Letters to John Lowell relating to Harvard College faculty salaries
.04 cubic feet (4 folders)
The letters provide information about the financial instability faced by the College in the early 1780s, and its effect on Harvard's professors. In 1780 and 1781, Professor Wigglesworth assumed the role of acting President, and his letter was presumably written in this capacity. Wigglesworth's letter offers recommendations to Lowell regarding the General Court's grants to the College and provides background on the effect of depreciation at the College. Professor Williams' letter is focused on his specific financial difficulties, and Treasurer Storer's correspondence provides financial information related to the amounts of, and sources for, the salaries of the College officers. These letters provide quantitative information about Harvard's financial difficulties, and were presumably sent to Lowell because he was an ally of the College serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
The collection offers a resource for studying the College's precarious financial state and effects of the inflation and currency depreciation at the end of the Revolutionary War, and the College's changing relationship with the Massachusetts General Court in the late 18th century.
Prior to re-processing in 2011, this collection was classified as UAI 20.781, Letters relating to faculty salaries, 1781-1812.
In 1778, the Corporation had directed College Treasurer Ebenezer Storer to invest most of the College's money in Continental certificates and Massachusetts treasury notes. These investments coincided with the beginning of a period of rapid depreciation of paper money. As the College's Treasury was diminishing, the new state government was growing increasingly unresponsive to the faculty and Corporation's petitions for additional grants. In its attempt to support the faculty, the Corporation charged students additional fees (known as assessments) to provide pay raises, and in December 1781, the Corporation advanced cash to each professor. In 1784, the Corporation began providing loans to College officers with the expectation that the General Court would provide reimbursement. While the General Court did pay the President's salary from 1784 to 1786 and provided some additional grants for the professors in the early 1780s, the General Court did not provide regular grants as it had previously in the colonial era, and the last grant issued to any of the College officers by the General Court was made on May 31, 1786.
Even as the Corporation increased salaries, both the tutors and the professors continued to request additional money into the 19th century. By 1810, inflation had started to decrease in Massachusetts, and the repeated requests for salary increases by Harvard faculty and staff ceased.
- Harris, Seymour E. The Economics of Harvard. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970.
- Quincy, Josiah. The History of Harvard University. Cambridge : J. Owen, 1840.
- Shipton, Clifford K. Sibley's Harvard Graduates: Biographical Sketches of those who attended Harvard College in the Classes of 1756-1760. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1968.
This finding aid was created by Diann Benti in May 2011.
Preservation and description of the letters relating to faculty salaries was supported by the Arcadia-funded project Harvard in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.
- Lowell, John, 1743-1802. Letters to John Lowell relating to Harvard College faculty salaries, 1781-1782: an inventory
- EAD ID
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.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA