Norman Fiering names Charles Morton as “America’s first professional philosopher.”153 But in the view of New Englanders at the time, Morton was transatlantic Puritanism’s most famous educator, a hero who upheld the standards of Puritan education in a time of oppression. Though a hero, Morton did not rest on his laurels in exile; instead, he vigorously continued his work and in the process inspired the young William Brattle and the rising generation of New England’s intellectual elite before his death in 1698. His last recorded words were “Excellent things! If I could receive them and live up to them!”154 Charles Morton was more than a generation older than William Brattle. Brattle met Morton in 1686 when, as a twenty-four-year-old tutor at Harvard, he was awed by the sixty-year-old exile from England who had just arrived on the provincial frontier of America. At Morton’s funeral, the scholars of the college walked before the hearse, Brattle and President Mather walked behind. The funeral sermon contrasted the life of the persecuted Puritan educator-hero with “the life of persecutors [which] was as a vapor.”155
Brattle himself died nineteen years later in 1717, beloved, it seems, by everyone even during the contentious times between the late 1680s and early 1720s. He had been tutor, chaplain, unofficial professor of divinity, and either leader or co-leader of the college for decades. Increase Mather had hoped Brattle might fill Morton’s position as vice president of the college, but Brattle, in his humility, turned down the post just as he later turned down election as a fellow of the Royal Society.
Morton and Brattle exemplify Puritanism at its best. They integrated piety and intellect in a way that inspired the generation that led Puritanism into the eighteenth century. Their logic textbooks exemplify the best of late seventeenth-century experiments with humanistic logic and filled Puritanism’s need for post-Ramist logics. The influence of their textbooks cannot be separated from the two men’s roles as models of rational living. Readers of their textbooks usually knew the authors personally or by reputation. Former students of Morton’s praised their teacher and reported that the manuscript textbooks he wrote were for their use and that he “explained” them in his lectures.156 Notes of his lectures are not extant, but we can surmise how he explained his logic textbook.
A. Charles Morton
Charles Morton was born in Cornwall on February 15, 1626/27, and at age twenty, in 1646, entered Queen’s College, Cambridge—Alexander Richardson’s old college—when it was fully under Puritan control.157 In 1649, Morton transferred to Oxford where the Puritans had recently ejected Anglican academics and begun installing teachers of their own persuasion. Morton joined Wadham College. At that time, a scientific circle was being formed around John Wilkins, Wadham’s newly appointed warden. Wilkins later became Bishop of Chester after the Restoration and exemplifies the type of moderate Puritan which Morton’s conscience could not emulate.158 Later, in a vindication of dissenting academies, Morton pointed out the error of pinning morality and piety “to the university’s sleeve” since “evil examples” abound at them and “learned men, even philosophers, may be delivered over to a reprobate mind.”159
It is not clear when Morton left Oxford. He received his MA in 1652, and was a minister to Presbyterians back in Cornwall in 1655. He lost that job in 1660 with the restoration of the crown. He then began preaching privately. Beginning in 1661, Parliament passed a series of repressive acts called the Clarendon Code, and then in 1673 passed the Test Acts which denied non-Anglicans many political rights, especially the right to be a student or teacher at the legally chartered universities. Students and teachers were required to swear an oath of allegiance to the state church and its Thirty-nine Articles. Many moderate Puritans swore the oaths; however, others, such as Morton, were unable to compromise their beliefs and went into a semi-underground culture of dubious legality. Those in the underground were loosely considered Protestant dissenters or Roman Catholic recusants. “Dissenters” describes a variety of nonconformists, but was especially applied to the Calvinistic Puritans who began creating quasi-legal institutions to support their needs—especially the need to educate clergy of their own.160
After the Test Acts were passed, private “academies” began to form to take the place of an Oxford or Cambridge education. Students went to live in the home of someone with a reputation for education who was willing to teach them in exchange for a reasonable amount of money. No charters, licenses, oaths, or institutional traditions hedged in the growth of new house-schools. They offered as good or better a liberal arts education as was available at the universities. The term “academy” was a Platonic reference, but was also associated with the Genevan Academy established by Calvin in 1559, as a Protestant alternative to legally chartered universities. In England, the title “university” and the right to award degrees required a Royal Charter. English dissenters, wanting no legal hassles, chose their terms carefully and made no pretense to offering a degree. (Harvard College in America was far enough away to not worry about the letter of the law and it did offer degrees.)
