257 Sever on Resident vs. Non-Resident Fellows

    [ca. latter half of 1722]

    Now this is the Representation that has been given, and the Argument the Resident Fellows have used for their being Established on the Charter as Fellows of the Corporation.

    And after Several Meetings of the Overseers, and long debates upon the Matter, they found it necessary that the Residents should be so Established; the only difficulty was that there was no room for them in Corporation it being full. So that the Residents could not be admitted as Fellows upon the foundation, unless the Nonresidents quited the Character which they expressed an unwillingness unto.

    I suppose it was a prevailing Opinion among the Overseers that it would be best for the College to have the Fellows all residents without any enlargment, but the Nonresidents, being persons of advanced characters and great worth, and being unwilling to part with the character of Fellows the Overseers finally determined to apply to the Generall Court for an enlargement of the Corporation that the residents might be introduced that way and the nonresidents stand also, and thus the Affair went into the Generall Court. I shall by and by observe what became of it there.

    And now on the other Side tis said that the Nonresidents are in possession, that if they should resign the College would be ruined conclusum est de Academia the fate of the College is certainly determined, and the world cant save it.

    Now in Opposition to their possession the residents have made out their right, so that this possession of the Nonresidents is an unjust possession. [2] But then tis said the College will be ruined if the Nonresidents should quit their Fellowships, so that it seems the College subsists purely by them and they are the whole support of it and if their influence as Fellows be withdrawn it falls of course. Now this is a way of arguing well known among Learned men, and called Petitio principii. We have been arguing that for the keeping up a proper Government and needfull discipline in the College it is necessary that the residents should be vested with the powers of its Charter. And the Answer is that if it should be so, this would not be of service for the end proposed, but the College would be ruined by it.

    Now this is to knock down an Argument not by force of reason but by dint of Character and thus the Arguments of the residents have just the same treatment from these Gentlemen that their persons have when they happen to have any sentiments that are different from theirs, although very just.

    And by the way for those Gentlemen to bend all their force against the residents and strive to hurt their Characters, and do every thing in their power to compleat their ruin, for no other crime but that they have had some sentiments relating to the state of the College different from theirs, when indeed they are allowed to be very just ones, and only because they have faithfully represented to the Overseers the difficulties the College was under when there was an absolute necessity for it, and in the most decent manner too, is a very unusual treatment of Mankind.

    But to the point, no reason can be given for such a conclusion that the College will be ruined: for this College did subsist and was very happy for above twenty years, from its first foundation, in the [3] state the residents aim at and many Colleges in the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford have flourished for several hundreds of years in the same state i.e. under a President and resident Fellows and without nonresidents and no man can believe that those very means under which this and other Colleges have flourished should now by a fatal Necessity prove the ruin of them.

    And I cant but observe that this suggestion is very injurious to the residents who manage the business of the College. They drudge in the College business by day and by night, from the begining of the year to the end of the same, but in the account of these Gentlemen that is all nothing, and they with two or three Visits in a year are the whole support of the College. The residents may justly complain with the Poet, with a little Variation, and say.

    Haec Ego—fuit, Aulit alter honores.

    Sic nos non nobis—9

    It becomes us in all we do to have higher Views than a reputation and applause among men but when the residents have laboured in this Vineyard for other men to come and put in their Sickle into an Harvest [not] of their sowing and which has cost themselves nothing, is neither just to the residents or themselves, for in so doing they ascribe less to the residents than is their due and more to themselves than of right belongs to them and thus they build on another mans foundation and boast in another mans line of things made ready to their hand. Mr. President and the resident Fellows have the business of the College and if any thing be amiss it will be imputed to them and the honour therefore of what is valuable is of right theirs, and for any body to take it from them, is to deprive them of what is their [4] just due. Yea, those very Gentlemen are ready enough if any thing be amiss in the College to call upon the President and yet would have every body believe that all that is praise worthy is oweing intirely to them.

