228 Sever and Welsteed’s Memorial

    [June 21 1721]

    The Memorial of Nicholas Sever and William Welsteed, Resident Fellows of Harvard College to His Excellency the Governour and the Honourable and Reverend the rest of the Overseers of the said College.


    That the Next and Immediate Government of the College is by the Charter of 1650, which the College is Now upon, limited to the Corporation, consisting of Seven persons, Viz: A President, five Fellows, and a Treasurer, and their Successors.

    We your Memorialists, two of the Resident Fellows are off from the Foundation, and our being so occasions great uncertainty and perplexity to us in our business, which we apprehend is greatly detremental to the College.

    And from a deep sence hereof, and that we may not be wanting in that fidelity that we owe to the College, We have tho’t it our duty, with great humility and submission to make this application to your Excellency and the Honourable and Reverend the rest of the Overseers of the College.

    And accordingly We your Memorialists pray that your Excellency and the Honourable and Reverend the rest of the Overseers would take this Affair into your serious consideration, and give us such releif in the premises as in your great Wisdom you shall think fit. And inasmuch as we are regularly elected, and confirmed Fellows and have the care and business of the College committed to us as such, We pray, that in conformity to the Usages of all Colleges that we have heard of and to the Original state of this, and to the true design of the Charter and laws upon it, and to the Act of the Generall Court passed in 1707, We may be enabled to proceed in that business (which now is of greater Weight and difficulty than ever) upon the foundation of the Charter, and according to the rules of that Constitution.

    And We further pray that We may have the same allowances which our predicessors in this business have formerly had. To His Excellency the Governour the Honourable and Reverend the rest of the Overseers of Harvard College at a publick Meeting at Cambridge in the Library June 21, 1721.

    N. Sever

    Wm. Welsteed

    A true copy

    College Papers, i. 51 (No. 109). Another copy is in Supplement i. 44. Printed in J. E. Kirkpatrick, Academic Organization and Control, pp. 227–228. Sever and Welsteed ask, indirectly, to be made Fellows of the Corporation. This would have to be at the expense of two nonresident members, and so the controversy entered the political arena of conservatives (a majority of the Overseers, including the Magistrates) versus liberals (President Leverett and others of the Corporation). The Overseers appointed a committee of seven, headed by Judge Sewall, to consider the matter, but smallpox and consideration of the Hollis Professorship postponed a decision until the following year.

    Another version, perhaps a draft, is in College Papers, i. 57 (No. 126). It is undated and the memorialists are not named. It makes more of the difference between resident and nonresident members of the Corporation, and definitely asks “that the Resident Fellows may be admitted to the Corporation.” Since the business dragged on for two years, it is possible that this is a draft of a later petition; however, another copy in the Matthews papers, already mentioned, bears the date 1721 on the back.