BEFORE the Revolution American colleges customarily received gifts of money and books from English philanthropists. With the reestablishment of peace in 1783 the trustees of some of these institutions, including Princeton, Columbia, and Dartmouth, sent agents abroad to beg for aid once more. Franklin flatly refused his help in France for reasons he explained in a letter to the president of Princeton. The progress of American institutions was harder and slower without foreign gifts, but it was at least all their own.
Passy, April 5, 1784
I have received the Letter you did me the honour of writing to me the 27th past. It would be a pleasure to me to see you here, but I cannot give you any Expectations of Success in the Project of obtaining Benefactions for your College. Last Year Messrs. Wheelock came hither with the same Views for their College at Dartmouth in New England; and they brought a Recommendation signed by a great Number of the principal People of our States. They apply'd to me for Advice and Assistance, and I consulted some knowing prudent Persons, well acquainted with this Country, and Friends of ours. After well considering the Matter, they gave their Opinion that it was by no means adviseable to attempt a Collection here for such a purpose; for tho' possibly we might get something, it would not be equal to the Expence and Trouble attending the Solicitation; and the very Request would be disgraceful to us, and hurt the Credit of Responsability we wish to maintain in Europe, by representing the United States as too poor to provide for the Education of their own Children. For my own part, I am persuaded we are fully able to furnish our Colleges amply with every Means of public Instruction, and I cannot but wonder that our Legislatures have generally