A Stated Meeting of the Society was held at No. 25 Beacon Street, Boston, on Thursday, 22 April, 1909, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the President, Henry Lefavour, LL.D., in the chair.

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

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

    To nominate candidates for the several offices,—Messrs. Thomas Minns, Nathaniel Paine, and James Atkins noyes.

    To examine the Treasurer’s accounts,—Messrs. Andrew McFarland Davis and William Lowell Putnam.

    Mr. Henry H. Edes announced the gift to the Society, from the granddaughters of the late Rev. Dr. Joseph Allen, of a collection of letters written to Dr. Allen, chiefly by his classmates. Dr. Joseph Allen, the father of our late associate the Rev. Dr. Joseph Henry Allen, graduated at Harvard College in 1811, and was long a minister at Northborough, Massachusetts.657 The thanks of the Society were extended to the Allen family for its acceptable gift.

    On behalf of Mr. Morris H. Morgan, Mr. Edes communicated the following paper:


    It is commonly believed by those who are interested in the history of medical education at Harvard that the degree of Doctor of Medicine was never given before the year 1811 except honoris causa, and consequently that there was no such thing here as the ordinary M.D. “in course” before that year. This belief rests in the main upon the following paragraph, which appeared in the Quinquennial Catalogue of 1890, the year when that catalogue was first printed in English instead of Latin, and which has been repeated in the three succeeding Quinquennials:

    Before 1811 the degree conferred upon graduates of the Medical School was Bachelor of Medicine. In 1811 the degree of Doctor of Medicine was granted to the class of that year, and to all earlier graduates then living; and all graduates since 1811 have received this degree.

    The two sentences in this paragraph contain literal truths, but the first does not go far enough. No notice is taken in it of the fact that before 1811 the degree of M.D. in course could be obtained by examination seven years after the degree of M.B. had been conferred upon the graduate. Recently, while reading the original records of the Corporation for another purpose, I found that six graduates holding the M.B. took advantage of this provision and received the doctorate in course before 1811. Later I was informed by Dr. Thomas F. Harrington, author of the History of the Harvard Medical School, that he had become aware of the fact while collecting material for his book, but that for various reasons he had deemed it best to follow the Quinquennial record in the case of these men. Actually, however, he went even farther than the Quinquennial in obscuring what had happened in these cases when he wrote: “Bachelor of Medicine was the degree conferred, and prior to 1811 this was the only medical degree regularly given in course. The first Doctors of Medicine were the graduates of 1811.”658 Furthermore, in both the Quinquennial and the History, two of my six men are set down as honorary M.D.’s, but the other four appear without “(Hon.)” appended to their degrees; thus both books are inconsistent with their own principles. The editor of the first English Quinquennial still happily lives, but he cannot remember how he came to confer an honorary degree in the two cases to which I refer. As there are some other errors in the printed catalogues, it seems worth while to relate afresh the history of our early medical degrees.

    In 1784, soon after the Medical School (or Institution, as it was then called) had been established, provision was made for two degrees, Bachelor in Physic (or, as we now say, Bachelor of Medicine) and Doctor in Physic (that is, Doctor of Medicine). The former degree was to be given at the time of graduation; the latter seven years later. The regulations for the two degrees are to be found in the records of the meeting of the Corporation held November 29, 1784,659 approved by the Overseers December 17, 1784.660 The regulation for the doctorate is as follows:

    That Bachelors in Physic of seven years standing, and who, during that time, have been Practitioners in Physic, may receive a degree of Doctor in Physic, upon their being approbated by the medical Professors, after being examined by them in the presence of the Governors of the University, and such other Gentlemen as shall chuse to attend, and delivering and defending one Dissertation in the Latin, and one in the English language, on such disease, or other useful medical topic, as shall be assigned them by the said Professors, with the consent of the President;—the Latin Dissertation to be printed at their own expence.

    This provision, that the doctorate might follow upon further evidence of capacity given some years after the degree of bachelor had been reached, was no doubt adopted in deference to precedent set by medical schools abroad and by the first school in America at Philadelphia, where the M.B. was given to the graduating class from 1768 to 1791 inclusive, and where M.D. was obtainable three years after M.B.,—a practice, however, abandoned in favor of M.D. for all the graduates of 1792 and thereafter.

    Under the regulations to which I have referred, the first Harvard degrees in course were given to the graduating class of 1788, and the record of the Corporation at their meeting on Commencement Day, July 16, 1788, is as follows:

    George Holmes Hall Mr and John Fleet Mr who passed their examinations on the 8th Instant for the degree of Bachelor of Physic, this day produced certificates to the President from the Medical Professors of their being qualified for said degree. These certificates being communicated by the President to the Corporation and Overseers the degree was voted; and both these young Gentlemen were publicly admitted to it, immediately after the Masters had received their degree; the President having previously presented them to the Overseers in the following words,

    Vir Excellentissime Gubernator &c &c &c

    Presento vobis hosce viros, quos, examine habito, Professores medici judicârunt idoneos esse ad gradum in medicina baccalaurealem suscipiendum. Placeatne ut suscipeant?

    The Governor signifying the consent of the Body the President used the following form in admitting them.

    Pro auctoritate mihi commissa admitto vos ad gradum in medicina baccalaurealem, vobisque trado hoc diploma, atque do et concedo omnia insignia, jura et privilegia, dignitates ac honores, quibus ad istiusmodi gradum uspiam gentium evecti ornantur vel ornari debent.661

    An interesting account of the difficulties thrown by certain members of the Massachusetts Medical Society in the way of these first graduating ceremonies was written by Dr. Ephraim Eliot and is published in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society662 and in Harrington.663 But the worthy doctor wrote his recollections thirty-five years after the event and speaks of Fleet and Hall as the first Doctors instead of as the first Bachelors of medicine. This degree of M. B. was given to succeeding classes from 1789 to 1810 inclusive.

