hands of this committee of London lawyers and merchants; indeed, in the 18th century they might almost have been called ambassadors of international Nonconformity to the Court of St James" (p. 16).

The Deputies acquired a special role for the colonies, acting as "an unofficial legation for those American Colonies which derived from the Puritan exiles. Advice was asked and given on the most trivial as well as the weightiest matters which had any connection with religion; the Deputies were a regular channel of approach to the King and Court, and Colonial Governors cor­responded with them and received their encouragement, and sometimes their admonitions" (p. 407). While it is not clear that Burr's appeal to Doddridge in 1749 to block the possible appoint­ment of justice Morris as governor was channelled through the Deputies, asimilar appeal in 1756 received their support and the assurance from Lord Halifax "that the person the Colony feared would be made Governor of New Jersey was not at present thought of." (Minutes of the Protestant Dissenting Deputies, 29 Septem­ber, 1756; quoted in Manning, Protestant Dissenting Deputies, P. 4o8.)

Samuel Davies appeared before the Committee on his British trip in 1754 to seek its endorsement of his fund raising for the college and its assistance in drafting and forwarding a petition to the King concerning the licensing of dissenting ministers in Virginia. The Committee refused to become involved in appeals for money, as it was later to do again when Harvard sought help in 1764 after the library fire, but it did use its influence on the licensing problem in Virginia. (Manning, Protestant Dissenting Deputies, pp. 4og‑lo.)

[14] ALS, Aaron Burr to George Whitefield, Princeton, Feb­ruary 16, 1757. Manuscripts Division, Princeton University Li­brary. AM 8569.

[15] Aaron Burr, MS Account Book. Manuscripts Division, Princeton University Library. AM 21106.

[16] Bernard Bailyn, Education in the Forming of American Society (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1960), p. 91.

[17] An Account of the College of New Jersey (Woodbridge, New Jersey: James Parker, 1764), p. 28.

[18] Surviving notes of Witherspoon's students suggest that he, admirable in so many other ways, relied rather heavily upon the lecture system.

[19] An Account of the College of New Jersey, pp. 28‑29. Rich­ard Hofstadter, in Academic Freedom, p. 152, writes, "Princeton, summing up its own virtues for the public in 1764 was only re­peating claims that had grown common among the other colleges when it asserted that its students were encouraged to exercise the right of private judgment and that the faculty did not dictate to them with ‘an air of infallibility.’” One wonders whether the evidence justifies quite such a sweeping generalization. In any event, our concern here is with the application of these concepts of intellectual freedom to teaching methods and, more specifically, to the involvement of the library in the teaching process. This combination of ideas as expressed by Davies and Blair is far from common in eighteenth‑century America. It does appear, or at least the library role is hinted at, in what Hofstadter calls “probably the most remarkable statement in pre‑Revolutionary educational discussions.” In 1753, William Livingstone published a plea for making the proposed King's College a liberal, non­sectarian institution. Among other college rules he proposed "that the officers and collegians have an unrestrained access to all books in the library, and that free conversation upon polemical and con­troverted points in divinity be not discountenanced, whilst all public disputations upon the various tenets of different professions of Protestants be absolutely forbidden." (Quoted in Hofstadter and Metzger, Academic Freedom, p. 191.) Lest library access for students be taken for granted, it may be noted that the library of the College of William and Mary, founded in 1693, was not opened to undergraduates until 1779 (John M. Jennings, The Library of the College of William and Mary in Virginia, 1693‑1793 [Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1968], pp. 70‑71).

[20] A General Account of the Rise and State of the College…, p. 5.

[21] Ibid., p. 6.

[22] In any attempt to trace the roots of Princeton in the decades around the middle of the century, one is struck by the way in which the ideas of the relatively small group of Presbyterian ministers influence and reinforce each other. A thorough study of the intellectual currents in this provincial but influential mi­crocosm might be rewarding.

[23] Dictionary of American Biography, II, 340‑341.

[24] George William Pilcher, Samuel Davies, Apostle of Dissent in Colonial Virginia (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1971), p.86.

[25] Richard Hofstadter, America at 1750: A Social Portrait (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971), p.267.

[26] Richard Beale Davis, ed., Collected Poems of Samuel Davies, 1723‑1761 (Gainesville, Florida: Scholars Facsimiles and Re­prints, 1968), p. xvi.

[27] Robert S. Alley, The Reverend Mr. Samuel Davies: A Study in Religion and Politics, 1747‑1759 (Dissertation, Princeton Uni­versity, Department of Religion, 1962), p. 3.

[28] It would be satisfying to claim a direct influence of Davies on that other great Virginian advocate of religious freedom, James Madison, but the living reputation of Davies is the only possible channel of transmission. Madison entered Princeton as a student in 1769, about eight years after the death of Davies. But there was a connection. Irving Brant writes:

Of the two Princeton graduates, both Anglicans, who advised Madison to go there, the elder, Alexander Martin, made a public record as a defender of dissenters. As Governor of North Carolina he insisted that even the much‑condemned “enthusiasts” be included in a law making support of gospel ministers a charge upon the state revenues. The younger brother, Thomas Martin, entered Princeton near the close of the presidency of Dr. Samuel Davies, whose fame rested on his defense of the rights of nonconformists in Virginia, and he pursued his studies under President Samuel Finley, who had been arrested, convicted of vagrancy and driven out of Connecticut for preaching in an unlicensed pulpit. Many Anglicans graduated at Princeton, but their background was one of hostility to church establishment. (Irving Brant, James Madison: The Virginia Revolutionist (Indianapolis: Bobbs­Merrill, 1941] pp. 70‑71.)

