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Timothy Dwight College

TD College towerUnder Timothy Dwight, Yale College began its long transformation from an regional institution training clergy to a nationally renowned institution of higher education. John Calhoun had thrived under the watchful tutelage of President Timothy Dwight, his "mentor" (66). As the institution grew and its fame spread, Dwight took it down a conservative path, and also attracted students from the Southern states (67).

Timothy Dwight himself purchased a slave in 1788.

Furthermore, under his Yale presidency Yale produced more pro-slavery clergy than any other college in the nation.

Historian Larry Tise did a study of prominent pro-slavery clergy, and where they were educated:

When proslavery clergymen are grouped according to the college from which they graduated, the influence of certain schools becomes readily apparent . . . The school with the largest number of [proslavery] graduates-one tenth of the total number attending college-was Yale University... With more than twice as many proslavery graduates as Princeton and Harvard-two other major national universities with surprisingly large representations of their own-the severely skewed data cannot be considered coincidental. Yale made the most significant contribution to the ranks of proslavery clergymen. With graduating classes extending from 1799 to 1845, ten studied at Yale under the administration of the elder Timothy Dwight and all except three had completed their work by 1825. (70)

For students today, it may seem odd to suggest that the president could play a role shaping the ideology of Yale's graduates. In Dwight's day, however, there were few faculty other than the president. Most of the teaching was done by "tutors," often appointed for only a year or two immediately after themselves graduating from Yale.

Yale's President remained the undisputed senior scholar. President Dwight in fact held the "Livingston Professorship of Divinity," at the time Yale's only endowed professorship. Dwight played a significant educational role in the students' development:

[Dwight] continued the tradition of teaching the seniors metaphysics and ethics (as well as some treatment of other subjects) and overseeing their disputations ... Dwight was a persuasive teacher, and what he said moved many of his students deeply ... [T]hese classes with the president were the freest period of discussion in their college lives, and the memory of them made a deep impression-particularly in the case of a man as personally awesome as Timothy Dwight. (72)

One set of these disputations was recorded and published. Dwight also published poems and collections of sermons. Throughout Dwight's writings we find a generally cavalier attitude towards American slavery mixed with vicious attacks on European slavery.

When Dwight died in 1817, he had created a national institution. Dwight trained the leaders of a conservative Christian generation. Moses Stuart published a Scriptural defense of slavery in 1850. Nathaniel W. Taylor concluded student disputations at Yale with pro-slavery decisions throughout the 1840s and 1850s.

Dwight also trained a generation of administrative Yale leadership. Early in his tenure, Dwight expanded the size of the faculty by appointing three key professors: Benjamin Silliman, professor of chemistry and geology; James Luce Kingsley, professor of classical languages; and Jeremiah Day, professor of mathematics and future Yale president."These three men, originally with Dwight, then largely alone, ran Yale for the first half of the nineteenth century." (83)




Dwight's impact on Yale college

Naomi, slave of T. Dwight

Dwight's Published Views


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