Transactions of The Colonial Society Of Massachusetts


    A Stated Meeting of the Society was held at the house of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, No. 28 Newbury Street, Boston, on Thursday, 22 January, 1920, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the President, Fred Norris Robinson, Ph.D., in the chair.

    The Records of the last Stated Meeting were read and approved.

    Mr. George Henry Haynes of Worcester, Mr. Charles Francis Jenney of Hyde Park, and Mr. Edward Mussey Hartwell of Boston, were elected Resident Members.

    Mr. Chester N. Greenough read a paper on Thomas Hollis (1720–1774) of Lincoln’s Inn and the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Mayhew (1720–1765) of the West Church, Boston. Mayhew’s liberal theology, his determined efforts to resist the attempts of the Society for Propagating the Gospel to advance the interests of the Church of England in the American colonies, and his republican political theories, all commended the Boston minister to the warm regard of Hollis. The correspondence of the two men, as preserved in the Hollis Papers, was spoken of as among the most interesting and valuable documents of the period. Largely through Mayhew’s prompting and personal agency, Hollis became an important friend of the radical group in church and state affairs in Massachusetts.

    Hollis’s part in the republication of Mayhew’s works in London was commented on, and special emphasis laid upon Hollis’s vigorous efforts to bring Locke, Milton, Algernon Sidney, and other republican writers — usually in editions published, bound, and inscribed in Hollis’s striking way — to the attention of the colonies, and especially to those who used the “public library at Cambridge” (that is, the Harvard College Library). Mr. Greenough showed a manuscript, in Hollis’s own hand, of verses addressed to Mrs. Mayhew explaining the device under Cipriani’s print of Mayhew’s portrait, and alluded to other prints and inscriptions which indicate Hollis’s generosity to Harvard and his special wish that the College might be fully supplied with works on government— “that first subject”—and might use these books to advance the cause of liberty. Mr. Greenough also exhibited fine portraits of Dr. Mayhew and of Algernon Sidney.1

    Mr. George P. Winship exhibited the book-plates of Edward Holyoke and Gershom Rawlins, which were printed in Boston in 1704. Holyoke and Rawlins were classmates, graduating from Harvard College in 1705, so that these are perhaps the earliest known book-plates belonging to undergraduates of the College.

    Mr. Albert Matthews communicated the following—


    When Mr. Winship showed me these book-plates a week or two ago and asked whether I knew exactly who Gershom Rawlins was, I replied that I did not but had no doubt that it would be easy to ascertain from the manuscript continuation of Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, now owned by the Massachusetts Historical Society. Sibley’s printed work is so singularly free from errors that in quoting the few words which follow it is only fair to point out that in this instance Sibley merely took what data he had at hand and evidently had made no attempt to verify the identification. This is what he wrote:

    Rawlins, Gershom, Rev., an eminent dissenting clergyman took his degree of A.M. in 1744, returned to England and died at his house in St. Johns Square, London 14 Dec 1757

    Then follow six references, an examination of which shows that Sibley accepted the above identification from John R. Rollins, who made it on three separate occasions — first in 1854,2 again in 1870,3 and finally in 1874. As his last account is fuller than the others, it is here given:

    Rawlins, Rev. Gershom. Two Sermons; 1715; 8vo. He was for a time in America; graduated at Harvard College, 1705; M.A., 1744. He returned to England and died at his residence in St. John’s Square, London, Dec. 14, 1757, “an eminent dissenting minister.” . . .

    Rev. Gershom Rawlins grad. Harvard University, 1705; M.A., 1744. He went to England and died at his residence in St. John’s Square, London, Dec. 14, 1757; “an eminent dissenting minister.”4

    In neither of the three instances did Mr. Rollins cite any authority, but no doubt he had seen a notice of the death of a clergyman of that surname in an English magazine or newspaper, and had jumped to the conclusion that it was Gershom Rawlins. Thus the London Magazine for December, 1757, recorded the death on the 15th of that month of the “Rev. Mr. Rawlings, an eminent dissenting minister;”5 while the Gentleman’s Magazine for the same month stated that the death of the “Rev. Dr. Rawlins, in St. John’s Square,” occurred on the 16th.6 That these two notices referred to the same person is made certain by an extract from the London Chronicle of December 15–17, 1757: “Yesterday died, at his House in St. John’s Square, the Rev. Dr. Rawlings, an eminent Dissenting Minister.”7 This “eminent dissenting minister,” however, was not Gershom Rawlins, but the Rev. Richard Rawlin, of whom a sketch will be found in the Dictionary of National Biography.

    It is not a little curious that almost nothing should be known about a Harvard graduate, and that a man who took orders in England should be mistaken for an “eminent dissenting minister;” and the few data here presented are offered in the hope that they will be the means of obtaining further information.

