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whenever it shall appear to the said Regents, that the state of literature in any Academy is so far advanced, and the funds will admit thereof, that it may be expedient that a President be appointed for such Academy, the said Regents shall in such case signify their approbation thereof, under their common seal, which, being entered of record as aforesaid, shall authorize the Trustees of such Academy to elect a President, who shall have, hold and enjoy all the powers that the President of any College recognized by this act shall or may lawfully have, hold and enjoy; and such Academy thereafter, instead of being called an Academy, shall be called and known by the same name it was called while it was an Academy, except that the word "College" shall be used in all cases instead of the word "Academy;" and be subject to the like rules, regulations, control and visitation of the Regents, as other Colleges mentioned in this act.

XX. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That no President or Professor shall be ineligible for or by reason of any religious tenet or tenets that he may or shall profess; or be compelled by any law or otherwise to take any test oath whatsoever; and no Professor or Tutor of any College or Academy recognized by this act shall be a Trustee of any such College or Academy, nor shall any President of any College, or Principal of any Academy, who shall be a trustee have a vote in any case relating to his own salary or emoluments; nor shall any Trustee, President, Principal, Tutor, Fellow, or other officer of any College or Academy, be a Regent of the University.

XXI. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That whenever any person now or hereafter appointed a Trustee of any College or Academy shall be appointed or elected a Regent of the University, and whenever any person being a Regent of the University shall be appointed or elected a Trustee of any College or Academy, such person so appointed or elected shall, on due notice thereof, decide and elect in which of the said places he will serve, and by writing under his hand shall make known such election, whether of refusal or acceptance, to those by whom he was elect, to the end that such appointment may take effect, in case he accept it, or that they proceed to a new appointment in case he refuse it.

XXII. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the act entitled "An act for granting certain privileges to the College heretofore called King's College, for altering the name and charter thereof, and erecting a University within this State," passed the 1st day of May, 1784; and the act entitled "An act to amend an act entitled 'An act for granting certain privileges to the College heretofore called King's College, for altering the name and charter thereof, and erecting an University within this State,' passed the 26th day of November, 1784, be and they are hereby severally repealed."

By this act the Board of Regents was divested of the direct charge of Columbia College, and has since had no control of the internal affairs of this institution or of any other, excepting as required by

special acts, with respect to the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York and at Fairfield, and as found necessary in the discharge of their duties, under general rules.'

1 Although the act of 1787 left the Regents without duties in the immediate care of education, other than by way of supervision, in the hands of corporations created by themselves or by the Legislature, the idea of establishing some means for direct instruction under their immediate charge has not been overlooked. On the 6th of March, 1856, the following resolution was passed:

"Resolved, That it be referred to a select committee of five to inquire and report whether it be practicable and expedient for the Regents to organize and maintain the University of the State of New York as an active University of Instruction."

On the 21st of April, 1857, Mr. Erastus C. Benedict, chairman of this committee, made an elaborate report, in which he presented the motives and the methods of a plan which may be briefly summarized as follows:

1. The institution to be under the management of the Regents.

2. All instruction to be by lectures free to all matriculated students who were or who had been not less than one year in a College or Academy, or who had received degrees from any college in the State, or who were residents of the State.

3. Ten faculties to be established, each with a dean at the head, one of whom was to be president. These faculties were to be:

I. THE NATURAL SCIENCES- Including applications of chemistry, geology and mineralogy to mines and mining.

II. AGRICULTURE AND THE USEFUL ARTS-A wide range, including practical applications being allowed.

III. HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY — Including ethnology, antiquities and physical geography.

IV. DIALECTICS - Embracing the history of all schools, modes of instruction and systems of education, ancient and modern.

V. PHILOSOPHICAL SCIENCE - Embracing metaphysics, logic, psychology, moral philosophy and natural theology.

VI. PHILOLOGY - Embracing languages, literatures, poetry, rhetoric and oratory. VII. MATHEMATICAL SCIENCE AND SCIENCES - With applications of every kind. VIII. FINE AND ORNAMENTAL ARTS- Applied, including principles of beauty and taste.

IX. PHYSIOLOGY - Including scientific and professional medicine and surgery. X. POLITICAL SCIENCE - Embracing political and administrative sciences and the profession of law.

Each of these faculties was to have a permanent seat at New York, Albany and Rochester, with full courses of lectures at each place. The deans were to be salaried and to devote their whole time to their duties; other lecturers were to be paid for the time employed. If deemed proper, the lectures were to be repeated in different localities other than those above named. No degrees to be conferred above that of Master of Arts, and only upon examination of the whole course, except honorary degrees.

An annual Convocation to be held at Albany, when the degrees were to be conferred and discourses pronounced by the most meritorious graduates.

With the exception of a Convocation organized many years afterward, and in greatly modified form from that proposed in this report, this scheme of education made no further progress. The paper in which its details were set forth, together with the draft of a bill for carrying it into effect, will be found in the Appendix of the first printed volume of the minutes of the Regents (1853-59). It was also printed separately.



The first meeting of the Regents after the passage of the act for their reörganization was held July 17, 1787. Governor George Clinton was elected Chancellor, Mr. John Jay, Vice-Chancellor, and Richard Harrison, Secretary. Dr. Rodgers, Baron Steuben and Mr. Moore were appointed to prepare a device for a seal,' and a rule was adopted that all applications for incorporation be first referred to a sub-committee of at least three members, and afterward considered by the whole Board, before being issued. They also established as a rule, that at every annual meeting their will should be declared by vote, as to whether there should be an election of the officers of the Board. At this meeting an application was received for the incorporation of Erasmus Hall, in Kings county.

