American Slavery and American Freedom at Princeton University

Tree at princeton

Samuel Finley planted this sycamore after the 1766 repeal of the Stamp Act

As some of you know, I was at Princeton University last week for the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History summer seminar on colonial America.

Each year the teachers take a tour of colonial-era Princeton.  One of our stops is the Maclean House (aka The President’s House), the home of the earliest presidents of the College of New Jersey at Princeton.  Aaron Burr Sr., Jonathan Edwards, John Witherspoon, and several others lived here.

McLean House

The President’s House at Princeton University: a view from Nassau Street

According to Princeton lore, Samuel Finley, the president of the college, planted two sycamore trees in the front yard of the house to commemorate the repeal of the Stamp Act in March 1766.  They still stand today. (See pics above).

Did Finley’s slaves plant these trees?

Here is a 1764 sketch of the campus with Nassau Hall on the left and the president’s house on the right:

Nassau 18th

In May 2019, the Princeton & Slavery Project complicated the story of this house and its relationship to American liberty. Visitors will now get a better glimpse of the close relationship between slavery and freedom at Princeton by viewing this plaque:

Plaque at Princeton

Plaque placed at the President’s House by the Princeton & Slavery Project in May 2019

plaque-2

President’s House with the plaque

 

3 thoughts on “American Slavery and American Freedom at Princeton University

  1. “In May 2019, the Princeton & Slavery Project complicated the story of this house and its relationship to American liberty.”

    I hope they COMPLETED it, not complicated it. There’s enough of that around already.

    We had a sycamore in my front yard my dad planted sometime about 1952. By 2016 when we sold the house after my mom died it looked to me about the size of the two trees pictured.
    But I don’t have expertise with sycamore growth.

    It looks like worthy research.

    Like

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