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COLLECTION Identifier: UAI 15.882

Papers of Josiah Quincy, 1811-1874.

Josiah Quincy (1772-1864) was President of Harvard University from January 29, 1829 to August 27, 1845. He was also a Federalist congressman, Boston mayor, municipal court judge, state representative, and state senator.

Dates

  • 1811-1874

Conditions on Use and Access

Permission of the University Archives is required for access to the Papers of Josiah Quincy. Researchers are advised to use published versions of these papers, both because of the fragility of the originals and their nineteenth-century orthography, which may make them difficult to read for those who are unaccustomed to it. Please consult the reference staff for further details. Additional restrictions may apply.

Extent

2 cubic feet (7 document boxes)

The Papers of Josiah Quincy address his relationship with Harvard University both in an official and unofficial capacity. The largest part of these papers consists of materials illustrating Quincy's administration of Harvard University and highlighting the challenges he faced as president. There is very little biographical material in these papers. A small amount of material created by Quincy's sons, Edmund and Josiah Jr., is included.

These papers consist of letters, certificates, notes, news clippings, memorandums, financial statements, reports, lists, proceedings, speeches, writings, and a catalogue and letterbook.

Biographical Information

IntroductionJosiah Quincy (1772-1864) was President of Harvard University from January 29, 1829 to August 27, 1845. He was also a politician, serving as a Federalist congressman, Bostonmayor,Massachusetts municipal court judge, and Massachusetts state representative and state senator.

Early Life and EducationJosiah Quincy was born to Josiah Quincy Jr. and Abigail (Phillips) Quincy on February 4, 1772 in Boston, Massachusetts. Quincy was born into a wealthy family whose members were judges, elected representatives, and militia officers. Quincy's father was a lawyer and revolutionary war pamphleteer. When Quincy's father died in 1775, he was raised by his mother and grandfather, Colonel Josiah Quincy. At the age of six, Quincy was sent to study at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts under the tutelage of his uncle, the Reverend Samuel Phillips. Quincy followed in the footsteps of many family members when he chose to pursue his college studies at Harvard University. After graduating (A.B. 1790, A.M. 1793) Quincy entered upon a legal apprenticeship and was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. Nevertheless, Quincy decided to pursue a political career and never seriously practiced law.

Public ServiceQuincy was elected to the Boston Town Committee in 1795. An ardent Federalist, he ran for the United States Congress in 1800 but was defeated. In 1804 he was elected to the Massachusetts State Senate and ran for Congress again in the Ninth Congressional district. Winning election to Congress, Quincy spent the next eight years in Washington, D.C. Known as a "ranting Federal spouter," Quincy's congressional career was disappointing. The Republican Party led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were in the ascendancy and the Federalist Party was in decline. During his career in Congress, Quincy was constantly challenging the Republican administration but without much effect. He left Congress in 1813 after voting against war with Great Britain.

Returning to political life in Massachusetts, Quincy was elected to the State Senate in 1813, serving until 1820. He continued his opposition to the War of 1812, opposed slavery, and spoke out against the domination of the government by the "slave power." He was a delegate to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention in 1820, became a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1821, and served as a judge on the Municipal Court of Boston.

Quincy's greatest impact as a public servant was as mayor of Boston from 1823 to 1828. During his administration, Quincy strengthened and centralized the authority of the mayor's office and professionalized and modernized employment practices in the newly incorporated city. His accomplishments included the regularization of garbage removal, the creation of a professional fire department, the introduction of municipal water and sewer systems, the opening of the House of Industry, Correction, and Juvenile Reform to replace out-of-door relief, and the establishment of a Department for the Correction and Reformation for Juvenile Offenders which instructed troublesome youth in appropriate manners. Quincy attacked the breeding places of crime by revoking liquor licenses and by enforcing the laws against gambling and prostitution. At times he led volunteers on raids of the city's criminal areas. Finally, Quincy initiated one of the first urban renewal projects in the country. He tore down a nest of tenements on the water front, constructed six wide streets, and filled in the tidal flats. This area later became know as Faneuil Hall Market, later renamed Quincy Market.

Quincy left Boston the cleanest, most orderly, and best governed city in the United States. He became known as "The Great Mayor." Quincy's various projects, however, came with a large price tag and he left the city the most indebted in the United States. This was the primary reason that he was denied reelection in 1828.

Harvard UniversityJosiah Quincy became the first layman since John Leverett to assume the presidency of Harvard University. His administration began after the resignation of John T. Kirkland on June 15, 1829. Known to be an administrator rather than an educator, Quincy met the Harvard Corporation's desire for someone with practical administrative experience.

