MARCH MEETING, 1906.
A Stated Meeting of the Society was held at No. 25 Beacon Street, Boston, on Thursday, 22 March, 1906, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the President, George Lyman Kittredge, LL.D., in the chair.
The Records of the last Stated Meeting were read and approved.
The Corresponding Secretary reported that a letter had been received from Mr. William Logan Rodman Gifford of St. Louis, Missouri, accepting Corresponding Membership.
The President announced the death on the twenty-seventh of February of Mr. Samuel Pierpont Langley, an Honorary Member, and on the twenty-first of March of Mr. James Mills Peirce, a Resident Member, and paid a tribute to their memory.
The President stated that he had received from the Massachusetts Historical Society a Memorial to Congress respecting the preservation of the frigate Constitution. The Memorial was referred to the Council.
The President also announced the appointment of Mr. Henry H. Edes as the delegate from this Society to attend the meeting at Philadelphia in April of the American Philosophical Society in celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Franklin, at which the Society had been invited to be represented.
A SEARCH FOR THE BEGINNINGS OF STOCK SPECULATION.
It is a long step backward to the time when one might turn for investment to the stocks of the companies which bore the suggestive titles “Virginia,” “New Jersey,” or “Pennsylvania.” Yet in their day the securities of these companies had their attractions for capitalists, and perhaps at times for speculators, although it was impossible that dealings in these stocks in early days should have been classed under the head of “stock-jobbing,” an expression which is only used with reference to trading based upon rapid fluctuations of values in an open market. For dealings of this kind, whether on time or on margin, it is essential that there should be companies having fixed capitals divided into shares of uniform value, capable of easy transfer. The limitations which at the outset the great trading companies at times imposed upon their membership, and the intricate and difficult process of transferring interests in the ventures of such companies made it impossible so long as these restraints existed, that their stocks should be the subject of this sort of speculation. At the beginning the English Company of Adventurers admitted members who were bound together by oaths in temporary association for purposes of trading, colonization or conquest, and the rights obtained by the individuals who participated in these enterprises could only be transferred by consent of the majority of the Adventurers. Then followed the limited participation of owners of stock in some particular venture of a company, and finally in the course of time the idea was evolved of organizing companies for industrial and mining purposes, each having a fixed capital divided into certificates of uniform value transferable at will. Under the latter conditions came facilities for quotations of value, for transfers of ownership, and for trading in futures; and the opportunity was then given for dealings in stocks on the part of speculators, who could thereby find vent for that craving for excitement which had hitherto sought relief in hazardous mercantile ventures, in voyages of exploration, in preying upon Spanish commerce, or perhaps in privateering. Shakespeare puts all of Antonio’s hazards on the deep:
Have all his ventures failed? What, not one hit?
From Tripolis, from Mexico, and England,
From Lisbon, Barbary, and India,
And not one vessel ’scape the dreadful touch
Of merchant-marring rocks?
The London Bassanios might have continued to comment, in similar language, on the business embarrassments of their merchant friends, until, sometime in the latter part of the seventeenth century when speculation in stocks having become pronounced, the phrase “stock-jobbing” was born. Then the ventures that failed were to be sought for on the stock-market as well as on the high seas. It is for the period which first gave birth to this phrase that we must look in order to fix the beginnings of stock speculations. We know that prior to the early part of the seventeenth century there were no stocks in which speculation was possible. The exact determination of the origin of the term “stock-jobbing” would fix within narrow limits the beginning of such dealings, but even if we should fail to ascertain that date with certainty, our search will be helpful towards settling the question under discussion.
We can approach the subject, if we choose, by starting with the foundation of the great trading ventures and working down to the times when joint-stock companies became common. Or we may begin at some era in the historic past, far enough away from the present methods of business life to encounter customs which differ essentially from those in use to-day, yet near enough to permit knowledge of most of the conditions essential for stock speculation as conducted in our own time. If by preference we adopt the latter method for our research and turn to those marvellous events in Europe which startled the business world at the beginning of the eighteenth century, we find both in France and England the conditions to furnish the starting point that we seek.
Furious dealings in stocks, and evidence of some knowledge as to time transactions characterized what was the first stock-market in Paris. The industrial and commercial opportunities were absolutely different from our own. Law’s System, which then furnished in France the stock needed for the stock-jobbers, was initiated in 1716 by the organization of the Banque Générale. This was twenty-two years after the incorporation of the Bank of England. The Bank of Scotland, which had furnished Law with some lessons in the use of paper money, was then just of age. Over thirty years had passed since the “Fund at Boston in New-England” had made its feeble attempt to supply the little Massachusetts village with Bank Credit as a substitute for coin,483 and the Colony of the Massachusetts-Bay had for a quarter of a century depended upon a denominational paper currency issued by the government for all local business transactions. A brief review of the rise of the System and a glance at the story of its feeble imitator the South Sea Bubble, will help us to discover what was new in these proceedings, and what was inherited from the past.
The speculative upheaval in France familiarly known as Law’s Mississippi Bubble culminated in the winter of 1719–1720. A foreigner, whose career had been marred by his dissolute habits; a fugitive from justice, whose life had been forfeited by English law; a writer of pamphlets on money and trade; a promulgator of schemes for banks and companies which should revive the fortunes of whatever nation should adopt them; a wanderer upon the continent of Europe seeking for some monarch who would test his plans, Law at last found a listener in the Regent of France and taught him the magic power of credit. So complete a change was wrought in the temper of the French nation by the establishment of Law’s company, that the same government which but a few months before had seen its notes at seventy per cent discount, was able to flood the market with the issues of the Royal Bank and see an actual preference given them over the coin of the realm. The narrow street known as the Rue Quincampoix, the centre of speculation in Paris, was thronged with a motley crowd, composed of all classes and of all European nations. Here priest and soldier, noble and tradesman, mistress and maid, Parisian, provincial and. foreigner, jostled each other in their eager contest for the wonderful shares which had produced this marvellous result, shares to whose upward course it seemed at one time as if no limit could be set. The seed of speculation had been sown in virgin soil. The plant, fostered in the earlier stages of its life by devices entirely novel in France, grew with a rank luxuriance which soon outstripped the need of helping hand. The very excess of its vitality, combined with the favorable circumstances under which it was placed, carried a threat to its own existence, nor could the pruning-hook be applied without danger to life. As in nature, the plant which grows too rapidly finds itself unable to stand erect and bear its own weight, so the mad fury of speculation increased in Paris from day to day until it was no longer able to sustain itself. Meantime, however, the French had become familiar with many of the methods which are in vogue to-day, and which have continued without interruption, in France, from that period to the present, in spite of the edicts which were promulgated against them at the time of the fall of Law’s System. This furor of speculation had been accomplished through the agency of a gigantic commercial company into whose hands had been concentrated the management of the commerce and finances of the kingdom, combined with which was a bank which had unlimited capacity to issue paper money. The collapse followed closely upon the attempt to compel the conversion of the Rentes into the stock of the Company.
The Bank with which Law began his operations had a fixed capital divided into shares, but in the Company of the West — the second step taken in the development of the System — although there was a stated par value for the shares named in the original edict, there was no limitation to the capital except the needs of the business.484 A few months afterwards, however, such a limit was stated. Here then, we have certain knowledge of the existence of some of the conditions which are demanded for stock-jobbing. The analogy to modern securities does not, however, stop here. As time went on and speculation developed, Law put on the market three classes of shares: actions simples, which participated proportionately in the profits and losses of the company; actions rentières, which had a fixed guaranteed income, but did not participate in dividends; and actions intéressées, which had a fixed guaranteed income and also certain rights to participate in dividends. To some of these shares coupons were attached.485 So that we have in the three classes given above the three types of securities which the modern corporation puts on the market: common stock; preferred stock; and the unsecured bond with fixed interest.
Law, therefore, furnished an outfit of securities sufficient to run a modern stock board. If to this it be added that the founder of the System bulled the stock of the Company of the West by contracts to purchase on future deliveries at an advance on current prices, we see that the added element of time contracts brings this early market in close touch with modern methods. Moreover, the ingenious privileges for subscriptions to new stock, given to existing stock-holders, added to the fury of the speculation, and gave to the several classes of stock different values, a source of much puzzle to those who did not analyze the subscription rights attaching to the specific shares.
The great change which took place in the condition of France during the progress of these events could but excite the wonder of the rest of Europe. A government which at the death of Louis XIV. found itself absolutely without credit was able in the fall of 1719 to propose the redemption of its entire debt.486 Manufactures sprang up, trade revived, interest was reduced, and the nominal value of property throughout France was enormously increased. It was not unnatural that while this was going on, other nations should seek to imitate the example. If the prostrate kingdom of France could be revived in so short a time; if paper money and commercial companies could convert destitution into opulence, and actual suffering into extravagant luxury; if a treasury, bankrupt when inherited, could by these means be made solvent and put in condition to propose the redemption of a government debt which though small was burdensome, surely the experiment was” worthy of being tried elsewhere. The financiers of England were already familiar with the several processes which had been used in France to accomplish these ends. In fact, the whole of Law’s scheme was but an extension of a plan for the relief of the government which had been already started upon a smaller scale in London. The Bank of England had been created for the purpose of loaning its capital to the government and had issued demand notes. Its capital had been subsequently increased to enable it to make further government loans. The South Sea Company had been incorporated in order to fund certain government deficits and debts which were unprovided for. Its capital had been increased to furnish a redemption for the fund appropriated for payment of lottery tickets of 1710. There were in 1719 certain annuities, some of them covering a period of ninety years, which the government wished to redeem. The South Sea Company, stimulated by its previous successes and influenced by Law’s example, offered to redeem not only these but the entire debt. In a competition with the Bank of England for this privilege, the Company finally prevailed, and in 1720 a proposition was accepted by the Government, which was substantially the same in character as that which was made with reference to the French debt, by Law’s Company to the Regent of France. The debt was to be converted into shares in the South Sea Company.
