Frederick S. Allis, Jr.
Youth from Every Quarter



ON 30 April 1778 the long-awaited day arrived. The opening of Phillips School itself was certainly no portentous event. As one of the early historians has written, the School "fell into the world of that day as gently as a leaf falls from a tree in the forest, as a seed drops from the hand of the sower. No sound of trumpet nor roar of cannon heralded her birth. She was looked upon as a very little thing by the world of that day."(1) The educational facilities were far from impressive. An old carpenter's shop, about thirty-live feet by twenty, made of unpainted boards and embellished by a chimney on one side, had been acquired on the land purchased over a year before from Solomon Wardwell and had been moved to the corner of what is now Main and Phillips streets, on the site of the present Archaeology Building. Some rude benches had been installed, but little more in the way of furniture. It was in this building that Eliphalet Pearson met thirteen students, the first of thousands who would eventually attend Phillips Academy. When the Calvinist background of the founders is remembered, it is not surprising that they should have celebrated the occasion with a sermon---the Reverend Jonathan French preaching a splendid one to launch the new institution on its way.(2)

Phillips Academy has always been noted for its teachers, and its first master established that tradition firmly. Whatever one may think of Eliphalet Pearson---and in many ways he was an extraordinarily difficult person to deal with---he insisted from the start on the highest standards of academic excellence and left on the School a personal imprint that was to last many years. About four months younger than Sam Phillips, he was born on 11 June 1752 in Newbury, the eldest son of a respectable but poor farmer and miller, David Pearson. The newly established Dummer School was close by, and he attended as a day student, starting in 1765. Each day he walked four miles each way, carrying his lunch and hooks with him. His father had no intention of spoiling the boy and made him sign promissory notes for all the money expended for his education.(3) Tradition has it that Pearson and Sam Phillips became fast friends at Dummer School. In a small institution like Dummer, the two would certainly have known each other, but there is no documentation of an unusually close friendship, nor is there any for their presumed close relationship at Harvard. Pearson had been obliged to delay college for two years, presumably to save up enough money to go, and though he joined the Institute of 1770, of which Sam had been one of the founders, there is no record of their seeing much of each other. Pearson's college career was a distinguished one; his graduation-day debate with Theodore Parsons, "On the Legality of Enslaving the Africans," was considered so outstanding that it was ordered printed by the administration. Pearson, incidentally, supported slavery; anticipating the arguments of pre-Civil War Southerners, he summed up his case by saying:

On the whole, since it is evident beyond all controversy, that the removal of these Africans from the state of brutality, wretchedness and misery in which they are at home so deeply involved, to this land of light, humanity and christian knowledge, is to them so great a blessing, however faulty any individuals may have been in point of unnecessary cruelty practiced in this business, yet, whether the general state of subordination here, which is a necessary consequence of such removal, be agreeable to the law of nature, can by no means longer remain a question.(4)

After graduation from Harvard in 1773, Pearson came to Andover---possibly at the suggestion of Sam Phillips---to teach in the town school for a short time, but he was soon back in Cambridge to pursue theological studies and to continue courting Priscilla Holyoke, daughter of the late President Holyoke, a lady twelve years his senior. With the start of the war in the spring of 1775 Pearson returned to Andover, bringing Priscilla and her mother with him, and resumed his teaching at the town grammar school. It was probably during this period that he first began to ponder the problems of secondary education, as Sam Phillips' long letter to him headed "Dear Friend" implies.(5) Just where he and the Holyokes lived in Andover in 1775-76 is not clear, but his manuscript diary for the first part of 1777 indicates that by that year he had stopped teaching school and was engaged in study, itinerant preaching, getting inoculated for the smallpox, and in doing various chores in his home.(6) The diary reveals a man dedicated to routine and order in his life, recording many minor details of his existence, with the amount of time spent on each. He even entered the amount of time spent in bed each night, and the early part of the diary is full of such entries as Abed 9-1/2 H." Pearson got plenty of sleep; the shortest entry is "Abed 7-3/4." In addition to sleeping, he regularly spent time reading, composing sermons, and visiting friends. An entry on 24 February reads "Dined at Mr. Phillips in company with 6 Indian Chiefs of the Oneida tribe & Rev'd Kirkland."(7) One would hardly know from his diary that there was a war on. On 6 January he writes, "Hear that 919 Hessians are taken at Trenton" and on the first of July, "News---Ticonderoga besieged---1100 of enemy this side lake." Aside from these two entries, however, the diary is silent on military and political affairs. When not busy at his desk reading such authors as Hume, Tillotson, and Stackhouse, he did a good bit of gardening. Apparently June 1777 was an unusually fine month for farmers, for Pearson rhapsodizes, "The finest season in the world. Pastures, fields of grass and Grain incomparable---This month a perfect contrast to the same of last year, in which there was not rain enough to lay the dust---A time of general health." Nor did Eliphalet neglect affairs of the heart. There are frequent entries about driving with "Miss Holyoke" to various places; on one occasion he broke down and spoke of driving with "Miss Prissy."