One of Quincy's major challenges as president was the taming of perenial student rebellions. Immediately after his election as president, Quincy informed the student body that the campus would no longer be a haven for lawbreakers. He challenged the students to improve their behavior and in doing so became most unpopular. Students continued to riot and burned Quincy in effigy in the College Yard. In 1834, after an open rebellion among college freshmen spread to other classes, Quincy suspended the entire sophomore class. Later on, with only the support of Corporation Fellows Nathaniel Bowditch and ex-President John Quincy Adams, Quincy faced down a threatened boycott of commencement exercises by the senior class. When the appointed day arrived, most seniors took their degrees. Further trouble erupted in 1841 when Quincy declared that public authorities would be brought onto the campus to deal with troublemakers. Rebellion broke loose on campus and an explosion occurred in the college chapel. When the smoke cleared, a note was visible on the wall, "A bone for old Quin to pick." Despite his best efforts, Quincy was never able to deal effectively with the student unrest.

Quincy also spent a great deal of effort reforming the college curriculum. Under his administration, course instruction was expanded to make room for classes in science, history, and English literature. He allowed for a greater choice by students in the selection of subjects and instituted a mathematical grading system to standardize grades.

During Quincy's administration, the Law School became an academically oriented professional school. Gore Hall (1841) was opened, housing what was then the largest and most valuable collection of books and maps in the United States. Finally, Quincy launched a public subscription to provide for the first research unit at the University, the Astronomical Observatory.

Quincy retired from Harvard University on August 27, 1845 at the age of 73.

Retirement YearsAfter his retirement, Quincy lived another two decades. Influenced by the activities of his sons, Josiah Jr. and Edmund, Quincy became interested in politics again. Josiah Jr. followed in his father's footsteps and became the mayor of Boston. Edmund's abolitionist politics drew Quincy into the antislavery movement. At the age of 82, Quincy began writing political pamphlets denouncing the "slave power" and the Fugitive Slave Law. He became a firm supporter of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and a Unionist after the beginning of the Civil War.

Writing history had always been of interest to Quincy. Prior to his retirement he had completed the History of Harvard University (1836). During the research for this book, Quincy had discovered in the college records the first rough sketch of the college coat of arms, VERITAS, drawn on three books. The announcement of this fact was made at the school's bicentennial celebration and in 1843 the design was adopted by the Harvard Corporation as its official seal. In retirement Quincy continued to write, concentrating on Boston and Massachusetts history. He wrote the Journals of Mayor Samuel Shaw (1847), A History of the Boston Athenaeum (1851), A Municipal History of Boston (1852), and Memoir of the Life of John Quincy Adams (1858).

Quincy kept an active interest in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Boston Athenaeum, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture. He was also a trustee for the Massachusetts General Hospital and Provident Institution of Savings.

FamilyQuincy married Eliza Susan Morton, a daughter of a New York merchant, on June 6, 1797. They remained married for 53 years and had seven children, Eliza Susan (1798), Josiah Jr. (1802), Abigail (1803), Maria Sophia (1805), Margaret (1806), Edmund (1808), Anna (1812). A cultured Boston aristocrat, Quincy was able to support his family at his estate in Quincy, Massachusetts and at his mansion on Pearl Street in Boston.

A public servant, Josiah Quincy played an important role as a city reformer and school administrator. Quincy died on July 1, 1864 and was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge,Massachusetts.

References:
  • Howe, De Wolfe, M.A., ed. The Articulate Sisters, Passages from Journals and Letters of the Daughters of President Josiah Quincy of Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1946.
  • McCaughey, Robert A. Josiah Quincy, 1772-1864, The Last Federalist.Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1974.
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot.Josiah Quincy. In Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. XV, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,1943.
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot. Three Centuries of Harvard, 1636-1936.Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1936.
  • Quincy, Edmund. Life of Josiah Quincy of Massachusetts.Boston: Ticknor and Fields,1867.
  • Walker, James.Memoir of Josiah Quincy.Cambridge, Massachusetts: John Wilson and Son, 1867.
Introduction Josiah Quincy (1772-1864) was President of Harvard University from January 29, 1829 to August 27, 1845. He was also a politician, serving as a Federalist congressman, Bostonmayor,Massachusetts municipal court judge, and Massachusetts state representative and state senator.
Early Life and Education Josiah Quincy was born to Josiah Quincy Jr. and Abigail (Phillips) Quincy on February 4, 1772 in Boston, Massachusetts. Quincy was born into a wealthy family whose members were judges, elected representatives, and militia officers. Quincy's father was a lawyer and revolutionary war pamphleteer. When Quincy's father died in 1775, he was raised by his mother and grandfather, Colonel Josiah Quincy. At the age of six, Quincy was sent to study at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts under the tutelage of his uncle, the Reverend Samuel Phillips. Quincy followed in the footsteps of many family members when he chose to pursue his college studies at Harvard University. After graduating (A.B. 1790, A.M. 1793) Quincy entered upon a legal apprenticeship and was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. Nevertheless, Quincy decided to pursue a political career and never seriously practiced law.
Public Service Quincy was elected to the Boston Town Committee in 1795. An ardent Federalist, he ran for the United States Congress in 1800 but was defeated. In 1804 he was elected to the Massachusetts State Senate and ran for Congress again in the Ninth Congressional district. Winning election to Congress, Quincy spent the next eight years in Washington, D.C. Known as a "ranting Federal spouter," Quincy's congressional career was disappointing. The Republican Party led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were in the ascendancy and the Federalist Party was in decline. During his career in Congress, Quincy was constantly challenging the Republican administration but without much effect. He left Congress in 1813 after voting against war with Great Britain.

