12 Mar 2007

Elihu Yale Portrait Exiled

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Elihu Yale with servant

Oh, Yale was begun back in Seventeen One
With a gift of books weighing nigh a ton.”

the old song inaccurately states.

In reality, it was in 1718 that the Welsh nabob Elihu Yale (1649-1721) responded affirmatively to a request from Cotton Mather, and bestowed 417 books, along with “nine bales of goods” worth over £560, and a portrait of King George I upon the then struggling Collegiate School of Connecticut. This bequest permitted the erection of a new building to house the college in New Haven, which was duly named for its benefactor.

The March/April issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine contains an article (not yet on-line) informing us that last month the University agreed to remove a portrait of Elihu Yale from the Corporation Room in Woodbridge Hall, in response to complaints.

The dark and antique portrait shows Yale sitting beside a window displaying his trading ships, attended by a dusky servant wearing a metal collar.

The forces of Political Correctness are long on outrage, and short on acumen, and have unhappily mistaken the dark-skinned Indian servant for an American Negro slave, and the servant’s ornamental silver collar as a yoke of bondage.

Yale may be an educational institution, but University Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer JD’77 has announced that the task of educating the offended is beyond Yale’s abilities. “Since the portrait is confusing without the explanation [that Elihu Yale did not own slaves], I have decided it would be prudent to exchange that portrait of Elihu to another one in the University’s collection,” Lorimer said.

Ah, the courage of our University officials!

Yale Daily News, February 7

Hartford Courant, February 8

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