Edwin L. (Edwin Luther) Green.

A history of the University of South Carolina online

. (page 3 of 38)
Online LibraryEdwin L. (Edwin Luther) GreenA history of the University of South Carolina → online text (page 3 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

into the ante-bellum college for any length of time.

Provision was made in the earliest bylaws for the degree
of master of arts to be conferred after a certain period on
those students who might apply for it.

On the report of Professor Smith and Tutor Hanckel
that the room in which the physical apparatus and the
chemicals were kept was too small, resulting in injury to
the apparatus, the board asked and obtained from the legis-
lature of 1815 the sum of f 6,000 for a science hall, to house
also the library in the second story. The building was
erected by Zachariah Philipps in accordance with the plans
furnished by the professors. An observatory had been
included in the original request, but was omitted as "an
unusual piece of work here." An additional |2,000 was
needed to finish the library and construct the observatory.
The latter was erected in the rear of DeSaussure College,
somewhat to the west of the later observatory.

President Maxcy reported to the board November 26, 1816,
of the year just passed: "I have spent nearly thirty years


in College business, and I can say with truth, that I
never knew an instance in which a College was conducted
with such order, peace, and industry, as this has been during
the past year. We have had no difficulty, except in a few
cases, from the resort of certain individuals to taverns and
other places of entertainment."

At the close of 1818 Professor Montgomery resigned and
was succeeded by Kobert Henry of Charleston. Tutor James
Camak also sent in his resignation; Hugh McMillan was
elected to the vacant tutorship.

Professor E. D. Smith died in the month of August, 1819,
while on a trip to Missouri, and in that state his body was
laid to rest. Professor Kobert Henry delivered at the
request of the trustees three years later an unexplained
delay a discourse commemorative of his character and
services. There is also extant a eulogy by one of the
students, C. G. Meminger, afterwards the distinguished
secretary of treasury for the Confederate States. Professor
Smith, according to all testimony, was a most energetic
member of the faculty, whose secretary he was for six years,
a skilful teacher, and one of the best chemists of the day.

At its meeting December 3rd, 1819, the board selected
as successor to Professor Smith, Thomas Cooper, M. 13., a
friend of Thomas Jefferson, elected professor in the newly
established University of Virginia but forced to resign on
account of his religious views, a native of England, from
which country he was compelled to migrate to America
because his political views were too democratic. He had
been a judge in Pennsylvania and professor of chemistry
at Dickinson College in that state. His election at the South
Carolina College was for a term of one year. Professor
Hanckel sent in his resignation at this meeting to take effect
at the end of twelve months. Timothy D. Porter was elected

The college had now been in existence fifteen years since
the opening of its doors. It had a faculty of five and a
student body of 100. There were two large dormitories
with recitation halls and certain public rooms, a Commons


Hall, a science and library building, an observatory, a presi-
dent's house and two double houses for professors. The
college was accomplishing its double purpose of educating
, and unifying the people. Every effort was made to keep
abreast of the times; money was freely given by the legis-
lature, for all recognized that to make the college the equal
of any institution in the country money was necessary. Its
alumni had time to make themselves felt. It was only two
years before that Judge Huger said on the floor of the House
of Representatives that if the South Carolina College had
done nothing more than educate George McDuffie she had
repaid all the money that the State had expended on her.
The chief guiding hand during these first years was that
of President Maxcy, who was soon forever to lay down his
task. He had never been a man of robust health, in fact
had come to South Carolina for the sake of the climate.
The minutes of the faculty show, however, that in spite of
his growing weakness he was rarely absent from a meeting
even in the last days. He met with his colleagues for the
last time May 30, 1820. Five days later he died. Appro-
priate resolutions were passed by the trustees, the faculty,
and the students. Students bore the body to the grave and
wore the badge of mourning, a band of crepe on the left
arm, for thirty days. The board directed the treasurer to
pay Mrs. Maxcy one quarter's salary more than for the year,
and requested the governor to lay before the legislature the
wishes of the trustees that an annual sum be paid to Mrs.
Maxcy for the support of herself and the education of her
minor children. The legislature, however, did not comply
with the board's wishes in this matter.