The mere announcement that the proposition was accepted caused South Sea shares to rise. The infatuation which followed resembled that which had seized upon the French people. The scenes which had characterized the daily gatherings in the Rue Quincampoix at Paris were transferred to ’Change Alley, London. A cause for the speculative movement in Paris is to be found in the sudden inundation of the market with an immense amount of paper money. The infatuation in London seems to have been founded mainly upon the fact that there were large sums of money in the city seeking investment, but combined also with this was the popular belief that great gains could be made in some inexplicable manner by this process of redeeming the public debt. This mood of the public was fostered by promises of dividends, and the speculative mania thereby created survived for some months after the downfall of Law’s System in Paris. In France the speculation was confined almost exclusively to the various issues of Law’s Company. In England, however, the speculators were ready to deal in anything that was offered them. The stocks of all existing companies sympathized with the movement. Old organizations which had been abandoned were revived, and shares were put upon the market. New schemes, without the advantage of incorporation, were freely dealt in. There seemed to be no necessity that the alleged purposes of the company whose stock was offered for sale should be even plausible, nor was any guarantee required as to the honesty of the promoters. It was enough that an advertisement should be issued stating that a company was about to be formed, and that shares would be offered at a given time in ’Change Alley. Subscribers were ready to put down their names and pay an instalment in response to any advertisement. The long list of companies whose prospectuses were launched upon the market during the days of the South Sea Bubble contains the titles of many, the alleged purposes of which were at the time absurd. Some of these with increased knowledge of the laws of business and of mechanics have since become feasible. Many, however, seem as preposterous to-day as they were when they were first offered to purchasers.
The perusal of these titles can only cause wonder that people credulous enough to purchase shares in the companies should have been found, even during the wildest excitement. A proposition for a “Fish Pool for bringing in fresh fish to London” is said to have commanded £160 per share before any money was called in. A company was announced to “fish for wrecks on the Irish Coast.” Another “to make salt water fresh.” Still another was projected, whose alleged purpose was to make “oil from poppies.” Perhaps the wildest scheme of all was that “for transmuting quicksilver into a malleable and fine metal.”487 One project was advertised in the newspapers as follows: “For subscribing two millions to a certain promising or profitable design, which will hereafter be promulgated.” The projector of a scheme for manufacturing sail-cloth issued permits to subscribe, which were themselves current in the market. A contemporary author says:
We can well remember one of these named Globe-Permits, which came to be currently sold cash for 60 Guineas and upwards in the Alley, which nevertheless was only a square Bit of a playing Card, on which was the Impression of a Seal in Wax, being the Sign of the Globe Tavern in the Neighbourhood, with the Motto or Inscription Sail-Cloth Permits, [without any name signed thereon] the Possessors thereof being to be hereafter permitted to subscribe to a new Sail-Cloth Manufactory, projected by one who was then known to be a Man of Fortune, though afterwards involved in great Calamities and Disgrace.488
It was impossible that fraudulent proceedings of this nature should not leave behind some traces of litigation. Doubtless if one knew just where to turn in the various sets of English Reports, one could find in them many items of interest concerning these companies. One case, Colt v. Woolaston and Arnold, which was decided in 1723,489 gives practically all the details connected with the formation of one of these projects. It is so much more explicit than the general statements of the pamphleteers that no apology is needed for giving a résumé of the proceedings. Woolaston, the principal defendant, invented a project for extracting oil from radishes, and took out a patent for the sole exercise of his invention. His proposed plan included the cultivation of a farm for raising the radishes from which the oil was to be extracted. In pursuance of this plan he bought an estate for £31,800, on which a mortgage of £28,000 was left. The patent was then assigned to Arnold (who was also made a defendant in the suit) in trust for contributors to the scheme.490 A company was organized June, 1720, with 5,000 shares of £20 each. The £100,000 was to be applied, £28,000 to the mortgage and £57,200 to Woolaston for the Patent, the balance to remain in the treasury of the Company, the title of which was the “Land Security and Oil Patent.” In August, 1720, the Company failed, and this suit and another were successfully prosecuted against the projectors.
In the midst of so many chimerical schemes and absurd propositions it was a difficult task for the wits of the day to find language extravagant enough to satirize, in burlesque titles of fictitious companies, the preposterous plans devised by sharpers to draw in money from the credulous. One advertisement, however, has been handed down to us, which shows that even at that time, when the wise and the ignorant, the rich and the poor, nobles and peasants, were alike inoculated with the fever of speculation, there were some who comprehended the follies which were being perpetrated. In this advertisement it was stated that at a certain place, on a given day, “books would be opened for a subscription of two millions, for the invention of melting down sawdust and chips, and casting them into deal boards, without cracks or knobs.”491
If we examine the methods made use of by the speculators of that day, we shall find that Law attracted attention to his company by purchasing “calls” at prices far above what there was any necessity for him to pay.492 By means of these contracts he not only ultimately made money, but he stimulated confidence that the stock would rise, at a time when it was needed. In England it was stated by an observer that “great numbers of contracts were made [during the South Sea excitement] for taking many of the stocks at a future time; and also for Puts and Refusals of them, at very high prices.”493 In other words, the speculative methods in vogue not only covered cash transactions, but included the “puts” and “calls” of to-day. More than that, shrewd observers detected the plans of the speculators, and one of them, in a published comparison of the advantages offered the public by the proposals of the Bank and the Company, alluded to “jobbing tricks played and reports given about the Alley to raise stock,” and asserted that the manipulators of the South Sea stock would, if let alone, “turn this great design into a private job, and when they have worked up their stock by management to an unnatural price will draw out and leave the public to shift for itself.”494
Abundant evidence exists that the whole business of speculating in stocks was in 1718 a novelty to the French. They had to be taught the A B C of the methods. When they had learned how to speculate, they dealt only in the stocks furnished by the genius of one man. The allusion to transactions in futures in London referred to above, shows that the English were already familiar with stock speculations, with all the ramifications which follow transactions in futures, and with the manœuvres and tricks often used to secure a fictitious valuation for a stock. They were accustomed to the methods of forming joint-stock companies, of launching them on the market, and of creating a favorable public opinion. There is, I think, a decided disposition to fix upon the date when these episodes occurred as the time when stock-jobbing began. The fact is that these conspicuous transactions form an epoch during which the frenzy of the speculators so completely overshadows antecedent events that there is actual danger of overlooking facts. The general reader will, however, find enough in the field of ordinary literature to serve as a warning against this conclusion and to put him on guard, even though he lays no claim to knowledge upon technical points in the history of finance.
Readers of Sir Walter Scott’s novels will recall the fascinating description of English life in the days of Charles II. portrayed in Peveril of the Peak. Among the features of the day of which the novelist made use was the speculative mania which at some time during the seventeenth century began to pervade society. In an interview between the Duke of Buckingham and his valet, the latter is made to recapitulate a number of schemes which had been submitted to the duke for the rehabilitation of his fortune. “Dr. Wilderhead’s powder of projection,” “Solicitor Drownland’s plan for draining the fens,” and other similar projects are rejected by the impatient duke, who urges Jerningham to post down to the Alley and buy for him £20,000 in the South Sea Fisheries.
As if conscious that a doubt might arise in the reader’s mind whether this was not an anachronism, Sir Walter adds in a note, —
Stock-jobbing as it is called, that is dealing in shares of monopolies, patents, and joint stock companies of every description, was at least as common in Charles II’s time as our own; and as the exercise of ingenuity in this way promised a road to wealth without the necessity of industry, it was then much pursued by dissolute courtiers.
The novelist is not, perhaps, to be held to the same rigid severity of criticism as the historian. By means of the note, however, the dialogue in the text is to a certain extent withdrawn from the land of fiction. Unfortunately, the note is not fortified by any reference. The statement is made by contemporaneous writers that the transfer of stock speculation from the Royal Exchange to ’Change Alley took place in 1698.495 The South Sea Company was incorporated in 1711. In sending his order for shares in the “South Sea Fisheries” to “the Alley,” the Duke of Buckingham anticipated history by a few years, but that there must have been dealings in stocks at the time which the novelist was describing seems extremely probable. There were in England at that date joint-stock and incorporated companies with shares or transferable interests, and there was money. Tulip bulbs and money had sufficed to set Holland wild a few years before, and dealings in “monopolies and patents” had become of enough importance in the early part of the seventeenth century to furnish a topic for satirical play-writers. Whether these dealings assumed the character of stockjobbing may be doubted, but the general statement that there, were stock dealings in England in the days of Charles II. is, perhaps, true. There may indeed at times have been speculative movements. That such was the case has been repeated in a vague way by some writers on finance, while others have sought to associate the birth of stock speculation with the accession of William and Mary or with the Charter of the Bank of England.
Among those who have assigned the former period, is that distinguished contemporary writer Bolingbroke who, referring to the accession of William and Mary, says:
Thus the method of funding and the trade of stock-jobbing began; thus were great companies created the pretended servants, but in many respects the real masters of every administration.496
A writer in the Democratic Review, in an article on Stock-Gambling, announces the result of his investigation as follows:
This System may be said to have began with the English Revolution in 1689;497
while in a paper published in the Banker’s Magazine the following statement is made:
It is therefore from this period (the Charter of the Bank of England) that we may date the origin of that spirit of gambling which infested the City of London, at different times, and which gave birth to some of the most extraordinary frauds and delusive schemes, that were ever concocted by man in civilized society.