    The first doctorate in course was conferred upon the same John Fleet (A.B. 1785, A.M. 1788), who heads the list of bachelors, exactly seven years, as provided in the regulation, after he took his first degree in medicine. The record of the Corporation, at their meeting on Commencement Day, July 15, 1795, runs thus:

    The President having certified that John Fleet, M.B a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Physic, has complied with the Regulations required by the Medical Institution for such degree

    Voted, that he be admitted to the degree of Doctor of Physic.664

    The Overseers concurred on the same day.665 The Latin dissertation of this first Harvard ordinary Doctor of Medicine was duly printed, and I have seen a fine uncut copy of it in the Boston Medical Library. There is no copy in the Harvard Archives in the College Library, as there ought to be. Perhaps some reader of this paper may possess one which he would present for preservation here. The title-page, which was obviously drawn up from a foreign model, bears these words:

    Dissertatio Inauguralis Medica, sistens Observationes ad Chirurgiae Operationes pertinentes, apud interrogationem publicam prolocutas et sustentatas die Julii III, habitam, quam annuente summo numine ex auctoritate Reverendi Josephi Willard, Praesidis &c. Honoratorum et Reverendorum Curatorum et etiam Senatus Academici consensu, necnon Institutionis Medicae Decreto, pro gradu doctoratus eruditorum examini submittit Johannes Fleet.—A ferro tandem petere Sanitatis praesidia convenit. Heister. Bostoniae: Typis Thomae Fleet, jun. MDCCXCV. 4°, pp. 11.

    It is obvious that Dr. Fleet’s was an ordinary degree taken in course. Yet in the Quinquennial under his Harvard College Class (1785) he appears as “M.D. (Hon.) 1795,” and when we turn to the part of the book which is devoted to honorary degrees, we find him all by himself in 1795—the fact being that no honorary degrees whatever were given in that year. Some critics object to my use of the term “in course” as applied to Fleet’s doctorate; but the term belongs as well to the doctorate as to the M.B. In academic language it means “in regular succession,” as contrasted with “out of course” and “honorary” degrees. It is certain that this was the distinction recognized at the time of these early doctorates; for on June 3, 1801, the Corporation voted “that the fee for the Degree of Doctor of Physic in course be the sum of 30 dollars.”666

    The second doctor in course was William Ingalls, A.B. 1790, A.M. 1793, M.B. 1794, M.D. 1801. The records in his case are just like those in the case of Fleet.667 His Latin dissertation was not printed until 1803 (two copies in the College Library), but the date on its title-page shows that his public examination took place July 11, 1801. The page is modelled after that of Fleet, and the subject was “Observationes ad abscessum bursalem pertinentes.” A second edition appeared in 1804, and a third in 1810 (both in the College Library). In the Quinquennial, Ingalls appears as “M.D. (Hon.) 1801” in the list of his College Class, and later among the honorary degrees of 1801. Dr. Harrington also enters both Fleet and Ingalls as honorary doctors.

    Third comes Samuel Adams with similar records.668 He was not a graduate of Harvard College, and he is one of the inconsistencies of the Quinquennial and of the History of the Medical School. In both he appears in the list of medical graduates of the year 1794, thus: “M.B.; M.D. 1802,” escaping the “(Hon.).” I have sought in vain for a copy of his dissertation or for any memoir of him.

    The fourth doctor was James Jackson, the well-known Boston physician, and professor in the Medical School (A.B. 1796, A.M. 1799, M.B. 1802, M.D. 1809). The records of the Corporation and Overseers are in this case lacking, for the reason that at the Commencement of 1809 no lists of the recipients of any degrees whatever, except honorary, are to be found in those records. The Corporation Record669 for all ordinary degrees says “See Files;” but the files are not to be found. The Overseers’ Records (V. 206) note that the President read the names of all candidates for A.B. and A.M. and that the Board voted in concurrence with the Corporation. Under these circumstances it is fortunate that a Boston newspaper, the Columbian Centinel for September 2, 1809, gives lists of all the degrees, including James Jackson, M.B., as receiving the degree of M.D. The list of honorary degree men appears in a different paragraph. I find also in the College Library a pamphlet entitled “Remarks on the Brunonian System. By James Jackson, A.A. & M.M.S.S. . . . Boston, 1809.” On the second leaf are these words: “An inaugural dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Medicine, read and defended before the Rev. President and Medical Professors of Harvard College, at a public examination, on the 25th day of August, 1809.” Whether Dr. Jackson also wrote and published a Latin dissertation, in accordance with the regulation, I cannot say; but it is clear that he became a doctor in course in 1809. In the Triennial Catalogue for 1812 he appears as “M.D. 1809,” and so in succeeding Triennials and Quinquennials until the last issue in 1905, where 1809 is arbitrarily changed to 1811. Dr. Harrington gives the fact correctly but inconsistently with his general statement.

    The fifth and sixth doctors were Benjamin Shurtleff and Robert Thaxter, both attaining the degree in 1810. The record of the Corporation is as follows:

    Voted, that the Degree of A.B. be conferred on the following Candidates (see list) The Degree of A.M. (see list) Medical Degrees on the following Persons Eleazar Clap M.D. Benjamin Shurtleff M.D. Joshua Thomas M.B. Robert Thaxter M.D.—The Honorary Degrees (voted before see p. 170).670

    In this record Eleazar Clap671 is by an error recommended for M.D.; really he received only M.B. in that year. President Webber, formerly responsible for the records, had suddenly died shortly before this meeting, and the slip is due to some new hand. The Overseers’ Records (V. 296) are correct. That only Shurtleff and Thaxter received the doctorate is proved by the lucky preservation of a portion of the original manuscript which was used in the Meeting House by Professor Henry Ware, who presided at Commencement in that year.672 It is dated Aug. 29, 1810. The admissio to the degree is not preserved, but the presentatio runs thus:

    Vob. presento Dom. B. Sh:673 & Dom. Rob: Thaxt. qui gradum in Med. Bac: antehâc donati sunt;—et examine publice habito et dissertationibus enunciatis dignos se praebuerunt qui gradum in medicina Doctoris, pro more Universitatis hujusce, susciperent.

    In the Triennials and Quinquennials from 1812 to 1885 inclusive, Shurtleff rightly appeared as “M.D. 1810;” the first English catalogue in 1890 made him “M.D. 1811,” and so also later catalogues and Dr. Harrington. Thaxter is rightly given as “M.D. 1810” in Triennials from 1812 to 1845; the erroneous date 1811 was first printed in the Catalogue of 1848, and is found in later catalogues and also in Harrington. I have been unable to discover printed dissertations by either of these two doctors.

