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the national prosperity, to encourage and they were likewise expected to supervise support the principles of religion and mo- the education of the whole state, and were rality, and early to place the youth under charged with the control of all academies the forming hand of society, that by instruc- or common schools established or aided tion they may be moulded to the love of by public funds. virtue and good order. Sending them The institution was of necessity unsecabroad to other countries for their educa- tarian, and extended its benefits alike to tion will not answer these purposes, is all citizens of the state regardless of religtoo humiliating an acknowledgment of the ious belief; nor did it require of the ignorance or inferiority of our own, and officers of the institution more closely dewill always be the cause of so great foreign attachment that upon principles of policy it is inadmissible. This country, in the times of our common danger and distress, found security in the principles and abilities which wise regulations had before established in the minds of our countrymen ; and our present happiness, joined to the pleasing prospects, should conspire to make us feel ourselves under the strongest obligations to form the youth, the rising hope of our land, to render the like glorious and essential services to our country.”
Justifying itself upon principles like these, principles to which the powerful pen of Thomas Jefferson gave emphasis shortly afterward in behalf of Virginia's famous university, the charter proceeds to
Josiah Meigs, LL.D., lay upon a broad and
FIRST PRESIDENT OF FRANKLIN COLLEGE, 1801-1811. comprehensive basis the provisions for a seat of learning de- fined tenets than adherence to the Chrissigned to be the fountain-head from which tian faith. The governing body, known the streams of knowledge might flow down- as the Senatus Academicus, was a dual ward and permeate the whole educational organization, composed of a board of trussystem of the state. To this end the gov- tees and a board of visitors. The board erning powers of the university were so of trustees consisted of thirteen members, qualified that, although having chief and in whom all the property rights and the immediate charge of that seat of learning, immediate conduct of the affairs of the university were vested. It became a self- and Nathan Brownson, associated with him perpetuating body when once appointed as trustees of the state grant under the by the governor. The board of visitors original appointment of Governor James was originally composed of the governor Jackson. and his council, the president of the senate, The forty thousand acres of wild lands and the speaker of the house of represen- with which the Senatus Academicus was
tatives, to whom were added afterwards the entrusted, to transform into a working edusenators from each of the counties, save cational institution, were formally accepted that from which the speaker of the house in 1786. It is difficult at this distance to was drawn. The board of visitors exer- properly estimate what such an undertaking cised a confirming power over the actions meant. Colonel John Scriven of Savannah, of the trustees when met together in joint a distinguished member of the present session as the Senatus Academicus. The board of trustees, in an address delivered early records of the university show many before the University Club of his native formalities in the separate and joint assem- city, has drawn the following graphic picblings of these two boards, as in August ture of that period : “From December, and January of each year they met to con- 1778, when Savannah was captured by the sider the business of the university, and to British, to June, 1782, when it was evacconsult upon the general needs of education uated by them, Georgia had been the throughout the state. Their sessions occu- theatre of violence, plunder, conflagration, pied often more than a week of steady and fratricidal strife, unequalled in all the work, and one occasion is recorded when dark drama of the Revolution. Wonder, they so far fell from grace as to meet for terror, indignation, and pathos all mingled business on Sunday.
in the scene. Slaves had been deported, History gives the chief credit for activ- fields destroyed, dwelling-houses burned. ity in connection both with the grant of Production seemed impossible ; the people lands and the framing of the university were penniless. The widow and the orcharter to Abraham Baldwin, a graduate phan wept for their slain, and cried out in of Yale College, only recently removed to the tortures of want and famine. Peace had Georgia, a man of scholarly attainments come unsmiling — her garments were of woe, and possessed of the confidence of the and she brought no bounty in her hands. people; but with him must be ranked The condition of the people, their number John Houstoun, James Habersham, Wil- little more than half the present populaliam Few, Joseph Clay, William Houstoun, tion of the city, seemed almost desperate." Land was the only thing that the state board for a period of thirteen years. By did possess in abundance, and when that time six of the original board had either viewed in the light of the sparse settle- died or left the state, and the remaining ment of the country and the imminent seven, after several attempts to get together, danger from the Indians, land was a com- at last had a full meeting and filled their modity practically without value. Chan- roll by electing six new members. When cellor Tucker, in his address before the this board met with the board of visitors in legislature in 1875, says that “probably January, 1798, to form the Senatus Acathe whole 40,000 acres could not have demicus, they were possessed of $993 in been sold for $1000," and cites in proof cash and about $6500 in notes for rents the law at that time, which gave two hun- and purchase of town lots in Greensboro, dred acres to each head of a family settling a sum which a resolution at that meeting in the state, with fifty acres additional for declares to be sufficiently respectable to each member of the household, white or black, young or decrepit. Furthermore, in settling the boundary between Georgia and South Carolina, five thousand acres of the best land in the grant fell across the line, and could never be recovered by the trustees from South Carolina, nor be replaced by a new grant from the state, although the loss had occurred despite the full compliance on the part of the trustees with all necessary legal measures at the time the session to South Carolina took place.
