Joshua Lawrence Chamberlan: The Bowdoin College Site


From Joshua L. Chamberlain
to F.O.J. Smith, Brunswick, April, 21, 1859

During his tenure as a Professor from 1856 to 1862, Chamberlain corresponded much with the parents of students. The following letter provides a perfect example of some of the correspondence that Chamberlain had with parents. Here, Chamberlain speaks to a concerned father about why his son was denied promotion to the senior class.  The student was most likely Francis Bartlett Smith, a non-graduating member of the class of 1859 who was denied admission into the Senior Class

Brunswick April 21st 1859

Dear Sir:

I have taken some interest in your son's case, + I wish to say a word in relation to his case as it has appeared to me.

During the five months he was reciting to me, his attention to study gave me great satisfaction. The last month of the time he was not so constant at recitation as before, owing to his being out of town. This is the only exception I can take on the score of attention to study. He was not quite prepared to join his class when he left me, but could easily have finished what remained in my department in a few weeks.

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His conduct, so far as I had any opportunity of knowing, was such as to encourage the expectation that he would find no difficulty in being admitted to College again. I hear it remarked by several persons that he had never been doing so well before.

But just as he was about to apply for examination, some reports came to the Faculty from what source I do not know which were of such a nature as to forbid his admission, in the judgment of the Faculty.

I told Frank of this as soon as it came to my ears, + was very desirous that he might be able to remove this obstacle to his completion of the College course.

But the impression is still very strong on the part of the Government that the reports have some foundation,

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and my view of it is that this is the real reason of his not being admitted to examination.

I have repeatedly stated to the Government the favorable opinion I had formed of your son's conduct with me, but these reports seem to be of such a nature as not to be affected by my own knowledge or opinion of his deportment.

I think there is no other reason of any importance why he is excluded form examination but these stories, + they seem to have got such a footing here that they seriously affect his reputation. Though no one, it appears, has any positive knowledge or proof against him. I regret exceedingly that it has turned out so for him, but I suppose now he will have to build up a character + so live down these

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rumors which have done him this mischief.

I shall be glad if any thing in my power to do, could assist him in carrying out the good resolutions he has made.

I have written hastily, late at night, + may not have said just what was important to you, but I wished to give you my own opinion of the reason why your son was not admitted to examination, + also to bear testimony to his good conduct so far as I know or am able to learn of him.

I am

very truly yours

J.L. Chamberlain


Hon F.OJ. Smith


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Citation: George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College, Joshua L. Chamberlain Collection, M27.

Index Terms: Examination; Smith, Francis; Conduct; Professor; Department of Rhetoric; Bowdoin College; Oratory; Student Life

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