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KC: Buckingham explains himself: he misunderstood the nature of Doctor B's appointment. Explains to McIlvaine the relationship between mathematics and natural philosophy




letter, McIlvaine, Kenyon College, Buckingham, mathematics, natural philosophy


Mt. Vernon Nov. 27th 1835

Rev. and Dear Sir,

Your note of the 20th [?] was handed me this evening on my return from Zanesville - I hasten to apologize for the unintentional offence, which the tone of my note has given you - That note was intended for the Pres. of Kenyon College, and in that view was entirely official - It was not intended to demand an explanation, for I supposed there was none to be given.

In fact I will confess that I supposed I was doing exactly what you wished in offering to resign the Prof. in favor of some other - Had I supposed it possible for me to have misunderstood the nature of the arrangement with Doct. B. the note would not have been written.

When Doct. B. came upon the hill he [?] without having seen me to demand the key to the Phil. Apparatus - I thought it somewhat strange, but, however, the next day brought out the key and gave it to Harrison requesting to have it returned, which was not done until my note was written. It was soon after hinted to me by Mr. O[?] that the Lecture room which I have been at a good deal of trouble to arrange and was then urging the completion of, would be wanted for other purposes, as Doct. B. was to have the dept. of N. Phil. - I waited on Mr. Sparrow to inquire into the truth of the matter and he told me (apparently with some reluctance) that Doct. B. had been offered that Dept. - upon further engaging I found it had been the common talk of the place - And was expressly told my Prof. Fitch that Doct. B. had gone away with the understanding that he was to have the Dept. - Now under these circumstances how could I get any other impression than the one I did? Or that I had been unceremoniously disposed of in the department of instruction without being consulted.

Doct. Michell left Gambier for a similar reason, (as he told me) - and loud complaints have been made in other quarters for the same cause and the principle itself has been strongly reprobated by the members of the Faculty generally - Such being the case I thought it high time for me to ascertain the footing upon which I stood - [?] indeed so sane was I that my disconnexion with the College would be gratifying to you that I was on the point of sending in my resignation without explantation - In any event, it was far from my intention to embarrass the College by suddenly withdrawing, but was prepared on my return to offer my services until no longer needed and at the same time to state to you that our mutual friend Lt. Kinsley thinks strongly of locating in this country and would probably be pleased with the situation.

One part of my letter was entirely misunderstood. When I objected to holding a situation subordinate to a stranger, the idea of the honor of the thing, was as far from my mind as you could have supposed - When I gave up all thoughts of worldly distinction to confine myself and labors to the obscure walls of Kenyon College, it was from far other considerations than honor - To make myself understood it is only necessary to remark that, contrary to your apprehension of the relative connexion between Nat. Phil. and Math. and chemistry the whole subjects of Nat. Phil., with the exception of the inconsiderable portions comprising electricity and magnetism - is entirely built upon Mathematics - and the Prof. of Math. is as much responsible to the Prof. of N. Phil. for the manner in which he has prepared students to enter his dept. as the teacher of a grammar school to the Prof. of languages - Now it seems, notwithstanding my exertions to the contrary, that the Faculty are determined to pass every student through my dept. good or bad, and the consequence would be that Doct. B. (if he knows anything of Mathematics) would think of me as I did at first of Mr. Denison, - that he knew nothing of the subject - His will explains why I was willing to submit the “work of my hands” to Maj. Douglass, but not to a stranger.

I observe your letter contains none of the assurances I required, but from its tone I am led to infer then, and unless informed to the contrary shall take it for granted that my inference is correct.

The foregoing is a very [difficult] statement of my reflections and I could fill many sheets before I could satisfy myself with my statements on every [?] in justification of my course - But sensible as I am that even now you do not probably entirely understand me - I will not longer trespass on your valuable time.

With every feeling of respect I remain

Yours truly,

C. P. Buckingham

Letter to McIlvaine