Samuel Adams Drake.

Historic fields and mansions of Middlesex online

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plan. It is said he could repeat the whole of Shakespeare.
That he was somewhat sensitive to the many lampoons levelled
at him may be inferred from his complaint to the council of a
piece in the Boston Gazette, which ended with these lines : —

" And if sncli men are by God appointed,
The devil may be tlie Lord's anointed."

Shortly after the arrival of the troops from England in 1768,
which was one of Bernard's measures, the portrait of the Gov-
ernor which hung in Harvard Hall was found with a piece cut
out of the breast, exactly describing a heart. The mutilated
picture disappeared and could never be traced.

After Bernard's return home it was reported, and currently
believed, that he was driven out of the Smyrna Coffee House
in London, by General Oglethorpe, who told him he was a
dirty, factious scoundrel, who smelled cursed strong of the
hangman. The General ordered the Governor to leave the



A DAY AT HARVARD, CONTINUED. 229

roum as one iinworthy to mix with gentlemen, but offered to
give him the satisfaction of following him to the door had he
anything to reply. The Governor, according to the account,
left the house like a guilty coward.

Harvard, tlie building of which Thomas Dawes superintended,
stands on a foundation of Braintree stone, above which is a
course of dressed red sandstone with a belt of the same material
between the stories. It is composed of a central building with a
pediment at either front, to which are joined two wings of ecpial
height and length, each having a pediment at the end. Tliere
are but two stories, the lower tier of windows being arched,
and the whole structure surmounted by a cupola. It was
in the Philosophy lioom of Harvard that Washington was
received in 1789, and after breakfasting inspected the library,
museum, &c.

The three buildings which we have described are those seen
by Captain Goelet in 1750.* He says : —

" After dmner Mr. Jacob Wendell, Abraham Wendell, and self
took horse and went to see Cambridge, which is a neat, pleasant
village, and consists of about an hundred houses and three C"ol-
leg-is, which are a plain old fabrick of no manner of architect, and
the present much out of repair, is situated on one side of the Towne
and forms a large Scpiare ; its apartments are pretty large. Drank a
glass wine with the collegians, returned and stopt at Richardson's
where bought some fouWes and came home in the evening which we
spent at Wetherhead's with sundry gentlemen."

Hollis and the second Stoughton Hall, both standing to the
north of Harvard, are in the same style of architecture. The
hrst, named for Thomas Hollis, was begun in 1762 and com-
pleted in 1763. It was set on fire when Old Harvard was
consumed, and was struck by lightning in 1768. Thomas
Dawes Avas the architect. Stoughton was built during the
years 1804, 1805. They have each four stories, and are exceed-
ingly plain " old fabrics " of red brick. Standing in front of
the interval between these is Holden Chapel, built in 17-15 at

* N. E. Hist, and Gen. Register.



230 HISTORIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

the cost of the widow and daughters of Samuel Holden, one of
the directors of the Bank of England. It was first used for the
College devotions, subsequently for the American courts-martial,
and afterwards for anatomical lectures and dissections. It be-
came in 1800 devoted to lecture and recitation rooms for the
professors and tutors. Holworthy Hall, which stands at right
angles with Stoughton, was erected in 1812. Besides the five
brick edifices standing in 1800, was also what was then called
the College House, a three-story wooden building, standing
without the College yard, containing twelve rooms with studies.
It was originally built in 1770 for a private dwelling, and pur-
chased soon after by the College corporation. University Hall,
built in 1812-13 of Chelmsford granite, is placed upon the
site of the old Bog Pond and within the limits of the Wiggles-
worth Ox Pasture. This Ijuilding had once a narrow escape
from being blown up by the students, the explosion being
heard at a great distance. A little southeast of Hollis is the
supposed site of the Indian college.

It does not fall within our purpose to recite the history of
the more modern buildings grouped around the interior quad-
rangle, with its magnificent elms and shady walks ; its elegant
and lofty dormitories, and its classic lore. Our business is
with tlie old fabrics, the ancient pastimes and antiquated cus-
toms of former generations of Senior and Junior, Sophomore
and Freshman.

It was a warm spring afternoon when we stood within the
quadrangle and slaked our thirst at the wooden pump. A
longing to throw one's self upon the grass under one of those
inviting trees was rudely repelled by the painted admonition,
met at evevj turn, to " Keep off" the Grass." The government
does not Avaste words ; it orders, and its regulations assimilate
to those of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. ISTever-
theless, a few benches would not seem out of place here, Avhen
we recall how the sages of Greece instructed their disciples as
they walked or while seated under some shady bough, as Soc-
rates is described by Plato.

