F 8 The Wolcott Gibbs Affair at Columbia, 1854
Columbia College Charter of 1787 revised by New York State; continued faculty-appointment powers with the College's 24 self-elected lifetime Trustees; explicitly prohibited use of religious tests for appointments to faculty
James Renwick (CC 1897) appointed Professor of Chemistry and Experimental Philosophy
Samuel B. Ruggles (Yale, 1814) elected Columbia Trustee
Wolcott Gibbs graduated from Columbia College with honors in science; studied chemistry in Germany, 1845-48
Trustee Ruggles conferring with Wolcott Gibbs, then a professor at the Free Academy (CCNY), about reviving Columbia College
August -- Ruggles in Cambridge conferring with Harvard scientist Benjamin Peirce about strengthening Columbia's science faculty
March -- Ruggles advancing the case of Wolcott Gibbs among Columbia alumni; applies pressure on Renwick to retire when Renwick proposes splitting his professorship.
November 14 -- Renwick submits his resignation
November 21 -- Trustees accept Renwick resignation; appoint him the first Professor Emeritus; Trustee committee appoined to seek nominations
November 23 -- Wolcott Gibbs applied for the vacant position
December 5 -- Samuel Ruggles's son-in-law, George Templeton Strong (CC 1838), elected a Columbia Trustee; had been nominated in 1851 and 1852 but failed to be elected
January 7 -- Trustee George Templeton Strong lobbying Professor Charles Anthon on behalf of Gibbs appointment
January 9 -- Trustee Meeting -- Ruggles anticipated opposition to Gibbs on grounds that he was a Unitarian by moving resolution deploring the use of a religious test of candidates; the resolution "indefinitely postponed" by other miffed trustees; Trustees receive testimonials supporting Gibbs from 30 prominent scientists throughout the country
January 12 -- New York Post, edited by William Cullen Bryant, urges Gibbs's appointment and decries possible opposition among trustees on religious grounds; followed by stronger assault on Columbia trustees by Horace Greeley in the New York Tribune
January 17 -- Trustee Meeting -- Vote on the professorship deferred on six candidates under consideration; three -- Gibbs, George C. Schaeffer and Robert O. Doremus --have supporters among the trustees
January 18 -- President King writes to Trustee (and US Senator) Hamilton Fish to have him at next meeting; Fish cites need to remain in Washington to vote against Kansas-Nebraska Bill coming to the Senate
Febraury 2 -- Letter from 20 parents of current College students urges appointment of Gibbs; the letter instigated by Strong and circulated by his close friend George C. Anthon (CC 1839)
February 6 -- Trustee Meeting -- Trustee Governeur Ogden complains about critical newspaper coverage of Trustee deliberations; implies that Gibbs-backers on board leaking information to the press; Board places advertisements in several national papers announcing the vacancy and soliciting applications
February 9 -- Trustee Meeting -- 19 of 22 trustees present; Fish absent; First balloting -- Gibbs 9; Schaeffer 8; Doremus 2. Two subsequent ballots similarly produce no majority.
February 11 -- Compromise proposal circulating among trustees to split chair, appointing both Gibbs and Schaeffer; agreed to be Ruggles but vetoed by Ogden
February 14 -- Trustee Meeting -- Four ballots but no majority for any of the three candidates; candidacy of Richard McCulloch introduced
March 4 -- Laura Wolcott Gibbs writes to social acquaintance Hamilton Fish seeking his support for her son, Wolcott Gibbs
March 6 -- Trustee meeting -- Four ballots and no decision; anti-Gibbs trustees align behind McCulloch candidacy
March 31 -- Samuel Ruggles (with help from George Templeton Strong) published The Duty of Columbia College to the Community, in which he supports Gibbs and criticizes Gibbs' opponents among trustees as voting against him because of his Unitarianism.
April 3 -- Trustee
Meeting -- 20 trustees present (including Fish); balloting as follows:
McCulloch -- 11; Gibbs -- 9; Alexander Dallas Bache -- 1. McCulloch elected
April 8 -- Alumni Meeting -- 40 alumni meet to protest Trustee vote against College alumnus Gibbs; Ruggles and Strong urging alumni protest
April 13 -- NY Senate votes 17 to 9 to investigate Columbia for possible violations of Charter's provisions against use of a religious test for its faculty
April 22 -- Alumni Meeting -- 130 in attendance -- Resolutions critical of trustees for rejecting Gibbs; decide to boycott Centennial celebration in fall; question legality of anti-Gibbs trustee William Betts serving simultaneously as trustee and professor of law
May 17 -- Alumni publish Report of the Law Committee of the Alumni of Columbia College, on the Qualifications of Trustees of the College; the first policy-related publication of the Columbia alumni
May 25 -- Gouverneur Ogden published a defensive response to Ruggles' Duty of Columbia College and the Alumni's Proceedings
June 1 to 3 -- Senate committee in NYC conducting hearings; Ruggles testified as tohis vote for Gibbs but 12 other trustees declined to do so with respect to their votes.
June 5 -- Trustee Betts resigns both his seat on the Trustees and his professorship; unanimously re-elected to the Trustees
June 27 -- Alumni Meeting -- 50 in attendance -- Call for trustees to be elected by alumni; otherwise, cooling down
October 31 -- Charter Day -- Alumni dinner and speech by Rev. William A. Williams (CC1822) marks Centennial
November 11 -- Senate committee concludes public hearings
December 2 -- Richard McCulloch delivered his inaugural address as professor of Chemistry and Physics; Trustee Strong declared him "a feeble-looking, washed-out kind of man"
March -- NY Senate report exonerates Columbia trustees; decides there is no basis for withdrawing the charter
December 22 -- At McCulloch's urging, his chair divided; McCulloch as Professor of Physics; hire Charles A. Joy as Professor of Chemistry; Trustees divided two other chairs at same time
June -- Wolcott Gibbs resigned his professorship at City College to become Rumford Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard; remained at Harvard until 1887;
September 25 -- McCulloch resigns professorship to join the Confederate cause in Richmond; later promoted to brigadier-general
October 8 -- Columbia Trustees vote to expunge McCulloch's name from College's List of Professors
June -- Frederick A. P. Barnard elected President of Columbia College; a decade earlier linked with the national scientific community advancing Gibbs's candidacy
June -- Columbia Trustees, at President Barnard's urging, confer upon Wolcott Gibbs an honorary LL.D.