King's College reopens with a new name, thanks to the help of alumni Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, witnesses several charter revisions, becomes Columbia College in the City of New York, and moves to midtown.

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Alexander Hamilton

King's College reopens with a new charter and a new name, Columbia College. John Jay (Kings College 1764) and Alexander Hamilton (Kings College 1774–1775), are instrumental in the College's reopening. The 1784 charter declared Columbia the "mother college" of the University of the State of New York, with Governor George Clinton as chancellor. The College's governors are now called regents.

The governor's son, DeWitt Clinton, a transfer from Princeton, is the now-republicanized college's first student.

Columbia College graduates its first class of eight students, among whom is future governor and statesman, DeWitt Clinton.

President William Samuel Johnson

A new charter vests Columbia's governance in a self-perpetuating 24-member board, redesignated as "the Trustees of Columbia College in the City of New York."

William Samuel Johnson, the son of the first president and a lawyer, is elected third president of Columbia. He takes up his duties after serving as a member of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, alongside Alexander Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris. He is the second layman to preside over an American college.

James Kent

James Kent offers a course on American law. After some early interest, few students avail themselves of Columbia's early venture into legal education, and the course is abandoned in 1797. His Commentaries on American Law (1826-28, 1830) are among the most important pre–Civil War works of legal scholarship.

Samuel Latham Mitchill

Samuel Latham Mitchill, professor of natural history, chemistry, and agriculture, publishes The Medical Repository, the first medical journal in the United States.

President Rev. Charles Henry Wharton

The Reverend Charles Henry Wharton is elected Columbia's fourth president, but resigns after five months without ever taking up his duties.

President Rev. Benjamin Moore

Benjamin Moore (Kings College 1768), former acting president of King's College and now rector of Trinity Church and bishop of New York, becomes Columbia's fifth president. He resigns in 1811.

The Philolexian Society, Columbia's first student-run literary society, is established. It is followed seven years later by a second, the Peitholgian Society.

The Charter of 1810

A new charter is issued to the College by the State of New York; it remains in force to this day.

The 1811 Commencement

William Harris, an Episcopalian minister, is elected sixth president of Columbia College, with John Mitchell Mason, a Presbyterian minister, its first provost and chief operating officer.

Protestors disrupt graduation ceremonies at the Riotous Commencement after a student is denied his diploma for failing to soften the democratic sentiments in his oration, as instructed by the faculty.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons

Columbia's medical faculty merges with the College of Physicians and Surgeons, ending the college's involvement in medical education for 84 years; the College of Physicians and Surgeons will nominally affiliate with Columbia in 1860, but not become an integral part of the University until 1891.

The Elgin Botanical Garden

The State of New York gives Columbia the 14-acre Elgin Botanical Garden, located well above the settled part of Manhattan (later between Fifth and Sixth avenues and from Forty-seventh to Fifty-first Streets). In 1929 it becomes the site of Rockefeller Center, some of the most valuable real estate in the world.

President William Harris

Mason resigns as provost; Harris remains president until his death in 1829.

Book of Grants and Endowments to Columbia University in the City of New York

A grant of 10,000 dollars from the New York legislature marks the end of early state support of the College.

President William A. Duer

William A. Duer becomes Columbia's seventh president, and the second layman to hold the position in an era when clerical presidents remained the norm.


The opening of the University of the City of New York, later New York University, presents Columbia with its first local collegiate competition; trustees decide to offer a nonclassical curriculum option in response.

George Templeton Strong

Columbia College sophomore George Templeton Strong begins a daily diary, which he will continue for 38 years and 2,250 pages. It will become a key source document for historians on nineteenth-century New York City life.

President Nathaniel Fish Moore

Nathaniel Fish Moore, the nephew of former president Benjamin Moore, becomes Columbia's eighth president; he had earlier been a lawyer and served on the faculty.

President Charles King

Charles King succeeds the resigning Moore as Columbia's ninth president. He had earlier been a newspaper publisher and was the son of one-time trustee Rufus King.


Trustees decline to appoint Wolcott Gibbs (Columbia College 1841) as professor of chemistry, despite urging by the country's leading scientists. Some trustees had objected to his Unitarianism. Following the Gibbs Affair, as it is known, subsequent faculty appointments will have less trustee involvement.

The Elgin Botanical Garden

The Elgin Botanical Garden (Upper Estate) begins to be developed for commercial tenants; it soon becomes a major source of Columbia's income.

The 49th Street Campus

Columbia sells its Park Place campus and moves to Midtown — Forty-ninth Street and Madison Avenue, the former site of the New York Deaf and Dumb Asylum. The main hall of the College at Park Place, built in 1760, is demolished in May.

Next: Early Columbia University [1858–1901]

Alexander Hamilton
A revolutionary leader, secretary of the treasury, and architect of the American economic system.

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