Office of the President (James Marsh) Records
Scope and Content Note
The collection contains correspondence relating to university business, 1826-1830; Marsh's inaugural address, reports to the Trustees, Marsh's accounts with the university, a copy of "An Exposition of the System of Instruction and Discipline Pursued in the University of Vermont," by the Faculty; and of UVM faculty views on reforming instruction at the university. Correspondents include George Perkins Marsh, whose library became part of the university library; Joseph Torrey; and from a publisher in Gottingen, Germany, concerning the purchase of books, 1833. Marsh's lectures, sermons, exams, and notes on moral philosophy, psychology, and metaphysics form the rest of the collection, along with correspondence on Marsh's theology, a biographical sketch, copies of manuscripts from Dartmouth College; and Marsh's obituary.
Collection is open for research.
All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the University Archivist.
Marsh, Rev. James, (1794-1842), 1826-1833. Marsh was the first native Vermonter to be elected president. Born in Hartford in 1794, he was the grandson of the state's first lieutenant governor, Joseph Marsh. A Dartmouth College graduate, he attended Andover Theological Seminary and was ordained a Congregational minister in 1824. He was first employed at Hampton-Sidney College in Virginia as a professor of languages and biblical literature. Marsh's intellectual life was influenced by the work of German philosopher Emmanuel Kant and English poet and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge, both of whom had broken away from John Locke's doctrine of intellectual empiricism and were early figures in the transcendentalist movement. Marsh was one of the leading American proponents of transcendentalism, and maintained a long correspondence with Coleridge. His introductory essay to the first American edition of Coleridge's "Aids to Reflection" had considerable influence on American transcendentalists Emerson and Thoreau. Only 32 years of age at the time of his inauguration, Marsh's adherence to this philosophy became realized in his revision of the curriculum, with a new emphasis on the natural and physical sciences. His new faculty members, George Wyllis Benedict and Joseph Torrey, worked with him to integrate the curriculum into new departments: English Literature; Mathematics; Languages; and Political, Moral, and Intellectual Philosophy. Marsh transformed the University of Vermont from its early growing pains to a mature university, a leading center of humanistic thought in New England. In 1829, the faculty published a treatise on their transformation of the curriculum, "Exposition of the System of Instruction and Discipline Pursued at the University of Vermont," the impact of which on the development of higher education in America was significant. The university's financial struggles might continue during Marsh's tenure, but his vision elevated it from a provincial college to one that was one of the finest in New England.
Marsh resigned in 1833, having accomplished his goals of transforming and modernizing the curriculum. He died of tuberculosis in 1842 at the age of 47.
Sources consulted in the preparation of these notes include:
Daniels, Robert V. editor. The University of Vermont : The First Two Hundred Years Hanover, NH : University of Vermont : Distributed by University Press of New England, c1991.
Lindsay, Julian Ira. Tradition Looks Forward; the University of Vermont: a history, 1791-1904. Burlington [University of Vermont and State Agricultural College] 1954.
Marshall, Jeffrey. Universitas Viridis Montis, 1791-1991: An Exhibition of documents and artifacts telling the story of the University of Vermont. Burlington, Vt.: University of Vermont, 1991.
Smallwood, Frank. The University of Vermont Presidents: Two Centuries of Leadership. Burlington, Vt.: University of Vermont, 1997.
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Language of Materials
James Marsh was President of the University of Vermont from 1826-1833. The collection contains correspondence relating to university business, Marsh's inaugural address, reports to the Trustees, Marsh's accounts with the university, a copy of "An Exposition of the System of Instruction and Discipline Pursued in the University of Vermont," by the Faculty; and of UVM faculty views on reforming instruction at the university.
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- Guide to the Office of the President (James Marsh) Records, 1806-1883
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