A Collection of College Words and Customs
Benjamin Homer Hall
Part 3 out of 12
Syllogisms and Theses. At the close of the Disputation, the
President usually added some remarks in Latin. After these
exercises the President conferred the degrees. This, I think, may
be considered as the summary of the public performances on a
Commencement Day. I do not recollect any Forensic Disputation, or
a Poem or Oration spoken in English, whilst I was in
College."--_Peirce's Hist. Harv. Univ._, pp. 307, 308.
As far back as the year 1685, it was customary for the President
to deliver an address near the close of the exercises. Under this
date, in the MS. Diary of Judge Sewall, are these words: "Mr.
President after giving ye Degrees made an Oration in Praise of
Academical Studies and Degrees, Hebrew tongue." In 1688, at the
Commencement, according to the same gentleman, Mr. William
Hubbard, then acting as President under the appointment of Sir
Edmund Andros, "made an oration."
The disputations were always in Latin, and continued to be a part
of the exercises of Commencement until the year 1820. The orations
were in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and sometimes French; in 1818 a
Spanish oration was delivered at the Commencement for that year by
Mr. George Osborne. The first English oration was made by Mr.
Jedidiah Huntington, in the year 1763, and the first English poem
by Mr. John Davis, in 1781. The last Latin syllogisms were in
1792, on the subjects, "Materia cogitare non potest," and "Nil
nisi ignis natura est fluidum." The first year in which the
performers spoke without a prompter was 1837. There were no
Master's exercises for the first time in 1844. To prevent
improprieties, in the year 1760, "the duty of inspecting the
performances on the day," says Quincy, "and expunging all
exceptionable parts, was assigned to the President; on whom it was
particularly enjoined 'to put an end to the practice of addressing
the female sex.'" At a later period, in 1792, by referring to the
"Order of the Exercises of Commencement," we find that in the
concluding oration "honorable notice is taken, from year to year,
of those who have been the principal Benefactors of the
University." The practice is now discontinued.
At the first Commencement, all the magistrates, elders, and
invited guests who were present "dined," says Winthrop in his
Journal, Vol. II. pp. 87, 88, "at the College with the scholars'
ordinary commons, which was done on purpose for the students'
encouragement, &c., and it gave good content to all." After
dinner, a Psalm was usually sung. In 1685, at Commencement, Sewall
says: "After dinner ye 3d part of ye 103d Ps. was sung in ye
Hall." The seventy-eighth Psalm was the one usually sung, an
account of which will be found under that title. The Senior Class
usually waited on the table on Commencement Day. After dinner,
they were allowed to take what provisions were left, and eat them
at their rooms, or in the hall. This custom was not discontinued
until the year 1812.
In 1754, owing to the expensive habits worn on Commencement Day, a
law was passed, ordering that on that day "every candidate for his
degree appear in black, or dark blue, or gray clothes; and that no
one wear any silk night-gowns; and that any candidate, who shall
appear dressed contrary to such regulations, may not expect his
degree." At present, on Commencement Day, every candidate for a
first degree wears, according to the law, "a black dress and the
usual black gown."
It was formerly customary, on this day, for the students to
provide entertainment in their rooms. But great care was taken, as
far as statutory enactments were concerned, that all excess should
be avoided. During the presidency of Increase Mather was developed
among the students a singular phase of gastronomy, which was
noticed by the Corporation in their records, under the date of
June 22, 1693, in these words: "The Corporation, having been
informed that the custom taken up in the College, not used in any
other Universities, for the commencers [graduating class] to have
plumb-cake, is dishonorable to the College, not grateful to wise
men, and chargeable to the parents of the commencers, do therefore
put an end to that custom, and do hereby order that no commencer,
or other scholar, shall have any such cakes in their studies or
chambers; and that, if any scholar shall offend therein, the cakes
shall be taken from him, and he shall moreover pay to the College
twenty shillings for each such offence." This stringent regulation
was, no doubt, all-sufficient for many years; but in the lapse of
time the taste for the forbidden delicacy, which was probably
concocted with a skill unknown to the moderns, was again revived,
accompanied with confessions to a fondness for several kinds of
expensive preparations, the recipes for which preparations, it is
to be feared, are inevitably lost. In 1722, in the latter part of
President Leverett's administration, an act was passed "for
reforming the Extravagancys of Commencements," and providing "that
henceforth no preparation nor provision of either Plumb Cake, or
Roasted, Boyled, or Baked Meates or Pyes of any kind shal be made
by any Commencer," and that no "such have any distilled Lyquours
in his Chamber or any composition therewith," under penalty of
being "punished twenty shillings, to be paid to the use of the
College," and of forfeiture of the provisions and liquors, "_to be
seized by the tutors_." The President and Corporation were
accustomed to visit the rooms of the Commencers, "to see if the
laws prohibiting certain meats and drinks were not violated."
These restrictions not being sufficient, a vote passed the
Corporation in 1727, declaring, that "if any, who now doe, or
hereafter shall, stand for their degrees, presume to doe any thing
contrary to the act of 11th June, 1722, or _go about to evade it
by plain cake_, they shall not be admitted to their degree, and if
any, after they have received their degree, shall presume to make
any forbidden provisions, their names shall be left or rased out
of the Catalogue of the Graduates."
In 1749, the Corporation strongly recommended to the parents and
guardians of such as were to take degrees that year, "considering
the awful judgments of God upon the land," to "retrench
Commencement expenses, so as may best correspond with the frowns
of Divine Providence, and that they take effectual care to have
their sons' chambers cleared of company, and their entertainments
finished, on the evening of said Commencement Day, or, at
furthest, by next morning." In 1755, attempts were made to prevent
those "who proceeded Bachelors of Arts from having entertainments
of any kind, either in the College or any house in Cambridge,
after the Commencement Day." This and several other propositions
of the Overseers failing to meet with the approbation of the
Corporation, a vote finally passed both boards in 1757, by which
it was ordered, that, on account of the "distressing drought upon
the land," and "in consideration of the dark state of Providence
with respect to the war we are engaged in, which Providences call
for humiliation and fasting rather than festival entertainments,"
the "first and second degrees be given to the several candidates
without their personal attendance"; a general diploma was
accordingly given, and Commencement was omitted for that year.
Three years after, "all unnecessary expenses were forbidden," and
also "dancing in any part of Commencement week, in the Hall, or in
any College building; nor was any undergraduate allowed to give
any entertainment, after dinner, on Thursday of that week, under
severe penalties." But the laws were not always so strict, for we
find that, on account of a proposition made by the Overseers to
the Corporation in 1759, recommending a "repeal of the law
prohibiting the drinking of _punch_," the latter board voted, that
"it shall be no offence if any scholar shall, at Commencement,
make and entertain guests at his chamber with _punch_," which they
afterwards declare, "as it is now usually made, is no intoxicating
To prevent the disturbances incident to the day, an attempt was
made in 1727 to have the "Commencements for time to come more
private than has been usual," and for several years after, the
time of Commencement was concealed; "only a short notice," says
Quincy, "being given to the public of the day on which it was to
be held." Friday was the day agreed on, for the reason, says
President Wadsworth in his Diary, "that there might be a less
remaining time of the week spent in frolicking." This was very ill
received by the people of Boston and the vicinity, to whom
Commencement was a season of hilarity and festivity; the ministers
were also dissatisfied, not knowing the day in some cases, and in
others being subjected to great inconvenience on account of their
living at a distance from Cambridge. The practice was accordingly
abandoned in 1736, and Commencement, as formerly, was held on
Wednesday, to general satisfaction. In 1749, "three gentlemen,"
says Quincy, "who had sons about to be graduated, offered to give
the College a thousand pounds old tenor, provided 'a trial was
made of Commencements this year, in a more private manner.'" The
proposition, after much debate, was rejected, and "public
Commencements were continued without interruption, except during
the period of the Revolutionary war, and occasionally, from
temporary causes, during the remainder of the century,
notwithstanding their evils, anomalies, and inconsistencies."
The following poetical account of Commencement at Harvard College
is supposed to have been written by Dr. Mather Byles, in the year
1742 or thereabouts. Of its merits, this is no place to speak. As
a picture of the times it is valuable, and for this reason, and to
show the high rank which Commencement Day formerly held among
other days, it is here presented.
"I sing the day, bright with peculiar charms,
Whose rising radiance ev'ry bosom warms;
The day when _Cambridge_ empties all the towns,
And youths commencing, take their laurel crowns:
When smiling joys, and gay delights appear,
And shine distinguish'd, in the rolling year.
"While the glad theme I labour to rehearse,
In flowing numbers, and melodious verse,
Descend, immortal nine, my soul inspire,
Amid my bosom lavish all your fire,
While smiling _Phoebus_, owns the heavenly layes
And shades the poet with surrounding bayes.
But chief ye blooming nymphs of heavenly frame,
Who make the day with double glory flame,
In whose fair persons, art and nature vie,
On the young muse cast an auspicious eye:
Secure of fame, then shall the goddess sing,
And rise triumphant with a tow'ring wing,
Her tuneful notes wide-spreading all around,
The hills shall echo, and the vales resound.
"Soon as the morn in crimson robes array'd
With chearful beams dispels the flying shade,
While fragrant odours waft the air along,
And birds melodious chant their heavenly song,
And all the waste of heav'n with glory spread,
Wakes up the world, in sleep's embraces dead.
Then those whose dreams were on th' approaching day,
Prepare in splendid garbs to make their way
To that admired solemnity, whose date,
Tho' late begun, will last as long as fate.
And now the sprightly Fair approach the glass
To heighten every feature of the face.
They view the roses flush their glowing cheeks,
The snowy lillies towering round their necks,
Their rustling manteaus huddled on in haste,
They clasp with shining girdles round their waist.
Nor less the speed and care of every beau,
To shine in dress and swell the solemn show.
Thus clad, in careless order mixed by chance,
In haste they both along the streets advance:
'Till near the brink of _Charles's_ beauteous stream,
They stop, and think the lingering boat to blame.
Soon as the empty skiff salutes the shore,
In with impetuous haste they clustering pour,
The men the head, the stern the ladies grace,
And neighing horses fill the middle space.
Sunk deep, the boat floats slow the waves along,
And scarce contains the thickly crowded throng;
A gen'ral horror seizes on the fair,
While white-look'd cowards only not despair.
'Till rowed with care they reach th' opposing side,
Leap on the shore, and leave the threat'ning tide.
While to receive the pay the boatman stands,
And chinking pennys jingle in his hands.
Eager the sparks assault the waiting cars,
Fops meet with fops, and clash in civil wars.
Off fly the wigs, as mount their kicking heels,
The rudely bouncing head with anguish swells,
A crimson torrent gushes from the nose,
Adown the cheeks, and wanders o'er the cloaths.
Taunting, the victor's strait the chariots leap,
While the poor batter'd beau's for madness weep.
"Now in calashes shine the blooming maids,
Bright'ning the day which blazes o'er their heads;
The seats with nimble steps they swift ascend,
And moving on the crowd, their waste of beauties spend.