Most dissenting academies quietly began in the tradition of ministers supplementing their income by tutoring live-in students. Morton probably began tutoring while a minister (he later got in trouble for this in New England) and there was probably a period in the early 1670s when his part-time teaching became full-time. At that point he was living on Newington Green in Stoke Newington on the south edge of London, which was populated by many well-off dissenting families. By the late 1670s, Morton’s school was one of the best and most well-known of the quasi-underground academies.161
When Morton moved to Newington, another prominent academy already existed on the green, one run by Theophilus Gale (1628–77/78). Gale had been a fellow at Magdalene College, Oxford; he was expelled in 1660, whereupon he started an academy in 1666. Samuel Lee (1625–1691), a minister and college friend of Morton’s, was also nearby. Morton, Gale, and Lee made for a sort of intellectual troika for dissenters in Newington—an easy walk from Lambeth Palace, the Bishop of London’s residence. The two academies led dissenting education in the late 70s and 80s and continued to be a force even after Morton and Gale were gone. Gale became Lee’s colleague in the pulpit just before Lee emigrated to New England in 1678. Gale then turned his academy over to Thomas Rowe (1657–1705). After Morton’s academy was shut down, the Gale-Rowe academy carried on. In the early 1690s, Rowe tutored Isaac Watts, who was arguably the most influential educational reformer in the eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Anglo-American world.162
Very little is known of the exchange of ideas among the dissenters in Newington, and the relationship between Gale and Morton can only be surmised. Morton was revered for his wide-ranging intellectual activity. Gale was considered one of the brilliant men of that era of intellectual vitality in London. Gale is little remembered today however, probably because though he wrote many books, he devoted his life to writing The Court of the Gentiles (1669–77), a very long book. The book was widely read by contemporaries, but historians now tend to dismiss it as a jumble of bad history and philology with an unhappy merging of Cambridge Platonism with Calvinism. Cotton Mather referred to Gale as a “well-known writer.” Increase Mather noted in 1681 that Gale had not yet “received his full meed of praise as a theologian.”163 Recently Norman Fiering has published a study on Gale’s moral philosophy and its value in the intellectual context of the era.164 Morton’s relationship with Gale is unknown, but we know his attitude about big books: “A great book,” he often stated to his students, repeating the old motto, “is a great evil.”165
Morton wrote short books addressing distinct subjects. Gale synthesized a wide range of ideas into a grand vision. Morton was more conservative. He accepted parts of the newer philosophies but merged them more carefully with older intellectual traditions. This is what made Morton a better textbook writer—and possibly more influential in the long run.
It is very likely that Gale encouraged Morton to study Roman Catholic thinkers such as the Blackloists, LeGrand, and Arnauld. Gale, who had lived two years in France, appreciated some of the Roman Catholic thinkers. Gale became a proponent of Jansen and Jansenism among English dissenters. Norman Fiering writes that as much as John Norris is called the English Malebranche, Gale should be called the English Jansen.166 Jansenism, to Gale, was a vigorous and modern Augustinianism that offered an alternative to the intellectual and spiritual laxity spreading in both Protestantism and Catholicism. Gale published this view in A True Idea of Jansenisme (1669).
Newington Green, then, was an exciting common on which to live with Gale and Morton teaching in their house-schools. Between the two men, Newington Green offered excellent libraries. Morton’s was large and Gale’s was enormous by contemporary standards. Gale willed a large portion of his books to Harvard College which by one account doubled the size of the American library.167 The reputation of the green attracted some of the dissenters’ most promising students, and through them comes most of the personal information we have about the academies in Newington. Ironically, one of the best sources for information about Morton is a student who turned antagonist. Samuel Wesley who converted to the established church of England and fathered John and Charles, wrote two famous attacks on dissenting academies. Almost the whole purpose of dissenting academies, Wesley wrote, was to teach “King-killing doctrines” and aversion to the episcopal order.168 Wesley, however, could not help but appreciate Morton, whom he described as a “good, though mistaken man who was I think, the most considerable in England in that way, for the number of his pupils, and politeness of his learning.”169 By Wesley’s description, Morton’s academy had more to commend it than the one led by Gale/Rowe. Wesley described Morton’s academy as
the most considerable [in England], having annexed a fine garden, bowling-green, fish-pond, and within a laboratory, and some not inconsiderable rarities, with air-pumps, thermometers, and all sorts of mathematical instruments.170
Daniel Defoe, Morton’s most famous student, also found the academy and its master exemplary of the best dissenting education. Defoe especially praised Morton’s innovation of teaching and writing textbooks in English rather than Latin. Students, Defoe declared, learned their languages; “yet it is observed of them, they were by this made masters of the English tongue, and more of them excelled in that particular, than of any school at the time.”171
Teaching in the vernacular was not formally accepted in the curriculum or classes at established universities on the Continent or in England. The academies, however, sanctioned the use of the vernacular. The book publishing market and broadening visions of education merged to make teaching and writing in the vernacular increasingly common-sensical. The Little Schools of the Jansenists were leaders in educational reforms such as using vernacular texts. The Port-Royal Logic, for example, was originally written in French.172 In England the dissenters picked up on the new trend. Morton was an early proponent, and his justification was innovative and broad-minded. He had students copy his justification into their notebooks when they took down his logic, also presented in English. A student’s transcription of that justification is printed in this volume. It shows Morton at his best: wittily poking fun at pedants, extolling the nobility of the English language, hopeful of spreading reasonableness, even to educating women, and supporting the cause of teaching a useful education.
