“…we were well grounded in grammar, and had passed through the elementary books…but at length…we became possessed of the demons of liberty and idleness.” — Alexander Graydon, 1811
eyond the classroom, students immersed themselves in academic disputes, civic culture, and political life. The list of campus rules shown here hints at less-than-successful attempts by the Trustees to impose stricter order. Among the first College students were the composer, statesman, and poet Francis Hopkinson, the poet Nathaniel Evans, and the minister and Congressional Chaplain Jacob Duché. All probably spent as much time writing satires and preparing public orations as listening to lectures. Hopkinson criticized the printer Andrew Steuart’s “Errata”—filled edition of a Latin textbook by College teacher John Beveridge; Steuart responded with his own blast. Evans’s neoclassical Dialogue and Ode on Peace, celebrating the end of the Seven Years’ War, was performed at the 1763 commencement and is here shown in Evans’s manuscript, perhaps used on the occasion, and in its later printed form. Thomas Godfrey, Jr., was a close friend of Evans and Hopkinson who was encouraged in his literary efforts by William Smith before his early death in 1763. Godfrey’s play The Prince of Parthia, often considered the first American drama, was performed in Philadelphia in 1767. In the partisan political world of the 1750s, another student, Isaac Hunt (father of Romantic critic Leigh Hunt) defended Franklin and attacked his own College teachers in a thinly veiled Attempt at Scurrility
The artist Benjamin West, a friend of Smith’s, likely attended classes in the 1750s and may have made this caricature of a charismatic teacher, David James Dove, the first English Master at the Academy (1751-53). Richard Peters called him “but ironically Dove, for his temper was that of a hawk.” Dove’s satirical pen, which he used to attack the practice of raising school funds through lotteries, earned him as many enemies as friends and may have led to his quick departure. He went on to form his own school for girls and later taught at the Union School of Germantown (Germantown Academy).
lthough no women were accepted into the Academy or the College, the Fourth Street campus was not an exclusively all-male bastion. As many as ninety girls, many the same ages as boys in the Academy, attended the Charity School. And elite women like Polly Hopkinson, sister of Francis, participated in the public performances staged by College students.