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Jo[h]n Van Buren to MVB, 4 July 1828

Dear Father

This fifty second jubilee of our Independence has found me at an obscure town in the Western part of this State. I should think it would be a matter of curious speculation for those skilled in such things, to examine how little real independence there is in this Republic, which, proudly boasts of being free & Independent. I imagin[e] they would find the situation of the slave-population of the South & the Students of Yale College, tho' strikingly similar—immeasurably distant from any thing approaching to Freedom. Of course you will say this is a prelude to bad news—it is so. I was yesterday suspended by the Faculty of Yale College. The circumstances were these. After I had been <illegible> New Haven about three weeks,the President called me up & spoke ^to^ me very mildly about not attending prayers in the morni[ng] at 5 oclock. I stated to him it was almos[t] impossible for me to rise so early in the morning as I had been in the habit all my life of sleeping till breakfast but, however, I would try and if I should accidentally sleep over, of course I wd expect the indulgence of the faculty. I was at the time weak & sick and when I rose at five in the morning, I was hardly able to stand during the day. Besides all this, there were only two weeks more of the term remaining, and I thought it hardly worth while that this small inconvenience should be made up at the expense of my health. After stating these & various other things to the President he said, he should expect me to attend regularly unless prevented by something that should appear to the faculty a reasonable excuse. The next week I was absent twice in the morning, once in the evening & from Church Sunday afternoon. Altho' I had engaged two men to pull me out of bed in the morning, from some reason or other, they neglected to do it; and, of course, I could not attend prayers those mornings. The absence in the evening was by permission. Now the plain truth is, that the [f]aculty have established a sort of surveillance for me for my special advantage. There is a monitor appointed from the Class to take an account of the absences but in addition to this, there were six tutors sedulously engaged in taking an account of my absences and tardiness: and they did it with a zeal & earnestness which showed a deep interest in my welfare. The President called me up at the expiration of the week & after asking my excuses he called a meeting of the faculty who passed a s[e]ntence of Suspension upon me. As the saying is, [. . .] disgraces, but it is very inconvenient.

The time being so very short till examination they determine[d to e]xamine me privately, probably a week or so [after] class. I presume they will examine me very closely & refuse me my degree, if they dare: but as I am to stay in this retired village, for three weeks, I shall take care that they are not able to do this without flagrant injustice. It is only necessary now for you to take side with the Faculty in order to give [. . .] the degree and all in the head. If you let me have [. . .] I shall get out of this scrape as I [. . .] myself (altho' I beleive inherited the [. . .] of course the Pres[id]ent will magnify [. . .] the highest <pitch> [in] his letter to you: [. . .] trust that it will appear to you (as it did to every member of College) not only foolish but unjust and tyrannical. Several members of the class offered to send up a petition, but I did not wish to do that. The only effect of this will be to delay my examination, it will be the last scene in my strange eventful College history.  

[. . .] of money & would thank you to send [. . .] soon as possible directed to me as [. . .], and also to [en]close me the [. . .].

Yours affectionately

Jno Van Buren

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Source: PSt Pennsylvania State University, Pattee Library
Collection: Alexander Duer Harvey Collection of Martin Van Buren Correspondence, 1814-1866 (PSt)
Series: Series 5 (1 January 1825-3 March 1829)