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On the 16th of February, 1830, Stephen Girard, of Philadelphia, made in his will a munificent provision for the foundation of a college for the education of grphan children.
The college building was commenced in 1833, and completed in 1847, at an expense of about two millions. Besides the main college hall there are now some fifteen or twenty other buildings connected with the institution. The cost of the college grounds and buildings has been over three millions of dollars, while the present value of the same is estimated at about ten millions, and the entire Girard College estate at twenty milllons.
The City of Philadelphia was made trustee for carrying out the purposes of the founder, and in return for such a splendid bequest, one would suppose the City would be not only willing but eager to carry out, completely, and even punctiliously, the views and wishes of the benevolent testator, especially after that provision of the will which was considered the most objectionable, had been sustained as legal and valid by the Supreme Court of the United States.
But what are the facts? Mr. Girard in his will thus states the reasons and motives which influenced him in making the bequest:
“XX. And, whereas, I have been for a long time impressed with the importance of educating the poor, and of placing them, by the earıy cultivation of their minds and the development of their moral principles, above the many temptations to which, through poverty and ignorance they are exposed; and I am particularly desirous to provide for such a nuinber of poor male white orphan children as can be trained in one institution, a better eduoation, as well as a more comfortable maintenance, than they usually receive from the application of the public funds; and whereas, together with the object just adverted to, I have sincerely at heart the welfare of the City of Philadelphia, and as a part of it, am desirous to improve the neighborhood of the river Delaware, so that the health of the citizens may be promoted and preserved, and that the eastern part of the City may be made to correspond with the interior:
"Now I do give, devise and bequeath all the residue and remainder of my real and personal estate of every sort and kind wheresoever situate, unto” the Mayor, Aldermen and citizens of Philadelphia, “their successors and assigns, in trust, to and for the several uses, intents and purposes here. inafter mentioned and declared of and concerning the same, that is to say: (Here follow certain directions in reference to certain portions of his estate.)
"XXI. And so far as regards the residue of my personal estate, in trust, as to two millions of dollars, part thereof, to apply, and expend so much of that sum as may be necessary, in erecting, as soon as practicably may be, in the center of my square of ground between High and Chestnut streets, and Eleventh and Twelfth streets, in the City of Philadelphia, (which square of ground I hereby devote for the purposes hereinafter stated, and for no other forever); a permanent college, with suitable out-buildings, sufficiently spacious for the residence and accommodation of at least three hundred scholars, and the requisite teachers and other persons necessary in such an institution as I direct to be established, and in supplying the said college and out-buildings with decent and suitable furniture, as well as books and all things needful to carry into effect my general design.
(Here follow specific details for the construction of the college building, for supplying the college with books, apparatus, etc., for organizing the institution, supplying it with teachers, etc., for admission of students, etc.)
“Due regard shall be paid to their health, and to this end their persons and clothes shall be kept clean, and they shall have suitable and rational exercise and recreation. They shall be instructed in the various branches of a sound education, comprehending reading, writing, grammar, arithme
tic, geography, navigation, surveying, practical mathematics, astronomy; natural, chemical and experimental philosophy, the French and Spanish languages, (I do not forbid, but I do not recommend the Greek and Latin languages), and such other learning and science as the capacities of the several scholars may merit or warrant.
“I would have them taught facts and things, rather than words or signs: and especially I desire that by every proper means a pure attachment to our republican institutions and to the sacred rights of conscience, as guarantied by our happy constitutions, shall be formed and fostered in the minds of the scholars.
"In relation to the organization of the college and its appendages, I leave necessarily, many details to the Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of Philadelphia, and their successors; and I do so with the more confidence, as, from the nature of my bequests and the benefit to result from them, I trust that my fellow-citizens of Philadelphia will observe and evince especial care and anxiety in selecting member's for their City Councils and other agents.
“There are, however, some restrictions which I consider it my duty to prescribe, and to be, amongst others, conditions on which my bequest for said college is made, and to be enjoyed, namely: First, (surplus income to be added to principal, and principal to be preserved intact, only interest, income and dividends being devoted to the current expenses of the institution.)
"Secondly, I enjoin and require that no ecclesiastic, missionary, or minister of any sect whatsoever, shall ever hold or exercise any station or duty whatever in the said college; nor shall any such person be admitted for any purpose, or as a visitor, within the premises appropriated to the purposes of the said college.
“In making this restriction I do not mean to cast any reflection upon any sect or person whatsoever, but, as there is such a multitude of sects, and such a diversity of opinion amongst them, I desire to keep the tender minds of the orphans, who are to derive advantage from this bequest, free from the excitement which clashing doctrines and sectarian controversy are so apt to produce. My desire is that all the instructors and teachers in the college shall take pains to instill into the minds of the scholars the purest principles of morality, so that on their entrance into active life, they may from inclination and habit evince benevolence toward their fellow-creatures, and a love of truth, sobriety and industry, adopting at the same time such religious tenets as their matured reason may enable them to prefer."
Nothing appears to be known as to the views of Girard concerning religious subjects, except from the provisions of the will, and from the fact that four of his ships were ñamed, respectively, “Voltaire," "Helvetius," "Montesquieu," and “Rousseau," and the writings of some of these authors were in his library
As to what should or should not be taught in the college, it must be conceded, that nothing could be made clearer than the testator's intent in that regard.' And how has that intent been carried out?
In the first place, there has been erected, within the college grounds, an imposing chapel, of most elaborate ecclesiastical architecture. Such a building was never contemplated in the will, and had the testator supposed it necessary it would have been expressly forbidden.
Entering the chapel, there may be found in the pews a book called “a Manual for the Chapel of Girard College.” In it are liturgical selections for morning and afternoon of every day in the month, besides special services for Sundays, Christmas, Good Friday, Easter and other holy days. The manual eontains numerous forms of prayer, consisting principally of extracts from the Book of Common Prayer of the Protestant Episcopal Church.
In a petition for the sick and dying (p. 20), the orphans are taught to pray that departing souls “may be cleansed in the blood of Christ.” On p. 23, in a responsive hymn which “may be said or sung” according to the rubric, is an address to “the everlasting Son of the Father,” in which are used these words: “When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man, thou didst humble thyself to be born of a virgin."
In the Manual are nearly two hundred hymns. The following may be taken as specimens:
Hymn 4, the following line:
“The God incarnate! Man divine!" In hymn 8, in answer to the question how came the thousands of children in heaven, the answer is:
“Because the Saviour shed his blood
To wash away their sin:
Behold them white and clean."
“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee;
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity."
“Wash me, cleanse me in the blood
That flowed on Calvary." Hymn 134:
“Buried in sorrow and in sin,
At Hell's dark door we lay,” etc., etc., etc. It would be an insult to the intelligence of our readers to assume that it is necessary to go into argument to show that the inculcation of these doctrines is a flagrant violation of the will.
But this is not all. While the injunction in regard to ministers is technically observed, lay preachers, of various sorts, are permitted to hold forth on Sunday, in this chapel, and expound the scriptures according to their own views. In a recent discourse, .one of these lay preachers, while preaching an orthodox sermon, took occasion to ridicule Thomas Paine, one of our noblest revolutionary patriots, and a man whom Girard held, no doubt, in the highest respect. The lay minister held the character of Paine up to contempt, and characterized those who had met to celebrate his birthday, as “fanatics, long haired men and short haired womeu.”.
It will be noticed, it was not only ecclesiastics and ministers who were to be excluded from the college grounds, but