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Academic Purpose and Command at Auburn, 1856–1902 DURING THE ANTEBELLUM PERIOD, SOUTHERN COLLEGES typically offered a classical curriculum that stressed required courses in ancient languages . Proponents of this academic model remained active following the Civil War, but encountered opposition from advocates of the New South creed, which called for industrialization, commercialization , and an end to outside exploitation of southern resources. New South educators wanted to provide graduates with the tools to further these ends. They believed that antebellum southern colleges generally failed to develop the talent that could create the factories, transportation systems, and businesses needed to oppose an industrialized opponent on the battlefield or to compete in the modern world. The New South could not repeat this mistake. The early leaders of the school that became Auburn University shared this vision of education in the New South, but encountered opposition from those devoted to the classical course of study.1 Auburn inherited a classical curriculum from the East Alabama Male College, its earliest predecessor. Incorporated in 1856, the small Methodist school, located in Auburn, produced its first graduates four years later. Shortly before the Civil War, the board of trustees, almost half of them Methodist clergy, outnumbered the senior class more than six to one. The faculty consisted of professors who taught D W A Y N E C O X Dwayne Cox serves as head of Special Collections & Archives at Auburn University. He acknowledges the valuable suggestions of two anonymous readers, as well as those of Carey Cauthen and Jeff Jakeman of The Alabama Review. 1 Dan R. Frost, Thinking Confederates: Academia and the Idea of Progress in the New South (Knoxville, 2000), xi–xiv. In addition to Frost and studies cited in subsequent footnotes, works that illuminate Auburn University’s early history include Joel Colley Watson, “Isaac Taylor Tichenor and the Administration of the Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College, 1872–1882” (master’s thesis, Auburn University, 1968); Michael Jernigan, Auburn Man: The Life & Times of George Petrie (Montgomery, 2007); Malcolm McMillan and Allen Jones, Auburn University Through the Years, 1856–1973 (Auburn, 1973); Mickey Logue and Jack Simms, Auburn: A Pictorial History of the Loveliest Village (Auburn, 1996). T H E A L A B A M A R E V I E W 84 required classes in Latin, Greek, moral science, natural science, and pure mathematics. The college closed during the Civil War and struggled financially when it reopened. In 1868 the trustees empowered every Methodist minister in the Montgomery Conference to retain 10 percent of the money he raised for the school, a plan that failed to solve the funding crisis. Two years later, the board abolished the college presidency and transferred the responsibilities of that office to the faculty. The professors found this more difficult than anticipated, particularly when little remained for salaries after payment of other expenses. In 1871 the faculty recommended that the trustees combine East Alabama with another Methodist college.2 In 1862, meanwhile, the U.S. Congress passed an act named for Senator Justin Morrill of Vermont, who possessed a longstanding interest in agricultural education. Prior to the Civil War, southerners generally opposed Morrill’s efforts, but his bill received presidential approval in their absence. Under the Morrill Act, Congress gave each state public land according to the size of its congressional delegation —30,000 acres for every senator and representative. States that contained sufficient public land within their borders sold the tracts directly. Congress gave others “scrip,” certificates for federally held public land outside their borders, which the state then sold to private purchasers. Each state invested the returns to create an endowment for a land grant college. The legislation allowed instruction in any subject, but required each land grant college to offer military training , agriculture, and mechanics (later called engineering). The act’s emphasis upon scientific training fed the nation’s growing appetite for technical expertise and complemented the plans of those who sought to rebuild the defeated Confederate states in the image of their northern counterparts.3 Following the Civil War, Alabama applied for and received scrip for 240,000 acres of public land, but the location of the college remained...


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