Recurring to the definition of stock-jobbing given by Sir Walter Scott in his note, it will be observed that he does not in express terms include time bargains. Francis, in his Chronicles and Characters of the Stock Exchange says:
The origin of these bargains is obvious, and may be traced to the period of six weeks in each quarter, when the Bank books were, as it was then thought, necessarily closed to prepare for the payment of the dividend.498
This statement is almost as misleading as the anachronisms in Peveril of the Peak. Francis, in the Chronicles, etc., quotes freely from a pamphlet published in 1719, entitled The Anatomy of Exchange Alley,499 the opening words of which were, “The general cry against stock-jobbing has been such, and people have been so long and so justly complaining of it as a public nuisance,” etc. It is true that the assertion that people have long been suffering from stock-jobbing fixes no date, but we can easily trace the use of the phrase farther back than a quarter of a century. A glance at some of the publications treating of this subject about this time will permit us to measure the means at command of the writer to avoid this error.
Defoe, between the years 1697 and 1705, wrote several pamphlets in which he feelingly describes the frauds perpetrated upon the credulous.
There are, and that too many, fair pretences of fine discoveries, new inventions, engines, and I know not what; which being advanced in notion, and talked up to great things to be performed when such sums of money shall be advanced, and such and such engines are made, have raised the fancies of credulous people to such height, that merely on the shadow of expectation, they have formed companies, chose committees, appointed officers, shares and books, raised up great stocks, and cried up an empty notion to that degree, that people have been betrayed to part with their money for shares in a new-nothing. . . .
I might go on upon this subject, to expose the frauds and tricks of stock-jobbers, engineers, patentees, committees, with those exchange mountebanks we very properly call brokers, but I have not gall enough for such a work;500 . . .
In his Essay upon Loans, the same author says:
Here together with the innumerable tallies which upon the deficiency of former taxes as aforesaid, went about the town upon discount, and the great obstruction of running cash, by calling in the old coin, was the first rise given the art and mystery of stock-jobbing, etc.
If by this he means the re-coinage of 1696, it is not consistent with what he had already published in his Essay upon Projects, where he says:
I shall trace the original of the projecting humour that now reigns no farther back than the year 1680, dating its birth as a monster then, though by times it had indeed a something of life in the time of the late civil war. . . . But about the year 1680 began the art of projecting to creep into the world. . . .
A while before this several people under the patronage of some great persons had engaged in planting of foreign colonies, as William Pen, the Lord Shaftesbury, Dr. Cox, and others, in Pennsylvania, Carolina, East and West Jersey, and the like places, which I do not call projects because it was only prosecuting what had been formerly begun. But here began the forming of public joint-stocks, which together with the East India, Africa and Hudson’s Bay Companies before established begot a new trade, which we call by a new name stock-jobbing, which was at first only the simple occasional transferring of interest and shares from one to another, as persons alienated their estates, but by the industry of the exchange brokers, who got the business into their hands it became a trade, and one perhaps ‘managed with the greatest intrigue, artifice and trick that ever anything that appeared with a face of honesty could be handled with, for while the brokers held the box they made the whole exchange the gamesters, and raised and lowered the prices of stocks as they pleased, and always had both buyers and sellers who stood ready innocently to commit their money to the mercy of their mercenary tongues.
In The Consolidator: A Memoir of Sundry Transactions from the World in the Moon, 1705, Defoe adds a description of the manner in which the bears of those days depressed a stock and when they had gained their object captured the control of the company in whose stock they were operating:
They concerted matters and all at once fell to selling off their stock, giving out reports that they would be no longer concerned. . . . By this artifice, they daily offering to sale, and yet in all their discourse discouraging the thing they were to sell, no body could be found to buy. . . . All this while the Crolians employed their emissaries to buy up privately all the interest or shares in these things that any of the Solonarian Party would sell.
John Asgill, a writer on finance, published in 1696 a tract entitled Several Assertions proved in order to create another species of Money than Gold and Silver, in which he says “this kingdom stands stock-jobbed, by being obliged to deliver what they have not.” He speaks of “the splitting of shares in joint-stocks, to multiply them in the hands of those whose they then are, that, before the fallacy is found out they may sell them (by number) to others, who come to the right understanding of it by the fall of them in their own hands.” It would seem as if Asgill must have known something about “corners” when he speaks of “being obliged to deliver what they have not,” and “the splitting of shares” and then selling them “by number” is suggestive of what we should to-day denominate “watering stock.” But before Asgill wrote what has just been quoted, an anonymous writer had already published a pamphlet in which he devoted himself largely to a merciless attack upon those who by fraudulent means and tricky ways were engaged in the process of making money by bulling stocks.
The pamphlet in question was published in London in 1695, and was entitled Angliæ Tutamen, or The Safety of England = Being an Account of the Banks, Lotteries, Diving, Draining, Metallic, Salt, Linen, and Lifting and sundry other Engines, and many other pernicious Projects now on Foot, tending to the Destruction of Trade and Commerce, and the impoverishing of this Realm.501 The author of the pamphlet has no patience with stock-jobbing, and attributes the failure of many of the projects to the fact that they were taken out of the management of a few hands and converted into stock-jobbing schemes. He describes the methods of sharpers as follows:
The projectors of many of these made a great noise in the town, for drawing in people to join with them, making use of various tricks and stratagems. As, first, they pretend a mighty vein of gold, silver or copper, to have been discovered in a piece of ground of their knowledge: then they agree with the lord or patentee for a small yearly rent, or a part reserved to him, to grant them a lease of twenty-one years to dig that ground, which they immediately fall to, and give out it is a very rich mine. Next, they settle a company, divide it usually into four hundred shares, and pretend to carry on the work for the benefit of all the proprietors; who, at the beginning, purchase shares at a low rate, viz, ten or twenty shillings, etc. Then, all on a sudden, they run up the shares to three pounds, five pounds, ten pounds, and fifteen pounds per share. Then they fall to stock-jobbing, which infallibly ruins all projects; when those originally concerned, sell out their interest, and by this, and other underhand dealings, trickings, and sharping, on one another, the whole falls to the ground, and is abandoned by everybody.
The references already given have carried us back to a time when the Bank of England was only a year old, a brief space for the growth of a novel method of trading, inaugurated, according to Francis, solely in consequence of the annual closing of the books of the Bank for a short period; but if we go back still another year, we shall find that even then stock-jobbing had reached such a height as to furnish a dramatist with a subject for a satirical play, and time bargains were already so common that forms for “Puts and Refusals” had been published in a serial publication of the day.
The last play written by Thomas Shadwell was entitled, The Volunteers or the Stock-jobbers.502 It was not performed until 1693, some months after the death of the author, which occurred in 1692. In the Epilogue which was written for the posthumous bringing out of the play, and was “spoken by one in deep mourning,” the author is described as:
SHADWELL the great Support oth’ Comick Stage,
Born to expose the Follies of the Age.
This estimate of Shadwell’s work is much more just than opinions expressed upon such occasions ordinarily are. A glance at the notes in Peveril of the Peak and in Macaulay’s History of England will show how much the novelist and the historian were benefited by the discrimination of the play-writer. His selection from the manners and customs of the day of what was suitable for satire upon the stage, was precisely what Scott and Macaulay were in search of. An analysis of Shadwell’s plays reveals many peculiarities of life at that time which are entirely overlooked by ordinary writers. The title of the play already referred to shows, not only that the mania for stock speculation had fastened itself upon the English public in 1692, but that the familiar name of stockjobbing had even then become a cant phrase. Without undertaking to expose the plot of the stock-jobbers, a few extracts from the dialogue will illustrate the material which the stock-market then furnished for dramatic purposes.
Hackwell, an old Cromwellian Colonel, has been led by his young wife to speculate in stocks. He is interviewed by Welford, whom the Colonel evidently mistakes for a dealer in stocks.
Hackwell, Sen. Who are you, sir? Have you ought with me?
Welford. I have, if you be Colonel Hackwell, somewhat which concerns you.
Hack. Sen. Men are wont to call me so; Is it about the Linen manufacture?
Welf. Ha! This godly old fellow is of the honest vocation of stockjobbing. (Aside) — No, it is not.
By means of the dialogue the glass, the copper, the tin and paper manufactures are then in turn introduced. A trial is made of “the Divers” and of “The Dippers who will make the Sarcenet keep out the rain like Drap de Berry,” after which the dramatist, having made effective use of the titles of companies, permits Welford to state the purpose of his visit, and the action of the play moves along.
In another scene two stock-jobbers present their schemes. The dramatist makes use of them to present the extravagances of the stock-market through the contest which ensues between the stockjobbers in offering for Hackwell’s consideration a number of absurd schemes, the enumeration of which was calculated to amuse an audience. In the course of this contest the second stock-jobber announces that “There is likewise a Patent moved for of bringing some Chinese rope-dancers over, the most exquisite in the world. Considerable men,” he adds, “have shares in it, but verily I question whether this be lawful or not.” This furnishes an opportunity for setting forth the morals of stock-jobbing in an obnoxious light, and the instrument selected for the purpose is the old Cromwellian Colonel, who develops the same in the following speech:
Look thee, brother, if it be to a good end, and that we ourselves have no share in the vanity or wicked diversion thereof by beholding of it, but only use it, whereby we may turn the penny, and employ it for edification, always considered that it is like to take, and the said shares will sell well, and then we shall not care, whether the aforesaid dancers come over or no.
The interview with the brokers is ended by Hackwell in the following words:
Look ye, brethren, hye ye into the city, and learn what ye can; we are to have a consultation at my house at four, to settle matters as to lowering and heightening of shares.
If the date of this play were concealed, one might imagine that it was intended to satirize the period of the South Sea Bubble. The play was, however, produced twenty-seven years before the excitement which has been named after the South Sea Company. It is evident not only that Shadwell was himself familiar with the processes which he introduced into his dialogue, but that he expected a London audience to enjoy the satire.