The most interesting part of the diary, however, records Pearson's experience with inoculation for smallpox, at a hospital in Brookline. He entered the hospital on 28 February and was inoculated by Dr. Rand at 11 o'clock. That night he took "a 4 grain Mercurial Pill" and "slept on straw." The next day he rose at 8 o'clock and "took a Red Pill Composed of Native Cinnabar and Cinnabar of Antimony." At 11 o'clock he breakfasted on milk and rice and learned at noon from Dr. Howard that he had "taken" the smallpox. That afternoon a nurse came, and he dined on hasty pudding and took some exercise. For the next three weeks he remained in the hospital, taking a variety of red pills, black pills, and mercurial pills, drinking vast quantities of tea, and eating vegetables and various kinds of pudding. In the course of his stay he experienced some mildly unpleasant symptoms---soreness under his arm, stiffness of the neck, nausea, backache, and upset stomach. Usually he "decamped" at about eleven o'clock at night and slept well, awaking feeling very "clever," but one night he was awakened by "extreme pain in neck, back, shoulders and arms" and on another he "sweat copiously." At one point he mentions that the "Number of Pock" had increased, at another that he put a plaster on his arm. Generally, he appears to have had a mild case, for in less than three weeks he writes of eating cake and drinking punch and walking to Cambridge, and on 20 March he was back in Andover.(8) Pearson's son Henry, in a biographical sketch of his father, says that in 1777 Eliphalet "was seized with a slow nervous fever, which confined him many months, and proved a heavy trial, leaving his eyes in so weak a state as to prevent his literary pursuits altogether. "(9) This statement certainly cannot be referring to his smallpox inoculation, for his diary from March to August is full of references to reading, composing sermons, and preaching. The severe illness must have occurred in the fall of that year, after the close of the diary, and may well have been the reason why, at their first meeting, the trustees of Phillips School limited the number of students to thirty considering the present state of the preceptor's health."(10) In any event, 1777 appears to have been a difficult year for him, and he must have welcomed the opportunity to establish himself in a more secure position as preceptor of Phillips School.

Eliphalet Pearson, First Preceptor of Phillips Academy.
Portrait by Samuel F. B. Morse,
in the possession of the Trustees of Phillips Academy.

We have already discussed the part that Pearson played in assisting his friend Sam Phillips in the manufacture of gunpowder and in planning for the future Phillips School; indeed, it is doubtful if either of these projects could have brought to successful fruition without Pearson's help. Now it was up to him to translate into action what the Constitution considered the "first and principal duty of the Master, to regulate the tempers, to enlarge the minds, and form the morals of the Youth, committed to his care." There was apparently little question among the founders that Pearson was the man to be the first preceptor. In his proposal to his father about founding a school, Sam Phillips, speaking of the importance of a master to a school, says, "such an one we know of---who is admirably form'd for the Sphere, and would exert himself in the Cause."(11) and must certainly have been referring to Pearson. At the first meeting the Founders, not the Trustees as a whole, appointed Pearson, suggesting that the matter had been settled beforehand. There is an undated proposal to Pearson to become Preceptor, with some notes of his added, which must have been written well before the first trustee meeting.(12) In any event, on 29 April, the day before school opened, Pearson and Nehemiah Abbot, as Treasurer, signed a contract whereby the former agreed to become Preceptor and "to the best of his abilities perform the duties of said office agreeable to the institution of the Founders and the rules established by the Trustees." In return Pearson was to receive the use of all the School lands in Andover, wood from the woodlot in Wilmington, and eighty pounds a year.(13) With these preliminaries settled, the next day Pearson went to work.

There is no record of what happened in the converted carpenter's shop during the first two years, but it can be assumed that the routine followed was very similar to that described by Pearson in a long report to the Trustees in April 1780.(14) The first part of this document is devoted to a description of a typical school day. At eight o'clock the students gathered for a short religious service; a chapter from the Old Testament was read, each student reading one verse, then a psalm was read and sung, and finally a prayer was delivered by the master. Then came recitations by the four classes: four boys repeated by rote two pages from the Greek grammar; thirty repeated a page or so from the Latin grammar; then the "accidence tribe" of fourteen recited from Cheever's Accidence, a book for beginners in Latin; then three students repeated pages from the English grammar. There were, in addition, several boys who did not fit into any one of these four classes and who recited individually. After the grammar recitations came translation from classical authors, and for this purpose the School was divided into twelve sections on the basis of ability and experience. Such classical authors as Corderius, Aesop (in Latin translation), Erasmus, Eutropius, Nepos, Ovid, Virgil, and the Greek testament were used. In addition to the classical scholars three pupils were studying arithmetic, one the Rule of Three, another in Fellowship, and the other in Practice.(15) These exercises continued until noon, when school was dismissed for one hour and a half for the midday meal. In the afternoon the first hour and a half was devoted to penmanship and the rest of the day to recitations similar to those conducted in the morning. The session closed with readings from Doddridge's Family Expositor, the singing of a hymn, and a prayer.

