A Record of the Doings of the Trustees
of the Hampton Proprietary School
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The case of Simeon Brackett Shaw,
Simon Moulton & Jacob Moulton
Students at Hampton Proprietary School
December 13-19, 1815
The Preceptor of the Proprietary School in Hampton having as I believe, abused Simeon Brackett Shaw, a scholar under his care, I would request you to call a meeting of the Trustees of said School, as soon as can be done, that they may take the matter into their consideration.
Your humble servant, Simeon Shaw.
Hon. Christopher Toppan}
President of the Trustees of}
Hampton Proprietary School}
According to the above request, a meeting of the Trustees was ordered by the President, an account of which follows:Hampton, Dec. 18, 1815.
The Trustees of the Hampton Proprietary School met at the house of James Leavitt Esq. by order of the President, to attend to difficulties, which might be laid before them.
The President, the Hon. Christopher Toppan, being absent, Rev. Jacob Abbot was chosen President pro tempore. The complaints of Mr. Simeon Shaw & Mr. James Moulton against the Preceptor of the School, respecting the punishment of Simeon Brackett Shaw & Simon Moulton were stated to the Trustees, & also a statement was made of both cases by the Preceptor. They adjourned to the house of the Hon. Christopher Toppan, and six of the Trustees being present, consulted as to the probability of satisfactorily settling the difficulties laid before them without a more public investigation, and finding no probability of this, they adjourned to the Academy, where, after spending between two & three hours in hearing the statements of the several parties concerned & in examining evidences respecting both the above named cases, they adjourned to the house of the President to deliberate & act on the evidence they had received.
The Rev. Mr. Webster having expressed a wish to be excused from giving his opinion in either of the cases since they concern the school of gentlemen in the town where he is minister; the Trustees voted that for the reason assigned, he be excused from giving any opinion or vote.
The Trustees continued patiently to deliberate on the cases of difficulty till 10 o'clock in the evening, & adjourned to meet at the President's on Wednesday at 10 o'clock A.M.
Wednesday Dec. 19, met agreeably to adjournment, & being desirous of some further information, the Trustees proceeded to the Academy, where they endeavored by a particular & careful examination of witnesses to ascertain every important fact relative to the difficulties submitted to them. They then returned to the house of the President, where the remainder of the day was taken up in composing & weighing the evidence, & in deliberating upon & determining the several cases. They then adjourned, till Thursday afternoon for the purpose of communicating publicly, in the Academy the results of their investigation & their opinion respecting the aforesaid cases; which is as follows:
With the respect to the case of Simeon Brackett Shaw, it appears, that the Preceptor considered him as having whispered, & being guilty of a falsehood in denying that he whispered, & as persisting in it; & that on this account Shaw was severely punished. But from circumstances brought to light in ye course of investigation, it appears to the Trustees that said Shaw is not proved to have been guilty of falsehood; but that misunderstanding & mistake may have occasioned the unhappy difficulty. The misapprehension, we conceive, might innocently arise from the witness against Shaw, referring as he states he did, to Shaw's whispering about half an hour previous to the inquiry, & the Preceptor's & Shaw's both supposing, as under existing circumstances, they well might, that the witness referred to the time, at which the inquiry was actually made. It also appeared to the Trustees, that the Preceptor, at the time he punished Shaw, had sufficient reason to believe, that he had told a falsehood, & persisted in it. But with respect to the course taken with Shaw, the Trustees regret, that some different measures had not been tried, or more time taken for deliberation. Since it appears to the Trustees from the evidence they have received, that the difficulty may have taken place without any intentional offence on the part of Shaw, we recommend that he return to the Academy, that he should be received to his former regular and honorable standing.
With respect to the case of Simon Moulton, the Trustees, after a careful examination are of opinion, that the authority of the Preceptor might have been at least as well maintained by some different mode of treatment, as to the first part of the punishment. But they do not consider the mode of punishment as in the least excusing the disobedience of the scholar. They view that he was highly criminal in having obstinately persisted in disobedience to the commands of the Preceptor, in not having submitted to punishment when required, & in having resisted his authority, & we do not conceive, he has any just cause to complain of unmerited severity in the treatment he has received from his instructor. The Trustees recommend that Simon Moulton return to the Academy with acknowledging his fault for disobeying & resisting the Preceptor's authority & with a determination to observe the regulations of the Academy in [the] future. And considering the very short time he has attended, they recommend that should he do this, the Preceptor should receive him.
With respect to the case of Jacob Moulton, the Trustees are of opinion that he is very blameable in having interfered in the case of his brother. They view all interference by the students with the government of discipline of the Academy as highly improper & criminal. They recommend that Jacob Moulton return to the Academy & acknowledge his fault to the Preceptor, & that in so doing he should receive him.
The Trustees consider that the authority of an instructor over his pupils ought to be as strictly supported & maintained in school, as the authority of a head of a family in his household. They also view it essential to the prosperity of any school, that the Instructor should be strictly obeyed in every reasonable regulation of command, & that he should enforce obedience by corporal punishment, if milder means will not effect it.
The Trustees having made a particular investigation into the Instructor's management of the School's treatment of the students, view his official conduct in general as worthy of their approbation.
The Trustees deeply lament the difficulties, respecting which they have been called together. They have endeavored faithfully & impartially to fulfil the duties of their trust in their investigations & decision. They now earnestly recommend it to each of the parties concerned to review with deliberate & prayerful attention the motives & spirit, by which he has been activated, through the whole course of these unhappy difficulties; & they also earnestly recommend it to all concerned to make all reasonable allowances for the warmth of natural feelings, in the moments of sudden excitement, & to exercise mutual candor & christian condescension; & should this be the case, the Trustees feel assured, that notwithstanding all the disagreeable circumstances which have occurred, mutual reconciliation will ensue.
The students of the school have observed what unhappy consequences a single whisper, even if unnoticed at the time, may be the means of producing; for it appears that if Shaw had strictly observed the regulations of the School & not whispered at all, no mistake would have been made respecting the answer to the Preceptor's first inquiry, & the whole train of difficulties in his case, which have followed, would have been avoided. The students must also have considered not only the evil consequences, but the great criminality of direct & wilful disobedience to the regulations & rebellion against the authority of the Seminary. We would impress on your minds the vast importance of order, regularity & due subjection to your superiors. And solemnly calling upon you to consider that consequences of the most serious import to yourselves, to your friends, & to the community, may depend on your demeanor in this school, & the improvement, or misimprovement of the precious privileges you here enjoy, we now commend you to God with our fervent prayers, that you may industriously & successfully prosecute your studies & lay a good foundation for future respectability, usefullness & felicity.
The Rev. Mr. Webster having been excused from voting, the remaining five Trustees unanimously agreed to the foregoing result, & requested the President to sign in their behalf.
Annual Meeting of the Trustees
Hampton Proprietary School -- August 16, 1816
Annual meeting of the Trustees to examine the state of the Proporietary school in Hampton.
The president, the Hon. C. Toppan unable to attend the business of the meeting, Rev. Jonathan French, Josiah Webster & Mr. David Garland attended exhibition. Prayer, introductory to exhibition, made by the Clerk of the Trustees. No special businesses called the attention of the board.