    But now we may consider what the Nonresidents have usually done for the College from whence we may be able to form a better judgment upon the matter, and se whether in fact it be so that the College is wholly supported by them. So that if their influence as Fellows be withdrawn, it must inevitably sink and fall. Here’s a great cry made that the College is in danger, that if the point in controversie should turn in favour to the residents the College will be lost and ruined, to all intents and purposes. So that these Gentlemen are obliged in Conscience to stand their ground in opposition to the sense of the Generall Court, to dispute it by Inches, that they may save so valuable an interest for the Country, whether they will or no; but what is there in all this Noise and what have these Gentlemen usually done for the support of the College. Surely something vastly great! Why if we look over their Books for many Years past we may find that they have commonly met together twice or thrice a year and once a year have stated the Fellows salaries, (which by the Charter they ought not to do with out the Overseers) and chosen a Library-keeper, Butler, five Scholars of the House, and have applied of the College Money, it may be five pounds a peice, to ten of the Students, and these favours are bestowed mostly on persons which the Nonresidents never saw or heard of in their lives before. So that in this business they shoot at random, if therefore they hit the mark, it must be by chance and then once it may be in Seven Years they have preceeded in the Election of a Fellow when there has faln a Vacancy. Now, and then also (though but very seldom) they have attempted to make By-laws for the College. Several of which the Overseers have [5] very wisely rejected as tending rather to the subversion and ruin, than to the service and good of the College. Sometimes again they have advanced the Commons an half penny, and then lowered them again, as there has been occasion.

    Now these are the mighty things the great Articles of business that have passed thro their hands, and on the account of which I suppose they pretend the happiness (if not the very being) of the College depends, intirely on them. There may be a few smaller things yet I think there is very little more, but what is purely imaginary. Now there is not one Article of this business (excepting only that of allowing the Fellows Salaries, which the Generall Court has declared ought to be under the direction of the Overseers) but what might be done with a much greater propriety by the residents by reason of their acquaintedness with the persons and characters of all the Students and with every Affair in the College.

    And as to regulating the College Expences, they seldom spend a tho’t upon that matter, although it is a very great Article of the College business. Within these three years past nigh five Hundred pounds of the College Money has faln into the Stewards hands (besides Tuition Money, and that of the Commencers for the publick Dinner, in which Articles also their has been an overplus to the College) and this Money the whole of it is a fund, so far as it goes, to defray the Charge of repairs and other incident charges in the College and if there be any overplus, it ought to go into the Treasury. Now I cant understand that the Stewards Accounts have been examined by the Corporation for above ten years past, and they have very seldom enquired into the state of the Treasury; so that their care about the College Estate and Revenues is but very short, and it is impossible therefore that what they do should conduce [6] very much to the Safety, and Support of the College.

    The Support of the College is the carrying on those ends for which it was founded. Now the great End for which the College was founded was a Learned and pious Education of Youth, their Instruction in Languages, Arts, and Sciences, and having their minds and manners formed aright and I’m sure tis impossible that all the Nonresidents do should directly conduce very much to this great End, for the whole Instruction, constant Inspection, Government and discipline of the Students is, and alwayes must be with the residents. So that it may well and rationally be made out, that nonresidence as now in practice, tends rather to defeat than to advance the great End for which the College was founded; which I argue thus: if the powers of the College are abroad, and the residents have them not the Government and discipline of the College, do what they can, will dwindle in their hands, and they will not be able to keep up a needfull discipline without the powers of the Charter, and this cannot be desired. And if Government and discipline be wanting in the College tis every whit as evident and certain that the Students will grow slack, and negligent in their Studies also, and about their business, and so there will of course be a failure in their Learning too; so that truly in stead of its being the Safety and Support of the College Nonresidence is the bane and ruin of it in that it tends to weaken its Government and hurt its discipline, from whence a failure in Learning also must in all probability follow. And tis too evident to be denied that these effects have been, and are, and will be, produced in the College by this state of things, so that the danger of ruin to the College which is the Argument they have bro’t against the residents lies with a much greater force against themselves. And the sum of all they say upon this head amounts plainly to this much; that it is for the service and safety of [7] the College that the powers of its Charter should lye in hands, abroad, very much without use, and that the residents, who manage the business, should be left to act at random, and without Charter, rather than that they should be vested with the powers of the Charter least they should missuse them.