Pearson's report then took up the problems of a master trying to deal with students of differing abilities in a crowded classroom. First, there simply was not enough time in the day to hear recitations from twelve different groups, let alone the number of individuals who had to be treated separately:

To hear an individual or a class or a succession of classes recite for hours, in a calm and silent room where nothing, but the class, demands attention, would be a pleasure; But what must be the situation and feelings of an instructor, who must be eye, ear, and voice, not only to the class under his immediate examination, but to ten times as many more, at the same time? . . . Who is liable every minute and every line to be interrupted by some interrogation, request, or complaint---whose eye needs to be perpetually fixed upon the idle and dissipated? These and other considerations, gentlemen, together with the uneasiness, noise, and bustle of 60 scholars, crowded into a small house, are circumstances, which render the business of this school fatiguing and painful to a degree which a person, unexperienced in it, can but faintly conceive. I hope no one, gentlemen, will think this to be merely picturesque. I speak of real feeling and facts.

Scarcely a minute passes in a day, in which I am not called upon, tho' ever so much engaged, to explain some difficult passage, to correct some error of the type, to shew the etymology or derivation of some word, to grant some request, to accept some excuse, to hear some complaint, or to settle some contention or dispute; these things are in addition to the uneasiness and pain I necessarily feel from the too constant dissipation, thoughtlessness, and ill humor of numbers.

Things were bad enough on normal, routine days. Special exercises on special days made matters even more difficult. On Mondays the students were quizzed on the sermons they had heard the day before. On Saturdays conduct records for the week were reviewed and punishments administered. And there were special days for spelling matches and examinations. One might think that the presence of an assistant would help, but in actual practice all of the difficult problems had to be handled by the master himself. As a result he had no time for speculation or enjoyment or self-improvement. And since there was no time during the regular day to instruct the students in singing, the master was obliged to do this before the evening meal. Finally, there were countless tasks to perform in the administration of the School---visiting with parents and reporting on student progress, writing letters to those interested in coming to the School, meetings of trustee committees, and the like. Pearson had other more specific complaints: training in speaking and singing had to be sacrificed because of work in the School garden, a favorite enterprise of Sam Phillips but apparently anathema to Pearson; more books were needed to supply proper reading for students whose ages ranged from six to thirty; and he was concerned lest the manifold occupations of master and student alike prevent adequate attention to the moral education that was supposedly the main purpose of the School.

There were a few slight modifications to this stern regimen of classics and religion. Pearson was an accomplished musician, singing bass and playing the cello with distinction,(16) and he worked hard to build a choir at the School. That he had some success is evidenced by the trustee records, where mention is made of visiting the School and hearing the boys sing anthems.(17) Isaac Watts's Hymns for Children, one of Sam Phillips' favorite works, provided additional pieces for the choir's repertoire. In 1783 the Trustees voted to introduce Mason's Self-Knowledge into the School as "a classical book," but this dreary tract could hardly have lightened the student fare.(18) Since both Phillips and Pearson had studied French at Dummer School, it was natural that they should attempt to introduce the subject at Phillips, but though the Trustees passed several votes authorizing the appointment of a French instructor---with the provision that the parents of those taking French bear the extra charge---there is no record of the subject actually having been taught during this period.(19) One can also get some idea of the student work from the Exhibition pieces that were prepared for the annual visits of the Trustees. Early in the 1780's a list of such pieces included dialogues between a Whig and a Tory, between Tullus and Coriolanus, between Aesop and a Frenchman, with a trialogue among Addison, Swift, and Mercury as a grand finale. The 1783 Exhibition included, among nineteen pieces, a "severe satire on the absurd doctrine of transubstantion [sic]," "Goliah's [sic] death," "A scene between St. Christopher and St. George, in presence of Pluto," "The lucky Spider," and 'Interview between Virgil and Horace in the Elysian shades, to whom Scaliger the Critic is introduced by Mercury."(20) These performances must have been impressive, and the Trustees are recorded as being pleased with them, as well as with the students' proficiency in the classics. Yet one wonders if the Exhibitions were not a pretty artificial business, consisting primarily of demonstrations of rote memory. Timothy Picketing, in his critique on the Phillips Academy Constitution wondered about this: "But what avail examinations, if conducted in the usual way? I mean by previously instructing the scholars in those particular lessons to which the examinations are to be confined. If we would know what progress a boy has made in a dead or foreign language does not common sense obviously show that his books should be opened at the discretion of the examiner and the boy then set to construe and parse? If we would discover his knowledge in geography, shall we hear him repeat certain articles which he purposely has been directed to commit to his memory? Or shall we not rather ask the solution of any problem, or description of any country, taken at discretion?" Pickering then went on to blast Harvard Commencements as a "farce."(21) Certainly Pearson was a thorough drillmaster, and the records of his boys at college indicate that they were admirably prepared, but the Exhibition programs had better be taken with a grain of salt as evidence of normal academic achievement at Phillips Academy in his day.

Cartoon of Samuel Phillips, Jr.,
drawn by Andrew Rutherford of the Class of 1971,
reproduced with his permission

Unfortunately, we have only one detailed student account of what studying under Pearson was like, and that one must be qualified. It comes from the pen of Josiah Quincy, later Congressman, Mayor of Boston and President of Harvard. Quincy was the grandson of William Phillips of Boston, brother of the two Founders. His father had died just as the Revolution was beginning. As a result, he and his mother were forced to live with Grandfather Phillips, a crochety and disagreeable old gentleman. Partly to support the family enterprise in Andover, and partly to get the young boy out of his grandfather's house, he was sent to the Phillips School in May 1778, at the age of six. To force a boy that young to submit to the rigorous discipline of Eliphalet Pearson was not to make him love the School. In addition, his recollections were written when he was over seventy, after a long and busy life that must have caused some of his early memories to blur. Even when allowances are made for these circumstances, however, Quincy's portrait of Pearson and of Phillips School is hardly complimentary.

