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George Berkeley

BERKELEY, George, British clergyman, born in Kilcrin, near Thomastown, Kilkenny, Ireland, 12 March 1684; died in Oxford, England, 14 January 1753. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and in 1707 became a fellow in that institution and a clergyman of the established Church. He made two prolonged tours on the continent, and in 1724 became dean of Derry. The dean issued in 1725 "a proposal for the better supplying of Churches in our foreign plantations, and for converting the savage Americans to Christianity, by a College to be erected in the Summer islands, otherwise called the isles of Bermudas." The concluding sentence of the proposal is this: "A benefaction of this kind seems to enlarge the very being of a man, extending it to distant places and future times; inasmuch as unseen countries and after-ages may feel the effects of his bounty, while he himself reaps the reward in the blessed society of all those who, having turned many to righteousness, shine as the stars for ever and ever." The project inspired the well-known verses, "On the Prospect of Planting Arts and [Learning in America"*four lines of which are familiar to all who know the history of education in the new world: "Westward the course of empire takes its way; The first four acts already past, A fifth shall close the drama with the day; Time's noblest offspring is the last." These lines were quoted by Gulian C. Verplanck, of New York, in an address delivered in 1818, with the remark that he did not remember haying "seen or heard the verses referred to in this country." In spite of opposition from Sir Rob-ere Walpole, then chief minister, Berkeley persuaded the English government to promise a grant of £20,000, for the foundation of the proposed College of St. Paul's in the Bermudas, and full of enthusiasm and courage he sailed from Gravesend 17 September 1728, expecting to begin the seminary and assume its presidency. He arrived at Newport, Rhode Island, 23 January 1729, "with a view at settling a correspondence there for supplying his College with provisions," and awaiting also the promised financial support. He bought a farm, which he named Whitehall, erected upon it a small house, engaged in correspondence and study, composed one of his most famous treatises, "Alci-phron, or the Minute Philosopher," preached occasionally, and longed in vain for the expected endowment. It is said that he became convinced that the Bermudas was not the best site, and that he would have gladly substituted for it some place upon the mainland. It appears that he learned but little of this country by travel, but many leading men came to see him in his philosopher's retreat, and gave him just ideas of the state of religion and education. Foremost among this number was Samuel Johnson, then a minister of the Episcopal Church at Stratford, Connecticut, formerly a tutor at Yale, and afterward president of King's College, New York (now Columbia). Jared Eliot, a Congregationalist minister in Connecticut, and a trustee of Yale, was another of Berkeley's American friends. To them, but especially to Dr. Johnson, the credit seems due of interesting Berkeley in Yale. Wearied by the long delays of the government, and at length assured that Walpole had no intention of giving him the promised support, Berkeley gave up his residence in Newport and set sail for England, embarking at Boston in September 17'31, just three years after his departure from England. In Elm summer after his return to his native land, Berkeley executed an instrument by which he conveyed to Yale the Whitehall farm; and after some slight changes in the conditions had been agreed on, he renewed the deed and dated it 17 August 1733. This indenture provided that the income from the property should be applied to the maintenance of three students of the said College, during the time between their first and second degree, such students to be known as "scholars of the house," to be elected by the head of the College jointly with the senior Episcopal missionary of Connecticut, after an examination in Latin and Greek. Other details were prescribed, and the instrument is a very interesting paper, as introducing to this country the usage of graduate scholarships and of competitive examinations for special honors. Any surplus of money, arising from vacancies in the scholarships, was to be laid out in Greek and Latin books for the encouragement of undergraduates who should exhibit their skill in Latin composition. The Berkelian scholarships and prizes thus established have been regularly awarded since 1733, and the list of those who have received these honors includes the names of some of the most distinguished graduates of Yale. The Whitehall farm was rented by the College in 1762 for a period of 999 years. In addition to this gift, Berkeley sent to Yale a collection of books, given by himself and several gentlemen who had been subscribers to his projected College. This was doubtless the best collection of books that had then been brought to this country. Its value was estimated at £500. It included copies of the chief classical writings, folio editions of the apostolic fathers, great historical works like Baronius, the Acta Eruditorum, the Elzevir republics, important apparatus for the study of the Bible, books of mathematical, physical, and medical science, modern English literature, Shakespeare, Milton, Addison, Ben Jonson, Pope, Gay, etc. Most of the volumes may still be identified in the library of Yale. Berkeley also gave some valuable books to Harvard, and wrote a letter of advice in respect to the establishment of a College in New York. Three years after his return to the old world he became bishop of Cloyne, and many years later he declined to be translated to the see of Clogher. His health having been impaired, he removed in 1752 to the University of Oxford, where he died. His body is buried in Christ Church. His philosophical writings are still widely read. The name of Berkeley is honored not only in New Haven, where a memorial window in the Battell chapel has lately been placed', and where his prizes are annually bestowed, but also in other seminaries far and wide through the land. A school of divinity, established at Middletown, Connecticut, by Bishop Williams, bears the name of Berkeley. Another interesting tribute to his mere-cry has been given by the promoters of liberal education in California. The site of the state University, opposite the Golden Gate, is named Berkeley. Upon one of its walls hangs a full-length portrait of the philosopher, copied by John F. Weir, from Smybert's portrait, which is owned by Yale. Thanks to the suggestions of Frederick Billings, who proposed the name and gave the portrait, Berkeley, whose enterprise upon the Atlantic seaboard came to naught in the middle of the last century, is now held in perpetual remembrance upon the Pacific coast by the grateful students of a thriving University. Berkeley's influence at Newport in the formation of the Redwood library should not be forgotten, nor his gift of an organ to Trinity Church. In 1886 a memorial chapel was dedicated at Newport, Rhode Island, Bishop Clark officiating. The funds for its erection were raised by private subscription, largely among the summer residents of Newport. It, is beautifully decorated with memorial windows, and is a fitting tribute to the memory of the distinguished man whose name it bears, and whose influence was so closely identified with the early history of the town. Valuable original papers by Dean Berkeley are in the possession of Yale College. See Beardsley's "Ecclesiastical History of Connecticut" (New York, 1865) ; and his "Life of Samuel Johnson" (1874) ; papers by District of Columbia Gilman in "Hours at Home " (1865), and in the "Proceedings of the New Haven Colony Historical Society" (1865)" letters of Berkeley in the "Churchman's Magazine" (vol. vii.); Professor Fraser's "Life and Works of Berkeley" (4 vols., Oxford, England, 1871)" and Noah Porter's discourse on "Bishop George Berkeley" (New York, 1885).

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