« PreviousContinue »
The letter to Johnson, which accompanied 'the instrument of conveyance,' has not been published, or even referred to in any sketch of his life and benefactions; and that to Rector Williams is not to be found among the archives of Yale College.
Letter of Dean Berkeley to Dr. Johnson. REF. SIR,
LONDON, July 25, 1732. Some part of the benefactions to the College of Bermuda, which I could not return, the benefactors being deceased, joined with the assistance of some living friends, has enabled me, without any great loss to myself, to dispose of my farm in Rhode Island in favor of the College in Connecticut. It is my opinion, that as human learning and the improvements of Reason are of no small use in Religion, so it would very much forward those ends, if some of your students were enabled to subsist longer at their studies, and if by a public trial and premium an Emulation were inspired into all. This method of encouragement hath been found useful in other learned societies, and I think it can not fail of being so in one where a person so well qualified as yourself has such influence, and will bear a share in the elections. I have been a long time indisposed with a great disorder in my head; this makes any application hurtful to me, which must ex. cuse my not writing a longer letter on this occasion. · The letter you sent by Mr. Beach I received, and did him all the service I could with the Bishop of London and the Society. He promised to call on me before his return, but have not heard of him, so am obliged to recommend this packet to Mr. Newman's care. It contains the instrument of conveyance in form of law, together with a letter for Mr. President Williams, which you will deliver to him. I shall make it my endeavor to procure a benefaction of books for the College library, and am not without hopes of success. There hath of late been published here a treatise against those who are called Free Thinkers, which I intended to have sent to you and some other friends in those parts, but on second thoughts, suspect it might do mischief to have it known in that part of the world what pernicious opinions are boldly espoused here at home. My little family, I thank God, are well
. My best wishes attend you and yours. My wife joins her services with mine. I shall be glad to hear from you by the first opportunity after this hath come to your hands. Direct your letter to Lord Percival, at his house in Pall Mall, London, and it will be sure to find me wherever I am. On all occasions I shall be glad to show that I am very truly, Rev. Sir, your faithful humble servant,
GEOR. BERKELEY. Johnson, in his autobiography, mentions that 'the Trustees, though they made an appearance of much thankfulness, were almost afraid to accept the noble donation,'-suspecting a proselytizing design, and remembering the effect in previous years of Anglican divinity upon the minds of some of their leading scholars. But wiser counsels prevailed, the books and lands were received, and Berkeley maintained a friendly correspondence with the authorities of the College to the end of his life.
In a letter to Dr. Johnson in 1735, the Bishop of Cloyne (in which see Dean Berkeley was consecrated in 1733), after expressing his satisfaction that a mem. ber of his own family, Benjamin Nicoll, had won the position of scholar of the house, remarks:
One principal end proposed by me was to promote a better understanding with the Dissenters, and so by degrees to lessen their dislike to our communion; to which end methought the improving their minds with liberal studies might greatly conduce, as I am very sensible that your own discreet behavior and living toward them, hath very much forwarded the same effect.
Dr. Johnson, who had attended the public examinations in Greek and Latin, to which he was invited as senior Episcopal missionary in the colony, according to the terms of Berkeley's gift, wrote in 1739, that his scholarship had greatly advanced classical learning in the college.
Bishop Berkeley to Dr. Johnson of Stratford. Rev, SIR,
CLOYNE August 23, 1749. I am obliged for the account you have sent me of the prosperous estate of learning in your College of New Haven. I approve of the regulations made there, and am particularly pleased to find your sons have made such a progress as appears from their elegant address to me in the Latin tongue. It must indeed give me a very sensible satisfaction to hear that my weak endeavors have been of some use and service to that part of the world.
For the rest, I am glad to find a spirit toward learning prevail in those parts, particularly New York, where you say a college is projected, which has my best wishes. At the same time I am sorry that the condition of Ireland, containing such numbers of poor uneducated people, for whose sake Charity Schools are erecting throughout the kingdom, obligeth us to draw charities from England; so far are we from being able to extend our bounty to New York, a country in proportion much richer than our own. But as you are pleased to desire my advice upon this undertaking, I send the following hints to be enlarged and improved by your own judgment.
I would not advise the applying to England for charters or statutes (which might cause great trouble, expense, and delay), but to do the business quietly within themselves.
I believe it may suffice to begin with a President and two Fellows. If they can procure but three fit persong, I doubt not the college from the smallest beginnings would soon grow considerable: I should conceive good hopes were you at the head of it.
