A Stated Meeting of the Society was held, at the invitation of Mr. Edward M. Pickman, at No. 22 Larch Road, Cambridge, on Thursday, April 28, 1927, at half after eight o’clock in the evening, the President, Samuel Eliot Morison, in the chair.

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

    The Corresponding Secretary reported that letters had been received from Mr. Charles Francis Dorr Belden accepting Resident Membership; from Mr. Arthur Meier Schlesinger accepting Associate Membership; and from Mr. William Tudor Gardiner accepting Corresponding Membership.

    Mr. Heman Merrick Burr of Boston was elected a Resident Member.

    The President appointed the following Committees in anticipation of the Annual Meeting:

    To nominate candidates for the several offices, — Messrs. Chester Noyes Greenough, Edward Motley Pickman, and Frederic Winthrop.

    To examine the Treasurer’s accounts, — Messrs. George Pomeroy Anderson and Nathaniel Thayer Kidder.

    The President read a paper entitled “Passing the Dardanelles in 1810: An Episode in the Early Levantine Trade of Massachusetts,” which is to be printed in the New England Quarterly.

    The Recording Secretary read the following paper, written by Mr. Lawrence S. Mayo:


    Three or four months after Burgoyne’s surrender, the New Hampshire House of Representatives decided that the time had arrived when the people of the state should devise and adopt a new constitution. Heretofore New Hampshire had based her revolutionary government on a temporary constitution, which the provincial Congress had established in January, 1776. This arrangement seems to have answered its purpose fairly well, but theoretically it was open to at least one grave objection: it had never been submitted to the people for ratification. In the early days of the war this procedure had seemed unnecessary. The people had authorized their delegates to establish such a form of government as in their judgment would best conduce to the happiness of the public; and the provincial Congress had done so. But now American political theory called for a constitution which should be prepared not by the legislature but by a special convention and then should be referred to the voters for ratification. The Council agreed with the House, and a constitutional convention was called.

    The convention began its session at Concord early in June, 1778, and for almost a year struggled with the problem of framing a state constitution. Finally, on the fifth of June, 1779, it completed its task and appointed a committee whose duty it was to get the plan of government printed — in pamphlet form and in the newspapers — so that it could be properly considered by the voters. During the summer the people were to assemble in town meetings and vote for or against the proposed constitution. The result of the referendum was to be reported to the Convention on the third Tuesday in September.51

    To the eye of a layman of the twentieth century this frame of government contrived by John Langdon, John Pickering, Matthew Thornton, Timothy Walker, and their associates, appears to have been neither good nor bad. It was a bit primitive, perhaps, and clearly distrustful of executive power; but probably it would have served to hold together New Hampshire, or any other state, till the end of the war. But to the contemporaneous eye of the Reverend Jeremy Belknap of Dover the proposed constitution was distinctly defective, and he shuddered at the thought of its possible ratification. Doubtless his views on the subject were made known to his parishioners in conversations if not in sermons; but Mr. Belknap, when roused on a political question, did not confine his righteous efforts within parish limits or even within state boundaries. Consequently one July day he sat down and wrote a letter to a Boston newspaper, — the Independent Ledger. Strong as were his convictions, Belknap’s whimsical humor was even stronger, and instead of writing an orthodox diatribe against the proposed plan of government he amused himself by expressing his views in the form of an allegory or, to use his own term, an apologue. This he sent to a friend in Boston, who passed it on to the printers.52 It was published anonymously in the issue of July 26, 1779, and ran as follows:

    Messrs. Draper and Folsom,

    Notwithstanding all the strange stories which have been told in the papers, I question whether you have printed any that exceeds the following, which you may depend upon for fact, and which lately happened at Pennycook in New-Hampshire.

    A LARGE speckled Hen, which had been sitting on her nest, at times, for a twelvemonth, did on the fifth of June last produce an egg of an uncommon kind, which is now carrying about for a sight. — I shall attempt to give you some description of it, with the conjectures of the virtuosi upon it. As the shell is happily transparent the inside may be pretty well seen. The white appears exceeding thin and rare, with here and there a black spot. This rarity of the white is thought to be occasioned by some defect in the nutritive faculty of the hen; for as this surrounding fluid is supposed to be intended to mollify and preserve it in a state of fecundity, it is conjectured that this fluid in its present state is insufficient for the purpose, and that the spots in it are rather signs of putrefaction than preservation. However, as reasoning from an analogy is not always conclusive we do not pronounce positively on the matter. The yolk, which appears somewhat obscurely indeed thro’ the external coverings, has been examined with a good microscope in a clear sun, and those who have the best skill in such matters conjecture that it contains a bird not of the right sort; but what it is they are not agreed. Some supposing the hen would not have ingendered with a bird of another species, except in the night, imagine it to be an owl or a whip-poor-will. Others insist upon it to be a hawk, and even go so far as to pretend they can discover the beak and talons, but they can account for it no other way than by proposing a rape to have been committed on the hen: — For my own part, having been pretty exact in my enquiries and observations, I suspect it will prove a lousy chick of the degenerate British breed, vulgarly stilled [sic] omnipotent; for a cock of that species, has of late been seen hovering about the yard where the hen was kept. If it should prove to be the case, it would be a pity the egg should not be crushed in the shell, as the owner of the hen is an honest man, and would be glad to live peaceably with his neighbours, and has been somewhat remarkable in his time for breeding a number of game cocks, which have been of service in defending his own, and their yards from birds of prey; and if he should live to see peaceable times again, intends to supply the markets with good poultry. I am informed the hen seems inclined to keep her nest, and if allowed to brood her egg, it is supposed will hatch about the third Tuesday in September next; and I think it proper to publish this account that the friends of the honest man may before that time interpose, and advise him not to spoil his breed of poultry; as much better cocks may be obtained, and a better breed be propagated with a little more expence; which in the end will prove a lasting benefit to himself and the public.

