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but just so much as to bear them up, and suffer them to go with the wind. So that without doubt almost all aerial insects, and also spiders which live upon trees and are made up of them, are at the end of the year swept away into the sea, and buried in the ocean, and leave nothing behind them but their eggs, for a new stock the next year."
These letters, I cannot assign to a later age than twelve.* The latter, as I think the reader will perceive, evinces an exactness and originality of observation, as well as an accuracy and felicity of description, not always rivalled in later years. The former, as an exhibition of delicacy, beauty and grace, will probably be classed among the happiest efforts of the juvenile pen. As a natural historian, he had the honor, I believe, to be the first to observe, and communicate, these singular phenomena respecting the spider; and had he devoted himself to that interesting science, to which he was thus early and auspiciously introduced, no one will doubt, that he might easily have gained its highest honors. That he did not wholly neglect it from this time, we shall see hereafter.
He entered Yale College in New-Haven, in Sept. 1716, before he was thirteen years of age. The college was then in its infancy, and various untoward circumstances had greatly impeded its growth. It was first planted at Saybrook, and then partially removed to Kenilworth, to the house of its first Rector, until his death in 1707. From that time the Rev. Mr. Andrews of Milford, one of the Trustees, was Rector pro tempore upwards of twelve years; and the location of the college was a constant theme of contention between the towns of New-Haven, Saybrook, Wethersfield and Hartford, until 1716; when the vote of the trustees, the donation of Mr. Yale, and the vote of the legislature of the colony, fixed it permanently at New-Haven. In the collegiate year, 17161717, thirteen of the students resided at New-Haven, fourteen at Wethersfield, and four at Saybrook. The temporary presidency of Mr. Andrews continued until 1719; and as he was the acting minister of Milford, his oversight of the college, and his influence over the students, must of course have been exceedingly imperfect. The government of the institution, virtually and necessarily, was chiefly in the hands of the tutors; who, as young men without experience and a knowledge
*He became a member of college at that age. In one of them he speaks of himself as "a child," an epithet rarely if ever applied by a boy, especially by a Freshman, to himself after that period of life. They appear obviously to have been written while he resided at home, and the hand writing is of the earliest and most unformed cast.
of mankind, could not usually be found qualified for so difficult a trust. Some time in the year 1717, the extreme unpopularity of one of the tutors occasioned a general insurrection of the students, who were at New-Haven, against the government of the college; and in one body they withdrew from New-Haven, and joined their companions at Wethersfield. At the commencement in that year, eight of the senior class returned to New-Haven, to receive their degrees of the regular college government; while five received theirs irregularly at Wethersfield. I have discovered no evidence of any kind that Edwards took part in these disturbances. He went, however, with his companions to Wethersfield, and continued there until 1719. While there, he gained a high character and standing in his class. His father, writing to one of his daughters, under date of Jan. 27, 1718, says, "I have not heard but that your brother Jonathan is also well. He has a very good name at Wethersfield, both as to his carriage and his learning." While at Wethersfield, he wrote to one of his sisters the following letter; which, as it is a document relating to an interesting event in the history of the college, may not improperly be preserved.
"To Miss Mary Edwards at Northampton.
Wethersfield, March 26, 1719.
