SHADOW OF A MAN
The president's room faced south, looking across the college yard to
the old road from Hamilton and the solid woods beyond. Here, filling
large pages in his gnarled and knotty hand, Robert Hamilton Bishop
wrote out chapel talks and sermons, lecture notes
on moral philosophy and logic, annual reports for the University
magazine begun in 1827.
It was President Bishop, probably, who noted the stream of movers passing though. On an October day in 1828 the rumble of wagon wheels drew his eyes to the window and his mind to the great migration. "To a person who has never witnessed it," observed the Literary Register, "the tide of emigration which sets in regularly every fall would be incredible. The Indiana Journal says that from twenty-five to thirty families pass through Indianapolis daily, only their way to way the Wabash and other wester n settlement in that state. We have not had an opportunity of counting the average number of families that pass through this place daily; but it really seems to us that from morning till night 'moving wagons' are hardly out of sight. They form an almost continuous line with their wagons, their stock and their children, jogging along at their leisure with great cheerfulness."
A few weeks later the Literary Register reported of Oxford, "The inhabitants are from various countries, from England, and Scotland, and Ireland and from most of the Atlantic states." They too, and Robert Hamilton Bishop included were part of the migration that was finding its future in a new land. Oxford was a frontier town ringed by the stubborn through, wild land marked only by scattered sawmills, grist mills, Indian mounds. For the village's five hundred residents there were six stores, three taverns, a harness shop, a tanyard, a livery stable, some log and some frame houses. All spring the Oxford air was hazed with smoke from the clearings; sometimes candles were lit at noon because the sky was dark from brush and forest fires. The High Street merchants sold axes, ox-yokes, log chains, grubbing hoes. The town had a few well-bred families; the rest were a raffish lot. More than a muddy campus path separated town and college.
In this frontier village Robert Hamilton Bishop meant to develop a university. Its first catalogue, published in 1826, concluded with a paragraph thanking those who had "thus far encouraged an infant institution" and assuring them that "every possible exertion will be made to make the Miami University in all its departments a public and common good."
A university seal had been adopted in 1826, showing an open book, a globe and a telescope, all surmounted by a sturdy motto Prodesse Quam Conspici--"To Accomplish Rather than to be Conspicuous." A year earlier thirteen students had formed the Erodelphian Literary Society, and twelve others had organized the Union Literary Society. Together the rival orders bought a moveable press in Cincinnati, carted it over the rough roads to Oxford, and set it up in the college building. In June of 1827 they published their first periodical, the Literary Focus, aiming to produce a magazine of education value for themselves and the community. It failed within a year, but was promptly followed by a new effort, the weekly Literary Register, Published by Professors Bishop, Annan and McGuffey and students from the two societies. This periodical, broader than the Focus, offered current news, essays on literature and science, and items of local interest. On January 17, 1828, appeared an account of a Butler County hog weighing 1260 pounds whose owner having exhibited the prodigy in towns on the Ohio River, planned to take it to the eastern cities" to show the Yankees what kind of hogs we raise in Ohio." The same issue contained a poem "from the pen of a young Quaker Shoe-maker living in Haverhill, Massachusetts--John Greenleaf Whittier." The college weekly was relating the East and West to each other.
In 1829 William W. Bishop, the oldest of the presidents six sons, bought the literary societies' press. For a few years he carried on a publisher's business and a book store, chancy ventures in a frontier town. Debt overtook him while he was building a house on the stump-dotted lane hopefully called High Street. He went West, like the movers in the creaking wagons, to a career as editor and publisher in Missouri and Illinois, leaving his father to discharge his debts. With patience and penury President Bishop paid off the obligations and completed the first house beyond the north fence of the campus. In 1836 he moved his family into it, and wore his own path to the college building. He lived there during his uphill years, vexed by financial troubles, contending with the saloon-keepers of Oxford, dissension in his faculty, and opponents of his liberal views. But he never doubted the role and the future of Miami University. It had lighted the old lamps of learning and piety in a new country.