Looking up at the open windows of the dormitories, we saw



232 HISTORIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

that not a few were garnished witli booted or slippered feet.
This seemed the favorite attitude for study, by which knowl-
edge, absorbed at the pedal extremities, is conducted by the
inclined plane of the legs to the body, linally mounting as high
as its source, siphon-like, to the brain. Any movement by which
the feet might be lowered during this process would, we are
persuaded, cause the hardly gained learning to flow back again
to the feet. Others of the students were squatted in Indian
fashion, their elbows on their knees, their chins resting in their
palms, with knitted brows and eyes fixed on vacancy, in which,
did Ave possess the conjurer's art, the coming University boat-
race or the last base-ball tournament would, we fancy, appear
instead of Latin classics. Perhaps we have not rightly inter-
preted the expressions of others, which seemed to say, in the
language of one whose brain was stretched upon the same rack
a century and a quarter ago : —

'•' Now algebra, geometry,
Arithmetick, astronomy,
Opticks, chronology and staticks,
All tiresome parts of mathematics,
With twenty harder names than these.
Disturb my brains and break my peace."

It was formerly the practice of the Sophomores to notify the
Freshmen to assemble in the Chapel, where they were indoc-
trinated in the ancient customs of the College, the latter being
required " to keep their places in their seats, and attend Avith
decency to the reading." Among these customs, descended
from remote times, Avas one Avhich forbade a Freshman "to
Avear his hat in the College yard, unless it rains, hails, or snoAvs,
provided he be on foot, and have not both hands full." The
same prohibition extended to all undergraduates Avhen any of
the governors of the College Avere in the yard. These absurd
"relics of barbarism" had become entirely obsolete before 1800.

The degrading custom Avhich made a Freshman subservient
to all other classes, and obliged him to go of errands like a pot-
boy in an alehouse, the Senior haAang the prior claim to liis
service, died a natural death, Avithout the interposition of



A DAY AT HAKVARD, CONTINUED. 2o'o

authority. It became the practice under this state of tilings
for a Freshman to choose a Senior as a patron, to whom he
acknowledged service, and who, on his part, rendered due pro-
tection to his servitor from the demands of others. These petty
offices, when not unreasonably required, could be enforced by
an appeal to a tutor. The President and immediate govern-
ment had also their Freshmen. It is noteworthy that the
abolition of this menial custom was recommended by the Over-
seers as early as 1772 ; but the Corporation, Avhich, doubtless, de-
rived too many advantages from a continuance of the practice,
rejected the proposal.

Another custom obhged the Freshman to measure his strength
with the Sophomore in a wrestling-match, Avhich usually took
place during the second week in the term on the College play-
ground, which formerly bounded on Charlestown road, now
Kirkland Street, and included about an acre and a half. This
playground was enclosed by a close board fence, which began
about fifty feet north of HoUis and extended back about three
hundred feet, separating the playground from the College
buildings. The playgi'ound had a front on the Common of
about sixty-five feet, and was entered on the side of Hollis.

" This enclosure, an irregular square, contained two thirds or more
of the ground on which Stoughton stands, the greater part of the
land on which Holworthy stands, together with about the same
quantity of land in front of the same, the land back of Holworthy,
including part of a road since laid out, and perhaps a very small
portion of the western extremity of the Delta, so called." *

This was the College gymnasia, Avhere the students, after
evening prayers, ran, leaped, wrestled, played at quoits or
cricket, and at good, old-fashioned, obsolete bat and ball, — not
the dangerous pastime of to-day, but where you stood up, man-
fashion, with nothing worse resulting than an occasional eye in
mourning : —

" Like sporti\-e deer they coursed aboTit,
And shouted as they rau,
Turning to mirth all things of earth.
As only boyliood can."

* Willard.



234 HISTORIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

Any account of Harvard Avhich ignored the clubs would be
incomplete. Besides the Phi Beta Kappa was the PorcelKan,
founded by the Seniors about 1793. It was originally called
the Pig Club, but, for some unknown reason, this homely but ex-
pressive derivation was translated into a more euphonious title.
A writer remarks that learned pigs have sometimes been on ex-
hibition, but, to our mind, to have been educated among them
would be but an ill passport into good society. There was also
the Hasty Pudding Club, — a name significant of that savory,
farinaceous substance, tlie dish of many generations of I^ew-
Englanders. Whether this society owed its origin to sumptuary
regulations we are unable to say ; but a kettle of the article,
steaming hot, suspended to a pole, and borne by a brace of
students across the College yard, were worth a visit to Old
Harvard to have witnessed.

