J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

“The Government of this Colledge is very Strict”

Yesterday I quoted the start of John Adams’s description of his first visit to Princeton in August 1774, when he was on his way to the First Continental Congress.

Adams viewed the college’s Nassau Hall, the mansion of Judge Richard Stockton, the Rittenhouse orrery, and equipment for electrical experiments (which didn’t work in New Jersey’s humid August).

Adams’s account continues:
By this Time the Bell rang for Prayers. We went into the Chappell, the President [John Witherspoon, shown here] soon came in, and we attended. The Schollars sing as badly as the Presbyterians at New York. After Prayers the President attended Us to the Balcony of the Colledge, where We have a Prospect of an Horizon of about 80 Miles Diameter.

We went into the Presidents House, and drank a Glass of Wine. He is as high a Son of Liberty, as any Man in America. He says it is necessary that the Congress should raise Money and employ a Number of Writers in the Newspapers in England, to explain to the Public the American Plea, and remove the Prejudices of Britons. He says also We should recommend it to every Colony to form a Society for the Encouragement of Protestant Emigrants from the 3 Kingdoms [i.e., England, Scotland, and Ireland].

The Dr. waited on us to our Lodgings and took a Dish of Coffee. He is one of the Committee of Correspondence, and was upon the Provincial Congress for appointing Delegates from this Province to the general [i.e., Continental] Congress. Mr. William Livingston and He laboured he says to procure an Instruction that the Tea should not be paid for. Livingston he says is very sincere and very able in the public Cause, but a bad Speaker, tho a good Writer.

Here we saw a Mr. Hood a Lawyer of Brunswick, and a Mr. Jonathan Dickenson Serjeant, a young Lawyer of Prince town, both cordial Friends to American Liberty. In the Evening, young [Samuel] Whitwell, a student at this Colledge, Son of Mr. [Samuel] Whitwell at Boston to whom we brought a Letter, came to see us.

By the Account of Whitwell and [fellow student John] Pidgeon, the Government of this Colledge is very Strict, and the Schollars study very hard. The President says they are all Sons of Liberty.
It’s notable how many of the men Adams met in Princeton eventually became New Jersey delegates to the Continental Congress: college president Witherspoon, professor William Huston, and lawyer Sergeant, not to mention neighbor Stockton.

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