Dr. Maxcy was in his fifty-second year at the time of his
death. The historian LaBorde was a student in the college
in 1820 and knew Doctor Maxcy and his family. Dr. LaBorde
relates that he was simple and unostentatious in his religion,
a member of the Baptist church and sincerely attached to
its faith, yet he preferred to dwell in his conversations and
discourses not on its distinctive peculiarities but rather on
the common grounds on which all Christians are agreed.


As a teacher he was unsurpassed. In addition to his presi-
dential duties he taught belles lettres, criticism, and
metaphysics with a clearness and an easy, facile and precise
expression that was the admiration of all. According to all
accounts, says Dr. LaBorde, he had no equal as an orator,
and in his reading there were a charm, a cadence, a some-
thing that was possessed by no other man. He was a good
but not critical scholar. In the words of Judge J. B. O'Neall,
who was a graduate of the year 1812, Dr. LaBorde describes
his effect on the students when he appeared among them:
"He had a peculiar majesty in his walk. Dressed in fair
top-boots, cane in hand, and walking through the Campus,
he was looked at with admiration by the young men. When
he entered the College Chapel for morning or evening
prayers, every student was erect in his place, and still as
death to receive him."

Professor Robert Henry eulogized the life and character
of President Maxcy in a discourse held in the chapel. Five
years later the Clariosophic Society decided to erect a monu-
ment to his memory and raised the money necessary to
carry out ifcs purpose. Permission was given by the board
to place the shaft in the center of the campus. Robert Mills,
the architect, furnished the design; Professor Henry put
into Latin the inscription, the English of which was com-
posed by George McDuffie. After two years the monument
was unveiled in 1827.

In April after his election to the chair of chemistry for
one year Dr. Cooper was made permanent professor of chem-
istry; the trustees resolved at a subsequent meeting to ask
the legislature for an appropriation of fl,000 to establish
a professorship of geology and mineralogy to be committed
to the charge of the professor of chemistry. On December 2
following the death of President Maxcy the presidency was
offered to Stephen Elliott, who declined the proffered honor.
On the 15th of the same month Dr. Cooper was made presi-
dent pro tempore, with the duties of the office divided
between him and Professors Henry and Wallace, the latter
having been recently elected to the chair of mathematics.
Dr. Cooper became permanent president December 1, 1821,
by a vote of ten to nine in the board.

3 H. U.




Dr. Cooper was president of the South Carolina College
from December 1, 1821, to November 29, 1833. He entered
upon his duties "almost idolized for his genius and learn-
ing." His address to the graduating class of 1821 so pleased
the board that they had it published. His collection of
minerals valued at $3,000 was purchased and formed the
basis of the present collection, although mineralogical speci-
mens had been presented by Professor Perault; but these
were few in number. The chair of chemistry which had
been Dr. Cooper's first appointment was turned over to
Lardner Vanuxem, who was elected on December 3, 1821,
professor of geology and mineralogy, acting also as adjunct
professor of chemistry, to serve one year. Part of the work
in chemistry Dr. Cooper seems always to have kept, although
in the preface to his Lectures on Political Economy he says
that he taught belles lettres, criticism, and logic until the
end of 1824. His lectures on political economy were delivered
to the senior class; they had been begun in 1823 when the
trustees had requested him to take up the subject of meta-
physics. Dr. Cooper replied to the request: "that he pro-
fesses himself qualified and competent to teach Metaphysics,
having devoted much more time to that very unsatisfactory
study than most men; so much so as to be fully persuaded
that it is not worth the time required to be bestowed
upon it." He proposed to substitute a course of political
economy, to which the trustees agreed.