The discipline of the Academy was severe, and to a child, as I was, disheartening. The Preceptor was distant and haughty in his manners. I have no recollection of his ever having shown any consideration for my childhood. Fear was the only impression I received from his treatment of myself and others. I was put at once into the first book of Cheever's Accidence, and obliged, with the rest of my classmates, to get by heart passages of a book which I could not, from my years, possibly understand. My memory was good, and I had been early initiated, by being drilled in the Assembly's Catechism, into the practice of repeating readily words the meaning of which I could not by any possibility conceive. I cannot imagine a more discouraging course of education than that to which I was subjected.

The truth was, I was an incorrigible lover of sports of every kind. My heart was in ball and marbles. I needed and loved perpetual activity of body, and with these dispositions I was compelled to sit with four other boys on the same hard bench, daily, four hours in the morning and four in the afternoon, and study lessons which I could not understand. Severe as was my fate, the elasticity of my mind cast off all recollection of it as soon as school hours were over, and I do not recollect, nor believe, that I ever made any complaint to my mother or any one else.

The chief variety in my studies was that afforded by reading lessons in the Bible, and in getting by heart Dr. Watts's Hymns for Children. My memory, though ready, was not tenacious, and the rule being that there should be no advance until the first book was conquered, I was kept in Cheever's Accidence I know not how long. All I know is, I must have gone over it twenty times before mastering it. I had been about four years tormented with studies not suited to my years before my interest in them commenced; but when I began upon Nepos, Caesar, and Virgil, my repugnance to my classics ceased, and the Preceptor gradually relaxed in the severity of his discipline, and I have no doubt, congratulated himself on its success as seen in the improvement he was compelled to acknowledge. During the latter part of my life in the Academy he was as indulgent as a temperament naturally intolerant and authoritative would permit.(22)

Fortunately for the young Quincy, he boarded with the Reverend Jonathan French, Clerk of the Trustees, and his wife, in the old manse opposite the South Church on what is now Central Street. The French family clearly did much to counteract the harsh discipline of the classroom. Quincy wrote:

The comfort of my life was the family where I boarded. Jonathan French, the minister of the parish, and his wife, were father and mother to me. They were both kind and affable, consulted my wants, and had consideration for my childhood .... He [French] took an interest in my progress, and occasionally assisted me in my studies. His wife was amiable and affectionate, but she had an increasing family, so that the care of the boys, my schoolfellows, six or eight in number, devolved on her maiden sister, Ruth Richards by name, who took care of our rooms, saw to our clothes, and had the general care of us. Aunt Ruthy was consequently an object of great importance to the boys, whose affections she found means to gain. We slept in one large chamber, in which were three or four beds, two boys occupying each. The family table was sufficient, but simple, the food being of the most common kind. Beef and pork were the standing dishes, with an ample supply of vegetables. As to bread, there being little or no intercourse with the South, rye and Indian bread was our only supply, and that not always thoroughly baked. The minister alone was indulged in white bread, as brown gave him heart-burn, and he could not preach upon it. Our time out of school was diminished by a lesson to be prepared for the next morning, and also by morning and evening prayers. On Sunday our time was filled up by morning and evening prayers and a commentary on some portion of Scripture, or by an exercise to be got by heart---either a hymn or a passage from the Bible. At meeting, both morning and afternoon, we carried our ink-bottles, and took down the heads and topics of the sermon, of which, at evening prayers, we were called upon to give such an account as we could. The Sabbath was anything but a day of rest to us. The old Puritan restrictions, though wearing away and greatly reduced, were still wearisome and irksome.(23)

In addition to these published recollections of his life as a student at Phillips School, Quincy recorded other experiences in letters to friends, one of which again throws light on Pearson's teaching methods. "I was called upon to give the principal parts of the Latin verb 'noceo.' Unfortunately I gave the 'c' a hard sound. I said, 'nokeo, nokere, noki.' The next thing I knew I was knocked. ."(24) On another occasion he wrote, "Pearson was a convert to thorough discipline, monitors kept an account of all of a student's failures, idleness, inattention, whispering, and like deviations from order, and at the end of the week were bestowed substantial rewards, for such self-indulgences, distributed upon the head and the hand, with no lack of strength or fidelity." According to Quincy, the boys started with Cheever's Accidence, then proceeded to Corderius, then Nepos, and finally to Virgil. Ward's Latin grammar, where all the rules were explained in Latin, was a standard accompaniment to the Roman authors read, and Gloucester's Greek grammar was the principal guide for that study. Quincy thought the study of Greek "slight and superficial": 'a thorough ability to construe the four Gospels was all that was required of us to enter the College," and that was apparently all Pearson attempted. "Our preparation was limited enough," he thought, "but sufficient for the poverty and distracted state of the period."(25) On the other hand his opinion of Samuel Phillips, Jr., was highly laudatory:

