Robert R. Livingston, “The Chancellor”

November 27, 2013

Robert R(obert)[1] Livingston was an American lawyer, politician, diplomat from New York, and a Founding Father of the United States. He was known as “The Chancellor,” after the office he held for 25 years.

Robert R. Livingston 001
Robert R. Livingston, painted by Gilbert Stuart

Born on November 27, 1746, Robert R. Livingston was the eldest son of Judge Robert Livingston (1718-1775) and Margaret Beekman Livingston. He had nine brothers and sisters, all of whom wed and made their homes on the Hudson River near the family seat at Clermont Manor. Livingston graduated from King’s College, the predecessor to today’s Columbia University, in 1765.

He married Mary Stevens Livingston, daughter of Continental Congressman John Stevens, on September 9, 1770,[2] and built a home for himself and his wife south of Clermont, called Belvedere, which was burned to the ground, along with Clermont, in 1777 by the British Army. In 1794, he built a new home called New Clermont, which was subsequently renamed Arryl House – a phonetic spelling of his initials, “RRL” – which was deemed “the most commodious home in America” and contained a library of four thousand volumes.

Livingston was appointed Recorder of New York City in October 1773, but soon identified himself with the anti-colonial Whig Party and was replaced a few months later with John Watts, Jr. He was a member of the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence, although he was recalled by his state before he could sign the final version of the document.

Declaration of Independence

Of the five figures standing in the center of John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence, Robert Livingston is depicted in the center of the Committee of Five presenting the draft Declaration to the Second Continental Congress. The five prominent figures depicted are, from left to right, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Livingston, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin.

From 1777 to 1801, he was the first Chancellor of New York, then the highest judicial officer in the State. He became universally known as “The Chancellor”, retaining the title as a nickname even after he left the office. Livingston was also U.S. Secretary of Foreign Affairs from 1781 to 1783, under the Articles of Confederation. In 1789, as Chancellor of New York, he administered the presidential oath of office to George Washington at Federal Hall in New York City, then the capital of the United States.

In 1789, Livingston joined the Jeffersonian Republicans (later known as the Democratic-Republicans), in opposition to his former colleagues John Jay and Alexander Hamilton who founded the Federalists. He formed an uneasy alliance with his previous rival George Clinton, along with Aaron Burr, then a political newcomer. He opposed the Jay Treaty and other Federalist initiatives.[3]

In 1798, Livingston ran for Governor of New York on the Democratic-Republican ticket, but was defeated by Governor John Jay who was re-elected.

As U.S. Minister to France from 1801 to 1804, Livingston negotiated the Louisiana Purchase. After the signing of the Louisiana Purchase agreement in 1803, Livingston made this memorable statement:

We have lived long but this is the noblest work of our whole lives…The United States take rank this day among the first powers of the world.[4]

During his time as Minister to France, Livingston met Robert Fulton, with whom he developed the first viable steamboat, the North River Steamboat, whose home port was at the Livingston family home of Clermont Manor in the town of Clermont, New York. On her first voyage, she left New York City, stopped briefly at Clermont Manor, and continued on to Albany up the Hudson River, completing in just under 60 hours a journey which had previously taken nearly a week by sloop. In 1811, both Fulton and Livingston became members of the Erie Canal Commission.

Livingston was a Freemason, and in 1784, he was appointed the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York. He retained this title until 1801. The Grand Lodge’s library in Manhattan bears his name. The Bible Livingston used to administer the oath of office to President Washington is owned by St. John’s Lodge No. 1, and is still used today when the Grand Master is sworn in, and, by request, when a President of the United States is sworn in.

After his death on February 26, 1813, Livingston was buried in Tivoli, New York.

In 1904 the U.S. Post office issued a series of postage stamps commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase along with the central figures involved in this historical transformation of the United States. The engraved image of Livingston is taken from a Gilbert Stuart (1783–1872) oil painting of 1794.[5]

Livingston County, Kentucky and Livingston County, New York are named for him. A statue of Livingston was commissioned by New York State and placed in the U.S. Capitol building pursuant to the tradition of each state selecting two individuals from the state to be so honored.

