Edwin L. (Edwin Luther) Green.

A history of the University of South Carolina online

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succeeded by Matthew J. Williams, another West Pointer.
Charles P. Pelham, of the class of 1838, was elected to the
vacant chair of Latin.

On the death of John C. Calhoun March 18, 1850, the
students requested that a eulogy on him should be assigned
to some one of the participants in the May exhibition. The
eulogy was made by James H. Kion, a protege of Mr.
Calhoun. When George McDuffie died the following year,
Joseph B. Allston of the senior class delivered a similar

The spring of 1850 brought a serious riot, which ended
in the suspension of sixty men of the junior class. During
the absence of Professor Thornwell his periods were given
to Professor Brumby. The juniors refused to attend on


the ground that in the absence of a professor his periods
could not be assigned to another. They burnt all their
chemistries in a huge bonfire in front of Professor Brumby's
house. Two poems by juniors, and a consolation poem from
the pen of a sophomore, have survived to commemorate the

The old observatory, which was in the garden attached
to Professor Williams's house, was replaced by a new struc-
ture completed in 1851. This latter had a revolving dome
and was equipped with a seven-inch telescope. But the
subject of astronomy did not have the importance attached
to it in a college curriculum to keep up an observatory, so
that when the machinery of the dome became unmanageable,
the study suffered. During the occupancy of the buildings
by the Confederate government and afterwards by the
federals the observatory fell into a state of ruin; the tele-
scope was stolen for old brass in 1867.

On account of the large number of students and the
smallness of the faculty the period of recitation was
extended for trial to one hour and twenty minutes. This
not working well, the two upper classes were divided into
two sections, each reciting forty-five minutes; the two sec-
tions occupied one hour and a half. By 1853 the one hour
periods were again in force.

In March, 1851, a spark set fire to the roof of West
DeSaussure, which blazed so furiously in a few minutes
that the students in the upper story were unable to save
their furniture. The fire was stopped at the wall of the
center building, which was saved with great difficulty. The
president's house was in danger. The burned portion was
rebuilt by the opening of the college in October.

Since the first years of Dr. Cooper's administration the
freshman class had been very small, sometimes almost dis-
appearing: newcomers applied for the sophomore class,
more rarely for the junior, and such was the excellence of
the preparatory schools, that they rarely failed to enter the
higher classes. Recommendation was made to the board in
1850 that the entrance requirements be raised, in order


that there might be a freshman class. This was done, with
a consequent increase of the freshmen.

The college was deeply stirred by the political agitation
of the "Cooperation Movement." In the early months of
1851 a Southern Rights Association was formed on the
campus and undertook to memorialize the other colleges of
the South. An address was prepared and printed and per-
haps distributed. With this the activity of the association
seems to have ended.

President Preston's last report to the board November
26, 1851, contains suggestions for the helping of poor
students who wish to make their own way. He says that
a number of poor young men paid their way by "teaching,
writing, or other small jobs." He does not mention the
help he himself gave; but we know that he gave at least
one student board at his own table. This suggestion from
Mr. Preston is most interesting in view of the general belief
that before the war of 1860 a young man had no opportunity
to work his way at a Southern college.

In May, 1850, Mr. Preston gave in his resignation to the
trustees on account of his bad health, but as he had improved
by the close of the year, it was withdrawn. However, the
improvement proving only temporary, he again tendered
his resignation November 26, 1851, when it was accepted.
Dr. Lieber acted as president until the 2nd of December,
when Professor Thornwell was elected to succeed Mr. Pres-
ton. Mr. Preston continued his connection with the college
as a trustee until his health compelled him in 1857 to with-
draw. As a trustee he endeavored to turn the college into
a university; but the opposition of Dr. Thornwell, who
wished the institution to remain strictly classical, was
strong enough to defeat his purpose. Mr. Preston died in
Columbia, May 22, 1860, and was buried in Trinity church-




One of the first acts of President Thornwell was an effort
to have Professor Henry's labors lightened without affecting
his salary, in other words, to pension him for his long service
in the college. However, the trustees decided that they did
not have the authority to use the State's money in this way.

