John’s Report On Harvard As One Of The U/Cambridge Colleges

Click here for the 3/24/2018 notice that the April 11 meeting will not be official because we did not achieve our minimum quorum of 6 RSVP’s.

Also click here for two postings on John Karls’ research during the time that was freed up regarding how Harvard College was a component of Cambridge University and known as “Cambridge University in New England” before Harvard morphed into a university in its own right with the formation of Harvard Divinity School in 1816 and Harvard Law School in 1817.
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John’s Report On Harvard As One Of The U/Cambridge Colleges

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This was John’s “final report” on Harvard during the 1700’s as one of the University of Cambridge Colleges, most of which were in England.

The “final report” including its attachment also encompassed all of the e-mail correspondence contained in the posting in this section of entitled “And We Thought We Were Giving John Karls a Mini-Vacation.”

-----Original Message -----
To: Mary Saunders -- Curator of the Harvard Club of NYC
Cc: Jerry Cook
Sent: Tue, 10 April 2018 6:36 pm MDT
Subject: U of Cambridge in New England – Final Report
Attachment: HCNY-CorrespondenceWithClubCuratorReCambridgeUnivInNewEngland

Dear Ms. Saunders,

This is my final report on the referenced subject.

Which I was happy to be able to complete before you conduct your tour of the club this coming Sunday.

Which entailed, inter alia, reading cover-to-cover both --

• “History of The University of Cambridge: Texts and Studies 6 – Reformation and Religious Identity in Cambridge, 1590-1644” by David Hoyle (published 2007 by The Boydell Press in association with the Cambridge University Library), and

• “The Founding of Harvard College” by Prof. Samuel Eliot Morison (Harvard U. Press 1935).

The question was whether Harvard College was one of the many colleges of the University of Cambridge, most of which were located in England, until Harvard College morphed into a university in its own right after existing for nearly two centuries as nothing but a college.

The evidence for the affirmative comprises two unimpeachable witnesses --

• Phyllis Wheatley’s famous poem to “The University of Cambridge, in New England” which she appears to have authored in 1767 (rather than 1775), and

• Two prints that grace the walls of the Harvard Club of NYC that show the campus including the original Harvard Hall as of 1795 and that are entitled “The University of Cambridge in New England.”

There is not a scintilla of evidence whatsoever adduced that Harvard College was not known at least from 1767 to 1795 as “The University of Cambridge in New England.”

History of The University of Cambridge: Texts and Studies 6 – Reformation and Religious Identity in Cambridge, 1590-1644

Since the time span covered by this book included the landing in America of the first Puritans [which, as we learned in High School Civics, was in 1620 at Plymouth Rock MA after those particular Puritans fled religious persecution in England] and the founding of Harvard College in 1636 [primarily to educate the ministers needed in Congregational (aka Puritan) Churches that had already extended at least as far as Hartford CT (1635) before the founding of Harvard] -- I had harbored hopes that this book would have something to say about Harvard College.

It did not.

However, the reasons why I couldn’t put it down are --

• I have always, for nearly my entire 76-year existence, made a study of the world’s religions and I enjoyed immensely such a microscopic examination of how the Church of England became, in effect, the Roman Catholic Church with only very-minor modifications, and the Presbyterian Church became the Church of Scotland with a strong bedrock of Calvinism. [You might be amused to know that I have taught Adult Ed for more than 15 years in Congregational (aka Puritan) Churches, and for more than 15 years in Presbyterian Churches, after being brought up a strict Methodist (John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, actually died still a Church of England Priest whose only “shtick” was that he believed that Christianity was not restricted theologically to the aristocracy, so he spent his entire career riding horseback around England to preach to the common folk in barns, fields, etc.).]

• It was like a game of three-dimensional chess as theological civil war, in effect, caused the English Civil War which itself also reflected a civil war between Parliament and Queen Elizabeth I – King James I – King Charles I with vast areas of the country primarily supporting Parliament and vast areas supporting primarily the Monarchy.

The most important basic element of the whole imbroglio is the realization that there were NO SEMINARIES in England EXCEPT the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford.

And the University of Cambridge was the most radical epicenter of the entire imbroglio (though not uniformly so in terms of the various faculty).

With many of its faculty being escorted from the pulpit, after delivering a sermon, directly to the Consistory Court and then directly to prison!!!

And many the occasion on which Queen Elizabeth I, King James I or King Charles I decreed certain doctrines (for example, pre-destination) ILLEGAL!!!

With Parliament also getting into the act by passing laws about the legality of certain religious doctrines!!! Often at loggerheads with what Queen Elizabeth I, King James I or King Charles I was decreeing!!!

Finally, of course, resulting in the execution of King Charles I in 1649 and the English Civil War (1649-1660).

