204 History of Wake Forest College
who might have claimed that against their will and in violation of the
Constitution they were being made to contribute to enterprises of
None of our States has, however, thought it inconsistent with the
principle of separation of church and state to exempt from taxation
property used for religious purposes. Our States do not tax the
endowments of colleges, though some of them tax the real estate. In
the field of education both church and state find legitimate work, and
here their provinces and functions overlap. Hence the state, finding
the church educating its citizens, has been willing to make
compensation therefor to a limited extent in tax exemptions. But even
when thus regarded I suspect we should find, if we should carry our
analysis to its logical conclusion, that in this is a union of church and
state unwarranted by our fundamental law.
On other and, I think, more tenable grounds, the favor of the State
to so-called denominational colleges can be justified. After all,
denominational schools are creatures of the State. Like other public
service corporations they are created by the Legislature which
determines their organization, management, powers, limitations,
continuation and term of life. In granting them charters the State only
authorized certain groups of individuals acting in a corporate capacity
to do a work which otherwise the State itself should have to do in
another and possibly less efficient way. If at the same time the church,
while doing the work of the State, trains its students for its own work,
this is no reason for the State's withholding its aid.
Whether the view just given be accepted or not, the Trustees of the
College in 1840 certainly had no time to argue such questions. They
had to have money to pay the many pressing debts of the College or
allow it to be sold under the hammer. As I have said in a previous
chapter these debts amounted to not less than twenty thousand dollars.
The Trustees were being driven from pillar to post in their effort to
stave off the day of reckoning and were now at their last stand.