So bearing thro' the boundless breadth of heav'n,
The twinkling lamps of light are graceful driv'n;
While on the world they shed their glorious rays,
And set the face of nature in a blaze.
"Now smoak the burning wheels along the ground,
While rapid hoofs of flying steeds resound,
The drivers by no vulgar flame inspir'd,
But with the sparks of love and glory fir'd,
With furious swiftness sweep along the way,
And from the foremost chariot snatch the day.
So at Olympick games when heros strove,
In rapid cars to gain the goal of love.
If on her fav'rite youth the goddess shone
He left his rival and the winds out-run.
"And now thy town, _O Cambridge_! strikes the sight
Of the beholders with confus'd delight;
Thy green campaigns wide open to the view,
And buildings where bright youth their fame pursue.
Blest village! on whose plains united glows,
A vast, confus'd magnificence of shows.
Where num'rous crowds of different colours blend,
Thick as the trees which from the hills ascend:
Or as the grass which shoots in verdant spires,
Or stars which dart thro' natures realms their fires.
"How am I fir'd with a profuse delight,
When round the yard I roll my ravish'd sight!
From the high casements how the ladies show!
And scatter glory on the crowds below.
From sash to sash the lovely lightening plays
And blends their beauties in a radiant blaze.
So when the noon of night the earth invades
And o'er the landskip spreads her silent shades.
In heavens high vault the twinkling stars appear,
And with gay glory's light the gleemy sphere.
From their bright orbs a flame of splendors shows,
And all around th' enlighten'd ether glows.
"Soon as huge heaps have delug'd all the plains,
Of tawny damsels, mixt with simple swains,
Gay city beau's, grave matrons and coquats,
Bully's and cully's, clergymen and wits.
The thing which first the num'rous crowd employs,
Is by a breakfast to begin their joys.
While wine, which blushes in a crystal glass,
Streams down in floods, and paints their glowing face.
And now the time approaches when the bell,
With dull continuance tolls a solemn knell.
Numbers of blooming youth in black array
Adorn the yard, and gladden all the day.
In two strait lines they instantly divide,
While each beholds his partner on th' opposing side,
Then slow, majestick, walks the learned _head_,
The _senate_ follow with a solemn tread,
Next _Levi's_ tribe in reverend order move,
Whilst the uniting youth the show improve.
They glow in long procession till they come,
Near to the portals of the sacred dome;
Then on a sudden open fly the doors,
The leader enters, then the croud thick pours.
The temple in a moment feels its freight,
And cracks beneath its vast unwieldy weight,
So when the threatning Ocean roars around
A place encompass'd with a lofty mound,
If some weak part admits the raging waves,
It flows resistless, and the city laves;
Till underneath the waters ly the tow'rs,
Which menac'd with their height the heav'nly pow'rs.
"The work begun with pray'r, with modest pace,
A youth advancing mounts the desk with grace,
To all the audience sweeps a circling bow,
Then from his lips ten thousand graces flow.
The next that comes, a learned thesis reads,
The question states, and then a war succeeds.
Loud major, minor, and the consequence,
Amuse the crowd, wide-gaping at their fence.
Who speaks the loudest is with them the best,
And impudence for learning is confest.
"The battle o'er, the sable youth descend,
And to the awful chief, their footsteps bend.
With a small book, the laurel wreath he gives
Join'd with a pow'r to use it all their lives.
Obsequious, they return what they receive,
With decent rev'rence, they his presence leave.
Dismiss'd, they strait repeat their back ward way
And with white napkins grace the sumptuous day.
"Now plates unnumber'd on the tables shine,
And dishes fill'd invite the guests to dine.
The grace perform'd, each as it suits him best,
Divides the sav'ry honours of the feast,
The glasses with bright sparkling wines abound
And flowing bowls repeat the jolly round.
Thanks said, the multitude unite their voice,
In sweetly mingled and melodious noise.
The warbling musick floats along the air,
And softly winds the mazes of the ear;
Ravish'd the crowd promiscuously retires,
And each pursues the pleasure he admires.
"Behold my muse far distant on the plains,
Amidst a wrestling ring two jolly swains;
Eager for fame, they tug and haul for blood,
One nam'd _Jack Luby_, t' other _Robin Clod_,
Panting they strain, and labouring hard they sweat,
Mix legs, kick shins, tear cloaths, and ply their feet.
Now nimbly trip, now stiffly stand their ground,
And now they twirl, around, around, around;
Till overcome by greater art or strength,
_Jack Luby_ lays along his lubber length.
A fall! a fall! the loud spectators cry,
A fall! a fall! the echoing hills reply.
"O'er yonder field in wild confusion runs,
A clam'rous troop of _Affric's_ sable sons,
Behind the victors shout, with barbarous roar,
The vanquish'd fly with hideous yells before,
The gloomy squadron thro' the valley speeds
Whilst clatt'ring cudgels rattle o'er their heads.
"Again to church the learned tribe repair,
Where syllogisms battle in the air,
And then the elder youth their second laurels wear.
Hail! Happy laurels! who our hopes inspire,
And set our ardent wishes all on fire.
By you the pulpit and the bar will shine
In future annals; while the ravish'd nine
Will in your bosom breathe caelestial flames,
And stamp _Eternity_ upon your names.
Accept my infant muse, whose feeble wings
Can scarce sustain her flight, while you she sings.
With candour view my rude unfinish'd praise
And see my _Ivy_ twist around your _bayes_.
So _Phidias_ by immortal _Jove_ inspir'd,
His statue carv'd, by all mankind admir'd.
Nor thus content, by his approving nod,
He cut himself upon the shining god.
That shaded by the umbrage of his name,
Eternal honours might attend his fame."
In his almanacs, Nathaniel Ames was wont to insert, opposite the
days of Commencement week, remarks which he deemed appropriate to
that period. His notes for the year 1764 were these:--
"Much talk and nothing said."
"The loquacious more talkative than ever, and fine Harangues
"Much Money sunk,
Much Liquor drunk."
His only note for the year 1765 was this:--
"Many Crapulae to Day
Give the Head-ach to the Gay."
Commencement Day was generally considered a holiday throughout the
Province, and in the metropolis the shops were usually closed, and
little or no business was done. About ten days before this period,
a body of Indians from Natick--men, women, and pappooses--commonly
made their appearance at Cambridge, and took up their station
around the Episcopal Church, in the cellar of which they were
accustomed to sleep, if the weather was unpleasant. The women sold
baskets and moccasons; the boys gained money by shooting at it,
while the men wandered about and spent the little that was earned
by their squaws in rum and tobacco. Then there would come along a
body of itinerant negro fiddlers, whose scraping never intermitted
during the time of their abode.
The Common, on Commencement week, was covered with booths, erected
in lines, like streets, intended to accommodate the populace from
Boston and the vicinity with the amusements of a fair. In these
were carried on all sorts of dissipation. Here was a knot of
gamblers, gathered around a wheel of fortune, or watching the
whirl of the ball on a roulette-table. Further along, the jolly
hucksters displayed their tempting wares in the shape of cooling
beverages and palate-tickling confections. There was dancing on
this side, auction-selling on the other; here a pantomimic show,
there a blind man, led by a dog, soliciting alms; organ-grinders
and hurdy-gurdy grinders, bears and monkeys, jugglers and
sword-swallowers, all mingled in inextricable confusion.
In a neighboring field, a countryman had, perchance, let loose a
fox, which the dogs were worrying to death, while the surrounding
crowd testified their pleasure at the scene by shouts of
approbation. Nor was there any want of the spirituous; pails of
punch, guarded by stout negroes, bore witness to their own subtle
contents, now by the man who lay curled up under the adjoining
hedge, "forgetting and forgot," and again by the drunkard,
reeling, cursing, and fighting among his comrades.
The following observations from the pen of Professor Sidney
Willard, afford an accurate description of the outward
manifestations of Commencement Day at Harvard College, during the
latter part of the last century. "Commencement Day at that time
was a widely noted day, not only among men and women of all
characters and conditions, but also among boys. It was the great
literary and mob anniversary of Massachusetts, surpassed only in
its celebrities by the great civil and mob anniversary, namely,
the Fourth of July, and the last Wednesday of May, Election day,
so called, the anniversary of the organization of the government
of the State for the civil year. But Commencement, perhaps most of
all, exhibited an incongruous mixture of men and things. Besides
the academic exercises within the sanctuary of learning and
religion, followed by the festivities in the College dining-hall,
and under temporary tents and awnings erected for the
entertainments given to the numerous guests of wealthy parents of
young men who had come out successful competitors for prizes in
the academic race, the large common was decked with tents filled
with various refreshments for the hungry and thirsty multitudes,
and the intermediate spaces crowded with men, women, and boys,
white and black, many of them gambling, drinking, swearing,
dancing, and fighting from morning to midnight. Here and there the
scene was varied by some show of curiosities, or of monkeys or
less common wild animals, and the gambols of mountebanks, who by
their ridiculous tricks drew a greater crowd than the abandoned
group at the gaming-tables, or than the fooleries, distortions,
and mad pranks of the inebriates. If my revered uncle took a
glimpse at these scenes, he did not see there any of our red
brethren, as Mr. Jefferson kindly called them, who formed a
considerable part of the gathering at the time of his graduation,
forty-two years before; but he must have seen exhibitions of
depravity which would disgust the most untutored savage. Near the
close of the last century these outrages began to disappear, and
lessened from year to year, until by public opinion, enforced by
an efficient police, they were many years ago wholly suppressed,
and the vicinity of the College halls has become, as it should be,
a classic ground."--_Memories of Youth and Manhood_, Vol. I. pp.
It is to such scenes as these that Mr. William Biglow refers, in
his poem recited before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, in their
dining-hall, August 29th, 1811.
"All hail, Commencement! when all classes free
Throng learning's fount, from interest, taste, or glee;
When sutlers plain in tents, like Jacob, dwell,
Their goods distribute, and their purses swell;
When tipplers cease on wretchedness to think,
Those born to sell, as well as these to drink;
When every day each merry Andrew clears
More cash than useful men in many years;
When men to business come, or come to rake,
And modest women spurn at Pope's mistake.
"All hail, Commencement! when all colors join,
To gamble, riot, quarrel, and purloin;
When Afric's sooty sons, a race forlorn,
Play, swear, and fight, like Christians freely born;
And Indians bless our civilizing merit,
And get dead drunk with truly _Christian spirit_;
When heroes, skilled in pocket-picking sleights,
Of equal property and equal rights,
Of rights of man and woman, boldest friends,
Believing means are sanctioned by their ends,
Sequester part of Gripus' boundless store,
While Gripus thanks god Plutus he has more;
And needy poet, from this ill secure,
Feeling his fob, cries, 'Blessed are the poor.'"
On the same subject, the writer of Our Chronicle of '26, a
satirical poem, versifies in the following manner:--
"Then comes Commencement Day, and Discord dire
Strikes her confusion-string, and dust and noise
Climb up the skies; ladies in thin attire,
For 't is in August, and both men and boys,
Are all abroad, in sunshine and in glee
Making all heaven rattle with their revelry!
