David Bogue began to educate students at his home in Gosport, Hampshire in 1777. Although he began with a single student, it was the start of a continuous educational enterprise and, therefore, 1777 should be seen as the beginning of his academic project, Gosport Academy. While it can be confirmed that Bogue tutored this student in his home, the early history of Gosport Academy is difficult to determine because few records survive. Only after 1800, when the academy became affiliated with the London Missionary Society, were administrative records maintained.
Nevertheless, it is still possible to divide the history of Gosport Academy into three distinct periods, each stage initiated by a major shift in the academy's management. The first period lasted from 1777 to 1789, when the academy was governed privately by Bogue. As a consequence, he had the freedom to select students and design the curriculum without interference. He accepted students from all denominations of dissent, only requiring them to hold conservative evangelical beliefs. In terms of the curriculum, he offered lectures on a variety of subjects, providing his students with a very general education geared towards philosophical inquiry. It cannot be determined exactly how many students Bogue taught during this period, but it is safe to conclude that the number did not exceed five.
The second stage began in 1789, when Gosport Academy received funding from George Welch, a wealthy London banker who was a conservative Independent. Welch, fearing the growth of Unitarianism, wanted to increase the number of itinerant evangelical preachers in Britain. He offered to support Gosport Academy if Bogue agreed to gear his curriculum towards preparing men for the conservative, itinerant ministry. The pair reached an agreement whereby Bogue developed a three-year programme and recruited three new ministerial students per year, and Welch paid him £10 per annum per student and an additional £25 for each student's room, board, and incidental expenses.
With the rise in student numbers the academy outgrew Bogue's home, so he began to hold classes in the vestry at his Gosport Independent Church. Rather than board all of the new students himself, he arranged to place them privately with members of his congregation. The most considerable arrangement was with a Mrs Shepherd, who owned a boarding house within which she accommodated several students, including most of the London Missionary Society's candidates who arrived after 1800, until her death at the end of 1812. Others found themselves in private homes scattered around the Gosport area. This arrangement implies that there were no college buildings for Gosport Academy, and that the students were in daily contact with members of the congregation who privately housed them.
Since the exclusive aim of the academy, according to Welch's desires, was to produce conservative preachers, Bogue was told to develop a curriculum that was strictly theological and, furthermore, unapologetically evangelical. Never one to take orders, Bogue adjusted his programme to have a theological bias, requiring students to complete a lengthy theology course, but Gosport ministerial students also took classes on rhetoric, Jewish antiquities, biblical studies, English, philosophy, evidences of Christianity, history, pastoral office, geography, and astronomy. In addition, students studied languages (Hebrew, Latin, Greek, and sometimes French) to enable them to read a broad range of primary theological, philosophical, and sacred texts. However, Bogue did not provide lectures on any of the languages studied at Gosport. Instead students achieved fluency by studying dictionaries, grammars, and literature written in each of the languages.
After Welch's death in November 1796, Robert Haldane, one of Bogue's earliest students, and the Hampshire Association of Ministers jointly supported the academy for three years. In 1802 Haldane offered to subscribe £100 a year for three years if Bogue took on ten more students and his other friends found the remainder of the sum required. The cost of each student was £40 a year for board and education. Among those who responded to the printed circular was Robert Spears of Manchester, who promised £25. Subsequently, the Hampshire Association of Ministers assumed full patronage. Both Haldane and the Association strongly supported Welch's original evangelical proposal, so Bogue maintained the academy's purpose of training men for the Independent ministry.
In 1800, the academy entered the third stage of its history when the London Missionary Society appointed Gosport Academy to be its official missionary training seminary. This move came only after the Society experienced a series of failures in its inaugural missions to the South Seas and South Africa, and it subsequently learned the value of educating missionaries prior to deploying them in unfamiliar territories. According to the 'Report on Missionary Training', proposed by the London Missionary Society after the failure of its earliest missions, the two aims of the Society's training seminary were to be 'the communication of knowledge, and the formation or rather strengthening of good dispositions' (SOAS, CWM/LMS, LMS Board Minutes, FBN 1: Slide 9, May 5, 1800). Since the rest of the directors lacked experience in academy administration, the report also nominated Bogue for the office of 'Tutor to the Missionary Seminary' and sought his leadership for the purpose of designing the curriculum. Bogue accepted the proposal on 4 August 1800.
Henceforth, Gosport would continue to accept students who wanted to enter the Independent ministry in Britain, but it would mostly enroll London Missionary Society candidates. Like the Independent ministry programme, the Society's training course was to last for three years, but Bogue often allowed a missionary to depart Gosport prior to the end of this time period if he needed to be deployed sooner. In such a case, the missionary candidate crammed the remainder of his studies into whatever time he was given prior to his departure.
All students at Gosport, regardless of whether they were studying to become missionaries abroad or ministers in Britain, undertook the same set of courses, outlined above, with one exception: London Missionary Society students enrolled in an additional lengthy class on 'Missionary Instructions'. In this series of lectures, Bogue provided an overview of the history of missions and then outlined his unique mission strategy, which he expected the students to follow closely after arriving in their assigned fields. According to Bogue's strategy, the missionaries were not expected to preach directly to natives. Instead, they were charged with another task: namely mastering native languages, composing a translation of the Bible into the natives' tongue, and publishing a dictionary and grammar which could be used as a resource by future missionaries. Upon completion of these tasks, missionaries were to compose and publish other theological texts (a list of which Bogue provided) and then to establish a school for natives. It was at such a school that the missionaries were expected to engage intellectually and theologically with the natives and to pass the Gosport programme and evangelical tradition to others. Bogue recognized that not every missionary could accomplish these goals in a lifetime, so he continued to train men who would later be deployed to replenish the mission and continue the construction of this large project, the building of which would have commenced with the arrival of the first Gosport-trained agent.
