Date of Graduation
The King's College controversy (1752â€“1756) was a battle for control of the first college in colonial New York. The historical experience of the province, from its founding by the Dutch until the 1750s, had generated an expectancy of religious freedom among the religious and ethnically diverse population. These people envisioned a non-sectarian college, but members of the Anglican church under the leadership of the Reverend Samuel Johnson (who would be the first president of the college) moved to exert control over the college. The opponents of the Anglicans, led by William Livingston, carried on an extensive attack on the Anglican efforts in pamphlets and newspapers. The first attack came in the form of The Independent Reflector, one of the first magazines to be published in the colony. Livingston and his co-authors, William Smith, Jr., and John Morin Scott, included in the magazine a series of articles that set forth their design for a public â€œfree,â€ that is non-sectarian, Protestant college. In late 1753, through the efforts of Lieutenant-governor James DeLancey, the magazine was suppressed. Livingston continued his opposition with the publication of the â€œWatch-Tower,â€ a series of articles, published in the New York Mercury, that covered a myriad of subjects, including the French-Indian War, but focused upon the college controversy. He focused these arguments on two points. First, he recounted the history of the colony that established a long tradition of religious diversity and freedom in the colony. Second, he examined and rejected the several legal arguments that the Anglicans advanced, specifically the argument that the Anglican Church was established in the colony by common law. In the end, Livingston and his supporters failed to prevent the Anglican take-over of the college. But Livingston's efforts had significance beyond the controversy. For nearly a half-century prior to Thomas Jefferson's call for a â€œwall of separationâ€ between civil and ecclesiastic, Livingston argued vehemently for separation of church and state.
Carney, Thomas Edward, "A religious conflict in education: The King's College controversy as a historical precedent to separation of Church and State, 1752-1756." (2001). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 8574.