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but had thrown himself heart and soul into the fortunes of his adopted country; and his great desire was to see it free from the galling yoke of servitude. Just before Philip's entrance General Gage had marched with seven hundred troops into Boston; and the colonies were thrown into a state of excitement by an Act of Parliament which declared the people of Massachusetts rebels; it had also issued an order for those considered the most guilty to be sent to England for trial.
The young patriots of Princeton were not backward in denouncing this injustice; they kindled amongst themselves the fire of patriotism, that was never to be extinguished, and their efforts were encouraged by their patriotic president. Many of Philip's classmates took an active part in later troubles, and left their names inscribed in their country's annals.
Nearly all his college-mates obtained prominence in the paths they entered in after life. Amongst these were Hugh Henry Brackenridge, the talented author and judge; Brockholst Livingston,' future Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States; William Bradford, Attorney General during Washington's second term of office; Gunning Bedford, a framer of the Constitution; Samuel Spring, chaplain to the Revolutionary army; who, by a strange coincidence, carried wounded from the field another old classmate, Aaron Burr, afterwards Vice President of the United States; Aaron Ogden, afterwards Governor of New Jersey; Henry Lee, Light-Horse Harry; and James Madison, the fourth President, who was Philip's room-mate while in college, as well as his warm personal friend, and an aspirant, as we have already seen, for the hand of his sister.
Philip Fithian, class of 73, in a letter to his father,2
1 This college-mate was afterwards related to Philip by marriage. 2 Philip Vickers Fithian, Journal and Letters.
gives us an idea of the routine of college life in Nassau Hall during President Witherspoon's administration. He says the rules were exceedingly well formed "to check & restrain the vicious & to assist the studious, & to countenance & encourage the virtuous." The bell for rising was rung at five o'clock, and lest any one might oversleep themselves, the servant, after ringing the bell, knocked at each door until the sleeper awoke. Half an hour was allowed for them to dress, after which prayers were said in common. The grammar scholars, being mostly small boys, were excused during winter from morning prayers. On Sundays no student was allowed, except by reason of sickness, to be absent from public worship. Two sermons were preached, one in church in the morning, and another in the college hall in the afternoon. He styles Dr. Witherspoon's sermons almost inimitable. It is to be feared that some of the gifted preacher's moral lessons were lost upon a few of his hearers, as in a later letter Fithian writes: "I am sorry that I may inform you that two of our members were expelled from the college, not for Drunkenness, nor Fighting, nor for Swearing, nor Sabbath-Breaking. But they were sent from this Seminary, where the greatest Pains and Care are taken to cultivate and encourage Decency, & Honesty, & Honour, for stealing Hens!" In 1773, one Israel Evans mentions some delinquencies of a higher grade, in which the future Justice of the United States along with some others were fined for "stealing Turkies." In that year 1770 there were upward of one hundred students, including the grammar scholars. The Senior class contained ten, the Junior twentyeight, the Sophomore twenty-five, and Freshman eighFreneau was a Senior at the time.
During Philip's first year we are told he made such rapid progress as to cause the President to
make his proficiency the subject-matter of a letter to his mother. It is said that in his early days, Philip gave such evidence of his satirical powers upon whatever gave him displeasure as to cause him to be as much dreaded as a foe as he was loved as a friend.
In his sophomore year he wrote a poem in four cantos, entitled "The Poetical History of the Prophet Jonah;" a rhythmical poem, or "versified paraphrase," to use his own expression. He likewise wrote other compositions in various metres, on classical and historical themes, during his collegiate course. Two years after depicting Jonah's sad fate, he wrote the "Pyramids of Egypt," a dramatic dialogue in blank verse. The scene of this poem is laid in Egypt, and the characters are a Traveller, a Genius, and Time; it contains one hundred and thirty-five lines, and was considered a remarkable poem for one so young. The plot of the poem we give.
The Traveller, who has visited Italy, arrives in Egypt, meets the Genius, and asks to be shown the Pyramids, saying that he thought the remnants of Rome he had lately seen were unrivalled. The Genius thus answers:
"Talk not of Rome! before they lopt a bush
From the seven hills, where Rome, Earth's Empress, stood,
On seeing them, the Traveller asks how many generations, monarchies, and empires
"had their rise and fall
While these remain and promise to remain,
The Genius replies :
"The time shall come
When these stupendous piles you deem immortal,
'T was on this plain the ancient Memphis stood, Her walls encircled these tall pyramids,
But where is Pharao's palace, where the domes
To the Traveller's question as to how the Pyramids were built, the Genius says:
"What cannot tyrants do,
The poem closes with Time's address to the Traveller in these striking lines:
"These piles are not immortal;
This earth, with all its balls of hills and mountains,
(Time not immortal, but a fancied point in the circle of eternity)
Are swallowed up, and like the pyramids,
"Is not this true poetry?" Mr. Delancey adds. "Is it not extraordinary as the work of a youth of eighteen years? But one other American poet ever wrote anything to compare with it so early in life. Bryant wrote at nineteen his 'Thanatopsis,' and never later did he surpass that great poem."
In the year 1770 the soldiers in New York City cut down a liberty pole that had been erected by the band of patriots called the "Sons of Liberty." A conflict ensued in which the latter won the day. Shortly after this event the Boston massacre occurred, which created a great sensation throughout the country. As we have already said, President Witherspoon was an ardent patriot, and he left no means untried to instil into the minds of his collegians the same fire of enthusiasm that burned within him; and his efforts met a ready response in the enthusiastic temperament of Philip, whose hatred of oppression and of England was equalled only by his passionate love of liberty and America. During his college days the young poet offered his pen on the shrine of Liberty, and vowed to ever use it in her sacred service. How well he used it, her enemies best can tell. His pen was his bayonet, and its wounds were mortal.
In 1771, the year of Philip's graduation, he composed, jointly with Hugh Henry Brackenridge, their commencement address, which they recited. It was entitled "The Rising Glory of America," and was written in
1 I am indebted to Mr. Edward F. Delancey for permission to reprint this fragment of the poem along with his remarks which are taken from his lecture before the Huguenot Society of America entitled " Philip Freneau the Huguenot Patriot Poet of the Revolution and his Poetry."