Morton wrote several vernacular textbooks—“manuscripts...for the use of his private academy.”173 Though there is no complete bibliography of these manuscript textbooks, his students later said “there were certain systems of the several arts and sciences, which he drew up for their use.”174 The most famous of these manuscripts is the Compendium Physicae, published by the Colonial Society of Massachusetts in 1940 (Vol. 33). Norman Fiering found two other manuscript textbooks in the Harvard Archives: A System of Ethics and Pneumaticks or a treatise...about the Nature of the Spirit, the latter being the study of spirit (or mind) in theology, angelography, and psychology. Appended to the Pneumaticks is The Souls of Brutes.175 Morton’s A Logick System is published here. These four texts are only known to exist in Harvard student notebooks; however, they were most likely originally written between 1675 and 1685 for students at the Newington academy. For Morton, each was part of a whole, forming—to a large extent—a body of interrelated knowledge. To understand one, all should be studied. Morton was influenced by the seventeenth-century spirit of encyclopedic systemization of knowledge.176 We “have need of some methodicall frame,” Morton wrote in his logic, “to hold things together.”177
One-volume encyclopedic textbooks were not rare. LeGrand’s Institutio fits this description. The Dutch published several.178 In 1704, the English published their first alphabetically organized encyclopedia. Keckermann’s schematic drawings were designed in part as a tool to facilitate integrating all parts of the curriculum into one huge schematic system. But, as mentioned previously, Morton did not like big books. Morton liked writing multiple volumes that supported each other.
Aside from Morton’s manuscript textbooks, an eighteenth-century account of Morton’s life by Edward Calamy cited published works which included social pieces drawn from scripture on peacemaking, pride, and gambling (not cited is an essay purportedly by Morton called The Great Evil of Health Drinking (1684)). Calamy also cited speculative pieces by Morton on the Ark of the Covenant and Morton’s belief that some migrating birds might literally nest in heaven for a while.179 On economics, Calamy cited a letter of Morton’s written “to prove there is no such absolute need of money as men generally think.” In science, Morton’s practical suggestions for fertilizing the sandy soil of Cornwall was printed in the Philosophical Transactions (April 1675). Calamy, himself, printed complete transcriptions of Morton’s twenty-one-page “Vindication” of dissenting academies and thirteen-page “Advice to Candidates for the Ministry, under the present discouraging Circumstances.”180
The most significant publication of his lifetime was the essay The Spirit of Man, published in Boston in 1692. The one-hundred-page essay on the active person whose soul and body are joined was not part of his textbook system but can be juxtaposed with his earlier Pneumaticks, which dealt with the soul separated from the body. The spirit of a man which has been sanctified by grace, Morton claimed, is active and “it disposes him diligently to teach...and diligently to learn; to make diligent search.” The “unsanctified” man has a “pitiful, base, and useless spirit; inclining only to sottish sloth and idleness.”181
While a teacher, his work was his students. His students later declared him “renowned,” and even Samuel Wesley, when attacking his school, refused to say anything bad about his teacher. Morton one time pounced on a foolishness as “A sorry sort of arguing!” but such outbursts were meant to be part of “a fatherly way of teaching.”182 In accord with his humanism, Morton wanted to be a father to his students. A father or a tutor, he recommended, should “not make orations, or speeches to his children or scholars,” but should speak to them in a “familiar way”183 In Morton’s “Advice to Candidates for the Ministry,” Morton merged the role of a minister with those of a father and a tutor. Family, church, and school were entwined in his mind just as they were in his house-school on Newington Green.
The closest Morton comes to explaining a philosophy of education is in A Logick System when describing action and passion: Morton likened education to heat passing from a fire to water “so the teachers learning doth not pass into the learner but exciteth a new learning like it self.”184 This shows an educational philosophy probably derived from Augustine’s Concerning the Teacher. The most important role of a teacher is to awaken an understanding of what God has already communicated into a student’s mind. That fundamental knowledge can then be put to use by the student. Morton’s logic textbook must be understood in the context of this philosophy.
The role of teacher, then, was not different from that of a Puritan minister—to turn listeners’ minds inward to discover what is known by the soul and to look for the signs of divine grace. The minister is not an intermediary of knowledge or grace, nor is the teacher. The minister and teacher “exciteth” the “active spirits” in the congregation or classroom. It is not surprising that teaching and ministry were often interchangeable careers. The minister and the teacher hoped to excite all listeners, although they believed the divine grace that creates “active spirits” exists only in the few.
In this light, we can see why Augustinian/Puritan educational philosophy cannot be separated from the doctrine of predestination. In The Spirit of Man and in A Logick System, Morton speaks of what he calls hot spirits, active spirits, or spirits whose wills are the recipients of divine grace. Morton’s educational philosophy and his textbooks primarily served those who believed they were recipients of grace, walking the narrow path rather than the wide path which diverged toward Hell. Morton disdained laxity, laziness, and any easy slide into skepticism. Morton advised young ministers and tutors to flee from “the mongrel worship” of those “who are scarce half friends to the Reformation.”185
Some of those who have written on Morton in the past have tried to make him more cosmopolitan than he was. Morton, like Brattle, was a moderate and tolerant man, but this should not blind us to the essential Puritan core of both men. Take for example one of Morton’s distichs from his logic text:
Change not in things divine keep what is old
In Phylosophicals you may be bold—186
Like a man propelling a rowboat forward while keeping an eye on a point on the shore to ensure a straight movement, Morton advised students to keep their eyes focused on the past in religious matters so as not to lose their direction.187
Morton published a long poem in England that is even more revealing of the mentality of dissent that fired his mind. In Some Meditations on the History recorded in the first fourteen Chapters of Exodus, in Meeter [date unknown], the Jews are people of conscience in the land of Egypt who are asked to compromise for political reasons:
Moses, O Moses help me (Pharo’h cryes)
Go worship now your God, go sacrifice;
Only let it be in the Land, I pray,
To going out, reason of state saies nay.
