"Letter from 'An Alumnus,'" North Carolina Standard, September 27, 1856
This article published in the North Carolina Standard, which served as an organ for the Democratic Party in North Carolina, expressed the idea that southern young men needed to be educated in southern schools where they could be “emancipat[ed]… from the baneful influences of the North—and no where is this influence more zealously exerted and powerfully felt than in Northern colleges and under black Republican teachers--has taken firm hold on our people.” While it was important to remove young men from the "harmful" environments found within northern universities, like Harvard and Yale, the author also questioned the professors of southern universities. This article was written in response to the news that Benjamin Hedrick, a chemistry professor at University of North Carolina openly supported the John C. Fremont, the Republican presidential candidate for the 1856 election. While not explicitly naming Hedrick, the author of this article suggests, “if our information be entirely correct in regard to the political tendencies and Fremont bias of this professor, ought he not to be ‘required to leave,’ at
least dismissed from a situation where his poisonous influence is so powerful and his teachings so antagonistical to ‘the honor and safety’ of the University
and the State?”
Wake County, North Carolina
We are proud of such names as Harvard and Yale; and feel that such benefactors of the human race should be held in everlasting remembrance by a grateful country. But their laudable objects are being frustrated by the fanatics that have obtained possession of the government of the schools their charity has founded, for the benefit equally of the slave owner and the slave hirer. At the former, the South is insulted by the dismissal of an instructor for performing his constitutional duty as judge; and at the latter the Southern young men see their professors and fellow students, in the name of the college--nay, of the very class of which they are members--buying religious rifles to shoot their own brothers that may be seeking honorable and profitable employment in Kansas. These colleges have been turned from their legitimate channels and been perverted into strongholds of fanaticism; and from being links of union between all parts of our country, have become hot-houses for the nurture of artificial statesmen of the Garrisonian school and manufactories of "bleeding Kansas" tragedies.
Then, when our fathers and guardians see such a state of things it is not to be wondered at that our Southern colleges are so largely attended, and Southern seminaries of all grades full to overflowing.
The cause is palpable--a determination to free ourselves from Northern thraldom and stop the revenue accruing to their abolition treasuries from the labor of Southern slaves. It is a praiseworthy object; and we glory to see this great reaction in the proportionate numbers of Northern and Southern schools.
But the question occurs, are we entirely rid of Northern influence in the South? Can North Carolina tell the world that her seminaries of learning are free from the corrupting influences of black Republicanism, and Southerners can receive Southern education unmixed with instructions hostile to the feelings and opinions their parents have instilled into them? Nay, can the Trustees of our State University invite pupils to the institution under their charge with the assurance that this main stream of education contains no deadly poison at its fountain head? Can boys be taken from Northern colleges and transferred to our University with perfect security?
We have been led to these considerations, Messrs. Editors, by an article headed "Fremont in the South" in a late issue of the Standard, and more particularly the following closing paragraph:
"If there be Fremont men among us, let them be silenced or required to leave. The expression of black Republican opinions in our midst is incompatible with our honor and safety as a people.
"If at all necessary we shall refer to this matter again. Let our schools and seminaries of learning be scrutinized; and if black Republicans be found in them let them be driven out. That man is neither a fit nor a safe instructor of our young men, who even inclines to Fremont and black Republicanism." We were very much gratified to notice this article in your paper at this particular time; for we have been reliably informed that a professor at our State University is an open and avowed supporter of Fremont, and declares his willingness--nay, his desire--to support the black Republican ticket; and the want of a Fremont electoral ticket in North Carolina is the only barrier to this Southern professor from carrying out his patriotic wishes. Is he a fit or safe instructor for our young men?
If our information be entirely correct in regard to the political tendencies and Fremont bias of this professor, ought he not to be "required to leave", at least dismissed from a situation where his poisonous influence is so powerful, and his teachings so antagonistical to the "honor and safety" of the University and the State? Where is the creative power? To them we appeal. Have they no restrictive clause in the selection of instructors or limiting code in regard to their actions?
If the Trustees or Faculty have no powers in regard to the matter in question, we think if a fit object of early legislation at the next meeting of our General Assembly. This ought and must be looked to. We must have certain security, under existing relations of North with South, that at State Universities at least we will have no canker worm preying at the very vitals of Southern institutions.
Upon what ground can a Southern instructor relying for his support upon Southern money, selected to impart healthy instruction to the sons of Southern slave owners, and indebted for his situation to a Southern State, excuse his support of Fremont, with a platform which eschews the fathers of his pupils and the State from whose University he received his station and from whose treasury he supports his family?
Does he tell the young men that he is in favor of a man for the Presidency, nominated by men whom their fathers could not nor would not sit in Convention with; placed upon a platform hostile to their every interest; its separate planks put together by the vilest Southern-haters of the North, upon which all the isms of Yankeedom find aid and comfort; whose Cabinet, in the event of his election, would be composed of such men as Speaker Banks, who is willing to "let the Union slide;" and Mr. "Niagara" Burlingame, who demands an "anti-slavery Bible and an anti-slavery God;" whose orators belch forth vile slanders upon the South under flags whose venomous folds reveal but sixteen stars, and whose torch-light processions do not "march under the flag nor keep step to the music of the Union"? Does he read the following extract taken from his candidate's letter accepting the nomination: "I am opposed to slavery in the abstract and upon principle, sustained and made habitual by long-settled convictions?" Are these the doctrines he advocates to young men, two-thirds of whose property consists in slaves?
It cannot be denied by any person cognizant of college influences, that each professor has his quota of friends and admirers among the students, and their minds are to a certain degree, upon general subjects, merely daguerrotypes of his opinions. This is natural. The student is young, and the instructors are placed over them, in loco parentis, to guide them correctly; and the young graduate leaves with opinions moulded by his instructors that will cling to him through life.
We ask, are we correctly informed concerning the political inclination and expressed opinions of this professor? If not, we hope to be corrected; and if we are, we call upon the proper authorities to take action, for the sake of the prosperity of our Alma Mater and the good of the State.
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