At its opening in 1824 the college offered only the traditional classical course, leading to the A.B. degree. This remained the core of the college, but very early the curriculum was broadened and extended. In 1825, a new "English Scientific Department" offered modern languages, applied mathematics and political economy as training for the practical professions; the course led to a certificate rather than to a diploma. This second curriculum was begun in the year that George Ticknor's pamphlet argued the claims of the sciences and the modern languages at Harvard, and two years before a non-classical "parallel course" was provided at Amherst College. President Bishop was abreast of educational philosophy in the East.
In 1827 the trustees proposed a law school at Miami, but Governor Trimble of Ohio discouraged a request for state funds for its support. Some members suggested that part of the college lands be sold outright to raise the money for a law professor and a law library, but the board was not persuaded.
In 1829 the Literary Register announced the opening of a Theological Department and a Farmer's College. President Bishop's accents sound clearly in the statement: "We are the servants of the community, and it is our wish to make Miami a common good to all classes of men." The farmer's college was not an agricultural course but a three-year academic program for farm boys. "Literary and scientific knowledge is no longer to be the exclusive property of a few professional men", wrote Bishop with an awareness of what a century later would be called general education. " It is to become the common property of the mass of the human family." The farmer's college required neither Latin nor Greek but included the more "modern" studies in the existing curriculum.
In 1830 the trustees proposed to establish a medical department to be located in Cincinnati. Daniel Drake, a former colleague of Bishop at Transylvania and the foremost physician in the West, was named its dean and instructed to select his faculty. He chose a distinguished list of six doctors and announced the opening of the department in the fall of 1831. Then came the opposition. Because of legal complications and Cincinnati rivalry, the Miami Medical School never enrolled a student or conducted a class. An appropriation from the Ohio Legislature enabled the floundering Cincinnati medical college to reorganize and to hire the entire faculty which Drake had gathered.
The theological department was a more successful story. The 1828 two Lane brothers in Cincinnati gave funds to establish a seminary for the training of ministers of the New School; Ebenezeer Lane later lived in Oxford, on the site of The Pines, and gave the grounds for the Oxford Female college, now Fisher Hall. Originally Lane Seminary was to have both literary and a theological department, but with Bishop's influence the literary department was soon transferred to Miami; that is to say, students destined for theological study at Lane seminary were encouraged to take a preliminary college work in Oxford. For ministerial students Miami offered classes in Hebrew and systematic theology, in addition to the college courses. From Miami in the early years went a steady stream of Presbyterian ministers. The old Oxford Presbyterian Church on the corner of Church Street and Campus Avenue, the "mother church of ministers," was for thirty years a resounding center of doctrinal controversy.
Most of the Old Miami faculty were ordained Presbyterian ministers; many of its trustees were Presbyterian clergymen and laymen; until 1885 all students were Presbyterian divines. President Bishop, a national leader in the church, was chairman of a committee which awarded Presbyterian scholarships to college students. In the 1830's the Presbyterian Education Society sent scores of students to Miami and contributed nearly two thousand dollars in the form of scholarships. Though Miami University was created by the Federal Congress and established by the State of Ohio, it could not have been more Presbyterian if founded by John Knox.
The situation in Miami was not unique; in those years the Presbyterian Church dominated state-created colleges in North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana. In 1834 Indiana Methodist demanded appointment of a Methodist professor in the state university. Samuel Bigger(son of the Miami University trustees in 1810), a member of the Indiana Legislature, declared There was "not a Methodist in America with sufficient learning to fill a professor's chair if it were tendered to him." Samuel Bigger became governor of Indiana in 1840, but the Methodist took credit for defeating him two years later.
With its several courses of study--classical, theological, and English and scientific--Miami was responding to the needs of the new country. Many pioneer communities had a dislike for" colleges, pianos and Yankees," and " Yankee college" was a doubly dammed term. Miscalled the Yale of the Early West, Miami was not a foster child of the East but a true product of the frontier, with a charter and identity of its own.