    They were the last under the old regulations, for in the next year, 1811, came the change of practice under which the degree of M.D. was given immediately at graduation. This change was brought about through a memorial addressed to the Corporation by Professors Warren and Dexter. The Corporation Records on the matter (College Records, X. 28, meeting of March 11, 1811) are defective, referring for the memorial and the reasons for the change adduced in it to “Files” which have disappeared. Fortunately, the Overseers’ Records (V. 329 ff) give both the memorial and the joint action upon it in full. The matter was brought before them on March 21 and a committee appointed to consider it. On March 28 this committee reported, and the memorial and resulting votes are entered in the record of the meeting of that day. The memorial was as follows:

    To the Honl & Revd Corporation of Harvard College

    The Medical professors of the University undersigned beg leave respectfully to represent, That there is in their Medical Institution a provision for a distinction between the Degrees of Bachelor and Doctor of Medicine, which distinction ought, they conceive to be abolished, for the following reasons.

    1st. It is unnecessary:—for those who attain the Degree of Bachelor in Medicine enjoy all the rights and privileges of Doctors, being at once admitted to practice, & consult with their professional brethren.

    2ly, It is contrary to the established custom of all the flourishing Medical Institutions within our knowledge, particularly those of Philadelphia & New York in this country; and of Edinburgh and Glasgow in Great Britain; for in these, the Degree of Doctor in Medicine is conferred on persons, who have attended two or three courses of medical Lectures, and have undergone a satisfactory examination as to the professional knowledge they have acquired.

    3ly, It is contrary to the interest of the university, because the students of medicine, being unwilling to go through the slow process of being made Doctors, with a very few exceptions, resort to other Medical Institutions, where they receive, at once, the highest honours of their profession, in consequence of which, this University, after affording all the advantages of Medical education, loses the tribute of respect and gratitude which those Students strongly feel towards the Institution, by which they are introduced to their profession.

    The Medical professors beg leave therefore, respectfully to request, That in future, the Degree of Doctor in Physick, be conferred on the same terms, as those on which the Degree of Bachelor in Physick has hitherto been conferred. That especially, the fees for obtaining the degree of Doctor, be the same as those now paid for the degree of Bachelor in Physick; the expence of a medical education being greater, than that of other professions, that those who have heretofore obtained the degree of Bachelor in Physick be allowed the degree of Doctor in Physick; and lastly, that Examinations be no longer held in publick.1

    John Warren

    Aaron Dexter.

    1 This custom is peculiar to this University, and has the effect of preventing Students from offering themselves here, as they generally are sufficiently apprehensive of examinations, even where not publick, still more where they are exposed to all who choose to attend.

    N. B. The requisitions will still be greater, than those of other Medical Institutions, especially the Medical Society.

    The concurrent vote was:

    That the Degree of Doctor in Medicine shall in future be conferred on the same terms, as those on which the Degree of Bachelor in Medicine has heretofore been conferred, both as to the period of study, and the compensation or fee for the Degree; and that the Degree of Doctor in Medicine shall be also conferred upon all such persons as have heretofore been admitted to the Degree of Bachelor of Medicine; and that the examination for the medical degrees shall hereafter be had and conducted in such time and manner, as the president, with the advice of the Medical professors shall think proper.

    Thus originated the peculiarity that distinguishes graduates of the medical from those of our other professional schools, such as Law and Divinity, which send forth only bachelors. It came about, as the memorial shows, partly to meet the competition of other medical schools, and partly because Doctors of Medicine as well as practitioners without a degree were ready to receive the newly graduated Bachelors on equal terms with themselves. But it was no doubt also largely due to the common use, certainly as old as Shakspere’s time and probably much older, of the word “doctor” as a synonym for “physician,” which became so customary in America that people often forgot that the word meant anything else. I well remember an anecdote which Dr. Benjamin A. Gould (a Göttingen Ph.D.), the eminent astronomer and first President of this Society, was fond of telling, about his introduction as a speaker at some banquet of physicians. The presiding Galen said: “Dr. Gould, gentlemen, —that is, they call him doctor, but he really is n’t a doctor.” But why confine ourselves to modern times, when everybody knows that the same notion was current in the days of Aristotle? The word ἰατρός, he remarks, “may mean either the practitioner, or the master of the art, or the man who has just finished his education in the art.” It was idle for one medical school to struggle against so ancient a conception; and to serve seven years in order to win formally what was in practice at once bestowed upon the youngest fledgling might have seemed too much to Jacob himself. Accordingly at Commencement on August 28, 1811, the doctorate was conferred upon the graduating class, and also upon all the earlier graduates who had not yet received it. At least, that was the intention, but the list of earlier graduates as given in the Corporation Records674 is not without what I may be permitted to call peculiarities. It does not include the name of Cushing Otis (A.B. 1789, M.B. 1792), who, however, appears in the Triennials of 1812–1839 as “M.D.,” and in that of 1842 and following catalogues as “M.D. 1811.” It does include Robert Thaxter, whom we have just seen receiving his M.D. in 1810. These two cases were probably mere slips. But it may be a different matter when we see the names of three dead men in the list: Ebenezer Crosby (*1788; he was of the Harvard College Class of 1777, but had never received an M.B. from Harvard though it was conferred upon him by Pennsylvania in 1780), John Clark (A.B. 1799, M.B. 1802, *1805), and Elias Mann (A.B. 1800, M.B.1806, *1807), though not the names of all the dead who had received M.B. The Quinquennial and preceding Triennials have never bestowed the doctorate upon these three possibly favored ones. I say “possibly” because the conferring of degrees upon the dead by formal vote is not unknown in our annals, and the names of these three men were already among the “stelligeri” of the Triennial of 1809, so that their deaths should have been known to the Corporation of 1811. I mention these peculiarities of the list, but do not undertake to explain them further; perhaps some historian of the Medical School will attempt the solution. My object has been to show that we had six ordinary Doctors of Medicine in course before the year 1811,—Fleet, Ingalls, Adams, Jackson, Shurtleff, and Thaxter. This, I think, should be made clear in the Quinquennial of 1910.