Commencement, ISTeal says, was formerly a festival second
only to the day of the election of the magistrates, usually
termed '' Election Day." The account in " ]^ew England's
First Eruits " gives the manner of conducting the academical
exercises in 1642 : —

"The students of the first classis that have beene these foure yeeres*
trained up in University learning (for their ripening in the knowl-
edge of tongues and arts) and are approved for then- manners, as
. they have kept their public Acts in former yeares, ourselves being
present at them ; so have they latelj^ kejot two solemn Acts for then-
Commencement, when Governour, Magistrates and the Ministers
from all parts, with all sorts of schollars, and others hi great num-
bers were present and did heare their exercises ; which were Latine
and Greeke Orations, and Declamations, and Hebrew Analasis,
Grammatical], Logicall and Rhetorieall of the Psalms ; And their
answers and disjiutations in Logicall, Ethicall, Phjsicall, and Meta-
physicall- questions ; and so were found worthy of the first degree
(commonly called Bachelour pro more Academiarum in Anglia) ;
Being first presented by the President to the Magistrates and IMinis-
ters, and by him upon their approbation, solenudy admitted unto
the same degree, and a booke of arts delivered into each of their
hands, and the power given them to read Lectures in the hall upon

* Fixing the founding in 1G38.



A DAY AT HARVARD, CONTINUED. 235

any of the arts, when they shall be thereunto called, and a liberty
of studying in the library."

Commencement continued to be celelirated as a red-letter
day, second only to the republican anniversary of the Fourth
of July. The merry-makings under the tents and awnings
erected within the College grounds, for the entertainment of the
guests, who had assembled to do honor to the literary triumphs
of their friends or relatives, were completely eclipsed by the
saturnalia going on witliout on the neighboring Common. This
space was covered with booths, within which the hungry and
thirsty might find refreshment, or the unwary be initiated into
the mysteries of sweat-cloth, dice, or roulette. Side-shows,
with performing monkeys, dogs, or perhaps a tame bear, less
savage than his human tormentors, drew their gaping multi-
tudes, ever in movement, from point to point. Gaming was
freely indulged in, and the Maine Law was not. As the day
waxed, the liquor began to produce its legitimate results,
swearing and lighting taking the place of the less exciting ex-
hibitions. The crowd surged around the scene of each pugilistic
encounter, upsetting the bootlis, and vociferating encouragement
to the combatants. The best man emerged with battered nose,
eyes swelled and inflamed, his clothes in tatters, to receive the
plaudits of the mob and tlie pledge of victory in another boAvl
of grog, while tlie vanc|uished sneaked away amid the jeers and
derision of the men and the hootings of the boys. These orgies,
somewhat less violent at the beginning of the present century,
were by degrees brought within the limits of decency, and
finally disappeared altogether. This was one of those " good
old time " customs which we have sometimes known recalled
with long-drawn sigh and woful shake of the head over our
own days of State police, lemonade, and degeneracy. During
the early years of the Revolution, and as late as 1778, tliere
was no public Commencement at Harvard.

Dress was a matter to which students gave little heed at the
beginning of the century. The College laws required them to
wear coats of blue-gray, with gowns as a substitute, in warm
weather, — except on public occasions, when black gowns Avere



236 HISTORIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

permitted. Little does your spruce young undergraduate of
to-day resemble, in this respect, his predecessor, who went about
the College grounds, and even the village, attired in summer in
a loose, long gown of calico or gingham, varied in winter by
a similar garment of woollen stuff, called lambskin. With a
cocked hat on his head, and peaked-toed shoes on his feet, your
collegian was not a bad counterpart of Dominie Sampson in
dishabille, if not in learning. Knee-breeches began to be dis-
carded about 1800 by the young men, but were retained by a
few of the elders until about 1825, wdien pantaloons had so far
established themselves that it was unusual to see small-clothes
except upon the limbs of some aged relic of the old regime.
Top-boots, with the yellow lining falling over, and cordovans,
or half-boots, made of elastic leather, fitting itself to the shape
of the leg, belonged to the time of which we are WTiting. The
tendency, it must be admitted, has been towards improvement,
and the iKesent generation fully comprehends how

" Braid claith lends fouk an unca heeze ;
Maks mony kail-worms butterflees ;
Gies mony a doctor his degrees,
For little skaith ;
In short you may be what you please,
W'i guid braid claith."