"Ah! what a classic sight it is to see
The black gowns flaunting in the sultry air,
Boys big with literary sympathy,
And all the glories of this great affair!
More classic sounds!--within, the plaudit shout,
While Punchinello's rabble echoes it without."
To this the author appends a note, as follows:--
"The holiday extends to thousands of those who have no particular
classical pretensions, further than can be recognized in a certain
_penchant_ for such jubilees, contracted by attending them for
years as hangers-on. On this devoted day these noisy do-nothings
collect with mummers, monkeys, bears, and rope-dancers, and hold
their revels just beneath the windows of the tabernacle where the
literary triumph is enacting.
'Tum saeva sonare
Verbera, tum stridor ferri tractaeque catenae.'"
A writer in Buckingham's New England Magazine, Vol. III., 1832, in
an article entitled "Harvard College Forty Years ago," thus
describes the customs which then prevailed:--
"As I entered Cambridge, what were my 'first impressions'? The
College buildings 'heaving in sight and looming up,' as the
sailors say. Pyramids of Egypt! can ye surpass these enormous
piles? The Common covered with tents and wigwams, and people of
all sorts, colors, conditions, nations, and tongues. A country
muster or ordination dwindles into nothing in comparison. It was a
second edition of Babel. The Governor's life-guard, in splendid
uniform, prancing to and fro,
'Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum.'
Horny-hoofed, galloping quadrupeds make all the common to tremble.
"I soon steered for the meeting-house, and obtained a seat, or
rather standing, in the gallery, determined to be an eyewitness of
all the sport of the day. Presently music was heard approaching,
such as I had never heard before. It must be 'the music of the
spheres.' Anon, three enormous white wigs, supported by three
stately, venerable men, yclad in black, flowing robes, were
located in the pulpit. A platform of wigs was formed in the body
pews, on which one might apparently walk as securely as on the
stage. The _candidates_ for degrees seemed to have made a mistake
in dressing themselves in _black togas_ instead of _white_ ones,
_pro more Romanorum_. The musicians jammed into their pew in the
gallery, very near to me, with enormous fiddles and fifes and
ramshorns. _Terribile visu_! They sounded. I stopped my ears, and
with open mouth and staring eyes stood aghast with wonderment. The
music ceased. The performances commenced. English, Latin, Greek,
Hebrew, French! These scholars knew everything."
More particular is the account of the observances, at this period,
of the day, at Harvard College, as given by Professor Sidney
"Commencement Day, in the year 1798, was a day bereft, in some
respects, of its wonted cheerfulness. Instead of the serene
summer's dawn, and the clear rising of the sun,
'The dawn was overcast, the morning lowered,
And heavily in clouds brought on the day.'
In the evening, from the time that the public exercises closed
until twilight, the rain descended in torrents. The President
lay prostrate on his bed from the effects of a violent disease,
from which it was feared he could not recover. His house,
which on all occasions was the abode of hospitality, and on
Commencement Day especially so, (being the great College
anniversary,) was now a house of stillness, anxiety, and watching.
For seventeen successive years it had been thronged on this
anniversary from morn till night, by welcome visitors, cheerfully
greeted and cared for, and now it was like a house of mourning for
"After the literary exercises of the day were closed, the officers
in the different branches of the College government and
instruction, Masters of Arts, and invited guests, repaired to the
College dining-hall without the ceremony of a procession formed
according to dignity or priority of right. This the elements
forbade. Each one ran the short race as he best could. But as the
Alumni arrived, they naturally avoided taking possession of the
seats usually occupied by the government of the College. The
Governor, Increase Sumner, I suppose, was present, and no doubt
all possible respect was paid to the Overseers as well as to the
Corporation. I was not present, but dined at my father's house
with a few friends, of whom the late Hon. Moses Brown of Beverly
was one. We went together to the College hall after dinner; but
the honorable and reverend Corporation and Overseers had retired,
and I do not remember whether there was any person presiding. If
there were, a statue would have been as well. The age of wine and
wassail, those potent aids to patriotism, mirth, and song, had not
wholly passed away. The merry glee was at that time outrivalled by
_Adams and Liberty_, the national patriotic song, so often and on
so many occasions sung, and everywhere so familiarly known that
all could join in grand chorus."--_Memories of Youth and Manhood_,
Vol. II. pp. 4, 5.
The irregularities of Commencement week seem at a very early
period to have attracted the attention of the College government;
for we find that in 1728, to prevent disorder, a formal request
was made by the President, at the suggestion of the immediate
government, to Lieutenant-Governor Dummer, praying him to direct
the sheriff of Middlesex to prohibit the setting up of booths and
tents on those public days. Some years after, in 1732, "an
interview took place between the Corporation and three justices of
the peace in Cambridge, to concert measures to keep order at
Commencement, and under their warrant to establish a constable
with six men, who, by watching and walking towards the evening on
these days, and also the night following, and in and about the
entry at the College Hall at dinner-time, should prevent
disorders." At the beginning of the present century, it was
customary for two special justices to give their attendance at
this period, in order to try offences, and a guard of twenty
constables was usually present to preserve order and attend on the
justices. Among the writings of one, who for fifty years was a
constant attendant on these occasions, are the following
memoranda, which are in themselves an explanation of the customs
of early years. "Commencement, 1828; no tents on the Common for
the first time." "Commencement, 1836; no persons intoxicated in
the hall or out of it; the first time."
The following extract from the works of a French traveller will be
read with interest by some, as an instance of the manner in which
our institutions are sometimes regarded by foreigners. "In a free
country, everything ought to bear the stamp of patriotism. This
patriotism appears every year in a solemn feast celebrated at
Cambridge in honor of the sciences. This feast, which takes place
once a year in all the colleges of America, is called
_Commencement_. It resembles the exercises and distribution of
prizes in our colleges. It is a day of joy for Boston; almost all
its inhabitants assemble in Cambridge. The most distinguished of
the students display their talents in the presence of the public;
and these exercises, which are generally on patriotic subjects,
are terminated by a feast, where reign the freest gayety and the
most cordial fraternity."--_Brissot's Travels in U.S._, 1788.
London, 1794, Vol. I. pp. 85, 86.
For an account of the _chair_ from which the President delivers
diplomas on Commencement Day, see PRESIDENT'S CHAIR.
At Yale College, the first Commencement was held September 13th,
1702, while that institution was located at Saybrook, at which
four young men who had before graduated at Harvard College, and
one whose education had been private, received the degree of
Master of Arts. This and several Commencements following were held
privately, according to an act which had been passed by the
Trustees, in order to avoid unnecessary expense and other
inconveniences. In 1718, the year in which the first College
edifice was completed, was held at New Haven the first public
Commencement. The following account of the exercises on this
occasion was written at the time by one of the College officers,
and is cited by President Woolsey in his Discourse before the
Graduates of Yale College, August 14th, 1850. "[We were] favored
and honored with the presence of his Honor, Governor Saltonstall,
and his lady, and the Hon. Col. Taylor of Boston, and the
Lieutenant-Governor, and the whole Superior Court, at our
Commencement, September 10th, 1718, where the Trustees
present,--those gentlemen being present,--in the hall of our new
College, first most solemnly named our College by the name of Yale
College, to perpetuate the memory of the honorable Gov. Elihu
Yale, Esq., of London, who had granted so liberal and bountiful a
donation for the perfecting and adorning of it. Upon which the
honorable Colonel Taylor represented Governor Yale in a speech
expressing his great satisfaction; which ended, we passed to the
church, and there the Commencement was carried on. In which
affair, in the first place, after prayer an oration was had by the
saluting orator, James Pierpont, and then the disputations as
usual; which concluded, the Rev. Mr. Davenport [one of the
Trustees and minister of Stamford] offered an excellent oration in
Latin, expressing their thanks to Almighty God, and Mr. Yale under
him, for so public a favor and so great regard to our languishing
school. After which were graduated ten young men, whereupon the
Hon. Gov. Saltonstall, in a Latin speech, congratulated the
Trustees in their success and in the comfortable appearance of
things with relation to their school. All which ended, the
gentlemen returned to the College Hall, where they were
entertained with a splendid dinner, and the ladies, at the same
time, were also entertained in the Library; after which they sung
the four first verses in the 65th Psalm, and so the day
The following excellent and interesting account of the exercises
and customs of Commencement at Yale College, in former times, is
taken from the entertaining address referred to
above:--"Commencements were not to be public, according to the
wishes of the first Trustees, through fear of the attendant
expense; but another practice soon prevailed, and continued with
three or four exceptions until the breaking out of the war in
1775. They were then private for five years, on account of the
times. The early exercises of the candidates for the first degree
were a 'saluting' oration in Latin, succeeded by syllogistic
disputations in the same language; and the day was closed by the
Masters' exercises,--disputations and a valedictory. According to
an ancient academical practice, theses were printed and
distributed upon this occasion, indicating what the candidates for
a degree had studied, and were prepared to defend; yet, contrary
to the usage still prevailing at universities which have adhered
to the old method of testing proficiency, it does not appear that
these theses were ever defended in public. They related to a
variety of subjects in Technology, Logic, Grammar, Rhetoric,
Mathematics, Physics, Metaphysics, Ethics, and afterwards
Theology. The candidates for a Master's degree also published
theses at this time, which were called _Quaestiones magistrales_.
The syllogistic disputes were held between an affirmant and
respondent, who stood in the side galleries of the church opposite
to one another, and shot the weapons of their logic over the heads
of the audience. The saluting Bachelor and the Master who
delivered the valedictory stood in the front gallery, and the
audience huddled around below them to catch their Latin eloquence
as it fell. It seems also to have been usual for the President to
pronounce an oration in some foreign tongue upon the same
"At the first public Commencement under President Stiles, in 1781,
we find from a particular description which has been handed down,
that the original plan, as above described, was subjected for the
time to considerable modifications. The scheme, in brief, was as
follows. The salutatory oration was delivered by a member of the
graduating class, who is now our aged and honored townsman, Judge
Baldwin. This was succeeded by the syllogistic disputations, and
these by a Greek oration, next to which came an English colloquy.
Then followed a forensic disputation, in which James Kent was one
of the speakers. Then President Stiles delivered an oration in
Hebrew, Chaldaic, and Arabic,--it being an extraordinary occasion.
After which the morning was closed with an English oration by one
of the graduating class. In the afternoon, the candidates for the
second degree had the time, as usual, to themselves, after a Latin
discourse by President Stiles. The exhibiters appeared in
syllogistic disputes, a dissertation, a poem, and an English
oration. Among these performers we find the names of Noah Webster,
Joel Barlow, and Oliver Wolcott. Besides the Commencements there
were exhibitions upon quarter-days, as they were called, in
December and March, as well as at the end of the third term, when
the younger classes performed; and an exhibition of the Seniors in
July, at the time of their examination for degrees, when the
valedictory orator was one of their own choice. This oration was
transferred to the Commencement about the year 1798, when the
Masters' valedictories had fallen into disuse; and being in
English, gave a new interest to the exercises of the day.
