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University of N.C. Account of Disturbances Which Have Lately Occurred at the University of This State. From The (Raleigh, N.C.) Star, September 13, 1811:
Electronic Edition.

Caldwell, Joseph, 1773-1835

Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the electronic publication of this title.

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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,

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(caption title) University of N.C. Account of Disturbances Which Have Lately Occurred at the University of This State.
(article title) Account of Disturbances Which Have Lately Occurred at the University of This State.
The Star, A Weekly Journal of News, Politicks, Literature, and the Useful Arts, for the Year 1811. Volume III.
Joseph Caldwell
1 p.
[Thomas Henderson, Jr.]
September 13, 1811

From The (Raleigh, N.C.) Star, September 13, 1811

Call number C071 S791 (North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

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[Title Page Image]

News, Politicks,



Page 145



Page 148


Account of disturbances which have lately occurred at the University of this state.

        As some events which have lately taken place, will doubtless appear of unusual importance to parents, to the publick, and to the institution itself, it is deemed necessary to publish a statement of them for general information.

        During the first Session of the present year, there was discovered no other disposition among the Students, but to acquiesce under the laws and customs of the College, to improve their opportunities of education, and to pass their leisure hours in the innocent amusements of the place. The present session was commenced with the same marks of prosperity, and with full hopes that they were to continue. But it was not long before symptoms of a different kind began to appear. Yet they were so small, and confined to so few, that though any disposition to disturb the order of society, cannot but be disagreeable and injurious, yet they were too limited to deserve notice of themselves, for any effect they could have upon the character or business of the College. When they were adverted to, it was by individuals of the Faculty, who repaired to the spot where confusion was made, and reminded those who were engaged, of the necessity of order. A short time afterwards the Faculty perceived, very much to their regret, a disposition to persist in such noisy behaviour as was incompatible with regular business, and a good understanding between the Faculty and those who were engaged in such disorderly conduct. In such cases notice was at length given, that if repeated, they must be made subjects of regular enquiry, so that exemplary punishment might ensue. The Faculty were soon compelled to meet in fulfilment of their notice, but their sitting was immediately disturbed with stones and other materials thrown along the passages. This bold indication was given of a disposition to take amiss the regular exercise of authority, and to resist it. As soon as this spirit of violence and resentment was shown, they determined to prevent and repress it if possible, by such a combination of uniformity, moderation and firmness, as should convince the whole college, that if any evil disposition was harboured against the authority, it was not reciprocated. After an appropriate admonition, administered to those who had transgressed, the members of the Faculty persevered in such seasonable and rational reproofs, upon the spot where mischief was done, or in the rooms of the tutors, as was calculated to extinguish a spirit of opposition and insolence against authority, and at the same time to convince the Students of their fixed purpose to maintain the order of the college as far as should be within their power. It is certain however, that though we succeeded to retard the growth of the evil, it was not abated. One of the smaller boys was discovered by his Tutor, in throwing a large stone thro' the passage. He resolved even here, to forbear calling the Faculty, to convince every one, who might impute ill will in the exercise of power, that this was not the case.--Yet it was soon discovered that this forbearance had little or no effect. It may be thought by some that the forbearance was improper. But it is always necessary for the members of the Faculty, with all possible prudence and wisdom, to determine at the moment, and in the circumstances, what measure is most likely to attain the end in view. Upon such an emergency clemency may be charged by some with the encouragement of impunity to crime, while the infliction of punishment, in the opinion of others, would almost justify, at least extenuate a plea in the young, that they were irritated into more pertinacious opposition, by the harsh and irritable temper of their teachers. In the case of which we speak, the tutor thought that it was best to forgive. But violence and studied turbulence of behaviour was soon renewed and practised daily, so that it was impossible for the peace of the society to be maintained, the regular order of business supported, or the character of the institution preserved. This situation of things, if it cannot early be brought to an end, if it does not soon find opposition from the good sense and publick virtue of the Students, is exceedingly calculated to spread the infection, and to excite an extensive disposition to participate in what are called the pleasures of mischief. Such a disposition, it was perceived, at that time was growing apace, and threatening some deplorable consequences as soon as temptation and occasion should occur. Seasonable warnings were given publickly against the disorderly conduct which prevailed, and against that habit of mind which prompted to it; but these were found to have little or no effect. In such a state of things some temptation or opportunity cannot long be wanted. An article of the steward's table furniture was broken in the dining room, and he sent to the student who broke it, a demand of restoration. This was of course seized as a provocation for insulting reply, and the coals of mischief were blown through the college. It must be evident that though this was seen to be the case, the Faculty could have no controul over the maturing evil. It is believed that their moderation, their constancy, and their firmness will not be denied.

        It shortly happened that the Tutors were absent from supper. A dispute presently arose between the Steward and the Students whether the time for opening the door had elapsed, since the ringing of the bell. Much time was not taken to decide this question, for the students began to storm the dining room with every circumstance of fury and violence. When the door was opened, they entered in a disorderly manner, dashing the victuals every where, breaking some of the plates, tossing others out of the door, joining in the most boisterous vociferations, and threwing at the servants till they were forced to leave the room. Two students were afterwards ascertained to have broken plates, and one to have thrown bread at the servant. When the Faculty had met, they were informed that on the same day, in one of the passages of the college, two persons had persisted in exciting noise and confusion, after they had been specially directed to desist. These five were summoned to answer, and while the Faculty were sitting, they were disturbed and insulted by the throwing of stones in the passages, and the exploding of gunpowder. They now deemed it indispensable that exemplary punishment should be inflicted; and a sentence of suspension was pronounced upon the five students.