In 1826 Professor Sparrow had reigned his chair of ancient languages to become vice-president of Kenyon College. In his place came a young William Holmes McGuffey, just graduated from Washington College in Pennsylvania, riding into Oxford with Latin, Greek, and Hebrew texts bulging out his saddle bags. He moved into the college building, taking a room next to Professor Annan on the second floor. Shortly after his arrival the brick cupola on the roof collapsed. The crash sent McGuffey to his window, but a workman told him not to jump. In the spring vacation of 1827 McGuffey and Annan tool a horseback tour through Butler County, riding along the raw new ditch of the Miami and Erie Canal. Back axes beside them, chopped and burned out stumps on the south campus. With his backwoods upbringing McGuffey was no stranger to an ax.
That summer McGuffey married Harriet Sprining, niece of an Oxford merchant, taking her to board in the only brick house on South Main Street, at the corner of Collins. The next year saw the beginning of their own brick house on Spring Street, across from the south gate of the campus. Here McGuffey began work on his Readers.
In 1828 came buoyant, hearty John Witherspoon Scott, professor of sciences, and his young wife from Philadelphia. Scott, with a recent M.A.. from Yale, came direct from a chair at Washington College, where McGuffey had been a student. But these two colleagues, totally unlike in character and temperament, were soon at swords' points in Miami. In 1831 Scott built a handsome brick home on High Street across from the gate of the slanting campus path. Here in 1832 was born his daughter Caroline who twenty-one years later became the wife of Benjamin Harrison.
In 1829 students moved into a newly-completed dormitory, officially named Washington and Clinton Hall but commonly called the Northeast Building; it is now Elliot Hall. A three-story plain brick building, it was built for $7,000, part of it borrowed. The rooms were heated with iron stoves; the boys could buy firewood in the village or look for it in the forest at their door. For kindling , there was the woodwork in their hall; in 1833 President Bishop reported half the doors of the building gone and stair rails hacked and whittled. Rooms were rent-free. A student furnished his own bed, chairs , table, usually adding cooking utensils and a box of provisions.
By 1834 enrollment reached 234, faculty had grown to seven, and more living space was needed. The building committee proposed a row of two-room cottages, with central chimneys, at intervals of a hundred feet in the college grove. Fortunately that idea was discarded and a second dormitory, "plain , substantial and neat" like the first, was completed in 1835 at a cost of $9,500. President Bishop suggested naming it Harrison and Shelby Hall, proposing to recognize William Henry Harrison, the son-in-law of Judge Symmes and author of the Harrison Land Act which encouraged settlement of the public lands, and Isaac Shelby, twice governor of Kentucky and one of the original trustees of Transylvania College. In coupling their names he must have meant to memorialize their joint achievement in the War of 1812, when Shelby led four thousand volunteers to join General Harrison in the invasion of Canada. But the name was not adopted; the new hall became the Southeast Building. It is now Stoddard Hall. It was opened in 1835 to junior and senior men, each student to have "an apartment to himself"--a luxury now long past. The other hall housed two and three students in a room.
Three years later, in 1838, a small science laboratory, no larger than a classroom, was built for $1,250. It stood southwest of the Center Building, near the present Bishop Hall, being kept at that distance for fear of fire. This building "Old Egypt" as generations of students called it , finally burned in 1898. By 1838 there were the Center Building, with its west wing, two residence halls, and the science laboratory; these comprised the campus buildings throughout the five decades of Old Miami, until the college closed in 1873.
There was, however, one other structure, the remains of which persist on the campus now and occasion surprisingly little wonder. A hundred feet from the front door of Bishop Hall is a sandstone pier, three feet high and two feet square. A close look, which few have taken in the past half century, shows it scored with initials of students long gone from Miami and fading inscription:
This is the remnant of the second astronomical observatory in the
American astronomy began in 1830 when a scientist at Yale carried a five inch telescope to a college steeple and observed Halley's Comet before word of it came from observatories in Europe. The first observatory in the United States was built at Williams College in 1836, and the next effort came in Ohio. In 1836 John Locke, an ingenious professor in the Cincinnati College of Medicine, designed a stone pier for the mounting of a small transit telescope. This primitive observatory he sold to Miami before the year was over, and Professor Scott set it up on the treeless south campus. The old stone pier still shows on of the iron fastenings which supported the transit.
