[May 24 1720]
The Memorial of Messrs. Henry Flynt Nicholas Sever and Thomas Robie, to the Reverend President and Fellows of Harvard College Sheweth
- 1 That in the Charter of 50 not only the power of making by laws for the well governing the College, and disposing of the Revenues of it, but also the Executive part of the Government of the College is lodged in the hands of the President and Corporation, and their Successors.
- 2 And as in the Universities abroad the Members of their Corporations are usually residing within the Several houses, Even so here in the first dayes of the College, the Corporation consisted of persons in the College and in the Town wholly, and they having the next and immediate Government of the College in their hands it was tho’t necessary that it should be so, the Tutors were all belonging unto it, and by all that we can find, Either in the Charter, College Records, or English laws, which the College was then governed by, all the Affairs of the House were nextly and immediately under the management of the President and Corporation. Smaller faults were considered, and punished, either by the President or a Single Tutor, who was always of the Corporation, and greater matters were heard, and determined, by the President and Majority of the Corporation; this we find was the Original of the College Government by the Charter and laws, and by what we can find the Primitive Practice for a great while was corespondent to it.
- 3 The intermediate State of the College, between the loss of the aforesaid Charter in the Year 1684 and the resumption of it in 1708, was unsettled, and we therefore say nothing of it.
- 4 When the said Charter was resumed, and the College Set again upon its Antient foundation in 1708, one of the Tutors was left out of the Corporation, and since that another and Members chosen in from abroad.
- 5 Leaving the Tutors out of the Corporation, and puting the next and immediate Government of the College into the hands of the President and Tutors, Several whereof are not of the Corporation, appears to us to be a departure from the Original form of Government by the Charter, and to the disadvantage of the College, in that the removal of the Tutors from the Corporation is a lessening their Authority and Credit in the House, and consequently in some degree a weakening and enfeebleing the Standing Government of it; and now, when our Numbers are Encreased to 130, surely at least all that strength and Authority, and all the Advantages for governing the House, are necessary for the Fellows of the College, which they had in the first of it, when its numbers seldom exceeded 20, or 30. And the Tutors being of the Corporation in the Charter of 50, which the College is now upon, and the President and Corporation, and none Else, being said in the Charter, to have the immediate Government of the College commited to them, and all the Antient and fundamental laws and practice founded upon the Charter looking the same way, it appears to us to be the true intent of the Charter, that the Tutors should continue to have the Authority and Credit of the Members of the Corporation.
- 6 The Charter and laws of the College, being Silent about Such a State of the College, when Several of the Tutors should be left out of the Corporation, it makes our present circumstances difficult, and besides Tuition it is uncertain to us what the business of a Tutor is, who is out of the Corporation.
- 7 Your Memorialists therefore pray that proper measures may be taken for restoring the Tutors to the Corporation, if it may be, by adding them to it, and this we apprehend may be of service to the College Now, when its Numbers are so greatly Encreased, and by this means the Government of the College will become more agreeable to the Charter and all the Antient and fundamental laws and practice upon it than it is, and have a greater Strength, and firmness than it has in its present State, and this we look upon as most conducive to the well being of the College; but if this cant be, and if our present state be thot agreeable with the Charter, we desire that some laws may be Enacted, that may Suit Such a State of the College that we may know what powers we have, and how to Act upon certainty.
- 8 And we your Memorialists take leave further to observe that the Tutors are very much shortened and straitened in their Subsistence to what they have been in times past. We find above twenty Years ago that they were allowed fifty pounds per Annum Each, out of the College Treasury, which with their Tuition Money usually amounted to 100 per Annum and somtimes more, whereas we stand now at 90, 80, and 70 of this base Money, and if the difference of Money be considered, we think we have but a little more than half as much, for our subsistence, as our predicessors have somtimes formerly had, and these Allowances will not serve for our support, with any tolerable decency as the times go.1
The Revenues of the College are now greatly Encreased, the Expectations of people from us are not less than formerly, and our living meanly will bring dishonour to the College, as well as contempt to ourselves, and we therefore desire that our allowances may be somthing like those of our predicessors. And we further desire if the Corporation se cause to add another Fellow, that more of the business of Tuition may be in the Fellows hands,2 and that we may have the same advantages for Governing the College, with those that have been before us, and by these means we would hope that our present difficulties may be removed and the best interests of the College promoted. And we have tho’t it our Duty to say thus much concerning the State of the College, and of our present difficulties, to which we apprehend many disorders are owing, that a reasonable remedy may be provided, and that disorders may not prevail through our Silence.
[Endorsed:] May 24, 1720.
The Corporation have Read this your Memoriall and shall have that Regard to it as to strengthen your hands in all proper methods they can in the Governing the scholars and in a suitable time Consider what is moved for addition to your Support, but yet Dislike as unbecoming some Expressions therein Importing that the Corporation have Departed from the originall forme of Government by the Charter.
College Papers, i. 50 (No. 108). There are copies in Supplement I. 40–41; there is also a draft in Corporation Papers. Material crossed out in the draft is here included in footnotes. The copy in Supplement I. 40, is endorsed: “This Memorial was presented to the Corporation at their meeting in Cambridge May 30, 1720.” There was no meeting on that date, and the document was evidently considered on May 24.
This was the beginning of the lengthy effort of the Tutors (especially Sever) to be designated as Fellows of the Corporation. Tutors Flynt (already a Fellow) and Robie (Thomas, A.B. 1708) soon dropped out of the active contest, but Sever was joined by William Welsteed (A.B. 1716). The document is printed, with some errors, in J. E. Kirkpatrick, Academic Organization and Control, pp. 218–220. For a discussion of its moderate claims see Hoffmann, Commonwealth College, pp. 533–538.