. . .
You may your own God keep and conscience too
Though amongst us, like us you seem to do.188
No such compromise can be made and the conclusion of the story is that the dissenters win their right to leave. The poem foretells, in a way, Morton’s own destiny.
Morton’s academy was closed as a result of nit-picking legal persecution used against some of the dissenting academies whose teachers had graduated with an MA from Oxford or Cambridge. The move was cynical and superficial on the part of the prosecutors, cynical since it relied on selective enforcement of a meaningless traditional oath taken at the universities and superficial since there were many academies, such as the other on Newington Green, led by men who had not received an MA from Oxford or Cambridge. Morton got caught in a half-baked purge of dissenting academies and was arrested for perjury—operating so near the bishop’s palace probably did not help.
Morton defended himself in his “Vindication,” which begins in lawyerly fashion by focusing on definitions and the cynical application of the oath; however, it gains vitriolic momentum throughout. It culminates in exclaiming that the conscience of dissenters prohibits them from attending or sending their children to universities in dire need of reformation. The universities are full of “manifest danger,” of “evil examples” and “general looseness” that are “contagious.” If “the plague or other contagious disease should fall into the universities,” parents would of course remove their children and have them safely taught in private situations. “Now if men may or would do so for securing their bodily lives, they should do so much more with respect to their souls.” Thus having declared the universities full of moral diseases that any loving parent would recoil from, Morton further rises in his lost cause to warn about the “learned men” who “have gotten the university preferments into their hands.” They “may be delivered over to a reprobate mind, or mind void of judgment.” They may nickname “Truth” with their own little ideas, baptizing “their own conceits with the name of orthodoxy.” The dissenters are not against universities, he writes, they “desire and pray for [the university’s] continuance and reformation, that those fountains may be clear, and then ’tis hoped that the streams which flow from them will be clear also.”189
The fountains would not be cleared during Morton’s lifetime. His defense of dissenting education and criticism of the universities fell on deaf ears. Morton was forced out of business, but found himself sought by Harvard College. Returning home he was “so infested with processes from the bishop’s court” that Samuel Eliot Morison surmised he eagerly embraced the opportunity held out to him in New England.190
Harvard College was where many dissenters placed their hopes of keeping the fountain clear. Theophilus Gale gave most of his library to Harvard, and later another English dissenter, Thomas Hollis, showered the college with money and its first professorships. Many English dissenters who never saw Harvard were willing to support the college. Puritanism was a transatlantic culture, and Morton was as well known to Harvard as Harvard was to Morton.
New Englanders were especially proud of their college. Cotton Mather in the 1690s devoted book four in his magisterial history of New England to the history of the college and to ten biographies of illustrious graduates. In 1674, the colony, with the generous support of twenty English patrons, erected a new college building, the largest and finest building in all the English colonies. A president’s house was erected in 1680.191 A proud history and two fine buildings graced Harvard when Increase Mather, the acting president, extended the possibility of the presidency to Charles Morton, the dissenters’ most illustrious educator in England.
Despite the grandeur of the provincial college, its position was precarious in 1686, and it was that precariousness that prevented Morton the opportunity of being its president. Harvard College as an institution was just as dubiously legal as any dissenting academy in England, actually more so. Unlike the dissenting academies, which carefully tried to avoid any encroachment on the prerogatives of royally charted universities, Harvard claimed a valid charter as a college, not through the king, but the Massachusetts Bay Company charter. Usurping the right of a “university”, the college granted degrees, even Doctorate in Divinity or Theology. The only sign of Harvard’s wariness about such an action was that it awarded only one doctorate in the seventeenth century—to Increase Mather.192
Politically, England began in the late 1680s experimenting with ways to rule New England, and Puritan control of institutions such as Harvard was threatened. The dissenting academies, like the Little Schools of Port-Royal, existed at the displeasure of the state and acted cautiously. Harvard flaunted its freedom until the Puritans’ Massachusetts Bay Company charter was revoked, thus revoking Harvard’s charter. Harvard’s leaders became more politically cautious between 1684 and 1692, when the charter was in question—although it was a period of Harvard’s most radical curriculum reforms. In that tenuous time, Morton was tentatively offered the presidency of Harvard if he came to America. Although Morton was more qualified for the presidency than anyone else in New England, to place Morton at the head of the college at that moment would have been tempting the wrath of those who had shut down his school in England. So, after his arrival in June 1686, the offer was withdrawn and he amicably took another job offered him, that of minister in the neighboring village to Cambridge.