In the spring of 1838 a small frame house was built of the stone pier, but it didn't last. On winter nights when a student's fire was sinking that shed began to go. It was all gone by 1840, and the transit was moves into Old Egypt nearby. However, in Loomis' Practical Astronomy, published in 1855, the Miami Observatory is listed at Lat. 39 ¡30'N., Long. 84¡ 46' W.--along with the other observatories of the world.
From the old dorms a path led to the college well just north of the main building. A wooden bucket on a rope, stiff-frozen in the winter, supplied water to be carried in a pail to a student's room. A candle flickered on the table and red sparks sifted to the ash-pan under the stove. Outside was the forest darkness, with an owl hooting from a hollow tree.
Through the chilly dusk students tramped to boarding clubs or to private homes in town. The first dinning room, the "University Inn," was opened in the south dormitory in the late 1840's. But some couldn't afford that.
In the autumn of 1832 Benjamin Childlaw leg a log cabin home in Delaware County, Ohio. After five days' walking he trudged up the hill to Oxford and presented his school record to President Bishop. From fifty dollars in his wallet he paid tuition, furnished his room, bought his books and engaged "real good fare" at a dollar a week. At the end of a month his wallet was shrinking and he joined with a classmate in "keeping bachelor's hall." They bought corn meal and potatoes for 12 1/2 cents a bushel, meat at 1 1/4 a pound, and as an occasional extravagance a big loaf of bread for 6 1/4 cents at Lathrop's bakery. " I never enjoyed better health," he wrote," or greater facilities for study." For the rest of the year he lived on 32 cents a week.
Here is another, gloating over his snug, possessive life in Old North, and not fussy about his English: " I have just light my lamp, and drawed by table up near the fire, and locked my door, and commenced to wright. I wish you were here to see, as I set here writing. There is my cupboard and desk in one corner by the door, and here is my bed standing behind me with one end of it against my desk. Just at the other end of my bed, stands by high table at which I stand and study when I am tired sitting, and next to that in the other corner at one side of my chimley lays my little pile of wood, just in the other corner at the other side of my chimley is my clothespress, potato box, etc., etc., under my bed lies a big pile of apples which old man Swan brought me in the other day. They are first-rate. And finally just before me and my fire burns up very bright, but above all I have got a first-rate chicken on boiling which I bought yesterday already cleaned for the pot. It is now boiling and it smells so good that I can hardly wright. What a feast I will have just now!!"
Students soon left their mark on the building. In 1833 a trustees' committee reported: "the new edifice [North Hall] has been much injured... the stairs and woodwork generally have been much cut and damaged and the glass much broken." In 1835 Joel Collins was made superintendent of arranged repair of the campus fences, graveling of the paths, and he rented out some campus pasture lots--which kept the grass down and brought in fifty dollars a year. Meanwhile he asked the faculty to inspect the students' rooms (each of the professor took one day of the week) and to set up a system of fines for splitting or sawing wood in the buildings, breaking doors, railing or furniture, defacing walls or breaking glass.
The college life was primitive, but it was not provincial. Along with boys from the Miami Valley there were students from Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi, and the Carolinas. For a year or two a group of young Osage Indians from Arkansas lived in the west wing and studied Latin, algebra and Roman history in the grammar school; Dr. Bishop had brought them to Miami under a home missionary program.
Thought the college was remote it was not removed from the vital currents of the time. For thirty years the question of slavery was a ferment on the campus. In 1832 Miami students formed an Anti-Slavery Society and paraded by torch light through the village streets.