Do what they would, such a heritage could not be immediately applied for educational purposes. The trustees therefore decided to have the land surveyed off into hundredacre lots, to be leased upon notes to such parties as could be induced to locate upon them. The better to accomplish this object, the town of Greensboro was laid out upon the tract of land then in Franklin but now in Green county, and advantageous terms
Moses Waddell, D.D., offered to purchasers of
PRESIDENT OF FRANKLIN COLLEGE, 1819–1829. lots and tenants of the adjoining lands. A rent-roll system, however, begin with it the building of a public seat was but ill suited to the condition of the of learning. In the discussions at subsenew state, and it causes no surprise to find quent meetings of the board much trouble that the funds of the university needed only was found in determining on a proper site the attention of the financial agent of the for the university. Plans to locate it at the town of Louisville in Jefferson County, of which still beautify what was once a at Greensboro in Franklin County, and at favorite trysting-place of the Cherokees, other points in Hancock, Columbia, and and which during eighty-nine years has Wilkes counties, were all broached, but witnessed the instruction and echoed the none proved satisfactory. A decision had, youthful eloquence of more than five thou
sand young Georgians. Most conspicuous among these historic trees is the massive old giant which stands just in front of the chapel and is now known as the Bob Toombs Oak. Three years ago an unsparing thunderbolt greatly disfigured this tree, and fears are entertained for its life. With its death will fall the witness of the earliest as well as the most exciting scenes in the history of the university, scenes which link themselves to the greatest names in Georgia's past and are part of her dearest history.
The contract that had already been authorized for building a wing of the university at Greensboro was now made to apply to the new site, and its execution entrusted to a committee, whose work of building a house suitable for the accommodation of one hundred students was finally completed in 1803. But pursuant to this measure, it was resolved to elect an instructor of youth, who should take charge as soon as possible, who should be the first professor in the institution, and should preside in the absence
of a president. Josiah Meigs, Alonzo Church, D.D.
LL.D., was chosen to this PRESIDENT OF FRANKLIN COLLEGE, 1829-1859.
office, and became the first
president of the institution. indeed, been reached in 1800, favoring Professor Meigs had been educated as a Greensboro, but this was reversed the fol- lawyer, and practised his profession in New lowing year in consequence of the donation Haven. He had tasted of the pains of of 633 acres by Governor John Milledge, colonial journalism, and for a number of which were accepted as a suitable place years had lectured on scientific subjects in for the permanent home of the young uni- Yale College as the incumbent of the chair versity. Upon this tract now stand the of natural philosophy and astronomy. With college buildings and a large part of the singular self-abnegation he gave up this city of Athens.
position of comparative ease and comfort The site was a beautiful one, upon the and agreed to move himself and his large high hills overlooking the Oconee River, family, by what was then a long and tedious near a clear, cool spring, and beneath the journey, to settle in a wilderness, and there shade of a grove of oaks and hickory, many to found without money or appliances an
institution of higher learning. Says Dr. Of the first commencement of Franklin Alonzo Church :
College, held in 1804 under a rude arbor
constructed of the branches of trees, it is Few men ever labored with more untiring zeal written : “In this rustic chapel, surrounded and unremitting industry than this faithful pio- by the primeval forest and amidst a gathneer in the cause of learning in our state. His ering of a few friends of the college and a views on the subject of education were enlarged,
; still larger number of persons assembled to and the measures which he recommended to the trustees and the legislature were judicious — such witness the novel scene, Colonel Gibson as fully sustained his character as a man of learn Clarke, Hon. Augustus S. Clayton, General ing and one who had carefully studied the subject Teptha V. Harris, Colonel William H. Jackof general education. The only failure on his
son, Professor James Jackson, Thomas Erpart was a failure to accomplish an impossibility - to build up without means a flourishing college.
win, Jarid Irwin, Robert Rutherford, WilThe Israelites had not a harder task when required liams Rutherford, and William Williamson to make bricks without straw than President Meigs graduated with the honors of the instituwhen, under such circumstances, he was required tion." to raise up in a few years an institution which
These early pictures of the university would compare with those which had been long established and well endowed President Meigs are not only full of a rugged pathos ; they commenced the exercises of the university when stand alone in the educational history of no college building of any description had been the country. Other states have found diferected. Recitations were often heard and lec- ficulty in building up their universities but tures delivered under the shade of the forest oak; and for years he had almost the entire instruction
none of them have ventured to send forth of the college, aided only by a tutor or some mem- their young offspring into the world with
ber of the higher classes. The institution was an infested wilderness for a habitation and without library, without apparatus, without profes- without a roof for its head Vet for ten sors, without buildings, without productive funds. And yet the president was called upon to instruct
years Dr. Meigs braved these dangers and from forty to sixty students, to superintend the difficulties, and graduated more than fifty erection of buildings, and frequently to meet the men with the regular A.B. degree. board of trustees and the legislature at a distance This ten vears of the existence of the from the seat of the college, leaving the institu
university showed more forcibly the inadetion under the superintendence of a tutor or with out any control but the discretion of inexperienced quacy of the rent-roll plan for its support ; youth.
and the administration of Dr. John Brown,