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Title: Letter from Charles Wilson Harris to Joseph Caldwell, July 24, 1796: Electronic Edition.
Author: Harris, Charles Wilson, 1771-1804
Funding from the University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill supported the electronic publication of this title.
Text transcribed by Bari Helms
Images scanned by Bari Helms
Text encoded by Amanda Page
First Edition, 2005
Size of electronic edition: ca. 19K
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text
The electronic edition is a part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2005-06-15, Amanda Page finished TEI/XML encoding.
Title of collection: Charles Wilson Harris Letters (#315), Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: Letter from Charles Wilson Harris to Joseph Caldwell, July 24, 1796
Author: Chas. W. Harris
Description: 9 pages, 9 page images
Note: Call number 315 (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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Letter from Charles Wilson Harris to Joseph Caldwell , July 24, 1796
Harris, Charles Wilson, 1771-1804

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University July 24th 1796.


You will, without doubt, be expecting some account from me long before the arrival of this but I delayed giving an answer to your letter until the meeting of the Board of Trustees which was on the 15th inst. that I might have it in my power to write to you more fully. For as a teacher in the University I had no authority to give you any encouragement that could be relied upon—without the concurrence of the Trustees.
In answer to the several queries which you proposed, I am to inform you that the offices of the University are President, who is professor of Rhetoric & Belles-letters; Professor of Moral Philosophy; Professor of Natural Philosophy; Professor of Mathematics; of Chemistry; & of Languages—in all five Professorships. Revd Ker who has lately left this place was professor of languages & performed the

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duties of President pro tempore. Revd McCorkle , D. D. of this state was appointed to the professorship of Moral Philosophy, but as he could not immediately accept of the appointment and the trustees began to be very doubtful respecting his qualificationfor that business the appointment has been retracted. Revd. Holmes is now Professor of Languages. I am the other professor who besides the duties of my particular office, am obliged for the want of teachers to attend to the Moral Philosophy class & perform the duties of President. Besides there are two tutors of the lower classes. As to the classes, the Moral Philosophy class is the first and consists of six young men. They will study Paley, Burlemagni, Montesqueiu, & Mallet's elements of history. The mathematical class will consist of 15 who will study Simson's Euclid, Simson's Algebra, Trigonometry, Surveying, Navigation,

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and if required, Conic Sections, Projection of the Sphere & Nicholson's Nat. Philosophy & Ferguson's Astronomy. The Geography & Arithmetic class will be composed of 10 students, the Latin class of nearly as many, & there will be five or six in Greek. The tutors each attend to near 30 scholars, so that the whole number will be about 100. I have not been very particular, or accurate in some of the statements of the classes because it is now vacation & the young gentlemen when they meet, will commence their studies in new classes. We immitate Nassau Hall in the conduct of our affairs as much as our circumstances will admit. The Professorship of Mathematics & Natural Philosophy will not be more burdensome nor laborious at this place than at Princeton. I have been at the University since the first commencement of business & determined to devote myself during my stay entirely to its interests. For this reason I have always been employed

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in duties which were not annexed to my professorship & which I think it will not be necessary for any future professor to perform. To me they were not oppressive. I received my reward in finding myself useful to an institution which was zealously patronized by the whole state. Our situation is without doubt healthy—that was a circumstance which particularly recommended Chapel Hill for the seat of the University. As our state is not favourably situated for commerce, & the University fixed in an interior part of the country you must readily conceive that the expense of clothing will be something dearer at this place than at Princeton. But boarding is much cheaper, our diet at Commons is preferable to yours and procured at the low rate of 40 Dollars a year. The Trustees will pay for your boarding if you choose to diet at Commons. It has cost me nothing as yet. The buildings already compleated are one wing 98 feet