While not all of this is relevant to the immediate point, I have quoted the entire paragraph because it illuminates the atmosphere of stubborn dissent which must have permeated colonial Prince­ton, infecting even the Anglican students and often approaching genuine religious freedom.

[29] Sloan, The Scottish Enlightenment, p. 53.­

[30] George William Pilcher, ed., The Reverend Samuel Davies Abroad: The Diary of a Journey to England and Scotland, 1753­-55 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1967), p. 106.

[31] Pilcher, Samuel Davies, Apostle of Dissent, p. 17 8.

[32] Nelson R. Burr, Education in New Jersey, 1630‑1871 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1942), p. 129.

[33] Herbert McLachlan, Warrington Academy: Its History and Influence. Remains of the Chetham Society, New Series, CVII (1943), 22.

[34] Bailyn, Education in the Forming of American Society, pp. 63‑64.

[35] Sloan, The Scottish Enlightenment, pp. 38 ff.

[36] In his fine book, Douglas Sloan discusses (pp. 64 ff.) the relative weight that should be given to the influence upon Prince­ton before Witherspoon of the English Dissenting Academies and

the Scottish universities. He establishes the channels of influence of the Scottish universities clearly, one being through the English academies themselves and another through the close personal con­tacts of the New Jersey leaders, particularly Jonathan Edwards, with Scottish churchmen. But Sloan does not attempt to find in the Scottish universities the sources of the specific educational concepts emphasized so clearly in the Davies and the Blair state­ments.

[37] ALS, Aaron Burr to Philip Doddridge, May 31,1750. Manu­

scripts Division, Princeton University Library. AM 9971.

[38] Pitcher, The Reverend Samuel Davies Abroad, p. m o.

[39] Jack Lindsay, ed., Autobiography of Joseph Priestley (Bath, ig7o. Reprint of i8o6 Memoirs), pp.75‑76~

[40] J. W. Ashley Smith, The Birth of Modern Education: The Contribution of the Dissenting Academies, 166o‑i8oo (London: Independent Press, ig54), p.i32.

[41] Ibid., p.i4o.

[42] From a Scheme of Scripture Divinity printed in i76o by Taylor for the use of his pupils (Quoted in McLachlan, War­rington Academy, pp. 44‑45) Viewed in the broad context of academic freedom, "students in some of the academies during their heyday were treated to a measure of liberality in thought anj pedagogical practice that would have been altogether unfamiliar in the university." (Hofstadter, Academic Freedom, p. 76.)

[43] Manuscript lecture notes on John Witherspoon's lectures on moral philosophy, kept by Andrew Hunter of the Princeton Class of 1772 (Princeton University Library, Manuscripts Division. AM i28oo). From the close correspondence among the notes of various students it seems probable that Witherspoon dictated at least the bibliographical and summary parts of lectures, expecting students to prepare fair copies.

[44] Ashbel Green, The Life of the R erA John With erspoon, ed. Henry Lyttleton Savage (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 19734 X 132.

[45] I do not mean to suggest that Princeton was the only college across the Atlantic where the influence of the Dissenting Academies was strong. For example, Charles Morton, who ran an academy at Newington Green, emigrated to New England in 1685 and became Vice‑President of Harvard, "where he introduced the sys­tems of science that he used in England" (Irene Parker, Dissenting Academies in England [Cambridge: The University Press, igi4], p. 62).

[46] Louis Franklin Snow, The College Curriculum in the United States (New York: Teachers College, Columbia Univer­sity, igo7), p. 55. The record of public service of the members of the Princeton classes of 1748‑68 has recently been made clear:

The wide geographical dispersal of the alumni accounts in some measure for their extraordinary role in the public affairs of their time. By the end of 1775, 279~ men in this volume were still living. Of these only 8 (3 per cent) became Loyalists, in contrast to Harvard, where 196 (16 perfect) of the 1,224 alumni living in 1775 took the British side during the Revolution. All told, 8 8 of the Princeton alumni assumed some office of military responsibility during the War for Independence, in­cluding the 35 who served as chaplains. No less than g of the 55 members of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 had graduated from Nassau Hall, and these 9 represented six dif­ferent states. Five of the members of the Convention are found in this volume. In addition, this volume includes 21 men who served in the Continental Congress, 4 who lived to become members of the United States Senate, 7 who served in the House of Representatives, and 2 who became justices of the United States Supreme Court, one of them a Chief Justice. The contribution to leadership at the state and local levels of government was comparably impressive. Two alumni be­came the governors of their respective states, and more than 40 served on their state legislatures. Five men served as state attorney‑general, three of them being the first to hold the office. Over one‑third of the alumni at some time or other held public office, a figure including very few of the 158 who became clergymen. (James McLachlan, Princetonians, 1746 ­1768: A Biographical Dictionary [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976], p. xxiii.)

[47] Francis L.' Broderick, "Pulpit, Physics, and Politics: The Curriculum of the College of New Jersey, 1746‑1794," William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, VI (1949), 47, 51, 67.

[48] Catalogue of Books..., p. iv.

