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Brown University faced a small crisis in 1826. With leadership that spanned a quarter of a century, President Asa Messer's accomplishments were impressive. He secured the legacy gift that transformed Rhode Island College, an institution founded by Baptists in 1764, into the university that would be Nicholas Brown's namesake. He enhanced the reputation of the school by establishing a medical college, constructing additional buildings, increasing the holdings of the library, and securing additional funding for academic programs. His enviable career, however, did not end well. The charter of Brown University provided that its president should be a Baptist, but it also forbade the enforcement of religious tests. Messer was a member of the First Baptist Church of Providence, but Baptist supporters of the school grew wary of his theological views that they believed bordered on Unitarianism. The president was already under a cloud of suspicion when a series of "undergraduate disturbances" rocked the campus. There had been other infractions of discipline under Messer, but these "deliberate, organized and protracted" incidences increased during the later years of his administration, at about the same time that evangelical constituents raised their most pointed concerns over his opinions about the deity of Christ. Messer was already losing the confidence of loyal board members and constituents, but when rampaging students plundered the library, demolished the chapel pulpit, disrupted classes and public lectures, and shattered windows in campus buildings, he lost control of the college. He tendered his resignation to the board in September 1826. (1)

22 juin
Baptist History and Heritage Society

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