Philander Chase



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Philander Chase, Major Douglass, David Bates Douglass, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio, finances, debt, presidency, college, trial, article


Mistakes about Kenyon College & Maj’r Douglas [sic]

Bishop Chase the undersigned as the Founder of Kenyon College must be allowed to feel a deep interest in all that concerns that Institution. He therefore makes no apology for troubling the public with a few observations touching its present condition & if by so doing he can bring about a better state of things and by gentle measures save what gave him so much pain even to begin to [sear] from imminent peril and perhaps final ruin; his labour will not be lost

The occasion which has prompted him to this effort is the unhappy letters of Major Douglass the late so called the “President” of Kenyon College. Never have his feelings been more stirred within him than they were by the Major’s last letter so so [sic] unexampled in the language of honorable [military men] to a minister of Christ. To one of his own profession they are inadmissible and calculated to lead to the most direful consequences. What will follow their use against a respectable Bp. M in the Church of God, remains to be seen.

But tho’ the language of the Major to Bp. M arrested the attention of the undersigned, as a thing highly improper, yet the reflections to which that attention was drawn was of a graver character.

To the mind of the Founder of the Tho’l Seminary of Ohio. the subject [h]as naturally led & leads to the following question as the stream flows downward.

What is the occasion of this singular position occupied by the Major in relation to his Bishop? A mistake -- a very great & fatal mistake.

1. A mistake in supposing the Theological Seminary could if she acted according to the will of the Founders, ever have a President other than the Bishop of the Diocese.

That the Bishop should and shall be President of the Institution is its Corner Stone. Take away this and the whole fabrick falls. This principle entered into the heart of the preliminaries to the Constitution framed by the Convention of Ohio as a vessel is [framed] to hold the oil, even so this principle held the precious gifts from England obtained by the undersigned. See Charles Hammonds report advising the mode in which the Convention were legally to possess themselves of the contributions from England. “The Bishop must be President always residing on the college property & having the management and superindence [sic] of the whole.” It was a great mistake to overlook this principle by supposing that a charter from the Agistature could annihilate or alter it. Being a principle worthy as well as natural for the Donors to make in order to secure the fulfilment of their design in rearing an Episcopal institution it could not be altered without forfeiting the Donation and creating a right in the Donors to re-enter on the possession of their gifts made on the violated condition.

2 It was a mistake in those who at the consecration of Bp. McIlvaine artfully persuaded the House of Bishops in 1832 to declare that there was not necessarily a connexion between the Bp. & the Theological Seminary of Ohio.

No declaration of this Bench or any other Body of men however respected can destroy the nature of contracts. When the money was tendered to the Convention for the founding of the Theological Seminary of Ohio the conditions of its reception [use] were made known by the donors and declared by the chairman of the committee Mr. Charles Hammond and the Convention and act accordingly. By this act, the Church of Ohio held out her hand, took the Donations, & thereby solemnly pledged herself to obey the Conditions - and the first of these was that the Bishop shall be President. By this she was bound from that moment as in a contract. So long as the Theological Seminary were in existence the Bishop of that Diocese was to be connected it[sic] in the manner specified in the donations. The only possible way to break this connexion was to return the donations to the Donors. - To suppose it otherwise was a mistake in the house of Bishop.

3. The great principle of the founding of the Seminary of Ohio being to educate ministers of the Gospel and to inculcate religious truth as understood by the Episcopal Church & the Bp. for that purpose being officially supposed the most [?] & competent person to ensure this design-- it is obvious that [no] layman could or can be appointed even as a vice President of any part or parcel of this Institution for such are not [subject] to the [?] as the Clergy are. I[t] was a mistake therefore even thinking that Major Douglas[sic] or any other secular or military man could with propriety be appointed to the office which he held-- were supposing it to be subordinate to the Bp. This was intimated to the Maj’r in Brooklyn N.Y. before that Gentleman went to Gambier. The undersigned told him that he had no just claims to the presidency or vice presidency of Kenyon College. His being a layman rendered his appointment null. To this the Maj’r paid no regard.

Smarting under the consequences of these mistakes the Bishop and Convention of Ohio would do well to own their fault publicly in this respect as well as in other things too numerous to be mentioned here and to return to a better mind.

Altho their charter has by the founder been deemed forfeited by their “mistake” yet he has no disposition to proceed to trial as the Agent of the Donors. Let milder means be used which being aided by providential circumstances may bring the Convention & Bishop of Ohio to a better mind even so as to go back and reform all their mistakes. Perhaps the present occurrence and the cause of writing the present article painful as it is in itself may be viewed as a kind intimation of the Divine Goodness that there is now an opportunity for Ohio to make reparation of her faults.

Most gladly will the undersigned not only forgive the injuries they have done him as made known to the world in his reminiscences but afford all the explanations and advice in his power to put Kenyon College one more on the original & right ground & thus sooth the injured feelings not only of the Donors in general but especially of the Noble & most esteemed Person from whom the Institution received its name

Phil’r Chase

Mistakes about Kenyon College and Major Douglas



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