[49] It will be remembered that Davies, listing the occasions when it was desirable for students to "have Books always at Hand," begins with "in their public Disputes." Lawrence A. Cremin is one of the few historians of American education who has pointed to this connection: "In the preparation of these de­bates and disputations, the college library obviously became a basic resource, and it was at this point as much as anywhere in the formal curriculum that the students were propelled into the larger learning that the library symbolized and encouraged to draw freely upon it." (Lawrence A. Cremin, American Education: The Colonial Experience,1607‑1783[New York: Harper and Row, 19701, PP.466‑67.)

[50] A General Account of the Rise and State of the College, lately Established in the Province of New‑Jersey in America and of the End and Design of its Institution. Originally published in America, An. 2752, by the Trustees of the said College and now republished in adapted to its present State; for the Information of the Friends of Learning and Piety in Great‑Britain: by the Revd Messrs Gilbert Tennent and Samuel Davies, Agents for the said Trustees. London Reprinted: Anno 1754, p.6.

[51] This oversimplified summary of the curricular contributions of the Dissenting Academies is drawn principally from J. W. Ashley Smith, Birth of Modern Education.

[52] "The replacement of Latin by English as the medium of instruction is often regarded as one of the major achievements of the academies. This movement began in some of the earliest academies, but it is difficult to say at what point it became gen­eral. There would presumably be a good many transitional stages. Certainly Latin was still used to a considerable extent well on in the eighteenth century. To what extent may the academies have been stimulated to this change, or at any rate encouraged to it, by Scottish university example? The credit for the development at Glasgow is usually given to Hutcheson, who became Professor of Moral Philosophy in 1729. But the way had been paved long before .... On the other hand, Latin was the language of lectures in Physic at Edinburgh in i74o . . . . It is thus difficult to go further than that the introduction of English as the teaching medium of the academies probably owed something to Scottish influence." (Smith, Birth of Modern Education, p. 70.)

[53] John Witherspoon, Lectures on Moral Philosophy, ed. Var­num Lansing Collins (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1912).

[54] David Lundberg and Henry F. May, "The Enlightened Reader in America," American Quarterly, XXVIII (Summer, 1970,262‑293.

[55] Catalogue of Books…, p. iv.

[56] Pilcher, The Reverend Samuel Davies Abroad, p. 2.

[57] See Note 4.

[58] A General Account of the Rise and State of the College ... (London Reprinted: Anno 1754). The New York edition had car­ried quotations from Cicero and from Thomson's "Liberty" on the title page. In the new British editions another Thomson quotation was appropriately substituted, beginning Nor ev'n to Britain is our Care confin'd: Lo! swarming o'er the new discovr'd World, Gay Colonies extend ‑‑­Of Britain's Empire the Support and Strength . . .

j The Edinburgh edition has only minor differences from the


[59] A General Account.. . (London, 1754), P‑ 7‑

[60] Quoted in John Maclean, History of the College of New Jersey (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1877),I,149‑

61 "To the Worthy and Generous Friends of Religion and Learning. The Petition of Gilbert Tennent and Samual Davies in the Name of the Trustees of the Infant College of New‑Jersey ... London, Winchester‑Street near Little Moor‑Gate, Jan. ig, 1754."

62 Pilcher, The Reverend Samuel Davies Abroad, p. 5 7‑

63 Ibid., p.iog.

64 The entertaining story of the recruiting techniques which persuaded Witherspoon and his more reluctant wife to leave Scot­land for Princeton is told, mostly in original letters, in Lyman Butterfield, John With erspoon Comes to America (Princeton: Princeton University Library, 1953).

65 In the Witherspoon Collection, Manuscripts Division, Princeton University Library there are thirteen letters between John Witherspoon and Benjamin Rush in which library matters are mentioned. They date from July 7,1767 to September 8,1768.

66 McLachlan, Princetonians,r748‑1768, p. 323.

67 Trustees Minutes, September 27,1770.

68 68. Butterfield, John With erspoon Comes to America, pp. 82­83.

69 "A Catalogue of Books left by the Rev. Aron Bur [sic] reviewed by Jonathan Bauldwin & Timothy Edwards." Manu­scripts Division, Princeton University Library, Aaron Burr (1716­1757) Collection. AM 308. Another manuscript in the same col­fection, "The Estate of the Revd Aaron Burr and Mr, Esther Burr ..." (AM 3o6) records in the settling of the estate books of considerable value. Neither manuscript is dated, but this one is probably later, since it follows the death of Mrs. Burr. The "Cata­logue" probably describes Burr's library in its undiminished state. The estimate of 285 volumes includes multiple copies of a few titles obviously used as textbooks. Was this a confusion of the college store with the President's personal library or evidence o: an early library reserve system? The composition of the collectior is about what one would expect: heavy on theology, a considerablf amount of history and the Greek and Latin classics, perhaps more mathematics and science than in most ministers' libraries.

70 "Extracts from the Minutes of the Society in Scotland fol the Propagation of Christian Knowledge and from the Record; of the Church of Scotland relating to the College of New Jersey, Copied and Presented to Princeton University by Prof. Charley Augustus Briggs, D. D. 18 g7." Typescript. Manuscripts Division, Princeton University Library. These records show that on June 2, 1748, an alert appeal from Ebenezer Pemberton, one of the original trustees and a Harvard man, was considered and inquiry made as to "what books they have already got and what kinds are mostly wanted." On November 2, 1749, it was voted that the books be sent. The Society also underwrote, up to £i2 each, the expenses of educating two Indian boys at Princeton, and in 1754 it warmly endorsed a call by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland for "a voluntary collection to be made through Scot­land for the College of New Jersey."

