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This Week in Princeton History for April 3-9

Group of military officers

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, locals warn students of the consequences of pranks, debates are raging over military presence on campus, and more.

April 4, 1874—Locals warn students not to cry “fire” as a practical joke, as occurred last week: “Some day perhaps the actual wolf will come when men may stay indoors and suffer their neighbor’s destruction.”

April 6, 1934—Controversy is intense over whether Princeton should continue to maintain a Department of Military Science, with both sides weighing in on the subject in the Princeton Alumni Weekly. Donald Grant Herring (Class of 1907) opens the discussion:

War is stupid, wasteful, ugly, filthy, cruel, bestial, even sinful, if you like. A dictionary of opprobrious epithets is inadequate to describe it for the comprehension of those who have not been in it and of it. … Yet, call war every foul name you will, to the list of adjectives you must add “inevitable.”


Fellow 1907 classmate John Nevin Sayer disagrees:

Yellow fever, slavery, fear of devils, polygamy, and the killing of human beings for religious sacrifice are not inevitable, although once they were believed to be so. … So do pacifists believe that the institution of war can be supplanted.

Officers of the Field Artillery Reserve Officers Training Corps (FAROTC) program at Princeton University, ca. 1934. Photo from 1935 Bric-a-Brac.

April 8, 1858—Princeton residents opposed to the Lecompton Constitution, put forth by pro-slavery advocates in Kansas, are invited to attend a meeting to organize a ticket for the upcoming township election.

April 9, 1884—In a letter later published in the New York Evangelist, James McCosh explains why there are some restrictions placed upon students:

We believe it would be wrong of us to invite young men of perhaps sixteen years of age to leave their homes and come to colleges hundreds or thousands of miles away, and there leave them entirely to themselves, exposed to temptations, within and beyond our precincts, and at liberty to go to drinking and gambling saloons, to theatres and houses of vice as they please without restraint or even warning or advice.

Princeton dorm party, 1889. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP14, Image No. 3500.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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