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Henry Ruffner

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Name  Henry Ruffner

Died  December 1861
Education  Washington and Lee University
Books  The Fathers of the Desert: Or, An Account of the Origin and Practice of Monkery Among Heathen Nations; Its Passage Into the Church; and Some Wonderful Stories of the Fathers Concerning the Primitive Monks and Hermits

Henry Ruffner (January 16, 1790 – December 17, 1861), was an educator and Presbyterian minister, who served as president of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University).


Ruffner was educated at Washington College in Lexington, Virginia; he graduated in 1813, then he studied for the Presbyterian ministry. While at Washington College, Ruffner was a student of Professor William Graham, who had graduated from Princeton in 1773. In 1819 he returned to Washington College as a professor of ancient languages. In 1837 he became president and delivered an inaugural address that emphasized such classic themes as self-control and the importance of education in guiding American society. In 1847 he published an anti-slavery pamphlet, Address to the People of West Virginia; showing the Slavery is Injurious to the Public Welfare, (that became known as the "Ruffner pamphlet"). The pamphlet grew out of a debate that Ruffner had before Lexington's Franklin Society over slavery with Lexington Law School Professor John White Brockenbrough and Virginia Military Institute Professor Francis Henney Smith. Though Ruffner was quite critical of "abolitionists," he argued against slavery on economic grounds and was criticized occasionally by proslavery politicians in Virginia in the decade before the war. This moderate anti-slavery position seems to have represented something of a change because he had published a novella in 1839, Judith Bensaddi whose title character argued against abolition of slavery.

During his presidency, such speakers as Princeton educator Archibald Alexander (himself a graduate of Liberty Hall, the predecessor of Washington College), Minister Elias Lyman Magoon, and Professor George Dabney delivered graduation addresses at Washington College. Some of Ruffner's colleagues at Washington College were George Dabney and George Dod Armstrong.

Ruffner's views brought him into conflict with some members of the College and Lexington community, where relations were already strained because of conflicts between the missions of Washington College and the Virginia Military Institute and because of sectarian disputes. Ruffner tendered his resignation as president in 1848. He was replaced by George Junkin, then president of LaFayette College, who had lost his job at Miami University in Ohio a few years early for his pro-slavery views.

Ruffner spent some time teaching at the University of Virginia in 1850 and 1851; he visited Louisville, Kentucky, where he continued his anti-slavery advocacy. He is purported to be the author of a brief attack published around 1849 on Ellwood Fisher's proslavery pamphlet, Lecture on the North and South, though the attribution is questionable. His other work includes The Father of the Desert, published in 1850. Ruffner then returned to Kanawha; he delivered a pro-Union speech in on July 4, 1856.

Ruffner died shortly after the Civil War began.


Henry Ruffner Wikipedia

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