Delazon Smith, a Student
and Character, Concluded.
of Male and
by an Alumnus: After its rather rocky first decade, Oberlin
College has become much more worthy of our
It was on this
date 160 years ago February 14, 1859 that Oregon joined
the Union. The new state's first two Senators were Democrats
Joseph Lane and Delazon Smith (left to right).
Oregon had been
admitted as a free state, but Smith, despite having studied at
abolitionist Oberlin College, did not subscribe to anti-slavery
sentiment. Having drawn the shorter straw, he received
the shorter term, which would expire when the 36th Congress was sworn
in on March 4, 1859.
Oregon's legislature declined to re-elect him, so he was out.
He had served only 18 days as a United States Senator. The seat
would remain empty until a Republican was named in the fall of 1860.
when Delazon Smith was an Oberlin student, he also served less than a
full term. His disagreement with school policy and
philosophy ... earned him an invitation to leave and not
return. Thereupon he promptly published a book telling
what was wrong with the college including even the vittles.
institutional food served in college cafeterias and dining halls has
always drawn complaints. That's why so many present-day
students will instead send out for pizza.
Smith's 1837 pamphlet Oberlin
the disaffected former student described far worse fare at his
5 of the Oberlin Covenant had proclaimed, That we may have
time and health for the Lord's service, we will eat only plain and
wholesome food ... and deny ourselves all strong and unnecessary
drinks ... and everything expensive that is simply calculated to
gratify the palate.
college's leaders therefore prohibited such sinful substances as
pork and pepper and coffee and tea. Students sometimes had to
subsist on bread and water, like prisoners! They were, however,
bemoaned the ban on all types of tea, including Bohea
and Imperial and Gunpowder. He claimed that folks from
other towns could tell that a young man was from Oberlin by his
emaciated appearance, his lean, lantern-jawed visage.
was so appalled that he exclaimed, We are led to cry out in
the language of the poet! The nine-stanza tirade that
resulted is the highlight of this installment from Smith's book.
Mode of Living.
determine, in part, the degree of civilization of a nation by the
kind, quality, and quantity of their food. Applied to Oberlin,
this rule would leave them somewhere in the neighborhood of barbarism
and pagan custom.
managers of this institution have run to very singular extremes in
attempting to carry out the Graham
System. I suppose this system consists in seeing
who can live the longest and eat the least amount of wholesome food.
this is built another system. In honor of the author, it may
be called Finneyism, and it is questionable whether it would be
received in any other community.
consists almost wholly of bread and salt, compounded with gravies,
gruels, milk and water porridges, and crust coffee.
months together dating from my first arrival in Oberlin, students to
the number of 30 or 40 were fed principally on coarse heavy sour
bread and salt! Down to a later period, bread and salt has
often constituted the only diet for meals together.
would have made our meals much more acceptable, had we but had
it. But when set on the table, its odor was often such as to
destroy the exquisite luxury of eating bread and salt.
the bread had become so unpalatable and unhealthy that we found it
impossible to subsist longer upon it, a meeting was called. To
our astonishment, individuals employed in the cooking department
stood up and testified that the steward, in making bread, boiled and
mashed old crust and then stirred in new flour.
analysis, gravies are found to consist of flour, hot water, and a
little grease of some kind. The inventive steward found that by
stirring flour into what is usually called pot liquor
(water left in a kettle after having food boiled in it), a gravy
would be made answering all purposes. How clean and wholesome
such a composition must have been must be left for the imagination of
for their crust coffee, gruel, and milk and water porridges, they
are really too filthy and contemptible to merit a comment. They
are usually known among the students as swill, slosh, dishwater, et
may be inquired how a student can sustain life on such a diet.
If students could not purchase other articles of food at the stores,
tavern, et cetera, it would be utterly impossible for many of
them to sustain their health.
board in the Commons was ten shillings ($2.40) per week, Professor
Henry Cowles declared that only 54 cents went to provisions for the
tables. The surplus was given to the Female Department and for
rent, dishes, waste, compensation of the steward, et cetera.
Professor Cowles, When I hear a student muttering about the
quality of his board, I immediately conclude that either he has been
the babe at home; or else he thinks, by grumbling, to make folks
believe that he has been used to living high.
a Professor makes a remark of this kind, there is not moral courage
enough generally among the students to resist it, such are their
developments of reverence.
system of living is by no means confined to the Commons. The
Public House of the place follows close in the wake, for even this
concern is under the direction of the author and advocate of this
truly strange system. No spices, no seasoning, no tea or coffee
can be had by townsmen or travelers, by saint or sinner.
reviewing our wrongs, and considering the conduct of the authors of
this poverty-stricken table, we are led to cry out in the language of
wond'rous age, surpassing ages past!
When mind is marching at a quick-step pace,
steam and politics are flying fast,
When roads to rails, and wine to tea gives place,
great reformers race, and none can stay 'em:
Adams, Tappan, Burchard, Finney and Graham!
Finney and Graham first: 'Twere shame to think
That you, starvation's monarchs, can be beaten,
proved that drink was never meant to drink
Nor food itself intended to be eaten,
Heaven provided for our use, instead,
sand and sawdust which compose your bread.
startling truth! We question while we stare.
A ling'ring doubt still haunts the imagination,
God ne'er meant to stint us in our fare
No doubt a prejudice of education,
fact is fact. This ought to make us humble.
brains confess it, though our stomachs grumble.
why on us pursue your cruel plan?
Oh, why condemn us thus to bread and water?
you reckon all the race of man
As rogues and culprits who deserve no quarter,
'tis your part to punish, not to spare,
putting us upon State Prison fare.
meat is poison in your sapient eyes.
No doubt you're right, and all mankind are wrong.
still, in spite of us, the thought will rise:
How, eating poison, have men lived so long?
you call it a slow poison then
takes effect at threescore years and ten.
table treasures vanish one by one
Beneath your wand. Like Sancho's they retire.
steaks are rare, and mutton chops are done.
Veal's in a stew. The fat is in the fire.
flesh and fowl are ravish'd in a trice.
Finney and Graham! Cannot one suffice?
wine was banished by your cruel fates,
O! gentle tea, for thee I trembled then,
cup which cheers but not inebriates.
Not even thou must grace our boards again!
is dethroned as I foreboded.
is dish'd. Gunpowder is exploded.
is Vile. A Cup of Coffee, Cursed.
And Food that's Fried or Fricasseed, Forgot.
is Destruction. Wine, of Woes, is Worst.
Clams are Condemned, and Poultry's gone to Pot.
and Pork are under Prohibition.
is Murder. Pepper is Perdition.
dread you not, some famished foe may rise
With vengeful arm and beat you to a jelly?
robbers of our vitals' best supplies,
Beware! There is no joking with the belly.
hope the world will in your footsteps follow.
bread and doctrine are too hard to swallow!
of Male and Female Departments.