123 Papers Relating to the Charters of 1697 and 1700


    Morley’s Hotel

    London January 31, 1851

    To His Excellency Abbott Lawrence

    &c. &c. &c.

    My Dear Sir,

    Agreeable to your request I have made diligent search in Her Majesty’s State Paper Office for papers relating to the history of the Charter of Harvard College. Enclosed herein please find accurate transcripts of such documents as I have met with. Several other papers referred to in these transcripts have not yet been found, but I have not abandoned the search, and hope in the course of the next week to find them, if more exist. The search has been much more laborious than I at first anticipated, I being obliged for the want of proper indexes to wade through a large number of volumes of Manuscript between the period 1680 and 1720. The search however is to me an interesting one, and shall be done thoroughly.

    The Documents annexed will explain themselves.

    I will only add that, unless the transcripts hereafter shall be more voluminous than I expect, my charges for the search and the transcripts will be nothing. I am well paid by the pleasure of making the investigation.

    I hope to complete the search in the course of the next week, when I will hand you the result. Meanwhile believe

    Yours sincerely

    Henry Stevens.


    At the Council Chamber at

    Whitehall the 24th day of November 1698.


    Their Excellences the Lords Justices in Councill.

    Upon reading this day at the Board of Representation from the Council of Trade dated this day, relating to severall Acts past in New England, Their Excellencys the Lords Justices in Councill are pleased to approve the same. And have ordered that divers Lawes therein Mentioned, be Repealed. And that other laws be confirmed, according to what is proposed by the said Representation. That the Act Incorporating Harvard Colledge at Cambridge in New England be also Repealed, the same not being framed according to His Majesty’s former Order in Councill. And the Right Honourable the Councill of Trade are to signify to the Government of New England the Reasons why the said Act relating to Harvard Colledge has been Repealed by their Excellencys.

    [signed] John Povey

    S.P.O.B.T.1 New England. Vol. 9, C 24 [Original].


    January 3 1698/9


    Entered folio 89.

    Extract of a letter of the Earl of Bellomont2 to the Board of Trade dated Boston 29th Aug. 1699.

    “Having been informed that the Assembly here had formerly passed two Acts at severall times for Incorporating Haruard Colledge, and that they were transmitted to England for his Majesty’s approbation, in both which they had excluded his Majesty from the right of visitation: and that therefore the said Acts were rejected by his Majesty for that reason I thought it best to put that matter in another method, and proposed in my said speech to the Assembly their addressing his Majesty that he would graciously please to grant his Royall Charter to Incorporate their Colledge as in that Paragraph of my speech may be seen, but the sour part of the Councill (who make a majority) would not hear of a Charter, tho’ I had reconciled the Ministers to it, and they very active and solicitous with the Members of the Council and House of Representatives to go by way of addresse. The Bill then for Incorporation of the Colledge passed the Councill and H. of Representatives, but when it was tendred to me, I refused giving the assent to it, because I would not be guilty of the absurdity of sending an act for the Kings Royall approbation which he had twice refused before, and also because of a Clause in the said bill which excluded absolutely all Members of the Church of England from the Government of the Colledge and consequently from being members thereof. The said Clause I send.”











    S.P.O.B.T. New England. Vol. 9, D 33.

    Extract of Gov. Bellomont’s speech to the Councill and House of Representatives. 2d June 1699. [printed]

    “I would very gladly promote a charter of Incorporation for your Colledge at Cambridge and will heartily joyn with you in addressing His Majesty for his Royal Grant of such Priviledges and Franchises as His Majesty in His Goodness shall Think fit. Tis a great Advantage you have above the other Provinces that you are not put to Travel far for Learning, but have the Muses at their Doors. Besides that Colledge will always be a Nursery to afford you a supply of able Ministers for the cure of souls. Therefore ’twere pity the King’s Royall Charter should not be solicited out of hand.”

    S.P.O.B.T. New England. Vol. 9, D 34.

