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Title: Letter from Elisha Mitchell to Charles Manly, September 11, 1840: Electronic Edition.
Author: Mitchell, Elisha, 1793-1857
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. 17K
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:
2005-06-27, Amanda Page finished TEI/XML encoding.
Title of collection: University of North Carolina Papers (#40005), University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: Letter from Elisha Mitchell to Charles Manly, September 11, 1840
Author: E. Mitchell
Description: 4 pages, 4 page images
Note: Call number 40005 (University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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Letter from Elisha Mitchell to Charles Manly , September 11, 1840
Mitchell, Elisha, 1793-1857

Page 1
University of N. Ca. Sept. 11th 1840

To Charles Manly Esq.

Dear Sir,

The meeting of the board of Trustees is appointed for Friday the 25th of the current month at 12 o clock. The engagements of the gentlemen in attendance are not likely to allow of a long delay in this place whether for an investigation of the circumstances of this particular case or for the purpose of devising means for preventing a recurrence of the same or similar disorders in future. Matters were worse than from the tenor of your letter to the Governor you seem to have supposed. That you may come to this place with at least some general knowledge of the circumstances that induced an application to your honorable body and with your wise head teeming with schemes for the re-establishment of order and industry I propose to give you a little history of the whole affair.
Some little disposition to annoy the Faculty by missiles of different kinds has been exhibited within the last year or two. I do not recollect particulars and perhaps over-rate the amount of what actually occurred, but whatever it was our general forbearance rather encouraged those concerned with the hope of impunity. There was a good deal of throwing though apparently with a view of intimidating rather than doing injury when we interfered with the ugly club in July last.
Three weeks ago, there was an affair in which Professor Fetter and myself were concerned of which some account appears to have reached you — true perhaps in the main untrue in some of the details. A Bull dance was got up on the second story passage of the S. [unrecovered] of the West building . A pail and wash-bowl I believe it was of water were placed in the landing place of the stairs to wet such member of the Faculty as might attempt to interfere. It was Prof. Fetter's evening to be there for the preservation of order. The noise of the dance was so great that after it had continued for some time I went down

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and was upon the ground a little before Mr Fetter escaped the proposed ducking, but the lights were immediately extinguished. I obtained a light in the third story and when it appeared the persons who had been engaged in the disturbance ran down and escaped from the building. Supposing the whole to be over I went home. After I left, the annoyances were kept up and directed particularly against Prof. Fetter . Water, books, tables, or parts of tables were thrown down from above and a charge of pusillanimity is attempted to be got up against him for not having put these disturbances down and for having run as it is (untruly) said from the building when he finally left it over to Dr Graves. The running Mr Fetter positively denies any farther than that he passed rapidly out of the building and to the distance of a few feet from it with the view of avoiding anything that might be thrown from above. My own recollections are that the night was too dark to admit of any person being seen either running or standing still at the distance of an hundred yards in the grove. Before he went out of the building Mr Fetter's position was one of difficulty. The upper stories — the second and third were quite dark — if he ascended without a candle he could see no one — if with a candle he became a mark for a pitcher of water or other missile by which the candle would have been extinguished. The proper method would have been to have called in some other member of the Faculty and taken possession of this part of the building at all hazards, but Mr Fetter has not yet had experience in such transactions. As the plan of operations has now for its object to correct Mr Fetter of a want of spirit you may expect to hear the transactions of that night represented as a mere bagatelle, but I will state some things hereafter which may seem to satisfy you that the earnest reports on this and other points are to be received with caution.
This affair having gone off so well gave additional spirit to those of the next Saturday night. A freshman treat was had after dark in the woods at the Foxhole (not Fauxhall as they tell me) spring from which the company came up hallooing and shouting. The Faculty went round to the rooms to see who was absent, and it not appearing to be of much use to stay longer went home. Some stones and brick bats were thrown before they retired. Afterwards the belfry having

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been broken open, the bell was rung indefinitely. They also began to batter in pieces the doors of the sophomore and junior recitation rooms and of the laboratory. The door of the library yielding by the bursting off of the box of the lock to the first application of force was not broken. Fearing that great injury to the apparatus might be done in the laboratory I went down with a view if possible of having an interview with the rioters and persuading them to desist. I had plenty of brick bats thrown at me, masses weighing from one to two pounds thrown with a hearty good will and flying on all sides of me. The Faculty afterwards went through the buildings between the hours of two and three in the morning with the view of detecting some of the authors of these disorders who had taken our horses out of the stables and were riding them about the campus, but in consequence of some delay in our movements nothing important was accomplished. I have spoken of what I myself saw because I do not know exactly what befell the other members of the Faculty.
What is to be done? I answer, tis a great pity that we could not have you here on the spur of the occasions. The parties concerned and engaged, finding your visit have been strengthening each others hearts so that I am not certain you will accomplish much now. But without presuming to dictate I will respectfully state what my views are. Unless you come here prepared to call a tet-e-tet, and state distinctly and unequivocally that this raising a row and then throwing stones under cover of the darkness at those whose duty it is to interfere is mean and cowardly, your visit will do more harm than good.
Secondly the Faculty are I suppose entitled to that protection when engaged in the discharge of their appropriate duties which the laws of the land are held to afford to the meanest citizen. The ordinances of the Trustees do not encourage or even warrant a criminal prosecution on our part. Nor could we institute such proceedings without destroying altogether the kind of relation which it has been held desirable to have existing between the Faculty and students. The circumstances of the present case are perhaps such as would under such proceeding improper. But it seems desirable that the students should be told in very plain terms that they are amenable

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to the laws of the land and that the Trustees will of their own notion proceed against them if these things are repeated or others like them are engaged in.
Thirdly it is perhaps of more importance still, that you should give no credit to a great variety of stories that are circulated from this place. It is incredible; the number of them that go abroad which are totally unfounded and untrue. Some are uttered in jest in the first instance and believed by the second or third person that hears them, others are malicious falsehoods. Take for instance a few with regard to myself. That on the night of the ugly club I was about the college buildings with a naked sword (from a sword cane) in my hand. That I was thoroughly wet on the night of Professor Fetter's adventure by water thrown upon men from above. That finding a student asleep upon his back and the contents of some ones stomach upon the floor, I both smelt and tasted of the same to see whether the ejectment was from the stomach of the sleeper. That I was beaten to a jelly on the night of the great row &c &c. In some cases the stories are too silly to do any harm, in others, as in the case of Prof. Fetter they may do mischief.
If the night when you shall be here shall be a bright star light, I should be glad to have you stand at the door of the south entry of the West Building on the west side and judge for yourself how much confidence is to be placed in statements that Mr Fetter was seen from that point to run over towards Dr Graves. I passed there last night after dark for the purpose of ascertaining whether it were possible to see that a person was passing at that gait and found it as it seemed to me impossible, and the night was lighter than that on which Mr. Fetter was said to have been seen. The stars were visible at that time but the heavens covered in part with a thin haze — last night nothing like a cloud was to be seen. Last night a person dressed in black might perhaps have been seen for an instant at one or two points but no one could declare with safety that he was running. The whole I fully believe to be a groundless calumny.

Yours Respectfully,

E. Mitchell

P.S. After the statement of the physical impossibility of seeing Prof. Fetter in full trot for Dr Graves from the west side of the building, that charge is now I learn abandoned and the whole confined to what took place whilst he was passing along the front and around the end, certainly a small matter.