        This we soon found to be far from having the intended effect. Business was now seriously hindered by the disorderly behaviour of the students, in those parts where the Faculty was not present. Some of the suspended wished to know whether there were any terms upon which they could be restored. It was answered that as long as the students acted as they did, there could be no hope. The violence of the disorders was then abated, but did not wholly cease. Many of the students signed a petition to the Faculty for the restoration of the suspended, alleging as their excuse, that they were all in a violent passion when the mischief was done. When some of the suspended persons afterwards applied to know, whether the petition of their fellow students would be taken up, they were informed, that the business did not lie between the Faculty and the students, but between the Faculty and themselves;--And that before we could form any opinion, we must know from themselves by written address, their wish for restoration, and the spirit and sentiments with which they applied for it. After some time this application was made by three. As the college had been tolerably tranquil for two days, and two of these persons gave convincing evidences of their sorrow and their purposes of good conduct, these two were restored; but the third was refused. As soon as this was known the reason of the momentary quiet appeared. The disorders recommenced, and the cause assigned was, that the others were not restored, and the petition not listened to. One end of the college was now barred up, and tumult was raised with unbounded license. It was no longer deemed of any avail, that the officers should continue within the walls, where nothing but riot reigned, and where uproar was made, such as, it is believed, is not often to be heard among civilized men. That evening and the next day, the disturbances were continued, by throwing pieces of plank, and stones, and by bursting blocks of wood stuffed with gunpowder, wherever the members of the Faculty were not personally present. Business was in a great measure broken up, and the Faculty were unable to anticipate what must be the result. They determined to persevere in efforts to fulfil their duty. They were at the college in the evening after eight o'clock, expecting further examples of mischief. After keeping up a vigilance for some time, to observe such acts as should occur, two persons were seen coming out of the door, and as soon as they were at the foot of the steps, a bursting of a wooden block was heard and seen in the passage, out of which they had that moment came. It was completely ascertained that no door, in that end of the college was opened at that time. These two persons were strictly seen to walk in confidential discourse, and some of their conversation was heard to be upon the subject of that explosion. The tutor at that end of the college, afterwards met them and ascertained their names. He had been to all the rooms, and no other persons were out. It is necessary to be particular in these circumstances. A little Negro was found in a corner of the room of one of these young men. He was asked what he was doing there. He said he had been near being shot. By whom? was the enquiry. He replied by the one that had just ran out. One of the room-mates was asked, where is your companion? The answer was, that he had gone out just before the gun went off.

        These observations made in the inside and on the outside of college, were deemed enough to substantiate the charge of the Faculty; and upon them was grounded an act of suspension the next morning. At noon, the doors at one end of the college were again barred, to preclude all interruption or discovery, in the tumults that were practiced. In the evening at five o'clock the sentence of suspension which had been passed, was to be published in Person Hall. It was anticipated by the sudden act of thirty-eight students rising up as with one consent, rushing out of the hall, and renewing in the college the confusion and defiance of authority. Of this concert the Faculty had received no intimation. It was a conspiracy conducted by a subscription of their names, and which to succeed must be secret.

        As soon as the Faculty could be assembled, the persons concerned were summoned to appear. A charge was exhibited of contempt of the authority, and of open resistance against it. They plead that the persons punished were innocent; that the Faculty would not listen to their petitions; and that they knew no other method but the one they had taken.

        The Faculty met the next morning, and after informing them that they were prepared to read their conclusive sentence, offered them the liberty of soliciting a meeting of the Board. This they declined, and they being thirty-eight in number, an order of suspension for six months was publickly read to them. They then requested leave to stay, till a Board could meet. Permission was granted still but the Board did not meet. A petition was then sent to the Faculty--But they could not think it in their power, consistently to recede from the step which had been taken.

        The Faculty have sometimes signified to the young men of higher standing and superior age, that it was reasonably expected of them, that they would not only refuse to countenance such disorders, but that they would co-operate with the authority in repressing them. Many have justified themselves by a reply, that they took no share in the mischief, nor gave it countenance; nay that they even disapproved of it. But what are we to say, when they would permit the public doors of the college to be fastened against the Faculty, themselves being inclosed, and would continue quiet witnesses of the tumult in the inside for a long time, without manifesting any thing but amusement, or without one movement made to put an end to the disgraceful scene? What in short are we to think, when outrages are committed against the laws, the government, and the peace of the society for weeks together, and no arrest is put upon them by all the exertions of the Faculty, while one half or two thirds of the young men are probably from eighteen to two or three and twenty years of age?

        It will be seen upon revision that the account which is here given, is chiefly a narrative of facts. It is believed that their truth will be confirmed by all who were in a situation to be witnesses.


Chapel Hill, Sept. 9.

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