Returning to political life in Massachusetts, Quincy was elected to the State Senate in 1813, serving until 1820. He continued his opposition to the War of 1812, opposed slavery, and spoke out against the domination of the government by the "slave power." He was a delegate to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention in 1820, became a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1821, and served as a judge on the Municipal Court of Boston.

Quincy's greatest impact as a public servant was as mayor of Boston from 1823 to 1828. During his administration, Quincy strengthened and centralized the authority of the mayor's office and professionalized and modernized employment practices in the newly incorporated city. His accomplishments included the regularization of garbage removal, the creation of a professional fire department, the introduction of municipal water and sewer systems, the opening of the House of Industry, Correction, and Juvenile Reform to replace out-of-door relief, and the establishment of a Department for the Correction and Reformation for Juvenile Offenders which instructed troublesome youth in appropriate manners. Quincy attacked the breeding places of crime by revoking liquor licenses and by enforcing the laws against gambling and prostitution. At times he led volunteers on raids of the city's criminal areas. Finally, Quincy initiated one of the first urban renewal projects in the country. He tore down a nest of tenements on the water front, constructed six wide streets, and filled in the tidal flats. This area later became know as Faneuil Hall Market, later renamed Quincy Market.

Quincy left Boston the cleanest, most orderly, and best governed city in the United States. He became known as "The Great Mayor." Quincy's various projects, however, came with a large price tag and he left the city the most indebted in the United States. This was the primary reason that he was denied reelection in 1828.
Harvard University Josiah Quincy became the first layman since John Leverett to assume the presidency of Harvard University. His administration began after the resignation of John T. Kirkland on June 15, 1829. Known to be an administrator rather than an educator, Quincy met the Harvard Corporation's desire for someone with practical administrative experience.

One of Quincy's major challenges as president was the taming of perenial student rebellions. Immediately after his election as president, Quincy informed the student body that the campus would no longer be a haven for lawbreakers. He challenged the students to improve their behavior and in doing so became most unpopular. Students continued to riot and burned Quincy in effigy in the College Yard. In 1834, after an open rebellion among college freshmen spread to other classes, Quincy suspended the entire sophomore class. Later on, with only the support of Corporation Fellows Nathaniel Bowditch and ex-President John Quincy Adams, Quincy faced down a threatened boycott of commencement exercises by the senior class. When the appointed day arrived, most seniors took their degrees. Further trouble erupted in 1841 when Quincy declared that public authorities would be brought onto the campus to deal with troublemakers. Rebellion broke loose on campus and an explosion occurred in the college chapel. When the smoke cleared, a note was visible on the wall, "A bone for old Quin to pick." Despite his best efforts, Quincy was never able to deal effectively with the student unrest.

Quincy also spent a great deal of effort reforming the college curriculum. Under his administration, course instruction was expanded to make room for classes in science, history, and English literature. He allowed for a greater choice by students in the selection of subjects and instituted a mathematical grading system to standardize grades.

During Quincy's administration, the Law School became an academically oriented professional school. Gore Hall (1841) was opened, housing what was then the largest and most valuable collection of books and maps in the United States. Finally, Quincy launched a public subscription to provide for the first research unit at the University, the Astronomical Observatory.

Quincy retired from Harvard University on August 27, 1845 at the age of 73.
Retirement Years After his retirement, Quincy lived another two decades. Influenced by the activities of his sons, Josiah Jr. and Edmund, Quincy became interested in politics again. Josiah Jr. followed in his father's footsteps and became the mayor of Boston. Edmund's abolitionist politics drew Quincy into the antislavery movement. At the age of 82, Quincy began writing political pamphlets denouncing the "slave power" and the Fugitive Slave Law. He became a firm supporter of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and a Unionist after the beginning of the Civil War.

Writing history had always been of interest to Quincy. Prior to his retirement he had completed the History of Harvard University (1836). During the research for this book, Quincy had discovered in the college records the first rough sketch of the college coat of arms, VERITAS, drawn on three books. The announcement of this fact was made at the school's bicentennial celebration and in 1843 the design was adopted by the Harvard Corporation as its official seal. In retirement Quincy continued to write, concentrating on Boston and Massachusetts history. He wrote the Journals of Mayor Samuel Shaw (1847), A History of the Boston Athenaeum (1851), A Municipal History of Boston (1852), and Memoir of the Life of John Quincy Adams (1858).