    Gershom Rawlins, the son of John and Judah Rawlins, was born in Boston on January 29, 1686.8 Entering Harvard in 1701, in 1703 and again in 1704 he was “Scholar of the House”9 — one of those, that is, appointed to look after the college buildings, etc., receiving therefor a small gratuity — and graduated in 1705. On the same Commencement Day Judge Sewall “Gave Gershom Rawlins a 20s Bill.”10 For the next six months Rawlins taught the grammar school at Woburn, receiving £15.11 As he did not take his second degree of A.M. in course in 1708, it is a fair assumption that he had already gone to England. At all events, we next hear of him on May 14, 1714, on which day he wrote the following letter to the Bishop of London:12

    Sidney Street, Near Leicester Fields, May 17, 1714.

    My Lord,

    The uneasiness which my personal address seemed to give your Lordship yestermorn has obliged me to take this method to acquaint your Lordship that I last night performed ye last office for my late friend and countryman Mr. Bradstreet who I may venture to say was very deserving of the favour and esteem wherewith your Lordship was pleased to honour him whilst alive. Your Lordship not being at leisure to hear me explain myself upon the favour I came yesterday to entreat for him since his death, I beg leave to do it here. There are people my Lord in New England who will not fail to say (perhaps from the pulpit) when they hear of Mr. Bradstreet’s death, that it was a Judgment on him for his Apostacy; for so they qualify conformity. And tho’ I fear this can no way be prevented yet I humbly conceive your Ld’p may easily prevent their triumphing over him and the glorious cause in pursuit whereof he died, by sneering that the Church of England was not so fond of her new Proselyte but that his carkass loathsome as it was might have remained above ground had not the charity of a few of his countrymen provided for its interment, who I can assure your Lordship are so far from expecting to be reimbursed out of his Estate, that on the contrary they think his Family stands in need of their further charity.

    I know, my Lord, they would be glad of such a story in New England and would carefully improve it to defeat the hopes we have that several of the young Students in that Country will follow his example. The method in which I conceive your Lordship might remedy this and which I promise myself from your Lordship’s known goodness is by procuring £20 from the Illustrious Society in whose cause he lost his life, wch will be sufficient I hope to pay his debts & defray the charges of his Funeral. The Society have obliged themselves to defray the charges of those who come over to be ordained and embrace their Mission, as appears in their printed acct Page 74–75 and therefore cannot refuse this when recommended by your Lordship. This is the only favour I have to beg of your Ld’p unless it be that your Lordship will pardon the trouble wch nothing but my concern for ye honour of our most excel Church could have tempted me to give you.

    I am, My Lord, ys.,

    G. RAWLINS.13

    Previous to the “great apostacy” at Yale College in 1722, which so stirred New England, there had apparently been only five Americans who had gone to England for Episcopal orders, all of whom, oddly enough, were Harvard men. William Vesey graduated in 1683, Samuel Myles in 1684, Dudley Bradstreet in 1698, Gershom Rawlins in 1705, and John Usher in 1719. It was the third of these who was the subject of Rawlins’s letter to the Bishop of London.

    Dudley Bradstreet, a grandson of Governor Simon Bradstreet, was the son of Dudley Bradstreet and his wife Ann (Wood) Price, the widow of Theodore Price. Born at Andover on April 27, 1678,14 after graduating at Harvard in 1698 he taught the grammar school in his native town for several years,15 and in March, 1704, was also called to teach the grammar school at Woburn and attended “‘personally at Wooburne at the time of the Charlestown Court;’ but no scholars presenting themselves as his pupils, he had returned to Andover again,” his expenses being paid and he receiving a gratuity of eighteen shillings.16 On March 5, 1706, he was chosen pastor of the church at Groton and was ordained on November 27th.17 There he remained for nearly six years, when, trouble having arisen, on June 18, 1712, an ecclesiastical council proposed his dismissal, on July 22 the church voted to dismiss him, and on July 24 the town agreed.18 It was long supposed that the cause of the disagreement between him and the parish was due to his Episcopal leanings, but documents that have recently come to light show that there were other reasons for dissatisfaction on the part of his parishioners.19 Exactly when he went to England is not known, but he was ordained deacon on April 18 and priest on April 25, 1714, by the Bishop of London.20 Bradstreet was regarded in London as a man of promise, and no doubt he looked eagerly forward to his return to his native country as a missionary; but in less than three weeks after his ordination he met the miserable fate detailed in Rawlins’s letter.