I was a frequent visitor in his family, though never a member of it. My mother was daughter of his father's brother, always staid in his house, when she visited Andover, which brought me to be almost a daily inmate. I have heard his addresses to the school, as a trustee, to the College as an Overseer, and as a boy and man, my opportunities for personal intercourse with him have been many; and I can truly say that I have never met, through my whole life, with an individual in whom the spirit of Christianity and of good will to mankind were so naturally and beautifully blended with an indomitable energy and enterprise in active life. He was a leader in the Church, a leader in the State, the young loved and listened to him, the old consulted and deferred to his advice. I have traveled with him from Boston to Andover, alone, then a journey of the chief part of a day; his discourse, adapted to a boy, as I then was, full of sweetness and instructions; his love of the young was intense. He delighted in the poetry of Watts, which he seemed to have, all of it, by heart so readily and appositely he introduced it in conversation, accompanied by a never-ceasing flow of wise maxims, given not with an air of authority, but the natural outflowing of a good and kind heart. I cannot, in language, do justice to the interest and affection with which on these occasions he excited the young mind.(26)

Quincy tells an interesting story of his arriving at Phillips School and being seated next to a twenty-nine-year-old man whom he calls Cutts but who must have been James Anderson of Londonderry, New Hampshire. According to Quincy, Anderson had been a surgeon in the Revolutionary army, had become sensible of his educational deficiencies through contact with cultivated men in the service, and had resigned his commission for a try at remedying his lack of training. He attended Phillips for two years and then went on to graduate from Harvard. Quincy remembers him as a man of "wit and talent" who, after classes were over, associated on equal terms with the Preceptor and other gentlemen of the town. Though there have been students in their early twenties who have attended Phillips Academy since then, it says something either for the flexibility of the Pearson administration or of its desperate need for pupils that both the youngest and oldest students ever to attend the school were in the very first class.(27) One final Quincy story. Apparently Eliphalet Pearson decided, after many struggles with the young boy, that he could never go on to college and advised his mother to put him in a counting house. Fortunately, Mrs. Quincy was a lady of spirit who refused to take the advice. As a result, Quincy eventually went to Harvard and later, of course, served as its President.(28)

Cartoon of Eliphalet Pearson,
drawn by Andrew Rutherford of the Class of 1971,
reproduced with his permission.

Pearson's prowess as a martinet became a tradition at Phillips Academy and was remembered long after he left there. On one occasion, after some undergraduate fracas, he appeared and shouted, "Let the one who had performed that outrage appear instantly before me." Apparently the guilty party stood up at once and confessed. On another occasion a miscreant who had been dressed down by Eliphalet was asked how he felt: "I pinched myself to know whether I was alive," was the answer. The only boy who ever had the last word with Pearson---at least the only recorded one---was a student who, wishing to see the Preceptor, knocked repeatedly at his door. When he was finally admitted, the master said, 'Why do you rap so often? You never should rap but once at the door of a gentleman." To which the student replied, "I never do."(29)

Not all his students remembered Pearson as a harsh drillmaster. Writing to him in 1826 just before his death, judge Samuel Putnam had this to say:

The kindness which you extended towards me during the three years which I enjoyed at Andover will never be effaced from my mind: and my sense of gratitude for your indefatigable care and instruction has increased with my years. I love to dwell on that delightful period when the love of letters was impressed upon your pupils with the sound principles of morality and with the pleasing recollection I always associate the venerable name of my Preceptor. Allow me to offer you this tribute of thankfulness. It is not the less sincere or strong because it has been delayed until my hair has been whitened by time. Accept it as a free will offering justly due and flowing from feelings unmixed with earthly hopes or considerations.(30)

To provide housing for the students, the trustees followed the only course available to them---placing them in private homes. This practice, never satisfactory, was a continual source of trouble for the School until it was finally abandoned over a century later. Each year at their annual meeting the Trustees voted on a list of names of those licensed to board students, and it is clear that they took this duty seriously. After finding that the families treated their charges in different ways, and desirous of providing a uniform set of procedures, in August 1781 they drew up a statement of "Regulations for Families boarding Scholars." The Trustees assumed that all families boarding scholars would hold family prayers in the morning and evening---indeed, failure to do so would be sufficient grounds for disqualifying a family from having students board. The Trustees expected the head of the family to see to it that the students attended both sessions. Decency and order were to be observed at meals, and no one should sit down until a blessing had been asked. The head of the family was to establish sensible study hours and not allow a student to be out of the house after nine o'clock. Rules for Sunday were very strict: the students were to attend both morning and afternoon services and spend the rest of the day in "reading the scriptures and in other religious exercises." Nor could they be absent from the house after sunset on Saturday or at any time on Sunday. At no time was there to be "fighting, striking, or quarreling" among the students. If a boy used "profane or obscene language," he was to be rebuked by the family head, and if he continued in this vile practice, he was to be reported to the Preceptor. The students were to go to bed at a reasonable hour, keep silent after retiring, and rise early in the morning for family prayers and "to wash their faces and hands, comb their heads, breakfast with decency, and seasonably attend the duties of the Academy." If a student was to be absent in the evening, he was to tell the head of the family where he was going, but above all he was to avoid "bad company" or go to any public house. To make sure all these rules were being obeyed, the Preceptor was expected to make regular visits to the homes where scholars boarded. Apparently the Trustees had some qualms about the strictness of their rules, for at the end it was stated that if any regulation proved to be "grievous or impracticable" they could be referred to the Trustee Committee of Exigencies. The regimen thus imposed on students and families alike makes it seem that the Trustees were bent on establishing Sam Adams's "Christian Sparta" on Andover Hill.(31)