Let them by all means supply themselves out of the seminaries in New Eng. land. For I am very apprehensive none can be got in Old England (who are willing to go) worth sending.
Let the Greek and Latin classics be well taught. Be this the first care as to learning. But the principal care must be good life and morals to which (as well as to study) early hours and temperate meals will much conduce.
If the terms for degrees are the same as in Oxford and Cambridge, this would give credit to the College, and pave the way for admitting their graduates ad cundem in the English universities.
Small premiums in books, or distinctions in habit, may prove useful encouragements to the students.
I would advise that the building be regular, plain, and cheap, and that each student have a small room (about ten feet square) to himself
I recommended this nascent seminary to an English bishop, to try what might be done there. But by his answer it seems the colony is judged rich enough to educate its own youth.
Colleges from small beginnings grow great by subsequent bequests and benefactions. A small matter will suffice to set one a going. And when this is once well done, there is no doubt it will go on and thrive. The chief concern must be to set out in a good method, and introduce, from the very first, a good taste into the society. For this end, the principal expense should be in making a handsome provision for the President and Fellows.
Dr. Franklin to Dr. Johnson of Stratford. REV. SIR,—
PHILADELPHIA, August 9, 1750. At my return home, I found your favor of June the 28th, with the Bishop of Cloyne's letter inclosed, which I will take care of, and beg leave to keep a little longer.
Mr. Francis, our Attorney General, who was with me at your house, from the conversation then had with you, and reading some of your pieces, has conceived an esteem for you equal to mine. The character we have given of you to the other trustees, and the sight of your letters relating to the Academy, bas made them very desirous of engaging you in that design, as a person whose experience and judgment would be of great use in forming rules and establishing good methods in the beginning, and whose name for learning would give it a reputation. We only lament that, in the infant state of our funds, we can pot make you an offer equal to your merit. But as the view of being useful has most weight with generous and benevolent minds, and in this affair you may do great service, not only to the present but to future generations, I flatter myself sometimes that if you were here, and saw things as they are, and conversed a little with our people, you might be prevailed with to remove. I would therefore earnestly press you to make us a visit as soon as you conveniently can; and in the mean time, let me represent to you some of the circumstances as they appear to me.
1. The Trustees of the Academy are applying for a charter, which will give an opportunity of improving and modeling our constitution in such a manner as, when we have your advice, shall appear best. I suppose we shall have power to form a regular college.
2. If you undertake the management of the English Education, I am satisfied the Trustees would, on your account, make the salary £100 pounds sterling, (they have already voted £150 currency, which is not far from it), and pay the charge of your removal. Your son might also be employed as tutor at £60 or perhaps £70 per annum.
3. It has been long observed, that our church is not sufficient to accommodate near the number of people who would willingly have seats there. The buildings increase very fast toward the south end of the town, and many of the principal merchants now live there; which being at a considerable distance from the present church, people begin to talk much of building another, and ground has been offered as a gift for that purpose. The Trustees of the Acad. emy are, three-fourths of them, members of the Church of England, and the rest men of moderate principles. They have reserved in the building a large hall for occasional preaching, public lectures, orations, etc.; it is 70 feet by 60, furnished with a handsome pulpit, seats, etc. In this Mr. Tennent collected his congregation, who are now building him a meeting-house. In the same place, by giving now and then a lecture, you might, with equal ease, collect a congregation that would, in a short time, build you a church, if it should be agreeable to you.
In the meantime, I imagine you will receive something considerable yearly, arising from marriages and christening in the best families, etc., not to mention presents that are not unfrequent from a wealthy people to a minister they like; and though the whole may not amount to more than a due support, yet I think it will be a comfortable one. And when you are well settled in a church of
your own, your son may be qualified by years and experience to succeed you in the Academy; or if you rather choose to continue in the Academy, your son might probably be fixed in the Church.
These are my private sentiments, which I have communicated only to Mr. Francis, who entirely agrees with me. I acquainted the Trustees that I would write to you, but could give them no dependence that you would be prevailed on to remore. They will, however, treat with no other till I have your answer.
You will see by our newspaper, which I inclose, that the Corporation of this city have voted £200 down, and £100 a year out of their revenues to the Trustees of the Academy. As they are a perpetual body, choosing their own successors, and so not subject to be changed by the caprice of a governor or of the people, and as eighteen of the members (some the most leading) are of the Trustees, we look on this donation to be as good as so much real estate; being confident it will be continued as long as it is well applied, and even increased, if there should be occasion. We have now near £5,000 subscribed, and expect some considerable sums besides may be procured from the merchants of London trading hither. And as we are in the center of the Colonies, a healthy place, with plenty of provisions, we suppose a good Academy here may draw dumbers of youth for education from the neigliboring Colonies, and even from the West Indies.