"Commencements were long occasions of noisy mirth, and even of
riot. The older records are full of attempts, on the part of the
Corporation, to put a stop to disorder and extravagance at this
anniversary. From a document of 1731, it appears that cannons had
been fired in honor of the day, and students were now forbidden to
have a share in this on pain of degradation. The same prohibition
was found necessary again in 1755, at which time the practice had
grown up of illuminating the College buildings upon Commencement
eve. But the habit of drinking spirituous liquor, and of
furnishing it to friends, on this public occasion, grew up into
more serious evils. In the year 1737, the Trustees, having found
that there was a great expense in spirituous distilled liquors
upon Commencement occasions, ordered that for the future no
candidate for a degree, or other student, should provide or allow
any such liquors to be drunk in his chamber during Commencement
week. And again, it was ordered in 1746, with the view of
preventing several extravagant and expensive customs, that there
should be 'no kind of public treat but on Commencement,
quarter-days, and the day on which the valedictory oration was
pronounced; and on that day the Seniors may provide and give away
a barrel of metheglin, and nothing more.' But the evil continued a
long time. In 1760, it appears that it was usual for the
graduating class to provide a pipe of wine, in the payment of
which each one was forced to join. The Corporation now attempted
by very stringent law to break up this practice; but the Senior
Class having united in bringing large quantities of rum into
College, the Commencement exercises were suspended, and degrees
were withheld until after a public confession of the class. In the
two next years degrees were given at the July examination, with a
view to prevent such disorders, and no public Commencement was
celebrated. Similar scenes are not known to have occurred
afterwards, although for a long time that anniversary wore as much
the aspect of a training-day as of a literary festival.
"The Commencement Day in the modern sense of the term--that is, a
gathering of graduated members and of others drawn together by a
common interest in the College, and in its young members who are
leaving its walls--has no counterpart that I know of in the older
institutions of Europe. It arose by degrees out of the former
exercises upon this occasion, with the addition of such as had
been usual before upon quarter-days, or at the presentation in
July. For a time several of the commencing Masters appeared on the
stage to pronounce orations, as they had done before. In process
of time, when they had nearly ceased to exhibit, this anniversary
began to assume a somewhat new feature; the peculiarity of which
consists in this, that the graduates have a literary festival more
peculiarly their own, in the shape of discourses delivered before
their assembled body, or before some literary
society."--_Woolsey's Historical Discourse_, pp. 65-68.
Further remarks concerning the observance of Commencement at Yale
College may be found in Ebenezer Baldwin's "Annals" of that
institution, pp. 189-197.
An article "On the Date of the First Public Commencement at Yale
College, in New Haven," will be read with pleasure by those who
are interested in the deductions of antiquarian research. It is
contained in the "Yale Literary Magazine," Vol. XX. pp. 199, 200.
The following account of Commencement at Dartmouth College, on
Wednesday, August 24th, 1774, written by Dr. Belknap, may not
"About eleven o'clock, the Commencement began in a large tent
erected on the east side of the College, and covered with boards;
scaffolds and seats being prepared.
"The President began with a prayer in the usual _strain_. Then an
English oration was spoken by one of the Bachelors, complimenting
the Trustees, &c. A syllogistic disputation on this question:
_Amicitia vera non est absque amore divina_. Then a cliosophic
oration. Then an anthem, 'The voice of my beloved sounds,' &c.
Then a forensic dispute, _Whether Christ died for all men_? which
was well supported on both sides. Then an anthem, 'Lift up your
heads, O ye gates,' &c.
"The company were invited to dine at the President's and the hall.
The Connecticut lads and lasses, I observed, walked about hand in
hand in procession, as 't is said they go to a wedding.
"Afternoon. The exercises began with a Latin oration on the state
of society by Mr. Kipley. Then an English _Oration on the
Imitative Arts_, by Mr. J. Wheelock. The degrees were then
conferred, and, in addition to the usual ceremony of the book,
diplomas were delivered to the candidates, with this form of
words: 'Admitto vos ad primum (vel secundum) gradum in artibus pro
more Academiarum in Anglia, vobisque trado hunc librum, una cum
potestate publice prelegendi ubicumque ad hoc munus avocati
fueritis (to the masters was added, fuistis vel fueritis), cujus
rei haec diploma membrana scripta est testimonium.' Mr. Woodward
stood by the President, and held the book and parchments,
delivering and exchanging them as need required. Rev. Mr. Benjamin
Pomeroy, of Hebron, was admitted to the degree of Doctor in
"After this, McGregore and Sweetland, two Bachelors, spoke a
dialogue of Lord Lyttleton's between Apicius and Darteneuf, upon
good eating and drinking. The Mercury (who comes in at the close
of the piece) performed his part but clumsily; but the two
epicures did well, and the President laughed as heartily as the
rest of the audience; though considering the circumstances, it
might admit of some doubt, whether the dialogue were really a
burlesque, or a compliment to the College.
"An anthem and prayer concluded the public exercises. Much decency
and regularity were observable through the day, in the numerous
attending concourse of people."--_Life of Jeremy Belknap, D.D._,
At Shelby College, Ky., it is customary at Commencement to perform
plays, with appropriate costumes, at stated intervals during the
An account of the manner in which Commencement has been observed
at other colleges would only be a repetition of what has been
stated above, in reference to Harvard and Yale. These being, the
former the first, and the latter the third institution founded in
our country, the colleges which were established at a later period
grounded, not only their laws, but to a great extent their
customs, on the laws and customs which prevailed at Cambridge and
COMMENCEMENT CARD. At Union College, there is issued annually at
Commencement a card containing a programme of the exercises of the
day, signed with the names of twelve of the Senior Class, who are
members of the four principal college societies. These cards are
worded in the form of invitations, and are to be sent to the
friends of the students. To be "_on the Commencement card_" is
esteemed an honor, and is eagerly sought for. At other colleges,
invitations are often issued at this period, usually signed by the
COMMENCER. In American colleges, a member of the Senior Class,
after the examination for degrees; generally, one who _commences_.
These exercises were, besides an oration usually made by the
President, orations both salutatory and valedictory, made by some
or other of the _commencers_.--_Mather's Magnalia_, B. IV. p. 128.
The Corporation with the Tutors shall visit the chambers of the
_commencers_ to see that this law be well observed.--_Peirce's
Hist. Harv. Univ._, App., p. 137.
Thirty _commencers_, besides Mr. Rogers, &c.--_Ibid._, App., p.
COMMERS. In the German universities, a party of students assembled
for the purpose of making an excursion to some place in the
country for a day's jollification. On such an occasion, the
students usually go "in a long train of carriages with outriders";
generally, a festive gathering of the students.--_Howitt's Student
Life of Germany_, Am. ed., p. 56; see also Chap. XVI.
COMMISSARY. In the University of Cambridge, Eng., an officer under
the Chancellor, and appointed by him, who holds a court of record
for all privileged persons and scholars under the degree of M.A.
In this court, all causes are tried and determined by the civil
and statute law, and by the custom of the University.--_Cam. Cal._
COMMON. To board together; to eat at a table in common.
COMMONER. A student of the second rank in the University of
Oxford, Eng., who is not dependent on the foundation for support,
but pays for his board or _commons_, together with all other
charges. Corresponds to a PENSIONER at Cambridge. See GENTLEMAN
2. One who boards in commons.
In all cases where those who do damage to the table furniture, or
in the steward's kitchen, cannot be detected, the amount shall be
charged to the _commoners_.--_Laws Union Coll._, 1807, p. 34.
The steward shall keep an accurate list of the
_commoners_.--_Ibid._, 1807, p. 34.
COMMON ROOM. The room to which all the members of the college have
access. There is sometimes one _common room_ for graduates, and
another for undergraduates.--_Crabb's Tech. Dict._
Oh, could the days once more but come,
When calm I smoak'd in _common room_.
_The Student_, Oxf. and Cam., 1750, Vol. I. p. 237.
COMMONS. Food provided at a common table, as in colleges, where
many persons eat at the same table, or in the same
Commons were introduced into Harvard College at its first
establishment, in the year 1636, in imitation of the English
universities, and from that time until the year 1849, when they
were abolished, seem to have been a never-failing source of
uneasiness and disturbance. While the infant College with the
title only of "school," was under the superintendence of Mr.
Nathaniel Eaton, its first "master," the badness of commons was
one of the principal causes of complaint. "At no subsequent period
of the College history," says Mr. Quincy, "has discontent with
commons been more just and well founded, than under the huswifery
of Mrs. Eaton." "It is perhaps owing," Mr. Winthrop observes in
his History of New England, "to the gallantry of our fathers, that
she was not enjoined in the perpetual malediction they bestowed on
her husband." A few years after, we read, in the "Information
given by the Corporation and Overseers to the General Court," a
proposition either to make "the scholars' charges less, or their
commons better." For a long period after this we have no account
of the state of commons, "but it is not probable," says Mr.
Peirce, "they were materially different from what they have been
During the administration of President Holyoke, from 1737 to 1769,
commons were the constant cause of disorders among the students.
There appears to have been a very general permission to board in
private families before the year 1737: an attempt was then made to
compel the undergraduates to board in commons. After many
resolutions, a law was finally passed, in 1760, prohibiting them
"from dining or supping in any house in town, except on an
invitation to dine or sup _gratis_." "The law," says Quincy, "was
probably not very strictly enforced. It was limited to one year,
and was not renewed."
An idea of the quality of commons may be formed from the following
accounts furnished by Dr. Holyoke and Judge Wingate. According to
the former of these gentlemen, who graduated in 1746, the
"breakfast was two sizings of bread and a cue of beer"; and
"evening commons were a pye." The latter, who graduated thirteen
years after, says: "As to the commons, there were in the morning
none while I was in College. At dinner, we had, of rather ordinary
quality, a sufficiency of meat of some kind, either baked or
boiled; and at supper, we had either a pint of milk and half a
biscuit, or a meat pye of some other kind. Such were the commons
in the hall in my day. They were rather ordinary; but I was young
and hearty, and could live comfortably upon them. I had some
classmates who paid for their commons and never entered the hall
while they belonged to the College. We were allowed at dinner a
cue of beer, which was a half-pint, and a sizing of bread, which I
cannot describe to you. It was quite sufficient for one dinner."