Increase Mather continued to head the college through several administrative reorganizations and was amazingly successful not only in holding things together during more than a decade of political turmoil, but also in encouraging growth and reform. Mather did this by hiring good men and letting them do their work. Mather, himself, was often absent from the college, juggling the whole colony’s political and religious problems. At Harvard his great success was to encourage those actually running the college to experiment with the curriculum and to think about the role of Harvard in the British Empire.
Four men ran Harvard for Mather. Charles Morton offered his wisdom regularly as a fellow and later as vice president of the college. William Brattle and John Leverett were two trustworthy tutors Mather hired and who after 1696 filled other roles at the college. William’s brother Thomas Brattle eventually came in as treasurer. Mather was not just a figurehead president, but his many activities required that he delegate much authority to these four.
Morton, Brattle, and Leverett were initially charged by Mather with invigorating the college which for some time had been in a “low, sinking state,” said Mather.193 Over the next decade enrollments increased, a long-range building program began, and the curriculum was modernized. The curriculum reforms began with works imported from Morton’s academy and were supplemented by textbooks by Brattle and Leverett.194
Morton’s role as an advisor to Mather, Brattle, and Leverett is evident from the use of his textbooks, his appointment to the first vice presidency, and the college’s prominence at his funeral; however, there is very little information about the particulars of Morton’s influence. At age sixty and beginning a new pastorate, his direct involvement was probably minimal. Cotton Mather, when writing a history of Harvard in the 1690s, mentioned only the “prudent government” of Brattle and Leverett from 1688 to 1692, when Increase Mather was in England.195
Morton certainly did not slide quietly into old age. He was arrested the year after his arrival for preaching that God would replace the new royal government of New England with a revived Puritan government. His trial for sedition ended in acquittal because of a jury made up of the “factious rabble.”196 Morton spent his life on the edge of the law, a member of an outgroup, bent on purity of conscience. Morton was a hot-spirited man full of grace. In 1692, he wrote about spirits like himself in his most important philosophical work. He remained a lively grandfather figure to the college and he thrilled many of the students even in the late 1680s and 1690s, teaching them about modeling the life of reason and responsibility to one’s conscience.
Responsibility to one’s conscience was an especially dominant idea in that era. Puritans and other dissenters politically relied on the defense that they were merely following their consciences. Morton had proclaimed the dissenters’ obligation to their consciences when refusing to send their sons to universities. President Mather, while away from the college in 1691 and pleading the Puritan cause before Queen Mary, told her:
In New England they are generally those that are called Non-Conformists, but they carry it with all due respect to others....It is not in the power of men to believe what they please, and therefore I think they should not be forced in matters of Religion, contrary to their persuasion and consciences.197
In response to their realization that Puritanism in England and America would remain only a minority religion in a larger culture, Mather, Morton, Brattle, and others increasingly emphasized the rights of communities in matters of conscience (their churches, the fellowship of believers). In fact, Morton and Brattle worked the issue of conscience into their logic texts—Morton in his section on “quality” and Brattle in his overall Cartesianism, which was founded on introspection.
Morton’s The Spirit of Man also discusses the role of conscience. “The Spirit of man,” Morton wrote, “is the Candle of the Lord, Searching all Inward Parts of the Belly; not in an Anatomical, but moral sense; The Understanding is set up by God in man (as a Candle) to search and find out by its Exercise, all those Inward Acts and Inclinations which would otherwise lie hidden and undiscovered.”198
In The Spirit of Man he writes that there is a “diversity of spirits” in humans: “the hot, the cold, and the moderate.” The moderate and cold made up the majority of people. Puritan ideals were manifested in hot spirits. Morton described himself when he wrote of hot spirits:
Their firmness is farther fortified by might in the inner-man (Eph. 3.16) whereby they are stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. (I Cor. 15.18) for, if their well considered reasons do fix their purposes; Much more will their well grounded faith establish them. In a work; its own nature is lovely; but grace super-induced renders it most exemplary, amiable, and useful in the world.199
Morton recognized the variety of spirits in people, and he believed Christ’s threat in the book of Revelations to spit out the luke-warm with the cold. Morton’s A Logick System was designed as a foundation for “well considered reasons” for hot-spirited minds.
Perry Miller theorized in his massive study, The New England Mind, that unrelenting pursuit of rationalism in Puritanism caused a tension between those defending orthodoxy and those pursuing reason that led eventually to a decline in orthodox Puritanism. Morton’s logic textbook was designed to have the opposite effect. He offered a foundation for orthodox Puritanism by writing an eclectic Aristotelian logic. Miller’s theory may be correct in some cases; however, those who studied Morton’s logic, for example Jonathan Edwards, found no tension between defenders of orthodoxy and pursuers of reason.
B. Morton’s A Logick System
When as a younger man Charles Morton abandoned Cambridge in favor of Oxford, he moved into a stronghold of Aristotelian logic. A list of textbooks recommended to students includes “Aristotle, Porphyry, Boethius, Ammonius, Gilbertus Porretanus, Agricola, Mathesius, Melanchthon, Sturm, his commentator Erythraeus, and Keckermann.” The most influential logic textbooks at Oxford were John Case’s Summa Veterum Interpretum in Universam Dialecticam Aristotelis (1584) and Robert Sanderson’s Logicae Artis Compendium (1615).200 Oxford was a bastion of humanistic Aristotelian logic and does not seem to have been too influenced by either Ramist or Cartesian logic.201 Charles Morton transmitted that Oxford training to his students on Newington Green and brought the tradition with him to Harvard.