    And to suppose that the being and happiness of the College depends upon Nonresidence is what no man can form any rational conception of, or give any tolerable account for this is the compleatest anouncement and the most finished piece of its kind, that ever was or can possibly be. It is the unhappiest mistake for the College those Gentlemen could possibly fall into, to suppose that there showing themselves at College now and then should be the whole support of it. And I make no doubt but that in Cambridge or Oxford, they’d sooner pull down the walls of a College than reduce the Government of it to the state of this.

    It has been objected that the residents probably may be a Number of Young men; that it is to be supposed the President will alwayes be a person of great abilities and influence, and will be likly to have too great a sway upon the Fellows, and so carry all things at his own pleasure whereas the Nonresidents being persons advanc’d in life and being men of intellect and experience may probably keep all things in order.

    But this objection dos not now lye stronger against a resident Corporation than it alwayes has done here, and in all other Colleges, and it never has been tho’t sufficient.

    Several persons Nonresident of about thirty years of Age have not long since been choosen into the Corporation and they have gone as low as to four or five and twenty years of Age, and this is allowed [8] to be a competent age for a Nonresident and I suppose scarce an instance can be produced for thirty years past of a Resident that has been choosen under that Age, but there is it seems some unaccountable thing in residence to which the powers of the Charter ought alwayes to be limited that must for ever bar a man from them.

    A few months since it was argued on the other side very strenuously that if the residents were of the Corporation their interest would be too great in the College. It was laid down as a fundamental that the Presidents character must be kept up to the utmost extent; but that if the residents were of the Corporation their interest would be too great in the College; they’d have too great a sway and influence upon matters, and particularly ’twas said that there would be danger of their bearing too hard upon the President; and thus the Argument was carried on as far as it would go but when upon tryal it was found to want weight, the tables were turned, and now tis said that possibly some time or other there may be a Sett of Young men that if the Corporation were resident and it should so happen that there were a Sett of Young men the President would be likly to bear them down and so run away with the College. And truly I believe it would be very much so, if the Modun Policy of the Corporation were kept up. Viz: to have the residents kept at short allowance, and in a constant dependence, mainly upon the President for their places and for the bread they eat; but I remember very well that not long since it was argued very strongly by the Nonresidents in behalf of themselves, that a fellowship is a freehold, and that therefore they were immoveable in their places. The Argument was very strong so far as it was carryed, but if they had gone through with it it had been unanswerable against themselves and for the residents for in fact it is so, that in the University a Fellowship [9] is a freehold, and a Fellow is as firm in his Estate as any man; but then this respects resident Fellows, and when a Fellow leaves the University he leaves his Free-hold, unless by a very peculiar indulgence in some extraordinary cases, he is allowed to enjoy the benefit of it. And it was never heard of that a nonresident Fellow pretended to hold his Fellowship, in Opposition to those who have the Management of those affairs in the University.

    And as for the Residents as they now Stand several of them are well advanced in life, and as little liable for all that I know, to receive any such impressions as other men, and upon the removal of any of them the Corporation will not be limited in the Election of others to persons actually residing at the College although when a person is elected and accepts of a Fellowship he ought to reside here. A large country they have to choose out of and many persons have had their education at the College and are accomplished for this service and under good circumstances would be glad of it.

    And it would be the interest of the College and of the Country to give such encouragement to Fellows as might engage the best of man to wait for this business, and when they have it to render them easie in it, and not willing to part with it but upon very good terms.

    And if the dependence of the Fellows were upon the Overseers as it ought to be for their subsistance, and they were men of parts and Learning as they must be, I believe on the one hand they’d carefully shun every Indecency towards the President, and on the other, (although it must alwayes be very just that the Opinion of the President should have a weight in the College) I make no doubt but they would go on regularly with him, in the business of [10] the College without surrendering up their own characters, or basely betraying the interests of the College into the hands of any body, if any such atempts should be made upon them.

