William & Mary 1800 - 1849

John Smith1801

The marble statue of Norborne Berkeley, Baron de Botetourt, originally placed on the Capitol piazza in 1773, was purchased by the faculty for $100 and moved to the College Yard, where it stood until 1958. The statue is one of the best extant examples of commemorative public sculpture from the English colonies in the United States.

1812, March 6

The Right Reverend James Madison, Bishop of Virginia and president of William & Mary since 1777, died.


Dr. John Augustine Smith, the Reverend John Bracken's successor as president, began a series of lectures on politics. When published the following year, his work, A Syllabus of the Lectures Delivered to the Senior Students in William & Mary, on Government, became one of the first textbooks on American government.

Adam Empie

An attempt to move William & Mary to Richmond as a means of increasing enrollment proved unsuccessful. After Williamsburg ceased to be the capital of the state, the decline of the city affected William & Mary; but despite many difficulties, the university remained a vital force in Virginia's cultural life. Removal to Richmond was again attempted after the Civil War.


Beginning with this session, and continuing until 1881, a complete list of William & Mary students was kept in a matriculation register. An earlier volume, listing students from about 1780 to 1827, was known to exist in 1855, but was probably destroyed in the fire of 1859.


The first William & Mary catalog was published by Edmund Ruffin, of Petersburg, Va. This 16-page pamphlet contained a roster of faculty and students, a description of the curriculum and a list of textbooks used in each course.


Dr. John Millington offered William & Mary's first course in civil engineering. While here, he wrote Elements of Civil Engineering (1839), one of the earliest American textbooks on the subject.

1836, July 6

Thomas Roderick Dew was appointed 13th president of William & Mary. Under his administration William & Mary flourished. He assembled an able faculty, and student enrollment grew to 140 in 1839-the largest in the history of the university until 1889.

College Yard 1840
1842, July 4

Following an oration by Judge Nathaniel Beverley Tucker (Class of 1802), William & Mary President Thomas R. Dew (Class of 1820, 1824 A.M.) proposed that alumni continue to meet annually on July 4 "as often as their convenience and avocations will admit." The resolution was adopted, officially establishing the Society of the Alumni, the sixth oldest alumni organization in the United States and the second oldest in the Commonwealth of Virginia.


During this period William & Mary made repeatedly unsuccessful attempts to secure from Congress compensation for the destruction of certain buildings during the Revolutionary War.

John Johns1848-1849

Dissension arose among the Board of Visitors, the faculty and the citizens of Williamsburg regarding the administration of William & Mary affairs. "It was deemed advisable to suspend the Exercises, excepting those of the Law Class, for one year to give time for the excitement and prejudice … to subside." Benjamin S. Ewell agreed to serve as acting president for the academic year 1848-1849.


During his first year as president, the Right Reverend John Johns (see right), then Assistant Bishop of Virginia, found only 21 students enrolled at William & Mary. Bishop Johns enlarged the faculty slightly, raised the morale of the students and brought enrollment to 82 students during the last year (1853-1854) of his incumbency.