About this time a set of forms for stock transactions was published in a serial edited by a certain John Houghton.503 The topics treated in the weekly papers covered a wide range. Recipes were furnished housewives; advice as to the rotation of crops was given farmers; discussions of scientific subjects were laid before those who were interested in such matters; statistics and facts relating to commerce and trade were published for the benefit of merchants and traders. In the ninety-eighth number of this serial, issued 15 June, 1694, Houghton fixes the period when activity in stocks began in the English market as follows:
A great many stocks have arisen since this war with France; for trade being obstructed at sea, few that had money were willing it should lie idle, and a great many that wanted employments studied how to dispose of their money, that they might be able to command it whensoever they had occasion, which they could more easily do in joint stocks than in laying out the same in lands, houses or commodities, these being more easily shifted from hand to hand: this put them upon contrivances, whereby some were encouraged to buy, others to sell, and this is it that is called Stock jobbing.
Under date of 6 April, 1692, he says:
Altho they that live at London, may, every noon and night on working days, go to Garraway’s Coffee House, and see what prices the Actions504 bear of most companies trading in joint Stocks;
and, under date of 3 March, 1692–93:
At this time when companies of men are so eager to enter into joint stocks for improvement of anything that appears reasonable; witness our linen and copper companies; and the company that lately subscribed for the lead mines in Wales, to which to my knowledge, a subscription was made in one day of 2,500£. And I am well assured they might easily have raised four times as much, and I presume they still may do so, if occasion requires it.
The series of papers specially devoted to joint stocks, or as he says, to “the various dealings therein, commonly called stockjobbing,” came out in 1694. Houghton was acquainted with many worthy persons who dealt in stocks, and he considered it a great hardship that such gentlemen should “undergo the censures of mankind, who inveigh against all traders and trading in stock, tho’ at the same time they know little or nothing of it.” For this reason he proposed “to give an account of the original and necessity of joint-stocks, the lawfulness and usefulness of trading therein, and the abuses that are so much complained of and charged upon the traders in them.” He proceeds to give a few historical facts about joint-stock companies, describes the method of their organization and adds an account of “the manner of managing the trade” and “the manner of refuse:”
The manner of managing the trade is this: the monied man goes among the brokers (which are chiefly upon the Exchange and at Jonathan’s Coffee-House, sometimes at Garraway’s, and at some other Coffee-Houses505) and asks how stocks go. And upon such information, bids the broker buy or sell so many shares of such and such stocks if he can, at such and such prices. Then he tries what he can do among those that have stocks, or power to sell them, and if he can, makes a bargain.
Another time he asks what they will have for refuse of so many shares; that is how many guineas a share he shall give for his liberty to accept or refuse such shares, at such a price, at any time within six months, or other time they shall agree for.
Having thus shown what a “refuse” of shares is, he proceeds to give a form of the contract, and to demonstrate “the conveniency of giving money for a refuse.” He then describes “the manner of putting stock,” argues in favor of its “conveniencies” and gives “the contract for security.” Perhaps the most astonishing revelation in this series of letters or papers is the description of the modern corner under the title of “The great mystery of buying more than all.”506 The whole subject is finally disposed of in a paper headed “The advantages of stocks particularized.” In this paper the author discloses the condition of a number of trades, ventures and companies, leaving it to be inferred that their stock was for sale on the market. From this list Macaulay, who is authority for the statement that the word stock-jobber was first heard in London about the year 1688,507 derived the names and descriptions of many of the companies which he enumerates in his account of the speculations of this period. Two, however, which are mentioned by Houghton find no place in the historian’s list, and these two bring before us more conspicuously perhaps than all the rest the marvellous changes wrought during the two centuries which have intervened. “New Jersey,” said Houghton, “will improve without question; as Pennsylvania by the like means already has.”
The foregoing quotations from Shadwell and from Houghton show that in 1692 dealings in stocks occupied a great share of public attention in London. Already many of the devices of purchasing and selling on time had become common, and rogues had learned that beneath specious promises and under cover of high sounding titles companies could be organized with transferable stock which could be disposed of to the unwary upon the open market. Popular prejudice was already aroused against all stock-dealings. The sins of a part were visited upon the beads of all. It is evident that when Houghton calmly discussed the situation and pointed out the benefits to be derived from these companies and from time transactions in their stocks, he undertook a task which required moral courage.
So strong was the feeling aroused by the many frauds perpetrated by stock-jobbers that in the spring of 1693–94 a bill was introduced in the House of Commons for the purpose of “preventing frauds and abuses in buying and selling of parts and shares in joint-stocks.” A petition of several merchants in behalf of themselves and divers other merchants and tradesmen in and about the city of London and elsewhere, was presented to the House, and read. It set forth that a bill was depending in the House for preventing abuses in selling interests in joint-stocks, that if it should pass as worded it would be of dangerous consequence and a means of ruin to trade, and the petitioners prayed that they might be heard by counsel to offer their reasons against the passage of said bill. The petition was rejected but the bill failed to pass.
On 27 March, 1696, leave to bring in a bill to prevent stockjobbing was granted and a committee was appointed to prepare one. This committee reported a bill which was read twice and then committed. On the first of April, 1697, it was ordered that leave be given to bring in a bill to restrain the number and ill-practices of brokers and stock-jobbers, and that Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Rowland Gwyn and Sir Joseph Tiley do prepare and bring in the bill. A committee was also appointed to inquire into the ill-practices of brokers and stock-jobbers and report the same, with their opinions thereupon to the House.508 This time the bill passed and according to the Monthly Mercury, the royal assent was given to it on the 16th of April and it then became a law.509
We can trace every step of the rapid growth of stock-jobbing in France. In England, however, except for the vague statements of Defoe, when we first hear of the subject it has already reached such proportions that the drama is invoked to satirize it, pamphleteers ventilate the wrongs perpetrated on the public in its name, and Parliament is called upon to check the abuses which follow in its train. Nevertheless, it is evident that in England it was a growth, perhaps a rapid growth, but not a creation, certainly not, as in France, the creation of one man.
If we step back of the well-defined craze of stock-jobbing of which we have just been treating, we find that in 1688 there was enough of a market for East India shares to permit a diplomat to speculate in them on the basis of his political knowledge. Burnet says510 that Abbeville before going over to The Hague in 1688 sent over a threatening Memorial. This was printed at Amsterdam before it was delivered to the States. “The chief effect this had was that the Actions of the company did sink for some days. But they soon rose again; and by this it was said that Abbeville himself made the greatest gain.” The inference is plain here that the shares in which Abbeville made his gains were transferable at will.
In those days goldsmiths received deposits and were of course on the lookout for temporary investments in which they could place their surplus funds. Anderson, referring for authority to a pamphlet entitled “The Mystery of the new fashioned Goldsmiths or Bankers discovered,”511 says that in 1665 all public demands fell short of employing the cash which was deposited with them. “This made them run into the way of lending money on private pawns at high interest; or discounting bills of exchange, or lending money on personal security to heirs in expectancy, etc.” It is evident from this, that in 1665 the shares of joint-stock companies, notwithstanding the fact that Macaulay gives a quotation of East India stock in 1664512 and regardless of what Defoe says of the several companies which he enumerates, did not furnish a conspicuous avenue for the investment of surplus funds.
If the inference which may naturally be drawn from what this pamphlet states be true, we might at this point abandon our search for the beginnings of stock speculation. We have passed through a well defined period of stock-jobbing. We have seen the British public familiar, in the latter part of the seventeenth century, with the methods of organization of stock-companies, and ready to avail themselves of this knowledge upon any pretence for speculative purposes, and we find that but a few years back of this a writer upon finance makes no mention of joint-stock companies when enumerating the avenues in which surplus wealth could be invested. The reason why the securities of the trading companies, which were then from time to time offered for sale, should not have commanded the support of those who wished to make temporary investments of their surplus money, is probably to be found in the fact that the restrictions surrounding the memberships of some of the companies and the difficulties attendant upon a transfer of the stock which have been referred to, had not been removed. Besides, their charters were originally granted for limited periods, and even as late as 1693 only a portion of them had been converted from “regulated” companies in which the risks of the commercial ventures were assumed by individual members513 into joint-stock companies in which all participated proportionately to their stock in the profits and losses in which the stock was interested. At each renewal of the privilege of the company there was a contest in which the rights of the invested capital were by no means sure of recognition and protection.
From Evelyn we get a view of the relations of the Adventurers to the East India Company in 1657. He gives a description in his diary of a meeting of this company as follows:
I went to London, to a Court of ye East India Company upon its new union in Merchant Taylors Hall where was much disorder by reason of the Anabaptists, who would have the Adventurers oblig’d only by an engagement; without swearing, that they still might pursue their private trade; but it was carried against them. Wednesday was fix’d on for a general court for election of Officers, after a sermon and prayers for good successe. The Stock resolv’d on was 800,000£.
27. I tooke ye oath at the E. India House subscribing 500£.514
Although there are references to the rise and fall of East India stock back of this date, it is difficult to conceive of them in the sense of an ordinary stock quotation. The necessity of binding the shareholders by oath to prevent them from private trading introduced a personal element between the Adventurers which must necessarily have hampered transactions in shares. Considerable power was given in the acts of incorporation of the company to levy assessments. If these powers were exercised in accordance with the resolutions passed by the company, this fact must have held back investors. For instance, at a meeting of the company 11 January, 1601–02, an assessment was laid for the voyage of discovery to the North West Passage, to which this clause was attached:
Provided always that if any brother of this fellowship shall deny to bring in his said contribution at the rate of twelve pence the pound of his former adventure, or do not bring in the same at or before the days and times before limited that then he or they shall satisfy and pay for a fine by way of deduction out of his stock adventure in the last voyage five times the value of the contribution by him payable by virtue of this Act.515
Whether under pressure of assessments or by virtue of sales, there were occasional transfers of interest in these ventures. They required, however, the approval of the company, which was obtained in the manner indicated in the following entry made at a meeting held 6 July, 1601:
At this Court Francis Dent one of the Adventurers of this fellowship whose name is contained in the patent did present to this Assembly one George Bennett and prayed that he might be admitted in his place being willing to assign unto him both his freedom and his adventure which is Two hundred and forty pounds in his Adventure set down and supplies. Which this Court assented unto and in place of the said Francis Dent have received the said George Bennett and admitted him to this freedom as freely as if he had been nominated in the Patent.516
It is also to be noted that when the Common Seal was adopted in 1601, one of the alleged purposes was that “Every contributor might have a bill of Adventure of his Contribution under the common seal of the Company.”517 In April of the same year, in levying an assessment the interests of the Adventurers are spoken of as stock. Even at the very beginning of the Company we find stock and a certificate of ownership under seal of the Company,518 although ownership was accompanied with various personal agreements and obligations, and transfers were only possible by consent of the Company.