When Professor Lieber was acting as president imme-
diately after the resignation of Mr. Preston, he suggested
in his report to the board that it would be advisable to erect
a new chapel or remodel the old one, which had long been
too small to accommodate the crowds at commencement and
on other occasions. It was also felt that Dr. Thornwell,
who was one of the greatest divines of the time, should have
a suitable auditorium for the display of his oratorical
powers. At the instance of the trustees the legislature
appropriated the sum of f 10,000, to which was added the
further sum required to complete the structure from the
annual saving in the general funds. The contract called
for the completion of the building by October 1, 1853, but
the work was carried on so slowly that it was not finished
before the middle of 1855. Dr. Thornwell preached in it
for the first time April 22, 1855, and found that it was badly
adapted for the transmission of sound. "Unless," said he
in his semi-annual report, "one speaks very slowly and very
moderately, the voice is lost in the echo, and it is impossible
for the hearer to distinguish what is said. Everything like
emotion is effectually suppressed."

Many unsuccessful attempts have been made to remedy
the defect. The old chapel had to be resorted to in spite
of its smallness, and to the present day a new and inviting
chapel to accommodate a fair-sized audience has been sadly


The trustees having refused a petition of the students that
the Commons system be changed, the latter again memorial-
ized them at their annual meeting November 24, 1852, at
the same time secretly agreeing to withdraw from the college
by taking dismissals, if their memorial was disregarded.
President Thornwell assured the board in his report that
the system had for years been odious and that the students
literally loathed the establishment. He felt the embarrass-
ment of the question thus put, and the board also fully
understood its importance; but to grant the request was to
yield to the spirit of rebellion, while to refuse any conces-
sion meant the loss of upwards of a hundred young men.
The secret pledge to withdraw had become known. A com-
mittee from the trustees was appointed to confer with the
committee of the students. Dr. Thornwell addressed another
letter to the board urging that it should not rigidly enforce
the law in regard to combinations, and that the system
.should be so modified as to remove all cause of complaint.
At the same time a memorial from thirty students who had
not entered the combination was presented asking for
modification of the Commons. When the matter was again
in a few days presented to the trustees, they disposed of
the situation by resolving that the recommendations of the
president and the memorial of the thirty students were
entitled to the favorable consideration of the board, and
that a committee be appointed to report next May on the
best way to carry out the recommendation of the president.
As the memorial of the pledged students had not been suc-
cessful in securing immediate relief, they felt that they
must in accordance with their pledge leave the institution.
This caused the number of students to fall to 122 in 1853.
It was the last of the rebellions on account of tha Commons
and is known to tradition as the "Great Biscuit Rebellion."
A system of licensed boarding houses was adopted by the
board at its meeting in the following May; the Commons
were continued with voluntary attendance.

Dr. Thornwell urged in his report November 24, 1852, a
shortening of the session, the adoption of prizes as had been


proposed eight years before, and written instead of oral
examinations. His suggestion to shorten the session was
adopted to the extent of increasing the holiday in December
so as to begin on the second Monday in December and end
on the first Monday in January. The following prizes were
offered at the next meeting of the board : for the best Latin
composition by a sophomore, a gold medal; for the best
English composition by a junior, a gold medal; for the best
essay on some subject of moral or natural philosophy, or
logic, by a senior, a gold medal ; and a prize in elocution for
juniors and seniors. In all cases the subjects were to be
assigned by the faculty.

The first written examinations were held in June, 1854.
They continued so long that the faculty shortened them to
three hours and so limited them. The questions were
printed. A pledge was required that no aid had been
received during the examination. Professor Henry con-
tinued to examine his classes orally until his death in 1856.

