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UAI 15.970

Harvard University. Corporation. Records relating to the founding of the Boylston Professorship of Rhetoric and Oratory, 1772-1809: an inventory

Harvard University Archives

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Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: UAI 15.970
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Creator: Harvard University. Corporation
Title: Records relating to the founding of the Boylston Professorship of Rhetoric and Oratory, 1772-1809.
Date(s): 1772-1809.
Quantity: .98 cubic feet (1 half-document box, 1 portfolio folder)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: This collection documents the founding of the Boylston Professorship of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard which was endowed in 1771 by the will of Boston merchant Nicholas Boylston (1716-1771). The will, statutes, and other related documents describe the rules and regulations of the Boylston Professorship and demonstrate the selection process used to recruit and evaluate candidates to fill faculty positions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries at Harvard University.

Acquisition information:

The materials in this collection are University records and were acquired in the course of University business.

Processing Information:

The material was first classified and described in a Harvard University Archives shelflist prior to 1980. The material was re-processed in 2011. Re-processing involved a collection survey, enhanced description of items from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the creation of this finding aid.
This finding aid was created by Dominic P. Grandinetti in May 2011.
Preservation and description of the Records relating to the founding of the Boylston Professorship of Rhetoric and Oratory was supported, in part, by the Arcadia-funded project Harvard in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.

Researcher Access:

The Records relating to the founding of the Boylston Professorship of Rhetoric and Oratory are open for research. Access to fragile original documents may be restricted. Please consult the Public Services staff for further details.

Copying Restriction:

Copying of fragile materials may be limited.

Online access:

All of the records have been digitized and are available online. Links accompany detailed descriptions.

Preferred Citation:

Harvard University. Corporation. Records relating to the founding of the Boylston Professorship of Rhetoric and Oratory, 1772-1809. UAI 15.970, Harvard University Archives.

Related Materials

In the Harvard University Archives

Historical Note

The Boylston Professorship of Rhetoric and Oratory was endowed at Harvard in 1771 by the will of Boston merchant Nicholas Boylston (1716-1771) with "the sum of one thousand five hundred pounds, lawful money." Boylston's bequest was the first endowed chair devoted to the art of speaking and writing in British North America. On January 12, 1803, President Joseph Willard, Simeon Howard (Secretary of the Board of Overseers), and Eliphalet Pearson (Hancock Professor of Hebrew and other Oriental Languages) were appointed by the Harvard Corporation to establish the rules and regulations for the Boylston Professorship. On February 14, they were joined by Judge John Davis. The committee's report outlining the stipulations of the Boylston Professorship was accepted by the Corporation on April 30, 1804; the Board of Overseers gave its approval on July 26. On June 24, 1805, the Corporation elected future United States president John Quincy Adams as the first Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory.
Although pleased with the news of his appointment, Adams, currently representing Massachusetts in the United States Senate, had reservations about some of the provisions in the Professorship statutes. Adams informed the Corporation on August 6, 1805 that he could not accept the Boylston Professorship unless specific statutes were amended. He explained that as a member of the United States Senate he could not possibly meet the requirement of residing full-time in Cambridge during the school year. Adams also expressed his dissatisfaction over the requirement that the Boylston Professor make a declaration of religious faith. Adams questioned the College's authority to impose such a test or declaration.
On September 2, 1805, the Corporation voted to amend the residency requirement of the Boylston statutes to accommodate Adams's senatorial duties. The Corporation also voted to insert a less objectionable declaration of faith into the statutes to make it more acceptable to Adams and voted to provide a substitute professor when the Boylston Professor was away. Despite these amendments, Adams raised further objections. In a letter to the Corporation on October 11, 1805, Adams criticized the provision for the appointment of a substitute professor claiming that such an appointment would be inconsistent with the original intention of the Professorship and lead to some "unpleasant differences between the two teachers." Determined to secure Adams's services, the Corporation on May 21, 1806, appointed another committee to draft further alterations to the statutes. These alterations finally satisfied Adams and allowed him to teach on a part-time basis and to determine which Boylston duties he would fulfill, without a substitute professor.
Adams's lectures as the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory began on July 11, 1806. By August 12, 1808, Adams had completed thirty-six lectures. Adams repeated the first twenty-four of his lectures in the new academic year, but after he was appointed minister to Russia in July 1809 by President James Madison, Adams resigned his professorship. In August, the Corporation appointed the Reverend Joseph McKean as the new Boylston Professor. When McKean's selection was accepted by the Corporation, the Boylston statutes were revised again to require that the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory reside at Cambridge near the College to perform all the duties of his office.

References

Arrangement

The documents in this collection are arranged chronologically.

Scope and Content

This collection documents the founding of the Boylston Professorship of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard which was endowed in 1771 by the will of Boston merchant Nicholas Boylston (1716-1771) and demonstrates the selection process used to recruit and evaluate candidates to fill faculty positions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries at Harvard University. The extract from the will of Nicholas Boylston documents his bequest of £1,500 to Harvard College to establish a Professorship of Rhetoric and Oratory. It is marked as a "true copy" and signed by Attorney William Cooper. The draft of the rules, directions, and statutes of the Boylston Professorship assert that the Professor must be of sound moral character and religious faith, define the teaching responsibilities of the Professorship, outline the number of lectures to be taught and the kinds of instruction each class should receive, state that the Professor must offer students speaking, writing, memorization, and translation exercises; and require that lectures begin with a historical or biographical account of ancient orators and oratory with the teaching of rhetoric to be divided into four parts: invention, disposition, elocution, and pronunciation. Handwritten on parchment, the rules, direction, and statutes of the Boylston Professorship (1806-1809) include alterations made by the Harvard Corporation to accommodate the appointment and resignation of John Quincy Adams, the first Boylston Professor. The statutes authorize the Corporation to dispense any of the rules and regulations that might inhibit the Boylston Professor (i.e. John Quincy Adams) from performing his duties; amend the original declaration of religious faith found in the 1804 statutes, and eliminate the need for a substitute professor in the absence of the Boylston Professor. Attached to these statutes is a note dated August 31, 1809 (after Adams's resignation) describing a vote of the Harvard Corporation requiring any future Boylston Professor to reside at Cambridge near the College and to perform all the duties of the Professorship. A memorandum referring to Joseph McKean, Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory from 1809 to 1818, outlines some of the class schedules for McKean's public and private lectures in translation, composition, reading, speaking, rhetoric, and English grammar and includes what appear to be summarized annotations of paragraphs eight and nine of the 1807 version of the Laws of Harvard College. It is unclear who wrote this memorandum.
The records were assembled as an archival collection by the archivist at an unknown date from various sources without regard to original provenance in order to document University professorships.

General

This document last updated 2015 July 13.

Superseded call numbers

The call number for all the material in the Records relating to the founding of the Boylston Professorship of Rhetoric and Oratory is now UAI 15.970. To assist researchers in identifying materials noted in previous citations, the list below provides references from obsolete call numbers to new box and folder numbers. Please use the current call number, UAI 15.970, with the appropriate box and folder number in place of the superseded call number when citing material from this collection.

Formerly UAI 15.950pf Rules, Directions, and Statutes of the Boylston Professorship of Rhetoric and Oratory in Harvard College, [1806 May 21 - 1809 August 31]

Container List


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