But not a word about how the Puritans who fled to Massachusetts in 1620 fitted into all this!!!

“The Founding of Harvard College” by Prof. Samuel Eliot Morison

Prof. Morison provided some useful “nuggets” of information.

My 3/22/2018 e-mail to you had noted that the website for Harvard University Library’s “Charters and legislative acts relating to the governance of Harvard, 1650-1814: an inventory” includes an abstract that states: ““[F]or most of Harvard’s history TO THE PRESENT [emphasis added], the COLLEGE [emphasis added] has operated under the Charter of 1650…..”

And the Library’s on-line digital copy of that document clearly refers to preexisting “President and Fellows of Harvard College” which were continuing in existence.

[NB: “Fellows” for the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford meant faculty.]

So since the aforementioned abstract of the Harvard U Library’s website says that “Harvard College was founded by a vote of the Great and General Court of Massachusetts on October 28, 1636” it is no surprise that Harvard COLLEGE would have a President and Fellows (i.e., faculty) long before the Charter of 1650.

The question, of course, was whether there was any higher authority governing Harvard COLLEGE, other than the “Great and General Court of Massachusetts.”

Prof. Morison (p. 325) quotes at length from a “legislative act” of 9/27/1642 that makes clear that the original action of the Great and General Court of Massachusetts founding Harvard COLLEGE in 1636 had established a Board of Overseers to oversee the President and Fellows (i.e., faculty) of Harvard COLLEGE.

The reason for the 1642 “legislative act” (p. 326) was that the original Board of Overseers comprised 6 magistrates and 6 elders from Cambridge, Watertowne, Charlestowne, Boston, Roxbury and Dorchester -- but did not provide for how vacancies would be filled.

BTW, the Overseers back in that day (p. 328) referred to themselves as “GOVERNORS of Harvard COLLEDGE.” (Emphasis added, old spelling of “colledge.”]

Prof. Morison (p. 333-37) quotes at length the governing code promulgated by the President and Overseers before observing (p. 337) that it “appears to have been drawn from the Elizabethan statutes of the University of Cambridge, a printed copy of which was owned by President Dunster…..”

So did Harvard COLLEGE become one of the many colleges of the University of Cambridge by 1650, which is roughly the terminal date of Prof. Morison’s study???

The short answer appears to be no.

After all, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”!!!

And (from other sources) most “colleges” of the University of Cambridge in England began life as a “hostel” housing young students from a particular area or county in England. Indeed, after a “hostel” achieved the status of “college” each still typically catered to young students from a particular area or county.

BTW, “The History of the University of Cambridge…..” indicates that it did not have its first central administrator until 1559 – even though Peterhouse College was founded in 1284 and four more colleges were founded by 1352.

So a realistic (though proud!!!) appraisal from Prof. Morison???

He TRUMPETS (p. 349) that the first graduate of Harvard COLLEGE was admitted in 1648 to the graduate program of the University of Oxford!!!

The first recognition by either the University of Cambridge or the University of Oxford that Harvard was “up to snuff” as a COLLEGE!!!

Unfortunately, Prof. Morison ends his book on the very next page (p. 350)!!!

So he offers no insight on when Harvard COLLEGE first became recognized after 1648 as “The University of Cambridge in New England.”

And what the nature of that status was.


There are two unimpeachable witnesses (Phyllis Wheatley’s poem in 1767 and the 1795 prints) that Harvard College was recognized at least 1767-1795 as “The University of Cambridge in New England."

And there is not a scintilla of evidence adduced to the contrary.

In a court of law, this would NOT ONLY comprise “more likely than not” -- BUT MOREOVER would comprise “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

And in non-judicial terms, any historian “worth her/his salt” would conclude (subject, perhaps, to more scouring of original/secondary-source documents from the 1700’s) that these two unimpeachable witnesses told the truth.

Indeed, even by the standards of American journalism in years gone by of requiring two sources (vs. the tendency of the Mainstream Media these days to claim only a single “anonymous source”), this conclusion would be reported as fact.

[And psudo-historians would be busy citing these modern-day anonymous-source media accounts for the “truth.”]

So there we have it. Voilà.

I’m happy to have moved the ball down the field a bit more.

And would be willing to bet, any odds, that Harvard COLLEGE was one of the many colleges of the University of Cambridge at least 1767-1795.

But I don’t have any time available for the foreseeable future to investigate original/secondary-source documents from the 1700’s.

Perhaps one of the people who take your tour this coming Sunday will have time “to chase that rabbit”!!!

If you have read this far, I commend you for your fortitude!!!

And, in any event, wish you well for your tour and for everything else life has to offer!!!


John Karls

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