The Virginia Company also furnishes a few hints of the methods of these Adventurers. Subscribers to the funds of the company were by the terms of the second Charter in 1609 to be enrolled in the books of record of the Company, and were to be held and reputed Adventurers of the Colony, being capable of enjoying grants as if named in the letters patent.519 In 1613, the Company brought suit in equity against some of the delinquent subscribers. In their petition to the Lord Chancellor, it is stated that upon receipt from subscribers of money, the Company “delivered their bills of receipt and infranchisement sealed with the common seal of the Company.”520
That the Company was regarded as a “joint stock Company” would appear from the memorandum in the Court Minutes of the East India Company 26 February, 1614, to the effect that permission was given Sir Thomas Dale, now employed in Virginia, to adventure £100 in the joint-stock at the request of Sir William Throgmorton.521 Thus we have in the Virginia Company in 1613–14, a joint-stock company which issues evidences of ownership to shareholders under seal of the Company. What they expected in the way of dividends appears in 1616, when they declare that —
they intend, God willing, to begin a present division by lot to every man that hath already adventured his money or person, for every single share of twelve pounds ten shillings, fifty acres of land, till further opportunitie will afford to divide the rest, which we doubt not will bring at least two hundred acres to every single share.522
It was not, perhaps, necessary to show by these extracts that these incorporated trading companies were not at this early period the possible subjects of stock speculation. Contemporary allusions are met with which indicate knowledge of the work which the Companies were accomplishing, but these do not in any way connect their stocks with speculation.523 Yet we must not overlook the fact that occasional rare quotations of East India stock are to be met with during this century; and that Houghton refers to New Jersey and Pennsylvania as though they were on the market in 1694, and that Defoe associates the East India, Africa, and Hudson’s Bay Companies with what he calls “public joint-stocks.”
The companies which furnished the speculators with the means for “lowering and heightening” their stocks towards the end of the century were not, however, as a rule corporations. Behind the epoch of speculative activity which has rendered ’Change Alley immortal and has added to the interest which attaches to the names of Jonathan’s and of Garraway’s, there stretches a period when speculative dealings were apparently confined to patents and monopolies, the former word having, prior to the Statute of Monopolies, a much broader sense than it has to-day; a sense, indeed, which we have seen repeated by Shadwell in the reference to the patent for bringing over some Chinese dancers, as late as 1692.524
Hume gives us a long list of the patents and monopolies granted by Elizabeth to her courtiers.525 These grants were continued by James the First in such profusion that in 1624 the Statute of Monopolies was passed, which prevented thereafter such grants being made except under the guise of inventions. Scattered through Anderson we find the titles of many patents, and turning to the dramatists of the day, we discover that they were somehow made use of for speculative purposes.
If we were put upon our guard as to the speculative epoch prior to the South Sea Bubble by Scott’s Peveril of the Peak we may, perhaps, find in the allusions of historians and dramatists to the similar state of affairs in the beginning of the century, a warning that to this period we must turn before we can safely say that we have got behind stock speculation. It is obvious that there were then speculative dealings in these grants. The question to be solved is, were there at that time any joint-stock companies?
Richard Brome, at one time a servant of Ben Jonson and later a writer of comedies, was one of those who joined in the attack upon this conspicuous abuse of the period. Brome died in 1652. In the Court Beggar, which was pubbshed in 1653, he introduces among the dramatis personæ “Three poore projectors,” and in Scene 1 of Act I he refers to “The Monopoly of making all the Perrukes, male and female through Court and Kingdome.” This, obviously, is quite within the range of possible or even probable monopolies, but in the Antipodes, Act IV., Scene 9, he brings ridicule to bear upon the “projects” of the day, in a long speech, the character of which will be seen from the following extract:
As for yours,
For putting down the infinite use of jacks,
Whereby the education of young children,
In turning spits, is greatly hindered,
It may be looked into: and against yours
The multiplicity of pocket-watches.
Whereby much neighborly familiarity,
By asking “What d’ ye guess it is o’clock?”
Is lost, when every puny clerk can carry
The time o’ the day in’s breeches.
In 1632 Shackerley Marmion published a play called Hollands League. In the fifth Scene of the first Act, a boy announces that five or six are without and would speak with the principal character in the scene. He recognizes them as his “Gibeonites,” his “old projectors,” and adds:
One of them
Will undertake the making of Bay-Salt,
For a penny a bushel, to serve the State,
Another dreames of building water-workes;
Drying of Fennes and Marshes, like the Dutchman.
Again in the second Scene of the third Act, the same speaker says:
You’ll put a period to my undertakings
And save all my labor of projecting.
. . . . . .
’T will hinder to the gaine of Courtiers
Put on by me, to begge Monopolies.
It will be noticed that this play was published eight years after the passage of the Statute of Monopolies. Yet the author makes the projector base his hopes upon monopolies to be begged by courtiers.
It is, however, to Ben Jonson’s The Devil is an Ass that we must turn if we would learn what a “projector” was in 1616 and how the projector proposed to make money for his client, or perhaps it would be better to say, what the delusions were by means of which he intended to rob his client. In Act I., Scene 3, of this play, the projector is thus defined:
Why, one sir, that projects ways to enrich men or to make them great, by suits, by marriages, by undertakings; according as he sees they humour it.
The relations of the client to the project are set forth in Act II., Scene 1:
He shall but be an undertaker with me
In a most feasible business. It shall cost him
Nothing . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . He shall not draw
A string of ’s purse. I’ll drive his patent for him.
We’ll take in citizens, commoners and aldermen,
To bear the charge, and throw them off again
Like so many dead flies, when it is carried.
The thing is for the recovery of drowned land.
A follower brings in a “black bag of papers” from which the projector extracts numerous manuscripts. Project four is a method of dressing dog’s skins. Another is for “Bottle-Ale:”
I will save in cork
In my mere stop’ling, above three thousand pound.
A third is “Making Wine from Raisins,” which would greatly reduce the price of all wines:
But how, sir, if you raise the price of the other Commodity,
Why, then, I’ll make it out of blackberries.
The particular project with which Fitzdottrell, the gull, is to be worked is the redemption of the fens, and this he himself describes in the same scene in the following words:
He has his winged ploughs, that go with sails,
Will plough you forty acres at once! and mills
Will spout you water ten miles off! All Crowland
Is ours wife; and the fens, from us, in Norfolk
To the utmost bounds of Lincolnshire!
Even more seductive than this was the promise of the title “Duke of the Drowned Lands, or Drowndland.” And here we see how Sir Walter Scott’s memory played him false and linked the speculations of two centuries together in Peveril of the Peak. The draining of the fens, until it was actually accomplished, was a favorite field of the projectors. Randolph in the Muses’ Looking Glass, Act III., Scene 1, puts in the mouth of one of his speakers, the following:
I have a rare device . . .
to drain the fens.
The title of Jonson’s play, to which reference has been made and its plot, the purpose of which is to show that a devil fresh from hell was unable to compete at that time with the iniquities of English society, would seem to demand from the author his highest efforts in satire when he comes to the enumeration of the projects to be offered to the gull. Yet the titles of those mentioned do not represent improbable schemes to us, however they may have seemed to contemporaries, nor is the picturesque language used by Fitzdottrel in describing them much different from that used in actual patents granted at this time to Court followers and inventors. In 1618 King James granted an exclusive patent to John Gilbert for the sole making and vending of what was clearly a dredger but which he called a “Water-plough,” and for an engine “for the raising of Waters in greater quantity than heretofore.”526 To David Ramsey and Thomas Wildgosse he granted the sole use and benefit of certain discoveries and inventions, one of which was “For ploughing of Land without Horses or Oxen.”527 Another was for making “Boats for the carriage of burdens and passengers to run upon the water as swift in calms, and more fast in storms, then Boats full sailed in great winds.”528 Can one doubt that Jonson had actual knowledge of Gilbert’s inventions — I will not say the patent, for that was not granted till two years afterward — when he wrote the speech concerning the winged ploughs and the water spouted ten miles off, which has been quoted? Is it not probable that he thought that the keenest satire at his command was the list of patents actually granted?
What concerns us most, however, in connection with these plays is, not so much the character of the patents and monopolies in which people speculated at this date, as the form of the speculation itself. Have we any signs in these quotations of the existence of the conditions which would permit stock speculations?
When Meercraft says —
He shall but be an undertaker with me
In a most feasible business . . .
We’ll take in citizens, commoners and aldermen,
To bear the charge, and throw them off again
Like so many dead flies when it is carried,
he gives us an intimation that some sort of an organization was to be effected by means of which outsiders were to be drawn in, but there is no reference in all this to dealings in stocks. The projector of the day having discovered the “humour” of his victim, worked him either through “suits,” “marriages,” or “undertakings.” In the latter event other gulls were to be sought for, but there is no hint of the intervention of the joint-stock company.
