Stand, Columbia: A History of Columbia University in the City of New York, 1754-2004

Stand, Columbia: A History of Columbia University in the City of New York, 1754-2004

Stand, Columbia: A History of Columbia University in the City of New York, 1754-2004

Stand, Columbia: A History of Columbia University in the City of New York, 1754-2004


Stand, Columbia! Alma Mater

Through the storms of Time abide

Stand, Columbia! Alma Mater

Through the storms of Time abide.

"Stand, Columbia!" by Gilbert Oakley Ward, Columbia College 1902 (1904)

Marking the 250th anniversary of one of America's oldest and most formidable educational institutions, this comprehensive history of Columbia University extends from the earliest discussions in 1704 about New York City being "a fit Place for a colledge" to the recent inauguration of president Lee Bollinger, the nineteenth, on Morningside Heights. One of the original "Colonial Nine" schools, Columbia's distinctive history has been intertwined with the history of New York City. Located first in lower Manhattan, then in midtown, and now in Morningside Heights, Columbia's national and international stature have been inextricably identified with its urban setting.

Columbia was the first of America's "multiversities," moving beyond its original character as a college dedicated to undergraduate instruction to offer a comprehensive program in professional and graduate studies. Medicine, law, architecture, and journalism have all looked to the graduates and faculty of Columbia's schools to provide for their ongoing leadership and vitality. In 2003, a sampling of Columbia alumni include one member of the United States Supreme Court, three United States senators, three congressmen, three governors (New York, New Jersey, and California), a chief justice of the New York Court of Appeals, and a president of the New York City Board of Education. But it is perhaps as a contributor of ideas and voices to the broad discourse of American intellectual life that Columbia has most distinguished itself. From The Federalist Papers, written by Columbians John Jay and Alexander Hamilton, to Charles Beard's An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution and Jack Kerouac's On the Road to Edward Said's Orientalism, Columbia and its graduates have greatly influenced American intellectual and public life. Stand, Columbia also examines the experiences of immigrants, women, Jews, African Americans, and other groups as it takes critical measure of the University's efforts to become more inclusive and more reflective of the diverse city that it calls home.


Providence has not called us alone to found a University in New York, nor to
urge the slow, cold councils of that city.

William Samuel Johnson (son) to Samuel Johnson (father), 1753

The clamour I raised against [the College] … when it was first founded on its
present narrow principles, has yet and probably never will totally silence.

William Livingston to William Livingston Jr., 1768


COLUMBIA'S has been a disputatious history. Even the designation of its prefounder has two opposing candidates. the one far more often cited for this distinction has been Colonel Lewis Morris (1671–1746), a considerable presence in the public life of both New York and New Jersey in the early eighteenth century. the claims of his being the prefounder of Columbia turn on a letter said by at least two historians of Columbia to date from 1702 to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPGFP), the missionary arm of the Anglican Church established in 1701 in London. There, he writes: “New York is the centre of English America and a fit place for a Colledge.”

Lewis Morris, the first lord of Morrisania Manor (now much of the Bronx), makes for the relatively more attractive prefounder. This is in part because of his reputation as the early leader of New York's Country Party and a doughty champion of the popular cause in the colonial assemblies of New York and New Jersey against the Court Party centered in the governor's council and aligned with a string of supposedly corrupt and power-grabbing governors. His being the grandfather of the King's College graduate (1766) and revolutionary statesman Gouverneur Morris (1752–1816) and ancestor of numerous other Morrises and Ogdens who figure in Columbia's subsequent history further strenghfhens his case. Mid-nineteenth-century Columbia trustees Lewis M. Rutherford and Gouverneur M. Ogden were direct descendants.

Morris's recommendation of New York City as “a fit place for a Colledge” occurred in the middle of delicate negotiations involving Queen's Farm on Manhattan's West Side, thirty-two acres running east to west from Broadway to the Hudson River and north to south from modern-day Fulton Street to . . .

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