Professor Williams was forced on account of ill health
to resign at the end of 1853 : he had been unable to examine
his classes the previous June. His successor, elected Decem-
ber 7, 1853, was Charles F. McCay, a native of Pennsylvania,
a professor in the University of Georgia. Dr. LaBorde
attributes to Professor Williams a high order of ability as
scholar and teacher, "a mathematician by genius and by
education." "It is probable," he adds, "that no one ever filled
the chair in the South Carolina College with greater ability."

College Hall, which was not completed by the end of 1854,
was used for the commencement exercises by permission of
the contractors. As the semi-centennial of the opening of
the college would have occurred a few days later, January
10, 1855, the exercises in celebration of this event were held
at the same time as the commencement. President Thorn-
well delivered the address to the graduating class. Hon.
James L. Petigru, a gifted and illustrious graduate of the
class of 1809, delivered the semi-centennial oration, recalling
the faculty and students of his day and reviewing the suc-
cessful accomplishment by the college of the purposes for


which it was founded. At this time there was also formed
an alumni association with Hon. John L. Manning as

President Thornwell and the professors concurred in
praising the students for their exceptionally good deport-
ment and application to study during 1854, which induced
Dr. LaBorde to count this year as one of the most brilliant
in the history of the college.

On the 15th of the following February the board was
called together to consider ways and means to rebuild Rut-
ledge College, the greater part of which had been destroyed
by fire. It seems that on the 26th of January a spark lodged
in the blinds of the cupola and fanned by the high wind
soon had the center building in a blaze. All efforts to extin-
guish the flames were in vain. The chapel and East Rutledge
were reduced to ruins, West Rutledge was so injured that it
was necessary to rebuild it. As the legislature would not
convene until December, so that a whole year would be lost
if no action was taken before, the trustees resolved to con-
tract, if reasonable terms could be had, for the reconstruc-
tion of the burned and injured portions. Through the
assistance of the Governor, a contractor was found who
agreed to take part payment for work and wait for the
balance until the legislature made the appropriation. The
building was ready for occupancy on the 1st of October.
No difficulty was experienced in securing the appropriation.

President ThornwelPs last report was made November
28, 1855 : he had sent in his resignation the previous Novem-
ber. In this report he urged the importance of keeping the
college strictly a classical institution, which should turn
out scholars, not sappers or miners, or doctors or apothe-
caries or farmers, and should be "the Institution of the
South/' He suggested a shortening of the undergraduate
course to three years and the adding of one year of graduate
work. His biographer, Dr. Palmer, says that Dr. Thornwell
considered the first object of education to be "the discipline
of the mind, to elicit its dormant powers, and to train these
for vigorous self-action; whilst the mere acquisition of


knowledge he regarded as secondary in importance. His
favorite idea was to restrict undergraduates to studies by
which the mind may be systematically developed; and at
the close of a prescribed and compulsory curriculum, to
engraft upon the college the main features of the University
system, with its large and varied apparatus for the fuller
communication of knowledge." Mr. Preston, now a member
of the board of trustees, was urging that the college should
be changed into a university. The influence of Dr. Thornwell
was for the time able to thwart Mr. Preston's purpose.

The synod of the Presbyterian Church in Georgia, acting
on the advice of the synod of South Carolina, elected
Dr. Thornwell to a chair in the Columbia Theological Semi-
nary. This was the occasion of his resignation from the
college. He also became pastor of the Presbyterian Church
in Columbia and editor of the Southern Presbyterian
Review. His labors were very arduous even for a man of
robust constitution, which Dr. Thornwell was not. He
threw himself heart and soul into the conflict with the North
and was one of the chief movers in forming the Southern
Presbyterian Church. His intense spirit wore out his body
before the war had ended its second year. He died August
1, 1862, and was buried in the churchyard of the First Pres-
byterian Church at Columbia.