71 Aaron Burr, MS Account Book, Manuscripts Division, Princeton University Library. AM 211o6.

72 I bid., pp. lg 2‑g3.

73 ALS,John Ward to Aaron Burr, London, October 14,1757. Manuscripts Division, Princeton University Library. AM 473‑

74 Published in Massachusetts Historical Society, Proceedings, Second Series, VIII (1891‑g2), 33 8‑344

75 Mr. Stiles'srevelation that there was a dramatic performance after prayers is interesting in view of John Witherspoon's well­known aversion to the theater and play‑actors. (John Witherspoon, A Serious Enquiry into the Nature and Efects of the Stage; being an Attempt to Show that Contributing to the Support ofa Public Theatre is Inconsistent with the Character of a Christian (Glasgow: J.Bryce and D.Paterson,1757).) Perhaps this is another pedagogi­cal device that Burr borrowed from the Dissenting Academies. Joseph Priestley writes, "Finding no public exercises at Warring­ton, I introduced them there, so that afterwards every Saturday the tutors, all the students, and often strangers, were assembled to hear English and Latin compositions, and sometimes, to hear the delivery of speeches, and the exhibition of scenes of plays" (A uto­biography, p. 88). J. W. Ashley Smith, in the Birth of Modern Education, says, "Nevertheless the earliest tutors‑such as Henry and N ewcome‑had no objection at all to dramatics, and in John Jennings' Academy Tamerlane was performed by the pupils. This was one respect in which Doddridge did not follow Jennings and later in the century even the unorthodox Warrington tutors could not stomach amateur dramatics" (pp. 2 3 9‑40).

76 Thomas J. Wertenbaker has written, "It was in November 1756, during the fall vacation, that the move to Princeton was made .... As for the college equipment, it seems to have consisted of two large boxes of books, and sundry other things which the president shipped by water to New Brunswick, whence they were carted to Princeton" (Princeton, p. 40). But there is a problem here. The entry in President Burr's Account Book (p. 145) upon which this statement is based reads:

To Carting 2. Large Boxes of C. Books to Princeton 18/.

3.D° 2o/.

To Freight of Sundry things to Brunswick 15/. Cartage to

Print 15/‑

The problem is that this entry is clearly dated November lo, 1755, just a year before the move of the college, and appears in proper sequence for that year. President Burr's accounts often gave him and the Trustees difficulty, but it is hard to believe that he mis­dated the entries for an entire year. Perhaps those two large boxes, instead of containing the college library, contained the library of Governor Belcher, inventoried in Elizabeth on May 7, 1755 and accepted by the Trustees as a gift at their meeting of September 24, 1755 It seems reasonable to surmise that at that time the deci­sion was made to send the collection to some safe storage space in Princeton, since the college library would be moved there soon in any event and since space was almost certainly scarce in Newark.

77 Varnum Lansing Collins, who is seldom in error, states that the library room was about thirty by twenty‑four feet (The Con­tinental Congress at Princeton [Princeton: The University Li­brary, 19o8], p. 58), citing in a footnote a statement by President John Maclean in the Presbyterian Magazine, I, 96. But Maclean's statement is, "The room was about thirty‑six feet by twenty‑four." My estimate is based on architectural drawings of the present bearing walls, which have remained essentially unchanged in this part of the building despite two major fires.

78 One formula which has been used to estimate average shelf capacity today is 125 volumes per single‑faced stack section, 3 feet long and 7 shelves high. See Keyes D. Metcalf, Planning Academic and Research Library Buildings (New York: McGraw‑Hill, 1965), PT 15 2‑5 3.

79 Milton Halsey Thomas, ed., Elias Boudinot's Journey to Boston in r8o9 (Princeton: Princeton University Library, 1955), p. 48.

80 Anne S. Pratt and Andrew Keogh, "The Yale Library of 174 2," Yale University Library Gazette, XV (1940), 2 9‑40, and Franklin B. Dexter, Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College with Annals of the College History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1916), I, 7 24.

81 Trustees Minutes, September 28, 1770.

82 The Trustees Minutes of March 12, 1772 record a resolu­tion "That one of the Servants be ordered to remain in Waiting in some place adjacent to the Library during the Time of each Session of this Board."

83 Catalogue of Books .... Facsimile reprint, 1949.

84 May, The Enlightenment in America, p.156.

85 "A Catalogue of Books belonging to His Excellency Jona­than Belcher Esqr ... ." Manuscripts Division, Princeton Univer­sity Library. AM 2320. This gift may be the reason why Princeton's holdings in 1760, when compared withthose of Harvard and Yale for the same general period, contain a somewhat larger percentage of books in the category of literature. See Joe W. Kraus, "The Book Collections of Early American College Libraries," Library Quarterly, XLIII (1973), 14 2‑15 9‑

86 Samuel Eliot Morison, Harvard College in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1936), I, 297. See also Cremin, American Education, p. 397.

87 "For the Information of the Public By Order of the Trustees of the College of New Jersey," Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New Jersey (Paterson, N.J., 1904).