Almost from the beginning Dr. Cooper had difficulty with
discipline. Coming to Columbia from the North and at an
age when his views of education were fixed, he was unable
to understand the Southern youth. He had no appreciation
of their ideas of honor and thought that the only way to


govern them was by a system of espionage, and asked "if
their own police (of the students) could be established for
any good purpose," for he regarded their contentions as
merely a combination to defeat the ends of discipline and
to shelter one another. Dr. Cooper wrote to Thomas Jeffer-
son in 1823 in reply to a request for information as to the
progress of Mr. Jefferson's nephew, Eppes, that he had not
seen Mr. Eppes, because the students did not visit at the
houses of the professors, and that there was little inter-
course between the faculty and the students outside of the
classroom, owing to the fear of the latter that they might
be considered as trying to curry favor, an unforgivable sin
in their conventional code of ethics. Mr. Eppes, he said,
had not been to call on Mrs. Cooper. He also declared that
he did not believe a successful college could be maintained
south of Mason and Dixon's line, a sentiment which he
repeated from President Dwight of Yale. However, where
there were young ladies in the family of a president or
professor, the students did not carry out their ethical ideas
so strictly: James Gregg married one of Dr. Maxcy's
daughters, and Lesesne, who shared the first honor of the
class of 1832, married a daughter of Dr. Cooper. Dr. Marion
Sims, who graduated in the latter's class, records the belief
of the student body that the decision of the faculty in divid-
ing the first honor between Lesesne and Mitchell was
influenced by the knowledge that Lesesne was to marry
Miss Cooper. But it must be said in Dr. Cooper's favor
that he was harassed in 1823 by a very troublesome case
of discipline arising from an act peculiarly shameful, a
defiling of the pulpit of the chapel. The students were
required to exculpate themselves by answering "yes" or
"no" to the question whether they were concerned in the
act; but they rebelled on the ground that the faculty had
no right to call up the whole student body but should punish
the offender, and they declined to seek out the offender,
which they thought the faculty should do. The student who
committed the offence was permitted to remain on the
campus ; but as he had lied, the literary society to which he


belonged dropped him from its roll. He soon left the

The age below which a student could not enter the college
was in 1821 fixed at fifteen. After the commencement of
this year the first honor was declared by the board of trustees
to be the salutatory, which was delivered in Latin; the
valedictory was accounted the second honor. This order
prevailed so long as the system remained.

By nature Dr. Cooper was an agitator. He was an ardent
freetrader and a determined foe to centralized government.
No sooner had he entered the State than he began to rouse
the people to the danger from high tariff and to point out
the centralizing tendencies of the general government. The
first edition of his pamphlet on "Consolidation" appeared
in 1823. In it George McDuffie, then in congress, was taken
severely to task. In 1827 at a dinner in Columbia Dr.
Cooper uttered the memorable words, "It is time to calcu-
late the value of the Union," which set the Northern press
to raging at such treasonable utterance. South Carolina
was rent by two hostile factions; civil war was imminent.
There were many who blamed President Cooper for his part
in the strife and accused him of taking advantage of his
position to influence the political situation. This activity
of his was given by some as one cause for the low state of
the college.

Men are still found in South Carolina who have heard
from their fathers and they from their fathers, that
Thomas Cooper was an atheist and that his spirit still
hovers over the University. Many young men remained
away from the South Carolina College or went to other
states because Dr. Cooper lost no occasion to deride
Christianity, often going out of his way to do so. The
whole trend of thought at the college was represented as
atheistic. Finally the storm broke in the trial by the board
in the hall of the House of Representatives to determine
whether President Cooper's views on religion were injurious
to the best interests of the college.


The intellectual activity of the college was great. Beside
the president, Professor Henry Junius Nott shone as a
writer of the first rank; Professor Robert Henry was the
"scholar" of the old college, although he wrote but little;
Professor Wallace was a contributor to "The Southern
Review," author of a book "On the Globes"; Lardner
Vanuxein began but did not finish a geological survey of
the State and was a frequent contributor to the scientific
journals of the country; the two Gibbes, Robert W. and
Lewis, were just beginning their careers. A Mr. Michaelo-
witz was engaged to teach French and Hebrew to classes in
the college, and after one year became a regular member of
the faculty as teacher of oriental and modern languages.
James H. Thornwell wrote to his patron November 13, 1830,
that he would begin the study of German on January 1.
"I am anxious," he continues, "to understand that language.
It is a common acquisition at the North."

