Factcheck: Did Republican VP pick study Classics at Rutgers?

The answer is TRUE, if you are talking about Garret Augustus Hobart (1844-1899), Vice President of the United States under William McKinley.

Hobart, who graduated with the Rutgers College class of 1863 at the precocious age of nineteen, served as Vice President from 4 March 1897 until his untimely death in office on 21 November 1899, at just 55 years of age.

In his acceptance speech at the 1896 Republican National Convention in St. Louis, Hobart—an outspoken champion of the Gold Standard—memorably stated, “An honest dollar, worth one hundred cents everywhere, cannot be coined out of fifty-three cents of silver, plus a legislative fiat.” Perhaps the outstanding event of his actual tenure as VP was when Hobart as president of the Senate cast the tie-breaking vote in 1899 that denied independence to the Philippines.

Campaign ephemera from 1896; McKinley-Hobart feature on the reverse 

Born in Long Branch NJ , Garret A. Hobart grew up in Marlboro and attended Rutgers from 1860 through 1863, where he sailed through the college’s rigorous Classical Curriculum. [Full disclosure: from the day the College opened its doors in 1771 until 1864, Classics was the only major course of study available at Rutgers.—Ed.]

Old Queens (with students) as it stood in 1862

Hobart later based himself in Paterson NJ, where he was admitted to the bar—and through his business interests amassed a large fortune. He soon rose to the NJ State Assembly (1872-76), the State Senate (1876-82), and a position of prominence in the Republican National Committee (1884-96) before McKinley tapped him as his running mate in the epochal 1896 presidential election.

Garret Hobart then made himself into one of the most powerful vice presidents in American history before his death at age 55 due to heart failure. This was the closest a native, life-long Jerseyan has ever come to the highest office in the land.

Check out what the Classics Curriculum looked like when Hobart entered Rutgers in 1860…

We turn to Robert Percival Porter, The Life of William McKinley, Soldier, Lawyer, Statesman (1896) for a mildly interesting summation of Garret A. Hobart’s early years…

“Garret was very quick in his studies, so much so that when he was twelve years of age, he had outstripped the village school and was sent away from home to the Classical School of Wm. W. Woodhull, in Freehold, Monmouth county, to prepare for college. He remained there about one year, when there arose a slight difficulty between him and the master, which determined him to return home with the resolve never to go back to Mr. Woodhull. [I’d like to hear more about this—Ed.] He then entered the Classical School kept by James W. Schermerhorn, at Matawan, Monmouth county.”

“Here he made such rapid progress that in 1859 he was fitted to enter the Sophomore class at Rutgers College, at New Brunswick, NJ. However, owing to his extreme youth, it was deemed advisable to keep him home for a year, and it was not until 1860 that he matriculated at Rutgers, entering the Sophomore class.”

“His college life seems to have been uneventful. [That’s odd; he pledged Delta Phi—Ed.] Those who knew him intimately declare that he was quick of perception, full of good nature and a great lover of the athletic sports of the day.”

Old Queens campus from Somerset Street, 1860

Despite all that Classical training in secondary school, Hobart put in his best performance in the ancillary subjects of the Rutgers curriculum and on the diamond…

“He was particularly apt in mathematics, and excelled in English literature. He took a prominent part in the great National game, and figured as a member of the college base ball nine.”

“In June, 1863, at the age of nineteen, Hobart graduated from Rutgers, taking the prize in mathematics and delivering the English salutatory. Thus it will be seen that the boyhood of this young man had been a serious one, and that before he was out of his teens his life took an earnest turn.”

Lot’s more to say, but we’ll end it here!

Photos: Wikipedia Commons and Google Books, and for the 1862 Old Queens sepia image, http://kenlew.com/collections

[We ran this piece on the RU Classics blog back in October 2008, but last night’s Vice Presidential debate prompted us to dig it out once again—Ed.]

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