    And surely by reason of their acquaintedness with all persons and characters, things and circumstances, which are every day they live before their eyes, the residents have a great advantage in this business, beyond what the Nonresidents can have.

    And now I’ll follow the Overseers Memorial into the Generall Court for an enlargment and see what became of it there; and it was put into the hands of a strong committe of both Houses, who reported that to have the residents established on the Charter would be more beneficial to the College than an enlargement of the Corporation; that it was the intent of the Charter, that such as have the Instruction and Government of the Students should be members of the Corporation; that none of the Fellows be Overseers; that the President and Fellows cannot by the Charter establish their own salaries without the Overseers; which was the grand objection made by the nonresidents. And this report was received and a resolve passed both Houses, that for the future it should be so. The Governor likwise gave his consent to it, only with this proviso, that the Gentlemen by name, then sustaining the Character of Nonresident Fellows might not be displaced. Now, his signing that resolve although in such a manner, argues strongly that he had the same sence of the Charter for, otherwise no reason can be given, why he did not put a Negative upon it.

    I dont determine whether, or how far the resolve of the Generall Court upon that report is obliging in point of Law, but this is certain that since this resolve passed both Houses, and was consented to by the Governor with no other saving, but that respecting [11] the Nonresidents personally, the sence the Generall Court has concerning the Charter is fully in favour to the residents and the Generall Court who gave the Charter must be allowed to be the best expositors of it.

    And now it must be a very great indecency both for the Nonresidents and the residents to go on in the business of the College in Opposition to the declared sence of the Generall Court upon the Charter; the residents are the less guilty in that they are yet by violence kept out of their right.

    Measures have been concerted here of late for geting rid of some of the old Officers, that they may have a sett of Young Ones. What, say they, would the Fellows live then alwayes! That is a not unreasonable thing, and there are others coming on that ought to be encouraged, and promoted, and this will have an happy tendency to the “peace and weal of the College” which tho’t I greatly admire whosoever be the other [author?] of it. And when they have blown up the old Officers, if I were to give my Opinion in the New Elections, I would advise by all means as they tender the peace of the College to choose persons that are young, very young, not exceeding sixteen or seventeen years of age at the most, and not to continue at farthest longer than till they are one and twenty, the reason is, because the only qualification now, to recommend a resident Fellow to any tolerable treatment in the College is to be intirely passive which may possibly suit persons in their Minority, but when they come to be sui juris, they’ll be likly to have an Opinion of their own and be willing to act agreeable with their own sence of things, and then there’ll be danger of their disturbing the peace of the College again. [12]

    And under these circumstances the residents will be very orderly and respectfull to their Masters, but they’ll make a very awkward figure to those below them and whom they ought to govern.

    The College has for many Years groaned to be delivered from a forreign Yoke and to have its proper Governours according to the declared sence of the Charter, residing within its walls, and to be governed by its own Laws, under the influence and direction of the Overseers; this was the Original Constitution and it was excellently suited to the State of this Country; particularly I cant but insist upon it, that the College is very happy in having a power of visitation in so good hands, and the Overseers are a sufficient gaurd upon the College from every Mischief, whensoever they shall act up to the Constitution and exert the powers they have. And this I’m confirmed in when I consider that their Authority is as well established as that of the Corporation and especially that those very heads which now pretend to be the life of all things in the College belong to their Number.

    I suppose the Nonresident Gentlemen have at all times acted with views to serve the College and yet tis very certain that several Articles of their conduct have in their own Nature, a more direct tendency only to reduce the residents into a more perfect decorum to themselves, than to enable them to carry on the business of the College to good effect.

