179 Nicholas Sever’s Grievances
Reasons for the fellows Signing the third Quarter Bill in March 1717/18
We apprehended that the laws of the College Expressly and fully gave the fellows power to do it. We might indeed have given way to Mr. President in that matter as we had done in many others, that there might be no disagreement between Mr. President and the fellows. But the reasons that swayed us not to do so in that instance were that we apprehended that Mr. President had encroached upon the just rights of the fellows and that he had born hard upon me in particular. We apprehended that Mr. President had encroached upon the rights of the Fellows. I shall here mention several matters of fact that look that way. The disposition of the study’s alwayes used to be made by Mr. President with the fellows, but of late years Mr. President has taken it intirely into his own hands, and although we have mentioned to him our dissatisfaction, by reason of his leaving us out of the business he dos so still.
Again in the business of Mr. Pierpont1 when Mr. President seemed to manage it by himself. I told him that in my opinion the matter ought to be decided by himself with the fellows, and that it was not only my opinion but that the rest of the fellows tho’t so too, upon which Mr. President told me that he did not value the opinion of the fellows as to that matter, and that he would decide the matter himself when and as he pleased, that the Government of the house was committed to him alone, and that the fellows ought not to be concerned with such matters here.
At another time when two freshmen excused themselves from reading in the Hall by saying that they had been detained by me, Mr. President punished them a shilling a peice, and when I spake to him of it he told me that such an excuse of their being detained by the fellows should not avail any thing, which is contrary to the 12th and fourteenth statutes of the Latin laws which excuses schollars from punishment when they omit their stated business if they have the leave of Mr. President or the fellows for it.
And in this instance of the Bill, after we had signed it, Mr. President did not only object that it was defaced, but asserted that the fellows had no right to sign the Quarter Bills at all, when there is a President residing, which with submission we apprehend that we have by the law, and thus we humbly conceive that Mr. President had encroached upon the rights of the fellows; and in that instance of the Bill, we tho’t it might not be amiss to make a stand and despute the matter fairly, since we tho’t the law was express and full on our side; and when we saw that after Mr. President had gained one point of us he aimed at another, and after we had complied in many things, beyond what we tho’t ourselves obliged to, in strictness, that there might be no disagrement we found that Mr. President expected still further, and greater compliances, we tho’t it a proper time to dispute our just rights, and I cant but think that we had good reason for it in that Mr. Presidents encroaching so upon our just rights must needs tend to make us nothing at all here.  As to myself in particular I believe it was the Opinion of every body here that was acquainted with circumstances that Mr. President did not somtimes treat me with that justice and friendship, that one of the fellows of the College might reasonably expect from the President. And I shall here mention several plain matters of fact, that occur to my [mind].
Upon my first election here I understood that Mr. President used to publish the Election of a fellow, in the Hall before he expected that he should proceed to the business of the house, upon which I waited upon him som dayes after my Election to know if he intended to give any publick Notice of it, before I proceeded to the business of the house. He told me yes, there was a form for it in the book, which he would look over, and set a time, and have it done, and I waited upon Mr. President afterwards several times, thinking it might be out of his mind, and because I was very unwilling to take any step without his direction, but nothing could be done. Mr. Brattle asked me every time he saw me, if it was done, and I understood that he spoke to Mr. President several times about it, and he was exceedingly troubled and concerned that it was delayed. Mr. Pemberton too heard of it, but not from me, and was greatly dissatisfied that Mr. President should upon such a circumstance, keep me out of the business of the house so long, and when I endeavoured privately to regulate some disorders in the house, was told by one of the [members?] that altho there had been a rumour of my being chosen a fellow, yet publick Notice of it was expected by the scholars before I acted as such, and thus I hung in suspence, and was a fellow, and no fellow from the begining of April to the begining of July purely because I was loth to go before Mr. President directly but thus advised I entered upon the business of the house publickly altho nothing of that nature was done.
Again, as to the business of Tiverton.2 Altho when Mr. President proposed it to me, to go thither, I excused myself for many good reasons and told him that I could not possibly engage in that service, he afterwards went to the Governour and when I excused myself to his Excellency to his satisfaction, Mr. President still followed the Governour to lay his commands upon me to promote my going thither and urged Dr. Mather to perswade me to go thither as he told me, which (when he understood how matters were circumstanced) he told me he could not do, and Mr. President managed the matter in a very uncommon way. When my indisposition was such, as rendered me hardly fit for constant preaching any where, and when I utterly declined that service for many good reasons, that Mr. President should labour to that degree to get me posted at Tiverton, I tho’t to be somthing extraordinary.
