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CLAP, Thomas, Rev. [1703-1767] -- American educator

Relationship to me: 1C10 (by marriage)
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He was born in Scituate, Mass., June 26, 1703; son of Deacon Stephen and Temperance Clap; grandson of Samuel and Hannah (Gill) Clap; and great-grandson of Thomas and Abigail Clap.

He was graduated from Harvard in 1722. He then studied theology and in August, 1726, succeeded the Rev. Samuel Whiting as pastor of the church at Windham, Conn. He was especially learned in mathematics, astronomy and philosophy. He constructed the first orrery or planetarium made in America.

In 1739 he was chosen president of Yale college as successor to the Rev. Elisha Williams. His people in Windham were so unwilling to part with him that the matter was referred to an ecclesiastical council, who advocated the change, and on April 2, 1740, he was formally installed in the presidency. The state legislature voted to pay an indemnity of 53 to the people of Windham for the loss of their minister.

On assuming the duties of his new office Mr. Clap at once drew up a code of laws to supersede the laws of Harvard college, which had until then been in use at Yale. These were published in 1748 in Latin, the first book published in New Haven. In 1745 he obtained a new charter for the college from the state legislature, and in 1752 a new building was erected. He next called for a new chapel which was completed in 1763 and many marked improvements were made under his administration. Whitefield's visit to New England brought some unpopularity upon President Clap, who had no sympathy with the revivalist.

After several unsuccessful attempts by the trustees to secure a professor of divinity he was invited in 1753 to preach to the students in college hall. This course was objected to by the New Haven church, which claimed the college as within its parish boundaries. In 1756 a professor of divinity was chosen. Other controversies increased his unpopularity and a memorial was sent to the legislature petitioning for an examination into the college affairs. A written denial of the charges made was prepared by him and the memorial was dismissed by the legislature.

In 1765 he called for the resignation of two of the tutors, who had embraced the opinions of the Sandemanians. The remaining tutor then resigned, as did the successors shortly afterward. President Clap offered his resignation in July, 1766, and after conferring the degrees in September he retired from office.

He was married in 1727 to Mary, daughter of the Rev. Samuel Whitney, by whom he had two daughters: Mary, who became the wife of David Wooster, afterward major-general in the Revolutionary army, and Temperance, who was married to the Rev. Timothy Pitkin, son of Gov. William Pitkin of Connecticut.

Among his publications are: "An Introduction to the Study of Philosophy" (1743); "The Religious Constitution of Colleges, especially of Yale College, New Haven" (1754); "A Brief History and Vindication of the Doctrines received and established in the Churches of New Eugland, with a specimen of the New Scheme of Religion beginning to prevail" (1755); "An Essay on the Nature and Foundation of moral Virtue and Obligation" (1765); "Annals or History of Yale College" (1766); and "Conjectures upon the Nature and Motions of Meteors, which are above the Atmosphere" (1781).

He died in New Haven, Conn., Jan. 7, 1767.  -30-
 

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