President Thornwell exercised over the students a won-
derful influence; "his moral power in the College was
superior even to the authority of the law." His full sympathy
with all the aspirations of youth, his genius and learning,
and the conviction that he produced of his own honesty and
fairness won him this moral power. He took great interest
in the religious life of the students, and many owed their
conversion to Christianity to his appeals. During the last
year of his presidency he collected and published a series of
"Discourses on Truth," which he had delivered in the chapel.

By a bare majority Professor McCay was elected to be
ThornwelPs successor. Professor Lieber resigned next day,
December 5, chagrined that he had not been the new presi-
dent, as perhaps his long service claimed as his desert. He


Robert Henry, 1841-1845.
James H. Thornwell, 1851-1855.

William C. Preston, 1846-1851.
Charles F. McCay, 1856-1857.


was anxious to reach the presidency; but while his friends
in the State and on the board wished him to lead the college,
his views on the subject of abolition, which he favored, and
his failure as a disciplinarian defeated him. He had never
regarded himself at home in the South, but rather as an
exile. He held slaves, which he sold when he left Columbia,
although he wrote to his Northern friends in abhorrence of
slavery and favored the movement of the abolitionist party.
He remained in Columbia a little over twenty-one years,
because he could here make a living, which he had not been
able to do in the North. Here on the campus of the college
in the western half of the double house facing the library he
did the work of his life writing his Manual of Political
Ethics, Essay on Property and Labor, Hermeneutics,
Treatise on Civil Liberty and Self-Government, which
received the highest praise from the best minds of this
country and of Europe. Professor Lieber was a great
teacher: he never confined himself to a text book; his own
vast storehouse of learning was such as to enable him to
call up parallels from ancient and modern times. He
"expounded his subject in terse, familiar language" with
copious and happy illustrations. He required collateral
reading for each recitation; his room was ornamented with
busts of great men of all times ; he believed in prizes properly
guarded. As a disciplinarian he was not a success. When
he went away, the alumni passed complimentary resolutions
at regret for his departure and presented him with two
large massive silver vessels in token of their regard and
admiration. From the South Carolina College he went to
Columbia University as professor of History and Political

Professor McCay was the candidate of Dr. Thornwell, who
had no expectation that he would be elected ; but had hoped
to defeat Professor Lieber and to run a dark horse. Unfor-
tunately Professor McCay was elected. To use his own
words in regard to his position: "My election as President
of the College had met with violent opposition in the State,
in the public press, in the city of Columbia, and among the


Trustees. The reasons for this, published in the newspapers,
and repeated by the students in private conversation,
lessened my influence over the young men, encouraged dis-
content and dissatisfaction, and made it almost impossible
to govern the College." He was also not the choice of the
faculty, although he himself says the professors always gave
him friendly and steady support. From the very beginning
of his administration there were disturbances on the campus,
once a midnight "tin-pan" serenade before the president's
house. Dr. Henry died on the 6th of February, 1856, and
college exercises were suspended for a week, in fact for three
days longer, as Dr. Henry was not buried until the 15th.
During this interval the college was in a state of excitement.
On the 16th the students met and passed a resolution asking
the trustees for a reorganization of the faculty ; the memorial
to the board was signed by nearly all the student body. A
riot between the students and the police of the town took
place on the night of the 18th, which broke out afresh on
the following morning when two students attempted to beat
the chief marshal. The cry of "College" brought the students
armed with their guns which had been furnished them as
members of the cadet corps. The alarm bell was rung in
the town, the militia was assembled, and the students and
the soldiers were arrayed against each other. A fight was
imminent. The professors who had run to the spot from a
faculty meeting and the trustees present in the town could
do nothing. A happy thought occurred to some one to send
to the seminary for Dr. Thornwell. When he appeared on
the scene, he called on the students to accompany him to
the campus and there discuss the difficulty. There reason
prevailed, and the students returned to their rooms. On
order of the trustees the arms were taken from them and
the cadet company was disbanded. Disturbances of various
kinds continued until near the middle of April.