In the Literary Halls they debated abolition and colonization, and in the columns of their magazine they argued about nullification and states' rights. President Bishop was a leader in the abolition movement and in liberal theology, but his faulty was divided. In the mid-1830's Professor Albert T. Bledsoe, who would be come assistant secretary of war for the Confederacy, interrupted his lectures calculus to argue that the federal constitution was subordinate to the sovereign states. Professor McArthur and MacCracken, two stubborn Scots, asserted Calvinism against Bishop's milder doctrines. The Miami Students lived in the midst of great issues.
To a traveler on horseback or a family in a mover's wagon, Miami must have looked idyllic--the whitewashed buildings against the forest trees and boys lounging around the campus well. A college always looks serene, while its strains and tensions go on, generation after generation. Old Miami on its hill crest has had stress and strife, quarrels and controversies and never more bitter and ugly than in the 1830's when its fame was growing through the West.
The students, Northern and Southern alike, were agreed on one point: they shared "a universal and most intense feeling of admiration and revering esteem for Dr. Bishop." This tall, lean, early-rising, porridge-eating, religious, argumentative but tolerant man had a sense of humor to balance his sense of duty. That balance gave him ease, directness and simplicity. College students, for all their lack, can detect pretension. In this man they sensed a simple greatness, and they honored him. It has never been easy to please a college faculty or a student body. Bishop endured many troubles, but he had the trust and admiration of his students.
Still, they were students, young , restless, sometimes reckless. They tool the muddy path to the village and the High Street Bar rooms. Vainly Bishop pled with the proprietors to close their doors to students, and the trustees petitioned the Ohio Legislature to outlaw the sale of Liquor in Oxford. Not till 1882 did Ohio law provide for local option in a college town, and not till 1905, in President Guy Potter Benton's time, did Oxford banish its saloons.
The trustees' examining committee reported regularly on the academic side--"a pleasing progress of improvement in literature and science ... reflecting credit on the instruction, and the capacities and attention of the young gentlemen."
But Bishop was troubled about other capacities of the students. In 1832, the college catalogue stated that certain proprietors in Oxford were ensnaring students by the sale of groceries--hard drink; it added that students patronizing these places of cheating and dissipation would be dismissed and the names of cheating and dissipation would be dismissed and the names of the publicly circulated. Two years later Bishop threatened to publish a "History of Retailing Ardent Sprits in Oxford"; the book would contain an account of "Groceries and Tavern Keepers" and the "Biography of a few of the most distinguished Young and Old men who have been ruined for time, and in all probability for Eternity also, by frequently the Groceries and Bar-rooms which have been in Oxford."
Then came the outbreak of 1835. In January, Francis Carter, a hot-headed youth from Alabama, was expelled on three counts: continued idleness and neglect, instances of intoxication and profanity, and riot at a grocery. On March 13, John Caperton was dis missed "for using improper language to one of the Professors at the close of a recitation." Three days later came a shooting-and-stabbing in the college building: George B. Haydon of South Carolina was expelled for discharging a pistol at Calvin Miller of Mansfield, Ohio, and the wounded Miller was expelled for attacking Charles Telford with "cowhide and dirk." With that, the eruption subsided--for a while. In July four students were expelled for disorderly conduct and in August three Southern students were sent home for " riotous proceedings in the town of Oxford." Eleven expulsion in one year; it was a blow for the ten-year-old college.
President Bishop believed in freedom and student responsibility. "The general principle of the government of the institution is: that every young man who wishes to become a scholar and expects to be useful as a member of a free community must at a very early period of life acquire the power of self-government." Now, needed by McGuffey, the faculty decided to clamp down. On Christmas Eve, 1835 (there was no Christmas recess until after 1837) , a group of the best students in the college were charged with disorder; according to Scott their offense consisted of "making a very trifling noise" near the door of North Dorm. The first faculty vote was for severe discipline, only Bishop dissenting McGuffey exulted, but some of his colleagues changed their minds and the students went free.. Already jealous of Bishops authority and prestige, McGuffey began a prolonged attack upon the president. Professor Scott, Bishop's strong ally, believed that McGuffey was not only a fomenter of discord but a hypocrite as well-calling for harshness in faculty meetings and courting student favor outside. " I have myself observed a very great difference between the one assumed by Mr. McGuffey respecting a young man in secret Faculty session, and when the young man was present before us. In the one case it has sometimes been harsh, laconic, and denunciatory in the extreme;--in the other smooth as oil."