    It may be of interest to add a few words about the honorary degree of Doctor of Medicine in early times. This was first conferred in 1783 upon E. A. Holyoke and two years later upon Cotton Tufts. Both were Harvard men and among the incorporators of the Massachusetts Medical Society (founded in 1781); Holyoke was its first president. In 1786 the degree was given to the three professors in the new Harvard Medical Institution, Dexter, Warren, and Waterhouse. Of them, only Waterhouse had an ordinary doctorate (from Leyden in 1780); the other two were incorporators of the Medical Society. The records of the Corporation on these first five honorary doctorates are to be found in College Book, VIII. 119, 143, 199, 217, 221. Then follow 24 honorary doctorates before the year 1811, making 29 in all before that year. Of the recipients, 19 were graduates of Harvard College, 12 were incorporators of the Medical Society, 15 were fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 6 of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and 4 of the American Philosophical Society. Most of the 29 were therefore educated gentlemen and no doubt all were experienced practitioners, but they had been trained in the days before it was possible to obtain an ordinary degree in medicine in this country, and only three of them seem to have received ordinary doctorates in Europe and only one the ordinary M.B. there. Hence it was natural for the University, when more fortunate opportunities were being provided for younger men, to recognize skill in the elder generation by conferring a degree which would hardly be given honoris causa to-day.675 This was in accordance with a vote of November 2, 1784:676 “Honorary degrees in Physic, which may be conferred on Gentlemen of great eminence in the Profession, as a reward of merit, shall be free from all fees.”

    The Rev. Charles E. Park read the following paper:


    The old colonial custom of excommunication has been made the subject of frequent jesting criticism on the part of thoughtless persons of a later age, who claim to find in this custom an indication of the tyrannous bigotry which characterized our forefathers. Our ancestors have been stigmatized as a self-righteous and a stiff-necked generation whose piety was of the repellant sort, and whose practices had the disastrous effect of making religion unattractive and even unchristian. There may be some justice in such criticism. There certainly is much injustice in it. Before we pass judgment upon the practices of a former age, it is necessary to have some sympathetic understanding of the standards of that age. Such an understanding of their standards, and such an acquaintance with the conditions in which they toiled, are sure to mitigate in large measure our easy condemnation of their custom of excommunication.

    It is thus necessary, first of all, in order properly to understand the motive which led them to excommunicate, to know something of the nature and the purpose of that body from which the delinquent was cast forth. What was the colonial church? What was its constitution? What were its privileges and its limitations and its safeguards? Robert Browne was among the first to enunciate clearly that definition of a true church to which both Pilgrim and Puritan Congregationalism gave final acquiescence. Browne gathered his ideas of the true church from the Bible—principally from the New Testament. To his way of thinking, a Christian Church was a body of professed believers in Christ united to one another, and to their Lord, by a voluntary covenant. The covenant was the constitutive element which transformed an assembly of believers into a Church. The church thus brought into existence by the banding together of an assembly of professed believers under the terms of a covenant, possessed a certain distinction, and exercised certain powers, and conferred upon its members certain privileges, which we, with our lax and easy-going modern notions of church organization, may find it somewhat difficult to grasp. For instance, the right to partake in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper were essentially church prerogatives. The unattached believer, be he never so much a Christian, could not partake of these sacraments. The right to partake came only with his membership in a church. It was in church membership only that a Christian could seek and find the privilege of properly exercising all the acts of Christian worship. We see at once, then, that membership in a church was something very much to be desired. The unattached Christian could not worship God as perfectly and as fully as he wished, because there were certain indispensable rites of worship which simply did not exist as individual rites, but only as church-rites. They could only be performed by the church. They could only be enjoyed by members of the church. To qualify as a church member, one must not only be a professed believer, which meant a baptized believer—one must also give visible proof of his profession in the rectitude of his conduct. The candidate for membership first notified the elders of the church of his desire, and submitted to an examination by the elders of his knowledge of the principles of religion, and of his experience in the ways of grace, and of his godly conversation among men. Having been approved by the elders, the candidate’s name was then proposed for membership to the church, with the request that the brethren make inquiry regarding the candidate and report to the elders any just objections that might appear. If there was no objection forthcoming from any member of the church, the candidate was called before the church to make open confession of his sins and public profession of his faith. In the case of diffident women, this public appearance before the church might be omitted. At the time of his public appearance the candidate’s friends in the church might offer their testimony to his good qualities and his fitness for church membership, either from their personal knowledge of him, or from such credible reports and reputation as might be current concerning him. After this, one of the ruling or preaching elders asked the church whether any man found any just exception to the candidate. Unless some insuperable objection were presented, the elder then asked the church to express their acceptance of the candidate into fellowship with them by lifting up their hands. This being done, the elder rehearsed over for the candidate’s benefit the various heads of the church covenant, emphasizing the promises of grace, and the duties of faith and obedience and brotherly love and helpfulness, and asked the candidate if he agreed and consented thereto. Whereupon the elder assured him of the love and watchfulness of the church over him, and ended the ceremony with a short prayer. This latter portion of the ceremony, involving the taking and giving of covenant between the candidate and the church, must have been exceedingly beautiful and impressive. I make bold to read you the entire form as I find it in the records of the First Church in Boston. The candidate speaks as follows:

    I do promise by the grace and help of the Lord Jesus that I will forsake all my former lusts and corruptions wherein at any time I have walked, and that I will give up myself to the Lord Jesus, making him my only Priest and Atonement, my only prophet and guide, my only king and law giver: and that I will yield professed subjection to him in this church, and all his ordinances therein, according to the gospel, and will walk with this church in mutual memberly love and succor according to God.

    The church through its officer replies as follows:

    We do promise in the name of this church and by the help of the Lord Jesus, we will walk towards you in brotherly love and holy watchfulness to the building up each other in the fellowship of Christ. The God that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments, make us faithful herein to himself and one to another, for his own name’s sake.

