Today’s university may be in need of a revolution of its own, what with its failure to create true interdisciplinary conversation and its isolation from the wider public. The late eighteenth-century college did not exist in such isolation from the people, though few colleges became hotbeds of revolutionary activity during the war like Queen’s College (now Rutgers University). Queen’s alone attracted soldiers and aspiring legislators like James Schureman and Simeon DeWitt. It also brought to its doors printers like Abraham Blauvelt, whose newspapers became a voice for a unique type of independence, one that linked printing and university life, in the later years of the eighteenth century.
Blauvelt has a small, unexceptional entry in the printers’ file: publisher of the Brunswick Gazette from 1789-1792; publisher, with Shelly Arnett, of the Guardian, from 1792-1793; graduate of Queen’s in 1789 and recipient of the A.M. in 1792. These well-chosen facts of Avis Clarke’s, though, provide a window into the early American world of education and independence.
Every Wednesday, a notice for trustee meetings would appear in Blauvelt’s paper, The Brunswick Gazette. Not just a sign of loyalty from a Queen’s College alumnus, the notices are a sign of the change in allegiance on the part of trustees themselves. On June 5, 1781, the Legislature of New Jersey altered the charter for Queen’s by request of its own trustees, now fully in support of independence under their soon-to-be president Jacob Hardenbergh. Trustees would now take an oath of allegiance to the United States instead of to the board itself. More significantly, though, the new charter stipulated that notices for trustee meetings be published in a New York or New Jersey paper, not just a New York paper alone.
One of the last colonies to get its own paper was New Jersey. Because of its dependence on New York and Pennsylvania, New Jersey did not get its own major paper, the New-Jersey Journal, until 1779. Published by Sheppard Kollock, it was one of the first papers in support of independence in the state. In 1783, Kollock had published The Political Intelligencer and New Jersey Advertiser with Shelly Arnett, Blauvelt’s partner at the Guardian ten years later. Kollock published the first independent newspaper in New Jersey, and he Arnett printed the first newspaper with a college imprint. Blauvelt in turn printed one of the first papers to help establish independence both for the New Jersey press, Queen’s College trustees, and loyalty to a new United States.
Further reference: Demarest, William H.S. A History of Rutgers College, 1766-1924. New Brunswick: Rutgers, 1924. Hixson, Richard F. The Press in Revolutionary New Jersey. Trenton: New Jersey Historical Commission, 1975. McAnear, Beverly. “College Founding in the American Colonies, 1745-1775” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 42, no. 1 (1955): 24-44.