88 This matter of the "lecture method" is so closely related to use of the library that it deserves a note. Ashbel Green, first a stu­dent, then a faculty colleague of Witherspoon, writes: The method of teaching by lecture was never in use in this college till it was introduced by Dr. Witherspoon.... Every improvement is in danger of running to an extreme. That in‑struction by lecture has many advantages is readily admitted: E. and yet it appears to the writer more than questionable, whether young persons, wholly ignorant of a given subject, will acquire a competent knowledge of it, by once or twice hearing lectures on it, unless they have it also in their power to review and con over what they have heard, in a manuscript, or in a printed book. (Witherspoon, pp. 125‑26)

Green then goes on to describe Witherspoon's technique of having every student make a copy of the basic lecture or syllabus upon which the lecturer would then elaborate in the classroom. "It thus appears," he continues, "that the method of instruction adopted by Dr. Witherspoon, embraced all the advantages of lecturing in connection with the aid of a book or manuscript‑both furnished by himself." This procedure may have satisfied Ashbel Green's doubts about the famous Doctor's pedagogy, but it stillseems not quite up to the ideal of encouraging students to go to the library and "expatiate at large thro' the boundless and variegated Fields of Science." Yet Dr. Witherspoon clearly understood the impor­tance of libraries, not only as an aid in teaching but also in the higher levels of research. " N othing," he declared, "was holding America back in point of general knowledge so much as the lack of

I' large libraries where `thorough researches' might be made, and the

small number of learned men 'to assist in making research practi­cable, easy, and complete' " (Varnum Lansing Collins, President Witherspoon: A Biography Princeton: Princeton University Press, ig25], II, 203). And he certainly believed that a scholar had to be very widely read: " On the subject of literature in gen­eral, observe, that reading a few books well chosen, and digesting them thoroughly, together with the frequent exercise of reflection, will make a knowing and intelligent man: but to make what the world calls a learned man, or a great scholar, requires a very gen­eral knowledge of authors, books and opinions of all kinds" (" Lectures on Divinity," The Works of the Rev. John Wither­spoon Philadelphia: William W. Woodward, i8o2],IV,y).

89 Microfilm in the Princeton University Library of a manu­script in the Presbyterian Historical Society.

90 See for example Henry M. Fuller, "The Philosophical Ap­paratus of Yale College," Papers in Honor of Andrew Keogh (New Haven: Privately Printed, ig3 8), pp. 163‑i8o, especially p. 171­There were limits, however. On October i, 1795, John Maclean (influenced in coming to Princeton by that tireless recruiter, Benjamin Rush) was appointed Professor of Chemistry and Nat­ural History. At the same meeting of the Trustees it was reported that money had been collected and spent for the purchase of "a chemical apparatus." A year later, perhaps after some experience with the impact of this new science, the Trustees resolved "that the Committee of repairs have a room fitted up in which the Chemical lecture may be conveniently given and the apparatus permanently kept" (Trustees Minutes, September 29, i7g6).

The orrery and the other philosophical apparatus remained in the library until 1799: "The room now occupied by (word not clear) the philosophical apparatus being too small Resolved that the Treasurer convert the two. west rooms of the first storey of the College and the entry between them into one room in which shall be placed the orrery and all the philosophical apparatus" (Trus­tees Minutes, April ii,i7gg).

91 Collins, President Witherspoon, II, 2i4‑ig..

92 Trustees Minutes, September 29, 1769.

93 The story of Princeton's orrery, its background, its acqui­sition, its international reputation, and its reconstruction and display in the Firestone Library is told in interesting detail in Howard C. Rice, Jr., The Rittenhouse Orrery: Princeton's Eight­eenth‑Century Planetarium, z767‑z954 (Princeton: Princeton University Library, ig54). The Rittenhouse Orrery, having left its traditional library home, is now displayed in the entrance lobby of Peyton Hall, the home of the Department of Astrophysical Sciences.

94 Trustees Minutes, September 29, 1769; September 28, 1770; and September 25, 1771.

95 Lyman H. Butterfield, ed., Diary and Autobiography of John Adams (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, ig62), II, m

96 For an account of the pre‑Revolutionary atmosphere and events on the Princeton campus, perhaps the most politically active campus in the colonies, see Sheldon S. Cohen and Larry R. Gerlach, "Princeton in the Coming of the American Revolution," New Jersey History, XC II (ig74), 6g‑g2.

97 Brant, James Madison, p. 91.

98 Trustees Minutes, April 2o and April 2i,1774~

99 Collins, President Witherspoon, I, Chapter 5, "Undermin­ing Colonial Government in New Jersey."

100 Cohen and Gerlach, "Princeton in the Coming of the American Revolution," p. 84.

101 Locke's Works in three folio volumes, A n Essay Concern­ing Human Understanding, "Letters to the Bishop of Worcester," and The Reasonableness of Christianity are in the 176o Catalogue. In 1764 Thomas Hollis presented his edition of Two Treatises of Government in a characteristic Hollis binding, with this auto­graph inscription: "An Englishman, a Lover of Liberty, the prin­ciples of the Revolution, & the Protestant Succession in the House of Hanover, Citizen of the World, is desirous of having the honor to present this book to the Public Library of the College at New Jersey, in North America. London, June 23, 1764." This copy somehow survived fire and revolution and is still in the library. Hollis had given ten guineas to the Tennent‑Daviesfund in 1754, his first gift to any American institution. Later, of course, he became a major benefactor of the Harvard library, particularly after the fire of 1764. For a detailed discussion of these matters and the seven books at Princeton with Hollis bindings see James Holly Hanford, " `Ut Spargam': Thomas Hollis Books at Prince­ton," Princeton University Library Chronicle, XX (195 9), 165­174, and "New Thomas Hollis Items," ibid., XXIII (1962), 134­138.