So far as the authorities referred to in this paper furnish any clue to the period when stock-jobbing began in England, they would seem to corroborate the assertion of Bolingbroke which associates it with the accession of William and Mary. The activity in dealings in joint-stocks, which in 1694 attracted the attention of Parliament, had been stimulated by the interference with ordinary avenues of investment, through the war which followed the change of monarchs. During the period of infancy stock-dealings did not attract attention. It was only when the dealers lost their heads and outsiders joined the market, that their transactions became matters of public interest. If this date be accepted as that of the probable origin of those dealings, the rapidity with which all the methods of modern times were developed will seem almost incredible. It may be that Macaulay is correct in his assertion that the word was coined in 1688 and Defoe may be correct when he asserts that the craze which begot stock-jobbing sprang up in 1680. But, what we can certainly say is that just after 1690 dealings in stocks had reached such a magnitude as to be condemned by hostile legislation, were characterized with such absurdities as to be satirized by a playwright; and had developed such intricate bargains as to require explanatory essays at the hands of a serial publication.
If these represent the only positive conclusions to be drawn from our research, we may still claim that the negative results to be derived from our examination of the dramatists at the beginning of the seventeenth century will be helpful in keeping the reader from that condition of confusion which seems to have prevailed in the mind of Sir Walter Scott when he wrote Peveril of the Peak.
Mr. Albert Matthews exhibited a facsimile of The Present State of the New-English Affairs, printed at Boston in 1689 by Samuel Green, Jr., and spoke as follows:
It is well known that the earliest American newspaper to be established on a firm basis was the Boston News-Letter, the first number of which appeared 24 April, 1704. It is also well known that the Boston News-Letter was preceded by a genuine newspaper called Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, printed at Boston by Richard Pierce for Benjamin Harris 25 September, 1690, and that the paper was at once suppressed. It is also known that the paper Publick Occurrences was preceded by a sheet measuring 143/8 by 9 inches, and bearing the imprint:
Bofton, Printed and Sold by Samuel Green, 1689.529
The heading is as follows:
In 1869 William H. Whitmore stilted that “This document was issued as a broadside.”530 In 1881 Delano A. Goddard declared that “This sheet had none of the attributes of a newspaper.”531 In 1895 this statement was repeated by William Nelson.532 In 1901 Dr. Samuel A. Green twice called the sheet a “broadside,”533 and in 1903 alluded to it as a “sheet.”534 In 1906 Professor Clyde A. Duniway calls the sheet a “broadside” and states that it “had none of the attributes of a newspaper.”535 Finally, in the Massachusetts Archives (XXXV. 83) it is indexed as a “Printed Broadsheet.”
On the other hand, more than a century ago it was suggested that this sheet might be a newspaper, and recently elaborate arguments have been made in favor of such a contention. The sheet has been reprinted no fewer than six times. It was first reprinted in a Boston magazine in 1789, preceded by the following words:
to the EDITORS of the MASSACHUSETTS MAGAZINE.
As all facts relative to the first settlement and government of our country, ought to be handed down to posterity, and as the following is a very ancient publication, perhaps the specimen it affords of the language and manner of printing at so early a period, together with the information it contains, render it worth preserving in the Massachusetts Magazine. It was printed in 1689 (just a century ago) by Samuel Green, of Boston, in a Handbill, or Newspaper extraordinary, and entitled536 . . .
The sheet was next reprinted in 1824, and again in 1866, with the following introduction:
Newspaper Extraordinary, 1689.
[If the following may be considered as a Newspaper Extra., it was probably one of the earliest printed in this country. It was published by Samuel Green of Boston, in 1689, at the time that Dr. Increase Mather was endeavouring to procure a new charter for the colony of Massachusetts.]537
The sheet was for the fourth time reprinted in 1869 by Mr. Whitmore, who was unaware of the previous reprints.538 In 1874 Joel Munsell, writing of the sheet under discussion, asked:
If this [Publick Occurrences of 25 September, 1690] can be claimed as a newspaper, may also the sheet printed by Samuel Green in 1689, the placard mentioned in the New Hamp. Hist. Soc. Coll., I, 252? This was issued at the time Dr. Increase Mather was in England, endeavoring to procure a new charter for the colony of Massachusetts. It was entitled The Present State of the New English Affairs, and was published to prevent false reports.539
In May, 1902, the sheet was printed in facsimile at the University Press for Mr. William Green Shillaber of the Club of Odd Volumes.540 In 1903 Mr. Charles Evans stated that “This was the first publication in the nature of a newspaper issued in the Colonies.”541 Finally, it was for the sixth time reprinted, again in facsimile, by Dr. Samuel A. Green in 1903.542
Mr. Shillaber’s reprint consists of a folio, to the third page of which the facsimile is attached. The first page bears this title, enclosed within a border copied from the title-page of Eliot’s Indian Bible, of which Mr. Shillaber owns more than one copy:
A Fac-Simile Reproduction of
The Preſent State of the
Being the firſt attempt at Newſpaper Publication
on the American Continent.
The second page contains some remarks by Mr. Shillaber, of which the part pertinent to our immediate subject is here repeated:
IT has seemed to the writer that the credit for making the first attempt at newspaper publication on this side of the Atlantic Ocean should be given to Samuel Green, Junior, of Boston, who printed in the fall of 1689 a sheet which he called The Present State of the New-English Affairs, and which is herewith reproduced in facsimile. The object of the reproduction is to give those who may be interested in the subject a convenient opportunity to examine the publication, and decide whether or not the claim is a reasonable one.
In early times, as is of course well known, news of general interest passed from one person to another by means of news-letters, being exactly what the name implies, namely: — manuscript letters containing the news of the day. Samuel Green, Junior, is supposed to have been a writer of these news-letters, and he seems to have originated the idea of printing several copies instead of writing one or more. One copy of this first attempt is extant. It is in the Massachusetts Archives, Vol. 35, page 83. As it is printed in two columns, newspaper style, it is not a broadside. It is folio in size, printed on the recto, the verso being blank. So far as is known, the experiment was not repeated by Green. There is, however, no evidence that this newspaper was his only publication of the kind; others may have been printed of which no copy now exists. The following year, Sept. 25, 1690, R. Pierce printed for Benjamin Harris at Boston a similar publication, which he called Public Occurrences. A comparison of these two newspapers will show, at least so it seems to the writer, that Pierce or Harris copied the idea of Green; the only important difference being that Pierce promises an issue once every month, “Or if any Glut of Occurrences happen, oftener.” Also, instead of one page, three pages of two columns each are printed on two leaves, the last page being blank. . . . But one copy of Public Occurrences is known to exist, and it is kept in the Colonial State Paper Office in London. It has, however, been reprinted in this country, and bibliographers generally allude to it as the first newspaper effort.
In April, 1903, Mr. George H. Sargent, writing in the column of the Boston Evening Transcript called The Bibliographer, considered at length Mr. Shillaber’s reprint, and accepted unequivocally Mr. Shillaber’s conclusion. A portion of Mr. Sargent’s remarks is here given:
Thomas, in his History of Printing in America, purposely omits this publication and the “Publick Occurrences,” and gives John Campbell . . . the credit of publishing the first American newspaper, “The Boston News-Letter.” . . . In the note to Thomas’s History of Printing, however, he [Isaiah Thomas] mentions the “Publick Occurrences,” and refers to the reprint of it by Dr. Samuel A. Green, who in the Massachusetts Historical Magazine543 for August, 1857, refers to this as the first American newspaper. (Vol. i., pages 228–231.) But the note adds: “If this can be called a newspaper, may also the sheet printed by Samuel Green, Jr., in 1689, the placard mentioned in the New Hampshire Historical Society Collections, vol. i., page 252?” There seems to have been no question in the mind of [Isaiah] Thomas that both were in the same class.544
If not a newspaper, what was the “New English Affairs”? It was printed in newspaper style, beyond question. The fact that it was printed on one side only proves nothing. There may not have been such a “glut of occurrences” as to warrant two pages. The heading was that of a modern newspaper, and the rules across the page under the headline, with the sentence, “This is published to prevent False Reports”, indicates that it was the intention to continue the publication from time to time, as “False Reports” is too much of a ghost to be laid once and for all time. The publication has been called a broadside, but it was not a broadside in form, as the Century Dictionary defines a broadside. Any one who takes the pains to look into the subject in all its bearings must be forced, it would seem, to the conclusion that the “New English Affairs” was more than the first attempt to publish a newspaper in this country — it was the first successful attempt, and to Samuel Green, Jr., belongs the honor of publishing the first newspaper on the American continent.545
Instead of cavalierly dismissing the question with the curt statement that the sheet of 1689 is a broadside, it seems to the present writer at once more satisfactory, as well as more courteous, to examine with care the arguments advanced by those who maintain that the sheet is a newspaper. Besides, the mere assertion that the sheet of 1689 is a broadside is not in itself conclusive, and leaves untouched the question whether it is or is not a newspaper. For as a broadside may be a newspaper, and as a newspaper may be a broadside, it follows that the sheet of 1689 may be either (1) a broadside but not a newspaper, or (2) a newspaper but not a broadside, or (3) a broadside and also a newspaper.546
Let us begin our examination with Mr. Shillaber’s remark that the sheet, “as it is printed in two columns, newspaper style, . . . is not a broadside.” We here have, first, the implication that the printing in two or more columns is a characteristic essential to a newspaper; and, secondly, the statement that in a broadside the lines must be printed not in columns but across the page. It can be shown, I think, that in both respects Mr. Shillaber and Mr. Sargent are under a misapprehension. An hour spent in the Newspaper Room at the British Museum will convince the inquirer that a newspaper may be printed in almost any number of columns from one to nine or more. The Burney Collection contains many newspapers of the seventeenth century. In Volume III. of that Collection will be found The Newes of this Present Weeke of 12 May, 1623, No. 31, where all the lines of the twenty-two pages are printed across the page. The same is true of Our Last Newes of 2 October, 1623, No. 50. Volume XXV. contains various newspapers for 1646, in all of which the lines are printed across the page. Volume XC. contains various newspapers for 1682, in some of which the lines are printed across the page, while in others the lines are arranged in two columns on a page. In short, the printing in two or more columns is not a characteristic essential to a newspaper.
