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Landmarks of Tompkins County, New York
by John H. Selkreg, 1894; D. Mason & Co., Publisher
History of Cornell
It had been proposed as early as in 1822 to found a college in Ithaca, and in March of that year a request was presented to the Regents by the Genesee Conference of the Methodist church for a charter. It was stated that six thousand dollars had already been raised for the support of such a college, with which it was the intention to proceed to the erection of buildings in the following spring. At the same time the trustees of the Geneva Academy applied for a charter for a college, on the basis of certain funds already subscribed and land and buildings already erected, and an annual grant promised by the corporation of Trinity Church in New York. As both these colleges were to be erected by religious denominations, the Board of Regents considered what its policy should be toward applications of this kind from various religious organizations. The board had adopted, as early as March 11, 1811, the view that no academy ought to be erected into a college until the state of literature therein was so far advanced and its funds so far enlarged as to render it probable that it would attain the ends and support the character of a college in which all the liberal arts and sciences would be cherished and taught. "The literary character of the State is deeply interested in maintaining the reputation of its seminaries of learning, and to multiply colleges without adequate means to enable them to vie with other similar institutions in the United States would be to degrade their character and to be giving only another name to an ordinary academy. The establishment of a college is also imposing upon the government the necessity of bestowing upon it a very liberal and expensive patronage, without which it would languish and not maintain a due reputation for usefulness and universal learning; colleges, therefore, are to be cautiously erected, and only when called for by strong public expediency."
The case was now different, for an additional question was involved. The board, however, after mature consideration, held that it had no right to inquire into the religious opinions of the applicants for a charter, and that it might wisely make use of denominational zeal to promote the great educational interests confided to its charge. It was directed, April 10, 1822, that the charter of a college in Ithaca be granted whenever it should be shown within three years that a permanent fund of fifty thousand dollars had been collected for its support. It was, however, found impossible to raise this sum. This impulse, though fruitless in itself, may have led to the foundation of the Ithaca Academy, which was incorporated the following year, March 24, 1823.
History of Cornell - Chapter II
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