    Extract from the Answer of the House of Representatives to the Governor’s speech dated 6th June 1699. [printed]

    “We also look upon ourselves peculiarly obliged to express our most grateful Resentments of Your Excellency’s favourable Inclinations to promote the settlement of the Colledge which under Almighty God hath been the great Barrier against the Invasions of Barbarism and Irreligion in this Country, and if settled upon an agreeable foot will be the peculiar Glory, as well as Interest of this Province above all other His Majesty’s Plantations In America. And we shall be glad to take such proper steps for the Incorporation of that Society; as it may not for the future be liable to such Inconveniences as of late have happened to it.”

    S.P.O.B.T. New England. Vol. 9, D 35.

    “Copy of a Paragraph proposed in the Act for Incorporating Harward Colledge at Cambridge in N. England.

    And whereas the first planting in this countrey and founders of this Colledge were as to their perswasions in matters of Religion such as are known by the name of Congregational or Presbyterian, and the general profession and practice of the Churches throughout this land hath been as is according thereunto. And the College being intended as a Nursery of these Churches.

    Be it Enacted that no one shall be the President or a Fellow of said Corporation but such as declare themselves and continue to be of the said perswasion in Matters of Religion.

    a true copy


    Enclosure No. 7 in Gov. Bellomonts Letter to the Board of the 29th August 1699.

    S.P.O.B.T. New England. Vol. 9, D 40.

    Extract of a letter of the Earl of Bellomont to the Board of Trade dated Boston the 15th July 1700.

    [I] “Will now proceed to say something about the Settlement of Harwood Colledge which seems to Involve the ardent desires and affections of these people beyond all other things in this world, for as they have an extraordinary zeal and fondness for their Religion, so any thing that disturbs ’em in that touches them in their tenderest part. I Joined with the Assembly in this Addresse, not because I approve at all of their church government, but out of a principle of moderation, for tho’ I have all my life been of the Church of England, yet I have ever thought the Protestant Churches in the wrong to quarrel about the modes of worship and the externals of it, when the essentials of Religion were the same; therefore I have long since concluded in my own mind that we ought to bear with our Protestant brethren in their way of worship, and leave the rest to God Almighty whose prerogative it is to govern the consciencies of men, and whoever goes about to abridge Protestants of the exercise of their Consciences does not rightly distinguish between the quarrel of some hot headed Churchmen and the cause of God. Your Lordships know very well I have not spared to acquaint you with the faults of these people, and I am as plain with them; but then I reprove ’em with Temper, and not with passion, and I Indeavour to reason ’em out of their errors, by which means I have gained upon ’em; and I flatter my selfe much, if I have not a good Interest in the people here of all sorts and ranks which Interest I labour to Improve for the Kings service and Interest of England.

    I have desired Sir Henry Ashurst to wait on your Lordships from time to time, and receive your directions towards Carrying on the Colledge Charter. The General Assembly do not desire there should be any clause in the Charter exclusive of Members of the Church of England, but they desire the power of visitation may be lodged in the Governour and Council, and not in the Governor singly, and they give this reason for it, viz: That as this Country is very remote from England, a Governor that were a violent man, and an enemy to their Religion might probably vex and distract the whole people of this province by an attempt upon their Colledge in order to Innovate in Matters of discipline or Religion, and that before they Could make their Complaint to the King and be relieved against such a Governor. I hope your Lordships will gratifie ’em in this point which I humbly Conceive is reasonable enough, as it is consonant with the liberty of Conscience which the Act of Tolleration allows, with his Majesty’s generous Temper and singular Moderation and with the wisdom of the Government of England, which I am apt to believe will think it safest and best to cramp those people (as often as they deserve it) in their Trade, rather than to abridge or disturb their Consciences; if it be objected that the lodging of the Visitation in the Governor and Council is derogatory to the Kings prerogative: I answer ’tis not so great a consideration in the King, as the Constitution of his Majesty’s Council in this Province who by an expres clause in their Charter are annually chosen by the House of Representatives. There is this to be considered too, that whenever these people abuse the Kings Grace and favour a Writt of Quo warrants or an act of Parliament will reach ’em.”