By a vote of the Corporation in 1750, a law was passed, declaring
"that the quantity of commons be as hath been usual, viz. two
sizes of bread in the morning; one pound of meat at dinner, with
sufficient sauce" (vegetables), "and a half a pint of beer; and at
night that a part pie be of the same quantity as usual, and also
half a pint of beer; and that the supper messes be but of four
parts, though the dinner messes be of six." This agrees in
substance with the accounts given above. The consequence of such
diet was, "that the sons of the rich," says Mr. Quincy,
"accustomed to better fare, paid for commons, which they would not
eat, and never entered the hall; while the students whose
resources did not admit of such an evasion were perpetually
About ten years after, another law was made, "to restrain scholars
from breakfasting in the houses of town's people," and provision
was made "for their being accommodated with breakfast in the hall,
either milk, chocolate, tea, or coffee, as they should
respectively choose." They were allowed, however, to provide
themselves with breakfasts in their own chambers, but not to
breakfast in one another's chambers. From this period breakfast
was as regularly provided in commons as dinner, but it was not
until about the year 1807 that an evening meal was also regularly
In the year 1765, after the erection of Hollis Hall, the
accommodations for students within the walls were greatly
enlarged; and the inconvenience being thus removed which those had
experienced who, living out of the College buildings, were
compelled to eat in commons, a system of laws was passed, by which
all who occupied rooms within the College walls were compelled to
board constantly in common, "the officers to be exempted only by
the Corporation, with the consent of the Overseers; the students
by the President only when they were about to be absent for at
least one week." Scarcely a year had passed under this new
_regime_ "before," says Quincy, "an open revolt of the students
took place on account of the provisions, which it took more than a
month to quell." "Although," he continues, "their proceedings were
violent, illegal, and insulting, yet the records of the immediate
government show unquestionably, that the disturbances, in their
origin, were not wholly without cause, and that they were
aggravated by want of early attention to very natural and
During the war of the American Revolution, the difficulty of
providing satisfactory commons was extreme, as may be seen from
the following vote of the Corporation, passed Aug. 11th, 1777.
"Whereas by law 9th of Chap. VI. it is provided, 'that there shall
always be chocolate, tea, coffee, and milk for breakfast, with
bread and biscuit and butter,' and whereas the foreign articles
above mentioned are now not to be procured without great
difficulty, and at a very exorbitant price; therefore, that the
charge of commons may be kept as low as possible,--
"_Voted_, That the Steward shall provide at the common charge only
bread or biscuit and milk for breakfast; and, if any of the
scholars choose tea, coffee, or chocolate for breakfast, they
shall procure those articles for themselves, and likewise the
sugar and butter to be used with them; and if any scholars choose
to have their milk boiled, or thickened with flour, if it may be
had, or with meal, the Steward, having reasonable notice, shall
provide it; and further, as salt fish alone is appointed by the
aforesaid law for the dinner on Saturdays, and this article is now
risen to a very high price, and through the scarcity of salt will
probably be higher, the Steward shall not be obliged to provide
salt fish, but shall procure fresh fish as often as he
can."--_Quincy's Hist. Harv. Univ._, Vol. II. p. 541.
Many of the facts in the following account of commons prior to,
and immediately succeeding, the year 1800, have been furnished by
Mr. Royal Morse of Cambridge.
The hall where the students took their meals was usually provided
with ten tables; at each table were placed two messes, and each
mess consisted of eight persons. The tables where the Tutors and
Seniors sat were raised eighteen or twenty inches, so as to
overlook the rest. It was the duty of one of the Tutors or of the
Librarian to "ask a blessing and return thanks," and in their
absence, the duty devolved on "the senior graduate or
undergraduate." The waiters were students, chosen from the
different classes, and receiving for their services suitable
compensation. Each table was waited on by members of the class
which occupied it, with the exception of the Tutor's table, at
which members of the Senior Class served. Unlike the _sizars_ and
_servitors_ at the English universities, the waiters were usually
much respected, and were in many cases the best scholars in their
The breakfast consisted of a specified quantity of coffee, a
_size_ of baker's biscuit, which was one biscuit, and a _size_ of
butter, which was about an ounce. If any one wished for more than
was provided, he was obliged to _size_ it, i.e. order from the
kitchen or buttery, and this was charged as extra commons or
_sizings_ in the quarter-bill.
At dinner, every mess was served with eight pounds of meat,
allowing a pound to each person. On Monday and Thursday the meat
was boiled; these days were on this account commonly called
"boiling days." On the other days the meat was roasted; these were
accordingly named "roasting days." Two potatoes were allowed to
each person, which he was obliged to pare for himself. On _boiling
days_, pudding and cabbage were added to the bill of fare, and in
their season, greens, either dandelion or the wild pea. Of bread,
a _size_ was the usual quantity apiece, at dinner. Cider was the
common beverage, of which there was no stated allowance, but each
could drink as much as he chose. It was brought, on in pewter
quart cans, two to a mess, out of which they drank, passing them
from mouth to mouth like the English wassail-bowl. The waiters
replenished them as soon as they were emptied.
No regular supper was provided, but a bowl of milk, and a size of
bread procured at the kitchen, supplied the place of the evening
Respecting the arrangement of the students at table, before
referred to, Professor Sidney Willard remarks: "The intercourse
among students at meals was not casual or promiscuous. Generally,
the students of the same class formed themselves into messes, as
they were called, consisting each of eight members; and the length
of one table was sufficient to seat two messes. A mess was a
voluntary association of those who liked each other's company; and
each member had his own place. This arrangement was favorable for
good order; and, where the members conducted themselves with
propriety, their cheerful conversation, and even exuberant spirits
and hilarity, if not too boisterous, were not unpleasant to that
portion of the government who presided at the head table. But the
arrangement afforded opportunities also for combining in factious
plans and organizations, tending to disorders, which became
infectious, and terminated unhappily for all
concerned."--_Memories of Youth and Manhood_, Vol. II. pp. 192,
A writer in the New England Magazine, referring to the same
period, says: "In commons, we fared as well as one half of us had
been accustomed to at home. Our breakfast consisted of a
good-sized biscuit of wheaten flour, with butter and coffee,
chocolate, or milk, at our option. Our dinner was served up on
dishes of pewter, and our drink, which was cider, in cans of the
same material. For our suppers, we went with our bowls to the
kitchen, and received our rations of milk, or chocolate, and
bread, and returned with them to our rooms."--Vol. III. p. 239.
Although much can be said in favor of the commons system, on
account of its economy and its suitableness to health and study,
yet these very circumstances which were its chief recommendation
were the occasion also of all the odium which it had to encounter.
"That simplicity," says Peirce, "which makes the fare cheap, and
wholesome, and philosophical, renders it also unsatisfactory to
dainty palates; and the occasional appearance of some unlucky
meat, or other food, is a signal for a general outcry against the
provisions." In the plain but emphatic words of one who was
acquainted with the state of commons, as they once were at Harvard
College, "the butter was sometimes so bad, that a farmer would not
take it to grease his cart-wheels with." It was the usual practice
of the Steward, when veal was cheap, to furnish it to the students
three, four, and sometimes five times in the week; the same with
reference to other meats when they could be bought at a low price,
and especially with lamb. The students, after eating this latter
kind of meat for five or six successive weeks would often assemble
before the Steward's house, and, as if their natures had been
changed by their diet, would bleat and blatter until he was fain
to promise them a change of food, upon which they would separate
until a recurrence of the same evil compelled them to the same
The annexed account of commons at Yale College, in former times,
is given by President Woolsey, in his Historical Discourse,
pronounced at New Haven, August 14th, 1850.
"At first, a college without common meals was hardly conceived of;
and, indeed, if we trace back the history of college as they grew
up at Paris, nothing is more of their essence than that students
lived and ate together in a kind of conventual system. No doubt,
also, when the town of New Haven was smaller, it was far more
difficult to find desirable places for boarding than at present.
But however necessary, the Steward's department was always beset
with difficulties and exposed to complaints which most gentlemen
present can readily understand. The following rations of commons,
voted by the Trustees in 1742, will show the state of college fare
at that time. 'Ordered, that the Steward shall provide the commons
for the scholars as follows, viz.: For breakfast, one loaf of
bread for four, which [the dough] shall weigh one pound. For
dinner for four, one loaf of bread as aforesaid, two and a half
pounds beef, veal, or mutton, or one and three quarter pounds salt
pork about twice a week in the summer time, one quart of beer, two
pennyworth of sauce [vegetables]. For supper for four, two quarts
of milk and one loaf of bread, when milk can conveniently be had,
and when it cannot, then apple-pie, which shall be made of one and
three fourth pounds dough, one quarter pound hog's fat, two ounces
sugar, and half a peck apples.' In 1759 we find, from a vote
prohibiting the practice, that beer had become one of the articles
allowed for the evening meal. Soon after this, the evening meal
was discontinued, and, as is now the case in the English colleges,
the students had supper in their own rooms, which led to
extravagance and disorder. In the Revolutionary war the Steward
was quite unable once or twice to provide food for the College,
and this, as has already appeared, led to the dispersion of the
students in 1776 and 1777, and once again in 1779 delayed the
beginning of the winter term several weeks. Since that time,
nothing peculiar has occurred with regard to commons, and they
continued with all their evils of coarse manners and wastefulness
for sixty years. The conviction, meanwhile, was increasing, that
they were no essential part of the College, that on the score of
economy they could claim no advantage, that they degraded the
manners of students and fomented disorder. The experiment of
suppressing them has hitherto been only a successful one. No one,
who can retain a lively remembrance of the commons and the manners
as they were both before and since the building of the new hall in
1819, will wonder that this resolution was adopted by the
authorities of the College."--pp. 70-72.
The regulations which obtained at meal-time in commons were at one
period in these words: "The waiters in the hall, appointed by the
President, are to put the victuals on the tables spread with
decent linen cloths, which are to be washed every week by the
Steward's procurement, and the Tutors, or some of the senior
scholars present, are to ask a blessing on the food, and to return
thanks. All the scholars at mealtime are required to behave
themselves decently and gravely, and abstain from loud talking. No
victuals, platters, cups, &c. may be carried out of the hall,
unless in case of sickness, and with liberty from one of the
Tutors. Nor may any scholar go out before thanks are returned. And
when dinner is over, the waiters are to carry the platters and
cloths back into the kitchen. And if any one shall offend in
either of these things, or carry away anything belonging to the
hall without leave, he shall be fined sixpence."--_Laws of Yale
Coll._, 1774, p. 19.
From a little work by a graduate at Yale College of the class of
1821, the accompanying remarks, referring to the system of commons
as generally understood, are extracted.
"The practice of boarding the students in commons was adopted by
our colleges, naturally, and perhaps without reflection, from the
old universities of Europe, and particularly from those of
England. At first those universities were without buildings,
either for board or lodging; being merely rendezvous for such as
wished to pursue study. The students lodged at inns, or at private
houses, defraying out of their own pockets, and in their own way,
all charges for board and education. After a while, in consequence
of the exorbitant demands of landlords, _halls_ were built, and
common tables furnished, to relieve them from such exactions.
Colleges, with chambers for study and lodging, were erected for a
like reason. Being founded, in many cases, by private munificence,
for the benefit of indigent students, they naturally included in
their economy both lodging-rooms and board. There was also a
_police_ reason for the measure. It was thought that the students
could be better regulated as to their manners and behavior, being
brought together under the eye of supervisors."
Omitting a few paragraphs, we come to a more particular account of
some of the jocose scenes which resulted from the commons system
as once developed at Yale College.