Again, just before the Bill in controversie came out, Mr. President directed the Orators to postpone me to Mr. Robie, in the Valedictory Orations in the Hall, wherein I apprehended he did not do me justice. Mr. Robie was indeed a fellow of the College before I was, but I was a Master of Arts in the house when he was admited, and when Mr. Holyoke went off the second salary of course fell to Mr. Robie, but I never supposed that the Corporation meant to give Mr. Robie the precedence, for for them to do so would have been in effect to degrade me seven Classes only that I might be capable to serve the house, and under the notion of going into the Hall to receive a complement, Mr. President so managed the matter, that I was to receive the rudest affront and greatest abuse imaginable, which that I might avoid, I sent for the Orators, received their compliment privately, I absented myself and directed them not to mention my Name in the Hall.
And as to the Bill in controversie which Mr. President refused to sign, because of its being defaced, the Bill immediately before which was made up by Mr. Flynt and signed by Mr. President without any difficulty appeared to me to be as much defaced as that, and his refusing to sign mine when he signed others as bad looked to me like a partiality for my mortification, and his refusing afterwards to have it transcribed by Mr. Robie when he offered to do it was a confirmation of it to me, and it would not satisfie Mr. President to have it done by any body but me. And when Mr. President talked to Mr. Robie and myself upon that business it was with extream disorder and passion, he told us that we had not the common sence of Mankind, that we had not three grains of sence, and used such words as I took to be perfectly indecent if it were towards servants, and I must confess that that treatment of us was very hard of digestion with me, yet altho I was very [put out?] I dont remember that I returned one indecent word towards Mr. President.
The fellows of the College are in my Opinion low enough, and now the College is encreased to nigh double of what it was, twenty years ago, if the condition of the fellows now, be compared with theirs so long ago, I beleive we shall appear much lower. As to our subsistence it is much short of theirs, as appears by the Books, and as to our interest in the Corporation it is much weaker, and as to this Triennial Act of the Corporation, if this use be made of it, if at the three years end, every little story may be bro’t in against a man to his disadvantage, and to destroy his caracter, it appears to me to be an additional weakening. And when the College is so greatly encreased, and consequently the burden so much heavier to bring the fellows lower, and make them weaker is strange to me. It would look more proper, and reasonable to me, (though I speak this with great submission to Mr. President and the Corporation) as the College encreases and the burden grows heavier to set the fellows higher rather, and make them stronger, and the contrary to weaken, and lessen them must in my humble opinion have a bad tendency. And if we are left with little more than a Name to govern the house, we must needs become despicable in the eyes of those we ought to govern. And although we have the advantage and strengthening of a resident President now which there was not then, yet Mr. President is usually here only morning and evening where as it is expected that the fellows should be constantly within the walls, and the weight and difficulty of the business must therefore lye very much upon them.
I will conclude with saying that I apprehend it to be absolutely necessary that there should be a good agrement between Mr. President and the fellows of the College, and in order to it, that it is necessary that both he and they move in their proper spheres, and if the fellows are disrespectfull to Mr. President, it has a tendency to make him uneasie, and on the other hand if Mr. President encroaches upon the just rights of the fellows of the College and that interest that they have alwayes had in governing the house by the laws, and antient customs of it, it has a tendency to make the fellows uneasie. And I believe I may say both for my brethren here, and myself, that we have at all times, endeavoured to shun everything that appeared to us to be disrespectfull to Mr. President. And we have tho’t somtimes that in the instances I have mentioned, and some others, Mr. President has been too much alone, and as the fellows apprehend it to be their right, it would be a satisfaction to them to be with him in all matters of importance in the College.
And upon the supposition that the Bill was a bad one, and ought to be condemned, Mr. President with the fellows should have condemned it, and for Mr. President of himself to condemn the Bill, was pretty high. And when he sent his commands to me to transcribe it, I did not think myself obliged to obey.
College Papers, i. 47 (No. 105). This is the first salvo in the controversy between Nicholas Sever (A.B. 1701) and President Leverett. Sever was elected a Tutor on April 9, 1716, and on the same day the Corporation voted a so-called Triennial act, by which no Tutor or Fellow of the House could hold a Fellowship for more than three years, unless by a new election. Leverett may have objected to the “placement” of the students by the Tutors in the disputed quarter-bill. See Hoffmann, Commonwealth College, p. 526. Like most of the Sever documents, this is closely written on sheets measuring 7½″ x 6″, four pages to a sheet. Only one page (2) is numbered.