A glance at A Logick System’s table of contents exposes the text’s Aristotelian form. The predicables, antepredicaments, and predicaments which begin the text had begun standard Aristotelian texts for centuries. Morton’s blunt statement “A man is not a stone,” is the type of self-evident knowledge founded on classifications that Aristotelian logic emphasized. Skepticism was foolishness when it denied the certainty of such a truth, according to Morton. The prominent place of the predicaments (or categories) and the emphasis on substance, quantity, quality, and relation, were also standard in humanistic Aristotelian textbooks. Ramist and Cartesian logics did not begin this way or emphasize these categories. The forced march from predicables through terms and syllogisms to the inevitable “fallacies” had bored centuries of students and inspired outrage in humanistic educators such as Milton and Locke.
A glance at the table of contents, however, does not expose the difference between Morton’s use of Aristotelianism and other Aristotelian textbooks such as Thomas White’s or Henry Aldrich’s. I will guide you to the most interesting parts of Morton’s text—those derived from the idiosyncratic tradition developed by Melanchthon that were most useful to the Puritans. Those interested in the history of the standard parts of Morton’s Aristotelian logic should turn to the many other studies which are available on the subject.202
Before analyzing the non-standard aspects of Morton’s text, we must begin by understanding his sources. Morton cited three principal sources: Smith, Burgersdijck, and Sanderson.203 Burgersdijck and Sanderson had both written popular texts in the standard Aristotelian format, with Sanderson’s being more religiously inclined than Burgersdijck’s. Morton probably used both as basic models for organization and content. Samuel Smith’s Aditus ad Logicam (Oxford: 1613, with many subsequent editions) was a similar model, but offered a pedagogical extra: it is filled with diagrams like those used by Morton. Morton would have known the Aditus ad Logicam from his student years at Oxford. Samuel Smith (1587–1620) was an otherwise obscure fellow at Oxford whose textbook continued to be used at Oxford long after his death.204 Morton’s A Logic System was more visionary than the three texts he cited as sources. For starters, Morton wrote in English and all three of the above were written in Latin, and Morton employed an encyclopedic system for his textbooks, which none of his sources used.
Another source Morton probably used was John Prideaux’s Hypomnemata: Logica, Rhetorica, Physica, Metaphysica, Pneumatica, Ethica, Politica, Oeconomica (Oxford: 1650?), a collection of textbooks gathered in one, which Morton probably read when at Oxford. Prideaux (1578–1650) was Rector of Exeter College, Oxford, then Regis Professor of Divinity, and finally Bishop of Worcester. It is likely he wrote the textbooks when at Oxford for students and later had all the books published together. Prideaux’s logic section is Aristotelian and firmly in the religious tradition of Melanchthon. Stylistically, Prideaux’s use of bracketted rhymes interspersed in the prose text may have been Morton’s model for his own text.
Prideaux and Smith used diagrams. Ainsworth’s Art of Logick vigorously used diagrams. Keckermann’s Gymnasium and Jacobi Zabarellae’s Opera Logica (1582) both used large summary diagrams. Morton’s use of diagrams is excessive for the era, but not uncommon.
Morton’s use of English was not entirely uncommon. Morton probably knew of John Newton’s collection of vernacular textbooks which were published in the 1650s–70s.205 Like Morton’s logic, Newton’s Aristotelian An Introduction to the Art of Logick (1671) began with a preface justifying education in the vernacular.
There were many sources for Morton to draw from and in no case is A Logick System wholly innovative. Even Morton’s most interesting eccentricity—its three-part chapters of prose, poem, and diagram—was loosely based on a recommendation by a German educational reformer. There are no specific models behind A Logick System; rather, there is a general familiarity with the traditional Aristotelian form, the pedagogical experiments of his age, and a viewpoint similar to many late seventeenth-century dogmatists that Aristotelianism was better than Cartesianism as an epistemological foundation to counter the increasing skepticism of the era.
Morton’s rejection of Ramist and Cartesian logics is not clearly stated in the textbook, but is quite evident. Morton knew well both The Port-Royal Logic and LeGrand’s Institutio, yet his text shows little influence from either. Given Morton’s knowledge of Jansenism from his friend Gale and his reliance on many Cartesian scientific ideas directly lifted from LeGrand’s Institutio in his science textbook, Compendium Physicae, it is surprising that Morton rejected the Cartesian logic of Arnauld and LeGrand.206
Morton referred to the “The Jansenist Logick” only to disagree with it.207 A revealing example of Morton’s rejection of The Port-Royal Logic is Morton’s reference to risibility as a specifically human characteristic. Arnauld had attacked this traditional use of risibility; Morton was unconvinced.208 Also, Morton’s section on method includes no discussion of the importance of geometry as a model for analysis and synthesis and sticks to the pre-Cartesian treatment. The Port-Royal Logic also criticized Ramists for too much dichotomizing; Morton conceded to the Ramists that dichotomizing was “best for acuracy.”209
Morton, like other Aristotelians, was unwilling to deny the senses an important role in knowledge. Cartesian logic emphasized perception in the mind and warned of the deceitfulness of the senses, whereas Aristotelianism balanced mental perception with knowledge gained through the senses. At one point in the text Morton tips the balance in favor of the senses: “Individuals are more knowable than species, bec: they are perceived by the senses, species only by reason and speculation.”210 Morton was unwilling to accept the essential Cartesian dichotomy of spirit and matter that turned Cartesians away from considering the senses as capable of providing clear knowledge of something.