102 Trustees Minutes, September 27, 1769.Irving Brant com­ments, "To honor Hancock and Dickinson with scholastic degrees was to strike the ministers of George III right between the eyes, and the inclusion of Galloway did not lessen the force of the stroke" (James Madison, p. 93).

103 James McLachlan, "The Choice of Hercules: American Student Societies in the Early 19th Century," The University in Society (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974), II, 472.

104 MS in Witherspoon Collection, Manuscripts Division, Princeton University Library.

105 "Extracts from the Minutes of the Society in Scotland ...." See footnote 70.

106 "Ledger of the Trustees of the College of New Jersey, May 1, 17 69." MS. Princeton University Archives.

107 107. There is evidence of continuing interest in the philosophi­cal apparatus: "Sept., 177o‑Paid for Globes‑20/0/0"; various expenditures pertaining to the orrery, including "Cash paid Mr. Rittenhouse in full for what is finished of the Orrery 200/0/0"; r

and on February 15, 1774, " By Cash for import (?) the Electrical Apparatus 114/0/4‑"

An entry, "Books on hand 27/15/10" clearly refers to the text­book stock and not to the library. For several years the identical, presumably somewhat arbitrary figure is used for the inventory. One gets the impression that President Witherspoon was eager to have all of the affairs of the college orderly and neat, but that the rush of events and the pressure of his own energy and imagination drove him on to new activities to the detriment of accounting details. He was to have considerable trouble later with the Trustees over his accounts.

108 Trustees Minutes, September 28,1770.

109 Laws of the College of New Jersey Reviewed, Amended and finally Adopted, by the Board of Trustees in April 1794 (Trenton: Isaac Collins, 1794).

110 Trustees Minutes, September 27,1765. Other colonial col­leges helped meet expenses by separate library fees. Harvard charged two shillings a quarter in 1740. Yale in 1745 codified a variation of the library fee, really a rental fee: six pence per month for a folio, four pence for a quarto, and three pence for an octavo or "a lesser book." At William and Mary the fee at first took the form of a compulsory gift at matriculation. In 1782 a fixed fee of ten shillings per year was required, one third for the librarian, two thirds for the purchase of books. See Louis Shores, Origins of the American College Library, z63 8‑z8oo. (Nashville: George Peabody College, lg34),pp.lo5,1o8,181ff.

111 Trustees Minutes, March 12,1772.

112 Collins, President Witherspoon, 11, 82‑83‑

113 Collins, President With erspoon, I, 166‑67.

114 Ibid.,1, 8 7.

115 Trustees Minutes, September25,1776.

116 William S. Stryker, The Battles of Trenton and Princeton (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1898), pp. 1‑2 6.

117 Henry Lyttleton Savage, ed., Nassau Hall, 1756‑1936 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, lg5 6), pp. 76‑85, g2‑g4.

118 Trustees Minutes, May 2 4, 1781.

119 Ibid., May 25,1781.

120 L. H. Butterfield, ed., Letters of Benjamin Rush (Prince­ton: Princeton University Press, 1951), I, 12 6.

121 Green, Witherspoon, p.lg3.

122 Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, XXXII (1908) 54.

123 ALS,John Witherspoon to David Witherspoon, March 17, 1777. Witherspoon Collection, Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress. Ac. 2637. It is not clear how Witherspoon's personal library escaped as the troops poured through Princeton 'in the preceding December and January. The books were presumably in the President's House, a stone's throw from Nassau Hall, for Witherspoon was not yet living at "Tusculum," the farmhouse which he had built in 1773 a mile north of the town. Perhaps the officers who undoubtedly took over the President's House as one of the finest houses in the town had more respect for books than most of the soldiers who were quartered in Nassau Hall. At any rate the Doctor's library survived. Passed on to his son‑in‑law Samuel Stanhope Smith, it was purchased with Smith's library in 1812, and now rests in the reconstructed eighteenth‑century library at the entrance to the Rare Books and Special Collections division of Firestone Library. The Harvard College Library might have suffered the same fate as that at Princeton had not the Provincial Congress voted on June 15, 1775, that it be moved to Andover, and later to Concord, when the college buildings were occupied by the Continental army (Alfred Claghorn Potter and Charles Knowles Bolton, The Librarians of Harvard College, 1667‑1887, `Harvard University Library Bibliographical Contributions,' No. 52, (Cambridge, Mass.: Library of Harvard University, 18971, p. 30).