As might be expected, most students during Pearson's term of office came from Massachusetts---many of them friends of the Phillips family. There was also a smattering of pupils from New Hampshire, but it was not until 1781 that any came from Maine, still technically part of Massachusetts. By 1785, the last year of Pearson's tenure, apparently because the reputation of the school had spread, the makeup of the undergraduate body really began to expand. That fall Louis Charles François Cougnacq, aged fifteen, listed as coming from Hispaniola, West Indies, arrived, to be joined by William Lee, aged twelve, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and two Southerners, Henry Daingerfield, aged fourteen, from Spottsylvania County, Virginia, and Howell Lewis, aged thirteen, from Fredericksburg, Virginia. Despite this leavening, Bay Staters continued to dominate. Boston contributed members from some of the leading families of the city: in addition to Phillipses, there were Lloyds, Cabots, Lowells, Lathrops, Searses, Higginsons, and Gores, among others. Doubtless the parents of these boys knew and respected Samuel Phillips, Jr., himself, but they may also have been thankful for a school that might stand as a bulwark against the confusion and uncertainties of those troubled times. Among Pearson's students were a number who later distinguished themselves. John Thornton Kirkland, like Quincy, later became President of Harvard, and Benjamin Abbot became principal of the Phillips Exeter Academy. Another Abbot, John, became a professor and trustee of Bowdoin, while a third, Abiel, served as principal of Dummer Academy. William King became the first governor of Maine, and Charles Cutts was a United States senator. These first Andover boys also included an impressive number of representatives to Congress, judges, and members of the foreign service. Never again in the history of the School would so high a percentage of its students distinguish themselves in various kinds of public service.(32)

One gets a different insight into the first years of Phillips Academy from reading the records of the early trustee meetings. Throughout the Pearson administration the Trustees dutifully elected the same officers each year: President Squire Phillips; Clerk, Jonathan French; and Treasurer, Nehemiah Abbot. In 1781 the Reverend Josiah Stearns---the one Trustee who "cut" the first meeting---resigned, to be replaced later that year by the Reverend David Tappan of Newbury. As one authority has remarked, "Trustees [of academies] could never resist dividing themselves into groups, especially those of Phillips Academy, who found an extraordinary number of uses for committees."(33) Indeed in the early years almost every concern of the Board was entrusted to a committee, the classic example being a committee to furnish the School with wood, which consisted of one man, the Treasurer.(34) One of the first things the Trustees discovered was that the income from the Founders' munificence would not be enough to meet the costs of the school, and in the fall of 1778 it was voted to assess each student a share of the expenses for the Assistant and for wood and other incidentals above and beyond the income available.(35) At the end of the first year Uncle John and Uncle William Phillips were obliged to foot the bill of eighty pounds for Eliphalet Pearson's salary, and Uncle John later contributed another thirty-two pounds to settle the Treasurer's account.(36) Soon part of the Preceptor's salary had to be included in the student assessment, but the concept of helping appeared at the same time, when a committee was formed to exempt certain students from the charge.(37) It was one thing to assess, another to collect, and we soon find the Board demanding security from parents, a deposit of eighteen shillings for all entering students, and an inevitable committee to devise measures to deal with those delinquent in payment.(38) Whether a disciplinary or financial measure, fines of one shilling a day for absences from School were also initiated during this period.(39) Another committee was appointed to apply to the Massachusetts legislature for tax exemption for the School.(40) In short, during these early years the School lived pretty much a hand-to-mouth existence, fortunately protected from serious financial difficulties by the willingness of the Phillips brothers to bail the institution out when necessary.