"The Tutors, who were seated at raised tables, could not, with all
their vigilance, see all that passed, and they winked at much they
did see. Boiled potatoes, pieces of bread, whole loaves, balls of
butter, dishes, would be flung back and forth, especially between
Sophomores and Freshmen; and you were never sure, in raising a cup
to your lips, that it would not be dashed out of your hands, and
the contents spilt upon your clothes, by one of these flying
articles slyly sent at random. Whatever damage was done was
averaged on our term-bills; and I remember a charge of six hundred
tumblers, thirty coffee-pots, and I know not how many other
articles of table furniture, destroyed or carried off in a single
term. Speaking of tumblers, it may be mentioned as an instance of
the progress of luxury, even there, that down to about 1815 such a
thing was not known, the drinking-vessels at dinner being
capacious pewter mugs, each table being furnished with two. We
were at one time a good deal incommoded by the diminutive size of
the milk-pitchers, which were all the while empty and gone for
more. A waiter mentioned, for our patience, that, when these were
used up, a larger size would be provided. 'O, if that's the case,
the remedy is easy.' Accordingly the hint was passed through the
room, the offending pitchers were slyly placed upon the floor,
and, as we rose from the tables, were crushed under foot. The next
morning the new set appeared. One of the classes being tired of
_lamb, lamb, lamb_, wretchedly cooked, during the season of it,
expressed their dissatisfaction by entering the hall bleating; no
notice of which being taken, a day or two after they entered in
advance of the Tutors, and cleared the tables of it, throwing it
out of the windows, platters and all, and immediately retired.
"In truth, not much could be said in commendation of our Alma
Mater's table. A worse diet for sedentary men than that we had
during the last days of the _old_ hall, now the laboratory, cannot
be imagined. I will not go into particulars, for I hate to talk
about food. It was absolutely destructive of health. I know it to
have ruined, permanently, the health of some, and I have not the
least doubt of its having occasioned, in certain instances which I
could specify, incurable debility and premature death."--_Scenes
and Characters in College_, New Haven, 1847, pp. 113-117.
See INVALID'S TABLE. SLUM.
That the commons at Dartmouth College were at times of a quality
which would not be called the best, appears from the annexed
paragraph, written in the year 1774. "He [Eleazer Wheelock,
President of the College] has had the mortification to lose two
cows, and the rest were greatly hurt by a contagious distemper, so
that they _could not have a full supply of milk_; and once the
pickle leaked out of the beef-barrel, so that the _meat was not
sweet_. He had also been ill-used with respect to the purchase of
some wheat, so that they had smutty bread for a while, &c. The
scholars, on the other hand, say they scarce ever have anything
but pork and greens, without vinegar, and pork and potatoes; that
fresh meat comes but very seldom, and that the victuals are very
badly dressed."--_Life of Jeremy Belknap, D.D._, pp. 68, 69.
The above account of commons applies generally to the system as it
was carried out in the other colleges in the United States. In
almost every college, commons have been abolished, and with them
have departed the discords, dissatisfactions, and open revolts, of
which they were so often the cause.
COMMORANTES IN VILLA. Latin; literally, _those abiding in town_.
In the University of Cambridge, Eng., the designation of Masters
of Arts, and others of higher degree, who, residing within the
precincts of the University, enjoy the privilege of being members
of the Senate, without keeping their names on the college boards.
--_Gradus ad Cantab._
To have a vote in the Senate, the graduate must keep his name on
the books of some college, or on the list of the _commorantes in
villa_.--_Lit. World_, Vol. XII. p. 283.
COMPOSITION. At the University of Cambridge, Eng., translating
English into Greek or Latin is called _composition_.--_Bristed_.
In _composition_ and cram I was yet untried.--_Bristed's Five
Years in an Eng. Univ._, Ed. 2d, p. 34.
You will have to turn English prose into Greek and Latin prose,
English verse into Greek Iambic Trimeters, and part of some chorus
in the Agamemnon into Latin, and possibly also into English verse.
This is the "_composition_," and is to be done, remember, without
the help of books or any other assistance.--_Ibid._, p. 68.
The term _Composition_ seems in itself to imply that the
translation is something more than a translation.--_Ibid._, p.
Writing a Latin Theme, or original Latin verses, is designated
COMPOSUIST. A writer; composer. "This extraordinary word," says
Mr. Pickering, in his Vocabulary, "has been much used at some of
our colleges, but very seldom elsewhere. It is now rarely heard
among us. A correspondent observes, that 'it is used in England
among _musicians_.' I have never met with it in any English
publications upon the subject of music."
The word is not found, I believe, in any dictionary of the English
COMPOUNDER. One at a university who pays extraordinary fees,
according to his means, for the degree he is to take. A _Grand
Compounder_ pays double fees. See the _Customs and Laws of Univ.
of Cam., Eng._, p. 297.
CONCIO AD CLERUM. A sermon to the clergy. In the English
universities, an exercise or Latin sermon, which is required of
every candidate for the degree of D.D. Used sometimes in America.
In the evening the "_concio ad clerum_" will be preached.--_Yale
Lit. Mag._, Vol. XII. p. 426.
CONDITION. A student on being examined for admission to college,
if found deficient in certain studies, is admitted on _condition_
he will make up the deficiency, if it is believed on the whole
that he is capable of pursuing the studies of the class for which
he is offered. The branches in which he is deficient are called
Talks of Bacchus and tobacco, short sixes, sines, transitions,
And Alma Mater takes him in on ten or twelve _conditions_.
_Poem before Y.H. Soc., Harv. Coll._
Praying his guardian powers
To assist a poor Sub Fresh at the dread Examination,
And free from all _conditions_ to insure his first vacation.
_Poem before Iadma of Harv. Coll._
CONDITION. To admit a student as member of a college, who on being
examined has been found deficient in some particular, the
provision of his admission being that he will make up the
A young man shall come down to college from New Hampshire, with no
preparation save that of a country winter-school, shall be
examined and "_conditioned_" in everything, and yet he shall come
out far ahead of his city Latin-school classmate.--_A Letter to a
Young Man who has just entered College_, 1849, p. 8.
They find themselves _conditioned_ on the studies of the term, and
not very generally respected.--_Harvard Mag._, Vol. I. p. 415.
CONDUCT. The title of two clergymen appointed to read prayers at
Eton College, in England.--_Mason. Webster_.
CONFESSION. It was formerly the custom in the older American
colleges, when a student had rendered himself obnoxious to
punishment, provided the crime was not of an aggravated nature, to
pardon and restore him to his place in the class, on his
presenting a confession of his fault, to be read publicly in the
hall. The Diary of President Leverett, of Harvard College, under
date of the 20th of March, 1714, contains an interesting account
of the confession of Larnel, an Indian student belonging to the
Junior Sophister class, who had been guilty of some offence for
which he had been dismissed from college.
"He remained," says Mr. Leverett, "a considerable time at Boston,
in a state of penance. He presented his confession to Mr.
Pemberton, who thereupon became his intercessor, and in his letter
to the President expresses himself thus: 'This comes by Larnel,
who brings a confession as good as Austin's, and I am charitably
disposed to hope it flows from a like spirit of penitence.' In the
public reading of his confession, the flowing of his passions was
extraordinarily timed, and his expressions accented, and most
peculiarly and emphatically those of the grace of God to him;
which indeed did give a peculiar grace to the performance itself,
and raised, I believe, a charity in some that had very little I am
sure, and ratified wonderfully that which I had conceived of him.
Having made his public confession, he was restored to his standing
in the College."--_Quincy's Hist. Harv. Univ._, Vol. I. pp. 443,
CONGREGATION. At Oxford, the house of _congregation_ is one of the
two assemblies in which the business of the University, as such,
is carried on. In this house the Chancellor, or his vicar the
Vice-Chancellor, or in his absence one of his four deputies,
termed Pro-Vice-Chancellors, and the two Proctors, either by
themselves or their deputies, always preside. The members of this
body are regents, "either regents '_necessary_' or '_ad
placitum_,' that is, on the one hand, all doctors and masters of
arts, during the first year of their degree; and on the other, all
those who have gone through the year of their necessary regency,
and which includes all resident doctors, heads of colleges and
halls, professors and public lecturers, public examiners, masters
of the schools, or examiners for responsions or 'little go,' deans
and censors of colleges, and all other M.A.'s during the second
year of their regency." The business of the house of congregation,
which may be regarded as the oligarchical body, is chiefly to
grant degrees, and pass graces and dispensations.--_Oxford Guide_.
CONSERVATOR. An officer who has the charge of preserving the
rights and privileges of a city, corporation, or community, as in
Roman Catholic universities.--_Webster_.
CONSILIUM ABEUNDI. Latin; freely, _the decree of departure_. In
German universities, the _consilium abeundi_ "consists in
expulsion out of the district of the court of justice within which
the university is situated. This punishment lasts a year; after
the expiration of which, the banished student can renew his
matriculation."--_Howitt's Student Life of Germany_, Am. ed., p.
CONSISTORY COURT. In the University of Cambridge, England, there
is a _consistory court_ of the Chancellor and of the Commissary.
"For the former," says the Gradus ad Cantabrigiam, "the
Chancellor, and in his absence the Vice-Chancellor, assisted by
some of the heads of houses, and one or more doctors of the civil
law, administers justice desired by any member of the University,
&c. In the latter, the Commissary acts by authority given him
under the seal of the Chancellor, as well in the University as at
Stourbridge and Midsummer fairs, and takes cognizance of all
offences, &c. The proceedings are the same in both courts."
CONSTITUTIONAL. Among students at the University of Cambridge,
Eng., a walk for exercise.
The gallop over Bullington, and the "_constitutional_" up
Headington.--_Lond. Quart. Rev._, Am. ed., Vol. LXXIII. p. 53.
Instead of boots he [the Cantab] wears easy low-heeled shoes, for
greater convenience in fence and ditch jumping, and other feats of
extempore gymnastics which diversify his
"_constitutionals_".--_Bristed's Five Years in an Eng. Univ._, Ed.
2d, p. 4.
Even the mild walks which are dignified with the name of exercise
there, how unlike the Cantab's _constitutional_ of eight miles in
less than two hours.--_Ibid._, p. 45.
Lucky is the man who lives a mile off from his private tutor, or
has rooms ten minutes' walk from chapel: he is sure of that much
_constitutional_ daily.--_Ibid._, p. 224.
"_Constitutionals_" of eight miles in less than two hours, varied
with jumping hedges, ditches, and gates; "pulling" on the river,
cricket, football, riding twelve miles without drawing bridle,...
are what he understands by his two hours' exercise.--_Ibid._, p.
The most usual mode of exercise is walking,--_constitutionalizing_
is the Cantab for it.--_Bristed's Five Years in an Eng. Univ._,
Ed. 2d, p. 19.