In stating that the sheet of 1689 is not a broadside, Mr. Shillaber and Mr. Sargent have relied on the definition of a broadside given in the Century Dictionary:
A sheet printed on one side only, and without arrangement in columns; especially, such a sheet containing some item of news, or an attack upon some person, etc., and designed for distribution.
It seems probable that this definition is based on the definition given in the Imperial Dictionary (1882), where we read: “In printing, a sheet of paper, one side of which is entirely covered by a single page.” It will be remembered that material taken from the Imperial Dictionary was freely used in the preparation of the Century Dictionary. I have examined many dictionaries published during the past two hundred years, and the only ones in which I have found such a definition are the Imperial and the Century. The notion that, in order to be a broadside, a sheet must be printed in a single column only, is not countenanced either by the dictionaries (with the two exceptions named) or by the extracts quoted in them. In the Oxford Dictionary, that great storehouse of our knowledge of usage in the English language, Dr. Murray defines a broadside as “a sheet of paper printed on one side only, forming one large page,” and gives extracts in illustration ranging from 1575 to 1861. He also gives quotations for “broadsheet,” which has the same meaning as broadside, ranging from 1705 to 1878. It seems impossible to escape the conclusion that the definition given in the Imperial and in the Century must be pronounced erroneous; and if such is the case, the argument that the sheet of 1689 cannot be a broadside falls to the ground.
Comparing the sheet of 1689 with the newspaper called Publick Occurrences, printed by Pierce for Harris 25 September, 1690, Mr. Shillaber remarks that “the only important difference” is “that Pierce promises an issue once every month, ‘Or if any Glut of Occurrences happen, oftener;’” and also, that “instead of one page, three pages of two columns each are printed on two leaves, the last page being blank.” Even if these were the only differences, a little consideration will show how important they are. First, as to the promise of a future issue. An essential feature of a newspaper is its appearance at regular but short intervals. The Publick Occurrences was numbered, and its regular appearance once a month was promised, with the possibility of a still more frequent issue. On the other hand, the sheet of 1689 was not numbered, and there is not a particle of evidence to indicate that Green intended to issue a second similar sheet. Secondly, Publick Occurrences contains two leaves, or four pages, of which three pages are filled with printed matter, the fourth page being blank. Consequently, Publick Occurrences cannot possibly be a broadside.
The sheet of 1689, on the contrary, is printed on one side only of a single leaf, and not only may be a broadside, but in the opinion of such authorities as Whitmore, Goddard, Nelson, Dr. Green, and Professor Duniway, is a broadside.
In addition to these two differences, one of which is fundamental, another important difference between the sheet of 1689 and the newspaper of 1690 may be dwelt upon. The first column of the sheet of 1689 is entirely filled by an extract from a letter written from England by Increase Mather on 3 September, 1689, to Governor Bradstreet. The first half of the second column is occupied by “A Passage extracted from the publick News-Letter, Dated July 6,1689,” containing an account of the interview between Increase Mather and King William III. Then follows an extract from a letter written by Increase Mather on 2 September, 1689, to his son Cotton Mather, relating to the same subject. Finally, there is the statement that an order has just arrived from King William, dated 30 July, 1689, requiring the Government in New England to send Sir Edmund Andros, Edward Randolph, and others to England by the first ship. In short, all four documents relate to a single subject, the political affairs of New England, — as indeed the title of the sheet implies. Turning, now, to the Publick Occurrences of 1690, we find a long editorial introduction, filling nearly a column.547 We then have news about the Christianized Indians near Plymouth, about farmers, about Indians lurking near Chelmsford, about a tragical accident at Watertown, about fevers and agues in some parts of the country, about the smallpox in Boston, about a fire in Boston, about a vessel seized at Penobscot by Indians and French, about the expedition against Canada under Sir William Phips, about certain Mohawks killed by the French and other Indians, about the West Indies, about the proclaiming of King William at Cork, Ireland, about King Willam’s victory in Ireland, about the King of France, about Indians at Saco and other places. Clearly, this news is comprehensive and in striking contrast to the single subject to which the sheet of 1689 is confined.
Let me now explain my notion as to how the sheet of 1689 came to be printed. The Revolution had taken place in England, and a new King had come to the throne; in New England the Massachusetts Charter had several years before been vacated, the Andros Government had been overthrown, and Increase Mather was in England for the purpose of procuring a new charter and of looking after the interests of New England. What view would King William take of the doings of the New Englanders? The question was one of supreme importance. When two letters from Increase Mather, a public news-letter, and an order from King William reached Boston, the excitement and interest must have been intense. In order “to prevent false reports,” extracts from the documents just received were printed either through the enterprise of Samuel Green, or through the desire of Governor Bradstreet to allay misapprehensions. That the sheet which we have been considering at such length was not the only one issued is proved by the following:
Whereas many papers haue beene lately printed & dispersed tending to the disturbance of the peace & subuersion of the gouerm̄t of this theire Maiesties Collonie King William & Queene Mary It is therfor ordered that if any person or persons within this Collony be found guilty of any such like Misdemeanour of printing publishing or concealing any such like papers or discourses or not timely discouer such things to Authority or doe any act or thing that tends to the disturbance of the peace or the subuersion of this governm̄t They shall be accounted enemies to theire Maiesties present Gouernm̄t & be proceeded agt as such with uttermost severity
Noṽ:br 8th: 1689, Past in the affirmative
by the Representatives
Ebenezer Prout Clerk548
Finally, it should be pointed out that Mr. Sargent’s statement that there was “no question in the mind of [Isaiah] Thomas that both” the sheet of 1689 and the newspaper of 1690 “were in the same class,” cannot be accepted. In his History of Printing in America, published in 1810, Thomas did not mention either the sheet of 1689 or the newspaper of 1690. This omission was not, as Mr. Sargent holds, made “purposely,” but doubtless because Thomas did not know of their existence. Otherwise he would scarcely have made this statement:
THERE was not a newspaper published in the English colonies, throughout the extensive continent of North America, until the 24th of April 1704.549
Thomas died in 1831 and his History of Printing in America was issued in a second edition, with notes by various persons, by the American Antiquarian Society in 1874. The note quoted by Mr. Sargent, as has already been shown in the text of this paper,550 was written not by Thomas but by Joel Munsell. Consequently the authority of Thomas cannot be cited one way or the other. It will be observed, too, that Munsell himself was by no means certain about the matter and put his remark in the form of a question.
The conclusion reached by me is that the sheet of 1689 is a broadside, but is not a newspaper.551
Mr. Henry H. Edes communicated (1) a letter written 19 February, 1785, by President Joseph Willard of Harvard College to Governor John Hancock, who had taken umbrage at some fancied slight put upon him at a dinner given to Lafayette the previous October; (2) a letter dated 27 December, 1791, from President Willard to Governor Hancock, relating to the chaplaincy at Castle Island, Boston; and (3) a draft of a letter written 20 October, 1783, by Governor Hancock to President Willard, offering to build a fence about the College Yard. The letters follow.
JOSEPH WILLARD TO JOHN HANCOCK.
Cambridge February 19, 1785
I was at Boston yesterday, and was no less surprised than grieved to hear (for the first time) that your Excellency supposes, that I treated you with disrespect, the day the Marquis de la Fayette dined in company with you, in the College Hall.552 I am informed, that you suppose, that I placed you at table, that day, below the Marquis; and are therefore offended, as you would have reason to be, were that the case.
I wish your Excellency would be pleased to recollect the order at table, in the Hall, on the Commencement day — a day, which belongs to the Overseers, as well as to the Corporation. At that time, the Governor sits at the upper end of the first table, and facing the entrance of the Hall. This is reckoned the first place. The Lieutenant Governor sits directly opposite to him, on the other side of the same table. This is reckoned the second. The President sits next to the Governor, on the same bench; which is reckoned the third place.
It was considered proper, that the President, as Head of the Corporation, who ordered the dinner and made the invitations, the last fall, should take the head of the table and be master of the ceremonies; but I perfectly remember, when we were going to dinner, that I desired your Excellency to take the next place at the table, viz, that directly opposite to the President; and I also desired the Marquis to take the seat next below the President, on the same bench; which was the third place. So far was I, therefore, from designing or attempting to place your Excellency below the Marquis, that my intention was directly the reverse. I beg your Excellency to advert to what passed on that occasion, and at the same time recollect the order at table, on the Commencement day, and I think that you must acquit me from any design to treat you with disrespect, or offer you an affront, than which (I can sincerely say) nothing could be farther from my mind.
I cannot bear to lie under the above imputation, when I am conscious that I do not deserve it; and I am no less solicitious to vindicate myself now that your Excellency has been pleased to retire to private life, than if you were still in the Chair of Government, your resignation of which is so far from giving me pleasure, that it affords me much uneasiness and pain, as I doubt not it does the people in general.
I wish you, Sir, the full recovery of your health, and the enjoyment of every blessing: And may the inhabitants of this land, whom you have so generously and nobly exerted yourself to serve, and whose best interests you have so essentially promoted, ever feel their obligations and discover a true sense of them!
I consider myself under great obligations to your Excellency, for many favors, of which I shall ever retain a grateful remembrance; and in whatever light you may view me, a high esteem and regard for you will always possess the mind of him,
who has the honor of being,
your Excellency’s most humble
and obedient servent
His Excellency Governor Hancock.
JOSEPH WILLARD TO JOHN HANCOCK.
Cambridge December 27. 1791.
Sometime since your Excellency enquired of me whether I knew any Gentleman whom I could recommend to you as a suitable person for a Chaplain at the Castle. As I knew of no person at that time I have borne the matter upon my mind as I promised your Excellency but have not been able to find any one disengaged, who I supposed would answer for that station.