"Of all the many sisters I have, I think I never had one so long out of my hearing as yourself: inasmuch as I cannot remember, that I ever heard one tittle from you, from the time you last went up the country, until the last week by Mr. B. who then came from Northampton. When he came in, I truly rejoiced to see him, because I fully expected to receive a letter from you by him. But being disappointed, and that not a little, I was willing to make that, which I hoped would be an opportunity of receiving, the same of sending. For I thought it was a pity, that there should not be the least correspondence between us, or communication from one to another, when at no farther distance. I hope also that this may be a means of exciting the same in yourself; and so, having more charity for you than to believe, that I am quite out of your mind, or that you are not at all concerned for me, I think it fit that I should give you some account of my condition, relative to the school. I suppose you are fully acquainted with our coming away from New-Haven, and the circumstances thereof. Since then we have been in a more prosperous condition, as I think, than ever. But the council and trustees, having lately had a meeting at New-Haven concern
ing it, have removed that which was the cause of our coming away, viz. Mr. Johnson, from the place of a tutor, and have put in Mr. Cutler, Pastor of Canterbury, President; who, as we hear, intends very speedily to be resident at Yale College, so that all the scholars belonging to our school expect to return there, as soon as our vacancy after the election is over. "I am your loving brother in good health,
While a member of college, he was distinguished for the uniform sobriety and correctness of his behavior, for diligent application to his studies, and for rapid and thorough attainments in learning. In the second year of his collegiate course, while at Wethersfield, he read Locke on the Human Understanding with peculiar pleasure. The uncommon strength and penetration of his mind, which admirably qualified him for profound thought and metaphysical investigation, began to be discovered and exerted even at this early age. From his own account of the subject, he was inexpressibly entertained and delighted with that profound work, when he read it at the age of fourteen; enjoying a far higher pleasure in the perusal of its pages, "than the most greedy miser finds, when gathering up handfuls of silver and gold, from some newly discovered treasure." To studies of this class he from that time devoted himself, as to those in which he felt the most intense interest. Still, however, he applied himself, with so much diligence and success, to the performance of his assigned duties, as to sustain the first standing in his class, and to secure the highest approbation of his instructors.
The Rev. Mr. Cutler repaired to New-Haven early in June 1719, at the opening of the summer term, to enter on the duties of his office as Rector; and the students, among whom was Edwards, returned to the college. The following letter from the Rector to his father, will show the character which he had acquired while at Wethersfield, and the trying circumstances of the college.
"New-Haven, June 30, 1719.
"Your letter came to my hands by your son. I congratulate you upon his promising abilities and advances in learning. He is now under my care, and probably may continue so, and doubtless will so do if he should remain here, and I be settled in the business I am now in. I can assure you, Rev. Sir, that your good affection to me in this affair, and that of the ministers around you, is no small inducement to me; and if I am
prevailed on thereby, it shall be a strong motive to me to improve my poor abilities, in the service of such hopeful youths as are with us. They may suffer much from my weakness, but they shall not from my neglect. I am no party-man, but shall carry it, with an equal hand and affection, to the whole college; and I doubt not, but the difficulty and importance of the business will secure me your prayers,and those of all good men, which I do much value and desire.
"I remain, under the earnest hope and expectation of your Your humble servant, prayers,
The following characteristical letter, written to his father in his third collegiate year, will not be uninteresting to the reader.
"To the Rev. Timothy Edwards, Pastor of the Church at East Windsor.
"EVER HONOURED SIR,
"New-Haven, July 21, 1719.
"I received, with two books, a letter from yourself, bearing the date of July 7th; and therein I received with the greatest gratitude, your most wholesome advice and counsel; and I hope I shall, God helping of me, use my utmost endeavours to put the same in practice. I am sensible of the preciousness of my time, and am resolved it shall not be through any neglect of mine, if it slips without the greatest advantage. I take very great content under my present tuition, as all the rest of the scholars seem to do under theirs. Mr. Cutler is extraordinarily courteous to us, has a very good spirit of government, keeps the school in excellent order, seems to increase in learning, is loved and respected by all who are under him, and when he is spoken of in the school or town, he generally has the title of President. The scholars all live in very good peace with the people of the town, and there is not a word said about our former carryings on, except now and then by aunt Mather. I have diligently searched into the circumstances of Stiles's examination, which was very short, and as far as I can understand was to no other disadvantage than that he was examined in Tully's Orations; in which, though he had never construed before he came to New-Haven, yet he committed no error in that or any other book, whether Latin, Greek or Hebrew, except in Virgil, wherein he could not tell the Preteritum of Requiesco. He is very well treated among the scholars, and accepted in the college as a member of it by every body, and also as a freshman; nei
ther as I think, is he inferior as to learning, to any of his classmates. I have enquired of Mr. Cutler, what books we shall have need of the next year. He answered he would have me get against that time, Alstead's Geometry and Gassendus' Astronomy; with which I would intreat you to get a pair of dividers, or mathematician's compasses, and a scale, which are absolutely necessary in order to learning mathematics; and also, the Art of Thinking, which, I am persuaded, would be no less profitable, than the other necessary, me, who am Your most dutiful Son,
"P. S. What we give a week for our board, is £0.5s. Od.”