CONVENTION. In the University of Cambridge, England, a court
consisting of the Master and Fellows of a college, who sit in the
_Combination Room_, and pass sentence on any young offender
against the laws of soberness and chastity.--_Gradus ad
CONVICTOR. Latin, _a familiar acquaintance_. In the University of
Oxford, those are called _convictores_ who, although not belonging
to the foundation of any college or hall, have at any time been
regents, and have constantly kept their names on the books of some
college or hall, from the time of their admission to the degree of
M.A., or Doctors in either of the three faculties.--_Oxf. Cal._
CONVOCATION. At Oxford, the house of _convocation_ is one of the
two assemblies in which the business of the University, as such,
is transacted. It consists both of regents and non-regents, "that
is, in brief, all masters of arts not 'honorary,' or 'ad eundems'
from Cambridge or Dublin, and of course graduates of a higher
order." In this house, the Chancellor, or his vicar the
Vice-Chancellor, or in his absence one of his four deputies,
termed Pro-Vice-Chancellors, and the two Proctors, either by
themselves or their deputies, always preside. The business of this
assembly--which may be considered as the house of commons,
excepting that the lords have a vote here equally as in their own
upper house, i.e. the house of congregation--is unlimited,
extending to all subjects connected with the well-being of the
University, including the election of Chancellor, members of
Parliament, and many of the officers of the University, the
conferring of extraordinary degrees, and the disposal of the
University ecclesiastical patronage. It has no initiative power,
this resting solely with the hebdomadal board, but it can debate,
and accept or refuse, the measures which originate in that
board.--_Oxford Guide. Literary World_, Vol. XII. p. 223.
In the University of Cambridge, England, an assembly of the Senate
out of term time is called a _convocation_. In such a case a grace
is immediately passed to convert the convocation into a
congregation, after which the business proceeds as usual.--_Cam.
2. At Trinity College, Hartford, the house of _convocation_
consists of the Fellows and Professors, with all persons who have
received any academic degree whatever in the same, except such as
may be lawfully deprived of their privileges. Its business is such
as may from time to time be delegated by the Corporation, from
which it derives its existence; and is, at present, limited to
consulting and advising for the good of the College, nominating
the Junior Fellows, and all candidates for admissions _ad eundem_;
making laws for its own regulation; proposing plans, measures, or
counsel to the Corporation; and to instituting, endowing, and
naming with concurrence of the same, professorships, scholarships,
prizes, medals, and the like. This and the _Corporation_ compose
the _Senatus Academicus_.--_Calendar Trin. Coll._, 1850, pp. 6, 7.
COPE. In the University of Cambridge, Eng., the ermined robe worn
by a Doctor in the Senate House, on Congregation Day, is called a
COPUS. "Of mighty ale, a large quarte."--_Chaucer_.
The word _copus_ and the beverage itself are both extensively used
among the _men_ of the University of Cambridge, England. "The
conjecture," says the Gradus ad Cantabrigiam, "is surely
ridiculous and senseless, that _Copus_ is contracted from
_Epis_copus, a bishop, 'a mixture of wine, oranges, and sugar.' A
copus of ale is a common fine at the student's table in hall for
speaking Latin, or for some similar impropriety."
COPY. At Cambridge, Eng., this word is applied exclusively to
papers of verse composition. It is a public-school term
transplanted to the University.--_Bristed_.
CORK, CALK. In some of the Southern colleges, this word, with a
derived meaning, signifies a _complete stopper_. Used in the sense
of an entire failure in reciting; an utter inability to answer an
CORPORAL PUNISHMENT. In the older American colleges, corporal
punishment was formerly sanctioned by law, and several instances
remain on record which show that its infliction was not of rare
Among the laws, rules, and scholastic forms established between
the years 1642 and 1646, by Mr. Dunster, the first President of
Harvard College, occurs the following: "Siquis scholarium ullam
Dei et hujus Collegii legem, sive animo perverso, seu ex supina
negligentia, violarit, postquam fuerit bis admonitus, si non
adultus, _virgis coerceatur_, sin adultus, ad Inspectores Collegii
deferendus erit, ut publice in eum pro meritis animadversio fiat."
In the year 1656, this law was strengthened by another, recorded
by Quincy, in these words: "It is hereby ordered that the
President and Fellows of Harvard College, for the time being, or
the major part of them, are hereby empowered, according to their
best discretion, to punish all misdemeanors of the youth in their
society, either by fine, or _whipping in the Hall openly_, as the
nature of the offence shall require, not exceeding ten shillings
or _ten stripes_ for one offence; and this law to continue in
force until this Court or the Overseers of the College provide
some other order to punish such offences."--_Quincy's Hist. Harv.
Univ._, Vol. I. pp. 578, 513.
A knowledge of the existence of such laws as the above is in some
measure a preparation for the following relation given by Mr.
Peirce in his History of Harvard University.
"At the period when Harvard College was founded," says that
gentleman, "one of the modes of punishment in the great schools of
England and other parts of Europe was corporal chastisement. It
was accordingly introduced here, and was, no doubt, frequently put
in practice. An instance of its infliction, as part of the
sentence upon an offender, is presented in Judge Sewall's MS.
Diary, with the particulars of a ceremonial, which was reserved
probably for special occasions. His account will afford some idea
of the manners and spirit of the age:--
"'June 15, 1674, Thomas Sargeant was examined by the Corporation
finally. The advice of Mr. Danforth, Mr. Stoughton, Mr. Thacher,
Mr. Mather (the present), was taken. This was his sentence:
"'That being convicted of speaking blasphemous words concerning
the H.G., he should be therefore publickly whipped before all the
"'2. That he should be suspended as to taking his degree of
Bachelor. (This sentence read before him twice at the President's
before the Committee and in the Library, before execution.)
"'3. Sit alone by himself in the Hall uncovered at meals, during
the pleasure of the President and Fellows, and be in all things
obedient, doing what exercise was appointed him by the President,
or else be finally expelled the College. The first was presently
put in execution in the Library (Mr. Danforth, Jr. being present)
before the scholars. He kneeled down, and the instrument, Goodman
Hely, attended the President's word as to the performance of his
part in the work. Prayer was had before and after by the
President, July 1, 1674.'"
"Men's ideas," continues Mr. Peirce, "must have been very
different from those of the present day, to have tolerated a law
authorizing so degrading a treatment of the members of such a
society. It may easily be imagined what complaints and uneasiness
its execution must frequently have occasioned among the friends
and connections of those who were the subjects of it. In one
instance, it even occasioned the prosecution of a Tutor; but this
was as late as 1733, when old rudeness had lost much of the
people's reverence. The law, however, was suffered, with some
modification, to continue more than a century. In the revised body
of Laws made in the year 1734, we find this article:
'Notwithstanding the preceding pecuniary mulcts, it shall be
lawful for the President, Tutors, and Professors, to punish
Undergraduates by Boxing, when they shall judge the nature or
circumstances of the offence call for it.' This relic of
barbarism, however, was growing more and more repugnant to the
general taste and sentiment. The late venerable Dr. Holyoke, who
was of the class of 1746, observed, that in his day 'corporal
punishment was going out of use'; and at length it was expunged
from the code, never, we trust, to be recalled from the rubbish of
past absurdities."--pp. 227, 228.
The last movements which were made in reference to corporal
punishment are thus stated by President Quincy, in his History of
Harvard University. "In July, 1755, the Overseers voted, that it
[the right of boxing] should be 'taken away.' The Corporation,
however, probably regarded it as too important an instrument of
authority to be for ever abandoned, and voted, 'that it should be
suspended, as to the execution of it, for one year.' When this
vote came before the Overseers for their sanction, the board
hesitated, and appointed a large committee 'to consider and make
report what punishments they apprehend proper to be substituted
instead of boxing, in case it be thought expedient to repeal or
suspend the law which allows or establishes the same.' From this
period the law disappeared, and the practice was
discontinued."--Vol. II. p. 134.
The manner in which corporal punishment was formerly inflicted at
Yale College is stated by President Woolsey, in his Historical
Discourse, delivered at New Haven, August, 1850. After speaking of
the methods of punishing by fines and degradation, he thus
proceeds to this topic: "There was a still more remarkable
punishment, as it must strike the men of our times, and which,
although for some reason or other no traces of it exist in any of
our laws so far as I have discovered, was in accordance with the
'good old plan,' pursued probably ever since the origin of
universities. I refer--'horresco referens'--to the punishment of
boxing or cuffing. It was applied before the Faculty to the
luckless offender by the President, towards whom the culprit, in a
standing position, inclined his head, while blows fell in quick
succession upon either ear. No one seems to have been served in
this way except Freshmen and commencing 'Sophimores.' I do not
find evidence that this usage much survived the first jubilee of
the College. One of the few known instances of it, which is on
other accounts remarkable, was as follows. A student in the first
quarter of his Sophomore year, having committed an offence for
which he had been boxed when a Freshman, was ordered to be boxed
again, and to have the additional penalty of acting as butler's
waiter for one week. On presenting himself, _more academico_, for
the purpose of having his ears boxed, and while the blow was
falling, he dodged and fled from the room and the College. The
beadle was thereupon ordered to try to find him, and to command
him to keep himself out of College and out of the yard, and to
appear at prayers the next evening, there to receive further
orders. He was then publicly admonished and suspended; but in four
days after submitted to the punishment adjudged, which was
accordingly inflicted, and upon his public confession his
suspension was taken off. Such public confessions, now unknown,
were then exceedingly common."
After referring to the instance mentioned above, in which corporal
punishment was inflicted at Harvard College, the author speaks as
follows, in reference to the same subject, as connected with the
English universities. "The excerpts from the body of Oxford
statutes, printed in the very year when this College was founded,
threaten corporal punishment to persons of the proper age,--that
is, below the age of eighteen,--for a variety of offences; and
among the rest for disrespect to Seniors, for frequenting places
where 'vinum aut quivis alius potus aut herba Nicotiana ordinarie
venditur,' for coming home to their rooms after the great Tom or
bell of Christ's Church had sounded, and for playing football
within the University precincts or in the city streets. But the
statutes of Trinity College, Cambridge, contain more remarkable
rules, which are in theory still valid, although obsolete in fact.
All the scholars, it is there said, who are absent from
prayers,--Bachelors excepted,--if over eighteen years of age,
'shall be fined a half-penny, but if they have not completed the
year of their age above mentioned, they shall be chastised with
rods in the hall on Friday.' At this chastisement all
undergraduates were required to be lookers on, the Dean having the
rod of punishment in his hand; and it was provided also, that
whosoever should not answer to his name on this occasion, if a
boy, should be flogged on Saturday. No doubt this rigor towards
the younger members of the society was handed down from the
monastic forms which education took in the earlier schools of the
Middle Ages. And an advance in the age of admission, as well as a
change in the tone of treatment of the young, may account for this
system being laid aside at the universities; although, as is well
known, it continues to flourish at the great public schools of
CORPORATION. The general government of colleges and universities
is usually vested in a corporation aggregate, which is preserved
by a succession of members. "The President and Fellows of Harvard
College," says Mr. Quincy in his History of Harvard University,
"being the only Corporation in the Province, and so continuing
during the whole of the seventeenth century, they early assumed,
and had by common usage conceded to them, the name of "_The
Corporation_," by which they designate themselves in all the early
records. Their proceedings are recorded as being done 'at a
meeting of _the Corporation_,' or introduced by the formula, 'It
is ordered by _the Corporation_,' without stating the number or
the names of the members present, until April 19th, 1675, when,
under President Oakes, the names of those present were first
entered on the records, and afterwards they were frequently,
though not uniformly, inserted."--Vol. I. p. 274.