    The news of his death reached Boston on August 5, 1714, on which day Sewall noted that “Mr. Dudley Bradstreet quickly after he had received Orders, dy’d of the small Pocks.”21 President Leverett, but without comment of any sort, copied into his Diary the Latin certificates of Bradstreet’s ordination as deacon and priest.22 In a letter written August 10 to the Rev. Eliphalet Adams of New London, Sewall said: “Miserable B––––––t! his L–––––g mouth is stop’d by the Small Pocks.”23 Still more bitter were the words Sewall wrote to Jeremiah Dummer on August 17th: “Miserable B––––t! the Small Pocks has stop’d his L––––g mouth. He’l soon be dispatched was fulfill’d in a superiour degree than you imagined.”24 It is clear that Dummer must have mentioned Bradstreet in his letters, but these apparently have not been preserved. As an offset to the hard things said about him by Sewall, it is only fair to place on record the view held of him in London. In the Abstract appended to a sermon preached in 1715 by St. George Ashe, Bishop of Clogher in Ireland, we read:

    For this Parish [Newbury], or Naraganset, was design’d the Reverend Mr. Dudley Breadstreet, a Native of the Country, and Proselyte of their Way by Education, Grandson to Governour Breadstreet, who being timely convinc’d of his Duty to receive Episcopal Ordination, was desirous, when confirmed, of strengthening his Brethren in Orthodoxy of Faith and Regularity of Manners, and of whom great Expectations were raised; but God suffer’d them to be defeated by his Decease, opportune enough for himself, who was (seiz’d at London by a Disternper then almost epidemical) full of Intentions to do good; but untimely to his Family and Dependants, who yet were not burthen’d with the Expences of his Sickness or Funeral Charges; and had besides a Surplusage of the Society’s Benevolence transmitted to them, as a Testimony of their Regards for him, whose Gain was their Loss.25

    When Rawlins was ordained has not been ascertained. In 1715 he published at London “A Sermon [on Chron. ix. 7] Great Britain’s Happiness under the wise and good Government of a Protestant King, preach’d at the Camp in Hide Park, . . . Sept. 18, 1715, being the anniversary of King George’s happy Arrival.”26 Then follows a period of nearly thirty years during which nothing is heard about him. On Commencement Day, July 4, 1744, the Corporation of Harvard College voted “That the Revd Mr Gershom Rawlins, who formerly had his first Degree in this Society, should have his second Degree given him this Day.”27 On the same day the Overseers voted “That the Revd mr Gershom Rawlins, of London,” and four others, “though absent upon divers reasons were admitted to have the degrees of Master of Arts conferred on them.”28 Thus after a lapse of thirty-nine years he received his A.M. This is our last authentic glimpse of Rawlins. His name was starred in the Triennial Catalogue printed in 1758 — a fact which proves not that he was then dead but merely that the College authorities thought he was.29 Elsewhere, but on uncertain authority, he is said to have died in 1763.30

    Mr. JULIUS H. TUTTLE spoke as follows

    The search for books which were once a part of our earliest libraries becomes now and then of fascinating interest, and when such works bear evidence of their connection with distinguished collections their association gives them a special value. Thomas Prince, who began as a collector in 1703 while a student at Harvard College, gathered many works identified with colonial libraries. His library, now at the Boston Public Library, contains one book which goes back to the library of Robert Keayne, Boston’s early benefactor, who came to our city in 1635 and died on March 23, 1656, providing by his will for a library in the Town House, which should contain “a handsome roome for a Library & another for the Eldrs and Schollrs to walke & meete in.” The title is as follows:

    An Exact | Collection | Of all Remonstrances, Declarations | Votes, Orders, Ordinances, Proclamations, Petitions, Messages, Answers, and other | Remarkable Passages betweene the Kings | most Excellent Majesty, | and his High Court | of Parliament beginning at his Majesties | return from Scotland, being in | December 1641, and continued untill | March the 21, 1643. | Which | Were formerly published either by the Kings | Majesties Command or by Order from one | or both Houses of Parliament. | With a Table wherein is most exactly digested all the fore-mentioned things according to their severall | Dates and Dependancies. | — | [Printer’s mark showing the English coat of arms] | — | Printed for Edward Husband, T. Warren, R. Best, and are to be | sold at the Middle Temple, Grays Inne Gate, and the | White Horse in Pauls Churchyard, 1643.

    8vo. pp. (1), (6), 954, and Table of 15 pp.

    On the top of the blank page preceding the title-page is written the following in Keayne’s hand, and it is interesting to note the writing is of the same date as the imprint, showing its early purchase by him:

    Robert Keayne. his booke — Ann. 1643 | of Boston in New England Price 7s

    Just below this in another hand, probably that of Keayne’s cousin, the Rev. John Wilson, minister of Medfield, whose father the Rev. John Wilson of Boston and John Norton, under Keayne’s will, were to select the books fit for the Town Library and dispose of the others:

    Dom: Accipe Donū Amici tui | Cordialissimi. Jnonis Wilsoni:

    On February 13, 1719, the book passed into the possession of Thomas Prince, as shown by his own entry of that date.