An example of the merits of dress was somewhat ludicrously
presented by a colloquy between two Harvard men who arrived
at eminence, and who Avere as wide apart as the poles in their
attention to personal appearance. Theophilus Parsons was a
man very negligent of his outward seeming, while Harrison
Gray Otis was noted for his tine linen and regard for his apparel.
The elegant Otis, having to cross-examine a Avitness in court
whose appearance was slovenly in the extreme, commented
u]Don the man's filthy exterior with severity, and spoke of him
as a " dirty fellow," because he had on a dirty shirt. Parsons,
whose witness it was, objected to the badgering of Otis.

" Why," said Otis, turning to Parsons, with ill-concealed
irony, " how many shirts a week do you Avear, Brother Par-
sons % "



A DAY AT HAKVAED, COXTIXUED. 237

" I wear one shirt a week," was the reply. " How many do
you ^^'ear l "

" I change my shirt every day, and sometimes oftener," said
Otis.

" Well," retorted Parsons, " you must be a ' dirty fellow ' to
soil seven shirts a week when I do but one."

There was a sensation in the court-room, and Mr. Otis sat
down with his plumage a little ruffled.

" For though you had as wise a snout on,
As Shakespeare or Sir Isaac Newton,
Your judgment fouk woiUd hae a doubt on,

■ I '11 tak my aitli,
Till they would see ye wi' a suit on
0' guid braid claith."

The silken " Oxford Caps," formerly worn in public by the
collegians, are well remembered. These were abandoned, in
public places, through the force of circumstances alone, as they
drew attentions of no agreeable nature upon the wearer when
he wandered from the protecting JEgis of his Alma Mater. In
the neighboring city, should his steps unfortunately tend thither,
the sight of his headpiece at once aroused the war-cries of the
clans of Cambridge Street and the West End. " An Oxford
Cap ! an Oxford Cap ! " reverberated through the dirty lanes,
and was answered by the instant muster of an ill-omened rabble
oi scms-culottes. Stones, mud, and unsavory eggs were showered
upon the wretcherl " Soph," whose conduct on these occasions
justified the derivation of his College title. Sometimes he stood
his ground tp be pummelled until within an inch of taking his
degree in another world, and finally to see his silken helmet
borne off in triumph at the end of a broomstick ; generalh',
however, he obeyed the dictates of discretion and took incon-
tinently to his heels. At sight of these ugly black bonnets,
worthy a familiar of the Inquisition, the Avhole neighborhood
seemed stirred to its centre with a frenzy only to be assuaged
when the student doffed his obnoxious casque or fled across the
hostile border.

The collegians, with a commendable es2:)rit da corps, and a



238 HISTORIC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

valor worthy a better cause, clung to their caps with a chivalric
devotion born alone of persecution. They learned to visit the
city in bands instead of singly, but this only brought into
action the reserves of " Nigger Hill," and enlarged the war.
The IS'orth riiade common cause with the West, and South End
with both. The Harvard boys armed themselves, and some
dangerous night-affrays took place in the streets, for which the
actors were cited before the authorities. Common-sense at
length put an end to the disturbing cause, in which the stu-
dents were obliged to confess the game was not worth the
candle. The Oxford Caps were hung on the dormitory pegs,
and order reigned in Warsaw.

It is not designed to enumerate the many distinguished sons
of Old Harvard whose names illuminate history. This is now
being done in a series of biograpliies from an able pen.''' One
of the first class of graduates was George Downing, Avho went
to England and became Chaplain to Colonel Okey's regiment,^
in Cromwell's army, — the same whom he afterwards betrayed
in order to ingratiate himself in the favor of Charles 11. He
was a brother-indaw of Governor Bradstreet and a good friend
to New England. Doctor Johnson characterized him as the
" dog DoAvning." He Avas ambassador to the states of Hol-
land, and notwithstanding his reputation, soiled by the betrayal
of some of his republican friends to the block, was a man of
genius and address. No other evidence is needed to show that
he was a scoundrel than the record of his treatment of his
mother, in her old age, as related by herself : —

" But I am now att ten pounde ayear for my chamber and 3
pound for my seruants wages, and haue to extend the other tene
l)ound a year to accomadat for our meat and drinck ; and for my
flothing and all other necessaries I am much to seeke, and more
your brother Georg will not hear of for me ; and that it is onely
couetousness that maks me aske more. He last sumer bought an-
other town, near Hatly, called Clappuni, cost him 13 or 14 thou-
sand pound, and I really beleeue one of us 2 are couetous."