    All this was very proper, at least it would have been considered proper in 1779; but it so happened that when Mr. Belknap was reading through his manuscript one of those imps which occasionally get the best of human beings into trouble induced him to inject a little local interest into his communication by adding a reference to his friend Ebenezer Hazard of Philadelphia, who was temporarily residing at Jamaica Plain. Officially Mr. Hazard was the Surveyor General of Post Offices and Post Roads for the Eastern Department, but his well-known hobby was collecting significant historical documents. With the latter pursuit in mind, Belknap appended to his apologue the following sentence: “P. S. Perhaps the ingenious Mr. Hazard may be glad of this egg to hang up among other curiosities in his53 collection, as a Lusus Naturae, or an American absurdity.”

    The local interest which the writer hoped to stimulate by this final touch of humor soon manifested itself, but not in the manner he had anticipated. Upon reading the postscript some of Mr. Hazard’s friends became greatly excited and immediately misinterpreted the political fable that preceded it. “Speckled hen” — “bird not of the right sort” — “rape” — “a cock hovering about” — “the ingenious Mr. Hazard may be glad of this egg.” Well, well! Of course it couldn’t be true; but whether it was true or not, a libel like this should not be tolerated. The immediate consequences of their indignation are narrated in a letter which Hazard wrote to Belknap on August 4.54 Curiously enough, he wrote this part of his letter in the third person.

    Some of Mr. H.’s friends, by a concatenation of ideas which was not unnatural, were led to think he was intended by the Cock; that he had either led the Hen astray, or been led astray by her; and there was danger of introducing a spurious breed among the poultry. Mr. H., being accused of worse than “filthy handling,” and in a newspaper too, was forced to take measures for the vindication of his moral character. He called upon the printer, and got, as he thought, the name of the author, and sat down and wrote him such a letter as the feelings of an innocent man, thus injured, dictated. An éclaircissement took place, the genuine writer’s name was given, the transaction alluded to proved to be not natural but political, an apology agreed upon, and the point settled. But two (I believe) very honest men had very disagreeable feelings on the occasion, as I doubt not a third will (though unnecessarily), and even the printer did not escape without a severe admonition to “take heed.”

    Mr. Hazard’s prediction that the author of the apologue would have “very disagreeable feelings,” when he learned what a commotion he had caused, proved to be correct. Belknap was indeed upset, and he expressed his regret with sincerity and dignity. Unlike many misunderstandings, however, the incident seems to have had no ill effect upon friendship; the two gentlemen continued to exchange letters for many years, their intimacy increased, and Hazard did Belknap more than one good turn. In 1784, when the first volume of his History of New Hampshire was being printed at Philadelphia, Hazard corrected the proof and kept the distant author informed as to its progress; in 1787 he tried to persuade Belknap to move to Philadelphia and accept the editorship of the Columbian Magazine.55 Belknap could not bring himself to leave New England and so declined the offer, but he returned the compliment a few years later by securing his friend’s election to the Massachusetts Historical Society.56

    To us the chief value of the episode lies in the fact that through the references to it that appear in the Belknap-Hazard correspondence we are able to discover an early instance of Jeremy Belknap’s fondness for allegorical writing. The best known example is, of course, The Foresters, a figurative history of the United States, which was published serially in the Columbian Magazine in 1787, — but that was several years after the Hen at Pennycook laid her unpromising egg.

    Mr. Harold Murdoch, read a paper on “The Sensitiveness of General Clinton,” which is to be printed elsewhere.

    Mr. Arthur M. Schlesinger read an extract from a letter written by Professor Levi Hedge to Professor Parker Cleaveland at Bowdoin College, from Cambridge on August 12, 1814:57

    The newspapers have recently given you some disgraceful items of our history. The College woodhouse was wantonly set on fire on the night of the 3d instant between the hours of twelve and one, and also at the same time the carpenter’s shop, which you recollect stands a few rods northeast of the old play yard. The handles were taken from all the pumps in the College yard, and quantities of stones thrown into them to prevent the possibility of their being used. The carpenter’s shop was extinguished, but the woodhouse was so completely on fire before the alarm was given, that all efforts to extinguish it were fruitless. The flame and heat were very great, and the neighbouring buildings, particularly Harvard, Hollis, and the new edifice,58 were in much danger. This old building was to have been removed immediately, and had been sold for 40 dollars. Its contents were estimated at 600 dollars, consisting in Coffee, biscuit, cutlery, boilers, and other culinary articles, none of which were saved. The fire was kindled [from] the inside, and in three separate places. It cannot be denied that this outrage was committed by College incendiaries — a fact which shames the whole republic of letters. It takes the head of all the crimes, perpetrated in this society for half a century. It is of a nature to oblige every man, connected with the College, to hold down his head. We investigated the subject with systematical resolution, and have succeeded in detecting three of the culprits, who were expelled by a unanimous vote of the government. It is currently believed they will be indicted by the Grand Jury in which case they will stand some chance of being matriculated at the state’s prison.