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long & 40 broad two stories high containing 16 rooms; an elegant & large house for the President, with out-houses; Steward's house, Kitchen &. The Buildings which are to be erected are a large house 115 feet long 56 broad & three stories; a wing exactly similar to the one above mentioned & placed fronting it; a chapel 50 feet long & 40 broad. I have annexed a small paper which will show you in what order these houses are to be arranged. The Chapel is already contracted for, & will cost near 3,000 Dollars.The foundation will be laid within two weeks. The trustees can at pleasure realize 15,000 Dollars more with which they have determined to commence the large building as soon as they can procure an undertaker. It would be difficult to give any correct statement of the funds. I requested the Treasurer to make out a small account of them, which I purposed to inclose for your satisfaction. This I have not yet received but he assured me that they could not be stated at less than 30,000 Dollars, tho' some of the property was such as could not be immediately productive.

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I have now given you a short but I fear not satisfactory answer to your enquiries. From what I have said you will easily perceive that the University labours more at present for the want of good teachers than anything else. Were the buildings compleated and more of the professorships filled there would not be less than 200 students. The professorship of Mathematics is at present worth 500 Dollars & will I am certain in a short time be equal to 600. Yet I may inform you that the society in the neighbourhood of the University is very uncultivated & unenviting. I have no communication with it. When there is a little leisure I ride 12 or 14 miles & there find very agreeable company, & the seminary is occasionally visited by the most respectable gentlemen in the state. One who resides here will generally be confined to the company of teachers students or books. Chapel Hill is 25 miles from Raleigh the seat of government. From the newness of the University every thing is rather

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in an unsettled state, but from present appearances I expect a situation here will within a short time become as agreeable & profitable as any of a like kind in the Union. You might here reasonably enquire why Mr. Ker has relinquished his business and why I intend to follow his example when prospects are so flattering. As to Mr. Ker he went away much against his own will,7 and as to my self I never could think of spending my life in teaching or I should not alter my situation. The law is my aim, and it is now high time to make some effectual preparation in that way. I gave the trustees warning of my intention six months ago. After all I hope you will not rely too much on what I have said. I could not easily forgive myself should I be, even the innocent cause of persuading you to a situation which might on trial prove less agreeable than that which you at present hold. Consult with your friends in that country & if they should approve of the prospects which open to you from this state, accept of them.

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You may calculate without diffidence on all the assistance which I can give you. Your letter I handed to the trustees who gave me liberty to inform you that you might be certain of the appointment should you think proper to accept. Gen. Davie of Hallifax, a leading member of the board, promised to write to you. We expect from London a small apparatus which will probably arrive before Christmas. Our education at Princeton was shamefully & inexcusably deficient in experimental Philosophy, a circumstance which I have often reflected upon with concern. If you have never attended particularly to that subject, before your commencement, you would undoubtedly find it a great advantage to see the Apparatus in Philadelphia & to learn the manner of using different kinds of Electrical Machines, Air-pump, Telescope, Microscope, Camera-Obscura, Magic Lantern, Quadrants, Sextants, & whatever else you may suppose useful or entertaining. I should have appeared often very ridiculous in my own eyes had I not gotten a smattering of experimental Philosophy by visiting Williamsburg College in Virginia.

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I would thank you to make my respects acceptable to Dr. Smith, Dr. Minto, & Mr. Hobart , if it be not inconsistent with the subject of our correspondence. I would willingly receive the degree of A. M. if I should be thought worthy of it & it could be procured in my absence. I suppose there is some expense attending it, which if you defray I will remit by some opportunity, at any rate when our members return to congress. If upon the whole you think of accepting our proposal you ought to arrive here between the end of October and the middle of November about which time the classes will again meet & you might at once enter upon your professorship. I am, sir,

with all possible respect your servant

Chas. W. Harris.

Mr. Joseph Caldwell

Be kind enough to oblige me with a letter by Post as soon as possible after the reception of this. It would be highly pleasing to know something particular respecting the present situation of my Alma Mater. Direct to Chapel-Hill.

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