183 Complaints Against President Leverett

    [ca. 1718–1723]


    Instances of Mr. Presidents high and Arbitrary Managements in the College


    his disposing of the Studies intirely of himself.

    In the case of Mr. Pierpont he told me when I proposed to call the fellows to consider of the matter with him that they had no business with it and that he would determine the matter himself when and as he pleased.

    In the case of Pierpont1 the undergraduate when he was by the President and fellows degraded half way to the bottom of his class Mr. President afterward of himself degraded him to the bottom.

    In placing A Class in their order when all the fellows were agreed upon the Head, he told me that we ought to say as he did, and would not finish the matter, till by delaying he had wearied them out, or some of them who for peace sake did say with him, although greatly dissatisfyed with his high managements.

    And lately in placing of another Class, when Mr. President nominated one for the head, and he was fairly Negatived yet Mr. President persists in it, will not nominate any other or Suffer the class to be placed unless we come into his sentiments. And I dont find any other form of Government but the Corporation and Overseers Either in the Charter or Laws.

    The Charter is at best imperfect, and the Government founded upon it cannot be very strong, but this New Model renders the College Government sensibly weaker than formerly and it will not long be practicable upon this foot. It dos now [labour?] and if it endures as it has done it wont long be practicable. The Society grows great and unweildy, and in My Opinion all the powers and Authorities that the Charter gives the Corporation are too little for the President and governing of it.2


    1. [1] By reason of the fellows of the College being out of the Corporation, and their being straitened in their allowances their Authority and Credit in the College is visibly lessened.
    2. [2] And it being so Mr. President has managed the Affairs of the College more of himself than formerly, his disposing of the Studies without the fellows knowledge is an Instance of it, and [this] takes off the dependence of the Scholars from the fellows in some measure, and consequently lessens that regard which they ought to have toward them. Formerly in the case of Pierpont I proposed to call the fellows to consider the matter with him, he told me he did not value their Opinion, that he would himself decide the matter when and as he pleased, that the Government of the College was commited to him alone, and that the fellows had no business with such matters. At another time, Mr. President punished two freshmen3 for not reading in the Hall, a shilling Each, although they Excused themselves by saying that they had been detained by me, and when I spoke to him of it he told me that such an Excuse of their being detained from their business by the fellows should not do, which is contrary to the 12: and 14: of the Latin Laws. And in the case of Brattle,4 when all the fellows were of a different opinion from Mr. President, he told me that he knew better than I did, and that we ought to say as he said, and would not finish the matter, till by delaying he had wearied out some of the fellows who for peace sake did say with him, although dissatisfyed with his high management. And lately in the case of Pierpont when the President and fellows agreed together that he should be degraded half way to the bottom of the Class, Mr. President without any knowledge of the fellows degraded him quite to the bottom of the Class.
    3. 3 Since the fellows Authority and Credit in the House is thus lessened, they have met with discouragements in their business, and even from Mr. Presidents treatment of us, which we have tho’t has shaken the Government of the College in that the undergraduates being in some Measure apprehensive of the difficulties the fellows are under from Mr. President and of his disposition to bear them down, have been wont upon very little occasions to make complaint to Mr. President who we think has been too ready to hearken to such complaints. Thus in the case of Parker5 when for a bold insult upon me I gave him a box on the Ear Mr. President upon his complaint countenanced him by saying what! did he box you? and allowed of a formal prosecution against me by Parker, a Senior Sophister.

      And in the case of Wolcot,6 when I gave him the like punishment for a fault that deserved it immediately upon his complaint Mr. President called me to an Account and when I prayed that he would not receive complaints against the fellows from the undergraduates in little matters because it would inevitably hurt the Government of the College, what said he do you think it a light matter to box a Schollar? and reprimanded me with extream heat and passion and notwithstanding all that I could say allowed of a prosecution against me from Wolcot, a junior sophister.

      And in the case of Wentworth,7 when upon a complaint I punished him a shilling for a disorder that deserved it, immediately Mr. President fell upon me with great Anger, for it, as if I had been guilty of some great crime.

    4. 4 And by reason of the little interest that the fellows have, important affairs are delayed from time to time, and although we have often desired of Mr. President that they might be finished they are not, and we cant get through with anything, and these delays the fellows have tho’t of great diservice to the Government of the House. Thus Marshals8 complaint against Nelson,9 a year and half ago came to nothing, Gooches10 insult upon Mr. Robie last May or june, with several other crimes since lye unpunished, and Lambs11 punishment has been suspended for above half a year, and altho we have often put Mr. President in mind of these things we cant have them finished.

      We cant get the Class of freshmen placed.

    [C] May 27, 1721.12 This morning Mr. President and Fellows met upon the Affairs of Sir S. & W. In the case of W.,13 Mr. President told the Fellows (upon his being ask’d, whether they were then to decide in the matter) that if we were for restoreing W., he should be restored, but if We were against it, he would carry the Affair to the Corporation and without allowing us time for Debate, he immediately call’d for the Fellows Opinion. They were equally divided, and he decided it in favour to W.

    In the Affair of Sir S.14 Several persons charg’d him with keeping them in Commons after he had received an order to put them out. Mr. President frown’d upon them for what they alleag’d against Sir S. and for want of the Evidence of Some of the Servitors that were then Absent, the affair was refered to another time, but never after taken any Notice of.

    [D. ca. April 1723.]15

    Mr. President himself was greatly insulted by P. after his degradation, in the Hall in his declamation after some talk relating to his own circumstances he concluded with this Distich

    Esto animo forti, cum Sis damnatus iniqué

    Nemo diu gaudet, qui judice vincit iniquo16

    Mr. President had his windows broke likewise in the night.

    Mr. Flynt and myself have had our windows broke in the night Several times when we have punish’d persons for their disorders.

    Mr. Flynt was insulted by the firing of a gun at the foot of his Stairs upon his going up to his Chamber.

    Apr. 1723: I inform’d Mr. President that notwithstanding I had charg’d my Pupils not to absent themselves from their business, yet Severall of them had been Absent, Some, two, three, four, or five Months, without leave.

    I likewise inform’d him that Several that were present particularly B. and M. were daily negligent of their business, and that I had taken all the Methods I could to reclaim them, and that all had not the desired Effect.

    Sir Sewal17 and Mr. Monis18 had their Sellars broke open, and drink stolen from them, and Bowman,19 Osgood,20 Cabot junior21 have had their Studies broke open, and goods Stolen from them and picking of Locks, breaking open of Studies, and Stealing has been common.

    Sir S., C., M.22 were complain’d of for playing at cards two of the Evidences being but of the Town, when we had them before us the President defered the consideration of it totally and finally.

    Sir S.23 was complain’d of by Several for keeping them in Commons after he had received an Order for puting them out, and because the Servitors that could give some Evidence in the matter were at that time out of the way the Affair was defered to another time, and no more Notice ever taken of it.

    Prophane Swearing, and cursing is said to be common with many.

    College Papers, i. A and B are on p. 55, Nos. 121 and 122; C is from p. 51 (No. 110) and D on p. 66 (No. 142). A was probably written after Commencement, 1718; B sometime after 1717–1718; C is dated May 27, 1721; and D has written in pencil at the top, “April 1723”. B is printed as appendix C to John E. Kirkpatrick, Academic Organization and Control, pp. 226–227. All were apparently written by Tutor Sever. Some of the identifications following are taken from notes, prepared by Albert Matthews, and found in the Harvard Archives, in a collection of documents relating to the controversy. Included in some cases are both contemporary copies and typed transcriptions.