In the early years of their operation the Regents adopted the custom of designating committees from their number to visit institutions, and report their conditions and wants. The records of the Board show that this duty was faithfully performed, and the custom has been continued down through the century, more or less modified by inviting the coöperation of trustworthy citizens in distant localities. But for a long period and down to comparatively recent times, the reports made by the Trustees of Academies were received without further verification, and the apportionment of moneys was made upon these returns.

Although several acts were passed assigning particular duties, there was no general act modifying their powers until the revision of the laws in 1813. On the 5th of April of that year, an act was

This committee, at the next meeting of the Board, held November 17, 1787, reported the following device, which was accepted:


'Minerva and Liberty leading a youth. The motto - QUO DUCUNT IRES. Exergue SEAL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK."


The first seal was circular, three and one-quarter inches broad, with the figure of a youth covered by the shield of Minerva, while Liberty leads the way. second seal was two and one-half inches broad, and the youth is pointed the way to a temple on a distant hill. The present seal, under a general law, contains only the State arms and the name of the Board.

2 Perhaps the most important commission that had then been appointed was that of Addison Gardiner and Henry J. Whitehouse of Rochester, Albert H. Tracy of Buffalo, John B. Skinner of Genesee, Elial F. Foote of Jamestown, Jesse Hawley of Lockport, and Gideon Hard of Albion, who were appointed on the 11th of May, 1840, as visitors in the Eighth Senatorial District.

passed entitled "An act relative to the University," which superseded the act of 1787, and made the following changes:

The Regents then in office were named and appointed, to continue in place during the pleasure of the Legislature; the vacancies arising to be filled from time to time, as Senators in Congress are appointed.'

The charter which had been granted by the Regents to the College of Physicians and Surgeons in the city of New York, June 4, 1812, was confirmed, and the amount of property it might hold was limited to $150,000. The Regents were to reserve to themselves the right of conferring degrees and of filling vacancies in its Board of Trustees. They had discretionary power in respect to the appointment of Professors and teachers, and the future amendment of its charter.

The sections in the former act relating to Columbia College were omitted, and the Trustees of incorporated Academies were empowered to elect a President for one year, or until another was chosen, to perform all the duties required to be done by the senior trustee.


By another act, passed April 9, 1813, entitled "An act relating to the different Colleges within this State," the powers and privileges of Columbia College and of Union College were separately defined.


It should be remembered that when the Board of Regents was established in 1784-7, there were no public common schools, and elementary education was wholly dependent upon individual or associated private effort. It was a purely voluntary matter with those who participated in the benefits and bore the expenses with no guarantees as to the qualifications of those who assumed the duties of instruction - no stated arrangements for accommodation but such as were provided by those who sought patronage, or that were fitted up by patrons, and no pledge of continuance longer than was needed to meet the wants of those who sustained them.

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Although the Regents of the University were created for the special purpose of caring for Columbia College, and for such other Colleges and Academies as they might think proper to incorporate, or take under their supervision, the public records of our State show

This was borrowed from the former law, providing for the choice of Delegates in the Continental Congress, and has not since been changed. Each House first votes separately. They then meet in joint session and compare the votes. If not alike, a joint viva voce vote is taken, which decides the election.

2 Chap. 82, Laws of 1813.

that they were not unmindful of the want of an organized and efficient system of popular education throughout every part of the State. In their report made to the Legislature, February 5, 1793,' in referring to this subject they say:

"On this occasion we cannot help suggesting to the Legislature the numerous advantages which we conceive would accrue to the citizens in general from the institution of schools in various parts of the State, for the purpose of instructing our children in the lower branches of education; such as reading their native language with propriety, and so much of writing and arithmetic as to enable them, when they come forward in active life, to transact, with accuracy and dispatch, the business arising from their daily intercourse with each other. The mode of accomplishing this desirable object we respectfully submit to the wisdom of the Legislature.

"The attention which the Legislature has evinced to promote literature by the liberal provision heretofore made, encourages, with all deference, to suggest the propriety of rendering it permanent by setting apart for that salutary purpose some of the unappropriated lands. The value of these will be enhanced by the increase of population. The State will thus never want the means of promoting useful science; and will thereby secure the rational happiness and fix the liberty of the people on the most permanent basis —that of knowledge and virtue.'

As a hopeful indication of the tendencies of the day in the diffusion of knowledge, they notice that two Academies had been incorporated in the course of the preceding year; "one at Schenectady, which from its liberal endowments promises to be of extensive utility, and another in the neighborhood of the Oneida nation; one part of the plan of which is to extend the blessing of science to the untutored savages, so as gradually to qualify them for all the duties of useful citizens. And we doubt not it will be to the Legislature, as it is to us, matter of refined gratification to see seminaries of learning rising in situations which a few years ago were altogether uncultivated and uninhabited by any civilized people. These pleas ing prospects remind us of the glorious predictions of sacred writ; under the improvement of agriculture the wilderness blossoms as the rose, and by means of the light of science and religion the solitary place is made glad."

It will be seen that these first feeble rays of light shining in dark places, were not long in brightening into the full light of day, and that these two Academies within a very few years ripened into UNION and HAMILTON COLLEGES.

Senate Journal, 16th Session, p. 90. The first Board of Regents had previously called attention to this subject.

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