The steward's hall produced its usual disturbances,
usually in the early spring, or in February. President
Cooper complains to the board that every year about the
time mentioned the college was in danger of being disrupted
by troubles over food. In February, 1827, a committee
from the students informed the president that a large
majority of their number had agreed to leave the hall from
the 1st of March. The students would listen to no reasoning
on the matter, so that the faculty was compelled to enforce
the law and suspend the offenders. The seniors engaged
in the revolt were reported to the board for expulsion,
which affirmed the action of the professors; others were
allowed to reenter on a pledge not to form or countenance
a combination to oppose the laws of the college. Twenty-
four seniors were expelled, only twelve remaining in the
class. Apparently no honors were awarded at the com-
mencement in December. No catalogue was issued in 1828
on account of the small numbers. A committee of the
trustees appointed to consider and report on the system
of commons presented their findings that, "in most cases
where the system of College discipline has obliged the


students to board in Commons, discontent and disorder have
followed, and wherever the students have their option to
board either at Commons or at private houses, order and
satisfaction have prevailed." In accordance with this report
the board decided that students with written permission
from their parents and guardians might board in such
families and in such private boarding houses as might be
licensed by the faculty. This brought quiet for a time.

A resolution of the faculty passed in 1829 ordered that
"no certificate shall be received from any teacher unless
written in Latin. Also, that applicants for admission shall
address themselves in the Latin language to the Faculty,
and that this exercise shall be performed in the presence
of the Faculty." A similar requirement was later made
in regard to applicants for the higher degree. No reference
was afterward made to this rule, which appears to have been
a dead letter.

Two students were "shooting guns at the back of the
town during chapel service" and received as punishment
fifty lines of Vergil's Aeneid to be learned by heart and
recited before the faculty at its next meeting. Twenty lines
were assigned at another time. A certain young man resid-
ing in the town was permitted to remain at college "pro-
vided he was not seen on the campus after 2 p. m." A custom
had grown up that the students should stay away from their
classes, if the weather was too inclement. Naturally the
sky was watched with anxious eyes, and not many clouds
were necessary to make a storm. On one occasion the
students did not attend prayers and recitations for two
whole days. President Cooper complained that he had
walked through the rain without any inconvenience, and
yet they had refused to attend his recitations and had
resented his sending a monitor to remind them. A general
rebellion broke out because they had been summoned.
However, "friendly expostulation" in the chapel on the part
of the faculty ended the affair.

The coming of General LaFayette to Columbia in March,
1825, gave the students a week's holiday. A cadet company


was formed to take part in the ceremonies of the reception
and gave so much satisfaction that it remained permanently
organized, receiving arms from the State. Provision was
made, however, that the arms must not be kept on the
campus, but must be returned to the public armory. A
reception was held on the campus in honor of the distin-
guished visitor, and the Euphradian Society elected him
an honorary member.

Professor Lardner Vanuxem resigned, November 3, 1827,
requesting an immediate acceptance of his resignation, as
he had a lucrative offer which required immediate answer.
He was elected professor of geology and mineralogy
December 3, 1821, at a salary of one thousand dollars. In
the spring of 1824 he tendered his resignation to take effect
the following December ; but when he suggested to the board
the making of a geological survey of the State, the idea so
pleased this body that a request for an appropriation was
made to the legislature, which granted the necessary amount,
and Professor Vanuxem was placed on an equal footing with
the other professors with the understanding that he should
employ his vacant time in prosecuting the survey. He spent
only one year in this work, with the result that the survey
was never completed. The historian LaBorde quotes the
following extract from a letter from him to Dr. R. W. Gibbes
in 1845: "I am sorry to hear from Mr. Tuomey, that the
collection I left at Columbia of the only year given to the
Survey of the State has, in a great measure, disappeared;
and the map of the State, colored to the extent of the parts
examined, in accordance with its rocks, &c., and which I
nailed to the wall of the lecture-room, is not to be found."

