The "Negro" College
The Town Meeting
The Committee Opposed
Why It Failed
Why It Mattered
Yale & the South

Yale and the South

As the U.S. was maturing, Yale was also growing into a university with national status:

Yale College by 1830 was the largest and foremost college in America . . . Sound conservative standards had been developed by President Timothy Dwight, an eminent representative of the status quo, and were defended by his successor, the quiet and retiring Jeremiah Day . . . Students of aristocratic background or aspiration were attracted to Yale from the entire country, the young men of the South coming North rather than going to England or France as in Revolutionary times. (115)

During John C. Calhoun's vice presidency of the United States from 1825-1832, Yale attracted many Southerners. In 1830, there were 69 Southerners enrolled at Yale, over four times as many as Harvard's 16 or Princeton's 17 (116).

During this time, there were also important economic and social connections between New Haven and the South, all of which fed the opposition to abolition:

Some of the citizens had profitable business connections with Southern planters, who were good customers for the locally made wagons and carriages. Some had pleasant social relations with Southern boys at Yale, with their sisters in New Haven schools, and with their families who came North to spend the summer on the shores of Long Island Sound. A larger number, perhaps, opposed anything that smacked of abolition for more deep-seated and more sinister reasons. (117)

In 1831, Yale may have felt vulnerable to controversy. The year before, it had kicked off its first endowment fundraising drive, upon the suggestion of "some spirited friends of the college in the South" (118). Yale had reason to be hopeful: In 1825 the "alumni of the college residing in South Carolina" had given a significant donation of around $800 to help fund Silliman's pet project to purchase a mineral cabinet for geological study (119). With fundraising agents throughout the South, Yale had reason not to "offend [its] Southern patrons" (120).

If Yale was to maintain strong, positive relations with the South, but also retain its prominence in the North, then Yale would need to find some way to reconcile the growing civil tension surrounding the question of slavery. For university officials, this made it difficult to be either pro-slavery or anti-slavery. Many Yale officials found an answer in the movement known as "Colonization," or sending black people to Africa.





Numbers in parentheses refer to notes. See the notes page.