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Can you clarify this

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Can you clarify this sentence to me?  
von Deseret (SI), Last modified: 2017-06-19, 11:04  Spam?  
The mode of founding a college is, commonly, to get up a subscription of dollars and cents, and then, following blindly the principles of a division of labor to its extreme—a principle which should never be followed but with circumspection—to call in a contractor who makes this a subject of speculation, and he employs Irishmen or other operatives actually to lay the foundations, while the students that are to be are said to be fitting themselves for it; and for these oversights successive generations have to pay.

What is a "subscription", "subject of speculation" and what does "fitting themsleves for it" mean?
von Windfall (GB), 2017-06-19, 12:47  Spam?  
I think here "subscription" probably means "financing". I originally read it as "donation", but, on reflection, I don't think that's right. It may refer to people paying (in advance) for education at the college.
I think "subject of speculation" means "something the contractor financially speculates on" (presumably the contractor builds the college without being certain he will be paid or for a share of the profits). I guess that "fitting themselves for it" means "preparing themselves for it".
Other people may have other views on meanings. This appears to be a US text, so my interpretation is likely to be less good than a US speaker's interpretation. I've just added my views to get the ball rolling.
Some guesses:    subscription  -  a pledge ?  #872533
von anon., 2017-06-19, 14:43  Spam?  77.10.38....
a subject of speculation  -  he tries to squeeze as much money as possible out of it without much regard to needs of the future students (who are to be fitting themselves for it  =  they have to adapt to what's there) and probably cutting some corners by employing  (cheap) Irishmen or other operatives ( = workers)
Thank you both  #872549
von Deseret (SI), Last modified: 2017-06-19, 19:42  Spam?  
von Dwight (US), 2017-06-20, 04:50  Spam?  
"Subscribe" in the sense of "contribute or pledge to contribute funds to a project, charitable cause, etc." is nowadays seldom used in American English, although Thoreau evidently knew it.
von anonymous, 2017-06-20, 11:32  Spam?  100.4.125....
"Subscribe" in the context of funding a new college was used to describe a monetary pledge which entitled the benefactor to attend lectures free of charge. I'm not sure if this scheme is still practiced in the U.S. If not, it partly explains why 'subscribe' is no longer used in the context of giving.
von Deseret (SI), Last modified: 2017-06-20, 17:18  Spam?  
4;anonymous, 11:32
That's a very informative comment, thank you!
von Dwight (US), 2017-06-20, 18:18  Spam?  
Allowing subscribing donors to attend college lectures free of charge sounds like a special incentive, like the coffee mugs, tote bags, books, CDs, etc., offered nowadays to donors at various "levels" by non-profits seeking to raise funds. It may have occurred but wasn't a routinely expected element. In the case of the fundraising for the foundation of Dartmouth College (in 1769), "the subscription in England and Scotland amounted to the generous sum of nearly ten thousand pounds". As the subscribers were wealthy individuals in Britain and the new college was to be in a sparsely settled part of New Hampshire, there was clearly no expectation that donors might come to college to audit lectures.

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