A violent congestive attack in the summer of 1855 had
made it impossible for Professor Brumby to take up his
work in the fall ; but the trustees were unwilling that he
should give up his position at least for a year in the hope


that his health would improve. Dr. John LeConte, professor
of chemistry in the University of Georgia, was invited to
discharge the duties of Professor Brumby's department until
the close of the year. When it was found that Professor
Brumby would be unable to return, Professor Joseph
LeConte of the University of Georgia was elected to the
chair of chemistry, and Dr. John LeConte was made pro-
fessor of Natural and Mechanical Philosophy November
29, 1856.

Dr. Henry's long service was closed by his death February
6, 1856. He had been connected with the college almost
continuously since 1818 as professor and as president. He
was the "scholar" of the faculty; but his great learning did
not obscure the simplicity and kindliness of his nature. He
was beloved by the professors, trustees and students. His
last years brought sickness and enfeebled health, so that he
often could not walk the mile from his home to the class-
room. The infirmity of age made him unable to rally from
an attack on the 3rd of February; three days later he died
suddenly from heart failure. The college exercises were in
consequence suspended for the remainder of the week, and
as the interment did not take place until the 15th, the duties
of the students were not resumed for nearly a week longer.
The student body asked to be allowed to act as pallbearers
and escort for the remains and resolved to present Mrs.
Henry with a portrait of Dr. Henry by Scarborough and
to erect a costly monument over his grave. This monument,
the style and arrangement of which were superintended by
Professor Reynolds, stands near Trinity Church and bears
the statement that it was erected by the students of the
South Carolina College. There is a portrait of Dr. Henry
in the hall of the Clariosophic Society and a bust in the

At a meeting of the trustees on the 19th of February
William J. Rivers of Charleston, a graduate of the class of
1841, was elected as temporary professor of Greek Litera-
ture. He became permanent professor in November. At
this meeting Joseph LeConte was elected and John LeConte


was confirmed in his tenure, the latter being placed in the
new chair of Natural and Mechanical Philosophy. The
new professor of History and Political Philosophy was
Robert W. Barnwell, Jr., nephew of the former president
of the same name.

Dr. LaBorde accords to President McCay the credit of
putting declamation and composition on a footing with
other studies in making up the average rank of a student.
This had the effect of breaking up the habit of performing
the duty of declaiming and writing compositions in a per-
functory manner. The historian adds that it was no uncom-
mon thing for a young man of distinction in his classes to
be unable to write a sentence of pure grammatical English.
The duties of the professor of Belles Lettres were distributed
at the suggestion of the president among the members of
the faculty.

The year 1857 began with disorders. Finally on the last
Sunday in April a disturbance occurred in the chapel, on
account of which three juniors were suspended. Sentence
was remitted on certain conditions. These the president
was to communicate to the class, which he did not do, but
merely informed the suspended students that they were
restored. The committee of the class suspecting that the
petition of the class for the restoration of the three juniors
had been granted on terms repudiated by them demanded
the conditions. Great excitement prevailed; the president
endeavored to explain his failure to communicate the condi-
tions, but without avail. The junior class and the others
following their lead refused to attend the president's classes ;
the faculty also was arrayed against the president. The
board of trustees assembled in a called meeting on June 10,
when the president set forth in a long paper his view of the
difficulty, attacking many of the faculty as unfaithful to
him. On the next day the board resolved that it was neces-
sary that the president and all of the professors should
resign. At an adjourned meeting on the same day the resig-
nations were presented. Professors John and Joseph LeConte
and Rivers were immediately reelected to their respective


chairs; Mr. Leslie McCandless was elected to the chair of
Roman Literature, and Reverend Whitefoord Smith to the
professorship of Moral Philosophy, Sacred Literature and
Criticism. The other members of the faculty were passed
over. The next meeting of the board was set for the first
Monday in September. Throughout the summer the college
was the topic of interest in all sections of the State. When

Online LibraryEdwin L. (Edwin Luther) GreenA history of the University of South Carolina → online text (page 5 of 38)