In reply to Dr. Johnson's answer presenting the difficulties in the way of his accepting Dr. Franklin's proposal, and an invitation from Rev. Richard Peters to visit Philadelphia, Dr. Franklin wrote again on the 23d of August, 1750:
DEAR SIR-We received your favor of the 16th inst. Mr. Peters will hardly have time to write to you per this post, and I must be short. Mr. Francis spent the last evening with me, and we were all glad to hear that you seriously meditate a visit after the middle of next month, and that you will inform us by a line when to expect you. We drank your health and Mrs. Johnson's, remembering your kind entertainment of us at Stratford.
I think, with you, that nothing is of more importance for the public weal, than to form and train up youth in wisdom and virtue. Wise and good men are, in my opinion, the strength of a state far more so than riches or arms, which, under the management of ignorance and wickedness, often draw on destruction, instead of promoting the safety of a people. And though the culture bestowed on youth be successful only with a few, yet the influence of those few, for the service in their power, may be very great. Even a single woman, that was wise, by her wisdom saved a city.
I think, also, that general virtue is more probably to be expected and obtained from the education of youth than from the exhortation of adult persons; bad habits and vices of the mind being, like diseases of the body, more easily prevented than cured.
I think, moreover, that talents for the education of youth are the gift of God; and that he on whom they are bestowed, whenever a way is opened for the use of them, is as strongly called as if he heard a voice from heaven. Nothing more surely pointing out duty, in a public service, than ability and opportunity of performing it.
I have not yet discoursed with Dr. Jenney concering your removal bither. You have reason, I own, to doubt whether your coming on the foot I proposed would not be disagreeable to him, though I think it ought not. For should his particular interest be somewhat affected by it, that ought not to stand in competition with the general good; especially as it can not be much affected, he being old, and rich, and without children. I will, however, learn his sentiments before the next post. But whatever influence they might have on your determinations about removing, they need have none on your intention of visiting. And if you favor us with the visit, it is not necessary that you should previously write to him to learn his dispositions about your removal, since you will see him, and when we are all together those things may be better settled in conversation than by letters at a distance. Your tenderness of the Church's peace is truly laudable; but, methinks, to build a new church in a growing place is not properly dividing but multiplying; and will really be a means of increasing the number of those who worship God in that way. Many who can not now be accommodated in the church go to other places or stay at home; and if we had another church, many, who go to other places or stay at home, would go to church. I suppose the interest of the Church has been far from suffering in Boston by the building of two new churches there in my memory. I had for several years nailed against the wall of my house, a pigeon-box that would hold six pair; and though they bred as fast as my neighbor's pigeons, I never had more than six pair; the old and strong driving out the young and weak, and obliging them to seek new habitations. At length I put up an additional box, with apartments for entertaining twelve pair more, and it was soon filled with inhabitants, by the overflowings of my first box and of others in the neighborhood. This I take to be a parallel case with the building a new church here.
On the 24th of December, Dr. Franklin addressed a letter to Dr. Johnson, who had made some suggestion as to the pamphlet issued by the former respecting an Academy :
DEAR SIR-I received your favor of the 11th inst., and thank you for the hint your give of the omission in the 'Idea.' The Sacred Classics' are read in the English school, though I forgot to mention them. And I shall propose at the meeting of the Schools, after the Holidays, that the English master read select portions of them daily with the prayers, as you advise.
But if you can be thus useful to us at this distance, how much more might you be so if you were present with us, and had the immediate inspection and government of the schools. I wrote to you in my last that Mr. Martin, our Rector, died suddenly of a quinsy. His body was carried to the church, respectfully attended by the trustees, all the masters and scholars in their order, and a great number of the citizens. Mr. Peters preached his funeral sermon, and gave him the just and honorable character he deserved. The schools are now broke up for Christmas, and will not meet again till the 7th of January. Mr. Peters took care of the Latin and Greek school after Mr. Martin's death till the breaking up. And Mr. Allison, a dissenting minister, has promised to con. tinue that care for a month after their next meeting. Is it impossible for you to make us a visit in that time; I hope by the next post to know something of your sentiments, that I may be able to speak more positively to the Trustees concerning the probability of your being prevailed with to remove hither.
The English master is Mr. Dove, a gentleman about your age, who formerly