Notes

  1. At that time the Livingstons used their father’s first name as a middle name to distinguish the numerous members of the family, as a kind of patronymic. Since he and his father had the same name, he never spelled out the middle name, but always used only the initial.
  2. The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. XI (1880), p. 6.
  3. Robert R. Livingston, Encyclopedia of World Biography.
  4. The Louisiana State Capitol Building
  5. Clermont State Historical Site: http://clermontstatehistoricsite.blogspot.com/search?q=robert+livingston

Apostolic Prefecture of the United States established

November 26, 2013

The Apostolic Prefecture of the United States was the earliest Roman Catholic ecclesiastical jurisdiction to be officially recognized after the United States declared independence in 1783. The Holy See then established the Apostolic Prefecture of the United States on November 26, 1784.[1]

Before and during the American Revolutionary War, the Catholics in the Thirteen Colonies (not including Canada) were under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of the London District in England.

The war was formally ended by the Treaty of Paris, which was signed on September 3, 1783, and was ratified by the Congress of the Confederation (of the newly independent United States of America) on January 14, 1784, and by the King of Great Britain on April 9, 1784. The ratification documents were exchanged in Paris on May 12, 1784. A petition was sent by the Maryland clergy to the Holy See, on November 6, 1783, for permission for the missionaries in the United States to nominate a superior who would have some of the powers of a bishop.[1]

In response to that, Father John Carroll—having been selected by his brother priests—was confirmed by Pope Pius VI, on June 6, 1784, as Superior of the Missions in the thirteen United States of North America, with power to give the sacrament of confirmation. This act established a hierarchy in the United States and removed the Catholic Church in the U.S. from the authority of the Vicar Apostolic of the London District.[2]

 Carroll, Reverend John 001Portrait of Bishop John Carroll, by Gilbert Stuart (1806) courtesy of Georgetown University Library

References:

  1. Finn, Robert W. “Welcome to the United States, Holy Father!”, The Catholic Key, April 11, 2008
  2. Baum, Geraldine. “Catholics Mark U.S. Church Birth Prelates to make plans for future”, Newsday, November 5, 1989

Jay Treaty signed, averting the threat of war

November 19, 2013

Jay Treaty, also known as Jay’s Treaty, The British Treaty, the Treaty of London of 1794, and (officially), Treaty of Amity Commerce and Navigation, between His Britannic Majesty; and The United States of America[1] was a treaty between the United States and Great Britain that is credited with averting war,[2] resolving issues remaining since the Treaty of Paris of 1783, which ended the American Revolution,[3] and facilitating ten years of peaceful trade between the United States and Britain in the midst of the French Revolutionary Wars, which began in 1792.

The terms of the treaty were designed primarily by Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, strongly supported by the chief negotiator John Jay; and support from President George Washington. The treaty gained the primary American goals, which included the withdrawal of units of the British Army from pre-Revolutionary forts that it had failed to relinquish in the Northwest Territory of the United States (the area west of Pennsylvania and north of the Ohio River). (The British had recognized this area as American territory in the Treaty of Paris of 1783.) The parties agree that disputes over wartime debts and the American-Canadian boundary were to be sent to arbitration—one of the first major uses of arbitration in diplomatic history. The Americans were granted limited rights to trade with British possessions in India and colonies in the Caribbean in exchange for some limits on the American export of cotton.

The treaty was hotly contested by the Jeffersonians in each state. They feared that closer economic ties with Britain would strengthen Hamilton’s Federalist Party, promote aristocracy and undercut republicanism. Washington’s announced support proved decisive and the treaty was ratified by a 2/3 majority of the Senate on June 24, 1795. The treaty became a central issue of contention—leading to the formation of the “First Party System” in the United States, with the Federalists favoring Britain and the Jeffersonian republicans favoring France. The treaty was for ten years’ duration. Efforts to agree on a replacement treaty failed (in 1806) when Jefferson rejected the Monroe-Pinkney Treaty as tensions escalated toward the War of 1812.[4] The treaty was signed on November 19, 1794, the Senate advised and consented on June 24, 1795; it was ratified by the President and the British government; it took effect on the day ratifications were officially exchanged, February 29, 1796.

The historian George Herring notes the “remarkable and fortuitous economic and diplomatic gains” produced by the Jay Treaty.[5]

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First Page of the Jay Treaty

From the British perspective, its war with France necessitated improving relations with the United States to prevent the U.S. from falling into the French orbit. From the American viewpoint, the most pressing foreign policy issues were normalizing the trade relations with Britain, the United States’ leading trading partner, and resolving issues left over from the Treaty of Versailles of 1783. As one observer explained, the British government was “well disposed to America… They have made their arrangements upon a plan that comprehends the neutrality of the United States, and are anxious that it should be preserved.”[6]

In 1793–94, the British Navy had captured hundreds of neutral American merchant ships, and British officials in Canada were supporting Indian tribes fighting American settlers in the Ohio River Valley, territory which Britain had explicitly ceded to the United States in the Treaty of Paris. Congress voted for a trade embargo against Britain for two months. Hamilton and the Federalists favored Britain over France, and they sought to normalize relations with Britain. Hamilton designed the plan for a treaty and President George Washington sent Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Jay to London to negotiate a comprehensive treaty.

The American government had a number of outstanding issues:

  • The British were still occupying forts on U.S. territory in the Great Lakes region (the Northwest Territory).
  • The British were continually impressing American sailors into British service
  • American merchants wanted compensation for 250 merchant ships which the British had confiscated from 1793 through 1794.
  • Southerners in the United States wanted monetary compensation for the slaves whom the British Army had evacuated with them during the Revolutionary War.
  • Merchants in both America and in the Caribbean wanted the British West Indies to be reopened to American trade.
  • The boundary with Canada was vague in many places, and needed to be delineated clearly.
  • The British were believed to be aggravating Native American attacks on settlers in the Northwest.

Both sides achieved many objectives. The British agreed to vacate the six western forts by June 1796 (which was done), and to compensate American ship owners (the British paid $10,345,200 by 1802).[7] In return, the United States gave most favored nation trading status to Britain, and acquiesced in British anti-French maritime policies. The United States guaranteed the payment of private prewar debts owed by Americans to British merchants that could not be collected in U.S. courts (the U.S. paid £600,000 in 1802).

Two joint boundary commissions were set up to establish the boundary line in the Northeast (it agreed on the Saint Croix River) and in the Northwest (this one never met and the boundary was settled after the War of 1812).[8]

Jay, a strong opponent of slavery, dropped the issue of compensation for slaves, which angered Southern slaveholders. Jay was unsuccessful in negotiating an end to the impressment of American sailors into the Royal Navy, which later became a key issue leading to the War of 1812.

Article III states “It is agreed, that it shall at all times be free to His Majesty’s subjects, and to the citizens of the United States, and also to the Indians dwelling on either side of the said boundary line, freely to pass and repass, by land or inland navigation into the respective territories and countries of the two parties on the continent of America, (the country within the limits of the Hudson Bay company only excepted) … and freely carry on trade and commerce with each other.” Article III of the Jay Treaty declared the right of “Indians” (“Native Americans”) as well as of American citizens and Canadian subjects to trade and travel between the United States and Canada, which was then a territory of Great Britain.[9] Over the years since, the United States has codified this obligation in the provisions of Section 289 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, and as amended in 1965. As a result of the Jay Treaty, “Native Indians born in Canada are therefore entitled to enter the United States for the purpose of employment, study, retirement, investing, and/or immigration”.[10] Article III of the Jay Treaty is the cause of most Indian claims.[11]

Washington submitted the treaty to the United States Senate for its consent in June 1795; a two-thirds vote was needed. The treaty was unpopular at first, and gave the Jeffersonians a platform to rally new supporters. As the historian Paul Varg explains:

“The Jay Treaty was a reasonable give-and-take compromise of the issues between the two countries. What rendered it so assailable was not the compromise spelled out between the two nations but the fact that it was not a compromise between the two political parties at home. Embodying the views of the Federalists, the treaty repudiated the foreign policy of the opposing party.”[12]

The Jeffersonians were opposed to Britain, preferring support for France in the wars raging in Europe, and they argued that the treaty with France from 1778 was still in effect. They considered Britain as the center of aristocracy and the chief threat to the United States’ republican values. They denounced Hamilton and Jay (and even Washington) as monarchists who betrayed American values. They organized public protests against Jay and his treaty; one of their rallying cries said:

Damn John Jay! Damn everyone that won’t damn John Jay! Damn every one that won’t put lights in his window and sit up all night damning John Jay![13]

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison strongly opposed the Treaty as they favored France; foreign policy became a major dispute between the new Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties; it became a core issue of the First Party System. Jefferson and his supporters had a counterproposal to establish “a direct system of commercial hostility with Great Britain,” even at the risk of war. The Jeffersonians raised public opinion to fever pitch by accusing the British of promoting Indian atrocities on the frontier.[14] The fierce debates over the Treaty in 1794–95, according to one historian, “transformed the Republican movement into a Republican party.” To fight the treaty, the Jeffersonians “established coordination in activity between leaders at the capital, and leaders, actives and popular followings in the states, counties and towns.”[15] Jay’s failure to obtain compensation for “lost” slaves galvanized the South into opposition.[16]

The Federalists fought back and Congress rejected the Jefferson-Madison counter-proposals. Washington threw his great prestige behind the treaty, and Federalists rallied public opinion more effectively than did their opponents.[17] Hamilton convinced President Washington it was the best treaty that could be expected. Washington, who insisted the U.S. must remain neutral in the European wars, signed it, and his prestige carried the day in Congress. The Federalists made a strong, systematic appeal to public opinion, which rallied their own supporters and shifted the debate. Washington and Hamilton outmaneuvered Madison, who was opposition leader.[18] By then out of the government, Hamilton was the dominant figure who helped secure the treaty’s approval by the needed 2/3 vote in the Senate. The Senate passed a resolution in June, advising the president to amend the treaty by suspending the 12th article, which concerned trade between the U.S. and the West Indies. In mid-August, the Senate ratified the treaty 20-10, with the condition that the treaty contain specific language regarding the June 24 resolution. President Washington signed it in late August. The Treaty was proclaimed in effect on February 29, 1796 and in a series of close votes, after another bitter fight the House funded the Treaty in April 1796.[19]

James Madison, then a member of the House of Representatives, argued that the treaty could not, under Constitutional law, take effect without approval of the House, since it regulated commerce and exercised legislative powers granted to Congress. The debate which followed was an early example of originalism, in which Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” lost.[20] After defeat on the treaty in Congress, the Jeffersonian Republicans lost the 1796 presidential election on the issue.

When Jefferson became president in 1801, he did not repudiate the treaty. He kept the Federalist minister, Rufus King, in London to negotiate a successful resolution to outstanding issues regarding cash payments and boundaries. The amity broke down in 1805, as relations turned increasingly hostile as a prelude to the War of 1812. In 1815, the Treaty of Ghent superseded the Jay treaty.

The historians Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick note that in conventional diplomatic terms, as a “piece of adversary bargaining”, Jay “got much the worst of the ‘bargain’. Such a view has to a great degree persisted ever since.”[21] They conclude that although Jay did not succeed in asserting neutral rights, he did obtain “his other sine qua nons [sic]“; he got none of things that were “desirable, but not indispensable.”[22] They add “Jay’s record on the ‘soft’[23] was open to many objections; on the ‘hard’ side, it was a substantial success, which included the prevention of war with Great Britain.”[24]

The historian Marshall Smelser argues that the treaty effectively postponed war with Britain, or at least postponed it until the United States was strong enough to handle it.[25]

Bradford Perkins argued in 1955 that the treaty was the first to establish a special relationship between Britain and the United States, with a second installment under Lord Salisbury. In his view, the treaty worked for ten years to secure peace between Britain and America: “The decade may be characterized as the period of “The First Rapprochement.” As Perkins concludes:

“For about ten years there was peace on the frontier, joint recognition of the value of commercial intercourse, and even, by comparison with both preceding and succeeding epochs, a muting of strife over ship seizures and impressment. Two controversies with France… pushed the English-speaking powers even more closely together.”[26]

Starting at swords’ point in 1794, the Jay treaty reversed the tensions, Perkins concludes:

“Through a decade of world war and peace, successive governments on both sides of the Atlantic were able to bring about and preserve a cordiality which often approached genuine friendship.”[27]

Perkins suggests that (saving perhaps the opening of trade with British India), “Jay did fail to win anything the Americans were not obviously entitled to, liberation of territory recognized as theirs since 1782, and compensation for seizures that even Britain admitted were illegal.” He also speculates that a “more astute negotiator than the Chief Justice” would have gotten better terms than he did.[28] He quoted the opinion of the “great historian” Henry Adams that the treaty was a “bad one”:

“No one would venture on its merits to defend it now. There has been no time since 1810 when the United States would not prefer war to peace on such terms.”

Perkins gave more weight than other historians to valuable concessions regarding trade in India and the concession on the West Indies trade. In addition, Perkins noted that the Royal Navy treated American commerce with “relative leniency” during the wars, and many impressed seamen were returned to America. As Spain assessed the informal British-American alliance, it softened its previous opposition to the United States’ use of the Mississippi River and signed Pinckney’s Treaty, which the Americans wanted. When Jefferson took office, he gained renewal of the commercial articles that had greatly benefited American shipping.[29]

Elkins and McKitrick find this more positive view open to “one big difficulty”: it requires that the British negotiated in the same spirit. Unlike Perkins, they find “little indication of this”; preferring to view the British not as future-oriented, but, having had no indication that the United States required attention, wishing to take it off the long list of issues that did.[30]

George Herring’s 2008 history of US foreign policy says that in 1794 “the United States and Britain edged toward war” and concludes, “The Jay Treaty brought the United States important concessions and served its interests well.”[31] Joseph Ellis finds the terms of the treaty “one-sided in Britain’s favor”, but asserts a consensus of historians that it was:

“a shrewd bargain for the United States. It bet, in effect, on England rather than France as the hegemonic European power of the future, which proved prophetic. It recognized the massive dependence of the American economy on trade with England. In a sense it was a precocious preview of the Monroe Doctrine (1823), for it linked American security and economic development to the British fleet, which provided a protective shield of incalculable value throughout the nineteenth century. Mostly, it postponed war with England until America was economically and politically more capable of fighting one.”[32]

Notes

  1. James S. Olsen, ed. (1991). Historical Dictionary of European Imperialism. Greenwood Press. pp. 332. ISBN 0313262578. http://books.google.com/books?id=uyqepNdgUWkC&dq=isbn=0313262578
  2. Jean Edward Smith, John Marshall: Definer of a Nation (1998) p. 177
  3. Todd Estes, The Jay Treaty Debate, Public Opinion, and the Evolution of Early American Political Culture (2006) p. 15
  4. Marshall Smelser, The Democratic Republic: 1801–1815 (1968) pp. 139, 145, 155–56
  5. George C. Herring, From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations since 1776 (2008) p. 80
  6. Gouverneur Morris quoted in Perkins (1955) p. 22; the British foreign minister felt, “this Country is anxious to keep the Americans in good humour.” ibid
  7. Wayne S. Cole, An Interpretive History of American Foreign Relations, (1974) p. 55
  8. The Treaty also allowed people to pass freely across the US-Canadian border to carry on trade and commerce.
  9. INA, Cornell
  10. “First Nations and Native Americans”. United States Embassy, Consular Services Canada. http://www.consular.canada.usembassy.gov/first_nations_canada.asp
  11. Karl S. Hele, Lines Drawn upon the Water: First Nations and the Great Lakes Borders and Borderlands (2008) p. 127
  12. Varg, 1963 p. 95
  13. William Weeks, Building the Continental Empire, p. 23
  14. Elkins and McKitrick, p. 405
  15. William Nisbet Chambers. Political Parties in a New Nation: The American Experience, 1776–1809 (1963), p. 80
  16. Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy (2006) 67–68
  17. Estes 2001
  18. Estes pp. 398–99
  19. “Jay’s Treaty”, American Foreign Relations
  20. Rakove, pp. 355-365
  21. Elkins and McKitrick
  22. Elkins and McKitrick, p. 410
  23. “Soft” means matters important in principle or symbolism; “hard” meant matters of immediate material importance
  24. Elkins and McKitrick, p. 412
  25. Marshall Smelser, The Democratic Republic, 1801–1815 (1968)
  26. Perkins p. vii
  27. Perkins p. 1
  28. Perkins: The First Rapprochement p. 3
  29. Perkins, Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations I: The Creation of a Republican Empire,(1995) pp. 99, 100, 124
  30. Elkins and McKitrick, pp. 396–402
  31. George Herring, From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations since 1776 (2008) p 73, 78
  32. Joseph Ellis, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation (2000) pp. 136–7