    We may see from the foregoing that it was considered no small thing to become a church member, and that the candidate for membership must be examined as to penitence, profession of faith, and actual character before he could be admitted. The process was conducted with extreme care in order to ensure a membership of such as were really fit to be members. This jealous care in the matter of admitting candidates to church membership arose from the belief that a church was one homogeneous body of Christ, and the individuals were members thereof in particular. And the existence in that body of any single member who fell short of the requisite moral standard impaired the spiritual health and status, not of that member only, but of the whole church. The twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians was perhaps the authority for this view: “Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. If one member suffer, all the members suffer with it. If one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.” The sin of the one was the sin of all. A church ceased to be a church if it continued to harbor within itself any member who was unworthy. The infection of his presence tainted the whole body, so that it ceased to be a church. Its sacraments became a mockery. It became what John Cotton called a church relapsed, and could reinstate itself only by renewing its covenant. A church might suffer relapse not only by harboring within itself an unworthy member, but also by allowing a non-church-member, no matter how godly a person he might be, to partake with it in its sacraments. The taint of his non-membership in any church would spread over the church that received him at sacrament and would impair or destroy its existence as a church. In fact, John Cotton tells us that churches were even more particular than this: that not even a church member in good and regular standing could partake of the sacraments in a strange church except he bore a letter from his own church testifying to his membership and recommending him to the fellowship of the strange church. We may therefore gather together very roughly an idea of what the church was, and what it meant. It was a band of professed believers in Christ united to each other and to God by a voluntary covenant. As to its size, Cotton gives it as his opinion that it must consist of no less than seven members, and it must not consist of more than can meet together to hear, and to be edified, and to partake of the sacraments, in one place, at one time. The church thus brought into existence by the covenanted relations of an assembly of professed Christians, became possessed of the right to administer certain precious sacraments which none but a church could administer, and which were so indispensable to the spiritual well-being of the worshipper as to make membership in a church almost imperative. When John Cotton’s baby, Seaborn, was born upon shipboard, his father waited until landing in Boston to baptize the child. He declared that the sacrament of baptism could not be administered save by a church, and there was no church on board ship. A church thus constituted might not hold fellowship with an unworthy person, at the risk of impairing or destroying its own status; and the term “unworthy persons” is here used to indicate not only those church members who fell short of the requisite moral standard, but also those, whether godly or ungodly, who were not church members. Early in the summer of 1630, before the Boston church was gathered, four Boston men, all of them conspicuous for godliness, Winthrop, Dudley, Johnson, and Coddington, happened to be in Salem. When they attempted to join with the Salem church in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, they were denied the privilege of participation by Skelton, and Coddington’s child was denied a baptism, on the ground that they were not members of any local church. Other incidents betray the same jealousy with which our fathers guarded the status of their church. Perhaps it is hardly fair to cite Roger Williams and his actions in support of any theory, and yet Roger Williams was merely one of those cantankerously consistent persons whom the Lord has ordained to be a thorn in the side of his elect. In 1631 Williams refused to minister to the Boston church, and refused membership in it, because it had not yet separated itself from the Church of England. The Church of England at that time was supposed, by common Puritan consent, to be full of antichristian pollution. Williams claimed that the Boston church was tainted by that same antichristian pollution so long as it acknowledged any connection with the Church of England. To minister unto a tainted church would be to submit himself to the same taint. So, as he said, “he durst not officiate to an unseparated church.”

    It is easy to see that with such opinions prevalent as to the nature of a true church and as to the dangers which constantly menaced the existence of a true church, the practice of excommunication became inevitably a necessary practice. The church that continued to harbor an unworthy member ceased to be a church. Its very existence as a church was imperilled. Excommunication was therefore an act of self-defence. And the wonder is, not that there were so many excommunications, but that there were so few; not that our fathers were so strict in this particular, but that they were so lenient and so long suffering. In dealing with delinquent brethren we find them on the whole exceedingly patient and reasonable, both in theory and in practice. In general two classes of offences were visited by church punishment. The first class was of private quarrels and animosities, as between one church member and another. The second class was of offences against society, and offences of this second class were subdivided into the more gross and heinous, and the less. In theory, there was no administering of censure until the offence was proved beyond doubt. Nor did a church proceed to censure until it was certain that the offence could be cured in no other way. The church censure was the last resort, and with a few possible exceptions we may find it so in actual practice. In dealing with offences of the first class, those as between man and man, the method of procedure was in strict conformity to Gospel injunction. The plaintiff went privately to the offender and stated his grievance frankly and asked for redress. If the offender remained obdurate, the plaintiff laid the case before two or three grave and fair-minded friends, and with these friends paid a second visit to the offender. If the offender denied his ill-doing and there were none to testify against him except the plaintiff, there was a deadlock and the case was dropped. The testimony of one man against one was not considered sufficient to warrant the administering of censure. If, however, the offender confessed to his ill-doing but still remained obdurate in spite of the brotherly exhortations of the two or three grave and sober-minded friends, the matter was taken to the elders of the church, who in turn notified the church. Then in public the elders labored with the offender to induce him to repent, and in this effort they might be assisted by any church members present whom the spirit might move to rise and speak in the interests of justice. If at any time during these proceedings the offender acknowledged himself guilty and repented, he was at once pardoned and the case was closed. But if he remained contumacious the church at last punished him, regulating the punishment to the nature of the sin. If it were a gross and heinous offence, he was excommunicated forthwith. If it were something done through ignorance of its sinfulness or in the heat of passion, he was first admonished, and perhaps admonished a second and third time before he was excommunicated. It is only fair to state that the offender’s obstinacy was counted against him. His offence was of a cumulative nature. The church was apt to be very jealous of its dignity, and when the final punishment was inflicted we may find that it was imposed as much for the offender’s contumacy against the church as for his original ill-doing against his brother. The case of Mrs. Anne Hibbon677 is a case in point. It appears that in 1640 Mrs. Hibbon had sundry professional dealings with some carpenters, among whom was John Davis, also a member of the church in Boston. For some reason Mrs. Hibbon’s suspicions were aroused against Davis and his fellow-workmen. She charged them with extortion and with being in a combination to keep up the prices for their class of labor. Her charges appear to have been uttered openly and upon insufficient grounds, to the scandal of the community and to the injury of Davis, who laid the matter before the elders. After due investigation Mrs. Hibbon was admonished for her uncharitable jealousies and causeless suspicions. This admonition failed of the desired result, however, for we read that four months later Mrs. Hibbon was excommunicated. The reasons for this excommunication are given as follows: (1) for her irregular dealing with John Davis in not following the rule and going to him privately, in the first place, with her grievance; (2) for her causeless and uncharitable jealousies and accusations in which she persisted, and from which no amount of testimony could dissuade her; (3) for sundry falsehoods proved against her; (4) for condemning the church in having admonished her four months before; and (5) for her obstinacy in that she neither listened to her husband at home, nor to her brethren and sisters when they expostulated with her in private, nor to the church when they admonished her in public. We may claim that it was a piece of gross tyranny to cast out this woman from a church on these grounds. It would be so, to cast her out of one of our churches, for our churches no longer conform to the colonial church ideal. But once we understand what that ideal was, there seems to be no other fate for Mrs. Anne Hibbon but excommunication. It was not done rashly nor impulsively. The proceedings dragged along for at least six months. Meanwhile every effort was made in all Christian charity and patience to bring Mrs. Hibbon to reason. And it was only when she had resisted all overtures, and persisted in her groundless accusations, and defied the church that she was finally cast forth. In dealing with the second class of offences, those against society, such as fornication, adultery, murder, extortion, drunkenness, blasphemy, profanity and the like, the church felt obliged to proceed somewhat more roundly. The private expostulation was not deemed timely in such instances. Condemnation of such offences must be more prompt and uncompromising. If the offence were rank, the culprit was at once called before the church and excommunicated, it being satisfactorily proved, of course, that he was guilty. Thus we read that on November 20, 1642, “Our brother Edward Bates was by our Pastor in open assembly with the consent of the church, by their silence, excommunicated out of the church for sundry scandalous thefts committed by him, and for many lies, and unclean dalliances with another man’s wife.” If, however, the offence did not seem quite so gross, the offender might be merely admonished instead of excommunicated. Here, for example, is the case of Temperance Sweet, who appears to have belied her name most deplorably:

