Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Calvin Pease Papers, 1839-1863

Finding aid created by
A. B., October 1992

Summary Information
Title: Calvin Pease papers
Creator: Pease, Calvin, 1813-1863
Inclusive dates: 1839-1863
Extent: 72 items
The Pease collection consists of letters to family members, letters to the state legislature of Vermont, commencement speeches, lectures, funeral eulogies, and sermons written by Calvin Pease a pastor, professor, and president of the University of Vermont.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1991. M-2728.1.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Calvin Pease Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Calvin Pease was born in Canaan, Conn., on August 12, 1813, the fifth child in a family that claimed New England Puritan ancestry. Pease was raised as the middle child in a flock of nine sons and one daughter. His mother was the daughter of Dr. Thomas Huntington, his father, Salmon, was a farmer. In 1826, the family moved to Charlotte, Vt., where Pease worked on his father's farm and attended the common school before enrolling in the Hinesburg Academy in 1832. In the following year, he entered the University of Vermont and under the sway of the religious enthusiasm of the Second Great Awakening, pursued a course in theology. He was a distinguished scholar, standing first in his class at the time of his graduation in 1838. In 1851, Pease was licensed to preach by the Winooski Association of Congregational Ministers and embarked on a ministerial career characterized by an adherence to Calvinistic orthodoxy.

For four years following his graduation from the University of Vermont, Pease acted as principal of an academy in the state capital of Montpelier. While there, he met Martha Howes (1823-1903), and one year after he was elected to the Professorship of Greek and Latin languages at the University of Vermont (1842), the couple were married.

A brilliant philologist, Pease became well known for conscientious linguistic accuracy in his instruction. He was awarded a Doctor of Divinity from Middlebury College in 1855, and the next year he was selected as president of the University of Vermont -- the first alumnus and first University of Vermont professor to rise to the office. Throughout his tenure, Pease emphasized the merits of the classical curriculum, and as a member of the State Board of Education and President of the Vermont Teachers' Association, he took an active role in shaping state educational policy. Amid all this activity, he continued with an active scholarly career, regularly contributing to the Bibliotheca Sacra and publishing a large number of works, including The Import and Value of the Popular Lecturing of the Day (1842) and The Idea of the New England College and its power of culture (1856). He often preached in the college chapel, publishing several of his sermons, and his close interest in the personal welfare of each student made him one of the University's most revered presidents.

Calvin Pease labored to place the University on a firmer financial standing, and he guided it successfully through the monetary crisis of 1857-1858. With the onset of the Civil War, the University entered its most serious economic crisis due to a drastic reduction in enrollment. The roster of graduates shrank from 25 in 1861 to only 3 in 1866. At least 190 University students and alumni served in the Civil War, the greatest number (16) with the 1st Vermont Cavalry. The 1st Vermont fought in 75 battles and skirmishes, and lost 392 men out of 2,304 who passed through its ranks. In 1861, poor health and disputes over the curriculum led Pease to resign the presidency of the University and to accept the pastorship of the First Presbyterian Church of Rochester, N.Y. (1861-63).

A committed abolitionist, his first mention of slavery was in a sermon on April 4, 1850, when he delivered a stinging denunciation of the Fugitive Slave Act. Other recurring themes in his sermons were temperance, the duties of Christian citizens to state and nation, the unconditional authority of the Bible, and the attainment of personal holiness in this life. Pease died of dysentery in Burlington on September 17, 1863.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Pease collection consists of 72 manuscript items spanning a 24 year period (1839-1863). The collection is diverse, comprised of letters to family members, letters to the state legislature of Vermont, commencement speeches, lectures, funeral eulogies, and above all, sermons.

The earliest documents in the Pease papers consist of letters from Pease to his brother, Thomas, discussing the state of his health and family matters. Among the lectures are ones pertaining to the temperance movement, the parental duties of a Christian household, the "Thorough Method of Learning Language," and discussions of Classical Greek culture.

In six of the sermons included in the collection, Pease made occasional reference to the horrors of slavery, often regardless of the sermon's topic, and he was an inveterate supporter of the Union cause. Slavery, he wrote, is the "cause of all our woe" (1861 May 26), and in his commencement sermon of June, 1863, he mentioned two classmates who had recently volunteered in the war, to their "everlasting honor." Elsewhere, he wrote that freedom is a slave's inalienable birth right (1863 January 4). Finally, in a 1861 sermon entitled, "The Claims of Vermont Upon her Citizens," Pease refers to William Henry Seward's speech before the U.S. Senate and Vermont's obligation to comply with volunteers.

The photographs associated with the collection include images of Calvin and Martha Pease, their five daughters, James Marsh (first President of the University of Vermont), and James Burrill Angell and son. Angell served as the president of the University of Vermont from 1866-1871, and thereafter of the University of Michigan. He was a close friend of Pease, although there is no other mention of him in this collection.

Subject Terms

    • Conduct of life.
    • Sermons.
    • Temperance.
    • University of Vermont.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Angell, James Burrill, 1829-1916.
    • Marsh, James, 1794-1842.
    • Pease, Calvin.
    Genre Terms:
    • Lectures.
    • Photographs.
    • Sermons.
    • Speeches.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Calvin Pease papers,  1839-1863 [series]
    Box   1  
    Box   2  
    Box   3  
    Box   4  
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Marshall, Jeffrey D. Universitas Viridas Montis 1791-1991 (Burlington: Univ. of Vermont, 1991) p. 34.

    Daniels, Robert V. The University of Vermont, The First Two Hundred Years (Burlington: University of Vermont, 1991) p. 97

    Related Materials

    Calvin Pease. Sermon preached before the graduating class of the University of Vermont, August 2d, 1857(Burlington, Vt., 1857).

    Alternate Locations

    The photographs have been transferred to the Graphics Division.

    Partial Subject Index
    Antislavery movements--Vermont
    • 1861 May 26
    • 1862 July 6
    • 1862 September 21
    • 1863 January 4
    • 1863 January 18
    Conduct of life
    • passim
    Sermons, Congregational--Vermont
    • passim
    • 1861 May 26
    • 1862 July 6
    • 1862 September 21
    • 1863 January 4
    • 1863 January 18
    • passim
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
    • 1863 June
    University of Vermont
    • passim