This day the Revd Mr Foster553 formerly a Minister of Berwick but lately of Packersfield with whom I have been acquainted for a considerable number of years came to my house. He informs me that he has lately left his parish and is at liberty to supply any vacant desk. Might not this Gentleman, Sir, from his age, experience and character make a suitable Chaplain? Your Excellency must formerly have been acqainted with him as he was your Classmate. How far you may have known him since you took your degree I cannot say. However, your Excellency may be assured that he has supported a good character in the ministry and that his leaving his people has arisen from some untoward circumstances in the parishes of which he has had the care. I know this to have been the case at Berwick.
Should your Excellency think Mr Foster a suitable person to fill the Chaplaincy, and see fit to give him the appointment, it would be serving a worthy man, whose lot in life has been hard.
with sentiments of the highest respect,
your Excellency’s most humble & obliged servant
His Excellency the Governor.
letter Decr. 27. 1791
JOHN HANCOCK TO JOSEPH WILLARD.
Boston Octoṛ 20tḥ 1783.
However illiberal the Treatment I have met with from some of the former & present Governors of the College has been, it shall never operate in my mind to the Prejudice of the University at Cambridge. I most sincerely wish its Enlargement; the present appearance of those Buildings is very disagreeable for want of a Reputable Inclosure, they must appear to a Stranger as Buildings totally neglected & Deserted, instead of being improv’d for the noble purposes they are now Occupied. I wish to Remedy this inconvenience, and have to Request (if worthy your Notice) that you would be pleas’d to give orders to your College Carpenters to Erect a Respectable Fence around those Buildings, such an one as shall not Disgrace the Buildings, & such an one as shall be pointed out to them by your self & Doctor Cooper,554whose Instructions they are to follow, & upon your Signifying the Completion of the Business, & Transmitting to me the Bill of its Amount, it shall meet with immediate Payment.
My best wishes for your prosperity & that of the University under your Charge Concludes me, Revd Sir
Your very hume sert
Revd Mr President Willard
To the Revd Presidt Willard 1783
Mr. William C. Lane exhibited some water-color views of the College buildings made by John Abbot of the Class of 1798, and spoke as follows:
The absence of a fence about the College Yard, referred to in Governor Hancock’s letter, was no doubt due to the occupation of the College buildings by the Provincial troops at the opening of the Revolutionary War. In an “Account of Damages done to the Colledges by the Army after April 19th, 1775, which remained to be made good after the first repairs were made previous to the return of the Scholars,”555 besides knob-locks and box-locks, paper and paint, window blinders, chapel window curtains, two hundred square feet of sheet lead, etc., is noted “63 rods of board fence that was round the Colledge Yard, 12/ per rod, £37. 16s.” The whole account of damages amounted to £417. 8. 8, which sum was voted by the General Court 23 April, 1778, and paid over to the College the next day. It is likely enough that in the difficult situation in which the College found itself during the war, the fence was not promptly repaired. Whether Governor Hancock’s offer was accepted is doubtful. There is no reference to it in the Records of the Corporation. On the contrary, the Corporation voted 2 May, 1785, “that the President, the Treasurer, and Professor Wigglesworth be desired to agree with some Workmen to build a fence in the front of the Colleges, upon the best terms they can.”556This seems to imply that Hancock’s fence was never built — at least not along the front of the College Yard.
The simple character of the earlier board fence is shown in Revere’s engraving, reproduced in the Harvard Graduates’ Magazine, 1903 (XII. 338). The new fence, of a more elaborate character — closed below and open palings above, and with somewhat stately gate-posts — is shown in many of the later views of the College; for example, in the Massachusetts Magazine for June, 1790 (II. 321), reproduced in W. L. Andrews’s A Prospect of the Colledges in Cambridge. Several water-color views of the College buildings, by John Abbot, of the Class of 1798, and doubtless painted about that time, show an ordinary board fence along the sides of the College Yard; that is, south of Massachusetts Hall, and north of Holden Chapel and Hollis Hall, and running at the back only a few feet east of these buildings.
The vote conferring the degree of LL.D. on Lafayette is recorded in the Corporation Records 20 October, 1784,557 but there is no reference in the Records, or in contemporary newspaper accounts, to the dinner at which Lafayette was entertained, and to which President Willard’s letter refers. But in the College Treasurer’s Journal (UA. I. 4. 44), November, 1784, these entries appear:
5 Corporation Dinners, etc.
1 Do for Marquis De la Fayette
On the next page appear the items:
Pḍ James Carter
engrossing Diploma for the Marquis
De la Fayette
Z. Brigden, a Silver Box for Seal
Ribbon & Wax for Dọ
2 pr. brass handles for Cabinett
and in March, 1785:
Pḍ J: How, a Tin Case, For a Diploma
for the Marquis de la Fayette
£ 0. 7. 6
The tin case may have been similar to that in which Franklin’s diploma was enclosed.558 Whether the tin case was enclosed in the cabinet, or the cabinet within the tin case, it would be hard to say.
The text of the diploma is preserved in a manuscript volume in the College Archives, entitled, “Drafts of Diplomas, 1779–1810” (UA. III. 1. 80), in which most of the diplomas awarded from 1779 to 1810 are recorded. This supplements the similar record in the back of College Book No. III.559 The text of the diploma follows.
Senatus Universitatis Harvardianae Cantabrigiensis, in Republica Massachusettensi, omnibus, ad quos Literæ præsentes pervenerint, salutem in Dominosempiternam.
Cum eum in finem Gradus Academici instituti fuerint, ut Viri disciplina, sapientia et virtute insignes, qui et de Re literaria et de Republica optimé meruerint, Honoribus Laureatis remunerarentur; maxime decet, quod hujusmodi honore afficiatur Vir ille nobilissimus Marchio De la Fayette, scientiis multis et variis ornatus, in legibus vero tam Naturæ et Gentium quam Civili versatus, generis humani libertatum Amicus et Patronus fervidus, strenuus, constans; Qui, Nationis nostræ nascentis, cum Brittannis pro aris & focis fortissime animisque magnis colluctantis, amore et reverentia motus, sese quam maturrime ad exercitum Americanum militem voluntarium adjunxit, et paulò post, prælio cum hostibus inito, vulnus accepit. His peractis, ille Vir eximius a gradu ad gradum in exercitu promotus, citó ex Imperatoribus summo proximis constitutus fuit. Inde, locis variis, dum bellum arsit rem militarem agens, denique illustrissimo Washington Eboracum Virginiense obsidione cingenti, fortiter, et strenue astitit; quum arma fœderata, hostium Imperatorem obsessum, una cum exercitu ejus in deditionem redigendo, bellum ad finem felicissimé perduxerunt, quo, Rerumpublicarum fæderatarum summa potestas stabilita fuit, et pax Nationibus belligerantibus restituta.
In pace, æque ac in bello, Rebuspublicis nostris Amicum conspicuum sese ostendit, præcipuèque, ut commercium illarum promoveretur, à quo beneficia haud pauca oritura sint, feliciter contendit.
Notum igitur esto, quod Nos Præses et Socii, consentientibus honorandis admodum ac reverendis Universitatis supradictæ Inspectoribus, nobilissimum Marchionem de la Fayette supra nominatum, Jurisutriusque, tum Naturæ et Gentium tum Civilis, honoris causa, Doctorem statuimus et creavimus eique dedimus atque concessimus omnia jura,privilegia, dignitates ac honores, quibus ad istiusmodi Gradum evecti ornantur, vel ornari debent.
In cujus rei testimonium, Literis hisce, nostro communi Sigillo munitis, die Octobris XXI, Anno Salutis humanæ MDCCLXXXIV, Rerumque publicarum Americæ fæderatarum summæ potestatis IX, apposuimus chirographa.
Mr. Matthews made the following remarks:
So much attention has always been paid to Harvard College affairs by the newspaper press, that I supposed it would be easy to run down contemporary allusions to Lafayette’s visit to Cambridge. On the contrary, I have been astonished to find that apparently the receiving of the degree and the dinner were alike ignored. Soon, however, this visit to America of Lafayette became the subject of comment. Crèvecœur’s celebrated Letters of an American Farmer were first published at London in English in 1782. In 1787 a French edition, much enlarged, was published at Paris, and in this Crèvecœur devotes no fewer than sixty-six pages to an account, drawn chiefly from American and French newspapers, of Lafayette’s tour in 1784.560 In 1878 the late John Austin Stevens wrote a paper on the Visit of Lafayette to the United States, 1784.561 In these, Lafayette’s visits to Hartford, Worcester, Salem, Marblehead, Beverly, Newburyport, and Portsmouth, are duly recorded, but there is no mention of the visit to Cambridge.
I should like, however, to quote two brief extracts. In a Boston newspaper562 appeared the following —
Epigram, to the Maequis de la Fayette.
FROM whence Columbia, do thy blessings flow?
And whence does war inexorable cease?
Does not the western hemisphere yet know
’T was Heav’n’s great FYAT lull’d the world in peace?
Under date of 29 July, 1827, Samuel Breck wrote:
Judge Peters, who has been made a doctor of laws lately, told me that when La Fayette was in America during the Revolutionary War, some university in New England created him doctor of laws. Old Baron Steuben did not like this. He thought it derogatory to the military character to be dubbed a doctor. Shortly afterward the baron, at the head of a troop of dragoons, was obliged to pass through the town in which the university was that had elected La Fayette. He halted his troop at the entrance of the town, and addressed it thus: ‘‘You shall spur de horse vel and ride troo the town like de debbil, for if dey catch you dey make one doctor of you.”563
It would be a pity to submit this amusing story to critical examination. If the Harvard Quinquennial Catalogue564 is destructive of its authenticity, the story at least shows the existence of a tradition.
Mr. Henry Lefavour of Boston was elected a Resident Member, and Mr. Robert Hallowell Gardiner of Gardiner, Maine, was elected a Corresponding Member.