University History: Founding of Brown University

Brown University traces its origins to 1764 with the granting of the Charter by the Rhode Island General Assembly.  The founding was promoted by Reverend Morgan Edwards, moderator of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, in 1762.  Under Edward’s leadership, Rhode Island was selected as a likely site, since the colony had been settled by Baptists, was still largely governed by Baptists, and had no college.  A representative of the Association, James Manning, visited Newport in July 1763, where he met with “about 15 gentlemen of the same denomination” at the home of Deputy Governor John Gardner.  The plan for a college was immediately accepted and in August, 1763, a Charter was presented to the General Assembly in Newport.  After postponement, a different charter was presented at subsequent sessions and granted on March 2 and 3, 1764, for the “College or University in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.”  James Manning went on to become the first president of Brown University, often referred to as “Rhode Island College” until 1804.

Primary sources:

Rhode Island College miscellaneous papers, MS-1C-1 (contains digitized materials)

James Manning papers, MS-1E-1 (contains digitized materials)

Secondary sources:

Guild, Reuben Aldridge. Early History of Brown University: Including the Life, Times, and Correspondence of President Manning. 1756-1791. Providence: [Printed by Snow & Farnham], 1897.

Bronson, Walter C. The History of Brown University, 1764-1914. Providence: Published by the University [Brown University], 1914.

Brown, Robert Perkins, et al. Memories of Brown: Traditions and Recollections Gathered From Many Sources. Providence, R.I.: Brown Alumni Magazine, 1909.

“Founding”, Encyclopedia Brunoniana