To Daniel Cony

    Philadelphia        8 January 1792

    My dear Sir—

    By the time this reaches Boston, I think it probable you will be there, I shall therefore direct to you at that place; this circumstance will be my apology for not answering your favor of the 25th Novemr. and which came to hand a considerable time ago, before now.1

    No man whether he lives at Hollowell, or in any other part of Lincoln [County], can be more desirous to see the Line of post extended to that, and many other places in the eastern part of Maine, than myself; because I am confident no one is more fully convinced of the utility, in a political as well as mercantile view of the institution.

    And however some Gentlemen may be disappointed in not being gratified, in this respect, and, from personal motives, attribute the cause to a want of exertion or disposition in me to procure them this priviledge—I feel satisfied with what I have done—And could they know the many difficulties I have had to <lined out> contend with in keeping the general Line extended to Wiscassett, I am inclined to beleive their prejudices would yeild to a conviction that I have not been inattentive to my duty or their Interest.2

    I have more than once observed to you, & some others, in the different parts of Lincoln, that the profits of the whole Line from Portsmouth to Wiscassett, have annually fallen far short of the sums given to the Carriers of the mail on that Rout.

    Now so long as this is the case, it must appear to every body who impartially considers that each district, county and Town of any note thinks themselves equally entitled to have the mail pass by their doors, that Congress will not consent to a further extention of the eastern Line without a probable assurance, at least, that the expence should not be increased.

    Hitherto Massachusetts and Maine have enjoyed the priviledge of the post to a much greater degree than most of the other States. I believe that in Virginia (for so I am told by some of their Representatives) there are two or three hundred thousand of her inhabitants who have never had the benefit of the post within an hundred miles of them, & many at a much greater distance.

    Tho the bill before Congress extends the mail in all the States much beyond what it now is under the old Ordnance of Congress;3 yet there are, in almost every State, greater numbers of inhabitants that have no benefit from the post, than in the District of Maine—

    I have no doubt but by & by the mail will be extended to Penobscott; but whether thro Hollowell or Camden is a question that will not at present admit of an easy determination.

    As soon as you have your work cut out for this Session let me know what it is.4 The subject of Cumberland Colledge I expect will take up some of your time: And as to this I suppose the chief difficulty that yet remains is to agree upon the place where it shall be built. Gorham, Freeport, North Yarmouth and Portland have each their claims. And like all other questions where the interest of the claimants are concerned, each thinks his own claims best founded. How far I may ever be interested in the Cumberland Colledge I cannot determine; but I will not from hence disclaim all interested motives in prefering one place to another. I will honestly confess myself an advocate for the claims of Portland.

    I will give you my reasons, and answer some objections made to that place, and then leave you to judge whether tis self interest or a rational conviction, that Portland is more suitable for a Colledge than either of the other places, which influences me in the business.

    Some of the reasons that determined my mind upon this question I wrote, last spring, in a Letter to Dr. [Samuel] Dean, who thro partiality to the side I took in the question, & thinking there was some merit in them, gave them to the public thro the Cumberland & Maine Gazettes.5 These I think you have seen, & therefore I need not repeat them here. They were founded on the advantages of a populous over a country situation; and therefore if they were conclusive, in the abstract, they must apply exclusively to Portland, in preference to either of the other places in contemplation. For I presume no one will contend that either of them will ever rival Portland, in numbers, trade & commercial importance.

    I will now add a reason or two that did not occur to my mind till after mine to the Doctor was closed.

    The advantages of regular professorships, filled with able professors in Theology, Law, physic, ethics and the different branches of Natural philosophy have been experienced for Ages, and sanctioned by the practice of all modern Colledges and Universities. And among the many people with whom I have conversed, relative to this subject, I have found but one who looks upon professorships as useless & not worth attending to in Colledges—but ’tis possible that the principle, on which their support must frequently depend, militated with his wishes, in the Instance before us; and that interested views might, unpercieved to himself, blind his better judgment.

    I will at not at this time enter upon a detail of argument to evince the general utility of Professorships at Colledges and Universities; but shall take it for granted that they are usefull institutions; and, all other circumstances being equal, the Character and reputation of a Colledge will rise in some proportion to the number and endowments of the professorships in the foregoing branches of Science—And the question now occurs, which of the places in contemplation for erecting the Colledge will be most favorable to this object? I contend that Portland will always possess superior means, and can contribute more to the benefit of a Colledge this way, than either of the other Towns.