Downing Street, London, was named for Sir George when

* John L. Sibley, Librarian.



A DAY AT HARVAED, CONTIXUEU. 239

the office of Lord Treasurer was put in commission (]Maj,
1667), and Downing College, Cambridge, England, Avas founded
by a grandson of the baronet, in 1717.

The class of 1763 was in many respects a remarkable one,
fruitful in loyalists to the mother country. Three refugee
judges of the Supreme Court, of which number Sampson Salter
Blowers lived to be a hundred, and, with the exception of Dr.
Holyoke, the oldest of the Harvard alumni ; Bliss of Spring-
held and Fpham of Brookfield, afterwards judges of the high-
est court in New Brunswick ; Dr. John Jeffries, the celebrated
surgeon of Boston, and others of less note. On the Whig side
were Colonel Timothy Pickering, General Jedediah Hunting-
ton, Avho pronounced the first English oration ever delivered at
Commencement, and Hon. Nathan dishing.

Benjamin Pratt, afterwards Chief Justice of XewYork under
the crown, Avas a graduate of 1737. He had been bred a me-
chanic, but, having met with a serious injury that disabled him
from pursuing his trade, turned his attention to study. Gov-
ernors Belcher, Hutchinson, Dummer, Spencer Phips, Bowdoin,
Strong, Gerry, Eustis, Everett, T. L. Winthrop, the two Presi-
dents Adams and the (jlovernor of that name, are of those who
have been distinguished in high political positions. The names
of those who have become eminent in law, medicine, and divin-
ity would make too formidable a catalogue for our limits.

The Marijuis Chastellux, writing in 1782, says : —

" I ]nust here repeat, what I have observed elsewhere, that in
comparing our universities and our studies in general with those of
the Americans, it would not he to our interest to call for a decision
of the question, which of the two nations should be considered an
infant people."

A University education, upon "which, perhaps, too great
stress is laid by a few narrow minds who would found an
aristocracy of learning in the republic of letters, is unquestion-
ably of great advantage, though not absolutely essential to a
successful public career. It is a passport Avhich smooths the
way, if it does not guarantee superiority. Perhaps it has a



240 HISTOiaC FIELDS AND MANSIONS OF MIDDLESEX.

tendency to a clannishness which has but little sympathy with
those whose acquirements have been gained while sternly
fighting the battle of life in the pursuit of a livelihood.
Through its means many have achieved honor and distinction,
while not a few have arrived at the goal without it. Franklin,
Piumford, Eittenhouse, and William Wirt are examples of so-
called self-made men which it would be needless to multiply.
Even in England the proportion of collegians in public life is
small. Twenty-five years ago Lord Lyndhurst said in a speech
that, when he began his political career a majority of the House
of Commons had received a University education, while at the
time of which he was speaking not more than one fifth had
been so educated. The practice which prevails in our country,
especially at the West, of disiinguishing every country semi-
nary with .the name of college, is deserving of unqualified
reprobation.

It would be curious to trace the antecedents of the posses-
sors of some of the great names in history. Columbus was
a weaver ; Sixtus V. kept swine ; Ferguson and Burns were
shepherds ; Defoe was a hosier's apprentice ; Hogarth, an en-
graver of pewter pots ; Ben Jonson was a brick-layer ; Cer-
vantes was a common soldier ; Halley was the son of a soap-
boiler ; Ark Wright was a barber, and Belzoni the son of a bar-
ber ; Canova was the son of a stone-cutter, and Shakespeare
commenced life as a menial.

The historic associations of Harvard are many and interest-
ing. The buildings have frequently been used by the legislative
branches of the provincial government. In 1729 the General
Court sat here, having been adjourned from Salem by Governor
Burnet, in August. Again in the stormy times of 1770 the
Court was prorogued by Hutchinson to meet here instead of at
its ancient seat in Boston. Wagers were laid at great odds
that the Assembly would not proceed to do business, considering



Online LibrarySamuel Adams DrakeHistoric fields and mansions of Middlesex → online text (page 21 of 39)