Eliphalet Pearson was apparently as dictatorial in dealing with the Trustees as he was with his students. When it became clear that the School was a going concern, Pearson wanted a permanent contract to replace the annual ones that had been drawn up hitherto, and in May 1780 he drove a hard bargain with the Trustees. In return for acting as "principal Instructor" at the school, according to the Constitution and the rules established by the Trustees, Pearson was to have the use of practically all the land on the Hill and in Wilmington that the School owned---about one hundred and forty acres in all. In addition he was to receive annually four hundred Spanish milled dollars and "three hundred and ten ounces Troy weight of coined Silver of sterling alloy." In connection with these payments there was an interesting escalator clause, whereby the amount of money paid could be raised or lowered by reference to the cost of living in 1774. If the School were larger than thirty---which it then was---the Trustees were bound to give Pearson an Assistant. If they did not do so within a fortnight after the resignation of the previous Assistant, Pearson was to have the Assistant's salary added to his own until a new teacher was found. Pearson was authorized to build a house on his property, but if he should leave his position, the Trustees agreed to buy it back at a price agreed upon by three disinterested appraisers. In the meantime the Trustees agreed to take care of all repairs on the property that cost more than twelve ounces of silver annually. There were further clauses dealing with the upkeep of the property.(41) Apparently this generous contract did not entirely satisfy Pearson, for a few years later we find the Trustees appointing another committee to deal with the Preceptor's salary in the future.(42) One of the most hilarious themes running through the Trustee Records is the problem of Pearson's outhouses. A trustee committee had succeeded in erecting a "necessary and woodhouse" for the School itself, but apparently the problem of Pearson's outhouses was almost insoluble.(43) The term covered more than Chic Sale structures and must have included chicken coops, stables, and the like. Pearson never got around to building his house. At one point the Trustees voted to apply the proceeds from land sales to a house for the Preceptor, but at the same time they voted to shingle the house he was in.(44) When Pearson left for Harvard in 1786, the Trustees must certainly have regretted the departure of a distinguished schoolmaster, but they may well have heaved sighs of relief to be rid of such a tough negotiator in financial matters.

The Trustee Records also show the Board struggling with the administration of the School itself. Apparently Pearson's health improved rapidly, for by June 1778 the limitation of thirty students of the previous April was modified to forty-five, and in November of that year the number was raised again, to sixty.(45) All good schools have a School bell, and the Trustees were determined that Phillips should be no exception. First, a committee was appointed to procure a bell; then it was announced that a bell had been borrowed from a Mr. Hooper of Newburyport. Some disaster must have occurred, for another committee was appointed to fix the bell.(46) At about the same time, a Captain Wyer lent the School some globes. The committee appointed to thank these gentlemen for their loans reported that "thro' a multiplicity of public business they had omitted to execute their commission," and Squire Phillips was drafted to write the letter and apologize for the delay in expressing gratitude.(47) The Board also had great difficulty in acquiring books. A committee was appointed to prepare a list, and a general request for loans of books was circulated, but the problem remained, as evidenced by the fact that the Trustees took the trouble to vote thanks to John Lowell for the gift of two volumes of Enfield's Speaker and to Deacon Mason for the Works of John Newton .(48) The Board was also interested in beautifying the Hill: a committee was appointed to set out locust and fruit trees and later reported that fifty, a gift from Sam Phillips, Jr., had been planted; and the same group was charged with preparing a school garden.(49) A memorandum of Pearson's, written in 1779, suggests that at least some return in the way of produce from the school lands was being realized. According to this document, 29-1/2 barrels of cider, 31 bushels of potatoes, 1 bushel of pears, and 14 bushels of oats had been produced on the school property, but whether the boys had any part in this is not clear.(50) The problem of getting assistants for the Preceptor was vexatious. Because of the relatively low pay, most of those appointed seem to have accepted positions only temporarily, while they were looking for something better, and during Pearson's eight years there were five different assistants. In the Phillips Papers is a letter from Sam Phillips, Jr., to one Jeremiah Smith of Peterborough, New Hampshire, offering him the Assistant's job. After outlining the general situation, Sam wrote: "The terms have varied with the Currency, but it has been our aim to make them as good as in any Country School around us"---which was not saying much. Young men interested in teaching "give this a preference to most," Sam thought, and added that in the company of the Reverend French and Preceptor Pearson "a Gentleman of Sentiment may spend his leisure hours with profit and pleasure."(51) Smith decided to give Phillips Academy a whirl, but like most of the others, he lasted but one year. That the students were testing the administration in various areas is to be seen in a trustee vote forbidding firearms to undergraduates without special permission,(52) and a pinch of nepotism was added to the record when Sam's son John, although only six years old, was allowed to enroll to be taught English. Considering all that Sam had done for the place, it would have been difficult not to waive the eight-year-old requirement recently voted.(53) One may smile at the Trustees' addiction to the committee system and at some of the problems they had to deal with, but the overall impression one gets is of a dedicated group of men whose devotion to the welfare of the School was deep and whose determination to make the new institution a success was steadfast.

In 1782 Samuel Phillips, Jr., finally got a house to live in that was appropriate to his standing as a leading citizen of both the town and the state. In order to be near the new school, Sam, his wife Phoebe, and their infant son John had moved to the old Abbot House on Phillips Street in the latter part of 1777, and it was there that the early trustee meetings were held. Since plans for providing Eliphalet Pearson with adequate housing never seemed to materialize, and since, in 1780, he finally married Priscilla Holyoke,(54) Sam and his family turned the Abbot House over to the newlyweds and moved "to a little red house on the Woburn Road," later the residence of Sam's confidential clerk, Moses Abbot, and located on the right-hand side of what is now Hidden Road.(55) Early in 1782 the Trustees signed an agreement to exchange land belonging to Sam around the present bell tower for school property in front of what are now Bishop and Adams halls, and it was on this property that the famous Mansion House, one of the handsomest dwellings in Essex County, was erected. The frame, made of select New Hampshire timber, was raised as a community project. On the appointed day the town's stores and schools were closed and most of the community gathered on the Hill to assist in erecting the structure. After a prayer by Jonathan French, everyone pitched in with ropes and pikes, and amid much cheering from the spectators, the frame was hoisted into place. After the job was done, according to one authority, "festivity followed." The Mansion House immediately became a show place. With sixty-two windows, three stories, large square rooms with big fireplaces, fine paneling, and heavy doors with wrought iron hinges, the impressive edifice soon was known as "the largest and most elegant house ever built in town."(56) Sam Phillips and his wife were hospitable people, and hundreds of visitors were entertained in their home, with President George Washington only the most distinguished. In addition, the Judge and Phoebe regularly boarded a number of Academy students. Until it burned down in 1887, the Mansion House was a fitting complement to the Academy, first as the Phillipses' home and later as a public house where the Trustees held their meetings and enjoyed "decent, not extravagant entertainment." Of all the buildings destroyed by fire on Andover Hill---and there were a large number---this one represented the greatest loss to School and community.