Quincy kept an active interest in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Boston Athenaeum, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture. He was also a trustee for the Massachusetts General Hospital and Provident Institution of Savings.
Family Quincy married Eliza Susan Morton, a daughter of a New York merchant, on June 6, 1797. They remained married for 53 years and had seven children, Eliza Susan (1798), Josiah Jr. (1802), Abigail (1803), Maria Sophia (1805), Margaret (1806), Edmund (1808), Anna (1812). A cultured Boston aristocrat, Quincy was able to support his family at his estate in Quincy, Massachusetts and at his mansion on Pearl Street in Boston.

A public servant, Josiah Quincy played an important role as a city reformer and school administrator. Quincy died on July 1, 1864 and was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge,Massachusetts.
References:
  1. Howe, De Wolfe, M.A., ed. The Articulate Sisters, Passages from Journals and Letters of the Daughters of President Josiah Quincy of Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1946.
  2. McCaughey, Robert A. Josiah Quincy, 1772-1864, The Last Federalist.Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1974.
  3. Morison, Samuel Eliot.Josiah Quincy. In Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. XV, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,1943.
  4. Morison, Samuel Eliot. Three Centuries of Harvard, 1636-1936.Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1936.
  5. Quincy, Edmund. Life of Josiah Quincy of Massachusetts.Boston: Ticknor and Fields,1867.
  6. Walker, James.Memoir of Josiah Quincy.Cambridge, Massachusetts: John Wilson and Son, 1867.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. Quincy Family Papers
  2. ___The Quincy Family Coat of Arms
  3. ___Correspondence of Edmund Quincy
  4. ___Correspondence of Josiah Quincy, Jr.
  1. Correspondence Files
  1. Subject Files
  1. President of Harvard University
  2. ___Letterbook extracts
  3. ___Loose Correspondence
  4. ___Subject Files
  5. ___Speeches
  6. ___ Minutes
  7. ___ Triennial Catalogue
  8. ___ Clippings
  1. Writings

Custodial History

The Papers of Josiah Quincy were held by his daughter, Eliza Susan Quincy, and his son, Edmund Quincy after his death. Some of the material in this collection was annotated by both Eliza and Edmund.

Acquisition Information

The Papers of Josiah Quincy were acquired by the Harvard University Archives through donation and purchase. Whenever possible the archivist noted the terms of acquisition in the folder list below. The acquisitions are as follows:
  1. 1873 T.F. [D?]
  2. 1874 Mary Schoolcraft
  3. 1898 Pierce Fund
  4. 1913 Eliza Orne White
  5. 1923 C.H. Taylor
  6. 1926 Mrs. M.A. DeWolfe Howe
  7. 1925 Herbert N. Straus
  8. 1936 American Autograph Shop
  9. 1936 Philip Spaulding
  10. 1938 Peabody Fund
  11. 1952 Walter F. Shenton
  12. 1953 Charles F. Adams
  13. 1955 Reverend Bruce Smith
  14. 1958 W.H. Cowley
  15. 1961 William Farnsworth
  16. 1965 T. Roland Berner
  17. 1967 Katrina R. Huntington
  18. 1970 Eliot Fund
  19. Accession number: 09319; 1981 October 29
  20. Accession number: 11318; 1988 January 20
  21. Accession number: 13974; 1999 June 29
  22. Accession number: 14430; 2001 October 26
  23. Accession number: 14508; 2002 February 13
  24. Accession number: 14658; 2002 October 10
  25. Accession number: 18344; 2011 August 4

General note

This document last updated 2015 November 12.
Related Material
  1. Records of the Harvard Corporation.
Related Material Search HOLLIS (Harvard's online library system) for works by and about Josiah Quincy.

Citations to published versions of the documents in this collection are noted in the folder lists.

Processing Information

Most of this material was first classified and described in the Harvard University Archives shelflist prior to 1980. In 2005, Dominic P. Grandinetti re-processed these papers. Re-processing included the rehousing of materials in the appropriate containers, establishment of a folder list, and the creation of this finding aid. The archivist placed the documents into acid-free folders, rehoused the materials into archival document boxes, and examined the folder contents to establish the date of the material.

In the folder list below, wording such as "in Quincy's handwriting" or "handwritten" have been used instead of the terminology "autograph" or "holograph."

Published versions of the documents in this collection are noted in the folder list.
Link to catalog
Title
Quincy, Josiah, 1772-1864. Papers of Josiah Quincy : an inventory
Author
Harvard University Archives
EAD ID
hua10005

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

Contact:
Pusey Library
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2461