As the duties of the professorship of mineralogy were
assumed by Dr. Cooper without additional compensation,
Robert Wilson Gibbes was elected his assistant.

In his report to the board, November 30, 1831, Dr. Coopei
embodied his conviction of the necessity of having a free
college as well as free schools. This view he further elabo-
rated in his Manual of Political Economy published in 1833,
where he outlined a liberal course of State education.


Education, he declared in his report, was confined to the
few in South Carolina, and the great mass of the people
was in ignorance.

The illustrious Dr. Marion Sims, who graduated in 1832
from the South Carolina College thus describes Dr. Cooper :
"He was a man considerably over seventy years old, a
remarkable looking man. He was never called Dr. Cooper,
but 'Old Coot.' 'Coot' is short for 'eooter', a name generally
applied south to the terrapin, and the name suited him
exactly. He was less than five feet high, and his head was
the biggest part of the whole man. He was a perfect taper
from the side of his head down to his feet; he looked like
a wedge with a head on it. He was a man of great intellect
and remarkable learning. . . . Dr. Cooper exerted a bad
influence on the interests of the college. He was a pro-
nounced infidel, and every year lectured on the 'Authenticity
of the Pentateuch' to the senior class, generally six or eight
weeks before their graduation.

"There was no necessity for his delivering this lecture.
It did not belong to his chair of political economy. Nor
was it necessary as president. I have always wondered why
the trustees of the college permitted him to go out of the
routine of the duties of his office and deliver a lecture of
this sort to a set of young men just starting out in the
world. I am amazed at this late day, that a country as
full of Presbyterianism and bigotry as that was at that
time should have tolerated a man in his position, especially
when advocating and lecturing upon such an unnecessary
subject. Dr. Cooper lived before his day. If he had
flourished now, in the days of Darwin, Tyndall and Huxley,
he would have been a greater infidel than any or all three
of them put together."

Dr. Cooper considered the teachings of Christianity as a
form of error, and, as Dr. Meriwether has pointed out in his
"Higher Education in South Carolina," "according to the
ideas he held, it must be corrected like any other error. It
filled a large part of the time of many people and occupied
a large space in the world, and its falsity must be shown,


just as he would show the false position of the pro-
tectionists; it must be met, combated, and overthrown, just
as any false theory in political economy must be over-

The annual lecture of Dr. Cooper and his pamphlet on
the Connection between Geology and the Pentateuch were
the greatest cause of offense. They were occasioned by the
lack of text-books on geology, for when he began to lecture
at the South Carolina College, he and Professor Silliman of
Yale were the only two lecturers on geology in the country.
Professor Silliman brought out an edition of an English
book, in which he inserted a syllabus of his own lectures
"founded on the Mosaic account of the formation of the
earth and of the Deluge, as being delivered under the
authority of divine inspiration." This book Dr. Cooper had
to use, and in order to contravert a view of geology different
from his own, he attacked Silliman in a lecture before his
class. From the mountains to the seaboard the cry went
up of "reorganization ! revolution !" But the trustees held
firm. There was no way to reach the president of the college
except through the legislature. Accordingly, on December
7, 1831, a resolution was introduced into the House of
Representatives declaring that, "it is expedient that the
board of trustees of the South Carolina College do forthwith
investigate the conduct of Doctor Cooper as president of
the South Carolina College, and if they find that his contin-
uance in office defeats the ends and aims of the institution
that they be requested to remove him." The committee of
the board, to whom the matter had been referred for investi-
gation, reported on the 14th; Dr. Cooper also at the same
time sent to the board an elaborate reply. The case was
allowed to rest until May to give Dr. Cooper time to produce
certain witnesses which he desired. When the May meeting
arrived, so few trustees were in attendance that it was
deemed most advisable to let the further proceedings wait
until the December meeting. On the 4th of December in
the Hall of the House of Representatives the trial proceeded
before the trustees. Dr. Cooper was present and began an

Online LibraryEdwin L. (Edwin Luther) GreenA history of the University of South Carolina → online text (page 3 of 38)