Aristotelian categories, definitions of substance, and emphasis on the senses were the key features in Morton’s choice of Aristotelianism over Cartesianism or Ramism as the best logic to teach young Puritans. Most importantly, the category of quality offered a place in logic to apply predestinarian theology to the problem of certainty.
The predicament of quality always included “habits or dispositions” which were either “infused or acquired.” Aristotle, in his Categoriae, calls an “infused habit” an “inborn capacity.” Aristotle used the example of a boxer or wrestler who acquires the skills of their sport but has infused or inborn capacities to be a boxer or wrestler.211 Logic was not a “habit,” but the knowledge that logic worked with was. The quality of being human meant having an infused ability to be rational, but logic was acquired. Logic textbook authors throughout history could easily make such a distinction without reference to Christianity; however, authors such as Morton considered it an opportunity to stretch the Aristotelian discussion of quality and habit into a particular Christian perspective.
To see what Morton did, we can compare his section on quality with the sources he recommends. Burgersdijck and Sanderson perfunctorily wrote a standard Christian example: God could infuse people with such things as faith, hope, charity, and the gift of tongues.212 Samuel Smith stretched it in Aditus ad Logicam. Smith included in the discussion of habit the interpretation that Melanchthon/Augustianian infusion is by the grace of the Holy Spirit—extraordinarily—as doctrine into the minds of the Apostles—or ordinarily—as faith into the elect.213 Morton followed Smith.
Even though Smith and Morton stretched the definition of habit into something more useful to Christians, we can see from Ainsworth/Coke’s The Art of Logick that Smith and Morton were actually more moderate than some extremists. Ainsworth, the separatist Puritan in Amsterdam, stretched his section on quality to support his concern for “church polity.” Like Smith, Ainsworth had “infused” mean a “singular grace of the Holy Ghost into men’s minds.”214 However, Ainsworth carried distinctions in habits to such lengths as to distinguish operative practical habits which were “more perfect by the special help of the holy Ghost”; this eventually culminated in distinctions between theology and church polity—a very important point for a separatist Puritan.
Morton’s scheme has the predicament of quality relate to the Augustinian understanding of will and assent—similar to Melanchthon’s position in Erotemata Dialectices. Morton has infused grace incline the human will toward intellectual assent to the certainty of God’s Word. Puritans realized that they must accept their minor position in an empire dominated by a church infected with skepticism. Morton’s logic supported the Puritan perspective that they were the recipients of a grace that made them the chosen few in a wrong-headed world.
The category of quality as these various authors saw it is best seen in schematic form (See Figures 1–4). It is the final branches of each diagram which usually indicate the special interest of the author. Just as Ainsworth’s final branches deal with what interested him—church polity—Melanchthon’s final branches indicate what most interested this most gentle dogmatist—toleration. (Toleration and dogmatism are compatible for Melanchthon and many humanistic logicians.) Morton’s final branches also deal with church polity, but from the more ominous perspective of schism and heresy—of which he probably would have accused Ainsworth.
Figure 1: Religion in Melanchthon’s Predicament of Quality
All four schemes are pictures of the way religion was given a role in Aristotelian logic. In three of the diagrams, the role of the Holy Spirit and grace is prominently positioned between the final branches and the genus. It is clear in these logics that Melanchthon, Ainsworth, and Morton considered anyone denying the doctrine of grace or the active help of the Holy Spirit would not be expected to reason completely well.
That vision is not clear cut in Burgersdijck. Burgersdijck gave a standard, serviceable, Christianized version of habit: the infused qualities were the biblical gifts discussed by St. Paul. But Burgersdijck gave only a minimal description. His vision was hardly even religiously-oriented let alone dogmatically-inclined. The possibilities of habit were not elaborated on in his work. In viewing the tables of contents of these various textbooks, there is little to distinguish the various Aristotelian logics of the era; however, the category of quality evidences important differences. The chapters on quality provide windows into the inclinations of the authors and the degree of Christian skepticism or dogmatism that a teacher wanted to convey to his students.
Another idiosyncratic Christianization in Morton’s logic lies beneath the seemingly innocuous title “Of Topical Syllogism.”215 This was a common chapter in Aristotelian logics which dealt with syllogisms that require only probabilistic assent. Because of humanist influence, Aristotelian logics diminished emphasis on syllogisms; however, no humanist logic denied the importance of learning basic syllogism types. Among the types, the topical syllogism increased in importance because it fit best with the skeptical tendencies of humanists. Topical syllogisms recognized the weakness of the premise, the weakness of the structure of demonstration, and the weakness of the conclusion. They were the syllogisms of humility and moderate skepticism.