By the time that Eliphalet Pearson left to go to Harvard, Phillips Academy was firmly established in a pattern that was to last for many years. Although the School was clearly beginning to be known outside the confines of Massachusetts, it appears that the dedication and hard work of the Trustees and the Preceptor were achieved pretty much in a vacuum. There is almost no reference to what was going on in the world outside in the early history of the School. A year after its founding, the convention to draw up the Constitution of Massachusetts met, and a year later the document---the first written constitution in the United States---was ratified by the people. Samuel Phillips, Jr., was a delegate to that convention and distinguished himself there, but he seems to have kept his manifold activities compartmentalized, for the School seems to have paid no attention to this striking development. There is no notice of a community celebration after Yorktown, no "free day" for the students after the signing of the Peace Treaty in 1783. The only way in which the outside world impinged upon the school was with the problem of currency, the depreciation of which made it difficult to set salaries. In 1781 Samuel Phillips, Jr., had been elected senator in the first legislature of the new Commonwealth; five years later he was chosen President of the Senate. In 1781 he had been appointed one of the justices for the Court of Common Pleas in Essex County, a position that required three or four months of work a year. Yet his interest in the School never flagged, and he always seemed able to find time to attend to countless academy matters as they came up.(57)

Anyone who thought that a man of Eliphalet Pearson's talents would be content to remain long as Preceptor of a school like Phillips Academy would have been naive. As one writer said of him,

It is generally admitted that he was a consummate rhetorician, one of the keenest critics of his day, a finished and widely read classical scholar, noted for the accuracy and elegance of his Latin prose composition, a master of Hebrew, Syriac, and Coptic languages, possessed of a good knowledge of metaphysics, a very respectable chemist .... an able preacher ... and a match for the best lawyers of his day. He was also a skillful mechanic, a most accomplished musician, publishing an important work on psalmody; he was a good bass singer and played well upon the violoncello, once making one of these instruments with his own hands. He also projected a system of phonetics which he never published; speculated upon the origin of ideas; was a scientific agriculturist and, during his later years, proved himself to be one of the best farmers of his time .... For statistical work he had a passion . . . . His philanthropic work alone was enough to engage and fatigue a score of ordinary men .... Had he been able to confine his powerful mind to a single subject, he might have exhausted all the possibilities of any one department of thought.(58)

To be sure, some of these achievements must have been realized after he left Andover, but by 1786, the year of his departure, he was clearly a man of extraordinary promise. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that in October 1785 he was informed by President Willard of Harvard that he had been elected to succeed Stephen Sewall as Hancock Professor of Hebrew and the Oriental Languages at Harvard College, at a salary of two hundred and eighty pounds a year.(59) The offering was too flattering, from all points of view, for Pearson to refuse, and the following January he formally notified the Trustees of his resignation, announcing at the same time that he could continue as Preceptor for only two weeks.(60) The Trustees, as we shall see, were hard put to find a successor in such a short time. Pearson stayed long enough to see the School established in its new building on 30 January 1786, but his actual departure was something of an anticlimax. Writing to his wife about a month later, Sam Phillips said, "Your parting with Mr. Pearson will be, or has been, a grievous one, but perhaps the parting will not be a final one, and that all your good days are not over;---I was in hopes that he would have left Andover with a little ceremony, as his wife did---but did not think of the Circumstance of his being without a bed to lay on, for the last night."(61) Apparently, sadly, no one had seen fit to have the School and some of the Trustees bid Eliphalet a formal adieu. Considering his unlovely and unloved disposition, it is easy to understand why no one thought to do so, but some one should have offered him a bed for his last night in Andover as Preceptor.

Eliphalet Pearson left a substantial legacy to Andover: a stern insistence on academic excellence; an almost exclusive concentration on the study of the classical languages; a system of discipline based on fear; the dictatorship of the Preceptor in the management of the School; an interest in enabling indigent boys to get an Andover education; the housing of students in private homes; and a determination to inculcate in the students the old virtues of the Puritan religion. It would be nearly a century before anyone at Phillips Academy would attempt to change any of these educational concepts. Yet the parting with Pearson was au revoir rather than goodbye. He remained on the Board of Trustees until his death in 1826 and served as President of the Board from 1802 to 1821. And in about twenty years he was to return to Andover Hill to place on Phillips Academy and the community surrounding it the imprint of his powerful personality even more deeply.

Chapter 6

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