One of Ohio's earliest colleges, Alma College (earlier known as Alma Academy) was founded in 1818 and became Franklin College in 1825. Its founders were primarily of Scots-Irish descent who had settled in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio and were of the Presbyterian faith. Many nineteenth-century national and international leaders attended this school, including 8 U.S. Senators, 9 U.S. Representatives, 32 State Legislators, and 2 Governors. Notables include John Bingham, author of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and chief prosecutor of President Abraham Lincoln's assassins; Civil War General George W. McCook; Ohio Supreme Court Justice John Welch; and Joseph Ray, publisher of the universally popular school text Ray's Arithmetic. The slavery question bitterly divided the school, and its enrollment declined in the years following the Civil War. Franklin College closed in 1921, and its charter was later transferred to Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio.
Cornerstone of Civil Rights
John Bingham, Franklin College class of 1837, was the primary author of Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment protects the privileges and immunities of American citizens and guarantees due process of law and equal protection. Bingham later wrote to Franklin College classmate and friend, Reverend Titus Basfield, a former slave, "In the Fourteenth Amendment I sought to obtain for all human beings, including the long oppressed members of your race, the precious rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This means due process of law whereby the judicial system must look benignly at a person's attempt to seek redress of wrong to his immortal rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."