Page images

your committee conclude, they feel themselves bound in faithfulness to add that the erecting of public schools for teaching reading, writing and arithmetic is an object of very great importance, which ought not to be left to the discretion of private men, but be promoted by public authority. Of so much knowledge, no citizen ought to be destitute, and yet it is a reflection as trues it is painful, that but too many of our youth are brought up in utter ignorance."

The committee embodied its views in a bill which was passed by the Legislature, April 13, 1787. This law in all its general provisions, after a hundred years, still remains in force, and forms the basis of the present system of collegiate and academic education in the State. It repeals, specifically, all preceding legislation on the subject and begins entirely anew. It enacts "That an University be and is hereby instituted within this State, to be called and known by the name or style of The Regents of the University of the State of NEW YORK." It fixes the number of Regents at twenty-one, of whom the Governor and Lieutenant-Governor of the State for the time being shall be two. It names the remaining nineteen, and provides that they are to hold office during the pleasure of the Legislature, and that vacancies are to be filled by the Legislature. It is made a corporation, with power to hold property to the amount of the annual income of forty thousand bushels of wheat. It authorizes the Regents to visit and inspect all the colleges, academies and schools, which are or may be established in this State, to examine into the state of education and discipline, and to make a yearly report thereof to the Legislature. It gives them power to confer degrees above that of Master of Arts. It empowers them to grant charters of incorporation to colleges and to academies, and to grant collegiate charters to such academies as may grow to be worthy of it. Besides the provisions relating to the University, the act ratifies and confirms the charter of Columbia College, names a Board of Trustees, and invests it with power to hold property, and with all other rights and powers possessed under its charter of 1754. It thus lays down the principle which has been since followed in the State, that the University should include and have the oversight of all the colleges and academies of the State, but that each should have its own Board of Trustees, who should constitute a body corporate for the management of its individual affairs.

A glance at the names of those who constituted the first Board will evince its high capacity. George Clinton, the Governor, was, by character, experience and learning, fitted to be its Chancellor.

It is to his honor that, from the beginning, he used his high opportunities to advance popular education. He was the first Governor to propose "the establishment of common schools throughout the State." Others of this Board deserve particular mention because of their enlightened attention to the important duties of their positions, and because of their great public services. Dr. John Rodgers was the pastor of the Brick Church in Beekman street. He was a man of great learning, and an ardent patriot in the Revolutionary struggle. He was of courtly presence, and, with his buzz-wig and threecornered hat, his gold-headed cane and his silver shoe-buckles, was a conspicuous figure. He was Regent from 1787 till his death in 1812. and from 1790 was Vice-Chancellor. Egbert Benson, one of the most learned jurists of his time, was born in 1746 and died in 1833. He was educated in Columbia College, and distinguished himself as a lawyer, as a judge, and in the State and National Legislatures. He was the first President of the New York Historical Society. He resigned the Regency in 1802. John Jay, the distinguished statesman, and the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and Governor of the State, was the first Vice-Chancellor. No man had wider or more practical views as to education, or was more active and earnest in the work of the Board. Matthew Clarkson had been a member of the first Board of Regents, and had visited Europe as its agent in the interests of Columbia College. Others might be specially named: Dr. Benjamin Moore, afterward President of Columbia College, and Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of New York; Dr. Girardus Westerlo, the distinguished pastor of the Collegiate Dutch Church, New York; Dr. William Linn; Rev. John McDonald, and Frederick William Baron de Steuben.

The first meeting of this new Board was held July 17, 1787, at the Exchange, in the city of New York. Governor Clinton was chosen Chancellor, John Jay, Vice-Chancellor, and Richard Harrison, Secretary. There were present Dr. John Rodgers, Egbert Benson, John Jay, Matthew Clarkson, Dr. Benjamin Moore, Dr. William Linn and Frederick William de Steuben. An application was received for the incorporation of an academy at Flatbush, to be denominated Erasmus Hall. This application was referred to a committee for examination, and at the next meeting, November 17, 1787, the charter prayed for was granted. This was the first academy chartered in the State, and the venerable institution still survives as a living memento of the first deliberations of the Board. The Clin

ton Academy, at East Hampton, received a charter at this same mecting, and others followed rapidly in successive years, so that by 1813 there were thirty academies incorporated. These were the pioneer institutions of learning in the State, preceding the establishment of common schools, and by their influence making common schools possible. The first college chartered by the Board was Union College, at Schenectady, in 1795.

The first annual report of this new Board to the Legislature was made in 1788, and consists of about two foolscap pages. The successive reports of the Board contained valuable suggestions as to legislation, and nearly all the early laws relating to education, which are enacted by the Legislature, may be traced to the enlightened counsel of the Board. The recommendation, contained in the second report, that the State grant its unused lands to the Regents for educational purposes, may be considered to have been the origin of the Literature Fund. The Board was, to a certain extent, a legislative body, authorized to frame ordinances for the institutions under it. With the increase of the number of institutions, the duties of the Board were greatly multiplied. The places of holding the annual meetings of the Board varied with the migrations of the Legislature. Until 1798, when the Legislature found a permanent home in Albany, the Board alternated between New York, Poughkeepsie, Kingston and Albany. The special and adjourned meetings of the Board, however, up to 1798, were chiefly held in the city of New York, in and near which the greater number of the Regents resided.

