We visit the campus of Hamilton College from time to time. My eldest, The Historian, loves their library– Burke Library– and knows a few of the professors there. The place is steeped in American history. Although Alexander Hamilton never visited the campus, he whole-heartedly supported this venture begun by Reverend Samuel Kirkland, a Connecticut native who came to wilds of Upstate New York to bring Christianity to the Iroquois. The Historian is quite the Samuel Kirkland expert; someday I hope she writes a biography of him. Kirkland’s history is truly fascinating. She includes a brief history about the college below my entry.
Modern Hamilton College was in the mainstream headlines a year ago, mostly due to their decision to host a lecture by Kook of the Year, Ward Churchill. Nutsy Churchill was thankfully pressured out of the schedule by outraged Hamilton alumni and the public. However, there remain the strangest and disconcerting associations for the college, such as the college visiting professor Brigitte Boisselier, a member of the Raelian Cult Movement (who claim to have cloned a human and that we descend from aliens). It’s really weird for an Ivy League college to do some of the things it does. Yow. Poor Sam Kirkland– his vision of “solid American education for Christian boys” is in the toilet.
We love the college for its history and its inception by Rev. Kirkland as an out reach for Indians. The kooky leftward tilt of the college is tragic. But there are some great professors in the history department who do still preserve the honor and dignity of it’s history and mission.
My girls and I have attended a few lectures at the campus, one by author Ron Chernow. He was there to speak about his book, Alexander Hamilton. It was an interesting lecture. Chernow didn’t deny Hamilton’s obvious religious convictions by calling him a deist, as many modern authors do. However, Chernow’s insinuations in his book that Hamilton was homosexual or was a British spy went too far.
My daughter wants to someday pick up where Hamilton left off politically, and perhaps get involved in some kind of Christian Constitutional Society, the brain child of Hamilton. After his tempestuous time as Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton had given some thought to the existing political parties of his time, and he and George Washington both saw the danger of a two-party political scene. Hamilton also saw the degeneracy and corruption of politicians within the system, and believed only Christianity could keep our nation together under liberty.
“I have carefully examined the evidences of the Christian religion, and if I was sitting as a juror upon its authenticity I would unhesitatingly give my verdict in its favor. I can prove its truth as clearly as any proposition ever submitted to the mind of man.” –Alexander Hamilton
Infamous Aaron Burr ended Hamilton’s plan for a new political society, in July 1804.
We paid a visit to Samuel Kirkland’s grave site. The kids are very patriotic.
Buried next to Kirkland is Oneida Indian Schenando (also known as Skenando, Skenandoah, or Shenandoah).
Skenandoah was instrumental in persuading the Oneida Indians to resist the British and join the American Patriot cause. The Oneidas were the only members of the Iroquois nation to fight with the Americans. Skenandoah had become a devout Christian under the teaching of his “father,” Samuel Kirkland.
From The Annals of Tryon County at www.fortklock.com/tryonskenando.htm:
From attachment to Mr. Kirkland he had always expressed a strong desire to be buried near his Minister, and Father, that he might (to use his own expression) “Go up with him at the great resurrection.” At the approach of death, after listening to the prayers, which were read at his bed side by his great granddaughter, he again repeated the request. According the family of Mr. Kirkland having received information by a runner that Skenando was dead, in compliance with a previous promise, sent assistance to the Indians that the corpse might be carried to the village of Clinton for burial.
You can read a little more about the mysterious Skenandoah Boulder that we visited a month or two ago.
The Mohawk Valley is indeed very, very rich in history. It was George Washington who referred to New York as the “Seat of the Empire,” probably giving us our nickname “The Empire State.”
From The Historian: Hamilton College in Clinton New York is one of the oldest colleges in New York State. The college was first founded by the Reverend Samuel Kirkland in 1793 as an academy (an institute to help aspiring young men prepare for higher education in universities). The academy would admit and instruct young Oneida Indian men and young white men from around the country.
As an experienced Christian missionary and diplomat among the Iroquois tribes of New York, Kirkland believed that this academy would be a great educational aid to the Indians, since they were “to be instructed in the principles of human nature, in the history of civil society, … and in the principles of natural religion, the moral precepts, and the more plain and express doctrines of Christianity.” Kirkland also expressed the hope that by educating white and red men together, this would create a stronger tie of friendship between the two peoples than they had been able to enjoy much before.
In 1793, Samuel Kirkland traveled to Philadelphia (the unofficial capitol of the United States at that time) to solicit financial and influential aid from Alexander Hamilton, signer of the Constitution, co-author of The Federalist Papers, and the then current Secretary of the Treasury. In his journal, Kirkland records that Hamilton agreed to lend the college any power in his aid and to become a premier trustee, which post he served till his death in 1804.
In honor of its benefactor, the institution was named the Hamilton-Oneida Academy, and, since Hamilton never received an opportunity to visit the grounds of the site, the noble Baron von Steuben laid the cornerstone of the first building on campus.
Kirkland anticipated the growth of the academy, and although neither he nor Hamilton (who never set foot upon the grounds of the institute) never lived to see it, the academy received its charter as a college in 1812.