Political and theological differences increased the faculty tension. McGuffey was pro-Southern and a Calvinist, and Bledsoe, a Virginia man who came to the Miami faculty by way of West Point, endlessly argued for state's rights. In 1836, both of them resigned, McGuffey to become president of Cincinnati College and Bledsoe to practice law in Illinois; years later, after the Civil War, the two were colleagues again on the faculty of the University of Virginia.
In Cincinnati in 1836 there developed a new effort to divert the income of Miami University to Cincinnati College. Whether McGuffey was involved is not clear. But as head of Cincinnati College he did advise parents not to send their sons to Miami "where is was more likely they would be made into Drunkards and Gamblers than good Scholars."
In March, 1836, Bishop reported "a year of peculiar trial and difficulty." He had been ill--"nearly lost the use of my right side and scarcely know what it was to have a good night's rest." Professor Armstrong had died after a painful illness; his Latin, Greek, and Hebrew classes were added to the tasks of the already torn and burdened faculty. A number of students had turned out to be "uncommonly disorderly." Later that year Bishop moved from the campus cottage into the new house on High Street. He must have hoped for a new turn, but his eight years there were years of trial and frustration.
The year 1836 brought no student violence and no special damage to the building, though Superintendent Collins reported that a college backhouse "worth $50 or 60 dollars" was set on fire and destroyed. At graduation time, in September, two outside men sat with the faculty in the final examination of the seniors. They reported: "That an efficient and well directed system of instruction has been pursued in the University,--2nd, That the System of government and discipline is such as to promote order and preserve and increase a kind and mutually good understanding between the faculty and the students." They found the college in an excellent state of scholarship, morality, and discipline.
In 1839 Old Miami reached its peak enrollment--250 students from thirteen states. Larger than Princeton and Columbia, it was surpassed in enrollment by only three American Universities: Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth. Its alumni had already made the college famous, and the seven-man faculty augmented by ten lecturers and tutors, was the strongest teaching staff in the West. But there were new lines in President Bishop's face. New tensions divided the faculty and cleft the Board of Trustees. The old dispute over discipline smoldered, but it was not discipline that caused the discord. It was doctrine.
Along with the struggle to tame wild land there was an intellectual struggle in the West--the long contest between tradition and reform, between Calvinism and free will. One of its arenas was the Presbyterian synods of the frontier, where Old School and New School fought their stubborn batter. Bishop strove for peace; in 1838 he published, with a group in Oxford, the periodical Western Peacemaker and Monthly Religious Journal. "Malice and guile and hypocrisy and evil speaking are the great heresies, " he wrote. "They are to be found among both the old and new school men--and they have produced and cherished all our other difficulties and evils." Hw refused to align himself with either Old or New School agitators, and it cost him the support of both camps.
At Miami, Professors McArthur and MacCracken were rigid Old School Men, who attacked the doctrinal laxness of Bishop and Scott. In addition to his faculty chair MacCracken was pastor of the Oxford Presbyterian Church. He was expected to resign from the faculty, but the resignation did not come. Wrote Scott in his earthy style, "I am informed that he has declared his intention . . . . to continue until fall (1840). It is very sweet to suck two teats yielding $800 per annum each, and who would not hang on until choked off?"
While the Miami boys played hop, skip, and jump on the south campus and studied the Trojan Wars, the war of doctrine was swirling around them. In 1838 young Henry Ward Beecher appeared before the Oxford Presbytery as candidate for ordination, and was blocked by rigid Professor McArthur. The next year Lyman Beecher, liberal head of Lane Seminary, came at Bishop's invitation to speak in the college chapel. A group of students, prompted by MacCracken and McArthur, tried to break of the meeting. But Beecher preached, calling for tolerance and freedom and the spread of enlightenment ("If in our haste to be rich and mighty we outrun our colleges," he had declared, "the battle for liberty is lost"). More than that, he stayed on for a fortnight in Oxford, talked to a hundred students and won most of them to his liberating views.