    Our sister Temperance Sweet was, by our Pastor, in the name of the Lord, and with the consent of the church, taken by their silence, admonished for having received into house and given entertainment unto disorderly company, and ministering unto them wine and strong waters even unto drunkenness, and that not without some iniquity both in the measure and the price thereof.

    It is edifying to read in the very next entry that Temperance repented her of her evil ways and having made open acknowledgment of her sin was released from her admonition.

    The punishments which a church imposed were three: first, the public rebuke, then the public admonition, then the excommunication. The rebuke needs of course no further explanation. An entry in 1659, in the records of the First Church, states that “our sister Dorothy Knight, for being drunk was openly rebuked in the congregation, and upon her free acknowledgment was forgiven.” The admonition was about equivalent to putting the culprit on probation. It was publicly administered, and it deprived its victim of the privilege of the sacraments until it was removed. The excommunication was practically an indefinite admonition. By excommunication the culprit was cast out of the church, to be sure, but that meant simply that he could not enjoy the sacraments and could not vote. He might attend divine worship, in fact he was rather expected to attend divine worship to the end that he might be won over to an appreciation of the sinfulness of his estate, and might be induced to apply again for fellowship. This renewal of fellowship to excommunicated persons was very common, and seems to have been granted with touching readiness and trust on the part of the church. The career of Richard Wayte, a tailor, who joined the church in 1634, will illustrate this well. In 1638 a customer brought him some buckskin to be made into a garment. Wayte purloined enough of the buckskin to make three men’s gloves, and denied the theft. He was labored with according to rule, both in private and in public, but persisted in his false assertion of innocence. He was finally excommunicated. Two years later, in May, 1640, he acknowledged his sin, repented, and was restored to the fellowship of the church. In July, 1640, he was again excommunicated for having professed a false and hollow penitence upon the occasion of his restoration, and for sundry drinking bouts and carousals with a boon companion, Lester Gunton, who appears to have been an apprentice. In April, 1641, he penitently acknowledged his sin, and was restored a second time to the fellowship of the church. Thirty years later he was again excommunicated for habitual drunkenness, and was a third time restored to fellowship upon profession of repentance. His case is duplicated by the case of John Temple, who in like manner was thrice excommunicated and thrice restored to fellowship. In fact, as we examine the records of the Boston church, which perhaps may be taken as typical of the colonial churches in general, we cannot resist the feeling that church censures were administered very rarely and very reasonably, and that they were revoked with most Christian charitableness and trust. The church seems never to have harbored spite against a malefactor. It never considered a sin as being unpardonable. So far as the church was concerned, its excommunication was never irrevocable. It was always possible for the offender to repent and regain fellowship. The statistics will go far to show this. During the first ninety years of its history, from 1630 to 1720, after which date there are no excommunications recorded, 72 persons were cast out of the Boston church. Of these 72, 39 were never restored at all; 20 were restored and never came upon the books again; 6 were restored and were excommunicated a second time; 2 were twice excommunicated and twice restored; 3 were twice restored and then were finally excommunicated for the third time; and as we have seen 2 were thrice excommunicated and thrice restored to fellowship. So that of the 72 persons, 24 were ultimately restored, and 48 remained in the final estate of excommunication. Two-thirds of these penalties were inflicted for offences of the second class—drunkenness, theft, and sexual irregularity. No fair-minded historian could criticize the church for imposing these penalties—assuming, of course, that he understands what their ideal of a church was. The remaining one-third of the penalties were inflicted for neighborhood quarrels, doctrinal errors, or seditious and unbrotherly speech and conduct. If the critical historian wishes to justify his charge of bigotry and tyranny in this matter of church discipline, he must discover his justification of that charge in these 24 cases. But of these 24 persons cast out, 6 were restored. Of the 18 who remained under ban, 6 more were practically self-excommunicated. These were Richard Lippincott, who deliberately withdrew from church communion, was twice admonished, would not listen to argument, and was cast out; John Spurr, who withdrew from the communion of the church professing that he could not hold fellowship with it, declared the church was a crowd of superstitious idolaters and its officers hypocrites, and was cast out; Ann Burdon, who withdrew from church communion declaring that she was commanded of the Lord to have no more to do with them, was twice summoned before the church, and twice refused to appear, and so was cast out; Nicholas Upsall, who withdrew from the church, denied the validity of its ordinances, refused to discuss the matter, was admonished and finally cast out; Anne Gillam, who withdrew from church communion, would give no reason, would listen to no argument, and was finally cast out; and Anna Search, who deliberately withdrew from the First Church and put herself into fellowship with the Third Church without waiting to go through the formality of obtaining letters of dismission and recommendation, and so was renounced from the communion of the First Church. These six persons practically excommunicated themselves. This leaves 12 cases. Of these 12, three were cast out for persistent scoffing at religion, reviling the elders, and interrupting the service in disorderly ways; two were cast out for habitual falsehood; one was a scold and scandal-monger; one attempted to steal tools from a fellow-workman; one reviled his father; one reviled her husband and used to strike him; and one stole wine from a hogshead and filled up the measure with beer. The two that are left are Anne Hutchinson and Francis Hutchinson. It is unnecessary to go exhaustively into the reasons for their excommunication. They really endangered the life of both church and colony. It was not so much because of their alleged doctrinal errors that they were cast out, but because of the factional strife and partizanship that they unwittingly provoked. They were unintentional schismatics, and were cast out of the church on grounds of grim expediency. The findings of the Synod of 1637, at which, among other things, Mrs. Hutchinson’s large assemblies of women were “agreed to be disorderly,” is one which many a bewildered parson reads to-day with profound sympathy and understanding. Her excommunication reflects little credit upon any one concerned—least of all perhaps upon John Cotton, but the open-minded man cannot help wondering what other course was open to the church.