    It is very cruel to fall upon a naked man to tie a mans hands and feet, and then set him to fight a battle, and tax him with cowardice for not gaining a Victory, or to bind him down with chains, and then oblige him to run a race, and punish him for not wining the prize. Now it is all this, and not less unreasonable and cruel to strip the residents who have the business of the College of [13] the powers of its Charter and then impute to them the blame of prevailing disorders. They themselves keep from the residents the powers they ought to have and thus shock the Government of the College and give a loose to every disorderly temper, vicious, and exorbitant inclination, and then lay all the bad effects to the charge of the residents, who are not guilty.

    I conclude the whole with a parallel case from the Overseers first Book of records. Pag: 53: 54: Viz: at a meeting of the Overseers of Harvard College at Cambridge September 15, 1673, the College being under some difficulties it was “propounded that there might be Fellows chosen to supply the Students with Tutors; accordingly Mr. Daniell Gookin, Mr. Daniell Russel, and Mr. Joseph Taylor, being nominated and propounded by the Corporation were chosen Fellows—Mr. Urian Oakes, Mr. Thomas Shepard, Mr. Joseph Brown, and Mr. John Richardson declared that they resigned up their places of Fellows in the College.”10

    It was with the Charter of Seventy two that Nonresidence of Fellows first came into the College and after only one Years experience the Overseers were of Opinion that it would be for the service of the College to have the Fellows resident and accordingly persons were chosen that might be resident and the Nonresidents resigned.

    Mr. Brown and Mr. Richardson were resident Fellows and they left the College at that time, but Mr. Oakes and Mr. Shepard were Nonresidents and persons held in great esteem and veneration by everybody; they never tho’t themselves to be the whole support of the College and that upon their resignation it must fall into ruin, but without any [14] difficulty conformed to the Opinion of the Overseers in this point, as a thing necessary for the good of the College.

    When, (by reason of some difficulties in the College at that time) Mr. Russel and Mr. Taylor declined that business the Overseers did indeed desire Mr. Oakes and Mr. Shepard still to assist in the affairs of the College as Fellows, but upon Dr. Hoars Death soon after, Mr. Oakes was made President and when Mr. Shepard dyed soon after that, the Overseers again recommended it to the Corporation to choose a Fellow that might be resident and officiate on the place.

    And these things are an irrefragable Argument that it was alwayes the Opinion of the Overseers of the College that the residence of the Fellows was necessary for the service and good of it, and that even the Nonresident Fellows themselves when there have been any although persons of the greatest characters and merit, never contradicted them in it, till now, but chearfully conformed themselves to their sentiments.

    And from the whole of this Argument it is evident beyond all contradiction, that the Corporation ought to be resident. If therefore now, when this is known, and cant be denied, these Pilots keep their course, they’ll run the Ship ashoar and if these reformers carry on their reformation, they’ll reform the College to the Ground, and when they have done so, I expect no other but they’ll cast all the Odium upon the residents.

    And now I have only this to add that it is my Opinion that Nonresidence has been and is very hurtfull to the College in several respects; that it is the greatest wrong to the College that can be; that it is of the last importance to the College to have the residents established on the Charter as Fellows of [15] the Corporation; that it is impossible the Nonresident Fellows should answer any good Ends in the College. And if what I have done may be anyway conducive to the great and good purpose of establishing a resident Corporation in the College I shall think myself exceeding happy, but if not, I have discharged myself; and if any mischiefs shall arise in the College for want hereof whosoever they may be charged upon, I hope every body will be so just as to acquit the residents.

    College Papers, 1. 54 (No. 120); also in Supplement 1. 46. This document is in Sever’s hand. It is printed in J. E. Kirkpatrick, Academic Organization and Control, pp. 228–236, following the memorial of June 21, 1721. However, it must have been drawn up after July 2, 1722, when Governor Shute accepted the vote of the General Court relating to the make-up of the Corporation, but with the proviso that the three existing Non-Resident Fellows be kept. This proviso was unacceptable to the General Court, so the matter was left in abeyance. A recent scholar dates the document as “about November,” 1722; see Hoffmann, Commonwealth College, p. 555; also pp. 315 and 571 passim.