Leaving the details of legislation to be described elsewhere, it will be sufficient to give here a summary statement of the laws at present in force relating to the powers of the Board, and of the various duties which are now devolved on it.

ORGANIZATION. In 1842 the Secretary of State was created a Regent ex officio, and in 1854, in the act creating the office, the Superintendent of Public Instruction was also added. With these additions the Board now consists of twenty-three members, of whom four are Regents ex officio, viz.: the Governor, the LieutenantGovernor, the Secretary of State, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction, while the remaining nineteen are chosen by the Legislature in the same manner as United States Senators. The elected members hold their office during the pleasure of the Legislature. A Regent must be a citizen of the State, and cannot be a Trustee, or any other officer, of any college or academy under the visitation. of the Board. The officers of the Board are a Chancellor and Vice.

Chancellor, who are members thereof, and a Secretary and Treasurer, and an Assistant Secretary. The officers hold their positions during the pleasure of the Board. The business of the Board is conducted principally by means of standing committees. Of these, there are ten, viz.: On Incorporations; on the State Museum; on the State Library; on the Instruction of Common School Teachers; on the Distribution of the Literature Fund; on Appropriations for the Purchase of Books and Apparatus; on the Annual Report; on the Visitation of Colleges and Academies; on Academic Examinations; on Printing and Legislation, and on Degrees. The annual meeting of the Board is fixed by law to be held on the evening of the second Thursday in January at the Senate Chamber, and other meetings by order of the Board, or on the call of the Chancellor. Adjourned meetings are held during the sessions of the Legislature, and a semiannual meeting in July. Six members constitute a quorum.

The powers and duties of the Board may be enumnerated under the following heads, viz.:

INCORPORATION. — By the original act establishing the University, the Regents were empowered to incorporate colleges and academies, whenever the conditions set forth in the applications were approved by them. This power was confirmed by legislation in 1853, and the Regents were authorized to prescribe by general regulations the conditions for such incorporation. This power was not originally understood to include the incorporation of medical colleges. In the instances where the Board had incorporated medical colleges, as in the cases of the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York in 1807, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Fairfield in 1812, it had been under special powers conferred for this purpose. But, in 1853, the Legislature enacted that the Board should, whenever specified conditions were complied with, have power also to grant charters for medical colleges. The conditions, which they fixed, required that $50,000 should be secured for the college before a permanent charter could be granted. The Regents, by general ordinance made under authority of the act of 1853, established also the conditions on which charters are granted to literary colleges and academies. In the case of colleges, they require that funds to the amount of $100,000 shall be secured, and that, in addition, suitable buildings and equipments shall be provided. In the case of academies, they require that the property, including lot, buildings, library and apparatus, shall not be less than $5,000, and that the library and philosophical apparatus shall be worth each at least $500. The

Board is also authorized to annul and amend charters, on due notice and due cause being shown.

VISITATION. The Board is authorized by its officers, committees and accredited agents to visit and inspect all the colleges and academies which are or may be established in the State, and "examine into the state and system of education therein." This authority of visitation extends, not merely to the institutions chartered by the Board itself, but also to those receiving their charters from the Legislature. Each such college and academy is required by law to make to the Board an annual report of its affairs, according to such instructions and forms as the Board may establish. This report pertains to its financial condition, its means of imparting instruction, its departments of study, and its statistics of attendance. The results of the information gathered by the visitation, and from the returns made to the Board, are embodied in a report, which has been annually, since the establishment of the Board, sent to the Legislature.

DEGREES. - The Board of Regents, according to the original charter, possessed the power of conferring honorary degrees above that of Master of Arts. This power has been very sparingly exercised. Since its organization the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws has been conferred only on fifteen persons. The degree of Doctor of Civil Law has been conferred only once, in 1873, on William Beach Lawrence. The degree of Doctor of Literature has been conferred only since 1864 on twelve persons. The degree of Doctor of Philosophy has been conferred since 1860 on twenty-three persons. The honorary degrees are confined to cases where the persons have performed some signal service to literature, science or education, and the special cause is recited with the degree.

By special statute the Board is also empowered to grant other degrees on certain conditions. It may confer the honorary degree of Doctor of Me licine each year on four candidates nominated by each of the State Medical Societies. This degree does not, however, carry with it the right to practice medicine. It is empowered, by an act passed in 1872, to appoint Boards of Medical Examiners, on whose nomination it may grant the full degree of Doctor of Medicine. It is also empowered to establish a system of examinations for the bestowal of degrees of any grade.

CONVOCATION. - The Board established in 1863 a Convocation of the University, of which the Regents and the officers of all colleges and academies and normal schools within the State are members. The Convocation is held in July, at the Capitol, in Albany, and is

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »