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Writing in the Academy
Erika Lindemann

Faculty members and students do not often discuss their academic experiences, which makes it difficult to reconstruct precisely what went on in antebellum classrooms. Moreover, some elements of teaching and learning—misbehavior in the classroom, for example—receive proportionately greater attention in the documents examined for this project than the normal behavior of responsible, diligent students, about whom we hear almost nothing. However, the 1840s is a particularly rich decade for examining antebellum student writing at the University because there is so much of it. The Eli West Hall Papers (SHC), for example, contain seventeen compositions that Hall wrote while at the University, an impressive portfolio by a member of the Class of 1847.1 Large class sets of compositions also have survived. The North Carolina Collection houses 365 essays written by every member of the junior class from 1839 to 1846.2 These "junior compositions" represent the work of 240 students, each writing one or two essays to be filed in the University's archives. A valuable collection of fifteen senior speeches by members of the Class of 1846, preserved in the University Archives, provides important information about the expectations students and faculty members had for these formal, public addresses. The amount of student writing from the 1840s is extraordinary and deserves further study because it can tell us much about the literate practices of antebellum students.
Diaries of this period offer another important resource for understanding antebellum classrooms. Because students were writing for themselves, they used a conversational style, not the formal, elevated diction that characterizes senior speeches and class compositions. Though the diaries of the 1840s all record significant events in the academic lives of their authors, they differ in their approach. David Alexander Barnes and Thomas Garrett , for example, tended to treat their journals as extensions of their studies, often summarizing and responding to books they were reading outside class. William Mullins and James Dusenbery focused on their relationships with their friends, describing with remarkable candor the significant people and extracurricular activities that defined, for them, what was memorable about being a college student. Edmund Covington commenced and re-commenced his journal several times, but it served as a repository for his creative writing, especially his poetry. Regardless of their focus, students' diaries reveal their attitudes towards their studies, their impressions of faculty members, and their views of academic milestones such as senior speaking and commencement.
Teaching and learning during the antebellum period were conducted primarily by lecture and recitation. Most students attended classes for fifteen hours per week, including one hour's recitation on the Bible on Sunday. Seniors, excused from the early morning recitation, were in class for eleven hours a week. Students prepared their lessons by studying their textbooks and memorizing enough of the material to be able to answer the professor's questions about it. Some textbooks of the period contain the sorts of questions a teacher might ask and presuppose that students will answer them by quoting portions of the book. Except by permission of a faculty member, students could not bring their textbooks to class, making it all the more crucial that students be able to memorize the material.
In the 1840s students sat on rows of benches in the classroom, in alphabetical order, and when called on came to the teacher's desk to answer his questions. Poor Jesse Irvine several times refused to "come to the table whenever called upon to recite" and was dismissed (Faculty Minutes 4:41, UA). Some faculty members were so predictable in calling on students in alphabetical order that the young men could avoid studying their lessons until they knew that they would be "taken up."Garrett reports in his diary, "This morning our lesson was in Philosophy, and as I expected to be called upon to recite, I commited verry thoroughly. I was called upon as I expected and made a pretty good recitation. I am now free for three or four lessons" (Thomas Miles Garrett Papers, SHC).
Faculty members had the duty of going to the recitation room at "a reasonable time before the hour for the bell to ring, to prevent assemblages of Students before the proper time, and to see that the Recitation Room is in a proper condition for the reception of the class" ( Acts 9). Every student was obliged to "observe a strict propriety of conduct at recitation or lecture; refraining from every thing which shall interrupt business, or divert the attention of others; he shall not recline or lounge upon the benches, nor be employed in reading newspapers, nor any book or paper whatever, except such as the Professor or Tutor at the time shall direct" ( Acts 12). Minutes of faculty meetings reveal, however, that students often were cited for misconduct in the recitation room: throwing a shoe into Professor Roberts' classroom, lobbing a firecracker into Professor Fetter's class, throwing acorns into Professor Green's class, spitting tobacco juice on the floor of Professor Hooper's recitation room, pushing students out of their assigned seats, rocking a bench and refusing to move to another, sticking a knife into a bench, coming to class intoxicated, refusing to give up a book when told that it was forbidden in the classroom, and circulating a note that read "All hands sing out, 'that's all'. Pass it on." Penalties for these infractions ranged from being admonished to being suspended for a few weeks (Faculty Minutes Vol. 4, UA).
Suspended students were obliged to leave campus for two to six weeks, depending on the nature of their offense. A faculty member also wrote to the student's parents explaining the circumstances that resulted in the suspension. Suspensions customarily were handed out for repeated offenses involving drunkenness or resisting faculty authority. Though classmates were not to associate with suspended students, Dusenbery describes in his diary helping two students set up alternate living quarters a few miles outside Chapel Hill. Suspension gave some students time to read, hunt, fish, and enjoy the company of young ladies—an enviable vacation.
Faculty members kept scrupulous records of students' attendance at recitations, prayers, and Sunday services. The semi-annual and annual reports submitted to the trustees in the 1840s contain charts, spread across two pages, that record not only every senior's standing but also the number of times that he was absent from prayers, recitations, and church services during the four years of college. An important claim to fame for Matt Ransom , who graduated with first honors in 1847, is that he did not miss one of nearly 5,600 "exercises" during his four years of college. Fellow graduate Dudley Clanton , however, had the worst attendance record for his class; he was absent from morning prayers 383 times, from recitation 225 times, and from church 21 times during his career as a student (Faculty Minutes 4:366-67, UA).
In reconstructing the expectations for academic work during this period, it is necessary to distinguish between so-called "academic writing" and writing done for the debating societies. The distinction is admittedly artificial. Even though faculty members were barred from membership in the debating societies, they certainly were aware of the requirements to declaim, compose, and debate weekly, which doubtless shaped expectations for the written work they assigned students. Topics debated in society meetings also sometimes reappeared in such academic exercises as senior speeches and commencement addresses. Conversely, students obviously used their knowledge of rhetorical principles, gained from lectures and recitations, in framing society speeches and compositions. Some students even submitted to the society work that they had previously written for class, even though such a short-cut was frowned upon.3 On the one hand, then, students' work for the professor of rhetoric benefited from their activities as members of the debating societies and vice versa.
On the other hand, marked differences characterize the work in both arenas. Students typically approached their society "duties" with greater enthusiasm than they did their work in the classroom. Consequently, their writing is different—in subject matter, genre, and style. Students received diplomas from their debating societies as well as from the University, and it is sometimes difficult to judge which they valued more. For some students being a Di or a Phi was more important then being a University graduate.
Though diaries and letters from the 1840s permit us to infer generally what was expected of students academically, a single valuable document helps us understand how much and what kind of writing antebellum students produced: Professor William Mercer Green's grade book.4 Teachers keep grade books solely for their own use, never expecting others to read them. Yet every teacher knows how devastating it would be to lose a grade book because it provides crucial information about courses and the work of students. Green's grade book is no exception. It is laid out like a contemporary grade book. Students' names are listed in alphabetical order down the left side of the page. Columns for recitation grades are marked off from left to right across a two-page spread, continuing to the right of the gutter, with wider summary columns marked off on the far right of the right-hand page.
As we might expect, Green's grade book reveals what subjects he taught and how many students were enrolled in each class. In Fall 1848 Green was responsible for a "Junior Class in Rhetoric & Composition" (twenty-eight students), a "Freshman Class in the Scriptures" (thirty students), and a "Sophomore Class in Composition" (fifty-five students). In Spring 1849 he instructed a "Junior Class in History & Logic" (twenty-six students), a "Freshman Class in Scripture & Elocution" (thirty-one students), and a "Sophomore Class in Composition" (fifty students). Green met with over 100 students per term. Moreover, in the 1848-49 academic year he provided various kinds of instruction for every student in the University. In addition to meeting formal classes, Green also conferred with every senior about his senior speech. The topics or titles of these speeches for the thirty-six members of the Class of 1849 appear under the heading "Subjects of Senior Speeches April 1849."5 The placement of this list between the fall and spring sections of the grade book indicates that seniors discussed their topics with Green in late fall, even though the speeches were not delivered until the following April. Green also supervised the preparation of commencement addresses, which were delivered by a smaller group of thirteen seniors graduating with honors. He recorded the names of these students and their topics on a page headed "Senior Speeches at Commencement June 7, 1849."6 Another page of the grade book lists twenty names of first- and second-year students chosen as "Declaimers for Commencement 1849," together with brief titles of the pieces they intended to deliver.7 To say that Green had a significant amount of student writing to review in the spring semester is an understatement.
Students in Green's courses received two grades at the end of the term, one for scholarship and one for deportment. The grading scale for both was the same: very good, good, very respectable, respectable, tolerable, bad, and very bad. These grades did not appear on individual students' papers; they were used only in the faculty's semi-annual and annual reports to the trustees and in the reports sent to parents.8 I have found no evidence that any student ever earned "very bad," but "bad" appears occasionally in the faculty reports. Green used only vg, g, vr, r, and (rarely) t, though he sometimes added plus and minus signs to these five grades. His daily recitation grades represent an altogether different alphabet of f, e, i, h, a, x, t, and o. These letters doubtless represent qualitative judgments, but their meaning is unclear. E, for example, could stand for "excellent" or "excused absence."
To determine a student's standing at the end of each semester, the entire faculty would meet to discuss each student's performance in individual classes, then vote to decide who merited first, second or third distinctions.9 Faculty minutes reveal that distinctions were awarded in all classes, from the "fresh" to the seniors, and that it was "customary to distinguish about one third of the [seniors]" (3:342, UA). Green's grade book gives evidence that he shared with his colleagues information about his students' performance. At the bottom of each junior-class roster he created a separate alphabetical list of the names of all students who had earned vg or g in both scholarship and deportment for that semester. He evidently put forward for distinction ten (of twenty-eight) juniors in Fall 1848 and thirteen (of twenty-six) juniors in Spring 1849.
How much and what kinds of writing did these students do—apart from their work in the debating societies? First-year students did very little. Occupied primarily with Latin, Greek, and mathematics, first-year students prepared translations and recited from their textbooks. Prior to 1846, the "Fresh" (as well as sophomores and juniors) were "required to declaim in private before the Professor of Rhetoric, and afterwards in the presence of the Faculty" (1845-46 Catalogue 17). Faculty members heard these declamations, a few at a time, late every afternoon in the chapel after prayers. By 1846, however, first-year students attended in the spring term "a weekly recitation on the Elementary Principles of Elocution, accompanied with exercises in Reading Prose and Poetry, and in Declaiming in the Recitation room" (1846-47 Catalogue 23). The academic work of first-year students, then, was primarily oral.
Sophomores wrote a composition approximately every three weeks. Green's students evidently wrote five compositions in Fall 1848 and four in Spring 1849. Though he made four columns in his grade book for each student each semester, few marks appear in these columns. Green most likely commented on the strengths and weaknesses of this written work as he read excerpts aloud, either in class or in individual conferences with students.
Green listed possible topics for his composition assignments at the end of each semester's sophomore roster. He numbered some of them to indicate the order in which students would complete that semester's assignments. In Fall 1848 the following topics are listed:
    1  Filial Affection
    5  Value of Time, and its Uses
        Letter of Advice to a Young Friend at School
        Necessity of Controlling the Passions
    3  Dangers of College Life10
    2  Delights of Home
        The "Child is the Father of the Man" [Wordsworth]
    4  What constitutes the True Gentleman
        Is a virtuous character essential to the highest attainments in Literature

In Spring 1849 Green pencilled the following four topics into his grade book:
    1  I have lost a day [Tacitus]
    2  The Child is the Father of the Man [Wordsworth]
    3  He that ruleth [h]is Spirit is better than he that taketh a city [Proverbs 16:32]
    4  What course of instruction is best adapted to fit one for the greatest usefulness
As scholars of nineteenth-century composition instruction have observed, "students were expected to learn to write by responding either to single-word topics or by amplifying on apothegms provided by the teacher" ( Connors, Composition-Rhetoric 303).11 Green's sequence of assignments follows this common practice, which derives from a system of "regular subjects" and "themes" first appearing in John Walker's Teacher's Assistant in English Composition (1801) and popularized in many textbooks of the period, among them R. G. Parker's Progressive Exercises in English Composition (1832).12 Though Parker calls the two types of compositions simple and complex themes, his definitions of them are borrowed directly from Walker. A simple theme involves a subject "generally expressed in a single word, term or phrase" (73). Green's "Filial Affection" and "Dangers of College Life" are examples of simple themes. "A complex theme is a proposition, or assertion, which relates to a simple subject; an exhortation to practise some particular virtue, or action, or to avoid some particular vice, or deed; or, it is the proving of some truth" (73). "The Child is the Father of the Man" and "He that ruleth [h]is Spirit is better than he that taketh a city" are examples of complex themes, which call for argumentation. For each kind of theme Parker prescribes a structure that also serves as a system of invention.13 Though Green sequences his composition assignments from simple to complex themes, I have found no evidence that he required students to organize their essays according to Parker's scheme. Nevertheless, there is a logic to Green's sequence.
Green's topics begin with the familiar—literally, having to do with home and family—but become progressively more abstract through the sophomore year. They first call on memory, requiring students to recollect family relationships and the pleasures of home but also to moralize on these past experiences. Then students practice definition or characterization, defining "the True Gentleman" for example. This assignment entails generalizing from contemporary or historical figures and presumably prepared Richard T. Weaver to write his senior speech, an extended encomium on Dr. John Howard . Next, students take up classical and Christian proverbs or maxims. Maxims represent the common knowledge of a culture, the generalizations that most people would assent to. They are fundamental to Aristotelian argument. Implicit in such topics as the "Value of Time, and its Uses" or "The Child is the Father of the Man" are moral precepts that a Western, Christian audience would support as warrants for arguments on countless other subjects. Finally, with Assignment Four in the Spring 1849 semester—"What course of instruction is best adapted to fit one for the greatest usefulness?"—students must advance a full-blown argument, bringing to bear both the knowledge drawn from personal experience and the knowledge residing in the proverbial truths of a culture on the topic of "useful education." This sequence of assignments for sophomores is reminiscent of the progymnasmata of classical rhetoric, a curriculum for the young orator.
Juniors studied rhetoric, logic, and history, reciting in the fall Hugh Blair's Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres , a textbook in use since the University opened, and in the spring, a logic text (Hedge's Elements of Logick or Whately's Elements of Logic ) as well as Worcester's Elements of History .14 Blair's belletristic approach to rhetoric sought to cultivate taste by the critical study of a broad range of genres, works that would exercise the faculties of imagination and taste in order to help students acquire intellectual, moral, and civic virtue. Consistent with this view is the belief that introducing students to great works of literature provides important models for them to emulate. Imitating excellent examples of prose style was a prominent method of teaching people to write well. Despite claims in University catalogues that "The recitations in Rhetoric and Logic are accompanied by informal lectures and copious illustrations" (1846-47 Catalogue 23), Green's students seem to have read and imitated only those literary models appearing in their textbooks. Garrett , writing in his diary, explains that Green's students merely recited Blair's Rhetoric by answering his questions about it, but Swain , serving as a substitute teacher for Green for a few weeks in 1849, introduced students to contemporary models of rhetorical excellence: "Gov. Swain instead of making the lesson in Rhetoric the subject of the recitation, took occasion to read to us a portion of the address delivered by Judge Gaston at this place together with a sermon delivered by Dr Wm Hooper " (Thomas Miles Garrett Papers, SHC). Whereas Swain employed models of effective rhetorical strategies, Green evidently did not.
The absence of literature from the formal curriculum does not mean that students did not read. Some read a great deal, as their diaries and compositions for the debating societies demonstrate. Theodore Bryant Kingsbury , for example, not only was exceptionally well-read for his generation, but his composition on American literature, composed for the Dialectic Society, also demonstrates the critical judgment and writing ability for which he would become well known as an adult. Reading literature, however, was regarded as a leisure activity, a profitable way to spend the hours outside the classroom.
Juniors, like sophomores, also wrote a composition every three weeks. Unfortunately, Green did not list topics for his "Junior Class in Rhetoric & Composition" in his grade book, and reconstructing what they might have been from compositions that survive would be sheer speculation. But in addition to the writing requirements for Green's course, juniors also were required to submit one or two essays "for the archives," at least from Fall 1839 through Spring 1846.15 Most of the surviving compositions are short. At least one is addressed "Gov. Swain ," and another contains the endorsement "Written for the archives of the University."Swain's role in this junior-composition requirement (as I call it) is unclear. He had an interest in history and worked to establish an archives for the University, so perhaps he wanted to record for posterity the work of students who would lead society and win fame as University graduates. Though Swain appears to have initiated the project, helping students meet the requirement was the responsibility of Charles Force Deems , adjunct professor of rhetoric from 1842 to 1848. Either Swain or Deems devised the topics on which students wrote16 and collected the compositions, which subsequently were bound in volumes now housed in the University's North Carolina Collection.
In addition to satisfying the junior-composition requirement, some juniors represented their debating societies during commencement exercises. These society representatives, customarily three from each society, prepared speeches to deliver on Wednesday before commencement in front of a public audience that included students, their guests, and local townspeople. R. Don Wilson's 1841 address, "On the Influence of Women," is an example of such a speech. The custom was abandoned in 1842 because the speeches had become too long and because students refused to shorten them.
Seniors wrote a great deal, especially if they were graduating with distinction. Until 1842 seniors were required to give two senior speeches, one each semester. As enrollments grew, however, the time devoted to preparing and hearing so many speeches must have made the exercise cumbersome, especially for the professor of rhetoric and logic. In August 1842 and again in September 1843, seniors were excused from giving senior speeches in the fall semester (Faculty Minutes 4:390, 444, UA).17
Senior speeches were significant pieces of writing. Topics were discussed beforehand with the professor of rhetoric, who also had to approve a draft, usually returning it to the student within a week. Speeches could not allude "to the Faculty of the University whether as individuals or collectively" (Faculty Minutes 3:329, UA), and "Nothing indecent, profane or immoral" could be delivered on the public stage ( Acts 13). Once approved, speeches had to be delivered without alteration from memory. Students could not refer to them during their delivery.18 Approximately eight speeches would be heard at a time, sometimes with musical interludes between speeches. It took several days to hear them all, and as William Mullins relates in his diary, students did not always respond respectfully to their classmates' work. Seniors graduating with honors also had to prepare a commencement address. A senior elected president of his debating society also delivered an inaugural address on assuming the chair. And although seniors were excused from declamation and composition during society meetings, the "duty" regularly to compose debates continued throughout the senior year. For most graduating seniors, then, the final year of college involved considerable writing.
At the same time, the work of the previous four years, both in the classroom and in the debating societies, presumably prepared students for such responsibilities. First-year students may have written little for professors, but they practiced declamation and composition in the debating societies, gaining familiarity with model speeches of great men. Some of these students would be chosen as commencement declaimers. As sophomores, students wrote approximately nine or ten compositions for the professor of rhetoric. In the debating societies they continued declamation and composition as well as taking a more active role in debate. Juniors continued writing compositions as they also undertook the formal study of rhetoric, logic, and history. For a time they also submitted one or two essays on set topics to Gov. Swain for the archives. Together with Edmund Covington , they may have helped launch The North Carolina University Magazine or submitted some of their writing to it. Together with William Mullins , they may have joined a "Junior Phi Club," a subgroup of the Philanthropic Society encouraging students to practice the skills of debate valued in the larger debating society. Juniors also might introduce debates and assume the presidency of their society. By the time they were seniors, students could be expected to prepare their own speeches and deliver them to a public audience. For four years they not only had observed other students performing senior speeches and commencement addresses, but every student also had practiced the skills of composing, argumentation, and delivery that distinguished effective public speakers.
Antebellum students lived in an academic culture steeped in public address—and the writing that made effective oratory possible. They listened to Sunday sermons, faculty lectures, and addresses by visiting political figures and commencement orators, which helped define the rhetorical strategies appropriate for different occasions. Students also read carefully the speeches printed under the auspices of the debating societies or published in newspapers. They checked out books from the society libraries—fiction and poetry to be sure, but also histories, biographies, and political and philosophical works. By listening and reading, students came to understand what subjects were worth considering; what requirements of length, arrangement, evidence, and style applied to effective speeches and essays; and what practices ensured a commanding delivery. They learned by imitation and practice, eventually becoming successful writers and public speakers.


1. The Eli West Hall Papers, SHC, include four compositions dated 1841 and 1842 and written while Hall attended preparatory school, seventeen pieces written during his collegiate career, and one oration dated 1848, a year after Hall graduated. Eight of Hall's college compositions are undated; the rest, representing every year in which he was enrolled, include class compositions, society exercises, and senior speeches.

2. Senior and Junior Orations , (1839-42) and (1842-46), NCC. Though catalogued as orations, the writings in these volumes are unmistakably student compositions, arranged by semester and then roughly in alphabetical order.

3. That students sometimes submitted academic writing as debating society exercises is supported by the endnote on Eli West Hall's composition, "The effects of the discovery of America upon the World" (Eli West Hall Papers, SHC). Though undated, it probably was written as a required junior composition for Adjunct Professor Charles Deems , then submitted to the student "correctors" in the Dialectic Society:

Although the composition has passed through the hands of the adjunct proff of Rhetoric I hope the gentleman will not consider it presumption in me to add something to the "criticisms" already made. The mechanical part of the composition is executed with great neatness, but the orthography is not by any means faultless (arising I presume from carelessness rather than otherwise) In this particular the gentleman will find corrections on the face of the piece. The mark against the 2nd & 3rd lines was made on account of the change from bright to dazzling which is not elegant

1st Corrector

4. William Mercer Green Papers, SHC. The small leather-bound notebook measures 3 3/4 by 6 1/8 inches. The volume includes some of Green's financial accounts as well as records of his classes during the 1848-49 academic year. One two-page spread of his grade book is reserved for "Remarkable Extracts from Speeches, Compositions, &c." and the last two pages contain a prayer Green wrote for a faculty meeting. Green , professor of rhetoric and logic from 1838 to 1849, also was an Episcopalian minister and founder of Chapel Hill's Church of the Atonement (now Chapel of the Cross). He appears to have entrusted the grade book together with an account book for the church to James Phillips , also an Episcopalian, so that Phillips could manage affairs after Green had left town.

5. The list of subjects is arranged in two columns. Students' names are not in alphabetical order, perhaps because students came to see Green at various times to discuss their topics with him individually. The names and subjects are as follows: Dick—Poetry of America, Towles—Glances at America, Jno Johnston—Military Glory, BrevardWilliam Wallace, Corbett—The Press, Robinson—Harmony of Nature, B. WhitfieldMorality taught by Nature Harmony of Natural & Revealed Truth, Bryan—Influence of Commerce on Destinies of Nations, J McNair—Responsibility of Amer. Statesmen, Battle —Decline of the English Drama, HaighThe West, Lowther—American Policy, E Mallette—Memory of the Past, George—Our Country, Hill—De Omnibus Rebus et Quibus, HinesMexico, Arrington—Origin & Progress of Popular Liberty, Scales[—]Poetry of Middle Ages, Johnson—Astronomy, M McNair—Eulogy on Dr Chalmers, Dusenbery Morman, Banks—Mutability of National Fortune, Hale —Political & Intellectual Power, J. Whitfield—Immortality of the Soul, McLeanScotland, Dortch —Excesses of Revolutions no Argument against them, Jones—National Pride, De Berniere—The Future, Saunders—Revealed Truth, Beene—Virtue the Basis of Liberty, Thomas—Instability of Repub. Governments, N. Whitfield—Woman, Cunningham—Morality, no less than Intelligence essential to the Stability of Government, Iredell—Female Heroism, YoungThe South:-her present portion, and her duty, Pool [no topic listed]

6. Green's list of students and the titles of their commencement addresses is arranged as follows:
Battle Valedictory
Arrington Association—The true Principle of Human Progress
George Authors—Their Influence & Responsibility
Haigh Love of Country
Hale Latin Salutatory
Lowther Influence & Position of America
J. C. McNair Influence of Scotland upon Civil & Religious Liberty
Pool War
Robinson Palestine
Scales Poetry of the Middle Ages
Thomas Christianity & Civilization
J. Whitfield Public Opinion
N. Whitfield Agriculture as Essential to National Prosperity
In the Class of 1849, Kemp P. Battle , Peter M. Hale , and Thomas Jefferson Robinson earned the first distinction; Thomas D. Haigh, James M. Johnson, Charles Eden Lowther, and John A. Whitfield held the second distinction; and William B. Dortch , Peter E. Hines, J. Calvin McNair, Malcolm McNair, William C. Pool, Charles R. Thomas, and Needham B. Whitfield, the third distinction. The faculty excused Hines, Johnson, and Malcolm McNair from giving their commencement speeches and substituted Thomas M. Arrington, James Pinckney Scales, and Fourney George in their places (Battle 1:522). Dortch , a third-honor man whose standing may not have been clear until later in the spring, does not appear in Green's list; nevertheless, he spoke at commencement on "The Dependence of Liberty on Law."

7. "Carter (excused); Fuller , Chatham on Address to the Throne 1770; McDuffie, Church's oration on Boston Massacre; McKay, Prentiss's Addr. to volunt. on return from War; Norcom, Address to Ursa Major; Patterson , McDowell on California Bill; Patton , Preston on California Bill; Sanders, Curran's Defence of Finnerty; Shober , Webster on Foote's Resolution; Terry, Adams' supposed Speech (by Webster); Barnes , Dickinson on California Bill; T. Burton , Griffin on Irish of Cheetham; Carrigan, Webster in Reply to Calhoun; Gilliam , Akenside (Greatness of Man); Kittrell , Oration before P. Henry Society, of Wm & Mary by Austin [Trible] Cambuling's Reply to Everett; Manning, Hannigan on Mexican War; W. Moore, Education (Phillips); Slade , Judge Story (Disc. Settlement of Saturn 1828); Thompson, Cataline's Speech to Roman Senate; Waddell, Phillips's Letter to the King." The first ten students in this list are sophomores, who typically would have performed on Tuesday night of commencement week; the next ten names belong to first-year students, who would have declaimed on Monday night. All of the declaimers except Kittrell and Moore eventually graduated.

8. When this scale first came to be used in the reports to parents is unclear. The earliest reference I have found appears in a December 26, 1837, grade report sent to the parents of Tod Caldwell (John Caldwell Papers, SHC). Prior to the late 1830s reports sent to parents reveal only how often students were absent from prayers and recitations. They do not evaluate academic performance. Caldwell's report, however, in addition to tallying his absences, adds the sentence "His relative gradation of scholarship in his class is considered very good." "Very good" in this context may not refer to the grading scale (though I believe it does), but the scale certainly was in place by March 18, 1841, when Andrew I. Polk wrote to his mother, "I thought my report would be 'respectable' (one grade higher than 'tolerable') but I was mistaken. However, I have this one consolation which is. that there were twenty two in the class whose report was 'tolerable'" (Polk and Yeatman Papers, SHC).

9. Battle , a student from 1845 to 1849, reports that "Those who obtained 'very good' in all, or nearly all, their studies had the first distinction. Those who averaged 'good' obtained the second distinction. The 'very respectable' had the third distinction" (1:553).

10. This topic actually was assigned in Fall 1848. Bartholomew Fuller not only is listed in Green's grade book, but his composition, "The Dangers of a College Life," also bears the endorsement "No. 3."

11. On nineteenth-century theme topics, see especially Robert J. Connors, "Invention and Assignments in Composition-Rhetoric," Composition-Rhetoric: Backgrounds, Theory, and Pedagogy (Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture; Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997), 296-327; and David Jolliffe, "The Moral Subject in College Composition: A Conceptual Framework and the Case of Harvard, 1865-1900," College English 51 (February 1989): 163-73.

12. Richard Green Parker's Progressive Exercises in English Composition (Boston: Lincoln and Emands, 1832). Green may have known Parker's work. "On Time," "Filial Affection," and "Necessity of Controlling the Passions" appear among the suggested topics in Progressive Exercises in English Composition (80, 87, 92). However, these topics might also have been suggested by lists in other textbooks. Bartholomew Fuller's "The Dangers of a College Life" does not follow Parker's prescription for developing simple themes.

13. Simple themes (Walker's"regular subjects") were to be developed by stating the definition of the topic, the cause, its antiquity or novelty, its universality or locality, the effects, the antithesis, and a conclusion and comparison (70). Complex themes (Walker's"themes") were to use a seven-part arrangement drawn from classical rhetoric: the proposition or narrative, the reason, the confirmation, the simile or comparison, the example, the testimony or quotation, and the conclusion (75).

14. Joseph Emerson Worcester, Elements of History (Boston: Cummings, Hilliard, Gray, Little, and Wilkins, 1826).

15. The bound volumes of Senior and Junior Orations , NCC, omit junior compositions written during the fall semester after 1842, either because they have not survived or because the requirement was reduced from two to one composition, written in the spring semester. Only one composition survives for each junior in the Classes of 1846 and 1847.

16. The following list includes most of the topics juniors addressed: Is it likely that poetry will ever attain a high degree of excellence in the United States? (Fall 1839, Spring 1841, Spring 1842); Ought literary honors to be awarded in seminaries of learning as incentive to intellectual exertion? (Spring 1840); Has climate an influence in the formation of character? (Fall 1840); Are public festivals as celebrated at the present day beneficial? (Fall 1841); The influence of climate on the physical and mental powers of man (Fall 1842, Spring 1846); Should capital punishment be stricken from our penal code? (Spring 1843); The individual influence of students in college (Spring 1843); Influence of the discovery of America on the world (Spring 1844); Everyone the architect of his own fortune (Spring 1844).

17. University catalogues continued to stipulate that seniors "deliver Orations of their own composition" twice a year until 1856, when the published requirement became one oration "at the close of the second term." The catalogue, however, was not always consistent with current practice. Battle , a member of the Class of 1845, claims that students in his day gave only one senior speech (1:555), and Green's grade book implies that only one senior speech was required of students in the Class of 1849.

18. Faculty minutes for November 26, 1844, record the plight of Samuel James Calvert, who made the mistake of consulting the text of his speech as he was giving it: "Mr. Calvert, Senior, was before the Faculty for a misdemeanor on the stage, at Senior speaking. He plead ignorance of the law. Dr Mitchell , and Professors Green and Deems were appointed a Committee to inform the classes that the law demandeds the dismission of a Senior who shall take his speech out when on the rostrum. (Mr. C.'s offence.)" (4:225, UA).