Brown University's Honorary Degree Awards to
William Carey and Joshua Marshman
In recognition of the accomplishments of both William Carey and Joshua Marshman, Brown University awarded each missionary the honorary Doctor of Divinity (D.D.) degree, Carey in 1806 and Marshman in 1810. The American university's recognition of British Baptist missionaries related to the North Atlantic evangelical network in the 18th-19th centuries. The immediate connection was the Baptist identity of Carey, Marshman, and Brown University.
Brown was the Baptist answer to Congregationalist Yale and Harvard, Presbyterian Princeton, and Episcopalian Penn and Columbia. At the time, it was the only one that welcomed students of all religious persuasions (following the example of Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island in 1636 on the same principle). . . . Founded in 1764 as the College of Rhode Island in Warren, Rhode Island, the school registered its first students in 1765. It moved in 1770 to its present location on College Hill, overlooking the city of Providence. In 1804, in recognition of a gift from Nicholas Brown, the College of Rhode Island was renamed Brown University ("About Brown, History of Brown," Accessed, March 27, 2009). [1883 Historic Collage of Brown University Scenes.]
Between 1769 (the first year of honorary degree awards at Brown) and 1840, the recipient list of honorees includes ministers of various denominations, academics, physicians, signatories of the Declaration of Independence, Revolutionary War heroes, U.S. presidents, senators, and congressmen, members of the judiciary, and diplomats. Britons, Continentals, and Americans occupy the list. Prominent figures included John Newton (1773), Nathanael Greene (1776), Granville Sharp (1786), Thomas Jefferson (1787), John Hancock (1788), George Washington (1790), Alexander Hamilton (1792), Joseph Priestly (1793), John Jay (1794), and John Adams (1797).
Numerous British Baptists received Brown's honorary degree between 1769 and 1830: Caleb Evans, John Collett Ryland, Benjamin Beddome, Hugh Evans, Samuel James, John Reynolds, Isaac Woodman, John Ryland, Benjamin Fuller, John Ash, Abraham Booth, Benjamin Davis, Robert Day, Moses Gregson, James Jennings, John Gulton, John Poynting, John Rippon, James Newton, John Fawcett, Benjamin Francis, Morgan Jones, Samuel Pearce, Andrew Fuller [declined?], Joseph Hughes, William Steadman, William Newman, John Evans, William Jones, Joseph Kinghorn, Thomas Steffe Crisp, and William Harris Murch. Brown also awarded honorary degrees to other missionaries to India, including two Americans Luther Rice (1814) and Adoniram Judson (1823), and the British Baptist missionary William Yates (1830).
At the time of the degree awards to both Carey and Marshman, Asa Messer, D.D., LL.D., was president at Brown. Samuel Stillman, D.D. (1788), the longtime minister (1765-1807) of First Baptist Church, Boston, Massachusetts, wrote a letter on September 1, 1806, recommending that William Carey be awarded the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. For images of this letter, click here: Obverse Reverse Address (Images courtesy, Brown University Library). Stillman had received Brown's D.D. in 1788. After Stillman's retirement, Francis Wayland, (1796-1865) became president at Brown (1827-1855), and in 1836, Wayland was the compiler and author of the introductory essay in the first American edition of Eustace Carey's Memoir of William Carey, D.D. (1836).
Record of Honorary Degree Awards to Carey and Marshman (Adobe Acrobat file)
Courtesy, Jay Gaidmore, University Archivist
Brown University Library Archives
Providence, Rhode Island, USA
Carey Center Home Page
Created: March 27, 2009 Updated: April 7, 2009