Kirkland, John Thornton, Dd, Lld
Kirkland, John Thornton, D.D., Ll.D.
an eminent American Unitarian divine, was born at Herkimer, N. Y., Aug. 17,1770. His youthful days were spent at Stockbridge, Mass. At the age of thirteen he went to Phillips Academy, then under the care of Dr. Eliphalet Pearson, and in 1785, with the patronage of the excellent judge Phillips, he entered Harvard University. He passed through college with a high reputation for scholarship, especially excelling in the departments of languages and metaphysics, and graduated in 1789 with distinguished honors. Shortly after he went to Stockbridge, and commenced the study of theology under the direction of Dr. Stephen West; but the strict views of theology to which he was here introduced were little to his taste, and he soon after returned to Cambridge, where he found himself in a much more congenial theological atmosphere. In November, 1792, while still prosecuting his theological studies, he was appointed tutor of metaphysics in Harvard University, and held this office until February, 1794, when he was ordained, and installed pastor of the New South Church, Boston. Here he soon drew around him an intelligent and discriminating congregation, among whom were some of the leading men of the times. In 1802 he was honored with the degree of doctor of divinity from the College of New Jersey, and in 1810 with the degree of doctor of laws from Brown University. So high was his professional reputation at that time, and so commanding the influence he had acquired, that in 1810 he was elected to the presidency of Harvard University. Dr. Kirkland's presidency marked a brilliant epoch in the history of the college. Under his administration the course of studies was greatly enlarged; the law school was established; the medical school reorganized; four different professorships in the academical department endowed and filled; three new buildings erected, and immense additions made to the library. In August, 1827, he suffered a stroke of paralysis, which led him, in March, 1828, to resign his office as president; and in April he set out on a long journey through the Western and Southern States, and afterwards spent three years and a half in visiting foreign countries. He died April 26,1840. Dr. Kirkland was a person of simple, dignified, and winning manners; he had great natural dignity; there was an unstudied grace in his whole bearing and demeanor. His mind was of an ethical turn; he was distinguished as a moralist, and seemed to possess a thorough, intimate, and marvellous knowledge of men. He was remarkable, too, for the comprehensiveness of his views and the universality of his judgments. He always generalized on a large scale, and even his conversation was a succession of aphorisms, maxims, and general remarks. Iis publications consisted of a few occasional Discourses, several- contributions to the periodicals of that day, and a Memoir of Fisher Ames. See Ware, Amer. Unitarian Biog. i, 273; Christian Examiner. 29:232. (J. L. S.)