The other struggle, not entirely outside the theological warfare, was over slavery. Bishop had joined the lists early. During his years at Transylvania he had organized in Lexington sabbath schools for Negroes, and activity which drew criticism from political and Presbyterian leaders. Soon after his arrival in Oxford he helped to organize a branch of the American Colonization Society, which aimed at gradual freeing of slaves and transporting them to a colony in Africa. With Bishop's encouragement Daniel Christy of Oxford became a Colonization agent. William McLain, Miami 1831, was a long-time officer of the society.
During the 1830's the anti-slavery movement went like a wind through the West. In 1833 at Lane Seminary a rule prohibited discussion of the inflammatory subject; as a result three-fourths of the students left Lane and went to Oberlin where they became the first student body of Oberlin College. Later in that year a new band of theological students entered Lane Seminary and despite the trustees' ruling proposed a public discussion on slavery. The great debate wen ton for eighteen nights, students marshaling the economic, ethical, and religious arguments for abolition. A few months later a group of Miami students formed an anti-slavery society. One of this leaders was James G. Birney, Jr., son of the abolitionist candidate for the presidency of the United States.. Along with other activities the Oxford band circulated The Philanthropist, the anti-slavery newspaper published by James Birney, Sr.
To the Miami faculty in 1835 came Albert T. Bledsoe which his outspoken state's rights views. McGuffey encouraged Bledsoe though he voiced no opinions of his own. After McGuffey's departure in 1836 Bishop tried to replace him with Thomas E. Thomas, a recent Miami alumnus who had become a leader in the anti-slavery movement. But the opposition was too strong; Miami had close connections with the South and there were strong Southern feelings in the Board of Trustees. With the support of Professor Scott, Bishop worked for an anti-slavery stand in the local Presbyterian Church. He came under increasing criticism for his views both in theology and the slavery question.
In 1840 a committee of the trustees inspected the college buildings and made a glum report: We find the old West Wing greatly wanting in repairs, and the condition of the rooms occupied by the Students in this wing very dirty, and the committee feel it their duty to state that the habit indulged in by the Students of Urinating out the College windows is a disgraceful nuisance. . . . If not other means can be adopted to prevent the evil, the committee would recommend that the Superintendent fill up the lower part of the windows by brick wall." But soon they forgot that nuisance in a harder problem.
A year before, in 1839, the board had ruled that sectional and sectarian doctrines would not be taught in the University. But no resolution could stay the winds of doctrine, and Bishop was not a man who could remain silent in times of crisis. Through the long still summer of 1840 a storm hung over the Miami campus.
President Bishop must have felt that he was being weighed; his report in August gave an accounting of his entire sixteen years at the head of the University. It was a grave, affirmative, quietly gratified report. ". . . .During the last ten years the Junior Class in Miami University has been as far advanced as the Senior Class in any other Western College. . . . Superior advantages are not always to be enjoyed by Eastern Colleges. Nor unless we shall be very unfaithful to ourselves in the West are they to be enjoyed long. . . . The strength of the American empire in population and wealth and intelligence is very soon to be in the great valley. . . . The graduates of Miami University have already come into contact in Theological Seminaries and law offices and in active life with the best Colleges in the East, and have not suffered in character by the contact. Nor have we any disposition to allow that any of the fourteen classes which we have sent forth are inferior either in talent or useful attainments to any class of the same years from any college in the Union." By 1840 there were ten colleges in Ohio, and Miami was clearly pre-eminent among them.
This review of a notable record did not ease the present tension. All the faculty except stubborn John W. Scott resigned, and a committee of the trustees sat in conference with Bishop. From that conference came Bishop's resignation as president and his demotion to a chair of history and political science at a salary of $750, lower than that of his colleagues.