Charles Morton made his chapter on topical syllogisms the biggest chapter in the whole section on syllogisms. Why should a dogmatist emphasize such a chapter? Because a conscientious dogmatist, more than anyone else, is required to draw a clear line between what is probabilistic and what is absolute.
All of the dogmatically-oriented logicians I have been discussing shared the humanist belief that most of what humans do with logic is probabilistic. Humanistic logic emphasized rational decision-making based on non-absolute knowledge. However, the dogmatists needed to clearly delineate the existence of some absolute certainty. For dogmatically-oriented Aristotelian logicians, chapters on topical syllogisms, like chapters on quality, were good places to distinguish the probabilistic from the absolute.
Morton’s religious intensity obviously rises in this chapter. He quotes 2 Thessalonians 3:2 to imply that unreasonable and wicked men don’t use topical syllogisms well. He attacks Quakers as a group that do not use topical syllogisms property—in an obvious effort to distinguish the subjectivity of fanatics from rational subjectivity. He offers terse examples about separation of church and state and that it is better a hand cut off or eye plucked out than the whole man perish. He reiterates the distinction between artificial (internal) and inartificial (external) knowledge showing the certainty attainable from both. He closes with a comparatively long and very idiosyncratic discussion of the certainty of divine testimony and the certainty and uncertainty of types of human testimony.
The chapter on topical syllogisms is the most original and idiosyncratic part of Morton’s textbook. Sanderson and Smith, for example, gave the normal cursory overview of topical syllogisms in the Logicæ Artis Compendium and Aditus ad Logicam, and neither has any of the religious materials or discussion of testimony. Coke/Ainsworth’s The Art of Logick has a large section on testimony in syllogisms—as should be expected—but did not handle the subject in the way Morton did. As with the category of quality, Morton, however, did have sources to draw from. Melanchthon’s Erotemata Dialectices is the obvious foundation for the tradition Morton was working in. Melanchthon offered a long discussion of topics under the heading “De Locis Argumentorum,” which carefully distinguished probabilistic knowledge from the certainty offered by God both internally in axioms and externally in testimony.216
Based on the tradition developed by Melanchthon, Morton’s discussion of quality and topical syllogisms turned banal parts of traditional logic into vital discussions. It is easy to imagine Morton, the hot-spirited tutor who saw his job as similar to a minister, using the opportunity of teaching these parts of logic as a means to confirm the dogmatic resolve of Puritan students that they stand on firm knowledge while the rest of the British were falling into a morass of skepticism.
But Morton, himself, did not teach from his logic once he got to Harvard. He offered it to Brattle and Leverett, but Brattle and Leverett were more excited by something else Morton brought: The Port-Royal Logic and the Institutio. No one opposed Morton’s A Logick System; however, it apparently fell among other logics, such as Burgersdijck’s, that were recommended to students, but were not favored. A tutor might easily point out the parts of Morton that agreed with Cartesian logic, but Morton’s A Logick System seems to have sunk into a batch of logics mentioned to students in the way described at one dissenting academy:
Twas our custom to have lectures appointed to certain times, and we began in the morning with logic; the system we read was Hereboord, which is the same generally read at Cambridge. But our tutor always gave us memoriter the harmony or opposition made to him by other logicians.217
Three transcriptions of A Logick System exist: Partridge’s, Timothy Lindall’s, written in one month in 1693, and Samuel Dunbar’s, composed three weeks in May of 1721—thirty years span the first and last. Interestingly enough, in 1723, Tutor Flynt produced a list of textbooks used at Harvard; it included Brattle’s and Burgersdijck’s logics, but did not include Morton’s.
The greatest interest in Morton’s logic appears to have been between late 1697 and 1703 when Jabez Fitch was a tutor. He edited his own very short version of Morton’s logic which he used with his students.218 Dunbar’s transcription in 1721 includes both Morton’s A Logick System and Fitch’s A Treatise of Logick Extracted from Mr. Morton. In Dunbar’s hand, Morton’s book is sixty-five pages whereas Fitch’s is only sixteen. Fitch became a minister in 1703. The fact that Fitch’s trimmed-down version of Morton’s text had Morton’s full discussion of habit under the category of quality and the essential religious arguments in “Of Topical Syllogisms,” sheds light on Fitch’s own commitment to Puritan dogmatism.
After Fitch resigned there does not appear to have been much interest in Morton’s logic even though Morton’s Compendium Physicae remained popular at Harvard. Morton’s logic had its greatest influence in England where Morton, himself, taught from it. In New England, aside from Tutor Fitch’s classes, A Logick System remained a viable but seldom-read option.
Cartesian logic was the “new” logic of the era, and its system was more exciting and less technical than an Aristotelianism that had an established reputation for stuffiness and unnecessary complexity. Cartesian logic also had an important advocate: William Brattle. Morton might be the beloved old man in the next town, but Brattle was actually at Harvard, first as tutor and then as the confidant and guide to the tutors. Brattle, whose influence at Harvard was enormous, established Cartesian logic as the dominant logic in the curriculum.