« PreviousContinue »
having determined to get that which was decent and durable. The price of board is $1.58 per week, or, without tea and coffee, $1.42. He states that he is highly pleased with his situation, and that his most sanguine expectations are fully realized, and even far excelled. He describes his routine of study, and says a college is the place to learn. Here there are no impediments and every necessary facility ; if the same prosperity which has now dawned, continues, his college course will be a happy one, and if he is permitted to go through, it will be the May.day of his life.
He entered a freshman class of 1oi, the largest the college had, up to that time, seen. The class contained many bright young men, most of whom had been much more thoroughly prepared than himself. Here he remained throughout the course, availing himself, however, of the permission to be absent winters for the purpose of teaching. These absences were, however, sometimes prolonged in his case, by cutting off from the end of the fall term or the beginning of the spring term. By the money earned in this teaching and by small loans he procured from time to time, he paid his own way throughout the course. The college expenses at that time were not heavy. I observe that those which were classed as necessary, not including contingent, are fixed in the catalogue of 1838, at $106.24.
But there were many contingent expenses, amounting to more, perhaps, than the amount named. In these he practiced the strictest economy.
He traveled back and forth from home sometimes by stage, sometimes by private conveyance, and often walked long distances to make these connections. His clothes were made at home, usually out of store cloth, which had been procured by his mother's exchanging homespun of her own make, by carrying it for this purpose thirty miles to a market town,
At this time Dr. Nathan Lord was president of Dartmouth College, a man known for his strong character and wide scholarship; and there was an uncommonly able corps of professors, many of them excellent teachers; Charles B. Hadduck, Alpheus Crosby, Ira Young, Edwin D. Sanborn, O. P. Hubbard, Stephen Chase, and Samuel Gilman Brown.
He had entered college with the highest appreciation of its advantages; the struggle to reach its doors had been long, difficult, and uncertain. He knew what it had cost to get there, he knew how much it would cost to remain, and therefore he valued it. He was determined to make the best use of its every opportunity. He brought with him health, energy, industry, perseverance, courage, and ambition; and as a solid basis for these, integrity and every strong moral quality. What followed was a matter of course; he was a thorough and faithful student, always acquitting himself well in the recitation room, and present at every required exercise.
He also availed himself of every privilege outside of the mere routine. He was active in the literary societies, frequently writing and speaking, and especially ambitious to excel in these respects. In the time left over, he pursued a thorough course of reading, embracing chiefly history, romance, and poetry. This reading he followed up with continuous assiduity in his lengthened absences from the college.
He was by no means indifferent to such recreations and athletic sports as then prevailed among the students. His favorite recreation was walking, for which the country surrounding the college is so inviting; and he made many excursions among its hills and valleys. In the warm season, swimming in the adjacent Connecticut River was one of the college pastimes, and he became an adept in this art. It is noted by one of his classmates that in swimming a mile stretch, though taken with the cramp, he refused to be taken into the accompanying boat, but “kicked it out.” He took pleasure in the military company organized among the students, and from his love of obedience and discipline and his inclination to command, always had a fondness for this service. He was interested also in politics, and near the end of his course was elected president of the college democratic club.
He was an actor in a dramatic incident, which occurred near the close of his junior fall, in the presidential election of 1840. He was now 22 years of age, an ardent democrat, but had never voted. He determined at this time to cast his first ballot. To do this he returned from Hanover to Deerfield, a distance of seventyfive miles by stage, leaving on the last day of October and arriving at Concord, on his way, at half-past one o'clock the same night. He at once set out alone on foot for Deerfield, still twenty miles distant, meeting, as he says, the rising sun on the summit of Prescott's Hill, four miles away, and arriving at home just in season for breakfast. The election was next day, and he was on hand. Party spirit ran high, and the voting list was closely scrutinized by both sides. There was at that time living with his father, as a cheap hired hand, an ignorant but fairly intelligent fellow, named Francis York. He had been brought up in the poorhouse of an adjoining town, but for the past eight years had been self-supporting. The Whig magnate of Deerfield, a lawyer of distinguished family and influence, overawed the selectmen, and induced them to strike York's name from the voting list, on the ground that he was a town pauper. Upon this, young Philbrick stepped up and protested against the act. Amid the great crowd of assembled voters he spoke for eight or ten minutes, with an earnestness that filled them with astonishment. York's name was quickly restored to the list. John went back home, brought York to the town meeting, and saw that he deposited his vote. "To-day,” said he, “has been the most glorious day of
I have emancipated a man and defended his rights.”
On the whole he stood high at college as a man and scholar, - among the first, – but was not distinguished otherwise than for his sterling qualities. One of his classmates writes that he was not so conspicuous in any respect, compared with the average of his class, as to lead to expectations of his career of distinction. He was unassuming, prompt in his exercises, doing justice to the subject and credit to himself, writes another classmate. Another says he was a resolute, plucky fellow, and upon
an attempt made to haze his roommate by some of the sophomores, when he was a freshman, his assailants went down stairs very much in a hurry, followed by sundry billets of wood, and very much worsted. I may add that when this incursion of four masked and cloaked soph
was made into his room, he was engaged in writing a letter home, which letter I have seen. With the few minutes' interruption necessary to put out the intruders and throw them down stairs, he calmly resumed his writing, with as firm a hand as ever, only incidentally mentioning this little disturbance, and saying that he "pounced upon these fellows like an eagle upon his prey."
Another classmate writes: "The most marked characteristics of all which I remember were his ambition and energy; the former trait led me once to say to him that I thought nothing but the presidency of the United States would satisfy him. There was the same enthusiasm in everything that he undertook at that time that he showed in all his after life. Firm in his opinions and tenacious of his rights, he had also exceeding good-nature and kindness of heart."
His classmate, the Hon. George Walker, now and for a long time, United States Consul General at Paris, in an interesting letter, states: "I remember him particularly well as a steady, studious man of high character and dignified manners. I have the impression that he was a good scholar. I should say that he was a man who was always growing, never rapidly, but assimilating what he learned, and becoming every year that I knew him stronger and more capable of useful work."