    Professors must be supported by one of three modes. In rich Countries, and in some ancient Universities, whose funds have been for many years accumulating, professors may be supported by the annual income of the funds established for that purpose—Secondly—the great number of Students that resort to some Universities, to attend the Lectures of very eminent professors, by regular established fees for each course of Lectures, amply contribute to their entire support and encouragement—But, thirdly, where these circumstances are wanting there is no other way of coming at the benefit of these establishments but by electing some Gentleman, learned and respectable in his profession, and who, living near to the Colledge, can spare time from the labors of his calling to discharge also the duties of the professors chair. In this case small fees, such as Students in general might well afford, would be an encouragement to the professor, and something towards a compensation for his time and trouble. In some such manner as this are the Professors of Anatomy, of Chimestry, & of the Theory and practice of Physic, lately elected to those Professorships at the University of Cambridge, supported and encouraged, as the funds for those purposes are yet inadequate to their entire subsistence.6 And I believe you know that the Gentlemen who fill these professorships live, & practice physic in the Town of Boston. I might add further on this head, by way of example, that the like professors, with some others are supported in a similar manner, at the University in Philadelphia—And that the professor of ----- at Columbia Colledge in New York is a regular ordained Clergyman.7

    Now there circumstances so far as they afford just grounds of argument plead in favor of the Cumberland Colledge being erected in or near Portland.

    The common objections made against erecting Colledges in or near large Cities, because it gives the Students daily opportunities of going into bad company, and exposes them to temptations to vices that a country retirement is exempted from, are more specious than solid. But in whatever degree these objections are allowed to have weight, they are equally forceable, in my opinion, against erecting a Colledge in Gorham, or North Yarmouth, as in Portland; because the former places are not so far from the latter but that the Students will constantly resort thither—and with this inconvenience too, that in this case, they will be equally in the way of the allurements of vice, without the check of seeing it in its odious forms.

    I have conversed with a very respectable member of the Legislature of Massachusetts who is much in favor of North Yarmouth; and principally because the Students will be less tempted to female debauchery than at Portland. Now I must own that as to this vice, it is my opinion, if an experiment could be tried by placing twenty, or any given number of young Gentlemen in the character of Students, at North Yarmouth, & an equal number at Portland, and all under the same Collegiate regulations, more would run into it in the former, than the latter place. I am sensible, this is only an opinion—a conjecture; but it will be remembered the objection is nothing more: And I will venture to say it is founded on erronious Reasonings and conclusions on the human passions; and that experience so far as it can be had does not countenance the objection. Were the Students of Harvard Colledge less given to this vice during their residence at Concord than in any equal period of time at Cambridge? I answer—no—and the observations I made while at these two places, in the character of an under-Graduate, justify an opinion, that if the Colledge had remained, & become fixed at the former place this vice would have become as frequent, if not more general, than what could be the case were it placed on Boston Common—I have no reason to suppose this would have been peculiar to Concord—I believe that what took place there will always take place under like circumstances in all country Towns.8

    I wish this species of vice might be altogether prevented, especially among Students. And it is prudent to diminish the temptations they may be exposed to by all possible cautions; but after all temptations will exist, & the vice will be run into—I am informed, on pretty good authority, that even [in] the woods, religion & enthusiasm have not been able to prevent its finding the way to the solitary retreat of Dartmouth Colledge.

    The objection that some have urged against establishing a Colledge at Portland, on account of its [being] uncentral as to the inhabitants and Territory of Maine, appears to me hardly to deserve a serious reply; because it assumes so many false positions that it is with some difficulty I can think the objector serious himself. Why should the Colledge be placed in the centre of Territory? is there never to be another east of the one now in contemplation? Less than one hundred years ago the idea of building a Colledge in Cumberland, would have been looked on as more improbable, (if not even chimerical) than we may now contemplate the establishment of another within that time at Kennebeck or Penobscott. Why should it be exactly in the centre of Inhabitants? Is that place, wherever it may be, more convenient & easy of access for the Students that come from the extreme parts? At present I believe no particular part is so much the centre of convenience & easy access as Portland. And next to Portland, Hollowell possesses there advantages—but I have not heard that any body contends the Colledge ought to be fixed at this place; tho I really believe it would be more suitable than some of the places which have put in their claims.

    Another objection to Portland is founded on its being more expensive living at that than either of the other places—But this will turn out, on due examination of the question, to be a mistake. And if the Students keep chambers in the Colledge, and board in Commons as I think they ought to, there can be no doubt but board & all things necessary & convenient will come cheeaper at Portland than at any country Town.

    You will excuse my freedom on this subject. The cause of Literature I have very much at heart; and I fear the Cumberland Colledge will have many difficulties to encounter let it be placed where it may be—but I am persuaded they will be less at Portland than at any other place in the County. Some of my reasons you have now before you, & others you have heretofore heard—I submit all to your Judgment.9

    I shall write you again in a few days & say something relative to the Counties of Hancock & Washington—perhaps also a little about Congressional matters—

    I am, dear sir, yours, &c

    * * *

    FC, TFP