    To sum up, then, it would appear that the practice of excommunication as carried out in colonial churches was not an unjustly tyrannical practice; it does not betoken a cantankerous and self-righteous spirit on the part of our fathers. With but few exceptions, those whom the churches cast out richly deserved their fate, and would be cast out of any self-respecting church to-day, if there existed to-day a church which conformed to the old idea. Excommunications were merely incidental to the working out of the colonial church ideal; and he who would condemn excommunication must first of all attack and overthrow the ideal of the colonial church.

    Mr. Charles K. Bolton made the following communication:


    Two years ago I read before this Society a paper on Circulating Libraries in Boston, 1765–1865.678 Of even greater importance in the intellectual life of the town, and certainly more enduring, have been the Social Libraries which were organized under laws of the Commonwealth. Our associate Dr. James B. Ayer is not only the possessor of several valuable catalogues of early libraries of this class, but in the course of my investigations I have found his knowledge of the subject very extensive, and we have together solved some difficult questions.

    A considerable movement in favor of establishing social libraries in Massachusetts made a general law desirable, and on March 3, 1798, provision was made “to enable the proprietors of Social Libraries to manage the same.”

    Section 1 read:

    Any seven or more persons, capable of contracting, in any towns or districts in this Commonwealth, who have or shall become Proprietors in common, of any Library, may form themselves into a Society or body politic, for the express purposes of holding, encreasing, preserving, and using such Library, etc.

    Section 2 defined powers of proprietors to choose officers, to raise monies by assessments on shares, to make by-laws, etc.

    Section 3 directed the name to be The Proprietors of the Social Library in the Town of——

    Section 4 authorized the proprietors to hold property to the value of five hundred dollars above the value of the books, and permitted one vote to each share.

    This Act was repealed when a new Act, very similar to the original Act, was passed March 8, 1806. An additional Act, passed February 24, 1807, enabled officers of the militia to form Military Library Societies.

    Under the provisions of these acts libraries came quickly into existence, so that a writer in the Massachusetts Register and United States Calendar for 1802 estimated the number in the Commonwealth at one hundred. Those in Boston were:

    • The First Social, or the Social Law Library, 1804;
    • The Second Social, or the Boston Medical Library, 1805;679
    • The Third Social, or the Scientific Library, 18—;680
    • The Fourth Social, or the Theological Library, 1807.

    Before taking up the history of these libraries in detail it may be well to recall the times in which men began to associate themselves more frequently and more closely together in Boston to further intellectual projects. The circulating libraries were wholly commercial in their origin, however useful they may have been. The social libraries, which came very close upon them, were hardly more exclusive, unless the price of a share, being greater than the annual fee of the bookseller’s library, had a tendency to differentiate into classes the book-loving public. But their impetus was social, as the name suggests, and not commercial.

    The nineteenth century opened with Washington no longer a figure on the stage. The intellectual people of the time feared the influence of the French Revolution with its foreboding of social and religious changes. They had been aroused as a class to struggle for self-protection, and the movement, as far as it can be identified with the Federalist party, was strong in Massachusetts after it had lost favor with the country at large. This was at least one cause which served to bind men together socially, and in Boston the growth of societies soon became marked. The Rev. John T. Kirkland, later President of Harvard College, was as much as any one a leader in this intellectual activity. He was minister of the New South Church in Summer Street, a man of great dignity, charm in conversation, and knowledge of men. Other clergymen during the first decade were the Rev. William Emerson of the First Church in Cornhill (now Washington Street), the Rev. James Freeman of King’s Chapel (then called the Stone Chapel), the Rev. Joseph S. Buckminster of the Church in Brattle Square, the Rev. John Eliot of New North Church, the Rev. William Ellery Channing of the Church in Federal Street, the Rev. John S. J. Gardiner of Trinity, and the Rev. Charles Lowell of the West Church in Lynde Street. New England divines now turned from doctrinal and Biblical sermons to wider and more moving themes, and they did much to stir the people to greater mental activity.681

    In 1801 Dr. Kirkland, Judge Davis, and others682 founded the Society for the Study of Natural Philosophy; its members gave lectures in turn. The principal part of the apparatus which they had collected from time to time was turned over in 1807 to the Boston Athenæum, when the Society came to an end. The Athenæum absorbed many other societies as the years went on, and it became in fact, as well as in sentiment, the representative of the intellectual life of Boston.