2. At Trinity College, Hartford, the _Corporation_, on which the
_House of Convocation_ is wholly dependent, and to which, by law,
belongs the supreme control of the College, consists of not more
than twenty-four Trustees, resident within the State of
Connecticut; the Chancellor and President of the College being _ex
officio_ members, and the Chancellor being _ex officio_ President
of the same. They have authority to fill their own vacancies; to
appoint to offices and professorships; to direct and manage the
funds for the good of the College; and, in general, to exercise
the powers of a collegiate society, according to the provisions of
the charter.--_Calendar Trin. Coll._, 1850, p. 6.
COSTUME. At the English universities there are few objects that
attract the attention of the stranger more than the various
academical dresses worn by the members of those institutions. The
following description of the various costumes assumed in the
University of Cambridge is taken from "The Cambridge Guide," Ed.
"A _Doctor in Divinity_ has three robes: the _first_, a gown made
of scarlet cloth, with ample sleeves terminating in a point, and
lined with rose-colored silk, which is worn in public processions,
and on all state and festival days;--the _second_ is the cope,
worn at Great St. Mary's during the service on Litany-days, in the
Divinity Schools during an Act, and at Conciones ad Clerum; it is
made of scarlet cloth, and completely envelops the person, being
closed down the front, which is trimmed with an edging of ermine;
at the back of it is affixed a hood of the same costly fur;--the
_third_ is a gown made of black silk or poplin, with full, round
sleeves, and is the habit commonly worn in public by a D.D.;
Doctors, however, sometimes wear a Master of Arts' gown, with a
silk scarf. These several dresses are put over a black silk
cassock, which covers the entire body, around which it is fastened
by a broad sash, and has sleeves coming down to the wrists, like a
coat. A handsome scarf of the same materials, which hangs over the
shoulders, and extends to the feet, is always worn with the
scarlet and black gowns. A square black cloth cap, with silk
tassel, completes the costume.
"_Doctors in the Civil Law and in Physic_ have two robes: the
_first_ is the scarlet gown, as just described, and the _second_,
or ordinary dress of a D.C.L., is a black silk gown, with a plain
square collar, the sleeves hanging down square to the feet;--the
ordinary gown of an M.D. is of the same shape, but trimmed at the
collar, sleeves, and front with rich black silk lace.
"A _Doctor in Music_ commonly wears the same dress as a D.C.L.;
but on festival and scarlet-days is arrayed in a gown made of rich
white damask silk, with sleeves and facings of rose-color, a hood
of the same, and a round black velvet cap with gold tassel.
"_Bachelors in Divinity_ and _Masters of Arts_ wear a black gown,
made of bombazine, poplin, or silk. It has sleeves extending to
the feet, with apertures for the arms just above the elbow, and
may be distinguished by the shape of the sleeves, which hang down
square, and are cut out at the bottom like the section of a
"_Bachelors in the Civil Law and in Physic_ wear a gown of the
same shape as that of a Master of Arts.
"All Graduates of the above ranks are entitled to wear a hat,
instead of the square black cloth cap, with their gowns, and the
custom of doing so is generally adopted, except by the HEADS,
_Tutors_, and _University_ and _College Officers_, who consider it
more correct to appear in the full academical costume.
"A _Bachelor of Arts'_ gown is made of bombazine or poplin, with
large sleeves terminating in a point, with apertures for the arms,
just below the shoulder-joint. _Bachelor Fellow-Commoners_
usually wear silk gowns, and square velvet caps. The caps of other
Bachelors are of cloth.
"All the above, being _Graduates_, when they use surplices in
chapel wear over them their _hoods_, which are peculiar to the
several degrees. The hoods of _Doctors_ are made of scarlet cloth,
lined with rose-colored silk; those of _Bachelors in Divinity_,
and _Non-Regent Masters of Arts_, are of black silk; those of
_Regent Masters of Arts_ and _Bachelors in the Civil Law and in
Physic_, of black silk lined with white; and those of _Bachelors
of Arts_, of black serge, trimmed with a border of white
"The dresses of the _Undergraduates_ are the following:--
"A _Nobleman_ has two gowns: the _first_ in shape like that of the
Fellow-Commoners, is made of purple Ducape, very richly
embroidered with gold lace, and is worn in public processions, and
on festival-days: a square black velvet cap with a very large gold
tassel is worn with it;--the _second_, or ordinary gown, is made
of black silk, with full round sleeves, and a hat is worn with it.
The latter dress is worn also by the Bachelor Fellows of King's
"A _Fellow-Commoner_ wears a black prince's stuff gown, with a
square collar, and straight hanging sleeves, which are decorated
with gold lace; and a square black velvet cap with a gold tassel.
"The Fellow-Commoners of Emmanuel College wear a similar gown,
with the addition of several gold-lace buttons attached to the
trimmings on the sleeves;--those of Trinity College have a purple
prince's stuff gown, adorned with silver lace, and a silver
tassel is attached to the cap;--at Downing the gown is made of
black silk, of the same shape, ornamented with tufts and silk
lace; and a square cap of velvet with a gold tassel is worn. At
Jesus College, a Bachelor's silk gown is worn, plaited up at the
sleeve, and with a gold lace from the shoulder to the bend of the
arm. At Queen's a Bachelor's silk gown, with a velvet cap and gold
tassel, is worn: the same at Corpus and Magdalene; at the latter
it is gathered and looped up at the sleeve,--at the former
(Corpus) it has velvet facings. Married Fellow-Commoners usually
wear a black silk gown, with full, round sleeves, and a square
velvet cap with silk tassel.
"The _Pensioner's_ gown and cap are mostly of the same material
and shape as those of the Bachelor's: the gown differs only in the
mode of trimming. At Trinity and Caius Colleges the gown is
purple, with large sleeves, terminating in a point. At St. Peter's
and Queen's, the gown is precisely the same as that of a Bachelor;
and at King's, the same, but made of fine black woollen cloth. At
Corpus Christi is worn a B.A. gown, with black velvet facings. At
Downing and Trinity Hall the gown is made of black bombazine, with
large sleeves, looped up at the elbows.
"_Students in the Civil Law and in Physic_, who have kept their
Acts, wear a full-sleeved gown, and are entitled to use a B.A.
"Bachelors of Arts and Undergraduates are obliged by the statutes
to wear their academical costume constantly in public, under a
penalty of 6s. 8d. for every omission.
"Very few of the _University Officers_ have distinctive dresses.
"The _Chancellor's_ gown is of black damask silk, very richly
embroidered with gold. It is worn with a broad, rich lace band,
and square velvet cap with large gold tassel.
"The _Vice-Chancellor_ dresses merely as a Doctor, except at
Congregations in the Senate-House, when he wears a cope. When
proceeding to St. Mary's, or elsewhere, in his official capacity,
he is preceded by the three Esquire-Bedells with their silver
maces, which were the gift of Queen Elizabeth.
"The _Regius Professors of the Civil Law and of Physic_, when they
preside at Acts in the Schools, wear copes, and round black velvet
caps with gold tassels.
"The _Proctors_ are not distinguishable from other Masters of
Arts, except at St. Mary's Church and at Congregations, when they
wear cassocks and black silk ruffs, and carry the Statutes of the
University, being attended by two servants, dressed in large blue
cloaks, ornamented with gold-lace buttons.
"The _Yeoman-Bedell_, in processions, precedes the
Esquire-Bedells, carrying an ebony mace, tipped with silver; his
gown, as well as those of the _Marshal_ and _School-Keeper_, is
made of black prince's stuff, with square collar, and square
hanging sleeves."--pp. 28-33.
At the University of Oxford, Eng., the costume of the Graduates is
"The Doctor in Divinity has three dresses: the first consists of a
gown of scarlet cloth, with black velvet sleeves and facings, a
cassock, sash, and scarf. This dress is worn on all public
occasions in the Theatre, in public processions, and on those
Sundays and holidays marked (*) in the _Oxford Calendar_. The
second is a habit of scarlet cloth, and a hood of the same color
lined with black, and a black silk scarf: the Master of Arts' gown
is worn under this dress, the sleeves appearing through the
arm-holes of the habit. This is the dress of business; it is used
in Convocation, Congregation, at Morning Sermons at St. Mary's
during the term, and at Afternoon Sermons at St. Peter's during
Lent, with the exception of the Morning Sermon on Quinquagesima
Sunday, and the Morning Sermons in Lent. The third, which is the
usual dress in which a Doctor of Divinity appears, is a Master of
Arts' gown, with cassock, sash, and scarf. The Vice-Chancellor and
Heads of Colleges and Halls have no distinguishing dress, but
appear on all occasions as Doctors in the faculty to which they
"The dresses worn by Graduates in Law and Physic are nearly the
same. The Doctor has three. The first is a gown of scarlet cloth,
with sleeves and facings of pink silk, and a round black velvet
cap. This is the dress of state. The second consists of a habit
and hood of scarlet cloth, the habit faced and the hood lined with
pink silk. This habit, which is perfectly analogous to the second
dress of the Doctor in Divinity, has lately grown into disuse; it
is, however, retained by the Professors, and is always used in
presenting to Degrees. The third or common dress of a Doctor in
Law or Physic nearly resembles that of the Bachelor in these
faculties; it is a black silk gown richly ornamented with black
lace; the hood of the Bachelor of Laws (worn as a dress) is of
purple silk, lined with white fur.
"The dress worn by the Doctor of Music on public occasions is a
rich white damask silk gown, with sleeves and facings of crimson
satin, a hood of the same material, and a round black velvet cap.
The usual dresses of the Doctor and of the Bachelor in Music are
nearly the same as those of Law and Physic.
"The Master of Arts wears a black gown, usually made of prince's
stuff or crape, with long sleeves which are remarkable for the
circular cut at the bottom. The arm comes through an aperture in
the sleeve, which hangs down. The hood of a Master of Arts is
black silk lined with crimson.
"The gown of a Bachelor of Arts is also usually made of prince's
stuff or crape. It has a full sleeve, looped up at the elbow, and
terminating in a point; the dress hood is black, trimmed with
white fur. In Lent, at the time of _determining_ in the Schools, a
strip of lamb's-wool is worn in addition to the hood. Noblemen and
Gentlemen-Commoners, who take the Degrees of Bachelor and Master
of Arts, wear their gowns of silk."
The costume of the Undergraduates is thus described:--
"The Nobleman has two dresses; the first, which is worn in the
Theatre, in processions, and on all public occasions, is a gown of
purple damask silk, richly ornamented with gold lace. The second
is a black silk gown, with full sleeves; it has a tippet attached
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