He attended Phillips Exeter Academy about nine months in 1794, was further prepared for college by Dr Samuel Wood, the minister at Boscawen, and graduated at Dartmouth College in 1801.
The town has a public library and some old houses built in the colonial period, and is the seat of Phillips Exeter Academy (incorporated in 1781 and opened in 1783).
It was founded by Dr John Phillips (1719-1795), a graduate of Harvard College, who acquired considerable wealth as a merchant at Exeter and gave nearly all of it to the cause of education.
He was a Free Soil candidate for Congress (1850), but was defeated; was indicted with Wendell Phillips and Theodore Parker for participation in the attempt to release the fugitive slave, Anthony Burns, in Boston (18J3); was engaged in the effort to make Kansas a free state after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854; and during the Civil War was captain in the 51st Massachusetts Volunteers, and from November 1862 to October 1864, when he was retired because of a wound received in the preceding August, was colonel of the First South Carolina Volunteers, the first regiment recruited from former slaves for the Federal service.
A very charming piece of work of a lighter kind was inspired by a question from his friend, Mrs Katherine Phillips (the "matchless Orinda"), asking "How far is a dear and perfect friendship authorized by the principles of Christianity?"