The causes of the riots that led to the resignation of President L. C. Garland (right) and most of the faculty are complicated. The great distance of the faculty housing from the college buildings left the professor reluctant to pay repeated calls upon the students. Then too, the faculty had not received anything like their proper pay, a factor diminishing whatever enthusiasm there might have been for garrison duty. In 1846 Garland was owed over twenty-one hundred dollars in back pay, and the other professors (Duncan, Doggett, and Hardy) were owed over eighteen hundred dollars each. The tutor's pay was three hundred fifty dollars behind. The income of the college had shrunk to approximately half of what it had been a decade before. Producing this catastrophic decline in wealth was a drastic falling off in the number of students: over one hundred in residence in 1837 to under fifty in 1846. The decline forced the trustees in June 1845 to board up part of the new college building, perhaps half of it. The trustees refer to the South Passage of the College wing; since the main building ran east and west and the annex north and south, no other explanation fits. Years later, William A. Smith remarked that student opinion (with the dormitory system especially) under given circumstances has a controlling influence paramount to the administration of any laws which the board of Trustees can make. It often gives rise to customs habits and usages which are transmitted from year to year by a kind of hereditary succession, and which are usually exceedingly disastrous to good order, scholarship, and morality.
The riots were precipitated by academic problems. In june 1846 the freshmen were examined in algebra: one second, six thirds, and nine not sustained. Professor David Duncan, father of one of the unfortunate boys, blamed the tutor and wished him publicly censured. Professor J .W. Hardy supported the tutor, and Garland, trying to please everyone, joined with Hardy and promised the class that the first month of the next session (i.e., September 1846) would be devoted to a review of algebra. Then, for reasons now unknown, he refused to allow the review. Duncan noted that Garland reaped the fruits of this.
The reader may imagine the hot September nights with fifty or so students of all ages running around in a building 187 feet long and four stories high. The exasperated tutor suppressed one disturbance only to find another erupting in another part of the building that can be reached only by running down four flights of stairs and climbing another four. It became easier to bolt his own door, perhaps even to barricade it. Only President Garland had the proximity and position to act. What could he do? His mild entreaty and rebuke failed. Repeated threats to report individuals to the faculty for trial were empty, for as the school was dependent upon the students' fees for sustenance, dismissal was unlikely. A half dozen or more students went to Clarksville without permission and returned after midnight one Saturday. On Monday morning in the chapel Garland denounced as eyeservants the students who had violated their promise to obey the college laws. These remarks only provoked more student disorder, perhaps because servant was the constant synonym for slave. The next Saturday a drunken riot erupted in the college between midnight and 1 A.M. that aroused Garland from his home. He suppressed it and identified five or six students. Again, there were only private admonitions and sermons in the chapel. The next Friday there was another riot. Still. nothing was done but talk. Emboldened, the students burned Garland in effigy, tore gutters down from the buildings, and wreaked other havoc. Accounts of what actually occurred are very scanty. Garland was nearly hysterical, concentrating on minor details and self-justification. Of course, details of the events would have been known to the trustees. Burning Garland in effigy connects the episode with Duncan's explanation.
In the wake of these outrages, Garland quit in disgust.
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