References

  • Bemis, Samuel Flagg. Jay’s Treaty: A Study in Commerce and Diplomacy (1923) remains the standard narrative of how treaty was written
  • Charles, Joseph. “The Jay Treaty: The Origins of the American Party System,” in William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Ser., Vol. 12, No. 4. (Oct., 1955), pp. 581–630
  • Combs, Jerald. A. The Jay Treaty: Political Background of Founding Fathers (1970) (ISBN 0-520-01573-8) Focusing on the domestic and ideological aspects, Combs dislikes Hamilton’s quest for national power and a “heroic state” dominating the Western Hemisphere, but concludes the Federalists “followed the proper policy” because the treaty preserved peace with Britain.
  • Elkins, Stanley M. and Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788–1800. (1994), Ch. 9
  • Estes, Todd, “The Art of Presidential Leadership: George Washington and the Jay Treaty,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 2001, vol. 109, no. 2 pp. 127-58
  • Estes, Todd, “Shaping the Politics of Public Opinion: Federalists and the Jay Treaty Debate.” Journal of the Early Republic (2000) 20(3): 393-422
  • Estes, Todd. The Jay Treaty Debate, Public Opinion, And the Evolution of Early American Political Culture (2006)
  • Farrell, James M. “Fisher Ames and Political Judgment: Reason, Passion, and Vehement Style in the Jay Treaty Speech,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 1990 76(4): 415-434
  • Fewster, Joseph M. “The Jay Treaty and British Ship Seizures: the Martinique Cases.” William and Mary Quarterly 1988 45(3): 426-452
  • Perkins, Bradford. The First Rapprochement: England and the United States, 1795–1805 1955
  • Perkins, Bradford. “Lord Hawkesbury and the Jay-Grenville Negotiations,” The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 40, No. 2. (Sep., 1953), pp. 291–304
  • Rakove, Jack N. Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 1997. ISBN 0-394-57858-9
  • Varg, Paul A; Foreign Policies of the Founding Fathers. 1963

The Female Society of Wiscasset formed in 1805

November 18, 2013

On November 18, 1805, 31 women from Wiscasset, Maine, gathered at Tempe Lee’s High Street home and inaugurated the Female Society of Wiscasset. At their first meeting, those present made a commitment to form “a society for benevolent purposes,” and to that end they collected $76 to help local women in need. The organization is known today as the Wiscasset Female Charitable Society.

Within a few months, the new club had already invested a portion of their startup funds by purchasing a share in a local bank. The profits from the investment, it was stipulated, were to be “devoted to the relief of widows and female orphans.”

The society is unique among local charities in that it combines grassroots aid with a deep-seated sense of tradition. It still maintains that in order to receive assistance, a woman must not be living with or dependent upon a man. This rule is rarely broken and has been in place since the group’s founding.

Wiscasset Female Charitable Society members dress up in period costume to celebrate their 200th year in 2005. (Photo courtesy of Marie Reinhardt)

Wiscasset Female Charitable Society members dress up in period costume to celebrate their 200th year in 2005. (Photo courtesy of Marie Reinhardt)

Source:

  • “Lincoln County News” by Alec Brodsky, January 4, 2012

Georgetown University is founded as the first Catholic university in the U.S.

November 15, 2013

Georgetown University, a private research university in Washington, D.C., was founded on November 15,1789, making it the oldest Jesuit and Catholic university in the United States. Georgetown’s founding by John Carroll, America’s first Catholic bishop, realized earlier efforts to establish a Roman Catholic college in the province of Maryland that had been thwarted by religious persecution.