124 Quoted in Rice, The Rittenhouse O rrery, p. 45‑

125 Marquis de Chastellux, Travels in North America in the Years z78o, 1781, and 1782, trans. Howard C. Rice, Jr. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1963), I, 122‑23. Perhaps the Marquis was less distracted at the College of William and Mary, where he spent many hours while he and his troops were in winter quarters at Williamsburg in 1781‑82, or perhaps the honorary degree awarded him touched his heart, for he called it a "magnificent establishment" and wrote in his journal, "The beauty of the building is surpassed by the richness of the library, and the worth of this library by several of the distinguished pro­fessors, such as Doctors Madison, Wythe, Bellini, etc., etc., who may be looked upon as living books" (Ibid., II, 443). He was instrumental two years later in obtaining for the library of William and Mary a gift in the name of Louis XVIoftwo hundred books, "deux cent volumes des plus beaux et des meilleurs ouvrages fran~ais" (Jennings, The Library of the College of William and Mary, pp. 72‑73)‑

126 Trustees Minutes, April 21, j7 79‑

127 Collins, Witherspoon, II, 86, and Wertenbaker, Princeton, p. 63.

128 One cannot help contrasting the response and the speed of rebuilding the libraries at Harvard and at Princeton, both de­stroyed at approximately the same time. In 1764 the Harvard library was destroyed by fire, with the loss of all but 404 of its approximately 5ooo books. The response of its benefactors was such that in spite of the disruption of the Revolution the catalogue of 1790 listed about 13,000 volumes. After Princeton's disaster in the Revolution, when about 2ooo volumes were lost and only a few survived, the library was rebuilt to only about 3000 volumes by the end of the century. The difference in these rates of regrowth cannot be accounted for by a difference in effort, for Princeton could hardly have tried more diligently, at least until the death of Witherspoon. Perhaps the difference lies in the relatively greater size and wealth of the Harvard constituency, a factor, in part, of the age of the institution.

129 This "Prospect" is not the present house of that name, which was built in 1852, but an earlier house on the same site. A contemporary watercolor of the earlier house in the collections of the Princeton University Library indicates that the Congress must have been rather crowded there. The meetings of June 30, July i, and July 2 were probably held at "Prospect" and the remainder until November 4 in Nassau Hall (Collins, The Conti­nental Congress at Princeton, p.58).See also Howard C. Rice, Jr., "Prospect: the Seat of Mr. Morgan at Princeton," Princeton Uni­versity Library Chronicle, XXV (Spring, 1964), 209‑ii.

130 John Witherspoon, "Memorial for the College of New Jersey, 1784." Photocopy in Witherspoon Collection, Manu­scripts Division, Princeton University Library, of MS #234, Mor­ristown National Historical Park. AM 1315 6.

131 Charles Nisbet (who had received an honorary D.D. from Princeton the preceding year), quoted in a letter from John Erskine to John Witherspoon, February 5,1784. This and a num­ber of similar letters are quoted in Ashbel Green, With erspoon, pp. l92ff.

132 John JaY to John Witherspoon, Chaillot, April 6, 178 4~

Quoted in Green, Witherspoon, pp.205‑207.

133 Quoted in Green, Witherspoon, pp.204‑205.

134 Ibid., p.231.

135 This book was probably lost in the fire of 1802. A similar volume, started after the fire, survives.

136 ADS, Maclean Papers, Princeton University Archives. I have been unable to identify Lyall. The instructions are to pay the money to "the Bearer John Lyall," identified as the brother of David, and it was John who eventually signed the receipt. The formalities of this transaction, as the document indicates, suggest just how much a sum of even this size meant to the college. The authorization to pay is signed not only by President Witherspoon but also by another trustee, John Bayard, on November 25,1788. It is countersigned on April 15, 1789, by John Beatty, Treasurer, another trustee, with the notation customary during these tight years, "Pay the same when in cash." John Lyall finally signed a receipt for the money on November 30, 1789.

137 Many of the regulations are quoted and discussed in Shores, American College Library, pp. 181‑212. For some details see Potter and Bolton, The Librarians of Harvard College. The appendices contain the eighteenth‑century Harvard library laws. See also Dexter, Biographical Sketches, pp. 17‑18, and Jennings, The Library of the College of William and Mary, pp. 71‑72.

138 Falconer Madan, The Bodleian Library at Oxford (Lon­don: Duckworth & Co, 191g),p.2o.

139 Letters of Sir Thomas Bodley to .Thomas James, First Keeper of the Bodleian Library (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926), p. 188.

140 Potter and Bolton, The Librarians of Harvard College, p. lg.

141 Thomas J. Wertenbaker's characterization of the great ability of President Smith, of his aspirations for the college, and of the problems he faced is full and excellent, and there is a sympathetic brief account by Samuel Holt Monk in The Lives of Eighteen from Princeton, ed. Willard Thorp (Princeton: Prince­ton University Press, 1946), pp. 8 6‑11o.

142 142. The petition appears in full in the Trustees Minutes for April 13, 1796, as a part of the report of the committee. The report is printed in Maclean, History of the College of New Jersey, II, i3‑i6. As the report indicates, the grant was made upon the promise of some of the Trustees that the college would be liberated some­what from Presbyterian control, and indeed the next two Trustees to be elected were Episcopalians. In spite of this, the grant was unpopular in the state. All of those who voted for it were turned out in the next election, the grant was never repeated, and Princeton remained a private institution. President Maclean's discussion in 1877 of the whole episode is interesting because it reveals the attitude of a later generation of Princetonians toward relations with the state.

143 Maclean, History of the College of New Jersey, II, i3.

144 Campbell, who at various times was identified as book­seller, stationer, printer, and bookbinder, operated in Hanover Square from 1785 to 1793 and at 124 Pearl Street from 1794 to 1818. He must have been a reputable dealer. (George L. McKay, A Register of Artists, Engravers, Booksellers, Bookbinders, Print­ers and Publishers in New York City, r633‑z8zo New York: New York Public Library, 19421.)

