Chapter Five continued...
Even in antebellum society, however, Gallaudet's gentry class was often still able to maintain its dominion over lower classes, because paternalism remained appropriate between individuals at different levels of Connecticut's hierarchical society.
Thomas Gallaudet had entered Yale in 1802, the youngest in his class. There he came under the influence of Timothy Dwight, Yale's president, one of the most charismatic religious leaders in postrevolutionary New England. Dwight indoctrinated young Gallaudet with the concept of benevolent Christian paternalism: a conviction that all human institutions, whether family, school, church, or civic, should replicate the divine government that God had instituted over mankind, thereby mimicking the Heavenly Father's role with his earthly children. Implicitly, Dwight believed that less-fortunate Americans should willingly defer to the paternalism of a select, highly educated, and socially prominent few whom God had chosen to lead them. Thus the Christian paternalism that Thomas Gallaudet learned from Dwight was the rationale for a still-vigorous social order in early-nineteenth-century Connecticut.
Once graduated, Gallaudet experimented with careers in law, business, and academe before deciding to become a Congregational minister. By the spring of 1815, he was a recent graduate of Andover Seminary. He had prepared himself there to preach the gospel and was mulling over an appointment to the pulpit of a congregation in New Hampshire when his neighbor, Dr. Mason Cogswell, approached him with a different suggestion: to direct the first school for deaf persons in the United States.
Cogswell was a highly respected physician in Hartford. After his beloved daughter, Alice, had been deafened, he invited a small group of prestigious friends to spearhead a public drive to establish an American school for deaf children. The men he had invited were leaders in Hartford - businessmen, professionals, and clergymen - who believed it was their duty to act as community stewards of benevolence and wealth.