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The Seal of Georgetown University

Because of Benjamin Franklin’s recommendation, Pope Pius VI appointed former Jesuit John Carroll as the first head of the Roman Catholic Church in America, even though the papal suppression of the Jesuit order was still in effect. Carroll began meetings of local clergy in 1783 near Annapolis, Maryland, where they orchestrated the development of a new university.[1] On January 23, 1789, Carroll finalized the purchase of the property on which Dahlgren Quadrangle was later built.[2] Future Congressman William Gaston was enrolled as the school’s first student on November 22, 1791, and instruction began on January 2, 1792.[1]

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Bishop John Carroll published his proposals for a school at Georgetown in 1787, after the American Revolution allowed for the free practice of religion.

During its early years, Georgetown College suffered from considerable financial strain, relying on private sources of funding and the limited profits from local lands owned by ex-Jesuits.[3] The Maryland Society of Jesus began its restoration in 1805, and Jesuit affiliation, in the form of teachers and administrators, bolstered confidence in the college.[4] The United States Congress issued Georgetown the first federal university charter in 1815, which allowed it to confer degrees, and the first Bachelor degrees were awarded two years later.[5] In 1844, the school received a corporate charter, under the name “The President and Directors of Georgetown College”, affording the growing school additional legal rights. In response to the demand for a local option for Roman Catholic students, the Medical School was founded in 1851.[6]

Notes

  1. Curran 1993, pp. 33–34
  2. “Georgetown’s Catholic and Jesuit Identity”. Georgetown University. February 15, 2008
  3. O’Neill & Williams 2003, p. 12
  4. Curran July 7, 2007 “Georgetown: A Brief History”. Undergraduate Bulletin. Georgetown University
  5. “The Federal Charter”. About Georgetown. Archived from the original on January 3, 2008
  6. “History” (PDF). Georgetown University School of Medicine

Sources

  • Curran, Robert Emmett (1993). The Bicentennial History of Georgetown University. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. ISBN 0-87840-485-6
  • O’Neill, Paul R.; Williams, Paul K. (2003). Georgetown University. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7385-1509-4

Benjamin Franklin hires the first professional librarian in the colonies

November 14, 2013

Louis Timothee (later Lewis Timothy) was a prominent Colonial American printer in Pennsylvania, who worked for Benjamin Franklin. He was the first American librarian.[1]

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Franklin arranged for Timothee to serve as a part-time librarian for the Library Company of Philadelphia, one of Franklin’s first philanthropic projects. Franklin started the library July 1, 1731, with books from his own collection. There was no librarian until November 14, 1732,[2] when Timothee was hired as the first salaried librarian in the American colonies.[3] He was paid three pounds sterling every trimester. He worked every Wednesday from two to three o’clock and every Saturday from ten to four.

Notes

  1. Frasca, pp. 73-76
  2. “Today in History: November 14, 1732″
  3. Hudson, p. 41 Louis Timothee had served as the first librarian of America’s first public library

Sources

  • Frasca, Ralph, ” Benjamin Franklin’s Printing Network: Disseminating Virtue in Early America”’, University of Missouri Press, 2006, ISBN 0-8262-1614-5
  • Hudson, Frederic et al., American Journalism: a history of newspapers in the United States through 250 years, 1690-1940, Routledge, 2000, ISBN 0-415-22893-X

Leonids: first record of a meteor shower in North America in 1799

November 12, 2013

The Leonids meteor shower was the first known meteor shower to be recorded in North America. According to the journal entry on this day, astronomer Andrew Ellicott Douglass who was onboard a ship off the Florida Keys, wrote “whole heaven appeared as if illuminated with sky rockets, flying in an infinity of directions, and I was in constant expectation of some of them falling on the vessel. They continued until put out by the light of the sun after day break.” The meteor shower Douglass was referring to was the Leonids shower (associated with the comet Tempel-Tuttle), from the constellation Leo that occurs in cycles of around 33-34 years. Peaking almost annually in November.

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Picture from 2011 Leonids meteor shower, November 17-19.

The Leonids meteor shower is an annual event that is greatly enhanced every 33 years or so by the appearance of the comet Tempel-Tuttle. When the comet returns, the Leonids can produce rates of up to several thousand meteors per hour that can light up the sky on a clear night. Douglass witnessed one such manifestation of the Leonids shower, and the subsequent return of the comet Tempel-Tuttle in 1833 is credited as inspiring the first organized study of meteor astronomy.

This year, watch for the Leonids from late night November 16 until dawn November 17.


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