In terms of his teaching method, Bogue read to his students an outline of the main points of each lecture's topic and then provided them with a list of required readings. The students, in turn, copied the template, consulted the assigned resources, and filled in the details on their own. The candidates later presented their completed notes to the tutor, after which he provided a response if and where appropriate. As a result, each Gosport alumnus left the academy with his own transcribed set of Bogue's lecture notes, making it much easier to establish a Gosport circle that spanned the globe yet which followed Bogue's original model.
In terms of the texts consulted at Gosport, it is clear from Bogue's outlines that, while commentaries and philosophies were valued, the Bible was the ultimate authority, particularly in the theology, missionary, and preaching lectures. His teaching was distinctly nondoctrinal, despite his personal beliefs. A proponent of a liberal education, Bogue wanted his students to be well read on a variety of topics so that they could eventually set up their own schools. The establishment of further dissenting schools, Bogue made it clear in his lectures, was the best way in which British Protestant dissent could spread throughout the world. Accordingly, Gosport students read a wide variety of books, all of which were to be found in Bogue's personal library. In 1808, Cornelius Winter, who had educated students for the ministry at Marlborough and Painswick, left a considerable part of his library, some 850 volumes 'selected by himself for that purpose' ('Religious Intelligence', Evangelical Magazine, 16 (1808), 179), to the London Missionary Society for the use of the academy at Gosport.
David Bogue was the only tutor at Gosport Academy until August 1817, when his son, David Bogue Jr, an alumnus of Gosport Academy, joined his father in order to serve as classical tutor. David Bogue Jr resigned from this position four years later, after which it was filled by Theophilus Eastman, another Gosport graduate, who remained until the elder Bogue died in 1825. With Bogue's death, the London Missionary Society appointed Ebenezer Henderson as superintendent and resident tutor of Gosport Academy. However, in 1826 the academy closed, mainly due to the withdrawal of funding by the London Missionary Society, which had decided to establish a new seminary on the premises of the then vacant Hoxton Independent Academy, near the Society's headquarters in London.
In its lifetime, David Bogue's Gosport Academy educated more than two hundred men, over half of whom were London Missionary Society missionary candidates. The majority of these were successful in planting the seeds of Protestant dissent in communities throughout the globe, taking their Gosport lecture notes with them, following closely Bogue's innovative mission strategy, and sharing his dissenting worldview with all of the disparate peoples and cultures they encountered. The direct result of their efforts is an ever-expanding global Protestant community that owes its existence to this single dissenting academy. Among Bogue's more celebrated students were James Bennett, theological tutor at Rotherham Independent College and historian of dissent, Robert Morrison, who first translated the Bible into Chinese, and John Angell James, minister of the important Congregational Church at Carr's Lane, Birmingham.
Christopher A. Daily
The administrative history of the academy post-1800 is recorded in the minutes of the London Missionary Society (SOAS, CWM/LMS, LMS Board Minutes, FBN 1-4).
Chetham's Library A.2.123 Bogue Lecture Notes, transcribed by Revd William Johns.
Congregational Library Archives, II.a.43-45 Bogue Lecture Notes, transcribed by John Angell James.
Dr Williams's Library L14/1-L14/9 Bogue Lecture Notes, transcribed by Isaac Lowndes.
Dr Williams's Library L14/10 Bogue Lecture Notes, transcribed by Richard Elliot.
Dr Williams's Library L14/10 Bogue Lecture Notes, transcribed by Richard Elliot.
John Rylands University Library Eng MS 369/13 Letter on a printed circular from James Bennett, Romsey, to Robert Spears, Manchester, Esq., 7 Dec 1802.
University of Edinburgh, Special Collections MSS BOG 1-MSS BOG 7 Bogue Lectures Notes, transcribed by Joseph Frey.
University of Edinburgh, Special Collections MSS BOG 9 David Bogue, 'Miscellaneous Loose Papers' NC Archives.
University of London: School of Oriental and African Studies Library CWM/LMS, Home Odds, Box 25 Bogue Lecture Notes, originally taken by Robert Moffat and reproduced by Revd William Roby.
University of London: School of Oriental and African Studies Library CWM/LMS, LMS Board Minutes, FBN 1-4 London Missionary Society Board Minutes.
University of Wales Lampeter GB 1953 DBLN Bogue Lecture Notes, transcribed by unknown author.
Bennett, James, Memoirs of the Life of the Rev. David Bogue, D. D. (London, 1827).
Bogue, David, The Theological Lectures of the late Rev. David Bogue, D. D., ed. Joseph Samuel
Frey, 2 vols. (New York, 1849).
Daily, Christopher A., 'From Gosport to Canton: A New Approach to the Beginnings of Protestant Missions in China', unpublished PhD thesis, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (2010).
'Religious Intelligence', Evangelical Magazine, 16 (1808), 179, 537.
Terpstra, Chester, 'David Bogue, D.D., 1750-1825: Pioneer and Missionary Educator', unpublished PhD thesis, University of Edinburgh (1959).
Christopher A. Daily, 'Gosport Academy (1777-1826)', Dissenting Academies Online: Database and Encyclopedia, Dr Williams's Centre for Dissenting Studies, March 2012.