Video: Princeton at 265
Posted October 20, 2011; 12:00 p.m.
The independent spirit of Princeton's charter -- granted Oct. 22, 1746 -- continues to infuse the University today. Read more.
Video Closed Captions
Welcome to the 265th anniversary of the signing
of the Princeton University charter, granted
on Oct. 22, 1746, a time of great religious
tumult known as the "Great Awakening."
Join us as we delve into the archives at Mudd
Library to look back at previous celebrations
and to see the oldest extant copy of the University's
charter, which has only been on display three
times in the last 60 years.
This historic document, crafted by seven
radical-minded founders, embodies the "genius
loci," or spirit of the place, of Princeton, known
for its constant innovation and groundbreaking research.
So this is the oldest extant copy of the University charter.
You can see how lovingly it's been preserved.
It's a beautiful document. I don't
even get to look at this very often.
Daniel Linke and Dave Gillespie:
I just love, "George II, by the grace of God,
of Great Britain, France and Ireland, king
and defender of the faith."
Charter Day is like the University's birthday,
and so in the 19th Century, it was a day to
celebrate, with speech-making contests and
other festivities. In the 20th Century, the
practice tapered off a little bit, but we
had really big celebrations for the 200th
and 250th anniversaries.
On Oct. 19, 1946, Princeton University celebrated
its 200th Charter Day. In 1746, under the
seal of George II, the original charter was
granted. The University was founded, and seven
years later, plans for Nassau Hall were drawn
up. Now, on this bright October morning two
centuries later, a great university pauses
to look back upon a long and honorable history of
useful service to the United States and the world.
For the 250th, there were three specially commissioned
poems, and Sandra Bermann read one of them.
Now surely, there is no knowledge we
cannot conquer. We are scarcely aware of the
dialectical ghosts among whom we walk, who
peer invisibly from leaded windows, who lift
the cups from which we are to drink.
It's just really exciting to be among all of the history,
actually, first-hand. And, speaking with professors
that have experienced it all and are making history.
In private memory this place is its halls,
its library, its chapel worn satin by the
encounters and collaborations among and between
strangers from other neighborhoods and strangers
from other lands.
Every doorway, every tree and turn is haunted
by laughter, by murmurs of loyalty and love.
Yet woven into these instances of private
memory are other more complicated ones that
are the property of public memory.
What made Princeton's founding notable was
that, unlike other institutions which were
primarily devoted to training ministers, Princeton
was interested in all of the thoughts and
knowledge that were available. This spirit
of dissent transfused the institution and
it's a line that you can trace all the way
through the American Revolution with John Witherspoon.
The founders of Princeton knew well, better
perhaps than the founders of any American
institution of high learning at that time, they knew
the necessity of being open to the unforeseeable.
Princeton was the place of the independent
idea, the place where conscience was prized
above orthodoxy, the place of the dissenting idea.
I feel so grateful to be here, where so many
great minds have walked the same paths that
I do, and seeing how much they've done makes
me feel like I should do something great.
It's just really humbling being here and very,
very exciting at the same time.