    S.P.O.B.T. New England. Vol. II, H 34.

    Entered folio 202.

    Extract of an original letter of Gov. Bellomont to Mr. Secretary Popple dated Boston the 16 July 1700.

    “My letter to your board will inform you among other things of the address of my selfe and the Generall Assembly to the King, wherein we complain of the Incroachments of the French on the fishing and Eastern bounds of this province; and supplicate his Majesty for his Royall Charter of Incorporation for Harvard Colledge. I make it my earnest request you will favour and promote the Charter with your board, and that you will please to advise and assist Sir Henry Ashurst in carrying it on, and managing his solicitations rightly.”








    S.P.O.B.T. New England. Vol. II, H 45.

    Entered folio 229.

    May it please your Lordships

    The General Assembly of this his Majestys Province of the Massachussets Bay in New England having judged it necessary to renew their humble addresses to his Most Excellent Majesty with reference to the Encroachments of their ill Neighbours the French, as to boundaries and fishing on the high Seas on the Eastern Coasts: as also for a Settlement of Harvard Colledge in Cambridge, within the said Province: and having likewise prayed the favour of our truly noble and virtuous Governour the Earl of Bellomont to accept the trouble of managing that important affair.

    We the Council and Representatives of the said Province make bold to acquaint your Lordships thereof, and humbly request That your Lordships will be pleased to do us the honour to present our said Address to his Majesty and to give it such countenance and favor for the obtaining of the great ends therein proposed for the honour and Interest of the Crown, and the well being and the repose of this his Majesty’s Province as your Lordships in your great wisdom shall think fit.

    We ask pardon for this trouble and are with great respect

    Your Lordships

    Most humble and most

    Obedient Servants

    [Signed] Isa. Addington Secretary

    In the name and by order of the Council

    [Signed] John Leverett

    In the name and by the order of the House of


    Boston July 13th 1700

    [Endorsed:] Letter from the Council and Assembly of the Massachusetts Bay to the Board relating to their address to the King about the Encroachments of the French &c. Dated the 23d July 1700.








    S.P.O.B.T. New England. Vol. II, H 46.

    Entered folio 232.

    Whitehall 8th October 1700

    My Lords,

    The Lords Justices desire you will lay before them the Draught of the Charter you lately received from the Earl of Bellomont for Harward Colledge in New England, together with such alterations and additions as your Lordships conceive necessary for his Majestys service, to be made in the same.

    I am

    My Lords

    Your Lordships’

    Most humble and obedient servant

    [Signed] R. Yard

    Lords Commissioners of Trade

    [Endorsed:] Massachusetts Letter from Mr. Yard of the 8th Inst. about the Charter for Harvard Colledge.


    Oct. 9 1700


    S.P.O.B.T. New England. Vol. II, H 49. Entered folio 253.

    The 29 October 1700

    Honourable Sir,

    In my return from Exeter, which was not untill last night I found yours of the 9th which commands mee to send a Draught of a Charter which I send you per this bearer and itt shall not bee many dayes before I wait on you my selfe in the same time I am

    My Lord Commissioners

    Your most humbel faithful Servant

    Hen. Ashurst3

    For The Honourable William Popple Esq.

    [att the office of the Commissioners of Trade at the Cock Pit near White Hall]

    [Endorsed:] Massachusetts Letter from Sir Henry Ashurst with a copy of a Charter agreed to by the Council and Assembly of the Massachusetts Bay for Incorporating Harvard College.



    Nov. 1700



    S.P.O.B.T. New England. Vol. II, H 62.

    Entered folio 303.

    Papers Relating to the College, 1698–1700. These are nineteenth-century copies; included is a copy of the Charter of 1700, which has not been printed here. The brackets are in the copy. Abbott Lawrence (1792–1855) was Ambassador to Great Britain at this time; Henry Stevens (1819–1886), well-known bookman, had gone to London from this country in 1845.