    Next in time, but of the first importance, was the Anthology Club, which had much to do with the development of the literary life of the whole country. More closely connected with the Natural Philosophy Society, however, was the private medical society formed in 1805 by Doctors John Collins Warren, nephew of the patriot Dr. Joseph Warren, James Jackson, John Dixwell, John Gorham Coffin, Asa Bullard, George Cheyne Shattuck, and one or two others. These men met weekly and listened to papers. They brought together at the home of Dr. John Fleet, in Milk Street, a few books which became in January, 1806, the Boston Medical Library. It was opened on the first Thursday in that year, and received and delivered books on Mondays and Thursdays between three and five o’clock in the afternoon. A year or two later Amos Smith, apothecary, kept this library at his shop, No. 39 Marlborough (now Washington) Street. A catalogue,683 printed in 1808, shows that three books could be taken out at one time, with a pamphlet. The larger the book the longer it might be kept; the fines also were graded according to the size of the book borrowed. The “sublibrarian” was the working head, and he must have taken pleasure in Rule 4: “The Sublibrarian will receive fines, but he will not undertake to demand them.” Nor was he to expose books to view until the librarian had examined, labelled, and arranged them on the shelves. The circulation to May 30, 1808, was seven hundred, and the committee—Doctors John C. Warren, Asa Bullard, and John G. Coffin—felt that the Library had been of great value to the community. In 1826 the Library was turned over to the Boston Athenæum, and nearly all its proprietors purchased Athenæum shares on advantageous terms. The physicians then in Boston numbered seventy-one and almost one half belonged to this first Medical Library.684

    The other professions did not leave the library field to the physicians alone. In point of time the Social Law Library was the earliest “social library,” as the term was then used. The first list of subscribers to shares was dated September 6, 1803, and includes twenty-nine names headed by that of Theophilus Parsons.685 The first meeting, to organize, was held April 23, 1840,.686 and later other subscribers at $50 each were admitted. The library was kept for many years in the office of a member of the bar who acted as librarian; then the books were kept in a closet adjoining a large room in the Court House. The first printed catalogue, issued in 1824, recorded 1470 volumes; that of 1849 gave the titles of 4077.687 Incorporation was secured in 1814 by William Prescott, Joseph Hall, and their associates. It has now become a large and valuable collection.

    The Act of February, 1807, permitted officers of the militia to establish Military Library Societies, but I have not found evidence of the existence of such a library.

    A third project was evidently under discussion, since a “fourth” or theological library was projected in June. This third social library is still somewhat of a mystery, for we find no contemporary organization. Twenty years later came the Massachusetts Scientific Library Association. At a meeting of gentlemen held in the American Academy’s room in 1826, Israel Thorndike, Jr., Amos Lawrence, John A. Lowell, George B. Emerson, John C. Gray, John Lowell, Jr., William Sturgis, Daniel Tread well, Dr. Enoch Hale, and Edward Brooks were appointed a committee to solicit subscriptions for a Scientific Library. Soon after, the Athenseum trustees chose a committee composed of Nathaniel Bowditch, Francis C. Gray, George Ticknor, Thomas W. Ward, and Francis J. Oliver, to consider the expediency of “uniting, in the Athenæum, the principal circulating libraries of this city,” that the deficiencies of the larger library might be overcome. The subscriptions for the projected Scientific Library were soon made over to the Athenaeum.688

    The Scientific Library Association having lost its identity, a new Third Social Library was organized about 1834 with thirty-eight proprietors. A catalogue, owned by the Athenaeum, covers eight printed pages: By-Laws, pages 1–3; Books belonging to the library, pages 3–7; Proprietors, page [8]. There is no title-page. The contents are general. Page 7 reads: “This association being incorporated according to a law of this Commonwealth, passed in 1806, imports its books free of duty.”

    The Fourth Social [or Theological] Library in the Town of Boston was established June 1, 1807, in the First, or Old Brick, Church, now

    at the corner of Berkeley and Marlborough Streets, then in Washington Street on the later site of Joy’s Building.689 In 1808 the congregation moved into a new church building in Chauncy Place690 and the library occupied the vestry, being maintained by all the Congregational churches in Boston through an association of their ministers.691 The library was under the immediate eye of the Rev. William Emerson, minister of the First Church, and one of the most active literary men in the town. In 1807 the proprietors of King’s Chapel deposited their library with this new Theological Library, and a catalogue of it appears with that of the main library, published in 1808, at the time of the removal. The Rev. Joseph McKean appears as librarian in the list of officers, and he was probably the first to hold the office. The Athenæum copy of their catalogue was presented by him.692

    In 1823 the Theological Library was united with the library of the Boston Athenæum,693 where it remained until the administration of Mr. William C. Lane, when most of the books were deposited with the General Theological Library on Mount Vernon Street.694 Many prominent men had been associated with it, President Kirkland, the Rev. William Emerson, father of the philosopher, the Rev. William E. Channing, the Rev. Charles Lowell, father of the poet, and the Rev. Francis Parkman, father of the historian. These names illustrate the potential force then in Boston, which was making ready to usher in the golden age of New England literature.695

    The booksellers were not slow to feel the new spirit that had come over the people. Boston has always been famous for its bookstores, having had, at times, more than were to be found elsewhere on the whole continent. In 1801 the booksellers of the town formed an association called the “Boston Association of Booksellers,” said to have been the first of the kind in America. Its objects were commercial and social, and those who refused to abide by its rules lost the advantage of exchange of books and trade discounts, so essential to a successful business.696 In 1804 they published a catalogue of books in print in America. The Boston Directory for 1807 mentions fifteen booksellers and three librarians. Booksellers were quick also to see the need of circulating libraries to draw the public to their places of business.

    In this summary I have not referred to many social clubs which stimulated thought and study, such as the Friday Evening Club to which many of the gentlemen mentioned above gave their attention.697

    The clergymen and physicians were closely associated in these many literary enterprises, while the lawyers contented themselves largely with founding the Social Law Library. Of those who instituted the Monthly Anthology, a magazine, and the Boston Athenaeum, which followed, the Rev. Dr. Kirkland was associated also with the Boston Library, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Theological Library, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Mr. Emerson was identified with all but the Academy; while Dr. John C. Warren, the Rev. Joseph McKean, the Rev. James Freeman, the Rev. John Eliot, William Tudor, and others were connected with several of those institutions.

    On behalf of Mr. Charles S. Rackemann, Mr. Edes communicated a Memoir of Francis Vergnies Balch, which Mr. Rackemann had been requested to prepare for publication in the Transactions.