To the presidency the trustees elected John C. Young, president of Center College at Danville, Kentucky; he was a leader among Old School Presbyterians and very nearly a defender of slavery. Young declined the office, and while Bishop remained acting president, the trustees chose George Junkin, president of Lafayette College, a militant Old School hunter of heretics and a pro-slavery man.
When Junkin arrived in Oxford, Scott to a hard look at him and wrote: "We have just this day had a glimpse of our President elect, the redoubtable Dr. Junkin. Bah! I suppose there is no doubt he will transfer his Catapulta and Battering ram here to the west, to defend orthodoxy in and about Miami University. . . . The little champion seems on sight to dwindle down to a very moderate measure. The truth is, after seeing him my mind has been struck still more forcibly with the wart of generosity with which Dr. Bishop has been treated; and especially the absurdity of putting him as a Professor under the Presidency of such a man--a Sampson under a pigmy."
Bishop remained for four years, teaching his classes and cooperating with his successor, while the college dwindled and student disorders increased. Controversy grew and Junkin was surrounded with dissatisfaction and strife. When he resigned in 1844 the trustees met in Lebanon, away from the agitated campus. In an effort to clear the air, believing that "a change is called for," they removed Bishop and Scott from the Miami faculty.
Bishop was then seventy, with "no property whatsoever." Alumni protested the removal of Miami's two best men "against whom nothing can be alleged, but the liberality of their religious sentiments and their opposition to slavery." Scott put it more bluntly: "If Junkin [the trustee's man] had to go, Dr. Bishop and Professor Scott would have to go too." And so it stood.
In the fall of 1845 Bishop and Scott when to Cary's Adademy, newly organized as Farmer's College, a few miles out of Cincinnati. It had been founded by Freeman G. Cary, a Miami graduate of 1832 and one of Bishop's favorite students. Here at College Hill, Robert Hamilton Bishop spent the twilight of his life, ten peaceful, harmonious, and useful years. In 1849 Scott returned to Oxford to head the Oxford Female Institute, but Bishop stayed on, "the beloved Father" of Farmer's College. A group of Miami Alumni built for him a cottage on the college grounds. There he lived in the clear evening after the stormy day, teaching history and writing in his Recollections and Reflections his own eventful history which had led from the moors of Scotland to the arena of American religious and political strife.
He had devoted students at Framer's College. Among them were Murat Halstead who became editor of the Cincinnati Commercial, and Benjamin Harrison who followed Scott to Oxford, being in love with his daughter, and was graduated from Miami in 1852 On leaving Farmer's College Ben Harrison wrote to his venerable professor, "Having for some years enjoyed the benefits of your instruction and being now about to pass from under your care, it would be truly ungrateful were I not to return my warmest thanks for the lively interested you have ever manifested in my welfare and advancement in religious as well as scientific knowledge. . . Though I shall no more take my accustomed seat in your classroom I would not that this separation would destroy whatever interest you may have felt in my welfare. But whenever you may see anything in my course which you may deem reprehensible, be assured any advice which may suggest itself under whatever circumstances or on whatever subject, can never meet with other than a hearty welcome."
In 1855 after a brief illness Bishop prepared to go to his classes. "A recitation or two," he told his wife, "would do me more good than all the doctors." But he died without leaving the cottage, and his wife died two weeks later. They were buried in an unmarked grave on a leafy slope behind the college. For years returning alumni at Commencement season marched in silence past Bishop grave.
In Oxford he left no burial place but a college strong enough to stand through troubled years to come. He left the Bishop House, under great walnut trees across from campus, and he left his son Robert Hamilton Bishop, Jr., who would be "Old Bobby" to later generations of Miami men.
In 1841 in Concord, Massachusetts, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: "An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man," and in that year Robert Hamilton Bishop was removed from the President's office. But as long as it should last Miami University would bear the stamp of this gaunt, grave, kindly man who stood before his students, saying "My young friends--"