145 4n at least one earlier occasion, years before, the Trustees had felt it necessary to rein in the President's expansive ideas about what the library should acquire. In the long report of a Trustee committee appointed to examine the finances of the college in 1774 occurs this statement, which must have caused a row: "But they must here observe, that understanding this Board did not conceive itself justifiable in the application of the College Funds to any other uses, than the necessary purposes of the Institution, to which they are at present very inadequate; the Committee therefore, in this state of the Account, have not allowed the President the Charge of a very expensive (listed as £ zg‑i6‑Gin the accompanying account) & totally unnecessary article viz Boyden's Collection of Prints. But the final determination of this must be referred to this Board." This report was presented in part at the Trustees meeting of September zg, i774• the remainder being deferred until the next meeting, for which no minutes are recorded in the minute book. The report actually appears in this book with the minutes of the meeting of April g, 1793 having been discovered by another committee still trying to settle the matter of the President's finances. The manuscript of the original report is in the Maclean Papers, Princeton University Archives.

The work which got the President into trouble was almost cer­tainly John Boydell (i7ig‑i8o4), A Collection of Prints Engraved after the Most Capital Paintingsin England (London: Printed for the Editor, 1769‑72). Others in addition to the Princeton Trustees must have thought this an expensive publication, for there are today only two copies recorded in American libraries (NYP L and LC). Boydell's much better known prints of Shakespeare were pub­lished later,in 1803.

146 Moreau de St. Mery's American Journey, translated arid edited Kenneth Roberts and Anna M. Roberts (Garden City: Doubleday, 1947), pp. 104‑105.

147 Isaac Weld, Travels through the States of North America and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada during the Years 1795, r7A and 1797. Fourth edition. (London: Printed for J. Stockdale,1807),I,159‑6o. Reprinted New York, Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1968.

148 Glasgow Sentinel, July19,181o.

149 ALS, Hugh Simm to Andrew Simm, Princeton College, December 2, 1768. Manuscripts Division, Princeton University Library. AM 14417. He consistently signed his name "Simm." The spelling and punctuation in the remainder of the letter are also those of Mr. Simm and take such liberties, even in an age before standards in such matters had been firmly established, as to sug­gest thatthe examination which he passed for his Princeton degree must have been an oral one. The line and a half following this passage at the bottom of the page are unfortunately torn and illegible.

150 150. Catalogus Eorum q uiin Collegio Novae Caesareae Laurea alicujus Gradusdonatisuntab A nno 1748 ad Annum z77o.Broad­side. (Philadelphia: William and Thomas Bradford, 1770).

151 ALS, Hugh Simm to Andrew Simm, Freehold, June 8, 1769. Manuscripts Division, Princeton University Library. AM 14417‑

152 ALS, Hugh Simm to Andrew Simm, Newtown, Long Island, October 2, 1778. Manuscripts Division, Princeton Univer­sity Library. AM 14417.

153 Trustees Minutes, September 28, 1770‑

154 Ibid., September 29,1769. For a brief account of Houston's life, upon which this sketch is principally based, see McLachlan, Princetonians, pp. 643‑47, See also Dictionary of American Biog­raphy, IX, 267‑68 and Thomas Allen Glenn, William Churchill Houston 174 6‑r 788 (Norristown, Pa.: Privately printed, 1903).

155 McLachlan, Princetonians, p. 645.

156 Trustees Minutes, September 28,1786 and April 18,1787. Snowden's salary is recorded as £5 per year.

157 This name comes from a single document in the Maclean Papers, Princeton University Archives. It is a bill,

The College of New Jersey to G. Thornton, Dr.

for i/2 a Years Salary £50 00

For attendance on the Library & for

the Inspection of College for one session £3 00

On the back is a notation, "Presented to a Committee of the Trustees in Princeton, June 13t'', 1787."

158 Trustees Minutes, May 15, 1793 and November 14, 1793.

159 Faculty Minutes, November 14, 1793 and May 26, 1794.

160 Faculty Minutes, May 26, 1794 and January 16, 1796; Trustees Minutes, September 23,1794.

161 Trustees Minutes, April 14, 1796.

162 After graduating, Snowden returned to Princeton forinde­pendentstudy. He kept a journal from 1783 to 1785 which gives a good picture of the life of a "graduate student" of the period. (MS in Presbyterian Historical Society, microfilm copy in Prince­ton University Library.)

163 Alumni.Files, Princeton University Archives.

164 Ibid., and Dictionary of American Biography.

165 Alumni Files, Princeton University Archives, and Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, r 6yo‑r 82 0 (Worcester, Mass.: American Antiquarian Society, 1947)

166 Hofstadter and Smith, American Higher Education, 1, 161.

167 Ibid., 1,46.

168 Shores, American College Library, pp.207‑2o8.

169 Ibid., p.187.

170 Potter and Bolton, The Librarians of Harvard College, p. 28.

171 ADS, Samuel Stanhope Smith, October lo, 1787. Maclean Papers, Princeton University Archives. Unfortunately the names of the faculty members are not given, for this is one of the periods when the identity of the Librarian is not recorded in the Trustees Minutes.

172 Treasurer's receipts in Maclean Papers.

173 Ibid.

174 Potter and Bolton, The Librarians of Harvard College, pp. 2‑3.


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